Families, Including Reid's, Play A Role In Coaches' Lives
NOTEBOOK: FIRST FEMALE REF; THE 'MONEYBALL' RAVENS?
By Joe Platania
OWINGS MILLS -- On Jan. 19, 1999, a heartwarming scene played out in the M&T Bank Stadium postgame interview room.
As Brian Billick was addressing the media upon his hiring as the Baltimore Ravens' head coach, his young daughters, Aubree and Keegan, fidgeted nervously in the chairs set up by the side of the podium.
Even though Billick had been involved with football for more than a quarter-century, this was his first real moment in the spotlight, and it seemed to unnerve the youngsters quite a bit.
But although few things can be as disruptive to a family as a breadwinner that has chosen a nomadic career such as coaching, one of them is the loss of a child.
The death of 29-year-old Garrett Reid, the son of Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid -- under whom Ravens head coach John Harbaugh worked for the better part of a decade -- touched the NFL community in general, and Harbaugh in particular.
Sunday, the Ravens had a welcome day off after being on the practice field for 11 of the previous 12 days (including the two-day rookies-only workous). It was supposed to be a day to celebrate in the afterglow of the Ravens' first stadium practice, a raucous occasion enjoyed by more than 20,000 fans and 1,500 military personnel.
But at midmorning, Harbaugh and the rest of his peers got the stunning news about Garrett Reid, and the off day took on a more somber tone.
"I texted Andy as soon as I heard, about 10 a.m. or so," Harbaugh said. "I told him how sorry I was [to hear about the loss]. [Garrett] was a beautiful son, and he's now in God's hands.
"I've learned so much from Andy. He's a great football man and a great family man."
It is the second time during Harbaugh's short tenure in Baltimore that his former employers have had a late-summer tragedy cast a pall over training camp. In 2009, longtime Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson passed away after an illness and Harbaugh left the McDaniel College-based training camp to go to Philadelphia and pay his respects.
Through his time on the Eagles' coaching staff, Harbaugh's only child, daughter Alison, was born. Detractors cast aspersions of parental neglect upon Reid when sons Garrett and Britt faced drug charges, but Harbaugh said Reid had doted on Alison during her infancy.
"Alison was born in Philadelphia," Harbaugh said with a smile. "One of the first things she did when she saw Andy was she grabbed his mustache and pulled real hard, as hard as she could.
"I first met Garrett when he was about 15 years old. He was a great guy and was on a good track, from what I'd heard. We shared a lot of great moments."
The Eagles were constant playoff contenders while Harbaugh was the franchise's special-teams coordinator, advancing to four NFC Championship Games and winning one of them. The team played in Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville against the New England Patriots, but lost, 24-21.
Even though Harbaugh would have rather been on the winning side in that game -- one to which he has not advanced with the Ravens despite numerous chances -- it's the kind of moment that makes the years of nomadic dues-paying worth it, especially when shared with family members.
It's a feeling Billick got to experience when he won Super Bowl XXXV with the Ravens.
It's a feeling ex-Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher was caught on film living through after losing Super Bowl XXX, when he kissed and embraced his daughters, saying: "Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose."
It's a feeling Harbaugh surely wants to experience: the confetti falling, the trophy glowing and a smiling Alison in his arms.
But it's a feeling Andy Reid won't ever get to experience with Garrett again, the kind of heartwarming scene that may seem saccharine to some, but all too real for those caught up in its comforting glow.
INFIRMARY, ROSTER BREAKDOWN: The rather arduous schedule the team went through early during camp took a physical toll, even without the two-a-days of bygone years.
Including their rookie workouts, the Ravens were on the field 11 times during a 12-day stretch through Saturday's stadium practice. Their next-longest stretch will be a five-day run, which begins Saturday and runs through the end of camp mode on Wednesday, Aug.15.
Maybe the lessening of the practice schedule can also help clear out the training room. But considering what happened during Monday afternoon's padded practice, you can safely call it a push.
Returning to practice were cornerback Cary Williams, wideout Tandon Doss and tight end Ed Dickson. Williams had missed only two days and Dickson was removed from the stadium practice after getting poked in the eye, but Doss had been out for nearly a week with a hamstring problem.
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata fully participated for the first time, running with his fellow first-stringers during team drills.
But defensive lineman Pernell McPhee suffered a leg injury of sorts -- details were not immediately available -- and right guard Marshal Yanda and wideout Jacoby Jones were taken out halfway through, as Harbaugh said they had had enough.
Not only that, free safety Ed Reed came up with a sore knee after the stadium practice and did not work out. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and defensive tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu also were new absences.
Lingering injury problems include those being endured by the following: center Matt Birk (back, seven straight practices missed), linebacker Courtney Upshaw (shoulder, seven), running back Bernard Pierce (hamstring, six), linebacker Josh Bynes (undisclosed, six), tight end Dennis Pitta (hand, six), wideout Patrick Williams (calf, five), defensive end Arthur Jones (hip, four) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (back, three).
Linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles) is still on the Non-Football Injury list, and wideout David Reed (knee) and tackle/guard Jah Reid (calf) are both on the Physically Unable To Perform list.
A few minor player transactions during camp have left the roster breakdown looking like this: four quarterbacks, five running backs, one fullback, 12 wide receivers (six split ends, six flankers), six tight ends, 16 offensive linemen, 11 defensive linemen, 15 linebackers (eight outside, seven inside), 15 defensive backs (eight corners, seven safeties), two long snappers and three kickers/punters.
That makes for 44 total offensive players, 41 defensive players and five specialists. The first-cut deadline to get the roster down to 75 players is in three weeks (Monday, Aug. 27).
PRACTICE REPORT: A few clouds rolled through the Baltimore area early Monday, so, for one of the few times since the training-camp period started, the temperature did not break 90 degrees.
Monday afternoon, the Ravens held the first of their two pre-Atlanta practices in preparation for the preseason opener against the Falcons (7:30 p.m., Thursday; WMAR-TV, WBAL Plus; WIYY-FM).
The players returned from their second camp day off to begin the two-day stretch before flying south on Wednesday. After the game Thursday and a day off Friday, there will be a regular practice Saturday before the next stadium-setting workout, a 5 p.m. practice Sunday, Aug. 12, at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
A few Monday highlights from the team's padded practice:
- During one-on-one lineman drills -- something that has been rarely seen this camp -- nose tackle Terrence Cody threw Gino Gradkowski out of his way and later pushed Justin Boren back into the players that were watching the drill.
- Kelechi Osemele won a good handfight with Pernell McPhee and knocked Sergio Kindle down twice. Backup tackle Ramon Harewood also dominated Kindle.
- Haloti Ngata pushed Justin Boren to the point that Boren, who played for Ohio State, simply fell off him. Ngata also threw Cecil Newton to the ground.
- Quarterback Joe Flacco was slightly inaccurate with several deep balls Monday, overshooting Deonte Thompson and Torrey Smith.
- Cornerback Asa Jackson tipped away a pass intended for the much-taller Logan Payne, whom Danny Gorrer bowled over a few plays later without a flag being thrown.
- Smith did what few have been able to do on deep routes this camp -- beat Corey Graham down the sideline.
- Lardarius Webb made a spectacular diving interception near the sidelines in front of the fans, who cheered mainly for the offense, but applauded warmly after Webb's play.
- Tackle Bryant McKinnie worked the left side with the second string and dispatched of Paul Kruger as he tried to rush the passer.
- Fullback Vonta Leach looked as if he was in midseason form, leading Bobby Rainey through a hole and continuing to block about 10-15 yards downfield.
- Both kickers, incumbent Billy Cundiff and upstart Justin Tucker, were again perfect during the early-kicking period, including converting impressively from 50 yards.
FEMALE REF: While the Ravens and Falcons are battling it out Thursday night, someone else who has been on a Baltimore football field will be making history elsewhere.
Because of the NFL officials' lockout, Shannon Eastin -- who has been a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference official and has worked games at Morgan State -- will be part of the crew at the Green Bay-San Diego preseason game.
Eastin will be the first female to work an NFL game, although it is not clear whether she will be the lead official on the San Diego crew. But she is following the trailblazing path women such as Violet Palmer and Dee Kantner, who were part of the first wave of female NBA referees, set.
If Eastin -- or any other official, for that matter -- performs well enough during the preseason, then she will surely get some regular-season assignments if the officials' work stoppage drags past Week One, as it did in 2001.
Some of the existing NFL officials see their college-level replacements as scabs. But when the Major League Baseball umpires struck in 1979, one of their replacements, Derryl Cousins, eventually earned a full-time job umpiring MLB games, which he still holds today.
FOOTBALL SABERMETRICS: Sports sure have come a long way since Earl Weaver and his index cards.
Now, thanks in part to technology and fantasy sports, it's all about "Moneyball," stats and player value. The Ravens may not be first to the party, but they may have hired one of the best party planners.
Sandy Weil is the team's new director of football analytics, bringing his Yale-educated resume to the Ravens' table in much the same way Billy Beane brought his talents to the Oakland A's about a decade ago, and that Weil himself did for the NBA's San Antonio Spurs.
"We're always looking for confirmation on things we think we know and insights that could provide an edge for us in personnel and coaching," general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. "This is where Sandy will help us."
For his part, Weil said it's about more than just raw numbers.
"It's not just doing the analysis and spitting out some number," Weil told the team's Web site. "It's knowing the limitations of the analysis and presenting them in a way that people making decisions can make use of that information. They can incorporate into the way that they're doing things, and that's really where my job is to fit in.
"... Scouts and coaches know what they're doing,” Weil said. "These guys go out there and watch these guys perform. They've been watching football for years and they can pick out what they’re looking for."
QUOTE OF THE DAY I: Wideout Torrey Smith found himself wide open in the middle of the field after beating a cornerback covering him as a Joe Flacco pass sailed over his head.
Undaunted, Smith chirped, "You all better get some safety help out here!"
QUOTE OF THE DAY II: Hall of Fame head coach Marv Levy always used to tell his players, "Where else would you rather be than right here, right now?"
Last week, on the same day Levy turned 87, Harbaugh brought home the same perspective:
"We say all the time to the guys, 'Where else would you rather be? Is there somewhere else you have to be right now? Is there something else you'd rather be doing than this right here?'
"Come on. This is a beautiful thing. It's a tough world out there; people are struggling. We have a chance to come out here and play football. Embrace the grind."
JOEY P'S TRIVIA TIME ANSWER: Here's the question we asked you in our last entry:
Even though a quarter of the league's 32 head-coaching positions changed hands during the offseason, there are still a few held by people with Ravens or Baltimore-area ties.
Currently, how many head coaches in the NFL match that description?
There are still eight head coaches in the league that have ties to either the Ravens or the Baltimore area.
There are those coaches that used to be Ravens' defensive coordinators, such as the Rex Ryan of the New York Jets, Chuck Pagano of the Indianapolis Colts and the Cincinnati Bengals' Marvin Lewis.
Then, there are a few Ravens assistants that never got to become coordinators, but found bigger and better things on their own.
That group includes former Baltimore tight ends coach and current Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt; the Atlanta Falcons' Mike Smith (a former linebackers coach whom the Ravens will meet Thursday night); and the man on our list who has the deepest ties to Charm City, native son and Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz.
Schwartz was born in Baltimore and attended Mount St. Joseph and the University of Maryland before becoming a Terps and Ravens assistant.
New England head coach Bill Belichick grew up in Annapolis as the son of former Navy head coach Steve Belichick and later became a Baltimore Colts assistant. San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh was the Ravens' starting quarterback in 1998.
Posted Aug. 6, 2012