NFL Rumor Mill: Billick Must Keep Veterans In His Corner

Posted on October 23, 2007

By Tony Lombardi 

If Steve Bisciotti was king and Ravens fans were collectively the queen, the queen would be demanding Brian Billick’s head on a silver platter.

But that won’t happen, nor should it.

What should happen is some real soul-searching within the organization from Bisciotti right on down to the intern who picks up adhesive tape and empty containers of deodorant from the sweat-soaked locker room floor.

The Ravens look unprepared and poorly coached. They lack focus and seem almost elementary and basic. Their play is child-like, and when children get out of line, misbehave or don’t do their homework, there are repercussions. There’s a price to pay, punishments to be served.

But not with the Ravens. 

Instead, the Ravens will pack their suitcases and head for the Caribbean, South Beach, California, Europe or other exotic destinations so they can relax and take their minds off football. 

Funny, looks to me that their minds haven’t been on football for quite some time. 

Obviously the Ravens are a flawed team. But instead of sticking around and fixing the problems in practice, they are going on vacation. They are hoping that when they get healthy, Billick wipes the crust out of their eyes and gives them all Tootsie Roll Pops so that all the problems will miraculously go away. 

Good luck with that. 

But Billick can’t suddenly sing a different tune. He can’t crack the whip and make his players practice during the bye like Mike Tomlin did in Pittsburgh. You see, this “professional” approach is embraced by the teams’ veterans and if Billick cancels the vacation plans for his players, he risks losing the veterans. If that happens, you know what will hit the fan. 

What the entire organization needs is to get up off the turf, dust off, look one another in the eye and be willing to go to war together. As Tony D’Amato said in “Any Given Sunday:”  “You need to live as a team or die as individuals.”

***

The Ravens have been tight-lipped about the illness that kept Samari Rolle sidelined for a few weeks. Recently, John Czarnecki from Fox Sports reported that Rolle was plagued by a heart ailment. One Ravens source, while not revealing Rolle’s true medical issue, emphatically denied that it was heart-related.

Injuries are a way of life in the NFL. After the first kick of the season, no team is ever 100 percent. Outside of the injuries that are reported each week to the league, there are hundreds of other minor injuries seldom reported. For instance, Chris McAlister has played with a sore knee for a couple of weeks. After each game, Haloti Ngata’s knee is about the size of his head -- the effects of repeated collisions and bursitis. Bart Scott’s knee has been troublesome for quite a while and is only recently near 100 percent.

These athletes play with pain. Some play through it better than others, and those that do earn major respect from their peers. 

***

Steve McNair has earned the label of “warrior” during his outstanding career, but one has to wonder if that reputation now works against the veteran quarterback. He’s older, and when he fights through the pain of one injury and favors other parts of his body, the favored parts begin to break down, too. And perhaps for McNair, there’s a feeling that he needs to continue to live up to that reputation.

McNair’s delivery is much different than it was this time last year because of the groin injury. It affects his accuracy and it affects his velocity. To make things even worse, McNair has developed a penchant for unloading the football prematurely, and it’s possible that is his way of avoiding further contact.

Add it all up, and it’s easy to understand why he has been so quick to throw short -- and opponents have taken note.

Another somewhat disturbing habit that McNair has developed is a very deliberate pace in and out of the huddle. He may be the slowest quarterback in the league from huddle to snap but the quickest from snap to release. The slow tempo reduces time for pre-snap reads on the part of McNair and his offensive line signal caller. It also dictates the snap count. It was very obvious this past Sunday that the Kyle Boller-led offense clearly had a better tempo in and out of the huddle. 

Tony Lombardi is a writer and managing editor for ProFootball24x7.com and hosts "Gametime" and "The Hot Sauce with Bart Scott" heard on ESPN 1300 and 105.7 HFS.

Issue 2.43: October 25, 2007

next up:

Oct. 25, 2007: Sports And Hip Hop Culture

October 23, 2007

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