Mike Nolan was the Ravens' defensive coordinator from 2002–2004.
I was a long-time coordinator in the league, and Ray's the only player that I have ever given the opportunity to shake off a call that I made during a game.
The deal was I would watch him closely from the box, and when I sent the call in to Rex Ryan, if Ray didn't want the call, he would just shake, and I'd see him shake or wave his hand and that would mean, "I want a different call." And Ray would take advantage of it maybe three to six times a game.
The reason I let him shake off calls was not only because Ray was a great player. That was really not the point; there are a lot of great players out there. But Ray studied the opponents so well and had such a good feel for what an opponent was going to do. So the work that he put into it made me very comfortable with him calling plays.
I don't know of a coordinator in the league that has ever done that or does it, and it's the only time I ever did it.
People know about Ray on the field, but there was never an easier guy to coach from that standpoint. And even when he disagreed with something, he just had a way about saying, "Coach, I don't think that's going to work." And you had so much confidence and trust in him, you would listen to him. I mean, some guys say stuff like that, and they're only saying it because they're not getting to shine. Ray was the most unselfish player I've ever been around. I mean, even when it came to blitzing, a lot of times he'd say, "Coach, let the other guys blitz, and I'll just clean it up." He told me that many times.
The season I took over as defensive coordinator -- I had been the wide receivers coach the year before -- was the year they kind of pillaged everybody from the Super Bowl season. It was two years later. So in the process, Ray was kind of the lone man standing to a large degree.
So the first day of training camp at McDaniel College, we went out to the practice field and ran a drill against the offense. The offense ran an end-around sweep, and the guy just kept running for about 20 yards. Well, the only guy who chased him all the way down the field for 30 yards was Ray. There might have been one or two other guys who kind of followed him, but that's not the way they do things there. Everybody finishes on the ball. And so there were all these new guys in the huddle who had no idea what was expected of them from that regard.
I was standing on the offensive side -- I was actually standing right next to Brian Billick. You can see Ray's one of the only guys down there, and you're thinking, "This isn't going to go well."
Well, Ray stopped the whole thing right there. He screamed at the defense and said, "Get down here!" And so all the guys are kind of looking around like, "What's going on here?" So they see Ray, and they kind of jog and then they sprint and they get to him. And when they get to him, he huddles them all up, and he just chews their tail out about not getting to the ball. And then he says, "We're doing pushups until I say we're done."
I'm not kidding. And they all hit it, and he got down, and they were doing pushups. I looked at Brian Billick, and he looks at me and he goes, "Just let him finish what he's doing. Just let him finish." And I thought, well I'm not about to step in on that one because this is unbelievable.
And then when they popped up and went back, let me tell you, from that point forward, it was back to what it was before as far as finishing on the ball. And it was an eye-opener because it was so obvious that everything just changed.