Ravens owner Art Modell urged Baltimore football fans to be patient yesterday, saying a championship will come in the near future.
Modell was at the Ravens' practice complex in Owings Mills and said the 4-10 team has a good nucleus of players from which to build, especially on offense.
"We have one of the best offensive lines in football, and we feel we have the six best receivers as a unit," said Modell. "Eight of our losses have been by the narrowest margins, and we have had a lot of injuries.
"But I have confidence in our coaching staff, and the principal base of our offense is in place for the future," he said. "We can score. We just have to stop people from scoring on us."
Modell said he expects to meet with his coaching staff and vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome shortly after the season to discuss how to improve the defense. Modell would not say if his top priority would be an outside linebacker or defensive lineman who can rush the quarterback.
"Whether the pass rush comes from the inside or the outside, we jTC haven't determined that yet, but that [pass rusher] would be a high priority," Modell said. "The injuries forced us to change from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense. Now we have to see which way we will go and get the people who will adapt to our philosophy.
"The fans of Baltimore need to be a little patient. We just need to do a little tinkering. We're not in for a major overhaul."
The line on Testaverde
Maybe no unit was happier to see quarterback Vinny Testaverde named to the Pro Bowl team than his offensive line.
"All the things Vinny has been through, he deserves it," said offensive tackle Tony Jones. "His peers think he is at the top of his game and it took a lot to overcome all the abuse he has suffered in the past.
"Vinny always treats us well and we know he is going to get a bonus for playing in that game. So we're going to think of something big for him to do with that bonus."
Testaverde said: "I think this is going to cost me more than the average end-of-the-year gift."
The Carolina Panthers (10-4) went from expansion to playoff team in less than two seasons, and there are a number of reasons for their success.
Newsome said the Panthers were aided by extra salary-cap room, draft picks and a bigger player free-agent pool than previous expansion teams. Newsome said the Panthers also used a formula of signing free agents for defense and then using the draft to build an offense.
"It was a brilliant plan put together by owner Jerry Richardson, president Mike McCormack and general manager Bill Polian," said Newsome. "They also gave coach Dom Capers the ability to go out and hire some of the best assistants in the league."
The Panthers have the fourth-oldest team in the league, averaging 27.5 years, compared with 26.53 for the Ravens. The average Panthers player has 5.17 years of NFL playing experience, compared with 4.26 for the Ravens. And the Panthers have 17 players older than 30, the Ravens nine.
One of the Ravens watching coach Eddie Robinson's situation at Grambling is reserve safety Bennie Thompson, who played for Robinson at the university. Robinson reportedly has been pressured to resign. "That's a shame," said Thompson. "They have forgotten all the things he has done for that university, and all the young men he has worked with." Two former University of Maryland assistant coaches, Dan Dorazio (offensive coordinator) and Pete McCarty (linebackers), attended the Ravens' practice. Running back Bam Morris (knee) and tight end Eric Green (knee) didn't practice. The Panthers can clinch the NFC West title Sunday with a win over the Ravens and a San Francisco loss to Pittsburgh.
Next for Ravens
Opponent: Carolina Panthers
Site: Ericsson Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV/Radio: Chs. 11, 4/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)
# Line: Panthers by 8
Pub Date: 12/13/96