Billick loud and clear about who's in charge

Ravens coach uses hands-on approach in directing first practice

April 24, 1999|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Brian Billick had his first practice as the Ravens' new coach yesterday, and he left little doubt as to who was controlling the team on the field.

The Ravens had two workout sessions for nearly two hours each yesterday, and Billick was extremely vocal, teaching, asking questions and moving his arms like a traffic cop at rush hour in downtown New York. Former Minnesota players who worked under Billick when he was the Vikings coordinator last season said that's his normal style.

But it's contrary to that of former Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda, whom Billick replaced on Jan. 20.

"Ted was more of a quiet guy, who really only spoke up when things were going bad," said guard Jeff Blackshear. "Brian is a lot more aggressive, more involved. Basically, Ted was a lot older and Brian is a lot younger. Different coaches have different styles."

Billick spent most of the practices policing the different individual team periods but his forte is building offenses, and he certainly was in control of the unit, leaving defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis monitoring the team's defensive practices.

The Ravens basically have installed about three running and passing plays, but used them in several different formations, from the two-back set to the three-receiver set. Billick said he hoped to have three-quarters of his offense in when training camp starts in late July or ear ly August, and the rest could be implemented during preseason games.

But key phrase is versatility.

"I guess we had 12 to 15 different running plays in Minnesota, but a whole bunch of passing plays," said fullback Charles Evans, a former Viking.

"But we used to run them out of so many different formations, like with two receivers, three receivers four receivers or with two tight ends."

Billick said: "The defensive structure is pretty much the same as last year, so they will have a different pace. We're going slow right now and there won't be many schematic changes until the next minicamp."

One of the major differences from last season is the addition of Evans, who replaces Roosevelt Potts. Potts had trouble learning pass protection last season, and wasn't a threat as either a runner or receiver. Evans, who was joined in the first-unit backfield by quarterback Scott Mitchell and halfback Priest Holmes yesterday, is a threat as a runner and pass catcher, and also blocks well.

He has a new role this season, as a teacher. Billick signed a number of former Vikings such as Evans, tight end Greg DeLong and guard/center Evertt Lindsay for other reasons than playing ability.

"I thought it was important that we had a former player at almost every position so that they know what I wanted and what we expect," said Billick. "We wanted to let them know about the tempo we wanted in practice. I told them we were either going to be a good team, or a bad team, but we were going to be a team."

"I can't really tell if this is a hard offense to learn or not," said Evans. "It's the only one I've had to learn in this league. But I want to help as many people as possible. Even if it's a receiver or offensive lineman, I enjoy putting the weight on my shoulder. I've been surprised how fast the guys are picking this up."

Billick said he wouldn't begin serious evaluations of players until training camp. This minicamp is more for organizing practices and getting the players acquainted with the new staff. But Billick had to be impressed with Arizona cornerback Chris McAlister, the Ravens' No. 1 draft pick, who picked off a Tony Banks pass 10 minutes into the first passing drill.

Despite being a 10-year veteran, newly acquired running back and third-down specialist Steve Broussard showed some quick feet, and after only one day of practice it is clear that both Mitchell and Banks have superior arm strength to Jim Harbaugh and Eric Zeier, the Ravens' top two quarterbacks of a year ago.

The only player who did not participate in both practices was defensive end Michael McCrary, who recently had knee surgery. Defensive end Rob Burnett did not practice in the afternoon session and was hobbling around on what was believed to be a sore knee.

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