Billick blasts offense for error-filled practice

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Numerous mental mistakes fuel coach's frustration

August 15, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht and Mike Preston | Gary Lambrecht and Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Ravens coach Brian Billick had seen enough.

After watching his offense stumble through a spate of mental errors in yesterday morning's practice, Billick exploded. Then, he exploded again. Then, he made the offense practice for an extra 20 minutes before addressing the unit for another 10 minutes in animated fashion.

Billick blew off more steam after strolling briskly across the practice field to talk with reporters.

"We are going to have a crisp, thorough two-hour practice. If it takes us two hours and 45 minutes to get it, that's what we'll do," Billick said. "Today, it took the offense two hours and 45 minutes to get a two-hour practice in.

"The mistakes we made in the [preseason opening] game were continuing to be made out here [yesterday]. After all the time we spent yesterday going over the film, talking about it, stressing it, underlining it, and they showed up again today."

Billick's agitation flared up early in practice. First, he had words with wide receiver Qadry Ismail after he dropped two passes and bobbled a third. Then, he snapped at Kendrick Nord and Billy Davis for failing to finish plays after catching passes in a receivers drill.

About an hour into the workout, Billick erupted during nine-on-seven drills when backup center Mike Flynn jumped offside. Billick threw Flynn out of the drill with a few unprintable words for good measure. Later, near the end of practice, backup quarterback Tony Banks incurred Billick's wrath after he missed the snap count.

"It was the snap count [that got to him the most]," Billick said. "The quarterback pulling out early, the center snapping the ball early. That just shows you're not focusing or concentrating. That's what drives you nuts.

"I don't care if it's one guy or 11 guys [making mistakes]. That's the hard part about offense. All it takes is one guy doing something wrong in 11 plays, and I've got 11 bad plays. There are two million working parts on the Apollo rocket. If 99 percent of the parts work, that leaves over 2,000 things to screw up or kill the mission. That's the kind of accountability we have to have, if we want to be good."

Billick went on to suggest that some players have not consulted their playbooks dutifully enough, and have lost the mental edge he saw during the camp's first two weeks. Billick even hinted that might have been the problem under former coach Ted Marchibroda, who has been criticized privately by his former players for running too predictable of an offense.

"Every single thing we did wrong in the game or out here this morning, I've seen these guys do right," Billick said. "I don't know if it's fatigue, lack of focus, feeling sorry for themselves. Maybe they're saying, `I don't need to get my head in the playbook because I've run this right before.' I made this [stuff] up and I've got to look at the playbook every day.

"The point I was trying to make to them was last year, you all ripped Ted Marchibroda for being predictable and conservative. Ted made the coaching decision, and probably a legitimate one, that the team could not handle anything but running on first and second down, minimizing mistakes and playing good defense.

"That was probably a good decision on his part, but that's giving in to 6-10 [as players]. I'll go down 2-14 trying to make something happen before I'll bleed at 6-10. These guys have got to understand we're going to be multiple. You just can't line up against a defense and give them the same look every time. Defenses are too good, too smart and too well-coached."

Herring looking good

Third-year safety Kim Herring no longer worries about making mistakes. And that level of comfort with the Ravens' system has Herring looking like a good bet to hold up as the team's starter at strong safety.

Herring, who is ahead of 11-year veteran Stevon Moore on the depth chart, drew praise from defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis for his effort in Thursday's 10-7, preseason-opening victory over Philadelphia.

Herring recorded two solo tackles and gave the Ravens sound run defense support, while rotating well in pass coverage. After missing half of last season with a shoulder injury, the second-round draft pick out of Penn State could be poised to make good on his potential.

"I'm very pleased with where [Herring] is at. He was very aggressive Thursday night," Lewis said. "There was no hesitation on his part. Kim has always given the feeling of confidence. Maybe sometimes he has overlooked the details he thought he knew, but he didn't quite know them as well as he thought. Things are starting to come together for him."

Herring, 6 feet, 200 pounds, gives some credit to new defensive backs coach Steve Shafer, especially his stubborn approach to fundamentals.

Herring also said the presence of Moore has helped.

"I have to fight. I can't take any steps backward. Stevon can still play," Herring said.

More sacks for R. Lewis?

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