O'Brien recalls special times in Baltimore

Former special teams coach returns with Panthers

August 29, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

When Jay Graham and A. J. Ofodile visited the Carolina Panthers' locker room last night, they got a big hug from coach Scott O'Brien as they savored old times.

O'Brien, who spent the last eight years with the Browns-Ravens before departing last year when the Ted Marchibroda regime was fired, said he still has fond memories of Baltimore.

"It's always nice to come back. Any time you've been somewhere and you come back, it's a weird feeling because you've got a lot of friends there, players you spent a lot of time with. You wanted to beat 'em and do well against 'em, but you also wanted them to do well.

"They're great individuals. They're good special teams players. There's a good nucleus there. They've done a good job of building it for three year with Ozzie [Newsome] and the personnel. They're on the right track," he said.

The Ravens, though, certainly didn't look like they were on the right track on special teams even though they beat the Panthers, 28-24. O'Brien's special teams had the edge on the Ravens.

They handcuffed the Ravens' returners, holding the punt returners to 24 yards in five returns and the kickoff returns to 71 yards in five returns.

By contrast, the Panthers returned six kickoffs for 121 yards although they returned just one punt for 32 yards. The Panthers also recovered a bobbled punt.

On average, the Panthers started their 11 drives on their 37, and the Ravens started their 12 drives on their 25.

O'Brien, though, wasn't taking any credit for his schemes stopping the Ravens.

"There's not a whole lot of scheming going on in preseason. You're just trying to find out who can play off of blocks, who can cover and make tackles," he said.

O'Brien also had no ill feelings for the Ravens and said he took a job with Carolina coach George Seifert even before Brian Billick was named the new head coach.

"It was time to make a change. They [Ravens] were good to me. The Modells were good to me. You need change in your life. I appreciate everything they've done for me. The hardest thing was leaving the players," he said.

O'Brien said several teams called him, but he took the offer from Seifert without talking to any of the other teams.

"I think the [Carolina] organization is committed to winning. When you hire a coach like George Seifert, his track record speaks for itself," he said.

Seifert's making quite an adjustment to a losing team after coaching the San Francisco 49ers to a pair of Super Bowl victories and posting the highest winning percentage in NFC history.

But Seifert appeared to be upbeat about the Panthers despite their sloppy play against the Ravens.

"I've gone into preseasons with [highly regarded] teams, and have had preseason games like this, believe me," he said.

"I still feel pretty good about this football team. In fact, I shouldn't say pretty good. I think we'll get better. I enjoy coaching this team," he said.

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