Will Ravens put best foot forward, take next step?

Billick's theme for 2000: Get team into playoffs

Ravens

Notebook

July 23, 2000|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

When the Ravens report to training camp today in Westminster, they will get physicals, marching orders and a theme.

"As hokey as it may sound, you do try to have a theme coming into camp, something you can come back to on a continual basis at the end of practice or in the structure of meetings," said coach Brian Billick, in his second season with the Ravens.

The keynote of tonight's 75-minute opening address to the players, then, will be taking the next step, both in a literal and figurative sense.

"We started that concept in the course of last year," Billick said. "It began as a physical concept of defensive linemen taking the next step: Don't lunge at the quarterback, take the next step and go through the quarterback. When you go to tackle a ball carrier, don't lunge and dive; take the next step to square up."

That's the literal. The figurative is the team's stated goal of reaching the playoffs, an ambitious goal in a division, the AFC Central, that featured two playoff teams in 1999 - the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.

But there are several layers to Billick's theme. He will also require that each player adopt one more tangible goal in addition to his normal preparation, and consistently work toward that goal. Billick said both he and the coaches would monitor individual progress.

Billick emphasized this is more than coaching jargon.

"The players are going to measure me and my competence, to a large degree, by the goals I set for them and then how I follow up," he said. "If I'm nothing more than a bunch of one-liners, throwing out coaching platitudes they hear all the time, then at some point they turn you off, and they should.

"But if they know it's a basic part of our philosophy and I have those convictions and they see it followed up by coaches or me in a relaxed atmosphere, then they begin to understand there is some substance to this."

Rookie update

Wide receiver Travis Taylor, the second of the Ravens' two first-round picks, remained in limbo yesterday. He's due to report with the rest of the team for a 5 p.m. meeting at the team hotel.

His agent, Steve Weinberg, was at the Washington Redskins' training facility yesterday for the signing of running back Stephen Davis, and was expected to drive up to the Ravens' complex in Owings Mills to conduct negotiations.

Weinberg's associate, David Canter, said the sides were hammering out the specifics of a deal.

"Jamal's is what, $35 million over six years?" Canter said, referring to the contract of Jamal Lewis, the Ravens' other first-round pick. "I wouldn't be surprised if Travis' is maybe a six- or seven-year deal in those type of numbers."

Taylor is the third consecutive No. 10 overall pick for the Ravens, but Canter said he won't be bound by precedent.

"We are not going to do what anyone else has done before. We are going to try and set a trend," he said. "It's obviously not going to be a $6.5 million [signing] bonus because Travis is No. 10 and Jamal is No. 5. But maybe instead of it being a six-year, it's a seven-year deal. We'd be willing to consider that."

The other unsigned draft choice, quarterback Chris Redman, reiterated that he expects to report on time. "I'm positive I'll be there for practice [tomorrow morning]," he said yesterday.

Redman's agent, David Dunn, is seeking a three-year contract for the third-rounder, but with a quarterback premium. Redman was the 75th pick - and third quarterback - taken in the draft, just 10 slots behind Giovanni Carmazzi of the San Francisco 49ers.

Carmazzi received a three-year contract worth $1.326 million with a $500,000 signing bonus. Red- man's deal should be similar.

Cashing a compromise

Stripped of its escalators and the incentive package, Jamal Lewis' six-year deal with the Ravens is worth $14.2 million, and averages $2.37 million per year.

As the fifth pick in the draft, that's in line with the contract fourth pick Peter Warrick got from the Cincinnati Bengals. Minus incentives and escalators, Warrick's deal is seven years for $19.25 million, or an average of $2.75 million per year.

Lewis' agent, Mitch Frankel, said they were willing to give up some signing bonus in return for more money in obtainable escalator clauses on the back end.

With incentives and escalators included, Lewis' deal could bring more than $35.3 million. Warrick's best-case scenario is six years, $36 million.

"What we got for giving up a little in signing bonus was well worth it," Frankel said.

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