For Billick, a twist in Chapter 2

Ravens coach is less volatile during his second training camp

Players notice difference

Je. Lewis: `He's more calm on the field'

July 27, 2000|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Brian Billick wanted passion and accountability out of his first Ravens team a year ago. When he found neither, he settled on a long-term plan to achieve both ends.

He went on the attack.

In his first training camp as head coach, and throughout his first season, Billick became a zealot, scorching ears and egos with emotional outbursts and expletives. The Wrath of Brian became a season-long theme, and it was as calculated as his offense.

"It took us a while to grasp," Billick said. "But by midseason, I think we got the message through. They saw the way I wanted things. And as this team has always done up to now, they'll give you what you want. They want to be good."

Because of that, Billick's second training camp at Western Maryland College in Westminster promises to be less volatile and more user-friendly. This appears to be a kinder, gentler Billick.

"I've seen it in minicamp," said wide receiver Jermaine Lewis of Billick's on-field demeanor. "[It's] a total difference. He's more calm on the field."

The only people drawing Billick's fire these days are the agents holding out 10th pick Travis Taylor.

When Billick arrived in Baltimore, he found an underachieving, 6-10 team that was in "disarray." His first course of action was to make the players accountable for that 6-10 record.

"I wanted to make sure they knew that all the problems and tribulations they went through before didn't walk out with the 14 good men [coaches] that walked out that door last year without a job," he said.

"That was my first mantra, to blatantly hold that mirror up to them to make them accept that. And then give them some opportunities to prove they were up to that accountability. Such as having a curfew, but no bed-check, during camp or on the road."

Billick's second objective was to ignite a fire where there had been none.

"I sensed this team wasn't as passionate about the game, or didn't enjoy the game for the sheer sake of playing the game, as much as you need to," he said.

"Anybody who watched me on the sidelines saw that passion. That was lacking before. It was a different demeanor. Ted [Marchibroda, the Ravens' previous coach] and I had a different demeanor. So I felt I had to insert that passion in conjunction with that accountability."

The jump to 8-8 verified the results. Along the way, Billick bruised more than a few feelings. He was at odds with Tony Banks for the first part of the season, even demoting the veteran quarterback to third team. He jumped on kicker Matt Stover early. And he benched Lewis, his punt returner and receiver, midway through the year.

Lewis, who suffered through a subpar season in 1999, believes his problems with Billick were media-created.

"We had a meeting in the off-season just trying to iron out some things that went on last year," Lewis said. "I really think things got blown up bigger than what they were. I'm not thinking about last year."

If there was friction between Billick and Lewis last year, it obviously has dissipated.

Same with Stover, who had the misfortune of kicking for Billick one year after kicker Gary Anderson's perfect 1998 season for the Minnesota Vikings. Stover missed field goals of 54, 54 and 51 yards early and fell into disfavor.

"Basically, when he was on me, it had a lot to do with the fact that my performance wasn't at the level he felt it should be," Stover said.

"I sat up in his office two times on my own accord. I went up and explained to him some of the issues I had, not with him, as to how he was handling me, but how and why my performance was what it was.

"When I did that, when I told him, `Here's the adjustments we need to make,' I began to perform. He then went, `Oh, oh, I understand.' "

Billick acknowledges an oversight in handling Stover, who went on to kick 18 consecutive field goals at the end of the season.

"The situation with Matt was probably the biggest mistake on my part," he said. "Kickers are a different breed. So this passionate sense of accountability that I brought to the team early and was demanding, maybe in Matt's situation that wasn't the most conducive environment I could put him in.

"Since the latter part of the season, I have a better appreciation for what I can do to help Matt for him to get the job done. So we are in a real comfort zone there. And we'll be better for it. It has to do with when and where we attempt a field goal and what I expect of Matt."

Said Stover: "The fact is, we were in a learning curve. We had to get to know each other. I think once we did -- 18 in a row, my kickoffs were going good. I expect this to continue this way."

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