Sharpe: It looks super on resume

No. 1 game changes how your career is viewed, Raven says

Billick works on logistics

`Minute I won, started talking Hall of Fame'

Super Bowl Xxxv Ravens Vs. Giants

January 16, 2001|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Ravens coach Brian Billick addressed the logistical nightmare of preparing for a Super Bowl yesterday.

Tight end Shannon Sharpe offered proof positive about what happens after one.

The Ravens won't hit Tampa, Fla., for another week, but less than 24 hours after a 16-3 upset of the Oakland Raiders in the AFC championship game, they were examining life inside Super Bowl XXXV.

"I know if you win this game, it changes your life forever," Sharpe said. "You'll never be viewed the same way ever, ever again."

Sharpe knows. He's been there twice with the Denver Broncos, winning Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII in 1998 and 1999. The Jan. 28 season finale against the New York Giants is the kind of platform that can make or break a career.

"Before, I was just a guy who caught a lot of passes," he said. "Everybody was saying, `Yeah, he's a great pass-catching tight end.' But the minute I won that game, all of a sudden they started talking about the Hall of Fame. Then I won again, and they started mentioning it even more.

"It'll take a guy like Ray [Lewis] and it can make him one of the all-time best to ever play the game. It'll take an average guy and make him good, take a good guy and make him great, take a great guy and make the Hall of Fame. This is what this game has done for a career."

Lewis, the Ravens' All-Pro middle linebacker, is going to play his first Super Bowl just 20 minutes from where he grew up in Lakeland, Fla. If he plays like he has all season, he figures to take center stage by storm.

"I'm going to treat it like a regular game," Lewis said of the two-week buildup. "We've got one opponent to study. We've got to get done what we need to get done."

It didn't take long for the rhetoric to emerge. Not surprisingly, the first shot was fired by Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister in the general direction of the 14-4 Giants.

"They're really not known for being an explosive offense like they were [in a 41-0 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday]," McAlister said. "They had a great game, you can't take anything away from them. But they played against a mediocre defensive unit in the Vikings. When you're facing the best, the outcome is going to be a lot different."

The wild-card Ravens (15-4) start the week as 2 1/2 -point favorites over the Giants, who were the top seed in the NFC. This is a matchup for the purists who enjoy defense, not the gluttons who prefer offense.

Stripped of their underdog role, the Ravens quickly found a new reason to be edgy.

"I think a lot of people are disappointed it's us and them playing the Super Bowl," said safety Rod Woodson. "Everybody wanted to see the [St. Louis] Rams or some high-powered offense in the Super Bowl.

"But reality is reality. We're playing in the game. I think the two teams are very similar to each other. They're balanced teams across the board. It's going to be a good game."

In a team meeting yesterday, Billick outlined his plan of attack from a logistical standpoint. He will install his game plan this week as if preparing for a game Sunday, then refine and polish next week after reporting to Tampa.

"The focus of today was to give the players a glimpse of what the next two weeks are going to bring," he said. "How you orchestrate the next two weeks is as important as anything we'll do. They understand that. We've talked about that since the first day of training camp."

The Ravens will tend to tickets, hotel reservations and travel plans for friends and family members before they resume practice Thursday. Billick actually established his Super Bowl itinerary during the team's Week 14 bye, with input from friends in three organizations - the Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers.

"One of the recurring themes you get [from those conversations] is that if you try to string it out too far and just stretch your preparation over a two-week period, you change the game plan four or five times," Billick said. "Inevitably, you finish off right where you started off, and it's a little confusing for the players."

Billick said he will hold more "relaxed" practices this week in order to rest his weary troops. But, in a twist, players will wear pads for the first time in a month and a half when they practice in Tampa on Jan. 24.

The Ravens will use the practice facilities of the University of South Florida in Tampa starting that Wednesday. The Giants will use the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' facility because it's an NFC site.

The Giants will wear their home blue uniforms, the Ravens their visiting white in the game.

"The biggest thing is, you have to realize what you're going to Tampa for," Sharpe said. "Disney World is 45 minutes away. You've got Busch Gardens, you've got a lot of things that distract your attention.

"But the main focus you're going down there for is to win a football game. And you cannot lose sight of that. ... I think the guys are real focused. They were excited [Sunday] in the locker room, but on the plane it was real calm on the way back because they realize we still have a job to do."

Game data

Ravens (15-4)

vs. N.Y. Giants (14-4)

When: Jan. 28, 6:18 p.m.

Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

TV/Radio: Chs. 13, 9/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Ravens by 2 1/2

Fast fact: The Ravens were 8-8 last season and the Giants 7-9, both finishing third in their divisions and out of the playoffs.

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