If M. Lewis departs, Del Rio set to step up

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Billick's mind made up if coordinator moves on

January 18, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

If Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis leaves for a head coaching job, coach Brian Billick would promote linebackers coach Jack Del Rio to take charge of the NFL's premier defense.

"We have a structure in place, and Jack is the guy," Billick said. "We'll elevate Jack if that comes."

Del Rio, 37, who is in his second year with the Ravens, was the New Orleans Saints' linebackers coach in 1998 and their assistant strength and conditioning coach in 1997.

An 11-year veteran linebacker in the NFL, Del Rio starred for the Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings from 1985 to '94. During Del Rio's four years with the Vikings (1992-95), Billick was an offensive assistant coach.

"The minute I took the linebacker job, I was preparing for the next step," Del Rio said. "I've been looking forward to the opportunity, but I'm not consumed with it."

The Ravens have given the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions permission to talk with Lewis about their head-coaching openings after Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa on Jan. 28. Under NFL rules, those teams can't contact Lewis while the Ravens are still playing.

When Billick formed his staff before the 1999 season, he had already considered the possibility of Lewis leaving in the future.

"I brought Jack in here kind of with that in mind," Billick said. "I learned that from Denny [Green in Minnesota]. Denny was excellent at orchestrating a staff with planned replacements in mind."

Super send-off

The Ravens have finalized plans for a Super Bowl send-off at the Inner Harbor on Monday.

The rally will begin at 11 a.m., and the entire team will arrive at 11:30 a.m. The Ravens will stay 20 minutes, with owner Art Modell, Billick and a few players speaking to the fans.

After the event, the Ravens will head for their flight to Tampa.

A careful favorite

As a three-point favorite over the New York Giants, the Ravens can't use the underdog label to their advantage like the past two weeks. But Billick doesn't foresee any attitude change because the point spread is so small.

"I don't know if our guys are going to be swaggering around Tampa," Billick said. "It's going to be a tight game."

End zone

After two days off, the players will report back for practice today. ... The Ravens have won 19 of their past 24 games (79 percent) after winning only 20 of their first 59 games here (34 percent). ... In the playoffs, the defense has allowed only one touchdown while forcing seven turnovers.

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