Billick sees pep rally as `something special'

Ravens notebook

A city `lit up purple' touches coach

Herring, Brown injuries better

January 21, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

The final order of business for the Ravens in Baltimore before they depart for Tampa, Fla., and Super Bowl XXXV will be tomorrow's pep rally at the Inner Harbor amphitheater.

The AFC champions have mandatory weight lifting at their Owings Mills training complex tomorrow morning. They will then bus to downtown Baltimore, where coach Brian Billick's itinerary has owner Art Modell and the Ravens on stage for 20 minutes, starting at 11:35 a.m. sharp. Then it's back on the bus, and on to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where a charter will take the team to Tampa.

Billick got another feel for the fan frenzy that is enveloping the region when he went to PSINet Stadium on Friday, for the "Ravenszone" TV show.

"I went down unannounced," Billick said. "I had to emotionally get in touch with what the city is going through. Based on that crowd, Monday is going to be something special. You can't be in this town and drive by something that isn't lit up purple. I imagine they [the players] are kind of like me. They haven't gone anywhere in the last week where they had to buy a lot of meals."

The Ravens will experience the folly of Super Bowl media day Tuesday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium. They will practice at the University of South Florida on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, under considerably better conditions than they endured the past three days in Owings Mills.

"At this point, the weather didn't matter," defensive end Rob Burnett said yesterday, after Billick cut short an already abbreviated workout. "Because of what we're playing for, I'd practice in a blizzard every day. At this point, all of the extraneous things don't mean a lot."

Burnett said he would cocoon at home with his family today, the first Sunday the players have had off since July.

"Between now and the next meeting, that can be a long time for a coach," Billick said. "The players are OK, but coaches are worse. You want to have all of your little hens and chicks around you all the time, to make sure you're in control."

Bye-bye, injuries

With the Ravens having an extra playoff game as a wild-card team, Billick counted on the Super Bowl bye week to mend some nagging injuries.

Starting strong safety Kim Herring (ankle) missed the playoff wins at Tennessee and Oakland, and reserve linebacker Cornell Brown (hamstring) did not play against the Raiders. If the Ravens had to play today, it's likely that both would have been available.

"I'd be optimistic," Billick said of their Super Bowl status. "Had we had to play [today], I think both would have been probably ready to go."

`Jelly' fills in

One of the unsung heroes of the AFC championship game win at Oakland was Lional Dalton, the reserve defensive tackle known as "Jelly." The Raiders opened the second half with an interception of Trent Dilfer and drove to a first-and-goal at the Ravens' 2-yard line. Dalton dropped Tyrone Wheatley for a 1-yard loss on first down, and the Raiders were held to a field goal.

Dalton considered himself a starter in August, but then Tony Siragusa ended his holdout. Dalton backed up Siragusa and Sam Adams, but even that role diminished when Larry Webster ended his drug suspension in November and became the name behind Adams on the depth chart.

"I thought I was a starter at first," said Dalton, a 6-foot-1, 309-pound fireplug. "Goose has been in the league for 11 years, and I thought he didn't want to play anymore. When he came back, I told myself that it was just not my time, that everything happens for a reason. I took it as a learning experience. You've got to keep on moving. What else could I do?"

One of the keys to the success of the stingiest defense in NFL history has been the play of the reserves.

"You know your time is limited in there," Dalton said. "Each play is worth a series to a backup, because you never know when they're going to pull you, or when the starter is going to come back in."

The season nonetheless sped by for Dalton, a Detroit native who played collegiately on some mediocre Eastern Michigan teams.

"I had never been on a winning team in college or the NFL until this year," Dalton said. "When you're winning, the season goes by a lot faster. I've had seasons that seemed like they took forever."

Dilfer's not alone

Dilfer's future with the Ravens will be discussed as much as his history with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week, but his pending free-agent status is not a pertinent matter to Billick.

"We've got 14 free agents up for this team next year," Billick said. "I'm not commenting on any singular free agent, because if I do, the other 13 are going to wonder why I didn't talk about them. I'm not talking about Trent Dilfer and his status as a free agent. Since I don't want to talk about it, some of you are going to write that you better read between the lines, what that means.

"You're wrong. I told you a month and a half ago, we've taken active steps to talk, to re-sign, all of our free agents. Agents, for the most part, want to wait until the season is over. That's prudent. When the season is over, we'll address all 14."

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