Catching on to winning

Ravens: Qadry Ismail used to get caught up in criticism of his play. Now the receiver gained an appreciation for team success.

January 26, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

TAMPA, Fla. - Qadry Ismail has had several epiphanies during his NFL career. The latest came Dec. 17 at Arizona, when he discovered that a day with no catches is palatable as long as it's accompanied by a victory.

"People looked at that, and said `Qadry didn't have a good game,' " Ismail said. "The fact is, I had at least three or four key blocks that helped sustain the game. In depth, I was able to concentrate and not get frustrated."

The 30-year-old had 49 catches, the second straight season in which he led the Ravens' wide receivers in that category, but it's a corps that has been derided at Super Bowl XXXV. Sports Illustrated's scouting report included the shot that Ismail "doesn't have great hands, and he's inconsistent." Two years ago, he would have spent sleepless nights over such a slight. Today, he's accepted his place in the NFL, and the Ravens' offense.

"People want to see the spectacular, but there are a lot of behind-the-scenes things going on, a lot of dirty work being done," Ismail said. "That says that I'm a team player, that I'm going to do whatever the team needs."

Ismail has 117 catches over the past two seasons. In his first six years in the NFL, he totaled 118. Coach Brian Billick remembered Ismail's potential from four seasons in Minnesota. He had been the Vikings' third receiver, but then Ismail endured three moves and consecutive no-catch seasons.

Miami, in 1997? Zilch.

New Orleans, in 1998? Nada.

"My consistency and my practice habits, my attention to detail, weren't there," Ismail said. "My off-season preparation, a lot of things that could have made me a better receiver, were lacking. I went from a situation in Minnesota, where I said I had it made, to one in Miami, where I knew I could be cut. I became a glorified scout team player. I had to learn how to play the position, how to appreciate what it's like to be in the NFL."

When Ismail signed with the Ravens in 1999, he found Milt Jackson in the wide receivers coach's office. Jackson was with the Rams when Ismail was drafted in the second round in 1993.

"I wanted to interview him at the [scouting] combine," Jackson said. "He was a brash kid who would jump all over you if you said his name wrong. I left several messages, and he never showed up. Finally, I told him, `There are 28 teams, and only 27 are willing to draft you. You're not responsible.' We laughed about that when he came here. It goes to show, you never know who you're going to wind up with."

Rookie receivers dream of Jerry Rice numbers. Humbled veterans try to be complete receivers. Ismail had a good thing going with Tony Banks. If he has to settle for being part of the convoy for Jamal Lewis in the Trent Dilfer offense to get a Super Bowl ring, so be it.

"All long runs are the product of a wide-out making a block somewhere, and we've got a lot of guys who do that," Jackson said. "Qadry's been fantastic in that regard. He bought into everything we wanted him to do. I'm not sure if he had much choice. He was on the bubble when he got here. Statistically, he hadn't done much, but he knows that the bottom line isn't to catch 100 balls and be sitting down this time of year."

It is a realization that Ismail might not have embraced as a younger player.

"I'm not worried about statistics, or about the reflection on our offense," Ismail said. "I appreciate where I am, and who I am."

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