`Respect' driving Ravens to repeat

Team says `slights' are motivational

April 30, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

As the Ravens' minicamp ended yesterday, their title defense officially began.

The Super Bowl champions are still a long way from ending their celebrations, but they weren't shy about revealing their motivation to repeat.

"There's still the fact that we're underappreciated as the world champion," cornerback Chris McAlister said. "Considering that we don't get that national exposure, it doesn't really feel like we've won it. We really have to go back to prove something."

While it's an overused angle, the Ravens can back it up.

When they turn on the television, they often see two previous Super Bowl MVPs - the Rams' Kurt Warner and the Broncos' Terrell Davis - in soup commercials.

When they glance at the schedule, they have to scan down to the second week to find their first Monday night game.

And when they check out ESPN, they hear more than they want to about how the Rams and Buccaneers are the teams to beat.

"They can disrespect all they want and, hopefully, they do," defensive tackle Sam Adams said. "If you say we aren't as good as our record shows and we shouldn't have won those games, you have a lack of respect.

"So when we come up and punch you in the mouth and you drop to the ground, you'll understand what we're talking about."

Said defensive end Rob Burnett: "A ring is a ring. If they don't think any of us is as marketable as someone else, that has something to do with public relations, not what we've accomplished.

"I think we've accomplished more as a team and defensively than any of those other teams could ever wish to. It's all in stone forever. They can have their [soup] commercials, but I'll take my records to the grave."

The Ravens will lean on first-hand experience in their bid to win back-to-back titles. Tight end Shannon Sharpe and backup tackle Harry Swayne were members of the two-time Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos in 1997-98.

Sharpe has already filled in his teammates on the rewards of repeating.

"The main thing now is to start holding on to what we have," Sharpe said. "My sole focus this off-season is to repeat, because there's been a lot of teams that have won one in a row.

"I think it says more about a team if you can do it again. People can make excuses for you, but if you win it back-to-back, they can't say anything. In those two years, you were the best team the NFL had to offer."

Winning another Super Bowl may avoid another scheduling snub by the league.

The Ravens are the first Super Bowl champion since the 1994 San Francisco 49ers not to kick off the next season on Monday night. They have to wait until Week 2, when they play host to the Minnesota Vikings.

Instead, the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants will open the Monday night schedule.

"It's nice to know that we beat the teams that are opening up on Monday night, 55-10," said Sharpe, totaling the scores of the Ravens' playoff victories over the Broncos and Giants. "So they can spin it any kind of way they want to. It doesn't bother me."

Ravens coach Brian Billick claims that the lack of respect is a reflection of his team's style of football.

"If you go back and listen to what was said about the Rams, they were going to be a dynasty and they were going to walk through to the Super Bowl again," Billick said.

"Even though we were as dominant a team defensively as they were offensively, the perception is because they were so dominant offensively they're viewed as the better team.

"We're being disrespected because our championship wasn't based on the offensive side of the ball."

The Ravens' NFL title is only about three months old, but they have already begun to defend it. As the players broke minicamp yesterday, they remained united in their attempt to repeat.

"I think the players and the teams around the league respect us. I don't know if the general public respects us," Sharpe said. "But you know how I feel about that. You don't win games on sentiment. We felt that way all year long."

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