LEESBURG, Va. - Ten minutes into his speech to the newest crop of NFL rookies, Brian Billick flashed his Super Bowl ring.
It was a quick and effective reminder to the rookies that they should be playing for a title and not, Billick said, for the money. He then gave the players a few hints on how they could best help get their teams to the Super Bowl at the NFL's Rookie Symposium yesterday at Lansdowne Conference Center.
"You want one of these," said Billick, pointing at the Super Bowl ring on his finger. "At some point in your career, you're going to have to make a conscious choice: Do I want to be a champion, or do I want to go the Pro Bowl?"
Those words were enough to get Carolina Panthers quarterback Chris Weinke's attention.
"He made one comment about when he came to Baltimore, there were seven guys [actually six] on the Pro Bowl team but they hadn't had a winning season yet," said Weinke, who won the Heisman Trophy last season at Florida State. "He challenged his players to be a Pro Bowl player or to be a champion. You see what decision the players made."
Billick's 20-minute talk to a largely attentive audience of about 250 rookies ranged from dealing with agents and the business aspect of football to the best way a low-round draft pick can make the team. He was an easy choice for Harold Henderson, the NFL's executive vice president for labor relations. Henderson said Billick's success on the field along with the way he has dealt with many of his players' off-field problems made him the No. 1 candidate.
"He is a great speaker and motivational coach," Henderson said. "He obviously has done it with his team.
"He has a team with a few players that had some problems and some distractions. So he was the whole package of the things we wanted to communicate with the players."
Billick could have gone back just two weeks ago if he wanted to provide an example of how to deal with an off-field problem. Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister was arrested and charged with disturbing the peace at Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport after an argument with a flight attendant over seating arrangements.
That incident was not discussed during the speech, but Billick did address it afterward before catching a plane to continue his vacation in Delaware.
"Obviously, this is not a major issue," Billick said. "The league is not going to take any stance on it. But Chris has shown a pattern that he and I need to have some further discussions about some of the judgments he is using and the way he is conducting himself."
He likely will tell McAlister many of the same things he told the rookies about not getting involved in situations that could embarrass the league.
"What I tried to do was reiterate the things they are going to hear over the next two or three days - that they have a responsibility to the league. At the very least, leave this league in as good as shape as you found it," said Billick, the opening speaker on the second day of the four-day symposium. "This is basically the kickoff for them to hear that you are a grownup now, and it's time for you to be responsible."
This was the second straight year the Ravens have had a speaker at the symposium. Last year, linebacker Ray Lewis spoke for 30 minutes about life in the spotlight and the wrong crowd that fame can attract. His speech came about a month after he was cleared of double-murder chargers stemming from a post-Super Bowl incident in Atlanta.
Billick's message was less intense but appeared to reach the players nonetheless.
"Being from Minnesota, I followed him when he was coaching up there," Weinke said. "So I was interested to hear what he had to say. I can tell he's a great motivator. He's a team guy. That's what he preaches to his team. That was very evident last year when they won the Super Bowl."