No fear of flying, Ravens say

Despite road games for 6 of next 8 weeks, team feels it's safe

Billick: `secure atmosphere'

Commercial charter gives organization further comfort

Terrorism Strikes America

Pro Football

September 15, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Despite Tuesday's terrorist attacks involving commercial airline flights, the Ravens are not fearful about the most demanding travel schedule in the NFL over the next two months.

The Ravens will be boarding planes for six of the next eight weekends, playing games at Cincinnati, Denver, Green Bay, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Tennessee. That's an arduous round-trip total of 8,882 miles in the air.

Amid questions of airport security, the Ravens are planning subtle changes to their itinerary and will continue to travel on commercial charter flights that carry only team personnel.

"Truly from a security standpoint, I can't imagine a more secure atmosphere," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We know everybody that's on that plane compared to other circumstances. I have very little concern about actually getting on a plane and going someplace."

When the Ravens leave for Cincinnati next Saturday, the one alteration to their normal travel routine will be the process of getting to Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

All team members will meet at the Owings Mills practice facility and take buses that will drop them off right at the plane. None of the traveling party will have to pass through the terminal, limiting outside access to the aircraft.

In the past, players could use their means of transportation to the airport but would have to go through the terminal.

"Obviously, we're going to exercise whatever precautions that the FAA mandate to us," said Bob Eller, the Ravens' director of operations and information.

The Ravens' entourage has averaged 120 and includes players, coaches, staff members and the team's radio crew. The Ravens expect to keep their usual crew of four security personnel for the road trips.

"Toward the end of last year, we were traveling with a fairly heavy security contingent," Eller said. "The highest likelihood is that we'll continue that presence."

The players expressed no concern over the coming travel schedule.

"I'm sure it's actually going to be safer because everything is going to be heightened," punter Kyle Richardson said.

Said receiver Qadry Ismail: "While those security measures are not foolproof, you have to obviously do your job."

Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac said airport security is an issue that extends beyond the players.

"Our lives have changed totally and dramatically," Grbac said. "It reminds me of anytime that you travel overseas and see the armed soldiers in airports. That's where we're going to get to. That's not life as we know it, where you go to the airport and there's minimal security.

"Our lives have changed so many ways and the things that we're going to do. The apprehension there is not going to be just for us, but for millions and millions of people."

The players voiced more of a concern over the potential for a terrorist attack at a game than on their flights there.

"Any kind of damage to security or the people that are involved in the stands is something that has to be an issue and always have to be on our minds now," Grbac said. "That's probably the next step that you can get to is a huge game like that and you make a statement that way."

But Richardson said players cannot dwell on that possible danger.

"Those things could happen, and it kind of draws a light that no matter where you're are, you're accessible to something like this happening," Richardson said. "You can be more concerned about it, but you can't let it consume you either because we got lives to live. You can't be affected by these radicals."

The Ravens kept to their schedule yesterday and had a light practice. After the workout ended at noon, the players held a 10-minute prayer service in the locker room and spent the rest of the day with friends and family.

"As far as a sense of normalcy, it's definitely not normal," Ismail said. "Our lives are going to be forever different."

Nevertheless, the practice on the national day of prayer was held for a purpose.

"We were better for having gotten through it," Billick said. "We were better at the end of the day than when we started. That's how this thing works. With every day and every minute, you get back to normalcy as best you can.

"We're always going to be mindful of what happened, but everybody has to take that next step to try to get back into that normal frame of mind, a normal way of life."

NOTE: There has been no decision whether recently released defensive end Dwayne Missouri and cornerback Reggie Waddell can be added to the Ravens' practice squad because the league's waiver wire has been down.

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