Billick lets team take knee, water in soaring heat


Coach says he'll continue preventative measure `as long as it's hot'

Pro Football

July 30, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

With the temperature soaring well into the 90s yesterday, Ravens coach Brian Billick called his first timeout.

Fifty minutes into the morning session, Billick gave the team a three-minute water break. It was the first time the Ravens had an organized work stoppage in the middle of practice for resting purposes only, and it was largely taken advantage of by the players.

Most players took a knee, then took the water.

"We gave them that break in between, watered them down, and we'll continue to keep that up as long as it's hot," Billick said.

"It was just `Guys, get a drink, cool down, take your helmets off.' It really has to do with the heat and the preventative methods we are taking."

The break was more a continuation of the league-wide focus on keeping players hydrated in the aftermath of Korey Stringer's heat-related death last preseason. The Ravens also had air fans surrounding the field during the afternoon practice.

"It emphasizes things that we have already been doing. I don't mean to make light of it in any shape," Billick said. "But a tragedy in 83 years, I think our track record in the league is pretty good.

"We coaches have had to learn. I don't know whose toughness we were proving when we put our players through some of the things we do. That is just good common sense given the weather."

While the idea of a water break might be foreign to many NFL players - most of whom would undoubtedly rather not break the rhythm of practice with the interruption - right tackle Edwin Mulitalo said his college team did something similar during its summer practices.

"We did that a lot at the University of Arizona; we had a team break every practice to make sure everyone got their juices and liquids," Mulitalo said. "It's hot and humid, so I think that was a smart move to try and make this a safe working environment."

Injury update

End Michael McCrary (knee) and linebacker Peter Boulware (ankle) are progressing in rehabilitating their injuries, but do not expect to see either on the practice field within the next week.

Of the two, McCrary will likely come off the physically unable to perform list first, according to trainer Bill Tessendorf. McCrary likely will play in either the third or fourth preseason game.

"Right now, it's just some little things," McCrary said. "But I would like to get back as soon as possible.

"I'd like to get into a preseason game just to get the feel."

Boulware does not have full strength in his ankle yet and is not expected to start practicing until midway through training camp.

Ogden in charge

Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden is taking on more responsibility this preseason as a mentor to his fellow linemen.

Ogden has been doing as much teaching the past few days as he has his entire seven-year career, especially to Mulitalo, who is making the switch from left guard to right tackle.

"I'm just trying to let people know what I think a little more instead of just keeping it to myself," Ogden said. "I'm not trying to go out there and do anything false. People can tell when there is a lot of false chatter. I'm just trying to let them know what is going through my mind when they make a certain call so they can figure out how they want to do it."

Stover's new snapper

Lost among the countless other changes the Ravens have undergone this off-season, kicker Matt Stover is having to adjust to a new snapper in punter Dave Zastudil.

Zastudil is replacing Kyle Richardson, who signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Vikings. So far, the difference has been unnoticeable.

"He is a guy that is conscientious, is a great athlete and has great hands like Kyle," Stover said of Zastudil. "This team has always put good people around me.

"Right now, the timing seems good. I want to be in between a particular time, between 1.3 seconds and 1.37 seconds, and I'm right there in that window."

End zone

The Ravens waived defensive end Robert Malone, a rookie out of Alabama State. ... The hardest hit from a light morning practice came off an accidental clothesline by end Tony Weaver on running back Chester Taylor.

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