Singletary tackles a job with Ravens: linebackers coach

Denied bid for Bears post, Hall of Famer joins staff

Pro Football

January 24, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO - The Chicago Bears' loss is the Ravens' Hall of Fame gain.

Turned down by his former team, Mike Singletary joined the staff of the Ravens yesterday for his first coaching job. He signed a three-year contract to become the team's linebackers coach and will tutor perennial All-Pro Ray Lewis.

Singletary, 44, talked to Bears coach Dick Jauron twice about beginning his coaching career in Chicago, where the Hall of Fame middle linebacker played from 1981 to 1992. But the Bears passed on Singletary because they refused to move linebackers coach Gary Moeller to their vacant defensive line opening.

Spurned by the Bears, Singletary chose the Ravens over the Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers. Known for his soft voice and piercing stare, Singletary replaces Mike Smith, who was hired as the Jacksonville Jaguars' defensive coordinator earlier this week.

"I wanted a team that was on the cutting edge and forward-thinking. Obviously, it's there," Singletary told The Sun. "I wanted an organization that's committed to winning. That's there. When I was there [in Baltimore], I knew this was it."

The Ravens' relationship with Singletary began in the middle of the 2000 season, when coach Brian Billick invited him to speak to his team. The Ravens were on their way to shattering the record of the 1986 Bears defense - in which Singletary was the middle linebacker - for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season.

"Mike stood in front of a veteran group and you could see them riveted," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It occurred to me then if he decided to coach, what an impact he could make."

Singletary had thought about coaching after retiring as a player but decided to step away from the game while he and wife Kim raised their family of seven children, ages 4 to 16. Over the past decade, he has toured the country as a motivational speaker on leadership and even worked for a company owned by Steve Bisciotti, minority owner of the Ravens who is expected to take over the team from Art Modell in January 2004.

Singletary's interest in coaching was piqued last month, when the head coaching job was available at his alma mater, Baylor. Although he was turned down for the position, Singletary knew that he would like to try coaching.

"If not for the Baylor situation, I would never have begun to investigate it," Singletary said. "It came down to a decision and an eye-opening experience."

To land with the Ravens, it came down to timing.

The Ravens knew about Singletary's coaching aspirations because he talked with general manager Ozzie Newsome before interviewing with Baylor. A month later, Smith was heading to the Jaguars and Billick wasted no time in calling the Hall of Fame linebacker to fill that hole on his staff.

"When we knew Mike was going to Jacksonville, Mike Singletary was the first name that came to mind," Billick said.

The pairing of Singletary with the Ravens is special on two fronts.

He joins a staff that includes defensive line coach Rex Ryan, the son of former Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan.

It also teams one of the all-time great middle linebackers with one of best current middle linebackers. Lewis has repeatedly pointed to Singletary as one of his role models.

"The biggest thing for me is wherever he is going to go," Singletary said, "I've been there."

But Billick and Singletary admit there will be an adjustment. Singletary has not coached at any level - high school, college or pro - yet his strong attention to detail as a player should speed up the learning curve.

"I am committed to every linebacker ... to make them the best they can be," Singletary said. "I know I can help them and I know they can help me."

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