Motivator Billick lets steam out of Shower-gate

November 18, 2003|By LAURA VECSEY

IT'S NOT EVERY Monday you get to hear an NFL coach shoot down tall tales about naked linemen and irate linebackers going World Wrestling in a steamy Miami shower stall, but there you have it.

It was fun while it lasted. It was also fascinating - at least until rumors of Team Turmoil were confirmed to have been greatly, wildly, colorfully exaggerated, at least in editions of The Miami Herald.

Of course, this was the same newspaper that erroneously reported that Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Jose Santos jolted Funny Cide with an illegal battery device, only to later have race stewards clear Santos.

Yesterday, Brian Billick did not need race stewards to clear up any lingering mess surrounding the Ravens' shower scrum. He did it himself. He righteously denied that Ray Lewis and/or Orlando Brown and/or offensive line coach Jim Colletto were in any kind of scrubbing bubbles dust-up after the Ravens' bummer overtime loss to the Dolphins. He scoffed at reports that Ray Lewis' face was scuffed in a fight when it had been nicked in the first quarter, on the field.

According to Coach Billick, the screaming match was merely a chance for Lewis and Co. to reinforce a basic team tenet about personal accountability.

"And I think you might better understand it had you had the privilege of being in the locker room before the game, because that's what the theme was. Guys were calling each other out then ... " Billick said.

Kumbaya, anyone?

Something says the Ravens are going to find a way to use Shower-gate to their benefit. Something says that the master motivator will indeed use this alleged team-tearing fracas as another opportunity to unify the Ravens. The good, ol' "Us vs. Them" mentality.

In football, with so many players and so much potential for dissension and confusion, it would be wrong for a coach not to use such a handy tool. This won't be pure subterfuge, either. This tactic won't hide the Ravens' glaring offensive problems and limitations.

If anyone understands that the Ravens' scales are woefully unbalanced on the offensive side of the game, it's Billick. But what's he going to do, now that Kyle Boller is injured and the offense - already consigned to "Don't make a mistake" duty - is two interceptions and a fumble away from disaster every time it takes the field?

It's not as if Billick can take the time to remind every fan and every so-called expert that it's not as simple as Chris Redman faltering under the current conditions. It's not as if Billick is going to take the heat off Redman (and himself) by pointing fingers at the underachieving receivers who are as much a reason why Redman isn't starting as Redman's developmental snags.

"I would defy you to find a coach who would tell you I just don't have the tools to win. First off, you don't believe that as a coach. Second, every coach in the league has a team with deficiencies. What I can do is create a structure that can absorb that [deficiency]," Billick said.

This team is a year away from being offensively sound, but that was a distinct possibility, the minute Boller was going to be indoctrinated to the NFL, trial-by-fire style. Now Boller is out, Redman is toast (in this "system") and the Ravens will play not to lose with Anthony Wright.

"At the end of the day, I would love to get in my Maserati and go home. But I can't, because I have a Suburban," Billick said.

It's an analogy for the Ravens' offense - although it's actually more like a Yugo.

If the Super Bowl season - with Ray Lewis' obstruction of justice plea, the three-game losing streak and the five games without a touchdown - did not divide the Ravens, why would two road losses against playoff-caliber teams prompt implosion?

"This could be our biggest challenge, in a sick way. My wife doesn't understand why I get energized by these kinds of challenges," Billick said of the post-scrum spin control.

If there is anything good to come out of a two-game losing streak, at least now he can use the so-called distraction as a way to focus his 5-5 team.

"If you assumed that this team could suffer back-to-back losses and if you were a betting man and looked at the schedule at where those two losses would have hit, you might have looked [at St. Louis and Miami] and said that's where they're going to hit," Billick said.

In Year 5 with the Ravens, Billick's glow has a perfect chance to dull. The endless quarterback snafus are enough to raise questions. With two consecutive losses in a season the Ravens expect to get to the playoffs in a weak AFC North, there are some in rabid Ravenstown willing to reshape Billick's reputation.

Billick gets a pass for the Super Bowl, is one assertion. The Ravens' offensive woes and quarterback quandaries after all that offensive genius stuff at Minnesota make him a fraud: That is another one.

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