Billick views unity, focus as recovery keys

Coach denies dissension, says Ravens' No. 1 need is more on-field discipline

Accountability is emphasized

Among goals is an end to fumbling problems

November 18, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

On the heels of the Ravens' bumbling away two straight games, coach Brian Billick said his players need to clean up their act, and it has nothing to do with "Shower-gate."

In Billick's estimation, discipline - not dissension - is the major hurdle for the Ravens as they try to rebound and make the playoffs this season.

The Ravens had three turnovers and 10 penalties in Sunday's sloppy, 9-6 overtime loss in Miami, which dropped them into a first-place tie with the Cincinnati Bengals atop the AFC North.

Afterward, several shouts were heard coming from the shower area. According to a team source, offensive tackle Orlando Brown was having a loud exchange with line coach Jim Colletto before linebacker Ray Lewis stepped in to squelch the situation.

Although several reports described the incident as an internal feud, Billick said it was merely a reinforcement of a weeklong theme, which centered on players being accountable for their actions and to each other.

"I was very comfortable with what was being said and the vein it was being said and the purpose for it," said Billick, who acknowledged witnessing the event. "I'm as comfortable with this team, its faith in one another, its ability to deal with one another in tough times as any team I've been a part of.

"This week was very much about accountability. To understand what went on in the locker room afterward, to put it in proper context, you have to understand that was the theme. Guys were calling each other out before the game, too."

Some reports suggested that Lewis was injured in a fight with Brown. But Lewis said the two gashes around his left eye came from a first-quarter collision that caused his helmet to fly off.

In the locker room yesterday, Lewis joked with Brown about the reported scuffle, but declined to clear up the specifics of the incident.

When asked about the incident, Brown said, "Nothing happened as far as I'm concerned."

There is no such ambiguity about the Ravens' recent skid.

They have recorded 10 of their AFC-worst 22 turnovers over the past two weeks. Five fumbles and five interceptions has led to 26 of the 42 points scored against them over that span.

"You don't take the approach of, `It is what it is and it'll straighten itself out,' " Billick said. "If you want to look at who we were at 5-3 and look over the past two games, you don't have to look any further than turnovers."

The Ravens will adjust their practices to emphasize holding onto the ball. When the team works out tomorrow and Thursday, Billick will ask his defense to reach out and try to pull the ball away from his running backs.

"Let's see if we can bring some focus to it and give them something physically to work on," Billick said. "That's all you can do as a coach. Hopefully, they have enough of an experience to recognize that if we don't do those things, then we have a better than even chance to win the game."

The biggest miscue came in Sunday's overtime with a fumbled exchange between running back Jamal Lewis and quarterback Anthony Wright. The Ravens' 10th turnover in 31 series paved the way for the game-winning field goal.

Billick said it was a play the team had run five times previously during the game.

"We just didn't get the exchange," Billick said. "That's on the quarterback. That's on the running back. I'm not going to sit here and say it's Anthony's fault or Jamal's fault. It didn't get executed."

Execution, or the lack thereof, has played a major role in the Ravens' 20 penalties in the two losses. The offense, which has failed to score a touchdown in six quarters, has been flagged 14 times over the past two weeks, including five times on third down.

The blame has to be shared since 10 different players have been penalized. There have been six false starts and five holding calls.

"If it were just one player, that would be simple," Billick said. "That player can be removed. But it's not and it moves around from week to week."

The remedy is better focus.

"There are a lot of things that may not be going our way right now, but it isn't anything that we can't fix," Wright said. "We just need to get the job done. We're not torn apart; we'll never be torn apart. We [offense] got to step up to the challenge."

Billick indicated that Wright would start for the second straight week when the Ravens play host to the Seattle Seahawks. In his Ravens debut, Wright finished 14-for-25 for 112 yards and two interceptions.

"Coming off a loss, it's hard to identify and say he played OK," Billick said, "but it's something we can build on."

It's estimated that injured quarterback Kyle Boller (torn quadriceps) will be ready to come back in three weeks. Until that time, the Ravens must hold their season together by sticking together.

"This team, although frustrated, is very much a team," Billick said, "and will approach the rest of the season as a team."

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