Q and A with The Sun's Mike Preston

Q and A with The Sun's Mike Preston

Columnist answers readers' questions about the Ravens

December 28, 2004|By Baltimoresun.com Staff | Baltimoresun.com Staff,SPECIAL TO BALTIMORESUN.COM

Sun columnist Mike Preston answers selected questions every Tuesday during the NFL season.

DeRo, Middletown, Del.: This is, without a doubt, the most disappointing season for this team since their arrival. You spoke of chemistry problems in a recent article. Can you expand on that and offer your suggestions on what they should do in the off-season?

Mike Preston: There has been a chemistry problem on this team since about the fourth game of the season. Just about every member of the media who covers this team was aware of it. But we don't always report it for a number of reasons. First and foremost, a lot of media who cover this team are paid directly or indirectly by the Ravens. They can only be so critical because they have their hands in the Ravens' pocket. Secondly, a lot of them are intimidated by Brian Billick or the players. Thirdly, some of them don't have a forum to discuss the problems like I have with The Sun.

Billick has always treated his players like men and he has their respect. But sometimes he gives them too much rope and when that happens, they not only hang themselves, but the coach, too. Billick has to re-establish himself as the leader and authority on this team. There has to be more Billick, and less Ray Lewis running this team. The Ravens need to get more leadership from some of the younger players like Ed Hartwell, Will Demps, Adalius Thomas and Anthony Weaver. Lewis, because of declining skills, needs to take a step back and let others step forward. Right now, that defense is divided among those with Ray Lewis, and those against Ray Lewis. Billick has allowed Lewis to do whatever he wanted in the past, and he became too laxed this season. Maybe it was because of the new contract extension. But Billick has to re-establish his presence, show the fire of old, or he might find himself dangling soon.

Tony, Granite: During the postgame show on Comcast, your name was a big topic of conversation. It seems that all of the commentators knew of and agreed with your version of what was happening in the locker room. Does this surprise you? They also talked about Coach Billick leaving for Cleveland since he no longer has control of the locker room. Can I have your thoughts on the subject?

Mike Preston: Once it was out that there was a chemistry problem, it was inevitable that a lot of media members would agree. Of course, the Ravens will deny it, but it wouldn't be the first time they have created a tale that wasn't true. Remember when they denied there was a confrontation between offensive tackle Orlando Brown and line coach Jim Colletto last year in Miami and then both confirmed it happened months later? Or how about Billick saying there would be no negotiations with Tony Siragusa until he reported to training camp and then Siragusa came in after he accepted a new deal. Professional sports franchises are like Pinocchio. Sometimes, their noses obscure their faces. Billick to Cleveland? Now, that there is funny and I don't care who you are. The only scenario in which I see Billick leaving is if general manager Ozzie Newsome and owner Steve Bisciotti force him to fire several members of his offensive staff (i.e. offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh and receivers coach David Shaw). If Billick resists, then I think it's time for him to leave. The offense is horrendous, and the Ravens may have the worst offensive production over the last six years of any team in NFL history.

But you never know with this crew. Newsome likes to play it in the middle of the road instead of being decisive. He can draft players, but he doesn't have the guts to be that forceful. No one knows what Bisciotti thinks because he won't let go of Gary Williams' apron string at the University of Maryland. He doesn't return phone calls. It's time for him to speak up and weigh in like former majority owner Art Modell. Heck, even Orioles owner Peter Angelos weighs in every once and a while.

Phil, Crofton: Now that the Ravens season has landed with a hard thud, any chance we'll stop hearing about how mighty the D is? I get tired of hearing how great they are, only to watch them fold in the second half. Kryptonite? Get real! They need to stop drinking so much Kool-Aid, shut up and play ball. I don't even want to start in on the offense; we all know they've earned their low ranking.

Mike Preston: Phil, Phil, Phil. You nasty, boy you. Despite the gloomy picture, this underachieving defense, the trash talking, all the dancing after tackles, the pregame dance, the preseason Super Bowl hype and the smack down by the Steelers last week, I remain committed to the legion of purple. I still have my ticket and the train is still set to head to Jacksonville for the Super Bowl. All those who lack the faith should ask for refunds. Now.

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