Was this team well-prepared?

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

September 20, 2005|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,Sun reporter

Through the first two games of the season, the Ravens have done little to squelch the criticisms that their training camp and preseason was so light it left the team mentally and physically unprepared for the start of the season.

The Ravens committed 10 penalties, had a punt that was blocked, appeared confused on which special teams players should be in the game, saw quarterback Anthony Wright trip over his feet twice for sacks and left a receiver uncovered in their 25-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, a bumbling performance coach Brian Billick said has nothing to do with how they spent the previous six weeks.

"The observation about the team being soft is conjecture people make for whatever reasons," Billick said. "I know that our training regimen has been sound. Training camp was a physical, tough training camp. If you look around the league, I think you see more and more teams, almost exclusively now, going to that style of training camp that you just can't beat your players up."

After the first week of training camp, Billick decided to forgo the two-a-day schedule, condensing to one extended practice he said maintained the same number of snaps.

Billick said it is the same schedule with a few minor adjustments that has kept the Ravens fresh in games late in the season in previous years.

"Some of the mistakes we made, misalignment mistakes, were just mental errors, lack of focus," he said. "Is that an extension of how tough a camp we run or how mentally focused these guys are? I don't believe so."

Sanders struggles

Defensive players largely have escaped criticisms from the first two games, but attention yesterday turned to Deion Sanders and what has become a slow start for the likely Hall of Fame cornerback.

Sanders struggled with the Indianapolis Colts' Brandon Stokley in the opener, then allowed Drew Bennett to run free for what would have been a big gain had Titans quarterback Steve McNair seen his receiver. Billick defended his nickel back, saying of the 17 snaps Sanders played, he made mistakes just twice.

"Deion played a solid game," Billick said. "He had a busted coverage with Chad Williams one time where there was miscommunication. ... And he had one physical error where he set a little high and got beat. Outside of that, he played pretty well."

Familiar territory

The good news for Billick, he knows how to get his team to fight out of an 0-2 start. The Ravens have done so twice in his tenure, rebounding to win the next two games in 1999 and 2002.

Unfortunately for Billick, neither of those teams made the playoffs. Worse, expectations were far lower than they are this year.

"Understand that 0-2 1999 team that ended up 8-8, which was then the first non-losing record, was acceptable," Billick said. "You came out of it thinking this is OK. That 7-9 cap, rookie year, although how 7-9 could ever be acceptable, at the end of the day I think the general perception inside and outside the organization was, `You know what, given the circumstances, not bad.'

"That's not acceptable for this team. Being around .500 is not something this team aspires to. We have more talent than that."

Extra points

Although it was assumed the Ravens would challenge for the league sack title with their high-pressure scheme, Roderick Green chasing McNair out of bounds for a 2-yard loss in the third quarter stands as the lone sack.

McNair and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning are both former league Most Valuable Players who specialize at getting the ball off quickly, but Billick said how those games unfolded has as much to do with the low sack total.

"It is always hard to analyze a game, or where you're at, when you don't have two fairly manageable games to draw too many conclusions about whatever it is that you do," Billick said. "With the two games that have had the personality that they've had, you might be at a rush to judgment and make a mistake in your judgment because they are not normally balanced games."

... Safety Ed Reed switched his locker to the farthest locker away from the main entrance. Reed's locker was next to Ray Lewis', but Lewis now has taken over both lockers. ... The Ravens will practice tomorrow through Friday before having the weekend off.

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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