0-2 Ravens turn it on during a week off

Practices during bye are more physical in hope of turnaround

Gameday

September 26, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun reporter

Brian Billick guided the Ravens from a five-game touchdown drought to the 2001 Super Bowl. He nearly took them from salary cap jail to the playoffs in 2002.

Now, in his seventh season as Ravens coach, Billick faces another motivational challenge: How does he avoid another underachieving year after an 0-2 start?

Billick has told his players to take the mind-set that the bye week provides them with a fresh start.

"We'll come out of this [bye] and start our season," said Billick, whose Ravens play the New York Jets (1-2) on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

"That's coach-speak, that is Pollyanna, that is sticking your head in the sand and that's fine. But that is the way we are going to approach it. We have a 14-game season coming up here."

It's a 14-game season in which the Ravens already trail the Cincinnati Bengals by 2 1/2 games in the AFC North.

While the division is slipping away, Billick can control his players' temperament. His teams are 4-2 coming off byes because he knows how to pace his players during the extra week off.

This year, Billick decided to become more physical, which is unlike any of his previous byes. The Ravens put on the pads for contact practices Thursday and Friday.

According to Billick, these workouts were planned at the end of training camp.

"That was the plan all along," Billick said. "But what we're trying to get done with it and the intensity is certainly controlled based on where we are right now."

Coming off two games in which they were outscored 49-17, the players were itching to hit someone other than their teammates this week.

"The one thing I hate about this week off is we can't play," quarterback Anthony Wright said. "But at the same time, we have to take this time and get better, to fix some things we need to fix. We understand that we have work to do, and we're committed to doing what's necessary to get things corrected."

Although Billick told his team to move forward, he admitted that the bye has given him more time to reflect.

"If you have an opponent the next week, you get about eight hours to soul-search, beat yourself up and then you have to move on," Billick said. "With a bye week, that stretches out to a week. You have to be disciplined to do it in a productive way. Where do I channel that anger, anxiety or resentment? I channel it looking at film and say, `What little bit can I give to a player to make him better or what can we do schematically different?'"

Despite having lapses in every phase - from offense to defense to special teams - Billick said the Ravens wouldn't be undergoing any major changes in the playbook.

"We're not going to come out and run the wishbone," Billick said. "I don't know if that's a wise move to do right now. That'd be a heck of a surprise. But that type of dramatic change, I don't know if that would be fruitful."

The players return to work today as they try to prevent the franchise's first 0-3 start and take advantage of one of their few homes games this month.

After playing the Jets at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens go on the road for three of the next four games, traveling to Detroit, Chicago and Pittsburgh. Under Billick, the Ravens are 11-12 in October.

"A lot of people outside of this building are panicking, and there is no need to with 14 games left," receiver Derrick Mason said. "If we go on and win five or six games in a row, then a lot of people will forget about the two losses."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Jets@Ravens

Sunday, 4:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/1300 AM, 102.7 FM

Beneficial byes

The Ravens are 4-2 after the bye week under coach Brian Billick.

Yr. Record entering bye Game after bye

'99 2-3 Lost to Kansas City, 35-8

'00 9-4 Beat San Diego, 24-3

'01 8-4 Lost to Pittsburgh, 26-21

'02 0-2 Beat Denver, 34-23

'03 2-2 Beat Arizona, 26-18

'04 3-2 Beat Buffalo, 20-6

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