Player `passion' won't be curbed, coach says


Billick's caveat: Stay within the rules



If you get turned off by some of the Ravens players' preening, dancing and trash talking after rather routine plays, coach Brian Billick delivered some bad news yesterday.

Those antics aren't going away.

"As a coach, there are a lot of things, personally, I may or may not like or would not personally do - not necessarily may be my style," Billick said. "But you have to be very careful about inhibiting the passion for this game in an arbitrary way. I've got a very diverse group of players economically, socially, racially, geographically, with a number of different upbringings."

It may seem ridiculous at times to see Ray Lewis jump up after a tackle for no gain and start flexing toward the crowd as he did during Sunday's 35-17 loss to the Detroit Lions, or to see Terrell Suggs dance to music at opposing stadiums during timeouts (especially if the Ravens are losing), but Billick said his players are just being who they are.

More and more, though, observers appear to be growing tired of it. But Billick is not, as long as it stays within the rulebook.

"For me to determine that one set of actions vs. another based on my limited perspective in the way that I grew up or the way that I've conducted myself, you've got to be very careful about [that]," Billick said.

"I've got to be responsive to the needs and the passions in the way my players feel like they need to play the game but also make sure there is a very clear line of demarcation as to what is acceptable and what is not."

The Ravens were hit with three unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties - two for taunting - and two ejections against the Lions, crossing that line.

"For those that look at my or any other player, and say, `Gee, I don't like the way he does this or that,' I can't have a bunch of robots," Billick said. "And I can't dictate to 53 individuals that they show their passion and love for this game in a very narrow, rigid perspective of a 51-year-old man."

Practice makes ...

Perhaps the Ravens should be a little less precise in practice.

Billick said last week's workouts were about as good as they have ever been, and his players agreed.

"Anybody who came out and watched us practice, you would have thought we were going to win the Super Bowl," defensive end Jarret Johnson said. "It's unbelievable. But you've got to put it on the field."

All the hard work during the week didn't manifest itself in the Ravens' 21-penalty debacle against the Lions. That's the next step.

"Now the players know that the standard we're going to set with regards to our preparation," Billick said. "We're going to keep it at that level, because at some point, that preparation kicks in and gets done what you want to get done."

No new turf toes

One of the few bright spots for the Ravens was that there were no more toe injuries on the artificial turf.

Fullback Ovie Mughelli was the only player to suffer an injury of any kind when he broke his left thumb in the first quarter. Mughelli was injured after taking a vicious hit from linebacker Earl Holmes on a swing pass out of the backfield. Mughelli fumbled on the play, stopping a Ravens' drive at the Lions' 30-yard line.

"I take full responsibility. Broken thumb or no broken thumb, I should have held onto the ball," Mughelli said.

Mughelli, playing in place of Alan Ricard (calf), likely will be able to play with the cast on his hand.

J. Lewis was on roll

Jamal Lewis looked to be on the verge of having a memorable game when the scoreboard took a turn for the worse and he no longer became a factor.

Lewis rushed for 95 yards, easily his best output of the season. But 39 of those yards came in the fourth quarter, when the Ravens could get no closer than 11 points.

"It was really under our control because we were popping off some good runs," Lewis said. "I think sometimes when you get off course, things happen and mistakes happen. I think when you have a team by its throat, you can't let go. You have to keep choking them. That's my opinion."

Edwards gets praise

Whether defensive tackle Dwan Edwards would step up and play to his second-round status was the source of much discussion last week. He saw limited action against the Lions, and the Ravens came away pleased.

Edwards, who played close to a dozen snaps, helped fill the void left by the injury to defensive end Tony Weaver (toe).

"Dwan did very well for a first outing," Billick said. "We need to expand on that and he needs to expand on that, but we were very pleased."

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