Pause that refreshes

Extended bye break bodes well for Ravens

Ravens Extra

January 08, 2007|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN REPORTER

When it came to the first-round bye for the San Diego Chargers, Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints, the general rule was to return to practice by midweek in order to maintain rhythm heading into the playoffs.

The one exception was the Ravens.

Players were given five days off last week and didn't return to Ravens headquarters until Saturday, an unconventional approach that drew more praise than concern.

"We follow our leadership," receiver Mark Clayton said. "If he says this is what we need, this is what we need."

Who can really question coach Brian Billick about how to handle bye weeks?

The Ravens haven't lost a game after a bye since 2001, winning five straight by an average of 11.2 points. It's tied for the third-longest streak in the NFL.

Their success after bye weeks was underscored this season.

After coming off their bye at the end of October - when the players were given five days off - the Ravens became the first team to defeat the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome since Hurricane Katrina.

Then, after their last extended rest - another five days off after a Thursday night loss in Cincinnati - the Ravens became the first visiting team in a decade to win at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium in December.

"We're peaking now - I really believe that," defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "I've had bye weeks before, and you always wonder what the mind-set is going to be the first day because it doesn't take much to know what a team's thinking. You instantly know within five minutes whether you're going to be OK. And we're going to be beyond OK."

In San Diego and Chicago, players practiced Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before getting the weekend off. In New Orleans, the Saints came back for meetings Thursday and practiced Friday.

Meanwhile, the Ravens practiced Saturday and yesterday, when they first addressed their next opponent, the Indianapolis Colts. After having today off, the players will be given the game plan for the Colts tomorrow.

Giving his players such an extended rest was not a tough decision, according to Billick.

"They're tired of listening to me. I'm tired of listening to me," Billick said. "Do you need to get back in that physical rhythm just a little bit? Yeah, we'll put the pads back on Wednesday - which we haven't had for a while - but because of the bye that allows us to do it to kind of get back into that rhythm. I'm comfortable that will be enough."

He described his team as "fresh and excited" after Saturday's light workout.

"They have a nice tempo about them," Billick said. "They knew we needed to get back into a rhythm. It looks like those five days were well-spent."

Some players flew back to their hometowns. Others stayed around the training complex to get treatment on injuries.

And a good number of Ravens took a mini-vacation, going to a spa for days of massage therapy.

"I'm the most rested athlete in football," linebacker Bart Scott said. "The legs are Week 4 fresh, baby."

The bye also can be more than just a physical advantage against the Colts, who played a hard-fought game on Saturday while the Ravens did no hitting.

"They know they're tired, and they know we're rested," fullback Ovie Mughelli said. "So even if it doesn't show physically, they already have that mind-set of `Gosh, is that guy going to be quicker off the ball than me? Is he going to be stronger than me?' So I think it affects them psychologically."

Although it's debatable whether there's more of an edge physically or psychologically, it's nonetheless a distinct advantage to have the time off.

Since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, the top two seeds have won their divisional-round game nearly 80 percent of the time, boasting a 51-13 record after enjoying that first-round bye.

That's why Billick flashed a smile when asked if he had any concerns about losing momentum with the extended rest.

"No one in his right mind would choose not to have the bye," Billick said. "You just wouldn't."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Edward Lee contributed to this article.

Colts@Ravens -- AFC divisional playoff, Saturday, 4:30 p.m., chs. 13, 9, 1090 AM, 97.9 FM Line: Ravens by 4

Good bye

The Ravens have won five straight games after a bye week, tied for the third-longest current streak in the NFL (including playoff byes):

........................................ Last loss ..................... Current

Team ...............................after bye ...................... streak

Philadelphia .....................1998 ............................... 11

New England ...................2002 ................................ 6

Ravens ............................. 2001 ................................ 5

Denver .............................. 2002 ................................ 5

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