Billick to players: be fit, behave

Ravens end final minicamp with message about off-field conduct

June 15, 2007|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun reporter

As the Ravens wrapped up their final minicamp yesterday, the club asked for two commitments from its players over their six weeks of vacation:

Stay in shape and stay out of trouble.

Considering NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's crackdown on misbehavior, the Ravens know off-the-field problems could detract from another playoff run.

"Nothing good ever happens after midnight," Ravens coach Brian Billick told his players. "I know that isn't going to keep some of you from going, but at the very least, I hope you feel guilty about it."

The Ravens had sessions virtually every day for rookie and first-year players about conduct issues.

As for the veterans, Billick said they should already be schooled on what's at stake.

"It would be inconceivable for me that a player, if he finds himself in that situation, doesn't know what the consequences are," he said. "It doesn't mean that it won't happen. But I can't imagine a player not understanding how much at risk he is if he conducts himself in a way that could bring that attention to him."

The consequences have made headlines throughout this offseason.

Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones was suspended for a year after 10 encounters with police and five arrests since he was drafted in 2005.

Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson received an eight-game penalty after serving two months in jail for violating probation on a gun charge. Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry also was disciplined for eight games after being arrested four times in 14 months.

The message has become clear, according to several Ravens.

"[Goodell] definitely got all of our attention," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We're being more careful than we've been."

The Ravens, though, have had to deal with two court cases this offseason.

Return specialist B.J. Sams was acquitted of driving under the influence May 15 and was found guilty only of a lane violation.

Quarterback Steve McNair will have a pre-trial hearing on a driving under the influence-related charge on July 10 in Nashville, Tenn. It's expected that the charge will be dismissed.

Other teams have more pressing matters.

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Shaun Rogers is being investigated for sexual assault after a stripper accused him of entering a dressing room and forcibly groping her.

And Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick could face charges in a dogfighting case.

"I think we're getting to the point now [with] sponsors and kids, where you have to conduct yourself a certain way to put on an NFL uniform," Ravens defensive tackle Trevor Pryce said. "If you're going to hold people accountable for that, then I'm all for it."

Suggs' concern is how the commissioner has taken disciplinary action before the players have been found guilty.

In June 2005, Suggs went on trial for assault during a playground fight but was later acquitted of the charge.

"I had a little incident where there was not alcohol involved and I wasn't at a nightclub. Trouble found me," Suggs said. "I did everything in my power to prevent it and it didn't get prevented. In every case, you have to analyze and look at both sides of the story before making hard decisions and giving an eight-game and a year suspension out."

In other instances, it seems that players seek out trouble with their decision-making.

"You have guys that are making a lot of money and you can't just go out there and pretend you're invincible. Or else, they're going to take that money away from you," Pryce said. "So, I think he's trying to help you more than he is trying to hurt you. It's like, `Here you go, this is what's happening. Take care of yourself or we're going to take care of it.' "

Notes -- The Ravens had their final minicamp practice and won't reconvene until July 29, when the players report to training camp at McDaniel College. Unlike previous seasons, Billick sent his offensive players home with their playbooks. "We're going to start [training camp] fast," he said. "And if they don't know what to do on the first day back, it's going to be hard for me to understand. I'm going to have a less-than-calm demeanor if they don't know where they're supposed to be." ... Cornerback David Pittman returned to the field after missing the past couple of minicamps, but he still did not practice. He ran off to the side to test his injured left hamstring. "It's getting a lot better than what it was," said Pittman, a former third-round pick. ... The Ravens won't know until next month whether linebacker Dan Cody will need knee surgery, which could end his season.jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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