After bye, Ravens bid farewell to criticism controversy

Players dismiss spat

Billick on Lewis: `We're good to go'

October 30, 2007|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN REPORTER

After finishing their first practice after the bye, several Ravens walked off the field laughing with coach Brian Billick, while others playfully tossed a ball around.

If there was any disarray coming from Ray Lewis' recent criticism of Billick's play-calling, there were no signs yesterday.

From Billick to Lewis to other players in the locker room, the Ravens agreed there is frustration over their 4-3 record but repeatedly said there is no division within the team.

"We're good," Billick said when asked whether he had spoken to Lewis. "That's old news. We're ready to move on to the next challenge. We're good to go."

Lewis intimated last night that he has talked with Billick about the disagreement.

"Nothing is wrong," Lewis said on his radio show last night. "The thing that nobody really understands is the respect I have for him as a man."

Immediately after the Ravens' 19-14 loss at Buffalo on Oct. 21, Billick passionately told his players in the locker room to stick together and not point fingers out of frustration.

A day later on his radio show, Lewis expressed frustration over Billick's decision to throw the ball three straight times, starting with second-and-one at the Bills' 49-yard line with less than two minutes to play. All three passes were incomplete, and the Ravens didn't get the ball again.

"You can't make oranges be peaches," Lewis said last week. "It doesn't change. It will never change. That's what Billick has to ask himself, why we keep putting ourselves in those situations."

Lewis said last night that he was surprised how his comments made headlines in newspapers and were featured on ESPN.

"I didn't criticize Billick," Lewis said. "I just gave my opinion. Coach Brian Billick is a man we're going to follow to the end."

Asked about Lewis' comments, most of his teammates shrugged their shoulders, saying he is entitled to his opinion.

"The good thing about it is we have so many leaders in this locker room that it's not going to divide us," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "If we do, that's what everyone else wants to see. We put it behind us. It's over with. We're going to move on."

The players said they have not spoken about the matter among themselves.

"It happened right before the bye," center Mike Flynn said. "In football, a week is like 10 years in real life. So, it's long been forgotten."

Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, who has been known to kick his helmet during games to vent his frustration, understands Lewis' mind-set.

"We all have to look at everything we do," he said. "I wonder and everyone wonders at times. I don't have a problem with it. That's how you feel, that's how you feel."

Asked whether public criticism of the head coach can distract a team, Ogden said: "It can if you don't handle it well as a team. I think this team understands how we're going to operate. We'll say what we need to say and go back to work. I don't think it's going to affect us."

Returning after having six days off, the Ravens seem to have benefited from the rest.

Four injured starters - quarterback Steve McNair (back), offensive tackles Ogden (toe) and Adam Terry (ankle) and defensive tackle Trevor Pryce (wrist) - all practiced and are expected to play Monday at the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ogden acknowledged that he is still not in football shape. There is a possibility he could still rotate with rookie Jared Gaither at left tackle.

The Ravens also could be cautious with Pryce, who hasn't played since Sept. 16. The team's sacks leader last season, Pryce might be limited to passing situations.

"I'll play as much as they want me to play," said Pryce, who is wearing a protective cast on his left wrist.

The two starters who are considered questionable are cornerback Chris McAlister (knee) and tight end Todd Heap (hamstring). Neither practiced yesterday.

Heap has tried to do light running off on the side and remains focused on playing Monday night.

"That's definitely the goal," Heap said.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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