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Cameron all business in preparing for Miami, even as Dolphins sling attacks at old coach

October 17, 2008|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,ken.murray@baltsun.com

When Cam Cameron's past caught up with his present this week, the Ravens' offensive coordinator was content to let it pass without complaint.

Nine months after he was fired as head coach of the Dolphins, Cameron returns to Miami on Sunday. The mere thought of that reunion revived bad memories and bitter accusations in South Florida.

On Wednesday, the Dolphins took turns berating their former boss. Spurred by an innocuous comment from Ravens coach John Harbaugh, several players who remain from last season's 1-15 Miami team attacked Cameron's leadership, if not his character.

Given the opportunity to answer his critics, the former boss declined to fire back.

"What I would say to [the criticism] is I take full responsibility for what took place down there," Cameron said yesterday. "I've never put it anywhere else; I put it square on my own shoulders.

"With that being said, I think things happen for a reason, and I'm thrilled to be in Baltimore."

For Cameron, 47, it's all about this week's game, about focusing on what matters now, not what happened a year ago.

But the Raven who probably knows him best expects the competitive juices to boil to the surface this weekend.

"He's still going to call the plays the way he calls them," said fullback Lorenzo Neal, who spent four seasons under Cameron with the San Diego Chargers. "But he's going to go down there on a mission. Does he want to win? Yeah.

"He's not going to cry about it and say, 'Oh, they did me wrong.' He just wants to win."

Hired in Miami on Jan. 19, 2007, in the wake of Nick Saban's sudden defection to Alabama, Cameron was ousted Jan. 3, 2008, by newly hired executive Bill Parcells.

In between, he weathered an epidemic of injuries, a locker room full of dissension and finger-pointing that usually accompanies losing teams.

There were reports Cameron feuded with defensive stars Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas, that he was dressed down by linebacker Joey Porter in a bizarre locker-room scene in December and that he ultimately lost the locker room altogether.

When Harbaugh suggested in a conference call with Miami media Wednesday that Cameron "did a great job there with what he had to work with," the Dolphins took umbrage. They pointed to the differences between Cameron and new coach Tony Sparano, who has the Dolphins off to a 2-3 start this season.

Nevertheless, the Dolphins under Parcells turned over more than half of Miami's roster in the offseason. They have 27 new players on the 53-man roster.

"I don't want to get into a Cameron vs. Sparano," defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday told reporters. "Sparano has been a better coach for us so far, as you've seen. We've already won two games. I think we're a very competitive team. I think we're going in the right direction. It remains to be seen the rest of the season how it plays out. Two very different style of coaches."

In a conference call with Ravens media, Porter declined to talk about Cameron's time in Miami. But Holliday, among others, talked of how player support for Cameron steadily eroded.

"There were various times over the season, incidents, where this [previous] coaching staff started losing this team and slowly but surely he ended up losing everybody maybe except for one or two guys," Holliday told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Before joining the Dolphins, Cameron resuscitated the Chargers' offense during a five-year stay in San Diego as offensive coordinator. The Chargers led the NFL in scoring in 2006 with 492 points. Cameron was responsible for developing quarterbacks Drew Brees and Philip Rivers while there and Trent Green and Gus Frerotte before that with the Washington Redskins.

He tried to recycle Green in Miami last season but lost him early to another concussion. He also lost Thomas and running back Ronnie Brown early in the season to injuries.

Cameron got off on the wrong foot in Miami when the Dolphins took wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. with the ninth overall pick in the draft instead of quarterback Brady Quinn. Because the team desperately needed a quarterback, fans wanted Quinn. They wound up settling for John Beck, who was overmatched as a rookie.

"Yesterday is gone," Cameron said. "I think more often than not you can survive if you learn from the past and focus on today. That's what we're going to demand of our players. ... One thing they're going to see consistently is we're going to learn from any experience we have."

For now, Cameron's biggest jobs are getting the offense back on track after a dismal five-turnover performance in Indianapolis and getting rookie Joe Flacco up to speed in the NFL.

While he didn't want to look back, Cameron also didn't want to look too far into the future. Asked whether he wanted to get another shot to be a head coach in the NFL, he said, in so many words, he was in the right place to get that shot.

"I'm going to do the best job that I can as a Baltimore Raven and help the Baltimore Ravens win a championship, if not more," he said. "That is my focus. With this being said, I understand now more than ever why so many guys have left here and gone on to be head coaches - because of the experience they're afforded here with our owner, our general manager and the people in this organization. It prepares guys to be head coaches like no place I've been.

"At the same time, I know why I'm here. I've got a great friend that I'm working for [Harbaugh]. I'm going to do everything I can to help this man and this organization win a championship."

RAVENS

@DOLPHINS

Sunday, 1 p.m. TV: Chs. 13, 9

Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Miami by 3

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