Liquid showers show Ravens have solid chemistry

December 07, 2008|By DAVID STEELE | DAVID STEELE,david.steele@baltsun.com

Gatorade showers? Who does Gatorade showers anymore?

The Ravens do, lots of them. They love getting them and giving them - and, by doing so, they're proving that they're pretty fond of one another, which is never anything to be taken for granted.

There have been six this season, but they didn't pick up speed until late October, when offensive coordinator Cam Cameron got one at the end of the Ravens' win in Miami, where he was fired last season after one year as coach. In somewhat rapid succession came soakings of defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, after beating the Raiders and his twin (and Oakland defensive coordinator), Rob; special assistant Vic Fangio, after defeating the Houston Texans team that fired him as defensive coordinator; head coach John Harbaugh, after beating the Philadelphia Eagles team he left to come to the Ravens; and last week, longtime Bengals offensive tackle Willie Anderson after the win in Cincinnati.

Notice the pattern of the baptismal candidates. "We've been in a position where, whether it be a coach or player, we've been able to go back and play the team they were on the previous year," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "We have a good track record of going back to those places, or them coming here, and us winning."

It's true in every case except Ryan's, and the first of Harbaugh's two (he got one for winning his head coaching debut against Cincinnati). This likely means that quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson ought to keep his head on a swivel tonight. Harbaugh acknowledged that the team "was a little disappointed" that it didn't get Jackson last week; he had spent three years on the Bengals' staff. However, he also previously coached with the Washington Redskins, whom the Ravens play tonight.

Beyond the pattern of payback celebrations, however, lies an even deeper pattern, one that goes to the heart of why this team has taken the leap from last season's debacle to this season's playoff contention.

"It's a good environment. In my 13 years, it's by far the best environment I've been around," Anderson said. "Guys who enjoy being around each other - I've been places where it's not fun coming to work, but here, even when times are hard, it's fun coming to work every day."

Veteran Ravens, of course, have something more to compare with than Anderson does, but they agree that after some roller-coaster seasons at the end of Brian Billick's tenure, this is an improvement.

"I think it started in OTAs," Mason said, speaking of the long string of offseason workouts after Harbaugh took over. "We were in a situation where with new coaches and new players, we really didn't know what was going on, but the longer we worked together, the more that bond seemed to grow."

It's far from a perfect bond, and even the players acknowledge that - at least those who were not angrily denying reports of pockets of resistance to Harbaugh last week. Those pockets, however, are far outnumbered by those willing to tune in to, and trust, a new set of voices.

"It's a new environment, and not everybody is going to agree with how it's being run," cornerback Samari Rolle said. "But it's a new regime - why not go along with it? The way things were going before wasn't working, and guys were going around here moping. So when things do change, why not embrace it?"

The ever-increasing Gatorade showers indicate the concept is being embraced. Corny, yes, and definitely cold, but the Ravens wouldn't mind keeping the ritual going.

Listen to David Steele on Fridays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).

POINTS AFTER

* When the best thing being said about you is, "At least he didn't hit an artery," then your career has definitely taken a wrong turn somewhere.

* People who should send thank-you notes to Plaxico Burress this week: Sean Avery, the nastiest athlete of our time; Stephon Marbury, knocked off the New York back pages; and the automakers panhandling before Congress.

* Getting emotional about Notre Dame football is almost like getting bent out of shape over CCNY basketball. Dynasties from a bygone era. Let it go.

* Maryland might find its way back to the NCAA men's basketball tournament if it could leave the Atlantic Coast Conference and join the Big Ten.

* "Tainted supplements." Wow, NFL players. Track and field athletes were getting that excuse rejected 20 years ago.

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