Reflecting On Mcnair

His Former Coaches Billick And Fisher Focus On All The Good Things Slain Quarterback Accomplished

July 07, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

The sensational murder of Steve McNair will tarnish the veteran quarterback's legacy in the eyes of fans, former Ravens coach Brian Billick said Monday.

McNair, who played under Billick in 2006 and 2007, was shot and killed Saturday in Nashville, Tenn. Married for 12 years, he was found dead near a 20-year-old woman whom police say he had been dating. While McNair's death has been ruled a homicide, police have not classified her death.

"That is unfortunate because Steve was a man who did so many good things in both this community and in Nashville that deserves to be thought of in better terms," Billick told WNST, a radio station that he partly owns. Billick declined to talk to The Baltimore Sun.

Billick added: "It's a life lesson for all of us that all it takes is conduct in a certain way to wipe all that out. It will never remove the good things that he did with his life, but how he's perceived by the fans - whether that has value or not - that's irrecoverable. That asterisk is always going to be attached to it because of the tragic way his life ended."

When Billick first heard about McNair's death, he thought about the effect it would have on the quarterback's family. Billick granted special privileges to McNair so he could fly back to Nashville after games and spend a couple of days with his family throughout the season.

McNair, 36, had four sons (ages ranging from 17 to 5). He married his wife, Mechelle, in 1997.

"I think it's a constant reminder to fans that these guys are human," Billick said. "They are vulnerable to make mistakes and this obviously became exacerbated, although this is as extreme a case as you're going to find."

A memorial service will be held Thursday in Whites Creek, Tenn. Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason, McNair's close friend and longtime teammate, is scheduled to speak.

McNair's funeral is Saturday in Hattiesburg, Miss., where Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome will attend.

Since McNair's murder, the details of his personal life have drawn more attention than his decorated football career.

Photos posted on TMZ.com show McNair gazing and smiling at his girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, during a recent vacation that included parasailing. The family of Kazemi said McNair talked about divorcing his wife. The New York Daily News is reporting that McNair's wife had no knowledge of a girlfriend.

Friends, teammates and coaches have said the tragic circumstances surrounding his death stand in stark contrast to his public persona.

"It's shocking to hear that it was Steve," Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs told ESPN.

"There are some guys that don't make good decisions and are in the wrong place at the wrong time. But Steve wasn't one of those guys. When I first heard about [his death], I thought it was a prank."

Traded from the Tennessee Titans, McNair led the Ravens to a franchise-record 13 wins in 2006 and guided them to the AFC North title. But injuries sidelined him for most of a dismal 2007 season, which ended with the firing of Billick. McNair retired in April 2008.

A three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, McNair was known for his leadership and toughness. He was the NFL's co-Most Valuable Player in 2003 and ranks as one of only five quarterbacks in league history to have thrown for 20,000 yards and rushed for 3,000 yards.

McNair also did extensive charity work through his foundation, helping load donated food, water and clothes onto tractor-trailers for Hurricane Katrina victims and paying for three football camps for children this year.

"I guess when you paint a picture of anybody, you have to paint the dark colors along with the light," Suggs said. "But as long as the positives outweigh the negatives, it shows what kind of person he was."

Jeff Fisher, who coached McNair for 11 seasons with the Tennessee Titans, learned about McNair's death while coming home from a Persian Gulf tour with other NFL coaches, including the Ravens' John Harbaugh.

During an emotional news conference Monday, Fisher thanked several Ravens players for sending their condolences. Mason, cornerback Samari Rolle and linebacker Ray Lewis all sent texts to Fisher through Harbaugh.

"He loved that experience [in Baltimore] from [owner] Steve Bisciotti to Ozzie to all of his teammates, but Nashville was his home," Fisher said. "He was an Oiler. He was a Titan. This was his home.

"The Steve McNair that I knew would want me to say: 'I am sorry. I am not perfect. We all make decisions sometimes that are not in the best interest. Please forgive me.' The Steve McNair that I knew would want me to say, 'Celebrate my life for what I did on the field and what I did in the community, the kind of teammate that I was' - that's what the Steve I knew would want me to say."

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Police say pistol apparently used to kill former Raven McNair and his girlfriend was bought by the woman

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