Sleepwalking Ravens need Ray Lewis to sound alarm

November 11, 2009|By Kevin Cowherd

I just listened to an old Vince Lombardi speech on the Internet.

Lombardi is addressing the Green Bay Packers in the locker room moments before they take the field against the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II.

Gradually he works himself into a lather.

Then he builds to the red-meat conclusion.

"You gotta go out there like a bunch of tigers!" he shouts. "Just hit, just run, just block and just tackle! ... There's nothing out there you haven't faced a number of times! Right?"

"Right!" roar the Packers.

You can hear how fired up they are. I bet they tore the locker room door off its hinges to get at the Raiders.

And they destroyed them, 33-14.

Which makes you wonder: Could coach John Harbaugh use that speech on the Ravens?

I say that because it's clear that something has to be done to motivate this team.

Something has to be done to get this team to play hard from the opening kickoff, which it sure didn't do in Sunday's 17-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and in several earlier losses, too.

Maybe it's harder to motivate today's NFL players - especially the millionaire superstars - than it was in Lombardi's day.

But Harbaugh had better find a way to do it if his team is going to make the playoffs, something that looks 50-50 at best right now.

Here's the question that has dominated the local sports talk shows and blogs lately: How could the Ravens come out so flat against the Bengals after that uplifting 30-7 win over the Denver Broncos a week earlier?

But when Harbaugh met the news media Monday, you could tell he had no answer.

And that's the scary part of all this.

Oh, sure, he dusted off the old coach's tactic of blaming himself for not having his players ready to play.

"First of all, it starts with me," he said. "It's my job to give our guys every opportunity to play as well as they can play. And I need to find a way to do my job better."

But that's just smoke and mirrors.

Harbaugh wasn't out there sleepwalking with the defense, which let the Bengals score the first three times they had the ball.

And he wasn't buckling a chinstrap on that offense that looked slow and confused and did nothing for three quarters against Cincinnati.

"It has nothing to do with the coaches," Ray Rice said of the Ravens' slow starts. "That's just us."

He's right. Only the players can make sure they don't come out flat from now on.

I'll tell you what the Ravens really need right now. They need Ray Lewis to step up and be a leader again.

Sure, the Pro Bowl middle linebacker has always been the heart and soul of this team. And he has been a great leader for years.

But lately he has been too quiet, too tolerant of the lethargy that sometimes grips this team.

The Ravens need him to start breathing fire again.

They need him to get in guys' faces before each game and make sure they're ready to play.

They need him to stand up and say: "How we played against the Bengals is disgraceful. We're not playing like that ever again as long as I'm here."

Then they need him to go out on the field and play like a demon and back up his words.

Believe me, that'll be a lot more effective than any pep talk Harbaugh gives.

On the other hand, if Harbaugh does decide to go the pep-talk route, maybe he could try what former Bengals coach Forrest Gregg once did.

According to a 2008 article in the Orlando Sentinel, Gregg, with his team trailing the San Francisco 49ers 20-0 at halftime of the January 1982 Super Bowl, kept his remarks in the locker room brief.

In fact, he uttered only two sentences.

"Well, guys, you can't screw it up any worse than you already have," he said. "Just go out there and give it a shot."

"It was the greatest thing I ever heard," said broadcaster Cris Collinsworth, a wide receiver on that Bengals team. "We all started laughing and went out and almost won the game."

In the right circumstances, I guess that could work, too.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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