Wednesday, May 30, 2007

THE BEATLES & THE NFL


First it was twenty years ago today, then twenty-five, thirty and now it is forty years ago today, when Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. It seems like only yesterday…

I remember visits to my Grandparents’ home, gracefully meandering my way past the hosts after a warm greeting and down into the basement which was my uncle’s domicile. There I found a cool stereo and stacks of albums. That is where at the age of eight I discovered The Beatles. Since then it has been an impenetrable love affair.

Atop the stack was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Sgt. Pepper was more than an album. It was a groundbreaking cultural phenomenon. As a kid I recall it being noticeably different than most other album jackets through its colorful presentation, the lyrics printed on the back and the drastic change in appearance of the boys. Later I would learn of the album’s impact on the music industry.

Up to that time, artists yearned for the hit record. Airplay and sales of singles defined success for musicians and that catchy little elusive hook was the ultimate goal of every little private sit down with a guitar in bedrooms, basements, atop park benches and in classrooms and studios throughout America.

But Sgt. Pepper changed that. The focus shifted to the album and the artistic expression available via the LP (Long Playing) format. The Beatles clearly had their fair share of hits – at one time occupying the top 5 spots on Billboard and 7 of the top 10 spots. Sgt. Pepper featured zero singles. Two songs originally intended for Sgt. Pepper were offered up as a double A-side single featuring Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane.

Imagine those songs on Pepper!

Music became an outlet for creative expression which then extended to other art forms. With Sgt. Pepper, The Beatles helped to unleash boundaries, encourage free thinking and inspire the proverbial crayon to color outside the lines.

In today’s NFL, one can find parallels between Sgt. Pepper and the New England Patriots. Like the guitar player seeking the hit single back in the 50’s and 60’s, teams once hoped to reel in the star players. Today the salary cap won’t allow stockpiling of such players and the emphasis is more on roster depth and maximizing available cap dollars.

The Patriots have proven their ability to color outside the lines and in many ways they are to the modern day NFL what The Beatles were to the 60’s. They are innovators and they’ve influenced others as evidenced by the imitation of the Patriots in front offices throughout the league. The Ravens by their own admission are one of those front offices.

Time will tell if the Patriots influence will last as long as that of The Beatles. Forty years ago, Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers were the standard to which all others were compared. Today, Lombardi’s principles and inspiring teachings remain relevant. Will Bill Belichick’s be as relevant forty years from now?

Perhaps some of us will find out.

Until then, we’ll take it one day at a time here on a blog that I call A Day in The Life where hopefully we and the Ravens will all get by with a little help from our friends.

Oh, and can you please hand me that purple crayon?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

NO SHOWS AT OTA's A-OK!


On Memorial Day Weekend, like thousands of other Marylanders, I was in Ocean City, Maryland. We jet skied, played a little football on the beach, had a few adult beverages, dined at The Blue Ox and of course we made our way to Fish Tales and to Seacrets. No trip to O.C. could be deemed complete without such an “obligatory” indulgence of the senses.

Everyone needs a little down time…even a website whose moniker includes the street vernacular, “24x7.” And thanks to Dev, Shan and Aaron, we were able to live up to the title during the holiday weekend.

The NFL is nearly 24x7. The league owned network continually reminds us that they are “Football24.7.”

(By the way in case you are keeping score, we beat them to the punch with the 24x7 thing. They just happen to have a little more money than us.)

But back to the concept of down time – we all need it. It helps us to recharge the battery. It acts as an incentive for us all to do the best we can so that we can one day afford even more down time.

Down time replenishes and it makes your focus a bit sharper. It works for you, it works for me and it works for most players in the NFL that aren’t members of the Cincinnati Bengals. And that is why I have absolutely no problem with Ravens’ veterans who choose not to attend the non-mandatory organized team activities (“OTA’s”).

Most fans see these OTA’s as the equivalent of another day at the office for the players. But what value is there in running Ed Reed around in the secondary against a receiver whose livelihood depends upon making an impression today? Why should Terrell Suggs or Trevor Pryce report? Are they going to rush the quarterback? Stuff the run? Will J.O. benefit from repetitive hand punching and footwork drills?

Nearly all of the no shows live outside of Baltimore in the offseason. Every day they spend at non-mandatory activities is another day away from their families. Every day they spend on a practice field competing against athletes fighting for their futures puts them at risk. If Ray Lewis blew out an ACL in a passing camp, you can bet those that are criticizing the vets for not being at all the OTA’s will be the first to ask, "Why did Ray put himself in harm's way during a meaningless practice?"

Some might say that their presence is important to the younger players. Sure it is, but there will be plenty of time for that. Let the youngsters take the reps and let them become more familiar with the terminology so that they have to think less and can play at full speed more when summer camp arrives. Besides, isn’t that what the coaches are for? To teach, instruct, encourage, and to criticize constructively?

Football is just about 24x7 for the players. Even when they aren’t in camp they train to be ready for camp because if they don’t, they will lose. Who among the missing vets has ever arrived not ready for camp when health or bereavement wasn’t an issue?

Players like Willis McGahee have posted because he’s driven to be the best he can be in ’07 and the only way that will happen is if he learns the offense. Steve McNair wants to build upon that which he learned in ’06. Bart Scott claimed he has no life and lives in Baltimore anyway so what else is he going to do? (His words not mine.)

The players aren’t robots and like you and me, they can suffer from a bit of burnout. Why risk the onslaught of burnout too early in the season?

Just let them enjoy their families, their lives and workout on their own. That way when summer camp rolls up, the players will arrive in Westminster with a clear mind and conscience as they prepare for the grind of another long, physically and mentally challenging season.

That will begin their Football24.7.

Meanwhile, I think I'll have another Pain in de Ass!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

NFL'S UPSHAW DISSES RETIRED PLAYERS


Throughout my life, I’ve lived along the east side of Baltimore. First there was Fells Point, then the Herring Run/Parkside area followed by White Marsh and now Canton. My journey while short is not unlike many who I grew up with and many that remain my friends.

There’s a sense of community about us and regardless of the societal and economic ebbs and flows of those areas, we don’t deny our roots. We embrace them and we watch the backs of others like us who do the same. We affectionately refer to that as “neighborhood.” If you are labeled a “neighborhood guy” it’s a badge you wear proudly. It’s a complimentary term used to describe a real down-to-earth guy or gal who remembers where and what they came from regardless of their current social status.

NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw is NOT “neighborhood.”

Clearly he’s forgotten where he came from or worse, he’s turning his nose up at his roots.

If you go to the nflpa.org and seek out the “About Us” button it reads:

“The National Football League Players Association is the union for professional football players in the National Football League. Established in 1956, the NFLPA has a long history of assuring proper recognition and representation of players’ interests. The NFLPA has shown that it will do whatever is necessary to assure that the rights of players are protected -- including ceasing to be a union, if necessary, as it did in 1989.”

The NFLPA’s Constitution starts off:

“We, the National Football League Players Association …pay homage to our predecessors for their courage, sacrifice, and vision; …Pledge to preserve and enhance the democratic involvement of our members; …confirm our willingness to do whatever is necessary for the betterment of our membership – to preserve our gains and achieve those goals not yet attained.”

Apparently the Executive Director hasn’t read this constitution lately.

Let’s break down that opening credo – that mission statement of sorts.

“Pay homage to our predecessors”

When you look up the word homage in the dictionary it defines homage as a public show of respect to someone to whom you feel indebted. Hmm…interesting.

When did ignoring the physical ailments of legendary players such as John Unitas and John Mackey become a public show of respect? Hundreds of former players – those courageous predecessors are confined to wheelchairs or they are suffering from dementia or they are so depressed that they’ve contemplated or committed suicide.

“Pledge to preserve and enhance the democratic involvement of our members”

Really Gene?

Then why did you threaten and then try to put the muzzle on a group of retired players who were advocating for retired players benefits? Gee Mr. Executive Director, last time I checked that doesn’t exactly fit the description of democratic. And then you have the unmitigated gall to address a memo to this group which read, "Retired players do not hire me, they can not fire me and they are not union members and are ungrateful for what they have been given to date.”

Ungrateful? Are you kidding me?

You better recognize!

Your cushy little multi-million dollar job Mr. Executive Director, the very office you sit in Mr. Homage Paying Democrat exists in large part because of the predecessors of your constituency. And what makes your behavior even more unconscionable and grotesque is the fact that many of the afflicted players that cry for your help were teammates or contemporaries of yours.

How do you sleep at night? When did you morph into the modern day Ebenezer Scrooge?

You are an overpaid phony Gene Upshaw – a puppet in the ivory tower of La La Land.

You aren’t neighborhood.

You aren’t a guy I’d turn my back to either.

There are football legends in battered wheelchairs who unfortunately made that mistake.

Thankfully Roger Goodell is stepping up.

Let’s just hope his suit isn’t as empty as yours.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

JUST SAY OINK!


"In a bacon-and-egg breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed," Coach Brian Billick said as he addressed the graduating student body from Johns Hopkins University. "Be that pig."

It’s doubtful that at the tender age of 21 or 22, the starry-eyed graduates are ready to go “oink” just yet. Sometimes it takes a little seasoning, a few knocks on the head and a healthy dose of reality to embrace the pig’s commitment. Then again, the students were probably thinking they’d rather bring home the bacon instead of being it.

In the NFL, there’s no other choice but to be the pig.

I remember when Dawan Landry first came on the scene last year, I asked him about his first impressions of summer camp and the speed of the game that we’ve all heard so much about relative to the collegiate game. Landry’s response was very insightful and it provided a glimpse into how he would approach his rookie season.

In so many words Landry said that all of the NFL athletes are among the best in the world but the difference in productivity and performance on the field has more to do with the mental part of the game than anything else.

The terminology, the film study, the understanding of tendencies, the game’s little nuances that enable a player to gain an edge – those things help the athletes play to their physical abilities.

When the players have to think, it slows down their play. When they understand the game better, their team’s offensive or defensive scheme and that of their opponent, the speed picks up. Much like the performance of a computer, the processor speed boosts productivity and results.

Dawan Landry was a pig last year. His surprising productivity is all the proof you need.

And there’s a lot more of that on the farm called One Winning Drive.

There’s a quiet resolve in Ravenstown. That loss to the Colts has left the team with a commitment to take care of some unfinished business.

Oink, oink.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

O's Woes a Boon For The Ravens?

Some people think that I should be pleased with the Orioles’ struggles because the inefficiencies and lack of competency in that organization directly benefits the Ravens and indirectly benefits 24x7.

Certainly one could make that argument and probably even find irrefutable evidence to support that opinion. That said the Orioles’ woes hardly please me. Just ask my steering wheel or the armchair of my couch.

When the season started, I had my doubts. The way the O’s are run makes me sick and while I’m certainly empathetic to the crusade of WNST and I feel their pain, I still maintain that the FREE THE BIRDS campaign was wasted energy. Imagine rallying people together to buy dinner at an undesirable restaurant only to entice the owner to sell and move out of the neighborhood. That makes as much sense as trying to chase away homing pigeons.

Hey I thought we freed those birds?

Uh-uh…they’re back!

The Orioles are part of our sports heritage and while I certainly take my shots at the team here on these pages, it’s a bit like ridiculing your drunken uncle. Yeah you wish he’d change and yeah he has his issues and yeah he plucks your nerves but boy do you love him.

These are our Orioles. These are our sick Orioles who are like a rudderless ship lost at sea.

To make matters worse, the sea is also polluted and very choppy. MLB is about as balanced as Sidney Ponson on a Friday night in Canton. Roger Clemens will earn nearly as much money as a part-time pitcher than the entire roster of the Kansas City Royals will earn in a full season. And this is supposed to be a competitive sport?

The most prestigious sports record of all is about to be broken by an acerbic cheater who’s head is figuratively and literally bigger than it should be. The game that we grew up on hardly resembles this one. As kids the players were part of a team for years. We would take turns imitating batting stances and pitching motions of the players, challenging each other to guess who it was we were mimicking. Today, I couldn’t recite the entire roster to you.

At the beginning of the year, I swore off going to the games because of my disdain for the ownership. I then rationalized that I was punishing the players for the stick-your-head-in-the-sand direction of the team’s owner. So I guess you could say I found orange and black religion…well at least temporarily.

By the time the Orioles returned from a road trip I was on one myself – to the Bahamas. But hey, when I got home, I planned a trip down to the Yard. Really, I did.

While I was away the O's caught a wave and were 11-7 at one point. That was the day I returned. Since then they’ve gone 7-16 and there’s not a chance I’ll be going to the Yard. Why should I be excited to go, why should I think about plunking down my money when most of the players aren’t even excited about playing? Did you watch them at all on Wednesday night?

But hey, things are getting busy here at 24x7 anyway. We’ve got OTA’s to report on that will take us through to the middle of June and then there’s the rookie signing period and then camp and then preseason and then the regular season. That’s a lot to do. That’s a lot to cover. And you will all want to read about it, right? After all, you don’t want to read something as painful as the story of the 2007 Orioles, right? Or the 2006, 2005, 2004, etc, etc.

Gee I guess there is a silver lining in the O’s woes.

Hey who’s pitching tomorrow night?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

SURVEY SAYS...FIRST MARINER ARENA IS DONE!


24x7’s Rick Johnson sent me a press release yesterday regarding the recently concluded feasibility study completed by The Maryland Stadium Authority for a new Baltimore arena.

I have to tell you, I find this to be incredibly comical. And Rick by all means, knock yourself out on this topic and do that proposed column. I'm sure you will make it interesting and thorough.

But c'mon, they need a feasibility study to determine whether or not that litter box on Howard Street has worn out its usefulness? I wonder how many millions that study cost. Are they kidding me? They could have saved that money, sponsored a happy hour at Della Rose’s in exchange for plenty of opinion and commentary on that piece of architecture built slightly after the fall of the Roman Empire.

A study?

So tell me, what did the study’s report conclude?

"The report clearly indicates the current facility is beyond its useful life," said Donald C. Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee. "We have to take that next step and make those difficult decisions."

I'm still laughing. This is a quote from like 1982, right?

Difficult decisions Mr. Fry? This is the equivalent of sponsoring a study to determine if they should stop production of Pong video game controls.

And now they think the best place to develop a new arena is on the site of the old one.

Why?

Just build the thing in Canton and leave the old ugly girl alone until the new girl opens her doors. Canton is a better draw and there’s a much greater probability that people will hang around the new arena before and after events in Canton than they would if the new arena stays on Howard Street. It’s all part of the same city, right? Same tax base?

Besides, if this new arena is to be the crown jewel in the west side’s redevelopment, does that mean that they’ll wait 3, 4 or 5 years before it gets any better over there? Wouldn't that mean it's going to get worse while the current beauty is being torn down?

Last time I checked, Canton has better access to highways too, doesn't it?

Hmmm, sounds like another feasibility study there Mr. Fry.

GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME


Combine talent with effort and good coaching and chances are you will see improvement. Whether you are talking guitar lessons, algebra, little league baseball or whatever tickles your fancy, when you take skill, a great work ethic and solid instruction and throw them all in the mix, chances are you are going to get better.

And that is exactly what the Baltimore Ravens are banking on.

We’ve heard it and we’ve read it – the Ravens don’t want to manage their team through a series of opportunity windows opening and closing. They want to wedge that piece of 2x4 in their window of opportunity and keep it open perpetually. And the way to do that is to bring in young talent, coach them up, give them exposure and mentoring from the quality vets and then let them play.

The Ravens have a history of selecting such players in the draft whose talent didn’t hit the radar screens of many teams. Yet the Ravens found them and they harnessed that talent and groomed them from nobodies to millionaire somebodies.

Adalius Thomas is one such player and he’s moved on to riches in New England. It’s now time for someone else to step up.

Next man up!

And that doesn’t necessarily mean that someone has to step into AD’s shoes and do what he did. To suggest that would be a bit naïve. But with the combined skills of Jarret Johnson, Dan Cody, Antwan Barnes and Bart Scott, the Ravens can help to soften the blow of Thomas’ departure.

Plus you have to keep in mind with their talents, work ethic and the Ravens outstanding coaching staff, players like Haloti Ngata, Dawan Landry and the young corners will improve. Trevor Pryce and Justin Bannan will have a year under their belts in the Ravens system and it’s not a stretch to think that they will improve.

Keep that 2x4 wedged in the window. This one isn’t closing any time soon.

As Eric DeCosta recently told me, “It’s a great time to be a Ravens fan.”

Could we all be standing on a corner in Phoenix, Arizona?

Such a fine sight to see….don’t you think?

SPIDERMAN & THE RAVENS TAKE ON THE SANDMAN



If you find Incredible Hulk-like figures that are about 10 stories tall and made of sand navigating the streets of Manhattan on a destructive and vengeful stroll while holding up Brinks trucks interesting, then Spiderman 3 is for you. If you enjoyed the creativity and light-hearted playfulness of the first two editions of this Spidey series but aren’t necessarily into Godzilla like creatures, you might want to wait for the video edition of 3. Even if you do neither you aren’t missing much. That was 150 minutes of my life I’ll never get back. Even my 14-year-old son seemed indifferent towards it as we exited the theatre.

Some of the sandboxes that the Sandman played in on Spidey 3 reminded me of this new strip of sand that sits behind one of the Ravens' practice fields in Owings Mills, adjacent to the sediment pond. The sand strip I would estimate to be about 15 yards wide and perhaps 40 yards long. Word is that the strip will be used as part of a training regimen to strengthen leg muscles and help players develop a greater short area burst.

If the Sandman is any indication, the Ravens might be on to something.

Then again, the strip may have been added to the shores of the sediment pond’s “coastline” to make the guys from the U, particularly Willis McGahee, feel a little bit more at home.

South Beach, feelin’ the heat?

And by the way, what is up with that random meteor that just happened to be carrying some black gooble-de-goo that just so happened to be superhero steriod gel? Courtesy of Barry Bonds maybe?

Friday, May 11, 2007

HI MOM...SHARING THOUGHTS ON MY MOM & HOPEFULLY YOURS

For years TV cameras have zoomed in on football players along the sidelines after they’ve scored a big touchdown. Some engage in trash talking, others pound their chests and some hold up that famous digit.

And then there are those who simply say, “Hi Mom!”

It’s a very simple response to the presence and pressures of the camera really. It’s also very honest and genuine because when you stop and think about it and you remove all of the other distractions, fan hoopla and window dressing, the most vital, natural, safest and essential connectivity to another human being is that to our mothers.

I lost my Mom on September 27, 1989. She was 51 years old. There has never been a day since when she's escaped my thoughts.

When you lose someone that you love dearly, particularly your Mom, there is a journey that nearly everyone travels in order to complete the mourning process. In many ways it’s like a one year cycle during which you experience their birthday, your birthday and all of the holidays in a calendar year without them. You reflect upon the memories and it’s those memories that keep them alive in your mind, heart and soul.

I’ve learned to deal with my Mom’s passing, perhaps more so than my Dad and my sister. I’m comforted by the fact that she didn’t suffer much when we lost her in those final days and by the wonderful relationship which I’m so blessed to have shared with her. That’s not to say that my Dad and sister didn’t share that – they absolutely did and they adored her. Maybe I’ve just rationalized her passing a little better than them and I know she’s in a better place free of the ailments that took her from this state of consciousness.

That being said, the one day during which all that rationalization and all that acceptance of her passing flames out for me is on Mother’s Day. In my own private way, I still say, “Hi Mom”, yet on Mother’s Day I’m reminded that the mourning isn’t over and perhaps it never will be.

It’s funny in an unusual way that I never think to go to the cemetery to pay respects to my Mom during the year – except on Mother’s Day. I can’t explain it. I don’t go there any time during the year because I know she’s not there. She lives within me. Yet on Mother’s Day, I feel compelled to go to her burial site and say hello. Maybe I’m just jealous of all of you who really can go to their Moms and say, “Happy Mother’s Day” and give them a hug and a kiss.

David Gates nailed it when he sang:

I would give everything I own, just to have you back again…just to touch you once again.

Wow!

I want to share with you a few quick stories about my Mom I guess in part as an ode to her memory. I hope you are compelled to share a few of yours too…

My Mom didn’t come to many of my little league baseball, football or basketball games. That was something that Dad did while Mom tended to my younger sister. But when she did come, I remember her quiet pride. You could see it. Mom was never one to boast to other parents or to other aunts and uncles about me or my sister. She believed that good deeds and success stories spoke for themselves and by not boasting about them, the accomplishments were more pure and if the accomplishments were truly deserving, others would speak of them without her prodding. That’s a lesson I’ve carried with me.

Once in a little league game, I tripled three times. And while that sounds like a pretty good game, I was devastated. You see my Dad was the third base coach and each time I rounded second heading for third, Dad waived me home. Each and every time I was thrown out at the plate. After the last failure to stretch a triple into a homerun, I laid face down at home plate, pounding my fist on the dish that I failed to reach before being tagged three consecutive at bats.

Dad of course picked me up and told me to get my glove and get back out on the field. Mom after the game simply said, “That was a good game and your team won.”

Even at the age of 9 those words cut through the air and I realized how silly and selfish I had been. My team won and that’s what mattered most.

Fast forward to my late 20’s, just a year before Mom passed. I played fast pitch softball for a team called Tom's Tropicals, the fish store on BelAir Road near Joppa Road. We were playing in Salisbury, MD and I was staying with my parents, sister and brother-in-law at the Calypso on 62nd Street in Ocean City. It was a weekend double elimination tournament. Our team was still alive so we were to play again on Sunday following a couple of Saturday wins.

At that time, we wore red jerseys and I asked my Mom to wash my uniform for me. Now just prior to me moving out of Mom and Dad’s house, my Mom had developed this habit of screwing up my laundry. Any time something faded or bled in the wash, the clothing belonged to me. So I asked her to be careful in a slightly sarcastic way never thinking that she would screw it up again.

She did.

My long white sanitary socks that we wore under our stirrup socks turned from white to a beautiful shade of pastel pink. To this day, I can picture her pulling those socks from the wash in that Calypso condo, holding them up and saying, “Uh-oh.”

During Mom’s burial mass, Fr. Vincent, a friend of our family and former teacher of mine at Archbishop Curley, used a wonderful metaphor comparing life on Earth to a caterpillar. When we pass, we enter a stage comparable to that of the caterpillar’s cocoon only to emerge as beautiful butterflies in the next life.

A few summers after Mom’s passing I was standing at the tee of the sixth hole at Pine Ridge Golf Course. As I was addressing the ball, a stunning butterfly seemingly came from nowhere and landed on my chest and stared me right in the eye. It just sat there for a moment that seemed like an hour. I remember smiling and saying, “Hi Mom.”

And with that, Mom flew away towards the direction of my fairway target.

I don’t think that I’ve ever hit a better tee shot before or since.

Enjoy your Mom on Mother’s Day. Make her feel special. She deserves it because let’s face it, when life boils down to its simplest equation, there’s no bond greater than that between a Mother and her child.

Happy Mother’s Day to all Moms everywhere.

You are the essence of life.

Monday, May 07, 2007

B.J. Sams' Days Could be Numbered




Yamon Figurs provides some intriguing possibilities to the Ravens. His personal trainer, the widely publicized Tom Shaw whose list of NFL clients reads like a Pro Bowl roster, emphatically states that he has no doubt that Figurs will be successful as a pro. Shaw explains that, “[Figurs’] work ethic is going to make him special.

“He is going to be the next Devin Hester.”

After all, he ran a 4.22 40 for no less than 15 scouts during personal workouts.

Eric DeCosta believes that Figurs, “Will be a starter from day one as a punt and kick returner.”

And while that all sounds promising to the Baltimore Ravens, it could also permanently change the lives of a couple of other Ravens.

With a pending trial stemming from a second DUI and after a devastating ankle injury, B.J. Sams career as a Raven appears in doubt. Corey Ross, an undrafted free agent acquisition last year probably has no role on the team.

That should free up a roster spot for the club – a spot that could be taken by Troy Smith or a kick off specialist or maybe even an additional offensive lineman.

One man’s loss is another’s gain.

Wonder what the chances are Sams might end up in Cleveland?

Go Figurs…

NFL PROMOTING MEDIOCRITY?


Brian Billick has often said, “If you pay ‘em, play ‘em.” He is speaking of course about the league’s mandate that only 45 of the 53 man roster can actually suit up on Sundays during the NFL’s regular season. I’m with you coach.

Really, what’s the rationale behind this mandate? To me, it simply rewards teams that lack depth. Think about it. If your team is so deep that they struggle to get down to 45 players while another team doesn’t struggle as much having more obvious roster decisions to make, why penalize the deeper, more talent laden team? It makes no sense and promotes mediocrity.

Just like this idea of spreading the NFL Draft over three days instead of two. What’s up with that? Teams that don’t prepare as well will have an opportunity to reset after Friday’s round 1 in the proposed idea. They will have a chance to collect their thoughts and perhaps use the borrowed time to catch up to other teams that are more prepared and thorough.


By the way, this idea about possibly playing a future Super Bowl abroad...are you freakin' kidding me! What's next, singing Britain's national anthem at M&T Bank Stadium? When is enough money enough? Apparently the NFL has yet to answer that question to their collective satisfaction.

And nobody asked me (hey, that’s not a bad name for a column) but I think Troy Smith slid down draft boards for three primary reasons: 1) his height; 2) a terrible game on a national stage; and 3) the Heisman Trophy. Outside of Carson Palmer, what other Heisman winning QB has done anything significant in the NFL for a very long time?

That said I think the Ravens got value with that last pick in the 5th round.

Time will tell.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

WHO MIGHT REPLACE REX RYAN?

Rex Ryan looked happy, sounded chipper and appeared to be ready to hop up on that defensive horse of his and ride it to the top of the NFL rankings again in 2007. And while Rex will never be mistaken for the jockeys competing in today’s Kentucky Derby, he looked much svelter than he has in days past when he and Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen looked like interchangeable parts.

As I watched and listened to Rex coaching up Prescott Burgess, I couldn’t help but think how fortunate the Ravens are to have him return for another season. And then I wondered if this season might be his last with the Ravens. Actually I assume it will be and when he gets another opportunity to tour the vacant coaching positions after the 2007 season his resume will read, “Former defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens.”

Then what?

Who will be around to take over? When Mike Nolan left, Rex took over and the transition was smooth. Virtually no one else was even considered. Who will get the nod when Rex leaves?

Some of have said Jeff Fitzgerald. And while Coach Fitz is an excellent position coach I have to wonder if his excitability projects well to the position of coordinator.

Consultant Vic Fangio doesn’t have the rapport with the players and for the moment his role with the club isn’t very defined or it may not even exist at all. Others have mentioned defensive line coach Clarence Brooks as a candidate as well, a position previously held by Rex Ryan.

And then there is a wild card – free agent defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson who just happened to be at Ravens headquarters yesterday.

I looked at Rex and I saw Donnie over there and it was definitely one of those things that make you go hmmm…

And then I thought back to the time when Jim Fassel was on the scene as a consultant.

Perhaps there is a plan in place.

With the Ravens, there’s always a plan in place.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

SAVAGE TURNS TO BALTIMORE FOR LUCK

On draft day, beneath his Browns blazer and color coordinated plaid shirt that would make a candy corn proud, Phil Savage wore his lucky shirt. He would need some luck on that day. An ineffective 2007 draft could bring a close to his career as GM of the Browns and it would almost certainly end the head coaching tenure of Romeo Crennel in Cleveland.

On paper Savage came through. If his 2007 draft translates well from the paper to the field, his job should be safe for awhile. If not, well let’s just say he could be working for his former protégé in Baltimore.

After the trade was made with the Cowboys enabling the Browns to move up and select Brady Quinn, Phil Savage turned to club president Randy Lerner and exposed his lucky charm -- a Baltimore Ravens T-shirt.

The mastermind behind the new Browns; the deliverer from NFL purgatory was wearing swag from the team that Clevelanders love to hate the most.

"Can you imagine the nightmare scenario if Brady Quinn slides all the way into the 20s, Baltimore jumps up and gets the guy, and he's beating us?" Savage said. "I'd get killed."

Could you imagine Eric DeCosta wearing a Steelers T-shirt under his black blazer and lavender Armani shirt?

By the way Phil, with or without Quinn in ’07 you are still likely to get killed.

Guess who the Cowboys will be rooting against this season?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

WHEN DECOSTA TALKS PEOPLE LISTEN


After listening to and speaking with Eric DeCosta last night I was intrigued by a few of the morsels of info that he shared…those morsels that football junkies like myself crave for….

I mentioned to Eric that Yamon Figurs seemed to me to be a poor man’s Ted Ginn. Eric responded by wondering aloud somewhat…how might the world view both if they switched schools. Good point and it’s this type of thinking that helps set DeCosta apart.

We talked a bit about Marshall Yanda and I said that from my novice’s perspective, he seemed like a bit of a reach. And while he acknowledged such perspective he was quick to point out that the average observer and even a media member doesn’t have the access to the player, the access to his college coach and the access to the film that the Ravens do. Yanda gets the red star seal of approval from the highly respected Kirk Ferentz, Iowa’s Head Coach and former offensive line coach of the Ravens.

Speaking of red stars, the Ravens hand out red stars on draft eligible players that have toughness, intelligence, durability, excellent character and a passion for the game. On day 1 DeCosta said they landed three of those players: Grubbs, Figurs and Yanda. Now these red stars can be assigned by any of the scouts based upon their observations. DeCosta also gets red star discretion as well. Three red star players is the most the Ravens have had. TheY tried for four and while they were pleased with the Day 2 selections, none had the red star label.

On day 2, the Ravens had two fourth round compensatory picks. Those picks cannot be traded and that actually worked in favor of the Ravens according to DeCosta. But first to those two picks on day 2 sitting at 134 and 137, respectively.

The Ravens coveted both Antwan Barnes and Le’Ron McClain and they weren’t sure which to take. San Francisco sat at 135 and Indianapolis at 136. The Ravens believed that given the current roster of the 49ers and the fact that the Colts seldom use a fullback, that exposing McClain was the safer bet if they wanted both players. The Ravens guessed right and later they were contacted by the Colts who said they would have taken Barnes at 136. The Ravens also were told that other teams would have traded up to get McClain if they could but as a result of those picks being compensatory in nature, no trades were permitted.

Later in the draft, the Ravens tried to get through by phone to Prescott Burgess. His cell phone was tied up. They then called his land line and spoke with Burgess’ Mom. When she brought the Michigan Wolverine to the phone, Ozzie asked him who he was talking to and he said the Patriots who were planning to select him. “They can’t”, Prescott was told because one pick prior to the Patriots going on the clock, the Ravens turned in the card. Burgess is now a Raven. Maybe Belichick was trying to tie up Burgess until the Ravens' pick clock expired. Games people play...

The Ravens always seem to do well on Day 2 and DeCosta pointed out that one of the most difficult jobs he has on draft weekend is reshuffling the draft board when day 1 is in the books. The board that was originally set is picked clean at the top and it’s up to DeCosta to reset. Resetting isn’t as easy as it might sound. DeCosta has to consider his day 1 picks which will influence their board ranking for day 2. For example if their number 1 remaining player was a return specialist, that player’s rating would drop since the Ravens selected Figurs on day 1.

These were the things that I remember most from last night. We’ll drill down a bit more with DeCosta not only with the draft but with the plans for the coming season and the draft’s impact on the current roster. We’ll play that interview in its entirety on GAMETIME this coming Sunday.