FLACCO, MASON GO AT IT WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON
Heard the loud noises coming from the locker room late Wednesday afternoon.
It was easy to recognize the voices: Joe Flacco and Derrick Mason.
Oh no, not again.
Stuck my head into the players' sanctuary and saw the two combatants going hard at each other – in a lively game of Cornhole, the game that has captivated the players' attention this season. ("Cornhole" is a game where bean bags are thrown into a hole on a slanted wooden board.)
Joe and Derrick were among the last to leave the locker room on Thanksgiving eve. The game revealed the high competitive nature of each of these standouts, but there were smiles and good-natured ribbing.
I saw this confrontation. I did not see the one between these two on Sunday afternoon in Carolina that has generated so much talk this week among the media and fans. No member of the media and no member of the Ravens not on the sideline at the Ravens/Panthers' game watched this "heated exchange." Even some Ravens on the sideline missed the confrontation. The reporting of this exchange came from fans in the stands behind our bench.
HERE'S WHAT DIDN'T HAPPEN
There is no doubt that "Mase" and "Joe Cool" had a heated verbal exchange. I'm 100 percent sure it was nothing like this:
Mason: "Joe, can I have your attention for a second?"
Flacco: "Sure, how can I help you?"
Mason: "I want to point out that I was open on that last play. Did you happen to notice?"
Flacco: "No, I had some things going on, and I missed that. I do know that you get open a lot, and I certainly don't mind you continually pointing that out to me."
Mason: "The reason I do that is because I want the ball, and, if you get it to me, I think we'll have a much better chance to win."
Flacco: "Understood. By the way, when you left the line of scrimmage, did you happen to notice those five guys charging at me trying to disrupt my plans to find you?"
Mason: "Sure, but just throw me the ball, and all will be good."
Flacco: "I'll try to do better next time. Nice talking with you, Mase."
That's not the way it works in a game. The pace on the field is frenetic, even chaotic at times. It is volatile and wild. Intense is not a strong enough word for the competition. There is plenty of nasty. There is no time for a meeting in the office. There is no tabling of a problem or a discussion.
It is fast, at times, furious. The clock is running. Millions are watching, and there is pressure from a lot of different places. Things get addressed immediately in competition, and often times, the discussions are loud and confrontational. They are always direct, and sometimes obscenities fly. There is no, "Let's talk about this later."
When these types of conflicts happen outside of athletic competition, they can make deep wounds and indicate great divides. You probably wouldn't see a husband and wife confront each other this way at your local Giant store. And, if that did occur, your reaction would be: "Those two have serious issues."
It's different in competition. Heck, I'm old, supposed to be somewhat mature and yelled at a teammate in a pickup basketball game last week. He was a friend. He has yelled at me for being dumb on the court. There are no grudges afterward. Right or wrong, it's what happens when you compete, and you want something fixed – NOW.
SIDELINE IS LIVELY AND CRAZED
I've joked with coaches for years that we should put a microphone on all of them and point cameras, and we'd have one of the best reality shows of all time – and that's just the coaches, not the players. You talk about challenging each other, calling each other out, sarcasm, yelling – it's all there. All in the name of trying to get the best play called – in the next 25 seconds.
One of the best I heard about from those involved and other assistants listening took place between Brian Billick and Jim Colletto, the offensive line coach on our Super Bowl XXXV championship team. (Remember, all the coaches are linked via headsets and microphones.)
Colletto: "Who the hell called that play?"
Colletto: "I said, who's the genius who called that play?"
Billick: "I did. I'm the genius."
Colletto: "Who's talking? Who said that?"
Billick: "Brian Billick, the head coach, the guy who hired you."
Colletto: "Good call."
ONE MORE FLACCO/MASON
Because the Flacco/Mason "discussion" became public, the players have had a lot of fun with it this week. There is an excellently-produced flyer on the players' "secret" bulletin board in the training room. (Whatever player produced this piece has a future in advertising.) It's in color and has headshots of Flacco and Mason facing each other – like you see on big-time championship boxing posters. The copy under the picture reads:
FLACCO vs. MASON
COMING TO A SIDELINE NEAR YOU
LIVE ON PAY-PER-VIEW
PROUD TO BE A RAVEN
Thanksgiving is a fun holiday, one that involves spending quality time with family and friends. Our calendars all get filled in a hurry at this time of year. Yet, there were approximately 30 Ravens players out last Tuesday – on their only day off – distributing over 1,500 meals to those in need in the area. Players like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Ray Rice, Jameel McClain, Ben Grubbs, Willis McGahee – and many more – purchased the food and then gave it out at centers around town. Way to go, guys! (And, I know he didn't want it publicized, but John Harbaugh, his wife Ingrid, daughter Alison and John's Mom and Dad spent Thanksgiving evening giving out food at a local mission.) We have a lot of good people at the Ravens.
Enough of that…let's get ready to do what we're paid to do – win games. Let's beat the Bucs. Let's show the visitors what noise our passionate fans can bring to a stadium.
Talk to you next week.