Leadership, Party Bus And A Big Win
What I really want to talk about this week is how big last Sunday's win over the Texans was. That is a very good team we beat. … And we did it with a depleted roster.
But first let's discuss the phone call we received from TMZ last Monday shortly after 1 p.m. When we play on Sundays, players report for a 1 p.m. meeting on Monday. So, when that bastion of journalism TMZ called at about 1:10 to tell us about an incident with Bryant McKinnie and Jacoby Jones that happened in D.C. at 3 a.m. that morning, John Harbaugh was reviewing plays from the Texans game with Jacoby, B-Mac and the rest of the Ravens players and coaches.
Because it was TMZ, we did not overreact. Could everything they reported be true? Sure. Could there have been some embellishment? Yeah. (What is clear is that McKinnie and some friends celebrated his birthday in D.C. and that Bryant didn't drive – he rented a "party bus.")
Who cares? We're not bursting with pride because some of our players were out into the early morning hours after a game. As Coach Harbaugh said, "It's disappointing. … And, what do you want to be known for?"
Then, as we all saw, the talk turned to leadership or a lack of it on the Ravens. Ray Lewis made a comment on ESPN that night, and that turned the media conversation into national headlines.
"Do the Ravens have enough leadership in their locker room to control the masses?" Let me say a couple of things about that. We have a good group of men on our team. For the most part, we bring in a certain type of person who "plays and acts like a Raven."
Our history is pretty good when it comes to acquiring solid citizens. It's proven.
We're not perfect, and neither are our players. Historically, Ravens players, for the most part, are reasonable citizens and our current group, I believe, will live up to that standard.
Where Are The Leaders?
We've been asked a lot since winning the Super Bowl about overcoming the loss of great leaders like Lewis, Anquan Boldin and Ed Reed. That has given Harbs the opportunity to brag about the current group, and he has specifically pointed out men like Haloti Ngata, Lardarius Webb, Jameel McClain, Terrell Suggs, Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Marshal Yanda and Torrey Smith.
Those of us here every day can see leadership all around. First, you could argue that there is no better leader in the NFL among coaches than John Harbaugh. He is historically good, and it's obvious we all respond to his commanding, yet welcoming, presence.
Do we see it with the players? Yep. Rather than claim guys are leaders, I'll tell you a couple of things we find impressive.
Players have just one day off every week (based on a Sunday game.) That's Tuesday. On Fridays, we try to get the players out of here by 2 p.m., encouraging them to stay off their feet as much as they can before returning for Saturday meetings and a brief practice.
Walking down the hall last Friday afternoon, I heard the unmistakable big voice of Suggs coming from one of our meeting rooms. A peek inside revealed the linebackers and defensive linemen watching video without a coach present. The day was supposed to be finished for the players.
"Haloti and I run it," Suggs said. "We go 45 minutes to an hour, and we just make sure that we're all on the same page with the game plan. We all need to see the same thing. Ray (Lewis) used to do one like this a few years ago. I think doing this on our own, without the coaches, helps our communication."
Party At Lardarius' House
Not what you think.
I asked James Ihedigbo if the secondary did its own meeting on Fridays. "No, but we go to Webb's house on Wednesday nights."
"Yeah, all the DBs (defensive backs) come to my house on Wednesday, and we look at the game plan we were given that day by the coaches," Webb said. "It's good for us, because it helps us all get on the same page."
Why is Webb the host? "They say I make the most money, so I have to have it at my house. I get some food, and we're building a real strong group back there. The time together is good for us."
The Victory Over Houston
First player I saw last Saturday morning at our Under Armour Performance Center was Jacoby. The injured receiver and return specialist was getting a treatment on his damaged knee.
My first thought as I said hello: "Sure would be nice to have him tomorrow against his old team."
Then I saw Dennis Pitta and was pleased to see him walk into the training room without crutches. He's making progress, and there's a chance he'll play for us later this season. But, it hurt knowing that he couldn't help us the next day against the undefeated Texans.
Our hope was that Ray Rice and Chris Canty would make enough progress with their injuries to be able to help us beat the Texans. When I was told it was unlikely that neither would be active the next day, I was slumped shouldered.
With Houston featuring one of the NFL's best offenses with probably the NFL's best combo of running and passing excellence, the loss of Canty would hurt a lot. Plus, we already were down one defensive lineman with rookie Brandon Williams, who we believe will play very well for us this season, still sidelined with a foot issue. Of course, Rice is a player the defense has to assign players to every time he lines up. Even when Ray is not producing big yardage, he's allowing others to make plays because of the attention every defense gives him.
(And for good measure, I bumped into Jameel McClain, currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list, as he left the building after a morning workout. Man, we will get a boost if he can come back this season – and wouldn't he look good tackling Arian Foster if he was ready now?)
Brimming with confidence I was not.
After seeing all the guys who weren't going to play against the Texans, I headed for the production meeting with the CBS-TV crew handling the broadcast. The first questions were about what we could do differently to prevent what happened to us a year ago against the Texans. Houston, you'll recall, gave us our worst beating of our recent Super Bowl season – a 43-13 shellacking.
That made Sunday's 30-9 triumph over the previously-undefeated Texans that much better. Our coaches did a terrific job, and the players who played stepped up.
This win made me excited. There's a chance all the injured players I mentioned will be back making plays for us this season, including McClain and Pitta. Some, we hope, will be ready for Sunday's game at Buffalo.
We're a little under the radar right now. That's OK. We're playing well, but I think we can play a lot better, and the cavalry is on its way. Enjoy this 2013 ride! The next step takes us to Buffalo. Let's beat the Bills.
Talk with you next week,