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Former NBA Ref Working With Ravens On Team Building


Bob Delaney spent more than two decades at the center of the biggest stages in sports.

He has been chewed out by Michael Jordan and stood toe-to-toe with some of the greatest athletes of a generation like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

But Delaney has never felt more interested in the outcome of a professional sporting event than he did two weeks ago when he watched from the sidelines as the Ravens took on the Dallas Cowboys.

"For the last 30 years of my life, I didn't care who won," said Delaney, who worked as an NBA referee for 25 years. "During that Dallas game, the feelings in my gut I haven't had since playing college ball. I wanted them to win so badly, and that was just a preseason game."

Delaney is now invested in the Ravens after spending the last month in Baltimore working with the team on the mental side of sports. Since retiring from the NBA in 2011, Delaney has moved into a consulting role where he develops mental conditioning programs for different groups.


Prior to his career as an NBA official, he worked in law enforcement and spent three years as an undercover agent infiltrating the mafia in New Jersey. Delaney's experience gives him a natural connection to teams and the military, and he has worked with a variety of groups* *using his programs. Last year, he spent time with Florida State's national championship football team.

Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh and Delaney have known each other the last few years after getting introduced by mutual friend Gen. Ray Odierno, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, and Harbaugh asked Delaney to put together programs for training camp and the preseason.

"John knew about the programs I developed for mental conditioning, resiliency, communication, leadership and teamwork," Delaney said. "Just like you can build your muscles, you can build resiliency and mental toughness."

Delaney, 62, has spent the last month living out of the team hotel and connecting with players whenever he gets opportunities. Delaney has spoken during team meetings on a few occasions, and position coaches have also invited him to talk with their individual groups.

"One of the biggest ways for me to gain trust is making sure I'm here every day," Delaney said.

Delaney has worked to connect his programs with the messages Harbaugh delivers. Last week, Harbaugh emphasized precision and attention to detail during team meetings, and Delaney then asked the U.S. Army Drill Team to perform for the team after practice, giving the players a visual connection with the message of precision and execution.

"We're only looking for a little edge," Delaney said. "I'm not saying this is the ultimate answer. But it's an edge."

Delaney has used his experience from the basketball court to help connect with the Ravens,players often ask him about Jordan and LeBron, or they wonder about life inside the mob.  

"A big thing for me is people teaching who have been in similar situations," cornerback Asa Jackson said.  "Even though Bob has never played football, he's been a ref in the NBA forever and he was in high-stakes situations in his job before that. Having someone with that kind of experience in high-pressure, high-tension situations, it's a great way to strengthen some of the mental games that get played in football."

Delaney still has plenty of connections inside the NBA that he has leaned on during the summer with the Ravens. After the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA Finals this year, running back Bernard Pierce pointed out that the Spurs always manage to fly under the radar, despite winning five championships over the last 15 years.

That prompted Delaney to call Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich to and ask about how his team has handled their success. Popovich called back and left a detailed voicemail, which Delaney shared with the entire team in the next day's meeting.

"There's a mutual admiration between athletes and coaches in professional sports," Delaney said. "Teams are teams. It doesn't matter whether it's a Navy Seal team, an Army Ranger team or the Ravens."

Delaney is scheduled to work with the Ravens through the rest of the preseason this week. He has been part of an overall effort  to foster team building during training camp, and the Ravens hope those experiences carry over to whatever awaits them during the ups and downs of the regular season.

"The same ingredients go into making a great team. The more we reinforce those the better," Delaney said. "Every journey has bumps in the road. How do you get through those bumps? You create a positive team environment to prepare for those bumps before they happen."

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