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On the Airwaves


Ravens linebacker **Nick Greisen** is used to hearing a lot of odd things on the football field, but when a local police scanner filled his ears during a practice last week, even he was taken aback.

Greisen, along with fellow middle linebacker **Robert McCune**, is testing the new wireless transmitters that a defensive player will wear in his helmet next year. The radios, which mirror those worn by quarterbacks, will be used to transmit play calls from the sideline.

Apparently, Greisen picked up some chatter from local law enforcement in Owings Mills, Md. while leaning forward to relay a call from secondary coach **Chuck Pagano** to the defensive line.

"That was certainly unexpected," Greisen laughed.

Plays originate with defensive coordinator **Rex Ryan**, but it is Pagano who relays the set in to the defender.

"It gives you time to line up your personnel quicker, with respect to what the offense is doing and down and distance," Pagano said. "Rex makes the call, and then 'boom,' it's in to the 'Mike' linebacker just like that."

In most cases, that player will be nine-time Pro Bowler Ray Lewis. Lewis typically opts out of the voluntary Organized Team Activities (OTAs), thus leaving Greisen and McCune as the guinea pigs.

The radios have only been in Baltimore for a few weeks, but early returns are positive.

"Overall, it's been nice because wherever I am on the field, I don't have to be in a place where I can see [Pagano]," explained Greisen. "We have so many players coming on and off the field, it can be tough to get a clear sight line to the coach."

Bringing radios to the other side of the ball will help defenses protect their calls from prying eyes of opposing offenses. Previously, Ryan and Co. relied on hand signals, which made it easier for teams to potentially steal signs.

In the past, the Ravens would also have two coaches signaling in play calls, with one of those coaches serving up dummy signs.

"It helps us when teams are trying to take our signals," McCune noted. "Offenses can use radios, so why not the defense?"

Pagano said the Ravens will continue to use both hand signals and the radio, at least while players adjust to hearing a linebacker instead of looking towards the sideline.

Moving forward, Pagano expects the old method to be valuable during certain game situations.

"You have to have both, because I think offenses will try to offset any advantage with the hurry-up and no-huddle," said the coach. "You're still going to have to have the ability to signal, especially in the secondary when they have to line up deeper."

As with offenses, coaches have until there are 15 seconds on the play clock before the transmitter shuts down, which gives the player just enough time to align the defense.

Having giant digital clocks at each end of the practice field helps simulate game pacing in the offseason sessions, but Greisen still chuckled when asked about getting his timing down with Pagano.

"Sometimes it's tough because they're trying to speak to you over the headset at the same time I'm trying to talk to the players to correct things," Greisen explained. "We're still trying to work out the kinks."

Another test for the radios will be durability. Because OTAs are non-contact, how the units will hold up when Lewis blows up an oncoming running back remains unknown.

They will certainly be battered more than the one sitting comfortably in the helmets under center.

"That's going to be interesting, seeing how much abuse these things can take," Greisen opined. "We haven't really hit yet, so that's something we'll have to work out in training camp once we put the pads on."

Now, with the radios permanently planted in McCune and Greisen's helmets, the linebackers have just one more request for equipment manager Ed Carroll.

"I've also asked 'Eddo' when I can get an iPod hooked up," said Greisen with an inspired smile. "That would be perfect. You could listen to music and get pumped up when a play is going on, and then when your coach wants to talk to you, it can automatically shut off.

"That would definitely help us in any game." 

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