OZZIE'S EXCITED ABOUT THE RAVENS
Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of player personnel, could not stop laughing.
"Ozzie, what are you doing? You looked like a school crossing guard or a beauty pageant winner with that yellow thing hanging around your neck," DeCosta said yesterday to Newsome, the team's executive vice president and general manager.
"The man stopped me and told me to wear it when I walk down the street," Newsome explained with a smile. "And, when the police tell me to do something, I do it."
Newsome had been stopped by the police on one of his many strenuous walks through the Owings Mills neighborhoods near the team's training facility. The officer gave Oz a bright yellow reflective strap to wear when he's on his jaunts. It's bright, it's obvious and it has given Eric and others fodder to rib the Hall of Famer.
"Rules are rules. He told me to wear it, and I'm wearing it," Newsome said.
Indeed, Ozzie is an honorable man who follows rules. And, if you have watched the Ravens closely under Newsome's guidance, you can see that he has rules he uses as the architect of the team. It's clear that Ozzie believes in the following foundations:
- Defense is a priority; you can't win if you can't stop the other team
- You have to be able to stop the run
- You have to put pressure on quarterbacks
- You have to be able to run the ball
- You have to be able to protect your quarterback
- You need big-play speed on offense
- You have to have special players who make game-changing plays in big games
Ozzie has more rules, but we won't give away secrets to the Ravens' continued success. (Baltimore is the only NFL team to go to and win a playoff game in the last three years; and one of only three teams (Indy and Philly) to make the playoffs in the last three years. The Patriots, for example, have made the playoffs two of the last three seasons and have not won a postseason game since 2007.)
Another rule Ozzie has is to stay in the background and let the head coach and players be the faces of the team. Oz doesn't do many interviews, but when he does, his voice is honest, powerful and to the point. Last Monday (8/15), Newsome sat with Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan on NFL Sirius Radio. Here is some of what the Wizard said:
ON THE RAVEN RECEIVERS: "We got Anquan (Boldin) and we drafted David Reed a year ago. I don't know if there is a better guy at catching the football and getting open as Anquan. We needed to get more explosive and drafted Torrey (Smith) and Tandon Doss, and both of these guys can play. Then we add the homerun hitter, the three-point shooter with Lee Evans. A game-changer. And, all of sudden, defenses have to play us differently. When they try to take away the deep game – and our quarterback can throw that pass - and leave seven in the box, we'll get behind Vonta Leach and the offensive line we're putting together. We'll cause some problems."
ON THE RAVENS' TIGHT ENDS: "Ed (Dickson) and Dennis (Pitta) are very similar. Both have good size, speed and catch the ball. Ed's a little bigger and just a shade faster. They'll be effective and we see every day how Joe (Flacco) is making them into the type of tight ends we need to win."
ON THE ACQUISITION OF RICKY WILLIAMS: "We have some backs who can run the ball, but you have to pass protect in this league and understand the protections. That's why we went to Ricky. I think he's a little like Shannon Sharpe and Rod Woodson when we got them. Great players with enough left in the tank to come here, understand the role and be very productive for us. Ricky has things you can't teach: natural ability, natural feet, great body lean. He looks good."
ON THE BATTLE TO START NEXT TO ED REED: "You have to give credit to Vince Newsome (Ravens director of pro personnel) and his group. They said we needed a thumper back there and I agreed. (Bernard) Pollard brings an element we need. He brings it. You need someone from the back coming up to thump the runners and he has it. Zibby (Tom Zbikowski) played really well when Ed was hurt last year. Haruki (Nakamura) has been there and can play both safety spots. Competition is bringing out the best in all of them right now."
ON JIMMY SMITH: "My staff tells each other not to fall in love with a player, but I fell in love all over again with Jimmy. You watch him at Colorado and you say to yourself: 'That's the way they make the good ones.' He has those long arms and legs. It's just hard to complete a ball on him. He's so smooth – I am being awfully effusive about him. Ray (Lewis), Ed (Reed), (Terrell) Suggs and Haloti (Ngata) see it. They know what he can eventually bring to the defense."
ON PAUL KRUGER AND SERGIO KINDLE: "Paul is a relentless guy. He has the snap back in his body. Maybe we made a mistake last year in the way we played him. He is feeling good about himself. He's going to help the defense. Sergio? Sometimes you need a little luck in this business. You need a bonus, and he's our bonus this year. He has worked his butt off. The first reports we got is that he would never play and now he looks like the player we drafted. The physical ability is there. He doesn't have the football skills and techniques yet. That will come, we think."
ON JAH REID: "He is swimming a bit, but he is doing really well. It's tough to practice against our defense. We do a lot of different things, a lot of looks. It's great learning for him. He has done okay so far. He is going to be a good player. He's going through a learning process right now, but he's coming."
ON TYROD TAYLOR: "Cam (Cameron) loves him and we see a lot of what Cam sees. He has intangibles off the field, the way he handles himself as a person. When you put on the tape and watch him play, you see him do some things a rookie quarterback shouldn't be able to do. ('That doesn't happen with rookies.') There are going to be some veteran quarterbacks available. We can make a move at that point. But, let's get this guy a lot of snaps in the meantime. Who's Peyton's backup? Tom Brady? Maybe we can do that with this kid, too. He's got something."
Wisdom from the Wizard of Oz, our rule-following master of the Ravens' roster.
Talk to you next week.
Kevin Byrne, a Ravens senior vice president, has worked in the NFL for 32 years. Byrne has been with the Ravens since the start of the franchise in 1996. Earlier in his career, Byrne was the sports information director at Marquette University, his alma mater, when they won the 1977 NCAA basketball championship under coach Al McGuire.