- The Washington Times - Friday, July 26, 2002

WESTMINSTER, Md. If you're tired of Brian Billick's arrogance and ego, he's got some news for you you're not going to see or hear him this season.

With a Super Bowl ring and a four-year contract extension, the Baltimore Ravens' fourth-year coach is content to rebuild with young, untested players. With this lot, Billick would be hard-pressed to go 8-8.

"For those that are tired of me and there is obviously a fair share of those that are tired of my arrogance and ego you're going to get a reprieve from me this year, because I don't imagine you're going to see me on a lot of TV shows or a lot of interviews based on the projections people have for us," Billick said.

Maybe it was symbolic that Ravens flags were flying half-staff yesterday in front of the team's training camp headquarters.

Perhaps the Ravens already know what they are in for this season. Just nine starters return from last season's 10-6 playoff team. Free agency losses have decimated the once-feared Ravens. The plan was to win back-to-back Super Bowls with high-priced veterans, and it fell short last season. Now those veterans, including many familiar names, are gone.

Billick issued his state of the team address yesterday and officially kicked off training camp with a common theme: The team is going to be young, and second- and third-year players need to play bigger roles.

When it was pointed out to Billick that projected starting quarterback Chris Redman took just two snaps last season kneeling twice during garbage time to close out the Ravens' 20-3 AFC wild-card victory over the Miami Dolphins Billick equated those plays to a wealth of experience.

"Well, that's about a thousand times more experience than a number of others that I'm going to start at other positions," Billick said. "It's Chris' time. He's been a part of the system long enough that he should understand it. He's been around a number of different quarterbacks, so he's learned good and bad. He's been on a championship team a Super Bowl-winning team so he knows what that looks like. He has all the physical tools and now it's a matter of those showing up on the field and him taking control of this team."

Billick earned the reputation as an offensive genius during his days as offensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings; now Baltimore fans will find out if he deserves that reputation. Up to now, the Ravens' intimidating defense has carried the team, but middle linebacker Ray Lewis, cornerback Chris McAlister, linebacker Peter Boulware and defensive end Michael McCrary are all that is left from the Ravens' 2000 unit arguably the greatest defense ever.

If Billick's offense is to be successful this season, the Ravens must move on the ground. Running back Jamal Lewis returns after sitting out last season recovering from ACL surgery, and if he can provide constant yardage, Redman's job will be much easier. Either way, the expectations for Redman and the Ravens are not very high.

"I think we can go out there and have fun," Redman said of the season and predictions that the Ravens will finish near the bottom of the newly created AFC North division. "I think we can really surprise some people."

Billick said the reason why the Ravens are so lightly regarded this season is because nobody knows what his team has. He admitted he doesn't know either. But, Billick predicted that when the season starts, the Ravens will add two or three veteran free agents who are not on this 82-man training camp roster.

"I will wager when we get through this training camp, you can take the Houston Texans' roster and compare it to what our final roster will be, I think you will find us a younger, less-veteran, less-experienced team than that expansion franchise," Billick said. "Believe me, I know what's in store for us better than anybody."

Meanwhile, the Ravens agreed to terms with rookie receiver Javin Hunter, a sixth-round selection out of Notre Dame. Hunter's signing leaves their first-round pick, safety Ed Reed, and second-round choice, defensive end Anthony Weaver, as the only unsigned rookies.

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