A Possible Break?

Could it be? Could the San Diego Chargers actually get their first break of the year?<br><br> Believe it or not, it is quite possible. With the Bolts sitting at 0-2, they need all the help they can get. Confirmation of the events has made it happen and it could not have come at a better time.

Hurricane Isabel is tearing through the East Coast and Tuesday, 75,000 residents in North Carolina were urged to evacuate on Tuesday.

"Our travel this week is going to be a little bit in flux, based on the pending weather, and what we can accommodate in San Diego," Baltimore Head Coach Brian Billick said. "We planned to leave on Friday."

Hurricane Isabel is forecasted to move shore on Thursday and has forced the Baltimore Ravens into altering their travel plans. US Airways has already provided a flexible schedule for departures by expanding their service out of areas that will be affected.

So what if the Ravens have to come into San Diego early. It is a beautiful place to be anytime of the year. Who wouldn't want to come into San Diego for a few extra days of fun in the sun?

"Why? Because San Diego is a beautiful place (laughing.) I've told the guys to pack light because we are going to do a job," Billick said.

As Hurricane Isabel tears through the east coast like Jamal Lewis in Cleveland (or perhaps San Diego for that matter), the team has decided it is in their best interests to come to San Diego early.. It is not as easy as it sounds, however. There are stumbling blocks for Baltimore laced through this move.

"We can't take the chance, given the reports for Thursday and Friday, to be forced off the field and off our routine to that degree," Billick said. "We were planning on going to San Diego on Friday anyway. This upped it a little bit. The organization, the staff has done a great job of making this happen for us, so hopefully, we can get tomorrow in and we'll be out of here by Wednesday and be able to get our normal work week in on Thursday and Friday."

Billick contends the team will keep some semblance of a "normal" schedule by coming out early. Still, demons lurk in the corner and the team could see their preparation tossed around the maelstrom that is a new facility to practice in, unfamiliarity with the team they face, and overall preparation.

"It's apparent, not having an indoor facility, that we weren't going to be able to get a solid week's work in, Thursday and Friday, which were pivotal days for us" Billick said. "It just wasn't going to happen. And rather than regale ourselves to going into some high school gym or sloshing through the mud out here in a walk-through mode, the weather in San Diego looks to be pretty good. It's just a matter of the organization finding the right apparatus to get us out there, houses to take care of us. Bob Eller (the Ravens' Director of Operations) did a phenomenal job."

Truly it is hard to say if it is advantageous for the Ravens to come out early. The Chargers know. They moved their training camp up to Carson to bring the team together. So far, that has not worked. Coach Billick agreed.

"I don't know if it's an advantage or a disadvantage. It's what's required. We're going to do this two more times, so the key is the discipline of the players. We're going to try to keep on East Coast time the best we can, because the debilitating effects of coming back and playing an outstanding Kansas City team after again, having to adjust to West Coast time. It's a unique schedule, but I think this team's disciplined enough to do it, to keep ourselves on East Coast body time. I can control when they get up, when they eat and when they practice and when they good to bed. In between, it's up to them to have the discipline to be doing what they ought to be doing."

Still the team has its nuances of a regular in season work week. That will now be hindered. Players that make a point to regimen their schedule, will see it altered. Will it affect the game is the key. Coaches used to the convenience of the teams practice facility for dissecting a game may have questions unanswered. No more coffee at Joe's every Thursday morning, no more home cooked meals, and whatever other superstitions may exist.

It is a delicate balance that is being shifted as the soil in Isabel's path.

"It's a balance between the intrusions on our preparation, having all the materials here," Billick said. "For a team that we don't play a lot against, so there is a lot of work to be done. Who are they? What are they about? What are their base packages? To have your teaching materials around you and have them prepared for the players, it presses the coaches a little bit. And then the environment, anytime you go on the road, it's depleting. It tires you, but we are going to have to make the trip at one point or another. It's a day-to-day basis. There are a lot of moving parts. We'll make it happen."

The benefits the Chargers saw in Carson will be tested this week. Baltimore has veterans that will not allow the distractions to get at them. Still a young quarterback in Baltimore has a lot to learn on a weekly basis, of course, it won't matter if the Chargers fail to stop the run.

"This is truly a training camp mentality," Billick stated. "That's the way I put it to them. It's going to feel like training camp, based on where they're going to have to be, what they're going to have to be doing. Hopefully, we can use that to our advantage." As mentioned, airlines upped their flights out of areas in the path of Isabel. The Ravens were unsure if they would even be able to leave Baltimore on Friday.

"With us leaving on Friday, which was the schedule, with indeed the potential presented itself, so that was one more factor to say, ‘We better get out of here on Wednesday.'"

Now the Ravens will practice at SDSU on Thursday in preparation for a game that may seem like home by the end of the week.

The Chargers now hold a slim advantage. The library the Ravens may have on them is not so readily available. Doing things they have never done before may prove to be beneficial. It all will come down to how the Bolts use this "storm" to their advantage.

Maybe it is prophetic that the Ravens have been forced out of Baltimore by a Hurricane to face the Bolts this Sunday. Or maybe it is a sad coincidence. The Chargers have the final say.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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