Bisciotti supports Harbaugh's decision

OWINGS MILLS – Cam Cameron has been derided, ridiculed and all but publicly flogged as the supposed culprit behind the failures of the Baltimore Ravens' lackluster, unproductive offense. Instead of bowing to the pressure and firing the unpopular offensive coordinator, the Ravens are standing behind Cameron

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti huddled with coach John Harbaugh for five hours over three consecutive days at team headquarters with Harbaugh ultimately convincing him that dismissing Cameron wasn't the correct course of action.

"I know that there's been a lot of heat on Cam, and John's feeling is that we like Cam under fire as our offensive coordinator next year," Bisciotti said Thursday during a 45-minute press conference. "The fans' frustration can't lead us to offer somebody up for sacrifice for the things that went wrong because I have a litany of examples of our defense letting us down, too, that caused a lot of these things. "Every position group had a failure. Every coach had a failure, and it all added up to 13 wins and five losses. So, the fans can be legitimately frustrated and the frustration level is higher the better we get."

Behind the scenes, team employees have repeatedly criticized Cameron for running too predictable an offense and for being rigid and unwilling to accept input in constructing game plans. Privately, players have said that Cameron won't listen to their suggestions about play-calling and have said he doesn't have a good feel for the game. Nonetheless, the Ravens are going forward with Cameron. "I'm onboard with John and his decision," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "And I'm also onboard with the process that John is going to undertake to make us better. Based on past experiences, the track that he's taking that will lead us to more success."

Despite the acquisition of three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin and former Pro Bowl wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and the presence of a former Pro Bowl player at every skill position except for quarterback, the Ravens slumped to 22nd in the league in total offense after ranking 13th the previous year. The Raven set a franchise postseason record low with 126 yards during a 31-24 AFC divisional playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, committing three turnovers and allowing quarterback Joe Flacco to be sacked five times. In 2009, the Ravens averaged 351.2 yards and 24.4 points per contest. This season, they fell to 322.9 yards and 22.3 points per game. Part of Harbaugh's plan is for him to get significantly more involved in the offense after concentrating on defense and special teams during his first three seasons as head coach and leading the Ravens to three consecutive playoff appearances.

"We'll rebuild the offense from the ground up, but I don't want to give you the impression that I'm going to do it," said Harbaugh. "Cam drives that. The offensive coaches drive that. For probably the first time this year, I'll have a chance to be involved on the offensive side from the get go, and we're excited about that." The Ravens are confident that they have the right quarterback in Flacco, a towering former University of Delaware star who passed for a career-high 3,622 yards and 25 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions for a 93.6 passer rating. "Over the past three years, I have been able to see a guy who can make all the throws, a guy that has poise, a guy that has command of this offense, but also a guy who can be inconsistent and not get it done at times," Newsome said. "It's upon all of us to take him to the next level. What that next level is? I don't know. But he has to be a better quarterback in 2011 than he was in 2010."

Bisciotti remains upbeat that Flacco can elevate his game to another level, one where he can legitimately join the conversation of the elite quarterbacks like Peyton Manning. "We think so, we hope so," Bisciotti said. "We're going to work to get him there. It might take killing off Peyton or something like that to accelerate that process. We're not cutting bait with Joe. We have high hopes for him. .. "Clearly, he improved and I'm still very happy to have Joe Flacco as our quarterback. After what Baltimore has been through since 1996, I think we're in pretty good shape. I think he's where we want him to be." Still, Boldin, Houshmandzadeh and Donte' Stallworth weren't being nearly as prolific as anticipated. Boldin caught only 64 passes for 837 yards and seven touchdowns after being acquired in a March trade.

Houshmandzadeh caught 30 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns after signing right before the season opener against the New York Jets, who made it to the AFC title game. And Stallworth was signed in February, only mustering two receptions.

"If we'd have all the pieces in place at the beginning of March, the success of all of those guys would be increased," Newsome said. "If you can build continuity at the beginning of the offseason and build it all the way through, I think the production is there. That's the way I look at it. That's why I can take some of the blame." Bisciotti is feeling good about his decision to entrust his football team to Harbaugh, a formerly obscure specials team coach. Harbaugh has gone 32-16 in the regular season, joining Bill Cowher, Dennis Green and Barry Switzer as the only coaches in NFL history to make it to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons.

Ravens team president Dick Cass is crafting a contract extension proposal for Harbaugh, who was paid roughly $2.5 million last year. His new contract is expected to be in the $4 million range with the deal patterned after Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's extension. "He's squeezing my leg right now; you guys can't see it," Harbaugh said. "John is going to get his contract extension. I'm sure it will take another week or two because he's a tough guy to bargain with." Under Harbaugh, the Ravens are the only team to win at least one playoff game over the past three seasons. Each time, though, they fell short of the Super Bowl.

"I'm proud of the success, I'm frustrated with the loss," Bisciotti said. "Last year, I said our goal was to be one of the elite teams. Realistically, our goal is to try and be in the top 12 that gets you into the playoffs. We got to the final eight three years in a row. "That is the cream of the NFL. That gets you to the final eight, and only one of those eight teams is going to go on a three-game winning streak at that point. That's the one that's going to be crowned Super Bowl champ." To accomplish that goal, though, the Ravens have to vanquish the Steelers. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has won seven consecutive games against Baltimore, frustrating them again with his penchant for making the big play as the Steelers booted the Ravens out of the postseason for the second time in the past three years. "We're close," Bisciotti said. "They are what you all said they are, the ‘gold standard.' We're trying to be there, and we're close. They don't take us lightly. So, we've got their attention. They make the extra play. That's what championship teams do. We're not there yet. They are.

"They have those two Super Bowl trophies in the last five years, so they have the confidence. Does confidence beget success? Yeah, it does in a lot of situations. They're there, we're not. We've got to get there." Notebook: Moeller promoted with caveat, no more trouble By Aaron Wilson OWINGS MILLS – Andy Moeller has been arrested three times for charges involving alcohol over the past four years, including two driving while under the influence brushes with the law last year.

For Moeller to remain employed as the Baltimore Ravens' newly-promoted offensive line coach, there can't be a fourth incident involving alcohol. While expressing support for Moeller, who has been getting help for his drinking problem, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti made it abundantly clear that the assistant coach is down to his last strike. "Yes, we're very concerned," Bisciotti said. "All we can do at this stage is see how Andy responds to this. He's taking the right steps. Obviously, it's a very personal issue. I don't think there's anybody in this room who hasn't been affected by alcohol.

"That's not a character trait, that's a disease. That's a problem. As long as he is doing what he is expected to do, then he has our support, the caveat being that it's his last chance, and he knows that. I don't think he would mind me saying that."

Moeller was acquitted of one DWI charge in Carroll County last May, but is still facing an April 11 court date for a separate DWI case as well as negligent driving and five other traffic charges in Baltimore County stemming from an August traffic stop on Greenspring Ave. When Moeller was coaching at the University of Michigan, the former All-Big Ten Conference linebacker was charged with failure to stop his car following an accident, driving under the influence of alcohol and refusal to take a field sobriety test.

The DWI charge was reduced to a lesser charge of driving while visibly impaired. Moeller successfully completed his probation, which mandated alcohol counseling at an aftercare facility and attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. "He's either going to get it under control, or he's going to spend a lifetime in misery like other people that are affected by that," Bisciotti said. "So, we're behind him as long as he earns that trust and continues to earn that trust. But he knows he's one step away from not being a Raven, and then probably not being in the NFL at all." Moeller replaces veteran offensive line coach John Matsko, who was fired Wednesday afternoon during a meeting with coach John Harbaugh. Matsko wasn't out of work long, being hired Thursday as the Carolina Panthers' offensive line coach.

The Ravens allowed 40 sacks during the regular season and nine more during the playoffs. They slumped to 14th in the league in rushing. "John is a good man and a good coach," Harbaugh said. "We felt like a change there would give us a chance to get better. I know John understands that, and he'll be coaching real quickly in this league. We appreciate what he did for us, no doubt about it, and he's a good friend." Harbaugh attended the same Michigan high school as Moeller: Pioneer High in Ann Arbor. "Andy Moeller, I'm excited about that," Harbaugh said. "I know the players are excited about it. Andy is a young and up-and-coming coach. He's a fiery coach, a very smart guy. The players really like him."



RAVENS NOT RAISING TICKET PRICES: Team president Dick Cass emphasized that this isn't the appropriate time to raise ticket prices. One reason why the team made that choice to keep ticket prices the same is due to the labor strife surrounding the league. "We looked at it this year and decided it was not a good time to raise prices, so ticket prices are remaining the same," Cass said. "We will send out invoices for season tickets in the next week or so, and we'll announce our plan in there on refunding money in the event any games are cancelled this year.

"One thing we are going to do is, we'll pay interest on money if we do have games cancelled. And we're not going to try to finance any work stoppage with the money we get from season ticket holders. We will hold that separate. That's our plan." Usually, the Ravens raise ticket prices every other year.

However, the Ravens aren't in a situation this year where next season, or a full season, is guaranteed due to the lack of a collective bargaining agreement. "One factor was the uncertainly over labor, for sure.," Harbaugh said. "And then we looked around the league, and there weren't a lot of teams raising ticket prices this year. So, that was another factor. "Our fans have been tremendous for us. When you look around the league, I think this year season ticket sales were all 5-percent around the league, and we were solid again. So, we're just grateful for the support we've gotten. We really are."

NGATA IS ITEM NO. 1: The Ravens' negotiating priorities haven't changed. Their top goal is to re-sign two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who's regarded as one of the most dominant interior linemen in the league.

"I know John has said this, going back to the last owner's meeting in March, that Haloti is a priority, and he is a priority," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "That's not just John saying it, that's Steve saying it, that's Ozzie saying it, that's Dick saying it. There are some issues that we have going forward based on an uncapped year with the potential of going to a capped year that could create some problems in getting a deal done before a work stoppage. "I don't think, other than maybe preparing for the draft, there is any other thing that has the most importance to me than to bring a player like Haloti, get him under contract. History within this organization proves that we will do that." Ngata recorded a career-high 5 ½ sacks last season. Signing Ngata is going to be an extremely expensive proposition, but Ngata is interested in staying.

"No," Ngata said Wednesday when asked if his decision will be influenced by defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano being hired. "Nah, I really don't want to go anywhere else."

SAUNDERS LEAVES: Ravens senior offensive assistant Al Saunders was hired as the Oakland Raiders' offensive coordinator. Saunders has strong ties to new Raiders coach Hue Jackson, a former Ravens quarterbacks coach who went to Oakland last season. Saunders is known as an upbeat, detail-oriented players coach who has a thick playbook. "Al's a great coach," Harbaugh said. Saunders is a former San Diego Chargers head coach who has been an offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Rams and associate head coach with the Washington Redskins.



PEES STAYING PUT: With conflicting reports about whether Dean Pees was interviewing for the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive coordinator job, Harbaugh confirmed that the linebackers coach is staying with the Ravens. The former New England Patriots defensive coordinator and Ken State coach isn't going to pursue the job. "No, he's not interviewing with the Eagles," Harbaugh said. Harbaugh confirmed that quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn, running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery and wide receivers coach Jim Hostler are remaining on the staff.

When asked if other coaches might be leaving, Harbaugh said. "I don't really want to say definitely because guys could get calls from other teams. So, you never know about tomorrow." BISCIOTTI PREDICTS RETURN OF SALARY CAP: Bisciotti predicted that a salary cap will return to the NFL in 2011 after going uncapped last year. "It's pretty safe to say that if we're going to have football, it's going to be with a salary cap," Bisciotti said Bisciotti also said he believes that the rhetoric will die down soon between the owners and the NFL Players Association. And he expressed optimism that the NFL will conduct a 16-game schedule this year. Bisciotti said he doesn't have an active role on the bargaining committee that deals with the players' union. "It doesn't do me any good to be a pessimist," Bisciotti said. "I just have to have hope that a bunch of smart people on both sides of this argument are going to get this done."



FUNNY ENDING: Bisciotti doesn't ignore the fan base. Quite to the contrary, he's paying extremely close attention. Bisciotti said he spent a half-hour perusing the Internet reading fans' complains and vents after the Ravens' playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. "I know the vitriol is tough for us to take, but we hear you," Bisciotti said. "Most of your complaints are valid and legitimate. I just want the fans to know that though we don't give you 100-percent results, we do give you 100-percent effort. I'm proud of these guys, but you're not wrong.

"I don't have much argument. There are a lot of things that you all are pretty accurate when it comes to assessing the team, and so are our fans. They're committed, they're knowledgeable, and right now, they're really frustrated." Bisciotti then proceeded to read a lengthy list of suggestions/orders from the fan base. "Re-sign Ngata, [Marc] Bulger, [Josh] Wilson, [Sam] Koch, [Billy] Cundiff, [Le'Ron] McClain, [Marshal] Yanda, [Chris] Carr and T.J. [Houshmandzadeh] Change the offense Sign or draft a big left tackle and fast wide receivers Add a big shutdown corner and a dominant edge rusher Get faster players Get smarter players Get more veterans, but get younger Fire Ozzie, Cam, [Greg] Mattison and Flacco Don't be a tool, Bisciotti, or ‘Bis-cot-ee,' as they said Get a deal done with the union And finally, don't be a meddlesome owner." After rattling off the list, Bisciotti closed his remarks by saying: "I promise you we'll get as many of those things done in the offseason as we can."



QUICK HIT: With All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis along with former Ravens assistant coach Hue Jackson linked to a product called "The Ultimate Spray" that contained a banned substance, general manager Ozzie Newsome defended the NFL drug-testing program.

"No. 1, I think we probably, in professional sports, have the best testing of all the four major sports," Newsome said. " Our testing for performance enhancers goes year-round [and] they're random. So, if there's anything that any of our players are taking, then they will be found out about because they will test positive for it, and there would be a suspension. "That being said, if there is a product that he's taking, and he's passing the tests, then I can't explain that one. That's up to our league and the testing that we go through. Now, Ray is one person that I think that we all can talk to, and he'll explain any and everything to us about what he's doing, why he's doing it. So, if need be, we'll have that conversation. But I trust, and I know because five times a week I walk into this building and people are here to test our guys, that nobody is getting away with anything." Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals safety Roy Williams, New York Jets running backs coach Anthony Lynn and Cincinnati Bengals tight ends coach Jay Hayes were all linked to the spray in a report by PostGame.com.

"I'm no longer affiliated with this company," Jackson told the Associated Press. "I don't even know about a banned substance." Per the report, the spray contains IGF-1, a banned substance. The owner of the supplement company, Mitch Ross, said he has sent over 25 bottles of the spray to Lewis. He showed text messages and receipts from Lewis, according to the report. "I use the spray all the time," Williams said. "Two to three times a day. My body felt good after using it. I did feel a difference." St. Louis Rams linebacker David Vobora sued the company when he was suspended by the league for a positive steroid test, claiming the spray triggered the failed test. "I didn't know [IGF-1] was on there," Williams said. "I've never failed a drug test. I don't want to be associated with something that is banned."

Ross told the website that he gave the spray to Jackson, Hayes and Lynn. "In April of '08 I gave various alternatives to steroids, including spray, to Hue Jackson at the Ravens' training camp," Ross said. "I also gave the spray to Jay Hayes of the Bengals and Anthony Lynn of the Jets. I want to prove that my protocol reverses the aging process on aging athletes and promotes the healing of injuries in a legal manner." Added NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy: "We have a long-standing policy that prohibits coaches from any relationship with a supplement company. Coach Jackson is now in compliance." Hayes denied giving the spray to players. "I did not dispense the spray to players at all. Mitch gave me a sample," he said. "I still have it. I know Mitch, but I am in no way affiliated with S.W.A.T.S."

Ray Lewis didn't comment for the story. There was a text message allegedly from Lewis, saying, "Yes, send me all the stuff." Lewis and Williams haven't failed drug tests, though.

The NFL doesn't test for human growth hormone, which can only be detected through blood tests. The NFL, in conjunction with the NFL Players Association, only uses urine tests. "I've read the report, but we haven't had a chance to really follow up and see what's behind it," team president Dick Cass. "We'll obviously look into it. It's really hard to comment when we haven't really talked to Ray and really don't know the facts yet."

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