Billick denies Cavanaugh has been fired

OWINGS MILLS – Damage control was on the Baltimore Ravens' agenda Thursday after multiple reports surfaced that offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh will be fired after the season, and cornerback Chris McAlister outlined a divided locker room.

Ravens coach Brian Billick vehemently denied that Cavanaugh had been fired, or that a decision had been made to ultimately fire him. And he opined that McAlister describing the locker room as an unhealthy situation could simply be a cry for help amidst a season spiraling downward.

"The reports that say Matt Cavanaugh is now fired, that there's a specific time table to it, are wrong," said Billick, whose contract with majority owner Steve Bisciotti grants him the power to hire and fire his assistants. "There is only one source with regards to the status of my coaches. .. Yes, that is a distraction, but this team will deal with it. There's no quit in this team."

It was another difficult day for the Ravens (8-7), who have lost four of five games and are on the verge of elimination from playoff contention heading into Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins. They need a win, and losses by Buffalo, Denver and Jacksonville to earn a wild-card berth.

For Cavanaugh, it's an extremely difficult situation. His offense is ranked 31st in the NFL, and his job security, play-calling and track record are under intense scrutiny.

"Matt is a professional," Billick said. "When a man has to go home and deal with his family, his children, based on pure, simple speculation, that's tough. That's part of that emotional baggage."

Meanwhile, McAlister's jarring comments are another sore point.

McAlister alleged that the Ravens have a serious disconnect that couldn't even be cured by claiming the sixth and final AFC playoff berth.

"I can't really put my finger on it, but it's not the same feeling," McAlister said. "Maybe it's because we're losing. Maybe that's what has gotten this locker room a little shifted...

"It really used to be real loose, and we used to have a lot of fun in here. It's not that same way. Now it's kind of like everybody stays in their own little corner."

Other signs of discord include: linebacker Ray Lewis calling for a "gut-check" and questioning teammates' desire after a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals; running back Jamal Lewis second-guessing the play-calling after a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and safety Ed Reed acknowledging that "something's wrong" with the team.

"I was always taught the best thing a player can do is be part of the solution, not part of the problem," veteran defensive back Corey Fuller said. "When you wake up in the morning, you have the opportunity to look in the mirror before you come into any environment. It's not a shot at [McAlister], but when you lose nobody should be happy.

"One thing about athletics, when men are being paid, you don't have to like me, but respect me. Respect that I'm coming out here and laying it on the line for you."

McAlister, who signed a seven-year, $55 million contract in October, said he's no psychologist and that there's no cure for the apparent discontent.

"That's not something to chastise Chris for," Billick said. "That sounds like, ‘Gosh, Chris, it sounds like you're struggling a little bit. What can I do to help? What can your teammates do to help?' Chris has to reach out a little bit, if he wants some help.

"I don't deny that's Chris' perspective. You've got to respect that, and we're here to help you get over this tough emotional hump that you appear to have. I've got to count on the other players that have a good, solid mindset, the Anthony Weavers of this team. This is a good, solid locker room. Is it perfect? No."

McAlister even complained that the new $31 million team headquarters is less intimate and promoting of camaraderie than the decrepit Colts' training complex, another point Billick refuted.

The team did unify for a few moments in the locker room, directing playful boos at the media.

Ray Lewis and Jamal Lewis declined interview requests, and other players followed a strong suggestion to confine their remarks to the Dolphins.

"It's not my job to report to you all what happens in this locker room," linebacker Adalius Thomas said. "What happens in this locker room stays in this locker room. We're talking about Miami."

Baltimore began the season 7-3, but has gone 3-5 on the road despite the presence of five Pro Bowl selections.

"Some of the guys need to be careful about what they're complaining about because there's other teams that's been out of the playoffs since Week 5," Fuller said. "As a man, as a player, be careful about what you complain about because it could be a little worse on the other side."

NOTE: The Ravens reported no changes to their injury report, and tight end Todd Heap (ankle), Jamal Lewis (ankle), Ray Lewis (broken wrist) and nickel back Deion Sanders (foot) missed portions of team drills.

As well as a being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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