Billick: Ravens lost control of emotions

OWINGS MILLS – Anger management? Mood therapy? Internal fines? Public apologies? Apparently, the answer is none of the above after the Baltimore Ravens' volcanic eruption Sunday defined by a franchise-record 21 penalties that included four unsportsmanlike conduct flags and Terrell Suggs and B.J. Ward being ejected in a 35-17 loss to the Detroit Lions.

Ravens coach Brian Billick accepted responsibility for his players' transgressions, which included players making contact with officials, an obscene gesture, jawing at the Lions and two instances where a player flung the football in taunting or frustration. He stressed that he won't fine his players on top of any sanctions league officials may choose to impose.

"The passion was clearly there, but the accountability was not," Billick said. "That's a dangerous combination on or off the football field. Our players, our coaches, myself, left ourselves vulnerable by succumbing to the emotions of the situation.

"I'm accountable. I'm responsible. Make no mistake, we recognize what we did and don't feel good about it. .. They acted like out-of-control men. They acted like men who let the passion of the moment get away from them."

The Ravens (1-3) are in last place in the AFC North and off to the worst start in their decade of existence heading into Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns (2-2).

Billick, who has drawn criticism for not having a curfew and running a veteran-friendly training camp, said he has no plans to institute a strict rulebook.

"When you cross that white line, I can't go with them," Billick said. "I could if I chose to lay down any number of restrictions, fines, warnings, ‘If you do this again,' but then I don't know that we've gotten any better."

While Billick is upset about the officials' rulings, especially a controversial touchdown run by Lions running back Artose Pinner where he appeared to be stopped but the score was upheld after an instant replay review, he stressed that it doesn't excuse his players' misbehavior.

"It's not about the officials' calls," said Billick, adding that he can't remember ever submitting more calls for review to the league office. "That's not what we have to address. It's how we reacted to the situation."

A visibly upset Suggs went face-to-face with referee Mike Carey, who said that the rush end bumped him with "malice in his heart," following a roughing-the-passer penalty.

"You don't have to worry about coaching passion with Terrell Suggs or intensity," Billick said. "With Suggs, it's a matter of accountability to himself and his teammates."

Nose guard Maake Kemoeatu extended the middle finger to the Lions' crowd, hurting the Ravens' cause. His dead-ball foul gave Detroit a first down after they had been stopped on 3rd-and-goal.

"I can't imagine a situation going forward that Kemo would make that same mistake now," Billick said.

Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister, who has a long history of personal fouls, slammed the football down at Lions receiver Kevin Johnson after an interception.

"I am very pleased with the growth that Chris has shown during this offseason," Billick said. "It' regrettable that it manifested itself the way it did, but I'm certainly not going to give up on any of my players because of what they did in the heat of the moment. ..

"It's not a discipline issue. It's not a character issue. The biggest challenge I have is channeling those emotions toward the Cleveland Browns and that's what I intend to do."

The Ravens' epic, emotional unraveling was accompanied by four turnovers and the second-ranked defense in the NFL allowing 169 rushing yards, including a 77-yard untouched sprint where Shawn Bryson left Deion Sanders behind and breathing his dust.

"Coach talked to us and he still has faith in the character of this team," quarterback Anthony Wright said. "We're not a bad team, on or off the football field. Right now, we're going through some trials and tribulations.

"We're going to work this out. We're professionals. We fought back, but at some point we emotionally lost it."

Billick said he huddled Monday with owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome and team president Dick Cass, but declined to answer when asked whether he was given a vote of confidence by Bisciotti.

"This isn't about me," Billick said. "This is about the way we do business and the process we have going forward."

It's unlikely that there will be public apologies from the players as Billick believes that a mea culpa is essentially meaningless and won't require that sort of atonement.

"The only real substantive action they can take is to not let it happen again," Billick said. "The rest is just cheap talk."

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

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