Ravens weekly wrap-up

After not making the playoffs in his two years as the Ravens' owner, Steve Bisciotti said he remains optimistic about this season.

"We think we have the personnel to win again," he said. "I have learned that there is a very fine line between being 6-10 and 10-6. I think there is a very good chance that we could find ourselves back in the playoff hunt. We certainly expect to. By no means are we in a rebuilding mode. We have an incredible core group of former Pro Bowlers with (Terrell) Suggs and (Ed) Reed.

"We have to stay healthy, and we've got to let those guys develop. I think we could surprise some people this year just like we surprised them by losing last year."

In order to rebound, the Ravens have to overcome the perception that their coach begins the season on the hot seat.

Bisciotti offered his support of Brian Billick and said the coach would not be fired at midseason no matter how the Ravens begin the season.

"I don't know how we'll ever build a first-class organization if we're willing to throw the coach and the quarterback under the bus the minute we underachieve," said Bisciotti, who took over as majority owner of the Ravens in April 2004.

"Underachievement comes from a lot of different avenues, such as injuries. To turn that on your coach and say he's a failure, it's not my style and not a healthy way to run a business. I don't want people to come to work worried about their job security. I just want them to be open to listen and learn and get perspective from everyone else."

Billick led the Ravens to the Super Bowl in his second year, capturing the championship in the 2000 season before following up with another playoff season.

But the Ravens have a 32-32 regular-season record since 2002, missing the postseason in three of the past four seasons. There had been speculation that Billick had lost interest and that players had tuned him out, all of which Billick has denied.
Just days before last season's final game, Bisciotti unexpectedly delivered his first vote of confidence of Billick, informing the players that their coach would be returning for an eighth season.

Billick, 51, has two years remaining on his contract that reportedly will pay him $4.5 million each season.

Bisciotti said it "bothers" him that Billick could be viewed as a lame-duck coach this season.

"As long as we're communicating effectively internally, I can't worry about what other people think," he said. "The vocal minority is going to be out there saying Kyle isn't good enough to be a quarterback and Brian isn't good enough to be a coach. We just have to be happy with what we're doing and be pleased with each other. When that changes, we've got to change our personnel. I think we're going in the right direction, and we'll be rewarded with our patience, honesty and communication."

--It will be interesting to see which team quarterback Steve McNair will be playing for when the Ravens play at the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 12.

McNair, who has a salary cap number of more than $23 million this season, has refused to restructure his contract and has been banned from the team's practice facility. It's likely the Ravens would pursue him if he is released.

--The Ravens play seven games against 2005 playoff teams. Five of those games come in the middle eight games of the schedule.

"The hard part with that analysis (is), you don't know what those teams are going to be," coach Brian Billick said. "What looks to be a tough run of playoff teams could end up the next year not being that."

--Vince Young, the University of Texas quarterback, spoke with Ravens officials this week at the team's training complex. He is one of 20 pre-draft visits that the Ravens have set up.

--About 75 college-bound juniors from 19 Baltimore City high schools participated in a four-hour "Training Camp for Life" symposium at the Ravens' practice facility in Owings Mills.

The pilot program is sponsored by Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, the NFL Players Association and the Ravens. The student athletes, selected by their coaches for both academic and athletic skills, heard nine featured speakers address a variety of topics related to the transition from high school to college life.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everybody has the same authority they had before I got involved. I'm just trying to change the communication in the building to a model that I think is a little more effective. For instance, I think it is imperative that (coach) Brian (Billick) cares about the scout's opinion on what he's doing. It doesn't take the power away from Brian; it just gives him more arrows in his quiver to make decisions that are in the best interest of the team." -- Steve Bisciotti on whether he has become a more hands-on owner.

The Ravens' remaining targets in free agency are: a veteran quarterback, safety and punter.

The Ravens have yet to rush forward with their quarterback search, though Kerry Collins and Brian Griese have drawn interest from them.

As far as punters, the Ravens have shown interest in Carolina free agent Jason Baker but have not scheduled a visit. Baker, who led the NFC with a 38.9-yard net average, is expected to meet with St. Louis and Seattle. Another possibility is Sean Landeta.

The only other hole in the starting lineup is at safety. If they can get good value on a veteran, the Ravens seem content to address that in the draft.

1. Safety: The free-agent market for safeties has begun to thin out. The Ravens could look to the draft for a replacement for Will Demps, who signed with the New York Giants.

2. Quarterback: The Ravens ideally want a veteran who can at least compete with Kyle Boller for the starting job. The Ravens could either pursue Kerry Collins in free agency or wait to see if Steve McNair gets cut by the Tennessee Titans.

3. Receiver: This group is set with starters Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton. But the Ravens don't have a legitimate third wideout. They need to find someone more proven than Clarence Moore and Devard Darling.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: CB Dale Carter; WR Randy Hymes; WR Patrick Johnson; LB Tommy Polley; CB Deion Sanders; RB Jamel White; S Chad Williams; QB Anthony Wright.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): LS Drew Caylor; DT Gary Gibson; CB Cash Mouton.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: PK Aaron Elling; NT Aubrayo Franklin; FB Ovie Mughelli.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: CB Robb Butler; LB Dennis Haley; DT Cedric Hilliard; CB Zach Norton; CB Evan Oglesby; LB Mike Smith; DE Bernard Thomas; CB B.J. Ward; LB Zac Woodfin.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: DE Jarret Johnson; LS Matt Katula; RB Jamal Lewis; OT Tony Pashos; OG Brian Rimpf; QB Brian St. Pierre; RB B.J. Sams; LB Bart Scott; RB Musa Smith; C Thatcher Szalay; TE Daniel Wilcox.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: RB Mike Anderson; DT Justin Bannan; CB Corey Ivy; DE Trevor Pryce; LB Gary Stills.
PLAYERS LOST: LB Peter Boulware; OT Orlando Brown; S Will Demps; TE Darnell Dinkins; NT Maake Kemoeatu; RB Chester Taylor; DE Tony Weaver; P Dave Zastudil.

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