Ravens wary of potential scrutiny

OWINGS MILLS -- A few days removed from a nasty confrontation with officials punctuated by linebacker Bart Scott angrily heaving a yellow flag into the stands, the possibility of facing increased scrutiny from the men in black and white stripes has definitely occurred to the Baltimore Ravens.

As cornerback Samari Rolle, whose allegation that head linesman Phil McKinnely repeatedly called him "boy" during the Ravens' 27-24 loss Monday night to the New England Patriots is being investigated by the league office, admitted again: The Ravens have earned a distinctly bad reputation with the referees.

Now, the Ravens (4-8) are hoping to receive the benefit of the doubt despite deriding the officials and questioning their integrity and competence during and after the game.

"They are very aware of that," Ravens coach Brian Billick said when asked whether the players are mindful that they could be heavily penalized again Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts. "Sometimes, things get into a cycle with regards to the officiating, and you always have to be aware of that."

Could the referees hold a grudge?

"They shouldn't, they're not supposed to," Billick said. "I think the league would tell you, 'No, we call what we see,' but human nature says that's apt to happen."

The Ravens were penalized 13 times for 100 yards Monday while New England was flagged four times for 30 yards.

That included a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on Scott, who said he was wrongfully blamed for the first personal foul, which he thought was being called on the fans for throwing beer on Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss.

Rolle said he believes the officials will approach the Ravens with an open mind, adding that he plans no future discussions with them.

"Their job is to call the game fair and have integrity," Rolle said. "That's what we'll look for. I'm not talking to the refs ever again. That way there will be no controversy."

The Ravens have yet to hear from the league regarding their complaints against McKinnely and other disagreements with referee Walt Anderson's crew, including Jabar Gaffney's game-winning touchdown catch and a defensive holding penalty on safety Jamaine Winborne.

"They'll review it as usual, particularly at the end of the game," Billick said. "Clearly, both parties could have handled themselves better. They're discussing what needs to be done.

"Keep in mind there are multiple versions and each side gets to have its say, and then the league will act accordingly."

A few years ago, the Ravens melted down in an embarrassing loss to the Detroit Lions where linebacker Terrell Suggs was ejected for approaching referee Mike Carey with alleged "malice in his heart."

Ever since then, Baltimore has seemingly been on the radar screen for officials.

The Ravens rank fourth in the NFL in penalties this season with 92 this year for 698 yards. Their opponents have only been flagged 67 times for 581 yards.

"I think the officials sometimes, they don't mean to, it's not overt, but sometimes they can't help but be affected by circumstances, whether it's the crowd, whether it's one team versus another, certain assumptions," Billick said. "That's only human. They work hard not to be that way, to call it as they see it, and they do a great job of it. But that's a hard thing to fight through sometimes."

During the game, Scott had to be restrained from going after McKinnely and made derisive remarks about how the officials can go back to selling shoes.

Two days later, Scott struck a different tone.

"In reference to my actions, they were adolescent, juvenile," Scott said, "but they're over with."

Scott's penalties along with an offsides penalty on safety Ed Reed on the extra point led to New England kicking off from the Ravens' 35-yard line for an easy touchback.

That gave the offense 80 yards to drive in 44 seconds with quarterback Kyle Boller's Hail Mary completion to wide receiver Mark Clayton ending the game at the Patriots' 3-yard line.

Billick acknowledged that his team crossed the line by not maintaining its composure.

"Regrettable what happened at the end of the game," he said. "It's an emotional game, and sometimes you're going to cross over that line. You don't need too many examples of it to realize it's going to hurt you."

Scott is expected to be heavily fined by the league by the end of the week.

"I don't know what to expect," he said. "I've never been in trouble before."

Plus, cornerback Chris McAlister, Rolle, wide receiver Derrick Mason and Suggs, who were the most outspoken about the officiating, could be punished financially, too.

League policy states that "criticism of game officials must be made only to the league office in a written report. The officiating department will respond candidly to club questions about officiating. Public criticism of the integrity of the officiating serves no meaningful purpose. It raises credibility issues where none should exist and can have destructive and corrosive effects."

Billick took exception to widespread criticism that he's running an undisciplined team that doesn't respect the officials and tends to be a sore-losing outfit that complains whenever things don't go their way.

"I don't think that's a fair characterization," Billick said. "These guys live a very disciplined life and a very disciplined structure here, more so than most people. We've always taken the approach that we'll treat these guys like men, so we give them certain latitudes, particularly when they're away from the building, and have not had a single problem.

"The game is an emotional game. Sometimes, things can get away from you. I'm not excusing that. You can't do dumb things, but I don't think this is an undisciplined group and I don't think we have an undisciplined structure. Everything we have to the contrary says otherwise."

That hasn't stopped the pundits locally and nationally for ripping this team for not exercising better self-control during adverse situations, or for celebrating while far behind on the scoreboard throughout this dismal season.

"The people that say that have never been called losers, we've been clowned all season," Rolle said. "Nobody gave us a chance and we had to play with that kind of intensity. I don't think it's fair to coach Billick. We've earned that reputation. It is what it is and we can't change that."

In the midst of a six-game losing streak heading into Sunday night's home game against the defending Super Bowl champion Colts (10-2), there's one thing Billick has no regrets about and that's blowing kisses to New England safety Rodney Harrison.

Harrison approached the Ravens' bench area and made a derogatory remark about Boller, according to Billick.

Billick is hoping to avoid being fined for his unusual rebuttal.

"I've been fined for some of the alternative, particularly in the tone and manner that he was addressing us," Billick said. "So, I though that was a way of saying, 'That's fine, we love you and you can kiss my backside.' That was in the moment, and I think it's harmless enough."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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