Billick informs players he'll be back

OWINGS MILLS -- Brian Billick has survived a dismal season and will remain the Baltimore Ravens' coach next season, according to All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden. Ogden related that Billick, who signed a four-year contract after last season worth $5 million annually, has already told the players that he has been given assurances from owner Steve Bisciotti that he will be back.

"It's not really a surprise," Ogden said. "Brian said he's going to be back, and he didn't make a big deal out of it. You can't just fire a coach. You've got to have some plan for what you're going to do, who you're going to bring in.

"We've had a lot of injuries. I'm not surprised. I kind of expected it, really. We're just going to keep working."

Although the Ravens (4-9) are mired in a franchise-record seven-game losing streak, Billick, 53, will apparently be granted a mulligan due to a multitude of injuries and poor quarterbacking.

However, Bisciotti will continue to stick with his policy of not conducting interviews during the season and won't give Billick a public vote of confidence until after the season.

Billick has reiterated several times that he will return, a stance backed up by his meetings with upper management, including Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome and team president Dick Cass.

However, Billick declined to confirm his discussions with Bisciotti.

"I've been as clear as I possibly can, we have a nonstop dialogue at that level between myself, Steve, Ozzie and Dick about how we're proceeding, what we're going to do," Billick said Thursday. "We constantly have that dialogue and we'll address all those things at the end of the season. Right now, our focus has to be the Miami Dolphins.

"This team is going to come back significantly intact and that's the mindset we've had this last part of the season, a very difficult season. We'll be crystal clear about it and transparent about it as we always are at the end of the season. Right now, we're going forward collectively knowing this team is going to come back substantially intact."

Starters have missed a combined 54 games due to injuries with three former Pro Bowl selections on injured reserve, including cornerback Chris McAlsiter, quarterback Steve McNair and defensive end Trevor Pryce.

What remains uncertain is whether Billick will continue to act as the team's offensive coordinator and play-caller. Billick, who has an 84-65 all-time record and won a Super Bowl title following the 2000 season, has said he wouldn't hesitate to surrender that responsibility if he felt that was in the team's best interests.

The Ravens have had two losing campaigns in the past three seasons.

Under Billick's nine-year tenure, the Ravens have missed the playoffs in three of the past four seasons and haven't won a postseason contest since a 2001 wild-card victory over the Miami Dolphins.

INJURY UPDATE: Cornerback Samari Rolle (shoulder) didn't practice for the second consecutive day along with tight end Todd Heap (strained hamstring).

Nose guard Kelly Gregg (thigh) was upgraded to full participation.

Defensive tackles Haloti Ngata (knee sprain) and Justin Bannan (knee sprain) and safety Gerome Sapp (hamstring) were limited again.

Running back Willis McGahee (foot), safety Ed Reed (hip) and offensive tackle Adam Terry (sprained ankle) were added to the injury report, but they practiced.

The Dolphins upgraded linebacker Channing Crowder (foot) and defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday (ankle) to limited participation in practice.

QUICK HITS: Wide receiver Mark Clayton returned to practice after missing Wednesday's workout due to the flu. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs missed practice Thursday with the flu. "We're passing that around a little bit, this team, so he's out," Billick said. ...

One problem the Ravens haven't had to deal with unlike most losing teams is finger-pointing. For the most part, players have kept their complaints to themselves. "Yes, this team has been excellent that way," Billick said. "When you go through a season like this, they're going to question me, question each other, question the coaches and themselves. It's the last two you worry about the most. That's the character I keep coming back to." ...

The Ravens hope they don't have to turn to offensive guard Chris Chester again as an emergency replacement at defensive tackle, but they have no complaints about his effort in a 44-20 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. "We just turned and grabbed somebody and said, 'You're in there,'" defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "We hope we don't major in that. I remember we won a game actually against Seattle one year when we put Orlando Brown in there one time. When injuries happen, you grab the next big guy and you just throw him in there. Unfortunately, they scored on that play." Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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