Singletary makes fierce first impression

OWINGS MILLS - Launching himself into tackles like a human torpedo, there was little question about the violent tendencies of Mike Singletary. Away from football, he packed a Bible. On the field, his shoulder pads and helmet were dangerous weapons.

As the Chicago Bears' Hall of Fame middle linebacker, it was always high noon for Singletary. The whites of his eyes became increasingly prominent before the snap of the football.

Pain was often inflicted, and points were rarely scored against the Bears. It was his cerebral bent and dedication to the little details that attracted the attention of the Baltimore Ravens, and a few other NFL franchises.

As much as his credibility was built with 10 Pro Bowl appearances in 12 seasons and two NFL Defensive Player of the Year selections, the soft-spoken Singletary was known as a thinking man's defender. Now, Singletary has become the Ravens' linebackers coach despite having no previous coaching experience. He'll be talking football on a constant basis with All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis.

Yet, Singletary left little doubt that he was eminently qualified for that assignment based upon the impression he made Wednesday afternoon at a press conference.

 "An experiment is when you try something," said Singletary, whose long-term goal is to become a head coach. "I'm not trying to coach. I'm going to coach. An experiment is when you come to Baltimore and you leave your home there just in case things don't work. We sold our home in four days.

"No, this is not an experiment. Anything that I do I'm going to do with all of my heart and mind and soul. This is where I'm supposed to be."

Despite a decade away from football, Singletary said he stayed involved by watching films, conducting clinics and jotting down notes.

Although he was ultimately spurned after a flirtation with his alma mater, Baylor, where he destroyed several Riddell helmets with his kamikaze hitting style, Singletary became convinced that coaching was what he wanted. Singletary talked with the Chicago Bears, but they were unwilling to move linebackers coach Gary Moeller to defensive line to make room for Singletary.

He didn't want any coaches to be fired just so he could return to Chicago, either. Singletary was also linked to the Detroit Lions, but chose Baltimore, whose minority owner Stephen Bisciotti once invited him to speak to the team. Devoting himself to his wife, Kim, and their seven children as well as working as a motivation speaker for a company called the Leadership Zone kept Singletary plenty occupied.

As far as coaching Lewis, Peter Boulware and Edgerton Hartwell, Singletary said he's not here to be their friend. He's in Baltimore to improve their games.

"I think by the time training camps starts, particularly after the first few days, I'm not sure if they'll like me very much," said Singletary, who noted some parallels with Lewis. "As far as them idolizing me or anything else, I think they'll understand as I understand that this has to be a relationship based on the fact that I'm here for one reason: I'm here to help them get better.

"Be the best you can possibly be in every facet of the game. They'll get to know me better and I'll get to know them better and some of the other things will dissipate."

His trademark wide eyes always seemed to attract the attention of television cameras during his playing days as images of Singletary screaming out defensive signals flashed across the screen.

"A lot of people really misconstrued my eyes," Singletary said. "They were not really to intimidate. They were really more to see the entire field. I wanted to see from one sideline to the other and everything in front of me that moved.

"The Bible has a verse that says 'The eyes are the mirror to the soul.' I really think the eyes are important. Many players, I can look at their eyes and I can tell if they're ready or not."

When Singletary played for the Bears and colorful defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, he did more than compile 1,488 career tackles, or help the Super Bowl XX team limit the New England Patriots to only seven rushing yards. Singletary acted as the quarterback for Ryan's patented '46' defense that allowed less than 11 points per game in the 1985 regular season.

"I don't think my dad was harder on anybody than he was on Mike Singletary," said Ravens defensive line coach Rex Ryan, Buddy Ryan's son. "My dad knew he had a great one and worked him so hard because he expected so much out of him.

"It was a complicated defense and he ended up being one of the best linebackers that every played. He was a coach on the field for my dad and the type of passion and intensity he brings will only make our guys better."

Singletary also built a reputation for waiting at the Bears' training complex until midnight to obtain a copy of the game plan for extra study time. He admitted his obvious bias toward believing the 1985 Chicago Bears' defense as the superior all-time unit over championship editions of the Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The stocky former linebacker also didn't seem to have much of a neck and still looked like he could tackle a hefty fullback or two.

"There's no question Mike can still bring the wood," Ryan said. "If a linebacker goes down, maybe we can convince him to play another game or two. You can tell he's really into the coaching. He's going to be a spectacular coach."

NOTES: The Ravens promoted former NFL player Dennis Thurman to assistant secondary coach while boosting Mike Pettine to quality control coach.

Previously, Thurman, a former Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals defensive back and USC assistant, worked as a defensive backs assistant who stuck around after his coaching internship ended in August.

Pettine, who has a background as a high school coach in Pennsylvania and one year as an assistant at the University of Pittsburgh, broke down film last year as a coaching and video assistant.


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