By JOHN ROMANO and MARC TOPKIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 10, 2001
It has been a long time since Bill Walsh walked the NFL sidelines, but in a way, he will be around for Super Bowl XXXV.
All four coaches remaining in the playoffs have been directly or indirectly influenced by Walsh. Minnesota's Dennis Green worked for Walsh, and Baltimore's Brian Billick worked for Green. Oakland's Jon Gruden worked for Walsh protege George Seifert, and New York's Jim Fassel was an assistant at Stanford.
Walsh is best known for developing the West Coast passing offense, but Billick said that is not his only legacy.
"You go back to Bill Walsh, who set up a style, a mentality of preparation," Billick said. "If you watch us prepare and practice from training camp to game day preparation, you'll say, "All these guys are related.' "
NO HARD FEELINGS: Although he sharply criticized the Titans for the pre-game video presentation of Billick sound bytes, the Ravens coach said he will not pursue the matter with the league.
"I don't think it's something they're particularly proud of, and I seriously doubt if you'll ever see it again," he said.
WEARING DOWN: His 47 yards rushing against Tennessee in Sunday's divisional game was Jamal Lewis' lowest output since Oct. 15. Billick acknowledged Lewis could be wearing down in his first season in the league. Including the preseason, Lewis has played 22 games, roughly twice as long as a college season.
"You wonder if maybe it isn't time to get Priest (Holmes) revved up because it has been a long season for Jamal," Billick said.
HEARING THE HYPE: Baltimore's vaunted defense is getting plenty of attention. So much so that the Raiders already are tired of talking about it.
"From what we've been hearing, maybe we shouldn't even show up," receiver Tim Brown said.
With all the raves about the Ravens, Oakland's defense seems to have been forgotten. But the Raiders are used to it. They were neglected last week in all the pre-game hype about the Dolphins defense, and all they did was record the first post-season shutout in Raiders history.
"I think our defense is good, and they're getting better and playing together," Gruden said. "Maybe they did play with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder. And if they did, it's probably something they should continue to play with."
HOME BOYS: The Raiders say there are two benefits to having the home-field advantage Sunday. The biggest will be the roaring support of the 62,000 black and white-clad fans at Network Associates Coliseum.
But not having to go anywhere is a pretty important, too.
"I think that's big when you don't have to worry about practicing in the noise, when you don't have to worry about the mechanics of traveling," Gruden said. "You do lose some time, and you do lose some focus, I think, when you're on a long airplane flight and you're going to and from the hotel and what-not. It will be a slight advantage to us."
SAME OLD, SAME OLD: Some teams make special plans when they get to this round of the playoffs, but the Raiders are making a point to stick with the routine that got them here, practicing for the same amount of time, holding the same number of meetings.
"We realize the stakes are higher, but we're going to stay level and very consistent with our approach," Gruden said.
While Gruden is trying hard to keep cool on the outside, he says he is a little revved up on the inside.
"I've got to temper my excitement, you bet," he said. "This is an opportunity to go to the Super Bowl. This is the kind of game you dream about as a kid, the kind of game you think about at the end of a day's work when you're driving home. ... I'm probably as excited, or more excited, about a football game than I've ever been."
MISCELLANY: Running back Jon Ritchie, out the past three games with an ankle sprain, said he will return Sunday. ... The last time the AFC Championship Game was in Oakland was 1976.
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