Billick-Fassel bond to be put to the test
By JOHN ROMANO
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 16, 2001
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- He is a second-year head coach heading to the Super Bowl. This is just the type of situation Ravens coach Brian Billick would like to discuss with his confidante. Except Giants coach Jim Fassel will be on the other sideline when Super Bowl XXXV is played next week.
Billick describes Fassel as his best friend in coaching and said he often talks to him before major career decisions.
When Billick was trying to decide whether to accept an offer from the Browns or the Ravens as a head coach in 1999, he sought Fassel's advice.
He said Fassel did not pick a team, but seemed to lean heavily toward Baltimore.
"Jim has always been a help for me," Billick said. "Hopefully I can make him regret ever having pointed me down this direction."
NO FAVORITES: For weeks, the Ravens have thrived while repeating the mantra that no one has shown them any respect. Baltimore was the underdog against Tennessee and Oakland in the last two rounds of the playoffs.
The Ravens have done such a good job of converting non-believers, they are now the early favorites against New York in the Super Bowl. Receiver Qadry Ismail still isn't buying it.
"It is no longer the Super Bowl, it is the Underdog Bowl," Ismail said. "The Rams were supposed to win it all and they're sitting home. The Tennessee Titans are sitting home. I have friends with the Vikings, but they're sitting home. This is a great Underdog Bowl. Two teams no one ever expected."
BLACK HOLE EMPLOYEES: Tight end Shannon Sharpe could not resist a final dig at Oakland's fans. Sharpe was discussing the dedication of Baltimore fans who waited until early Monday morning for the team to show up at the practice facility after flying home from Oakland.
"They were out there all night," Sharpe said. "And, unlike Oakland fans, our fans have jobs to go to in the morning."
AROUND THE BLOCKS: Baltimore's offensive line had a definite Pinellas County flavor to it against the Raiders on Sunday.
Center Jeff Mitchell, of Countryside High, has been a fixture on the Ravens line for the past three seasons. When guard Edwin Mulitalo was injured Sunday, former Tarpon Springs High standout Kipp Vickers replaced him.
Vickers has been a tackle for most of his eight seasons in the NFL, but the Ravens have used him as a backup at guard and tackle.
"Kipp Vickers got a game ball as our offensive player of the week for coming in and playing incredibly well considering he has not played much at guard," Billick said. "That's what our team has been about this year. One guy goes down and the next guy steps in and takes over."
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