Deal with it, Bucs fans
That's the message Ravens coach Brian Billick has for all those Dilfer-Dungy second-guessers.
Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer, sporting an AFC Champions hat, talks with the media beside his locker at the team's facility in Owings Mills, Md., Monday.
By JOHN ROMANO
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 16, 2001
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- He is known as a master of detail. A meticulous planner who leaves nothing to chance.
So on Monday, about 20 hours after earning a trip to Super Bowl XXXV, Ravens coach Brian Billick already was formulating a game plan to handle the inevitable questions regarding Trent Dilfer's return to Tampa Bay.
The short version:
Get over it!
Billick said player movement is a fact of life in the NFL and it is merely coincidental that the Super Bowl happens to be in the same town where Dilfer had six up-and-down seasons as quarterback for the Bucs.
"There will be those, in some form or fashion, who will try to embarrass the Bucs, try to embarrass (coach) Tony Dungy by way of saying, "You messed up.' " Billick said. "Trent doesn't feel that way, and I don't feel that way. Those who try to contend that in any way, shape or form are doing so out of a separate agenda. Sometimes a player is just a better fit somewhere else through nobody's fault.
"What I find interesting is the media down there were as ardent and as critical of Trent as any quarterback I've ever seen, and they are going to be the ones now who will flip it around and aim their criticism at Tony Dungy and the Bucs organization. I find that comical."
A telephone rang as Billick was saying this, he paused and looked in the direction of the sound.
"That's them calling right now," he said. "I've already made somebody in Tampa mad."
Dilfer has gone out of his way to avoid making anybody mad in Tampa Bay. As the Ravens have crept closer and closer to the Super Bowl in the past month, Dilfer consistently has said his breakup with the Bucs was beneficial for both parties and that he has no animosity toward the team or area.
He did not deviate from that stance Monday.
"People are going to want to talk about the bad times, but I remember all of the good times I had there," Dilfer said.
"Those years in Tampa Bay are what made the person who is standing here right now."
Trent Dilfer's tenure with the Bucs ended with Dilfer on the sidelines -- not behind the center.
Dilfer, 28, said there is no reason for him to hide from the story line because everyone already knows it.
He became aware of just how attuned people are to his situation while flying home on the team charter late Sunday night.
"It was one of the most special times of my life because 80 percent of the team came by to talk to me on the plane," Dilfer said.
"Every one of them said how happy they were for me, and they weren't just being polite. They looked me in the eyes with total sincerity and told me they could not be happier for me to have this opportunity. They understood what I have been through and they were able to appreciate it."
The defense Billick used for Tampa Bay's handling of Dilfer could come in handy. There has been talk the Ravens may be in the market for a new quarterback themselves next season.
Dilfer was signed to a one-year contract in Baltimore and the speculation is the Ravens could go after Washington's Brad Johnson when he becomes a free agent after the Super Bowl. Johnson was the quarterback in Minnesota when Billick was the offensive coordinator there.
"Even if I am a rent-a-quarterback, I'd say thank you for renting me," Dilfer said before the AFC Divisional playoffs. "If at the end of the year they said, "You know what, Trent was good and we're happy we have him, but for what we want to become down the road, maybe he's not the guy. Maybe he's too expensive or too old or whatever.'
"I think I'm at the point in my career where I would say I'm thankful for the year I was here. I may not agree with it, but I can be thankful for the experience I had and not worry about the experiences down the road."
Dilfer points out that he has little reason to carry a grudge. He was part of two playoff teams in Tampa Bay and made a Pro Bowl appearance.
And now, 13 weeks after being a backup in Baltimore, he is heading to the Super Bowl.
He said he is looking forward to seeing old friends around Tampa Bay and joked about those who will not be glad to see him at Raymond James Stadium.
"At least the boos will be familiar," Dilfer said.
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