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Billick credits team's success to confidence

By Marc Topkin

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2001


TAMPA -- The Ravens deserve to be here. The Ravens deserve to be here. The Ravens deserve to be here.

Having overcome a series of off-field distractions, having survived their inefficient offense, having accomplished the improbable feat of winning three playoff games on the road, the Ravens feel most worthy of their place in Sunday's championship game.

You can tell by listening to player after player predict victory, but if there is any need for re-emphasis, coach Brian Billick plans to make it the central theme of his motivational address to the team tonight.

"No team that's ever been in this game has had to come through quite the same circumstances we have, that's probably a fairly safe bet," Billick said Friday.

"It is unique in that regard, and I think the players are aware of it and are very proud of the way they've handled those challenges. That's a big part, that's where that confidence is born. It's not arrogance on my players' part to truly think they're better than anybody else. I think collectively they feel like they've been through enough challenges. They've had their hands over the fire, so to speak, and they've come through it."

KEYSHAWN IN PURPLE?: According to personnel boss Ozzie Newsome, Keyshawn Johnson easily could have been traded from the Jets to the Ravens instead of the Bucs. The Ravens didn't think he was worth it.

"If I would have offered the fifth and 15th pick, Keyshawn Johnson would have been a Baltimore Raven," Newsome said. "But, you know, we just didn't think he had that much value."

The Bucs gave up the 13th and 27th picks for the wide receiver, though you could question if it was worth it given how sparingly they used him. With the picks they kept, the Ravens drafted running back Jamal Lewis and acquired receiver Travis Traylor.

COMMAND PERFORMANCE: Billick employs a variety of motivational techniques, including the occasional guest speaker. He had Joe Theismann work out with the team Wednesday and brought in Hank Aaron on Thursday.

But the big treat was Friday, when NFL legend Jim Brown came to town. Brown spoke to the Ravens during training camp, and Billick wanted another talk.

"Having now come full circle and these guys having gone though all those things people said they wouldn't be able to and stand on top of the mountain, Jim kind of represents that to these guys," Billick said.

Other guests at Friday's session included boxing great Joe Frazier and film director Spike Lee, who attempted -- and missed -- an extra-point kick.

CASTING CALL: Defensive tackle Tony Siragusa has plenty to keep him busy -- an NFL career, a restaurant and a radio show -- but he has bigger plans. He would like a guest spot on the HBO hit show the Sopranos. "The whole town I grew up with was pretty much indicted once or twice, so the Sopranos sort of makes me feel at home," Siragusa said. "Yeah, I'd like to get on the Sopranos. I think it would boost the ratings, if they can be boosted anymore."

PARTY ART: Team owner Art Modell has been basking in the glow of his first Super Bowl all week, his excitement and joy obvious to all. "If I had known it was going to be this much fun, I would have been here 25 years ago," he said.

LIKE DEJA VU: Offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh has this Tampa Super Bowl thing down. He was a reserve on the 1991 Giants that played here and also stayed at the Hyatt Westshore. "Same hotel, same walkways, same (interview) tents," Cavanaugh said. Same room? "Same view," he said.

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