AFC champions' bus collides with police cruiser
Updated: Tuesday January 23, 2001 2:44 AM
BALTIMORE (AP) -- A bus carrying the Baltimore Ravens to the airport for their flight to the Super Bowl collided with a police car Monday, but no injuries were reported.
The bus was in a convoy taking players to Baltimore-Washington International Airport for their afternoon flight to Tampa, Fla., where the Ravens play the New York Giants on Sunday.
"He had a New York emblem on the side of the car," Ravens head coach Brian Billick joked. "I don't want to classify it as a fender bender, but in military terms, I think it's called collateral damage. We weren't really aware of it, we were out of there. It was behind us. I believe there's obviously no injuries."
When asked if the accident had ruined the Ravens' day, Billick replied, "Just for the guy that got hit. His day is pretty well shot."
The players had just left a rally in the city's Inner Harbor that drew thousands of purple-clad fans.
As the bus moved into the far left lane of Interstate 395 near PSINet Stadium, a city police cruiser sped up next to it and was forced into the center median.
The cruiser was sandwiched between the bus and median for a few seconds before coming to a stop. A hubcap could be seen rolling away.
The bus eventually pulled right and continued on its way to BWI for the Ravens' charter flight.
City police officials said the officer in the car was not injured but the cruiser had to be towed from the scene.
Billick continues to let Ravens loose
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Brian Billick didn't give his Baltimore Ravens any new rules or regulations for the Super Bowl.
No curfews. No bed checks. Not even a list of seedy places to avoid in Tampa.
"The No. 1 thing I stressed to these men when I took over was accountability," Billick said. "I trust these men. They have not in two years given me one instance to indicate that I need to do otherwise. As long as they act like men, I treat them like men."
The players respect him for it, too.
"Brian has done something that all coaches should copy and that's treating their players like adults and like professionals," receiver Qadry Ismail said. "He has said numerous times that he is not going to baby sit us and he expects us to do what we are asked to do or we won't be here.
"This week, I believe it's no different. If you don't recognize that this is the ultimate game and that this is what you sweat for all through training camp, then you picked the wrong time to want to party and stay out late."
Billick's message was a stark contract to what Giants head coach Jim Fassel told his players.
Fassel issued a warning to his team about frequenting certain Tampa nightspots, specifically some of the city's famous strip clubs. Tampa plans to enforce a year-old ordinance that forbids nude dancers from being within 6 feet of club patrons.
The Giants have curfews for each night they will spend in town -- 12:30 a.m. for Tuesday through Friday and 11 p.m. on Saturday, the night before the game. They had to be in by 1 a.m. on their first two nights in Tampa.
"I covered everything with them," Fassel said. "I told them this: 'If you guys want to go and have a great time at the Super Bowl, then go when we're not playing. We're coming down here to work.'''
So are the Ravens, but Billick is sure his players will act responsibly.
"We have a lot of older guys on our team, and Brian sort of lets us go," defensive tackle Tony Siragusa said. "But the older guys and experienced guys sort of police it and don't let other guys take it to the extreme. He's treated us like adults since we've been here, and we didn't expect him to treat us any different this week.
"We take care of business, we don't embarrass him and we don't embarrass our city. He trusts us being here."
What's in a number?
Linebacker Jessie Armstead, in his eighth season with the Giants, used to wonder why the team gave him the No. 98 jersey -- a number usually reserved for defensive linemen. After being selected to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl this season, he never wants to change it.
"I think they thought I'd be right out the door," said Armstead, who was drafted in the eighth round in 1993. "I just took that number and ran with it. And I hope to keep that number."
Fans have a say in MVP balloting
For the first time, fans will have a say in determining the Super Bowl's Most Valuable Player award. Beginning in the fourth quarter Sunday, fans may cast an MVP ballot on Superbowl.com, the league's official Super Bowl web site.
The fans' majority opinion will count roughly 20 percent of the total vote. The other 80 percent will be decided by selected media members at the game.
The winner, who will receive the Pete Rozelle Trophy and a 2001 Ford truck, will be announced after the game.
Baltimore defense getting rave reviews
Baltimore's defense has been well publicized this season, especially throughout the playoffs. And now it's the talk of this Super Bowl town.
"It's one of the best I've seen in 20 years," said former Chicago Bears head coach and Hall of Fame tight end Mike Ditka. "The only chance to beat them as an offense is to spread them out and get them into match-up problems. ... The Ravens are awfully good, but it's hard to say if they're as good as we were."
The Ravens broke the NFL record for the fewest points allowed for a 16-game season, giving up 165 points and shattering the previous record of 187 held by the 1986 Bears.
Baltimore has surrendered just 16 points in its three playoff wins -- three to Denver, 10 to Tennessee and three to Oakland.
"The only stats I ever look at on a defense are points against and yards per carry," Hall of Fame linebacker Sam Huff said. "They've got the record in points, and they allow 2.7 yards per rush. What else do you need to know?"
Baltimore's defense has been getting rave reviews from its Super Bowl opponent, too.
"They're unlike any other defense in NFL history," New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said. "I don't think we're mad about that. I think it's well deserved. Defense is defense, and they've got a great one."
Added left guard Glenn Parker: "You can be in awe, but don't be awestruck. We can look at them and say this probably is the best defense we're ever going to see. It is certainly one of the better defenses I've seen in my years in the NFL.
"But that doesn't mean you don't go to work and do all the cliches -- bring your lunch pail and what not and start hitting the rock. You've got to try to find some weakness ... get something going and, hopefully, you can break them somehow."
The Ravens also set the 16-game record for fewest rushing yards allowed with 970. They were the first team to give up less than 1,000 yards in 16 games. The last team to surrender fewer yards on the ground was the 1964 Buffalo Bills, who allowed 913 yards in 14 games.
In all, Baltimore led the league in six categories, including takeaways (49), fumble recoveries (26) and shutouts (4).
"If they're not the best defense ever, they're right up there at the top," Oakland head coach Jon Gruden said.
Giants' QB Garrett awaits first Super Bowl snap
New York backup quarterback Jason Garrett has three Super Bowl rings, one for each of his trips to the big game. But Garrett has yet to take a snap.
The way Baltimore's defense has treated opposing quarterbacks, this could be his year.
"I like to think my preparation every week is for that scenario," said Garrett, who went to three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys. "You try to do what you have to do to get physically ready, spending time with the game plan, watching film and getting yourself as ready as possible."
Modell hangs on to Giants season tickets
Baltimore owner Art Modell has season tickets for the Ravens -- and the Giants. Modell holds 67 season tickets at Giants Stadium.
Growing up in Brooklyn, Modell was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan as a 9-year-old. When the Dodgers left town, he switched his allegiance to the Giants. He bought his first season tickets in 1945, when the team was playing at the Polo Grounds. He bought even more when the team moved to Yankee Stadium and then Giants Stadium.
"I bought some before I moved to Cleveland, and bought some after I moved to Cleveland for families, friends and creditors," Modell joked. "It's been a great experience."
Asked if he got tickets to this year's Super Bowl in the Giants ticket lottery, Modell said, "I lost out on the raffle."
Ravens Web site hits at all-time high
Visits to the Ravens' fan Web site have soared since the beginning of the AFC playoffs, team officials said.
Last week, the site had an average 3 million hits per day, up from an average 250,000 hits per day before the playoffs.
The Ravens play the New York Giants in the Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday.
The team site shows live video from the team's training facility during the regular season and will broadcast Super Bowl lead-up events this week from Tampa, team spokesman Kevin Byrne said.
Ashburn, Va.-based PSINet hosts and manages the site. The company also owns naming rights for the Ravens' playing facility, PSINet Stadium, which opened in August 1998.
Brown turns shock into Super Bowl surprise
"He said, 'You know, that's the first job you've ever been fired from,'" Brown said. "I started thinking about it that way, and you know, he was right."
From the depths of that day last February, Brown has re-emerged with the New York Giants. After 16 years of playing almost exclusively for mediocre teams with little shot at postseason glory, the 37-year-old left tackle has proven himself by finally making it to the Super Bowl.
"It means so much to me," Brown said, after arriving in Tampa late Sunday.
That Brown is something of a reclamation project is not a new story for football, or the Super Bowl, a weeklong festival of storytelling in which poignancy can be extracted from almost any player's travails.
More unique is how well Brown understands his place, both here and in history. He's a 16-year veteran who has finally broken through. He wants to play 20 seasons, but knows the fickle ways of the NFL as well as anyone.
Could this be his final chance to leave a legacy?
"I've had people coming up to me saying, 'Well, you know you have Hall of Fame numbers,'" Brown said. "But I never felt I did, simply because of the fact that I'd never been to a Super Bowl or won a Super Bowl. I think when you talk about guys who go into the Hall of Fame, those guys are winners. Normally, most of those guys have Super Bowl rings or championships behind their name."
For an offensive lineman, Brown has impressive credentials.
He has played in 236 of the 253 non-strike games since entering the league in 1985, and started all but one. He's a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, excelling with the Lions and Cardinals even when those franchises struggled.
He was an obvious choice when the Browns went looking for a cornerstone on which to build their expansion franchise. They signed him to a three-year, $10.75 million contract and director of football operations Dwight Clark called Brown "our leader on the offensive side of the ball."
It didn't turn out that way.
Brown's only season with Cleveland was filled with injuries and turmoil. He divided the locker room by questioning teammate Scott Rehberg's heart when Rehberg said he couldn't play because he had the flu. He criticized coach Chris Palmer for developing youth instead of trying to win, and ripped him for making practices too long and taxing. When the Browns released him, claiming they had to clear money from their salary cap, nobody really believed it.
"I think I was more of a threat in Cleveland," Brown said. "Why? I don't know. I don't know why I couldn't work with the coaching staff in Cleveland, and why it deteriorated the way it did."
Palmer is out of a job now, and Brown is playing for a ring.
In the offseason, the Giants were looking for a starter and a leader. Brown, who played in Arizona when Jim Fassel was an assistant there, seemed like a good fit.
Along with veteran Glenn Parker, the Giants have a much improved, and vastly more experienced line.
"Against Minnesota, we had a 34-0 lead and Lomas did not want to come out of the game," Fassel said, referring to the NFC championship.
Brown was simply glad to get one more chance to prove he's a good player and a good guy. Like the overachieving team he plays for, he believes first impressions aren't always the most accurate.
"Everybody looks at your age first," Brown said. "I don't think you should always look at a person's age to determine whether they can play or not. Let them get on the field, let them show you whether you can play or not."