Anxious does not begin to describe Brian Billick's feelings about his first training camp as an NFL head coach. The experience started late this afternoon with the Baltimore Ravens, but Billick has had specific plans in place for more than a month.
"I'm confident in my abilities," he said shortly before the full squad began arriving in anticipation of Thursday's first workout. "I've got a good fundamental knowledge of the game, I'm an effective teacher, a pretty good communicator and very well organized. So the sum of the parts is there. Does it equal the whole? We'll find out."
If Billick had remained the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, his main concern in training camp would have been that no significant player got hurt. The roster for the team that made the NFC championship game last season seems 90 to 95 percent set before the camp's first breakfast.
"The roster here is about 60 percent set -- at best," Billick said of a team that won 16 of 48 games in three seasons under coach Ted Marchibroda.
Major concerns are finding adequate wide receivers other than Jermaine Lewis, who made the Pro Bowl last season for his exceptional skills returning kicks, developing a cohesive offensive line and making sure Pro Bowl defenders Peter Boulware (shoulder) and Michael McCrary (knee) are healthy for the Sept. 12 season opener.
Rookie fourth-round draft choices Brandon Stokley and Edwin Mulitalo and seventh-rounder Anthony Poindexter were the only players who did not report on time. All three were holding out, although Ravens vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome said that offensive lineman Mulitalo agreed in principle to a three-year contract tonight.
Terms of the contract for Mulitalo were not disclosed, but it is believed to include incentives and a signing bonus of about $50,000. He is expected to be in camp on Thursday.
Wide receiver Stokley and safety Poindexter wanted bigger signing bonuses than the Ravens say they can offer.
The amount of money each team can spend on all rookie salaries is determined by the league -- and all but a small amount of Baltimore's allotment went to its first-round choice, cornerback Chris McAlister.
Newsome said he expected to make progress toward signing Stokley, but even if Stokley signs, he can't be in camp until Friday, Billick said.
Former Virginia star Poindexter had first-round potential before suffering a severe knee injury during the seventh game last season. Ravens trainers are optimistic that he might recover in time to play this season.
The Ravens' most publicized offseason acquisition was quarterback Scott Mitchell. The Detroit Lions starter for four seasons, Mitchell was benched in favor of rookie Charlie Batch by Coach Bobby Ross early last season and threw just 75 passes.
The Ravens traded third- and fifth-round draft choices to the Lions for Mitchell, after reworking his massive contract to something more in line with recent performances. He replaces Jim Harbaugh, who was often injured and frequently ineffective last season before being dealt to San Diego for a seventh-round draft choice.
"So far," Billick said, "Scott's been excellent."
Tony Banks replaces Eric Zeier as the backup quarterback. St. Louis traded Banks to the Ravens for two late-round draft choices.
"I like the fact that [Banks is] 26 and has had 43 starts in the NFL," Billick said.
Most players seem excited about the possibilities with Billick and stress his attention to detail.
"We're expecting a baby in a couple of weeks and my wife is bedridden," defensive tackle Tony Siragusa said. "I thought I'd be going crazy [trying to figure how to get home to New Jersey] when the beeper went off. Brian researched it and got some arrangements made -- maybe a plane or a helicopter, depending on the situation. When someone goes out of his way like that, it makes it easier to concentrate."
Ravens Training Camp
When: Today through Aug. 26
Where: Western Maryland College in Westminster, Md.
Practice schedule: Morning practices usually run from 8:45 to 11. Afternoon practices usually start at 4 and run from 60 to 90 minutes. Fans can get up-to-date practice times by calling 410-261-3267.
Intrasquad scrimmage: Aug. 6 at 6 p.m., at Bair Stadium on campus. Players will be available for a 30-minute autograph session afterward, as well as after an Aug. 7 "mock game," which starts at 10 a.m.