-- One day after the Baltimore Ravens suffered an embarrassing meltdown in a 35-17 loss to the Detroit Lions, Coach Brian Billick defended the character of his team -- which committed 21 penalties, one short of tying the NFL record, and had two players ejected -- and insisted it does not have a discipline problem. Billick also said that although the team fully expects the NFL to issue fines to some of the Ravens, he will not impose additional punishments.
"The rationale is that the individuals involved feel bad today and are punishing themselves. Believe me, when the league fines them, it will be substantial," Billick said during his weekly news conference. "If I thought an internal sanction, a monetary sanction against them, would suffice or help, I'd do it in a New York second. My experience is it does not. If they are not remorseful on their own -- regardless of whether the league fines them a penny, or whether they fine them hundreds of thousands of dollars -- if they don't internalize the culpability, then we're no better than we were yesterday."
The Ravens have long held a reputation as a passionate, emotional and intense team. But never before had they let their emotions get so far out of hand.
Baltimore was whistled for eight personal fouls, including four unsportsmanlike conduct penalties (two by cornerback Chris McAlister). Defensive end Terrell Suggs and rookie defensive back B.J. Ward were ejected for making contact with an official in separate incidents in a three-minute span in the third quarter. Nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu made an obscene gesture -- which the Detroit News reported to be a "double pelvic thrust" -- to the crowd.
Of the 21 penalties called against Baltimore in the first three games, two were 15-yard personal fouls (a chop block and a face mask), and none was for unsportsmanlike conduct.
"I believe in the character of this football team," said Billick, who spoke with team owner Steve Bisciotti, President Dick Cass and General Manager Ozzie Newsome in the aftermath of the game. "We made some egregious mistakes [Sunday]. But I believe in the character of these guys, and I'll stick by that character and support them to the end."
Billick, who is in his seventh season as Baltimore's coach, has been praised for being a players' coach, but lately he's been criticized for being soft on his charges. After Sunday's game, he was asked point-blank if he had lost control of the team; he quickly answered, "No, not at all." His philosophy has been "act like a man, and you'll be treated like a man," but that wasn't applicable in Detroit.
"They acted like out of control men," Billick said. "They acted like men who let the passion of the moment get away from them."
Several calls from the officials angered Ravens players. The team will submit selected plays -- "more than I ever remember doing before," Billick said -- to the league for review.
"We were fighting our way back, and at some point, we emotionally lost it," quarterback Anthony Wright said. "This is an emotional game, and a lot of times when you're out there working as hard as you are and not being rewarded for what you're doing, it's tough. You start doing things out of character. I think that's some of what happened yesterday."
McAlister, who's in his seventh season, is one of the more volatile players on the team. But wide receiver Derrick Mason, who received one of the unsportsmanlike penalties because he angrily threw the ball into a wall, is a ninth-year veteran regarded for his professionalism. Kemoeatu is generally considered to be one of the most genial Ravens.
Coaches and players met on Monday to review the game film. Billick told the players he still has faith in the character of the team, according to Wright, who was the only starter in the locker room during the media access period.
"We're not a bad team, on or off the football field," Wright said. "It's just that right now we're going through some trials and tribulations, and we're going to work ourselves through them."
The Ravens, who began their 10th anniversary season with talks of a Super Bowl run, have a lot of work to do. They are 1-3, the worst start in franchise history, and they've dropped to last place in the AFC North Division. They have lost their last five road games by a combined score of 124-47.
Billick won't make his players apologize for their behavior in Detroit, preferring to see the change on Sunday when the Ravens host the Cleveland Browns (2-2).
"The only real substantive action they can take is to not let it happen again," Billick said. "The rest is just cheap talk. They should come to that conclusion themselves, rather than me stand in front of the team and say, 'Okay, I want 15 Hail Marys and whatever to resolve yourself of this.' That's too easy for them. I don't want them to get off quite that easy, quite frankly."