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OWINGS MILLS — Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick attempted to defuse a controversy that arose a week ago when middle linebacker Ray Lewis sharply criticized his play-calling, emphasizing that there is no lingering discord between him and the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
However, Billick didn’t say if he had personally addressed the comments with Lewis.
"We’re good," Billick said Monday following the Ravens’ first practice since the bye. "That’s old news. We’re ready to move on to the next challenge. We’re good to go."
Lewis briefly addressed the situation on his weekly radio show Monday night.
"Nothing’s a problem," Lewis said. "People don’t understand the respect I have for Brian as a man."
Responding to a caller’s question last week, Lewis vented about Billick opting for three consecutive passes beginning with a 2nd-and-1 at the Buffalo Bills’ 49-yard line with under two minutes to play in a 19-14 loss. All three of Kyle Boller’s throws fell incomplete, and the Ravens never touched the football again.
"It was as frustrating for you as it was for me," Lewis said. "As far as decisions, you have to let Willis McGahee touch the ball on one of those plays. We knew he should have touched the ball when you have a fourth-and-one. Old-school football is old-school football. If there is a yard I need to get, there is a running back, a fullback and an offense that is meant to get that.
"You can’t make oranges be peaches, it doesn’t change, it will never change. That’s what Billick has to ask himself, why we keep putting ourselves in those situations. In the Cincinnati game, that cost us with those same decisions."
When asked if Lewis’ second-guessing could develop into a distraction, Billick replied tersely: "Not if we don’t allow it."
Following the Buffalo game, Billick specifically asked the players to not point fingers at each other or the coaching staff. One night later, though, Lewis disregarded that request.
By the next day, Billick said that he didn’t have a problem with Lewis’ comments, saying he wasn’t exactly enamored of his play-calling in that situation, either.
Judging from the reaction inside the locker room, this appears to be either a dead issue or one confined to Lewis and Billick, two of the higher-profile figures in franchise history.
"The offense didn’t take offense to what he said," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "We need to score. That’s something that [Lewis] and coach Billick need to work out because he specifically mentioned one individual. That’s something that he and coach Billick need to talk about."
Mason ripped the offense in January, griping about not being involved more. During the offseason, he met privately with Billick and general manager Ozzie Newsome to air his grievances.
Now, Mason is the leading receiver in the NFL with 56 receptions in the Ravens’ ball-control attack. He said he doesn’t have a problem with the direction of the offense, just the results of scoring just 17.7 points per contest.
"I’m cool with it, Brian is making the calls and I’m not going to second-guess coach Billick’s calls," Mason said. "When I’ve voiced my opinion, everybody called me selfish. Whatever Brian calls, it’s up to the players to get it done. The onus is not just on coach Billick or [offensive coordinator Rick] Neuheisel calling the plays.
"Players have to take responsibility, too. We have to execute the plays. It can’t just fall on coach Billick. Whatever play they choose to call, somehow we have to make it work."
Veteran center Mike Flynn chalked up Lewis’ reaction to frustration at the team’s slow start despite a soft schedule.
"That’s his radio show, that’s his opinion," center Mike Flynn said of Lewis. "What I take from it is pretty much nothing. I’m sure Brian will call him in and ask him, ‘Why do you think this way? It was a tough loss in Buffalo, no doubt about that.
"There’s frustration. I can understand that. He’s got a radio show. Somebody called in and he said how he felt."
Flynn said that Lewis’ comments haven’t become a hot topic of conversation, especially since the team had been away from the training complex for the past seven days.
"A week is like 10 years in real life," Flynn said. "It’s long forgotten."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.