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December 06, 2001

In NFL, no easy schedules
By Dan Patrick

Brian Billick just happened to be in Bristol when the 2001 NFL schedule came out. It was a lot of fun to chat with him about the upcoming season and get his immediate take on it.

Brian Billick
Expect Ravens coach Brian Billick to use the opening-night MNF snub as motivation for his Super Bowl champion Ravens.
No real surprises, though. The coach of the defending Super Bowl champs thought the schedule was fine. Just fine.

The first thing we noticed was that for the first time since 1995 the Super Bowl champs will not open the season on Monday Night Football. Billick smiled. He said the only thing that's good about playing in that game is having the extra day to prepare. I believe him.

But I can also pretty much hear the way he will use the slight with his team in training camp and in the first week. Something along the lines of, "They don't respect us. The league doesn't like that we're the champions." I'd use it too.

As for Monday Night Football, Billick said, "We're on two-and-a-half times." The half is the last week of the season, but that Monday is New Year's Eve. So the game is moved back to Saturday. As for the whole Monday Night thing, maybe it's a coincidence. Maybe not. The Ravens will take it in stride.

Baltimore will play six playoff teams this year, including three in the first five games. But the things that you or I would highlight were not the things that jumped out to Billick.

Billick was most interested in an eight-game stretch in which the Ravens play six on the road. Billick didn't portray it as a make-or-break run of games, but clearly those games are a test. The last one is at Tennessee -- and winning at Tennessee was a big game for the Ravens last year.

Billick said it's a great year to be the defending Super Bowl champs. Because of salary-cap constraints, it has been hard for other teams to reload quickly.
"Everybody thinks they have a difficult schedule," said Billick. "And they're right to some extent. There really are no easy schedules in the NFL."

Last year, the Ravens opened with five of seven on the road and did fine. The degree of difficulty is bumped up a bit when you win it all.

After commenting on the Ravens' games, Billick wanted to see the Jaguars' and Titans' schedules. It's the offseason and all, but he's still a coach.

Coach Billick also mentioned that it's a great year to be the defending Super Bowl champs. Because of salary-cap constraints, it has been hard for other teams to reload quickly and get better fast. That condition also meant that the Ravens were not raided too heavily. They really didn't lose many players and none of their top guys. Plus, they got a little bit better by adding Elvis Grbac and Leon Searcy.

That last game of the season finds the Ravens in Tampa Bay, where they finished the 2001 postseason with a win. They won't start the year on MNF. So they'll finish on it. Fine. Just fine.

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After looking at the new schedule, Brian Billick is looking forward to the Monday night games.
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