Wednesday, September 25, 2013
There's no leadership void on Ravens
By Jamison Hensley
For the second time this month, former linebacker Ray Lewis said the Baltimore Ravens lack leadership. And I'll say, for the second time in two months, that I just don't see this void.
This is a Ravens team that has come back to win two straight after getting ripped apart in Denver on national television. This is a Ravens team that beat the Houston Texans by three touchdowns without running back Ray Rice. This tells me, after three weeks, that someone in the locker room is steering the Ravens in the right direction.
Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh have helped fill the leadership void left by the offseason exodus of veterans from Baltimore.
The one player who has stepped up the most is quarterback Joe Flacco. Even though he hasn't looked like the Super Bowl MVP, he has been one of the most valuable players when it comes to leadership.
Flacco has been the anti-Tom Brady in dealing with his inconsistent receivers, encouraging them instead of scolding them on the sideline. He also showed his commitment to the team a couple of weeks ago when he chose to play against the Cleveland Browns even though his wife had gone into labor that morning.
Lewis' latest comments came after wide receiver Jacoby Jones was involved in a brawl on a party bus early Monday morning and was hurt when he was hit over the head by a stripper wielding a champagne bottle. Lewis, now an analyst on ESPN, said the Ravens are "missing leadership right now" because they are without him or Ed Reed in the locker room.
As I pointed out previously, Lewis and Reed were the ones who vouched for offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, the organizer of the party bus, when the Ravens signed him a few years ago. And during Lewis' 17 years, he wasn't able to police everyone on the 53-man roster.
It was under his watch that cornerback Chris McAlister missed a team meeting in training camp because he was arrested in another state for drunken driving. Lewis was the leader of the team when cornerback Corey Fuller hosted a high-stakes card game that ended in a shootout. While the "party bus" incident was embarrassing, no one was arrested or seriously injured.
"For one incident to happen and say it's a leadership issue when most of the team wasn't there, it's an overreaction," wide receiver Torrey Smith told The Baltimore Sun.
It really is an overreaction when you look at the other NFL headlines. San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Aldon Smith is in rehab after another DUI arrest. Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones was given a disorderly conduct citation in another run-in with the law.
The Ravens are taking this matter seriously. Coach John Harbaugh could have simply responded "no comment" when asked about the incident. But Harbaugh wanted it known he was upset by the actions of his players.
"It's not something we want to be known for," Harbaugh said. "We'd like to think it's not something those guys would want to be known for. It's nothing to be proud of, so I'm kind of disappointed in that sense."
It sounds to me like the Ravens still have leadership, and it starts at the top.