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Owner Steve Bisciotti preaches continuity, not change at 'State of the Ravens' address

Steve Bisciotti on how to react to 5-11 Ravens season: "You just don't turn things over."

If you wanted to hear more "juice," Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti warned that you were in the wrong place.

At an afternoon news conference about 960 miles south, Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht was explaining the team's decision to fire Lovie Smith after just two seasons, and the organization's search for its fifth head coach in nine years.

Bisciotti, meanwhile, used Thursday's "State of the Ravens" address to preach about the importance of staying the course. Speaking just four days after the conclusion of a bitterly disappointing 5-11 season, Bisciotti, seated alongside team president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh, dismissed talk of significant changes following one of the worst years in franchise history.

"If you go through the league, the winning teams are the ones that have the least turnover in their front office and their coaching staffs," Bisciotti said. "You just don't turn things over. You guys would be getting a whole lot more juice if you were down in Tampa. You're missing their press conference. You'd have more to write about. I'm proud of these guys and I like John as much as I did when I hired him eight years ago. You can't just turn things over based on your record. I think that just sends you down."

There were no significant revelations in the 50-minute news conference at the Under Armour Performance Center. In fact, the group interview was probably most notable for the lack of drama and emotion, and the insistence on continuity.

In past addresses, Bisciotti challenged former coach Brian Billick to change his ways, and declared that he liked former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron "under fire." Even after the 2013 season, when the Ravens couldn't defend their Super Bowl XLVII title and saw their five-year playoff streak end, Bisciotti acknowledged that his patience would have its limits.

However, there was no tough talk from the Ravens owner this year, no warning of pending change if things didn't improve quickly. Upbeat and undeterred, Bisciotti described himself as disappointed, but not mad, by how the 2015 season unfolded, and said that he thinks the Ravens will be in good shape to make a playoff run next year.

"I don't really think that a lot has to be done," Bisciotti said. "I think that one thing that I'm proud of is that we all view continuity as a strength. … Continuity doesn't stem from laziness, it comes from confidence and I believe in these guys. I have a lot of faith that we'll get it straightened out and I hope we don't have as many injuries and I hope we have a whole lot more turnovers, and yeah, I think those kind of differences would get us back to where we want to be."

The Ravens have now finished in third place in the AFC North in three consecutive years. As they sit out the postseason for the second time in three seasons, their top two division rivals — the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals — will be facing each other in the AFC wild-card round.

Instead of preparing for a game, the Ravens are spending the week in personnel meetings. Next weekend, the team's top decision-makers will then head to Jupiter, Fla., to take part in organizational meetings at Bisciotti's home starting Jan. 15.

They'll have plenty to discuss, although some key decisions have apparently already been made. Harbaugh said that other than linebackers coach Ted Monachino, who was hired Thursday to be the Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator, the rest of his coaching staff will come back intact. That obviously includes offensive coordinator Marc Trestman and defensive coordinator Dean Pees.

There will be "changes in how we do things and how we approach things and schemes, and things like that," Harbaugh said. "We're going to work on that already. But the same guys will be in place, and I'm excited to work with our guys."

Newsome made it clear that quarterback Joe Flacco will be back, whether they renegotiate his contract or not. Flacco's contract carries a salary cap hit of $28.55 million in 2016 and while that would be extremely prohibitive to the Ravens, Newsome said that his goal will be to build the roster without redoing the quarterback's contract.

Newsome also said that he expects rush linebacker Terrell Suggs to return after the longest-tenured Raven's season ended in Week 1 because of a torn Achilles tendon. But even with potential difference-makers like Flacco, Suggs, Justin Forsett, Breshad Perriman and Steve Smith Sr. expected to be back healthy, Newsome acknowledged that the team needs to add more difference-makers.

"You need to have some players that when the game is on the line, they have the ability to make a play," Newsome said. "We will be trying to add some of that to our team, but a lot of that can be done through development."

Newsome reiterated what he says every year around this time. The Ravens will have the salary cap flexibility to sign a few of their own free agents — he mentioned kicker Justin Tucker and offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele as priorities — and they'd find the money to make other outside additions if the particular player improved the team.

However, the Ravens' focus will be on the draft, where they'll pick sixth. If they don't trade out of that spot, that will be the highest that they've made a selection in the first round since 2000, when they nabbed running back Jamal Lewis with the fifth overall pick.

"I think the toughest part of picking this high is you have to suffer through the season that we just suffered through," Newsome said. "It's tough going through a season to earn that spot. It really is. I don't like having to sit through 11 losses just to get a chance to pick the fifth- or sixth-best player in the draft."

Bisciotti acknowledged that the season wasn't easy for him either. However, he felt that it was his job to be supportive to Harbaugh under the circumstances.

"Obviously, we would have been a better team if we didn't have significant injuries," Bisciotti said. "So, I think I was a good owner, a supportive owner, when this season started going south. I saw the effort; the effort didn't change. The commitment from the staff didn't change."

Those are just a few of the reasons why Bisciotti doesn't think a whole lot else needs to change either.

"We want the blip down to be the abnormality in our growth and in our development as an organization. This is one of those times," Bisciotti said. "If you look through the league and the teams that have won since John came in here: Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Packers, Patriots, Seahawks. They have the same people running the show. And the other teams that aren't getting to the top are the ones that have been through two to three and four coaches and one, two or three GMs in just this last eight years. As long as we're good at picking people and we're good at working together, then yeah, continuity is a huge part of the recipe for success."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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