Although Ravens linebackers Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware cleared the air by calling team officials directly about skipping passing camp, the public bickering between coach Brian Billick and agent Roosevelt Barnes became stormier yesterday.
Barnes, who represents both Lewis and Boulware with Eugene Parker, chided Billick for commenting on his clients' contract negotiations, and Billick sounded off again on agents interfering in player-coach relationships.
Billick acknowledged he knew Barnes informed the team last week about the linebackers' planned absences from this week's four-day non-mandatory session, but said he wasn't certain that Lewis and Boulware wouldn't show because he wasn't informed directly by the players. Billick remained disappointed yesterday that his players relied on an agent to deliver the message first.
"If Roosevelt Barnes or Eugene Parker would walk up to me right now, I would not know it," Billick said. "I do not communicate with my players via the agents and they do not communicate to me through the agents. We have not done that. We do not do it now. And we will not do it in the future. Whatever his [Barnes'] perspective happens to be, so be it.
"I don't want to have to call an agent in order to blitz on a given down as an intermediary."
Barnes has been in negotiations with Ravens senior vice president of football operations Ozzie Newsome and director of football administration Pat Moriarty about the restructuring of Lewis' and Boulware's contracts, but the two sides did not talk yesterday. Lewis is scheduled to earn $4.75 million in each of the final two years of his contract, and Boulware is expected to make $4.3 million in the last year of his deal.
Team officials indicated the no-shows by Lewis and Boulware are a negotiating ploy by the agents, and Billick said on Monday that "the players are going to take control of this game back from the agents."
After emphasizing that he has a solid relationship with Newsome and Moriarty, Barnes said he was irked by Billick's rant over the past two days.
"I think he should stick to coaching the team and not worry about the other stuff," Barnes said. "He is a smart guy. I have not talked to him. If I were standing in front of him, I would ask him about his offense. He's considered an offensive genius and I just haven't seen it yet. That's what I would want to talk about."
Moss signed an eight-year, $75 million deal that included an NFL-record $18 million signing bonus, making him the highest-paid nonquarterback in the NFL. Giving Lewis a signing bonus that exceeds $20 million is believed to be the major snag in the talks.
Boulware's new contract is expected to surpass Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor's six-year, $42 million deal that included a $9 million signing bonus. In five seasons, Taylor registered 268 tackles and 40 sacks as a full-time pass rusher while Boulware racked up 264 tackles and 52 sacks.
"Tell Coach Billick that Ozzie, Pat and myself will deal with the numbers," Barnes said. "He should concentrate on his offense scoring points. He needs to worry about the numbers on the scoreboard and not on the contract."
To notify the team personally of their absences, Boulware phoned linebackers coach Mike Smith yesterday and Lewis talked to Billick on Monday night.
"Ray recognizes that and he was apologetic about it in a way you would expect Ray Lewis to be apologetic about it," Billick said. "He understood there was a process that he probably needed to follow up with. He understands - and more so now - I don't communicate with my players through agents and they don't communicate with me through agents."
Boulware said on Monday that he plans to attend the Ravens' mandatory veterans camp June 10-13. After talking with Lewis, Billick expects the All-Pro middle linebacker to be there as well.