Hecklers heard loud and clear

Ravens fans' disenchantment with the team's downward-spiraling season has been noticed.

The boos during the second half of the Ravens' 21-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday might not have elicited an on-field reaction, but afterward, the players acknowledged hearing the catcalls.


"Yeah, it bothers me because I don't particularly know who they're booing," linebacker Terrell Suggs said in response to being asked whether the heckling bothered him. "They're booing us. These are my brothers, all of them. Offense, special teams, left tackle, the kicker. We're a team. No one man is exempt."

The boos are nothing new for the players, who have dealt with jeers before while playing football.


But the pessimism is noteworthy because the Ravens are coming off a 13-3 season and were expected by many to repeat as AFC North champions.

Instead, the boos have increased as fans and media have suggested solutions ranging from making a change at quarterback to firing coach Brian Billick.

Billick said yesterday during his weekly remarks that he empathized with fans.

"We need to give our fans better," he said. "I think I've got a very real sense of what this game's about, what it means to the fans, what our responsibility is as the organization and what we need to do to go forward. I want very much for the fans to get a better return on their time and energies than they're getting right now."

Still, the players closed ranks and defended the coaches and their teammates.

"We're fine inside this locker room," tight end Todd Heap said. "I'm not worried about the guys in this locker room. You guys are obviously going to make something to talk about, but we've got to make sure that we fix the things we need to fix, and that's the bottom line. We can't worry about what's being said outside of our locker room about us."

Billick still to call plays

Billick said he has no intention, for now, of surrendering his duties as the offense's primary play-caller.


During Billick's first nine games as the Ravens' offensive coordinator, the offense scored 22 touchdowns.

In the team's past 11 games, including last season's playoff loss, the offense has scored just 10 touchdowns.

But Billick did not budge - with one caveat.

"I'll make that change in a New York second if I think there's a better way to go about doing what we're doing," he said.

"I'm going to put this team in the very best position I can as the head coach each and every Sunday we go forward."

Bigger role for Darling?


Wide receiver Devard Darling's involvement in the offense's three-receiver set might get an extended run.

Demetrius Williams suffered a high ankle sprain after catching a 5-yard pass on the third play of the second half in Sunday's loss. If Williams - who was not available for comment after the game - cannot play Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, Darling could be a more integral part of the passing attack.

"I just went out there and tried to make plays," said Darling, who caught one pass for 16 yards in the fourth quarter. "I always stay prepared no matter what. That's the nature of this game. You always have to stay ready. It's not going to change anything I've done all year."

McAlister on the mend

Billick said cornerback Chris McAlister's strained right knee appeared to be improving to the point where the cornerback could play against the Browns. "He was moving around pretty good the latter part of [last] week," Billick said. "We'll see what this week brings." ... Billick praised former San Francisco 49ers coach Dick Nolan, who died Sunday at the age of 75. Nolan's son, Mike Nolan, is the current coach of the 49ers "His dad is one of those people why you get into this business," Billick said. "I'm very fortunate to have been able to spend some time with Dick because of Mike. Obviously, our hearts and prayers go out to [the family]."