JUDGE: Q&A with Ozzie Newsome

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Clark Judge

It¿s rare to find a former NFL star making as big an impact in the front office as he did on the field, but then it¿s rare to find someone like Baltimore¿s Ozzie Newsome. The ¿ senior vice president of football operations oversees one of the league¿s best and brightest scouting departments, one that¿s hit on all of its No. 1 draft picks — with six of the seven ticketed for the starting lineup on Sept. 8. The exception? Cornerback whom Arizona signed as a free agent. Yes, the know what they¿re doing, and so does Newsome, who is trying to rebuild a cap-ravaged club that has 16 players left from the Super Bowl champions of 19 games ago. It won¿t be easy, but, somehow, we think Newsome will be up to it.

Q: said he expects to be the back he was in 2000 when he set a club rushing record. Is that reasonable?

A: Knock on wood, but he looks as good now as he did right before the injury. I know he¿s been adamant about that to me: He¿s said, ¿I¿m going to come back and be better than I was.¿ And I told him, ¿Jamal, don¿t let me hold you back. I want to see that.¿ So he has that expectation within himself. I¿ve talked to him a couple of times on the field, and he feels he¿s ready. But it¿s a different kind of readiness than it was last year or his rookie year. His rookie year he was wild-eyed and just running. I really think he¿s ready.

Q: Is he going to wear a brace?

A: No, he hasn¿t worn a brace at any time.

Q: What¿s your biggest concern with this team?

A: Probably having Jamal (Lewis) back. If he¿s back he covers a lot of ills. And everything he¿s done thus far has proven that he is back. If you talk about that, and or as our quarterback, I¿d say those are the critical issues. Beyond that, if we retain our other guys, we¿re going to be pretty good downstream.

Q: So you don¿t buy into the doom-and-gloom forecasts for the ?

A: No. I think we¿re going to surprise some people.

Q: One player told me that if you were 8-8 he¿d be disappointed. If you were 8-8, wouldn¿t you be ecstatic?

A: I think that¿s what we were in 1999, and we should have been 9-7. Hopefully, our wins will come in November and December because that¿s what propels you through the next year.

Q: Do you believe that your head coach will stick with ?

A: There¿s no question he¿s in a different mode now with this whole team. He¿s in a developmental mode. There are no quick triggers on anybody. We will allow guys to play into their jobs or play out of their jobs.

Q: How long do you think it will take to get a read on Redman?

A: We¿ll know before we get out of September.

Q: And how long before the Baltimore can get back to or near the top?

A: I watched our team after the Detroit game, and there was a good feeling in the locker room. That¿s good. But then I switch back to the year Cleveland played in the Hall of Fame game, and I remember how excited they were that football was back. Then they went on to win five games the next two years. So, you have to be careful about how excited you get. But what I¿m seeing are young players who, if nothing else, can be great role players for us. With that, we¿ll be able next year to go out in free agency and bring in the Shannon Sharpes or Rod Woodsons or whoever those guys are to supplement our football team. Right now in the era of free agency and good drafting, I don¿t see why you can¿t go from 7-9 to 10-6.

Q: Don¿t you need to find a ¿go-to¿ receiver?

A: Yeah, but I like that athleticism of (Todd) Heap, (Travis) Taylor and Brandon (Stokley). I can go through my history, and the year when we had (Brian) Sipe in Cleveland in 1980 we didn¿t really have a "go-to" guy. There was me, (Reggie) Rucker and (Dave) Logan. We all complemented each other. We put up 50 or 60 catches at that time, which was a lot of balls, and that¿s how I want this thing. Each week one of them can be the guy who has 6-to-8 receptions, and if, at the end of the year, all three of them have 55-plus receptions I¿ll be happy with that.

Q: Isn¿t it important for Taylor to make a move this year?

A: It would be great for him to have a type of year, but I don¿t want to set those expectations. I want him to be healthy and come through with 60 balls. You have to realize he came out (of college) as a junior, so if he¿d stayed in school he would be in his second year. He¿s on time. Clark Judge can be reached at his e-mail address,

Tagged: Broncos, Raiders, Ravens, Cardinals, Jeff Blake, Chris Redman, Jamal Lewis

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