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Billick went to school on 'Hard Knocks'

The Baltimore Ravens and their former coach, Brian

The Baltimore Ravens and their former coach, Brian Billick, were featured on the first season of HBO's "Hard Knocks." (July 31, 2001) Photo Credit: AP

Brian Billick knows firsthand how beneficial - and potentially harmful - having his team appear on HBO's popular series "Hard Knocks" can be. So when he tells you that it's generally a good idea for the Jets to participate, you have to give them the benefit of the doubt that they know what's in store.

That and the fact Rex Ryan was on Billick's coaching staff in 2001, when the Ravens were featured in the first year of the show.

"I thought it went very well," Billick said Thursday in a telephone interview. "For us, it served a very specific set of purposes. The main thing is to know what it is specifically that you want to do, and whether you're mature enough to handle it."

Billick, like Ryan, was one of the most talkative coaches you'll ever meet. He said he liked having the cameras at his training camp because the Ravens had just come off a Super Bowl win. The former Ravens coach and current NFL analyst was concerned about a year-after letdown and thought the HBO project would add focus for his team. It also helped soften their image and create a better understanding of his players, including Ray Lewis, who was implicated the year before in a murder.

"We were coming off the Super Bowl, we had the Ray Lewis situation, we were a dominant defensive team, and a lot of people thought we were thugs,'' Billick said. "So it was a great opportunity to show that we had some characters, but we also had character. It was an opportunity to show the world we had some pretty good guys here. Plus, it was a chance to get them refocused after the Super Bowl. If the players wanted to slack off, then let the whole world see it."

(The Ravens went 10-6 and earned a wild card.)

And what about the potential for saying something teams might use for motivation? Well, Ryan has done plenty of that without the benefit of a television show, with his swipes at Bill Belichick and the Dolphins' Channing Crowder, as well as his pronouncement in January that the Jets should be favored throughout the playoffs. But Billick warns it could get tricky.

"We did have editorial final say, but we maybe only used it twice, and that was with injury-related issues because of potential grievances," Billick said. "What you can't do is limit [NFL Films] producer Steve Sabol and go, 'I said something stupid. Don't put that in.' You have to get a good working relationship."

Billick said there will be an adjustment period in getting used to having cameras around, but that won't last long.

"I remember having a robotic camera in my office for conversations with [GM] Ozzie Newsome and the players," Billick said. "I'd find myself talking to the camera. I'd ask the camera, which was being looked through by the guys in the production room, if they wanted to go to lunch. And the camera would either bob up and down if the answer was yes, or go side to side if they couldn't go. So you get used to it."

Billick also said it was a good marketing tool, which the Jets are eager to take advantage of. Looking back, Billick has only positive things to say about the experience.

"It energized training camp," he said. "I think Rex will use it to build the team's persona. He uses the phrase 'Play like a Jet.' It's a way to let the legend grow."


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