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Raven's Mulitalo toes the line

April 08, 2002|BY BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

The Baltimore Ravens' 2001 season was like a Parkers' Brothers board game.

The defending Super Bowl champions rolled the dice and came up short of the winner's circle. And now, Baltimore finds itself back near the starting point, waiting to play again.

But to offensive lineman Edwin Mulitalo, the dismantling and reconstruction of the Ravens because of the NFL's salary cap isn't as restricting as the team's expectations.

"We aren't at Square One," Mulitalo said Saturday at the Ravens Nest No. 12's Third Annual Lineman of the Year banquet at the Four Points Sheraton. "We know where we want to be. It was kind of a weird situation. Our standard has been raised. It's always high and we always want to be in the Super Bowl. Anything less than that isn't good."

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Last season was a struggle, especially if it is compared to 2000 standards when the Ravens breezed through the playoffs to the Super Bowl title. But then again, last year wasn't bad considering Baltimore was able to reach the second round of the playoffs.

"The bad thing was we lost to Pittsburgh," Mulitalo said. "I still have trouble handling that."

Mulitalo was being honored by the local Ravens Nest for his work on Baltimore's offensive line and a season marred by injuries on both fronts. Yet Mulitalo and Jonathan Ogden were the best and most consistent players the Ravens had to offer.

The problems on both lines only magnified Baltimore's other problems. The Ravens lacked a running game and quarterback Elvis Grbac was unable to post the numbers Baltimore needed to threaten to repeat a championship run.

"The media played into (Baltimore's problems)," Mulitalo said. "Grbac didn't produce the numbers we thought he could, but there were a lot of things that go into that. Our defense wasn't as dominating as it was the year before and we didn't have a consistent running game."

The Ravens loaded up last season to make a run at defending the Super Bowl championship, but put themselves in a position where they were well over the salary cap. Baltimore has released - and in some cases lost - some of the players responsible for the 2000 championship in order to get the overall salary under the cap.

Even with the changes, Mulitalo isn't expecting the worst for Baltimore.

"I start getting the fever to play again right around Draft Day (April 18)," Mulitalo said. "Then it is time to get it cranked up. You know (coach Brian) Billick will have a plan and you know that (Vice-President of Player Personnel) Ozzie Newsome knows what he wants to do. It will be up to us to have everyone buy into Billick's plan."

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