“When things go bad, don’t bury your head in the sand. You know, take it on. Let it hit you and then grow through it. Because as you grow through it, the difficult times will become less and less and less down the road. The NFL’s a great opportunity to learn those lessons because everything’s magnified. Sure, some of the pain we suffer isn’t as real as some of the pain you’re going through in your families or friendships, but yet it’s magnified a thousand times full because so many people are watching. Because of that and because of the scrutiny you’re under and a lot of things that happen, it’s a great opportunity to be under a high amount of pressure. A lot of people are not happy with you many times, but you’ve got to be able to stand up and say, ‘You know what? I’m man enough to take this and I’m gonna grow through it and I’m gonna try not to make the same mistakes again.’ ”
– Trent Dilfer, Coors Light Monday Night Live Show at the Barn, as heard on WNST-AM, Dec. 26, 2000
THE FIRST THING YOU SHOULD know about the 2000 Baltimore Ravens is that this was one fun bunch of guys. These guys liked each other. They worked out together. Ate together. Laughed together. And played heinous pranks and jokes on one another.
No group on the team was tighter than the budding three-headed quarterback monster of Tony Banks, Trent Dilfer and Chris Redman. Together with the offensive line and its inherent band of kooks and “slapdicks,” the stories will be the stuff of legend at the inevitable reunions in Baltimore years into the future.
“We always had a good time with each other,” said offensive lineman Mike Flynn. “We did a lot of moving guys’ cars around in 1999. Basically, it was just some small stuff just to keep everybody on their toes. But in 2000, the stakes were raised.”
Redman was anointed the golden child by the coaching staff very early in training camp and as a rookie endured the usual abuse by his teammates.
Early in the season, while Redman was studying film late into the evening at the team’s Owings Mills complex, Banks broke into the rookie’s locker and proceeded to give his clothing the “heat and freeze” treatment. First, the then-starting quarterback soaked Redman’s clothes in the hot tub and then he deposited them in the freezer before leaving them in his locker frozen stiff.
Even though Dilfer played the backup role early in the season, he wouldn’t play second string in the prankster department.
A few weeks after the freezing incident, Dilfer cleared out Redman’s locker completely and left a note for the rookie to report directly to Brian Billick’s office. Redman, it was reported by teammates, looked as if he’d seen a ghost.
“It was kinda late, getting near practice time, so I didn’t think they’d pull a joke on me that might cost me missing practice,” Redman said.
Upon reporting to Billick’s office – and he had to climb a full flight of stairs and go down two hallways to get to The Boss’ office – Redman gently asked the coach if he had taken his clothes.
Billick just smiled and said, “Did they get you again?”
“They really loved that one,” Redman said. “They took great satisfaction in the fact that I actually sought out the coach to see if he’d cut me. I was just looking for my clothes.”
“Redman surprised everyone with how tough he was,” one offensive lineman told me. “His skin was a lot thicker than we thought.”
“We played some jokes on some guys at Louisville but it was nothing like what Banks and Dilfer would pull,” Redman said.
But his skin – at least on his legs – also had a sensitive side, as Dilfer quickly proved.
Dilfer had always carried a backpack with him, clinging to it with the same enthusiasm that David Modell currently uses for the Lombardi Trophy and something akin to the security blanket of Linus in the Peanuts strip.
“It was kinda weird, that backpack,” Redman said. “He took it everywhere! Who knows what was in the darned thing? But he told all of us to not mess with it. He said there would be repercussions.”
Redman decided to “borrow” it, first hiding it and then freezing it.
Retribution was prompt and severe.
The next day, Dilfer, borrowing some Icy Hot from team trainer Bill Tessendorf, completely drenched the inside pants legs of Redman’s jeans.
“I got about halfway home and I started burning like crazy,” Redman said. “I knew I couldn’t go back to the complex, not like that. But it was burning pretty bad. It was a rough ride. I wound up pulling my pants down around my ankles while I was driving on the freeway and that wasn’t easy. The more I pulled my pants down, the more it spread around and onto my legs. It’s was pretty embarrassing if you saw me on the road that day.”
Icy Hot, along with the car tricks, was definitely the favorite weapon of choice.
You could routinely walk into the clubhouse after a game, home or away, and see the three of them – the quarterbacks of the future World Champions – sniffing their clothing for any moldering scent of wintergreen.
One time I bumped into Banks at his locker after a win and he was like a canine at the customs counter at BWI Airport.
“What are you sniffing for?” I asked him quizzically.
“Clues,” he said. “If you can smell it then you can kinda figure out what piece of clothing it’s on and you can weed it out.”
“You never wanted to be too obvious with it so it got to be an art form,” Redman said. “You wanted to put it where he’d never find it until it was too late.”
Banks got nailed at practice one day running the scout team when Redman laced the finger tips of the inside of his gloves with sheer heat.
“Banks would always wear gloves when he threw in practice in the cold,” Redman said. “That was great because it took him 20 minutes to figure it out. The ball was slipping out of his hands and going all over the place. It was hysterical.”