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Wide receiver Derrick Mason knows exactly where.

"He's getting them from the bible," Mason said after a recent training camp practice.

Harbaugh doesn't deny it. While secularized for those of different faiths, Harbaugh's messages are hitting home on a team with a strong Christian presence.

Take one Old Testament story that Harbaugh said contains "unbelievable parallels toward building a football team." Harbaugh referenced the prophet Nehemiah, who acted upon God's word to reconstruct the Jerusalem city walls that were destroyed by the Babylonians.

"(Harbaugh) talks about when they were building this wall one brick at a time," Mason said. "You see what he's trying to get at. Even though you're tired, you've got to have the strength to pull that next man up so he can put that next brick up."

The anecdote has gone a long way toward repairing a fractured locker room.

It wasn't just a 5-11 record last season that doomed Harbaugh predecessor Brian Billick. The Ravens had become a house divided for too long.

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During Billick's second season in 2000, Baltimore's menacing defense carried a lackluster offense to a Super Bowl title. But internal tension mounted as the disparity between the two units continued.

The situation reached a head in May at Harbaugh's first minicamp. A wild brawl between offensive and defensive players erupted, giving Harbaugh his first major crisis as an NFL head coach.

"Guys were attacking one another," Harbaugh says of the practice atmosphere. "It was debilitating."

Harbaugh responded by stressing a New Testament principle that struck a chord with his defense.

"It basically says, 'If you want to be first, you need to be last. If you want to make yourself great, raise other people above yourself,'" said Harbaugh, who began his Christian walk in 1996 through Athletes in Action. "That's been our thing — raise each other up."

The Ravens are practicing what Harbaugh is preaching. During training camp, Harbaugh has heard his charges playfully chirped to each other, "Are you tearing them down or raising them up?"

"It's not big brother/little brother anymore," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said of his team's defensive and offensive units. "The only way we can be a success is that everybody has to be held accountable and depend on each other."

Ravens linebacker Bart Scott echoed those thoughts.

"(Harbaugh) is saying, 'If we're going to be a great team, the defense has to make the offense better but the offense has to make the defense better,'" Scott said. "We used to make sure we handled ours and didn't concentrate on making them better. We tried to make sure we were great.

"It's not just smacking the offense around in practice. It's about educating those guys about how and why we're beating them and helping each other out. At the end of the day, we need them as much as they need us."

Fellowship alone isn't going to win games, especially in a division that features two teams (Pittsburgh and Cleveland) with double-digit wins in 2007. Like during the Billick era, quarterback stability is a major problem following the off-season retirement of Steve McNair. Competition for the starting spot remains open between Kyle Boller, Troy Smith and 2008 first-round draft pick Joe Flacco entering Saturday night's preseason home game against Minnesota.

"Nobody has separated themselves yet," Harbaugh bluntly said. "None of them are good enough yet."

Still, the Ravens are making strides on other fronts. Newsome appears to have a found a gem in rookie running back Ray Rice, who will handle starting duties while Willis McGahee recovers from recent knee surgery. Baltimore's defense also should remain staunch under the well-respected Rex Ryan. He opted to return as defensive coordinator after being bypassed as Billick's replacement.

Like Ryan, Harbaugh comes from a football family. His father Jack was a long-time college head coach. Harbaugh's brother Jim, a former NFL quarterback, is now following in the same footsteps at Stanford. That gives John Harbaugh plenty to draw upon in addition to being a Philadelphia Eagles assistant the past 10 seasons.

"We have a plan," said the 45-year-old Harbaugh, who was hired from an original list of 30 head-coaching candidates. "Every practice, every game, every play, where the guys stand on the sideline, how they lift weights — the whole thing. I've got a vision for every aspect of the program and what I want it to look like."

Harbaugh already has changed the culture of a roster that grew increasingly younger in recent seasons. Training camp practices are more physical than under Billick. Veterans are no longer allowed to return at night to their Baltimore homes while the less established players are trapped in a modest Best Western.

Mason, though, says Harbaugh also is tougher on youngsters than Billick.

"Not to say coach Billick didn't have (restrictions), but everybody pretty much got treated like men," said Mason, a 12-year NFL veteran. "With young guys, you have to draw that line a little bit just to give them some structure."

Some inspirational words help, too.

"Whether you're coming from a faith- or team-building perspective, they apply," Harbaugh said. "Our guys get it."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: August 16, 2008

Baltimore Ravens News

News » Harbaugh's first job was to heal Ravens' rift

Harbaugh's first job was to heal Ravens' rift

Harbaugh's first job was to heal Ravens' rift
WESTMINSTER, Md. - Before delivering motivational speeches, new Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh likes telling his team, "I've got a quote from somewhere."

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