SAN DIEGO - SEPTEMBER 20: Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh looks on from the sideline against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on September 20, 2009 in San Diego, California. The Ravens defeated the Chargers 31-26. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
The Baltimore Ravens may have one of the best records in football, but that doesn’t mean their season has been free of problems — both on the field and behind the scenes. In fact, just last month head coach John Harbaugh found himself having to work through a player revolt that started when several Ravens veterans did not want to practice in pads.
According to Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports, Harbaugh broke the bad news to the Ravens about a full-pad practice on Halloween morning — 10 days after they suffered a 43-13 loss against the Houston Texans.
“It was practically a mutiny,” one Ravens player said. “It came very close to getting out of control. But the way Coach Harbaugh handled it was amazing. He let people have their say, and he listened, and he explained himself, and pretty soon it was like a big group-therapy session. In the end, a lot of positive things were said. We didn’t practice in pads, but we came out of there stronger as a group.”
Safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard were reportedly among the veterans who were outraged at the thought of having to practice in pads. According to one Ravens assistant, things got very personal at one point and players began ridiculing Harbaugh for his mood swings and being overly negative on certain occasions.
“A lot of coaches would have acted like dictators and been very sensitive about the way their authority was being questioned,” the assistant explained. “John said, ‘Hey, let’s talk about this.’ He showed great leadership. Instead of worrying that it would make him seem weak, he turned it into a strength.
“He said, ‘I don’t remember saying that, but if I did I apologize.’ He said, ‘Hey, you know what? That was in the heat of the moment, and I was wrong.’”
Harbaugh said that he was in no way threatened by the situation and that he always has an “open mic” policy for players who want to speak their minds. These are not high school or college students that simply do what they’re told and take anything their coach says at face value. NFL coaches are dealing with professionals who get paid to play, many of whom tend to feel a sense of entitlement and like things done their way. Harbaugh’s ability to work through problems that are related to that is one of the things that makes him a great NFL coach.