By Jim Gehman, Player Engagement Insider
Each home game, the Baltimore Ravens honor one of their own and invite back a former player as the ‘Legend of the Game.’ When they hosted the Oakland Raiders on October 2nd, the legend was an original Raven, defensive end Rob Burnett.
“It’s always good to go back. I wanted my youngest daughter to see what I did for a living,” Burnett said.
Burnett, who was drafted out of Syracuse in 1990, actually earned his living as a member of the team for six years before they arrived in Baltimore from Cleveland. Six seasons, 89 games, one Pro Bowl and many memorable experiences.
“In 1991, Bill Belichick comes in (as the new head coach),” Burnett said. “We had two three-hour practices (daily) for six weeks in a row. Bloodbaths. Literally, bloodbaths. We had guys that were quitting. They didn’t even wait to get cut. The one thing Bill did do was he knew the young coaching talent. But he didn’t know and didn’t realize that we were flesh and blood. Only a couple of our young guys hung around. The ones that belonged and were willing to sacrifice. I was one of them.”
Burnett was also one of the players with the Cleveland Browns in 1995 when then-owner Art Modell announced the team was going to leave Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium and relocate to Baltimore.
“It was a sad situation. Mr. Modell, his hands were tied,” Burnett said. “He was the No. 1 draw in that city, (but the stadium) was so old and dilapidated; I think Babe Ruth hit a homerun in that stadium. I’m serious. That’s how old it was. Mr. Modell deserved a new stadium.
“But people were blaming us. Cleveland’s a small town, a small market, they know who you are. They were like, ‘Why are you leaving us?’ And I said, “I’m not leaving you. I love it here. You guys support us incredibly. But I’ve got to go where my job is.’
“I really felt bad for the fans. Mr. Modell felt bad for the fans. But you know what? That man had integrity. Mr. Modell announced it in September that year. By the middle of October, everything was blacked out. All of the ad revenue in the stadium, they pulled out. But he did it like a man. He didn’t pull out in the middle of the night and I’ll be forever grateful for him doing that because that really taught me a lot about how to do business and how to treat people.”
In 2000, the Ravens’ fifth season of existence and Burnett’s 11th year in the league, he was part of Baltimore’s take-no-prisoners defense and recorded a career-high 10.5 sacks.
“People talk about the ’85 Bears, they gave up 198 points. [In 2000], we gave up 165. We had four shutouts. That doesn’t happen anymore. We had more three-and-outs than anybody. I mean, I could have had 20 sacks if we’d let them get a first down,” Burnett laughed. “At the end of the day, it was total domination. We had a front that was just beastly. We had young linebackers, a Hall of Fame middle linebacker [Ray Lewis] and two other guys that were outstanding athletes. We had young DBs and we had some old DBs, too. We had a great chemistry.
“And the thing about 2000 that was so important, people talk about these geniuses, well, let me tell you something. I’m going to put myself out there right now. (former Ravens head coach) Brian Billick is a genius. He took the pads off us when we needed to. He said, “I’m not going to kill you guys during the week. I’m going to keep you guys fresh.’ Then he took the leashes off on Sunday and you saw what he got.”
What he and the Ravens’ fans got was the Super Bowl XXXV championship when Baltimore beat the New York Giants, 34-7.
“We set the tone the first series and let them know this is not your day, not your year. It’s over,” Burnett said with a laugh. “The week before, (Giants quarterback) Kerry Collins set a record for QB rating and they scored 40 points on the Vikings. So they came down to Tampa with a false sense of reality. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into. And if it wasn’t for [Ron Dixon] returning that [97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown], it would have been the only Super Bowl shutout.”
Making his home in New Jersey, Burnett, who played 14 seasons in the NFL with Cleveland, Baltimore and the Miami Dolphins, is involved in commercial and residential real estate, an auto dealership and he’s also spending time in front of a computer screen.
“I’m writing scripts (for a premium TV series),” Burnett said. “I’ve got two scripts that are written right now that people are looking at, both at Showtime and HBO. I like to consider myself a bit of a renaissance person. People that know me know that football was my love and my passion, but I have other things that I can do and I’ve always done them.”