In line with Ravens, Swayne stays put

14-year lineman agrees to reduced role, money

Ravens Pro Football

April 06, 2001|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Harry Swayne, a 14-year veteran who appeared out of a job a month ago, will reinvent himself this summer as a swing man in the Ravens' revamped offensive line.

Showing the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, Swayne yesterday agreed to a pay cut and a backup role with the Super Bowl champions.

His renegotiated contract calls for $1.2 million over two years, with up to $1 million in playing-time incentives each season.

He was scheduled to make $2 million in 2001 as the team's starting right tackle. But when the Ravens signed veteran tackle Leon Searcy last month, Swayne and his $4.5 million salary cap number were ticketed for the June waiver wire.

Now, he will return with a fresh perspective on life in the NFL.

"I guess if I had an ego, it'd be a problem," he said.

"It's hard for a player to look himself in the mirror and say his skills aren't what they used to be. I'm comfortable with it. I prepared myself for it. I had a taste of it in Denver when I was not expecting it."

It's not the first time in his NFL career that Swayne, 36, had to navigate a tricky transition. In 1989 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he agreed to switch from defensive end to offensive tackle.

He has been a starter in eight seasons since then, playing on four Super Bowl teams.

Respected as a leader in the locker room and on the field, Swayne gave the Ravens a "Super Bowl mentality" when he signed a four-year, $13.2 million contract in 1999 as a free agent.

"Harry's given us everything we wanted," coach Brian Billick said. "He gave us a veteran's presence and leadership we didn't have when I first got here, bringing in that Super Bowl mentality. And he was instrumental in our playoff run last year."

Now, he gives them quality depth at a position manned by perennial Pro Bowl player Jonathan Ogden and Searcy. That makes the Ravens "substantially better," Billick said, on a line that lost center Jeff Mitchell to free agency.

"It takes a unique guy to come in in that situation, not unlike [quarterback] Trent Dilfer last year," Billick said. "Here's a starting right tackle on last year's Super Bowl team, a guy that has his third Super Bowl [championship] ring, being asked to step back into a lesser position.

"But Harry has embraced it and values it."

The idea was hatched at the recent owners' meetings in Palm Desert, Calif., after Billick discussed the possibility with Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of player personnel, who then approached Swayne's agent, Ralph Cindrich.

Swayne visited Billick at the team's Owings Mills complex Wednesday to give his approval, and yesterday the deal was struck.

"It's a guy who's played a lot and knows what he's doing," said Jim Colletto, the offensive line coach. "It gives us a highly capable guy who can play both tackles."

Swayne said he was a swing man - working at both guard and tackle - for the Denver Broncos in 1997, and previously played left tackle for the San Diego Chargers.

"This definitely will work out for both sides," he said.

In the space of four days, the Ravens achieved a significant coup, re-signing starting outside linebacker Jamie Sharper and providing an insurance policy for Searcy, who missed last season with a quadriceps injury.

"What I am finding is that being a Super Bowl champion does have a tangible asset," Billick said. "People do covet being part of a championship team. When you look at it from afar, you wonder how real it is, because you get cynical that it's all about money.

"But there's something about that championship. ... That trophy has magical qualities to it."

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