In a span of three months, linebacker Cornell Brown received his college degree and a second chance with the Ravens.
Brown made an unlikely return to the Ravens yesterday, signing a one-year deal worth the league minimum $525,000. The Ravens cut Brown five days before last year's season opener after he was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. The charges were later dropped.
Ravens officials decided to bring back Brown after learning he returned to Virginia Tech to get his degree in housing, interior design and resource management. Brown likely will compete with Shannon Taylor to be starting strong-side linebacker.
"He has earned the chance to get another shot at this thing," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I'm glad we could do it."
Brown, 27, a former sixth-round draft pick by the team, was a sound backup linebacker and special teams player for the Ravens from 1997 to 2000. Considered more of a run stopper, he logged a substantial amount of playing time by subbing for Peter Boulware, who was hampered by shoulder problems.
After being out of football last year, Brown was signed by the Oakland Raiders in February and was released four months later. Now, he's a Raven again.
"It's like coming back home," Brown said. "I learned that I got a second chance and I've got to make the most of it. I look forward to proving myself, that I am a mature man now."
Just sign, baby
The Ravens lost free-agent defensive tackle Sam Adams to the Raiders on Monday, but it appears they have the Tennessee Titans to blame.
According to a league source, the Raiders' late offer to steal Adams was a knee-jerk reaction after losing to the Titans, 24-14, on Aug. 15. Tennessee's offensive line beat up Oakland's starting defense largely because of Titans center Gennaro DiNapoli, a 1998 fourth-round pick by the Raiders who was later traded to Tennessee.
Raiders owner Al Davis was so upset by DiNapoli's success against Oakland that he told team officials after the game to pursue Adams, the source added.
Incidentally, Adams settled for less to sign with the Raiders, agreeing to a contract that is essentially a one-year, $2 million deal. The Ravens were offering between $2.5 and $3 million up front on a multi-year deal, but it is believed Adams wants to return to the free-agent market next year after playing a season with a Super Bowl contender.
Eye on Tate
Cornerback Robert Tate, who was released by the Minnesota Vikings yesterday, has drawn interest from the Ravens, according to a league source.
The Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers are also believed to be looking at the five-year veteran. Tate, 28, aggravated a shoulder injury last season that made it difficult to jam opposing receivers at the line of scrimmage and essentially lost his starting job to rookie Eric Kelly. The Ravens' secondary has been stretched thin with starting cornerback Gary Baxter hurt (hamstring injury) and backup Alvin Porter inconsistent.
Ricard's time is now
Though the Ravens have expressed interest in re-signing fullback Sam Gash, they have made it clear that Alan Ricard will remain the starter. Ricard, a special teams player last year, was pivotal as a lead blocker in the second preseason game.
"It's Alan's time," Billick said. "He's done nothing to indicate that he's not ready to jump up to that challenge."
Shawn Byrdsong, an undrafted rookie out of Mississippi State, caught the Ravens' attention by being named the defensive Most Valuable Player of the Blue-Gray All-Star Classic. These days, Byrdsong has become the most versatile player of the Ravens' defense.
In training camp, he has played safety and cornerback. He's currently the backup nickel back (the fifth defensive back in passing situations) behind James Trapp. Byrdsong is competing with Reggie Waddell, Jason Olford and Josh Robinson for one of the last spots in the defensive backfield.