Ravens linebacker Cornell Brown won an uphill battle to become a starter at the beginning of last season. Chances are, Brown will have to pull off that feat one more time.
Brown, who missed much of training camp before signing with the Ravens, unseated Shannon Taylor two games into the season and started every game thereafter.
He thought he might have a permanent home as one of the starting outside linebackers in the Ravens' 3-4 scheme after signing a four-year deal less than two months ago, but the Ravens drafted Terrell Suggs with their 10th overall pick and have already penciled him in as co-starter.
Ravens officials will likely be in a rush to get Suggs, who set an NCAA record with 24 sacks at Arizona State last season, on the field, and he will likely provide far more competition for Brown than Taylor.
"It's all about the business of it," Brown said. "Everybody has a job, and that's the improvement of this team. That's how you have to look at it. Whatever way it falls, I know I'm going to do everything I have to do to be out there and help this team.
"I'm going into training camp that I want to be the starter. That's my goal. With me being at that level, I'm sure I'll push him and make us a better team as a whole."
Though Ravens coach Brian Billick downplayed the significance of who is running with the first team at this point of the year, Suggs did start off alongside Ray Lewis, Ed Hartwell and Peter Boulware during team drills yesterday.
"The best man is going to start," Suggs said. "If he is better than me, then he's going to start. If I'm better than him, I'm going to start. I'm not going to go out there and try and out-do him. I'm going out there to help my team win."
New role for J. Lewis
Unfazed by the drafting of a running back in the third round, starter Jamal Lewis ran minus the limp that hindered him this time a year ago.
Lewis spent much of last year's offseason dealing with his surgically repaired left knee. Now he'll spend time tutoring rookie Musa Smith, who will compete with second-year back Chester Taylor to be the top backup.
"I feel much better this year than I did last year," said Lewis, who has been working out with fellow NFL players in Atlanta this offseason.
"It seems like we got some good help coming in Musa. We already had Chester. We got a fullback. It's good for me and Chester and all of us."
Salave'a happy to be here
Defensive end Joe Salave'a participated in his first practice since September.
Salave'a, who signed a free-agent contract with the Ravens in January, missed all of last season after the Tennessee Titans released the fifth-year veteran who had been one of their top backups. Salave'a suffered right shoulder and left ankle injuries late in the 2001 season and was not fully recovered heading into training camp last year.
"When you are out of a job all of last season due to surgery and injuries, it's a blessing to be here. I feel like a rookie all over again," Salave'a said. "I'm excited to meet the players and go from there."
Salave'a is expected to back up Tony Weaver.
Sanders, Robinson impress
Receivers Frank Sanders and Marcus Robinson made their debuts, and both looked recovered from nagging injuries of last season.
Sanders ran the cleanest routes of any of the receivers during one-on-one drills with the cornerbacks, and Robinson showcased the speed that made him one of the league's most dangerous deep threats in the 1999-2000 seasons.
"The veteran presence at receiver is something we haven't had, particularly with the class and character that both Frank Sanders and Marcus Robinson give us and their approach to the game," Billick said. "That's going to be a big plus for us as well."
Right guard Bennie Anderson left the complex early for personal reasons. ... Tom Knight strained his groin about an hour into the practice. The injury is not believed to be serious. ... Cornerback Chris McAlister, the team's franchise player, attended practice yesterday.