Ogden quick study, tall order for foes

Ravens: With his combination of size, power, agility and brains, left tackle Jonathan Ogden is one of the greatest offensive linemen of his era.

October 05, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

When a lightning-quick pass rusher is dissecting film at home, the Ravens' Jonathan Ogden is getting excited about finding meat on sale at the grocery store.

When a formidable defensive end is burying his head in the playbook at night, Ogden is immersed in the latest science-fiction novel.

Come game time, the Ravens offensive tackle is not only on top of his game - but also on top of the league. At 6 feet 9, 340 pounds, Baltimore's biggest bird is considered one of the most dominant blockers of his era, blending unusual athleticism, unexpected emotion and underrated intelligence.

If consistently shutting down the game's best sack masters on a weekly basis doesn't drop jaws, consider this: Ogden's six straight Pro Bowl selections are a product of watching only a half hour of film per week on his own.

He's like that kid in school who never studied but aced every test.

"The game makes sense to him," Ravens offensive line coach Jim Colletto said. "All he has to do is look at things very quickly and he has a good concept."

The secret of Ogden's success is his notebook.

It's a personal journal of sorts in which the 29-year-old phenom keeps detailed notes on every defensive end he's played twice, and it proves more beneficial to him than overloading on game film. With a few flips of a page, he can tell whether a player relies more on speed or power, a swim move or a clubbing style, quick feet or strong hands.

The beat-up spiral notebook suits Ogden's style. It's not flashy on the outside but contains a wealth of knowledge inside.

His well-grounded demeanor comes from his middle-class upbringing in Washington, where his father, Shirrel, is an investment banker, and his mother, Cassandra, is the executive director of a nonprofit organization that helps qualified minority students get into law school.

One of the game's highest-paid players - he has earned more than $30 million over his seven-plus-year career - Ogden has never strayed far from his down-to-earth roots.

He still drives his 1996 Range Rover (the one he bought after his senior year at UCLA) when he returns to his Las Vegas home and is more of a T-shirt-and-jeans type rather than Armani. His teammates say they have seen him wear only one pair of shoes - open-toed leather sandals - since he entered the league in 1996.

"That's just me," Ogden said. "I don't need to have five pairs of sandals. I like the ones I got. It has nothing to do with not wanting to spend money. I just like what I have."

The Ravens have liked what they got in Ogden since making him the franchise's first draft pick in 1996. The game's prototypical tackle, Ogden can block out the sun, not to mention some of the NFL's premier defensive ends.

The coaching staff says it can count the number of sacks allowed by Ogden in the past four years on two hands. Ravens coach Brian Billick can't think of a time that he's had to have a tight end help Ogden to double-team an opponent or have a running back shade to the left side to help with blocking.

In pass protection, Ogden has a massive wingspan and the grace of a ballroom dancer that allows him to steer rushers off his body. In run blocking, he has the leverage and power of a bulldozer to drive a lineman 10 yards off the line of scrimmage.

"He's a true freak of nature," Billick said. "The biggest indicator of J.O.'s ability is every week you look at film and at no point do you see anything that a defense can do to negate J.O. That's an incredible luxury."

Temper, temper

If the Ravens could change one part of Ogden's personality, they would like him to be more of a vocal leader. A loner at heart, he once won an elementary school spelling bee with his back turned to the audience.

Ogden only rubs off on his teammates when he gets rubbed the wrong way. A fire is lit under the Ravens as soon as the usually dormant Mount Ogden erupts.

"He's the temper tantrum king on the team," center Mike Flynn said. "There's nothing better when you walk off the field after a tough series and you see J.O. throwing his helmet. When a helmet is getting thrown, that means there is going to be some butt-kicking going on the next series.

"I've learned a lot from him, especially on Sundays, on how you can be so involved in a game and care so much about winning that you lay it out on the line."

He always wears his emotions on his long, 35-inch sleeves, and his most memorable outburst captured the despair of the Ravens' touchdown drought in 2000.

After quarterback Tony Banks threw a costly interception at the goal line in Washington, Ogden yanked his helmet off, threw it and kicked it despite playing with a sprained ankle.

"I understand at times that people are going to get beat or a receiver is not going to get open," Ogden said. "But the little things that we shouldn't do irritate me more than anything else. I just hate losing."

Ogden's desire can be traced back to the first time he strapped on a helmet.

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