Facing Browns, Ravens' Fuller looks to pick off redemption

Cut by Cleveland, corner tries to downplay return

December 19, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Heading back to the city where he started four years, Ravens cornerback Corey Fuller has let go of his agitation toward the Cleveland Browns but can't shake the aggravation that has dogged him much of this season.

Fuller will continue to play with a sore leg in Sunday's game at Cleveland, the team that released him during the offseason in a salary cap move, though he says he is feeling better with each passing week.

As for his previous resentment toward the Browns' organization, Fuller is shying away from the comments he made before the game earlier this year - a 33-13 Ravens win - when he lashed out against coach Butch Davis to the Cleveland media.

That does not mean it won't be an emotional return for Fuller.

"I feel like it will be," Fuller said. "We're trying to go to the playoffs. I'm not trying to get caught up in all of that. I had a great four years there, on and off the field, so I'm going to leave it there."

After starting eight seasons in the NFL, Fuller has settled into the Ravens' nickel (fifth) defensive back role. He lost his starting job to Gary Baxter, who switched from safety, four games ago and has subsequently played fewer snaps.

That has not necessarily bothered Fuller, but his overall impact has.

"It's been a frustrating year for me, player-wise," Fuller said. "I don't think I've made a significant play in my mind. I feel like my play has been solid, but I know I can play better. The most frustrating thing is I've been hurt since Game 1 with my quadriceps and hamstring."

Fuller, who does not have any interceptions, sacks, forced fumbles or fumble recoveries this season, should get plenty of chances to improve in those categories against the Browns. Cleveland will primarily use three- or four-receiver formations against the Ravens after losing its top two running backs this season.

The Ravens largely held the trio of Quincy Morgan, Andre' Davis and Dennis Northcutt in check the last game (a combined eight catches).

"All three of their wide receivers, because that is basically what they run, have the opportunity to get downfield," cornerback Chris McAlister said.

Fuller knows that. He worked with those receivers in practice daily before the Browns had to trim $25 million off their roster, leading to Fuller's release.

Fuller was the only starter in the Browns' secondary not brought back, and he said before the previous game that he did not appreciate the way Davis handled the situation.

"You never like for anybody to have to leave that way," Davis said. "I can tell you quite honestly, it was probably one of the most difficult things that I have had to do in all my coaching regardless of whether it was college or professional."

With the Ravens, things have not quite worked out the way Fuller envisioned when he signed a three-year contract.

The early injury trouble has kept Fuller from reaching his top speed on deep balls much of the season, and there is a good chance the Ravens will move him to safety full time next year.

"I told Ed [Reed] I'm going to go train with him in the offseason, and my goal is to lose 10 to 15 pounds and see what happens then," Fuller said. "But I've been starting for nine years at cornerback, and that's a long time. I'm going to do what's best for my career and for the team to win.

"Maybe it's my time to go see if I can play safety after this year, and if it is, I'll take it with open arms."

But for now, Fuller will continue to fight through the pain in hopes of making that game-changing play that has eluded him this season.

"I didn't come here with a big-play cornerback mentality as far as making interceptions and that stuff," Fuller said. "But I've got the ability to make plays if presented. So I can't say I'm not doing my job. I'm just frustrated. Always as a player, you want more."

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Ravens (8-6) vs. Cleveland Browns (4-10)

Site: Cleveland Browns Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 13, 9/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 3

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