Practice rags to riches: 5-year deal for Gregg


Nose tackle who worked way up to starter gets $2 million signing bonus

December 30, 2003|By Jamison Hensley and Brent Jones | Jamison Hensley and Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Over the past three years, Kelly Gregg worked himself up from the practice squad to a backup role to the starting nose tackle for the NFL's third-ranked defense.

Yesterday Gregg was rewarded with a five-year extension with the Ravens that included a $2 million signing bonus.

"It seems like the other day I was in here signing with the practice squad," Gregg said. "I just looked at the guys like Goose [Tony Siragusa], Rob Burnett and Michael McCrary. They said, `Work hard and good things will happen.' I'm just so thankful to the Ravens organization for giving me a chance and not getting sold on my size."

Gregg, 27, is a blue-collar player known for using leverage against bigger blockers inside. Considered undersized for his position at 6 feet, 310 pounds, he finished the regular season as the Ravens' fourth-leading tackler with 104 stops.

A second-year starter who has yet to miss a practice, Gregg would have been a restricted free agent at the end of the season. By signing him to a long-term deal now, the Ravens are able to use some of the remaining cap room for this season.

"He can't imagine it getting better anywhere else," said Jack Bechta, Gregg's agent. "If he wanted, he would have commanded more money by waiting [as a free agent] but he didn't want to go that route."

The Ravens are continuing negotiations with center Mike Flynn on a contract extension. There is a possibility that a deal could be reached before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in March.

Boulware postscript

Ravens coach Brian Billick said his team probably would have been without linebacker Peter Boulware in Sunday's 13-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers even if a playoff berth had been on the line.

Boulware, who sat out the game with a knee sprain, is expected to play against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday.

"Obviously, this isn't going to be a real physical week for us," Billick said. "He's had treatment, he's had the knee drained. Bill [Tessendorf, trainer] feels very good about where he's at. I bet [Boulware] feels good, so we'll see as we progress during the week, but right now, I'm fairly optimistic."

More on fake punt

Billick commended the Ravens' defense against the Steelers, wishing that punter Josh Miller's 81-yard touchdown toss to Chris Hope on a fake punt attempt could count against the special teams and not into the defensive statistics.

The Steelers attempted the fake punt from their 19-yard line on a fourth-and-one. Miller took the snap and threw about a 5-yard pass before Hope, behind a number of timely blocks, took it the rest of the way for the Steelers' only touchdown midway through the third quarter.

"That was interesting to say the least, and I give [Steelers coach] Bill [Cowher] a lot of credit for it. In a real game, I don't know when you'll see that again," Billick said.

Boller's punt

Just how did Kyle Boller end up having to punt in the third quarter? With Dave Zastudil woozy after sustaining a broken nose in the first half, Boller won an impromptu audition and proceeded to send a low line drive 29 yards to the Ravens' 43.

"We knew Kyle had punted," Billick said. "His tryout was, `Have you punted?' He goes, `In high school.' You're it."

Planning ahead

As he has done in the Ravens' previous two playoff appearances, Billick has handed out schedules to the players that extend to the Super Bowl.

"I gave that schedule to the players last week," Billick said. "I might note that that schedule had a Saturday first-round playoff game, knowing that this is exactly what was going to happen. So it's nice to know that my expertise and knowing the way we are regarded by the networks holds up."

End zone

The Ravens sold nearly 7,000 tickets for Saturday's playoff game in less than 20 minutes yesterday. It will mark the 66th consecutive sellout for the Ravens. ... The Ravens set a franchise record with 391 points this season (eighth in the league), averaging 24.4 points a game. The Ravens led the NFL with 140 fourth-quarter points. ... Players had yesterday off but will practice every day from now on.

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