Green aims to ace his rookie test

Ravens: Low test scores put Roderick Green's NFL potential in doubt, but his pass-rushing ability appears to be unquestionable.

August 15, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

With Roderick Green perhaps ready to evolve into the Ravens' next feared pass rusher, the buzz surrounding him comes from a series of flashes.

There was the first time scouts and coaches watched his jaw-dropping game tapes from Division II, in which he repeatedly ran over bigger offensive tackles, ripped past quicker running backs and tore into quarterbacks.

There was his first minicamp three months ago, when he wowed general manager Ozzie Newsome with his change of direction and acceleration in a rookie drill, effortlessly weaving around cones and powering his way through blocking dummies.

And there was his first one-on-one drill last week in training camp, when coach Brian Billick assumed the quarterback's vantage point and got an up-close view of Green blasting past running back Musa Smith without breaking stride.

"Everyone is cautiously excited about him," said Phil Savage, the Ravens' director of player personnel. "Athletically, Rod Green had first-day draft ability," meaning the first three rounds of the draft.

So why did this blur of a pass rusher slide all the way to the fifth round? Because he was considered too slow ... off the field.

Teams questioned whether Green could grasp the game at this level because he answered only three of 50 questions correctly on the NFL's general intelligence test, the lowest score among all draft prospects.

It didn't matter that he had the prototypical talent that scouts covet.

And it didn't matter that he had a reading disability.

"Rod is a quick study, but for whatever reason many years ago, somebody didn't take the time to help him," said James Selmer, Green's agent.

"Once that rumor [of Green being unintelligent] gets out there, it's hard to get people to listen. The only thing that can reverse it is Rod's ability to show people now."

In a matter of months, he went from being the 21st-best senior prospect (according to a list by draft specialist Mel Kiper during the college season) to the 153rd player selected in the draft.

Academic issues, though, have always seemed to hinder Green.

Despite being recruited to go to big-time college programs out of high school, Green had to settle for playing at Blinn College, a two-year school in Brenham, Texas, after failing to reach qualifying test scores. Still short of the necessary credits to graduate after two years there, Green went to Division II Central Missouri State rather than sit out a year and play one season at a Division I school.

Admittedly self-conscious about his difficulties, the soft-spoken Green, 22, said he struggles the most in timed testing like the SAT and the Wonderlic (which is used by the NFL).

"Everybody needs help when they learn," Green said. "I don't think it's a big thing to come up to somebody and say I need extra help or extra time. If it's something I can do, I'm going to do it. If it's something I can't, I'm going to ask a question."

During training camp, Green is one of the few players who consistently seek out coaches on the field when unsure of something. The learning curve is especially steep for Green because he is trying to make the transition from college defensive end to outside linebacker in addition to solidifying himself as a top pass rusher.

Outside linebackers coach Jeff FitzGerald said he has adapted his teaching methods for Green and has tried to find which ones work best. He has asked Green to copy information off the board to reinforce it, given him worksheets to complete and stressed visual learning through film study.

"Guys that don't score well on their tests or have a disability, my mind-set is everyone can learn but everyone learns differently," FitzGerald said. "I feel very positive about the ground we've made. Some of the things he's doing on the field right now make you believe that he's going to be a rookie that's going to have a role on this football team."

Conquering fear

Green's undeniable motor can be traced to Brenham, a small country town about 40 minutes outside Houston.

As a teenager, Green worked on an oil rig alongside his father, making sure the valves and bolts were clean and working. It was a job that was as simple as it was dangerous because a valve could burst at any time.

"It showed me what fear is truly about and how to conquer it," Green said.

That attitude has been evident throughout a football career in which the 6-foot-2, 250-pound player has had to beat bigger offensive tackles and countless double teams.

Once he broke free, it wasn't unusual to see Green running down running backs across the field or 30 yards downfield. In 23 games at Central Missouri State, he totaled 13 sacks, forced four fumbles and made 114 tackles, earning first-team All-America honors as a senior.

"When you're watching smaller-school players, they almost have to have a dominant-type presence at that level," Savage said. "His initial burst, the long chase from behind and his willingness to strip the ball was obvious. It didn't matter if he was at Missouri or Central Missouri."

Poor test results

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