Cody may miss season with injury

Rookie sprains right knee on his first day of camp

Top pick Clayton still unsigned


August 02, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

While first-round draft pick Mark Clayton has yet to report to training camp, the Ravens' top defensive rookie might never return this season.

Linebacker Dan Cody sprained the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee midway through the team's first practice yesterday, officially sidelining the second-round pick indefinitely.

Although he will be re-evaluated later in camp when the swelling has settled down, the Ravens have resigned themselves privately to losing him for the year. A magnetic resonance imaging test revealed between a second- and third-degree sprain, which are the two most severe conditions.

The loss of Cody would deliver a sizable blow to the Ravens' pass rush. He was projected to play rush end in passing situations, the role previously reserved for Peter Boulware.

"A lot was going to be expected of him," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said.

Cody's injury is even more jolting when considering he was never touched.

In the final team drill, he was trying to change directions on a flea flicker, spinning to his left when the running back tossed the ball back to the quarterback. Then, after planting his foot to run downfield, he just dropped to the ground and held his knee.

It's been a frenetic first two days of camp for Cody. He signed his four-year contract just before reporting Sunday night and needed to be carted off the field a day later.

Cody walked gingerly on crutches through the team hotel, applying no weight on his right leg. This marks the latest setback for Cody, a first-round talent who plummeted in the draft because many teams were wary of his bout with clinical depression in 2001.

"You never want to see an injury, but it's bound to happen," defensive end Tony Weaver said. "Regardless of who goes down, the next man has to step up."

The next man is Roderick Green, a fifth-round pick in 2004. He will take over for Cody as the other pass rushing end opposite Terrell Suggs, but the Ravens won't be able to replace the depth at strong-side linebacker.

The original plan was to have Cody rotate with starter Adalius Thomas, who would be able to contribute more on special teams (where he was a Pro Bowl performer). With Cody down, the Ravens likely will use Thomas primarily on defense unless they can add another linebacker who can rush the passer.

One possible candidate could be Boulware. Team officials have not contacted the franchise's all-time sack leader, but wouldn't rule out his coming back.

Boulware, who missed all of last season with knee and toe injuries, was a salary cap casualty by the Ravens three months ago after he refused to restructure his contract. Last month, he wanted to show he had recovered from his injuries with a workout, which was attended by the Cleveland Browns, Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Still, Boulware remains a free agent.

Asked last night whether he would consider re-signing with the Ravens, Boulware said: "Anything is possible. My mind is open to it."

Meanwhile, there has been no progress in contract talks with Clayton, the 22nd overall selection. The sides, though, continue to negotiate.

"I have no further knowledge as to what the contractual situation is with Mark Clayton," coach Brian Billick said.

Talks should have been helped with the deal signed last week by Oakland cornerback Fabian Washington, who was taken one spot after Clayton. Using the league's unofficial slotting system, Clayton should earn just slightly more than Washington's five-year, $7.8 million contract.

Asked if Clayton's deal could be reached quickly, Billick said, "Certainly, but it's not my concern right now."

Quarterback Kyle Boller, who boarded Clayton at his house during minicamps this offseason, talked with him Sunday and appeared optimistic that the receiver would come to camp shortly.

"He wants to be here," said Boller, who was also a holdout two years ago. "I was in the same situation. There's a business side to it. I just hope he will be here as soon as possible. I feel confident that they will work it out and I expect to throw the ball to him a whole lot."

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