Healthy Smith eager to leg out backfield spot

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Ravens Notebook

August 11, 2006|By EDWARD LEE | EDWARD LEE,SUN REPORTER

So far, Musa Smith isn't resorting to horseshoes, rabbits' feet or any other charm to ward off what some would say has been a terrible stretch of bad luck for the fourth-year running back.

Then again, when you consider that Smith, 24, has yet to complete a full season without getting injured, who could blame him if he began to buy into the hype?

Certainly not Smith.

"I had a bad injury, a bad break, but I can't just curl up in a ball and cry about it," he said. "That's not what I chose to do. I chose to move forward and forget the negative stuff."

Smith has had to forget a lot. A knee injury forced the organization's third-round choice in 2003 to miss the first five games of his rookie season. A broken leg sidelined him for the final six contests of 2004, and problems with the same leg limited him to one game last season.

Smith, who was told by doctors that he had a 50-50 chance of returning to football, said he never doubted that he would be suiting up again.

"I've been playing since the fourth grade, and my love for it hasn't changed," he said. "Yeah, I have my moments where I say, `Man, I'm tired. I wish I was on the couch at home.' But I'm out here, and I just try to shift my thoughts on what I want to do."

Thus far, Smith has been running with the power and vision the front office believed he had all along. At times, Smith has been playing with the first-team offense instead of Jamal Lewis or Mike Anderson.

Coach Brian Billick said Smith has "been great. Boy, his enthusiasm [and] his energy overall have been great."

Middle man

Mike Smith will get to see quite a bit of action as middle linebacker in tonight's preseason game against the New York Giants. Smith is entering his second NFL season, after seeing action primarily on special teams before suffering a hamstring injury as a rookie.

Smith said it has been a smooth transition learning the Ravens' defensive system, and it can't hurt that he has received guidance from veteran linebacker Ray Lewis in training camp this year.

"It's gone really well being behind Ray Lewis and learning from him," Smith said. "Learning how he plays and [strategizes] the game. With him really sitting down and teaching me I feel really prepared."

On the move?

At 6 feet, 6 inches and 270 pounds, rookie Quinn Sypniewski has the build to make a position switch from tight end to offensive tackle.

No one has approached the fifth-round draft pick about that possibility, but Sypniewski - who caught 44 passes in five years at Colorado - said he'd be open to a move if he were given time to adapt to the role.

"I definitely need the time to put on the weight and do it the right way," Sypniewski said. "I can't just balloon up 40 pounds. But with the proper amount of time and the proper nutrition to put the weight on the right way, I'm more than comfortable doing that."

Et cetera

Six days after burying his father, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden reported to training camp yesterday and was placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list as a precautionary measure. He is expected to practice Monday. Along with his brother Marques, who was there for support, Ogden worked on conditioning drills. ... Running back Jamal Lewis and linebacker Ray Lewis, neither of whom participated in Saturday's scrimmage, will start tonight, according to Billick. ... With first-round pick Haloti Ngata (knee) and third-rounder David Pittman (hamstring) both out, the only first-day pick suiting up from this year's draft class will be offensive lineman Chris Chester, a second-round pick. ... This will mark the first game for Dan Cody, a second-round pick in 2005 who suffered a season-ending knee injury on the first day of last year's training camp. "I want to be out there and make some plays with the guys," he said. "That's probably the part I missed the most, when you're out there kicking somebody's butt."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Katie Carrera, Jamison Hensley and David Selig contributed to this article.

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