Edwards gets in new stance

After struggling to crack Ravens' lineup for 3 years, defensive lineman a starter

September 20, 2007|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN REPORTER

Dwan Edwards' first week as a Raven was a blur.

In April 2004, the defensive lineman was drafted in the second round. Two days later, he became a father. By the end of the week, he was flying cross-country for his first minicamp.

It didn't seem like life would ever slow down ... until it quickly did. For three seasons, Edwards was inactive for half of the Ravens' games, standing on the sideline in street clothes while his teammates played.

Instead of lining up against offensive linemen, Edwards had to face questions about when - or if - he would play.

Now, with Trevor Pryce out three to five games with a broken wrist, Edwards will get his shot in the starting lineup and the long-awaited chance to prove himself.

"Anytime you're not playing, it's tough to sit back," said Edwards, who will make his second career start Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. "But I think I've been playing at a high level. Now it's come full circle and I'm more ready than I've ever been."

To get ready for football, he spent the first months of his offseason on the basketball court.

The 6-foot-3 lineman played 5-on-5 basketball games every day in an effort to trim down from 315 pounds.

"I wanted to really lose 10 pounds in the offseason. And 10 turned into 25 and then 30," said Edwards, who averaged 22 points as a high school senior in Montana. "I just wanted to get a little quicker and I got a lot quicker."

When he put on the pads, he realized he lost too much weight and had to gain some back.

After getting as low as 278 pounds, he is now at 290 and is playing quicker than ever.

"There's a maturation in this league," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "And the weight he's playing at now he's much more comfortable at. I think that had a lot to do with it. At some point you just grow into it, and I think he's done that for us."

Maturing off the field has never been a problem for Edwards.

He met his wife, Kelsey, in grade school in Columbus, Mont., a town of about 2,000 people. They dated in high school and had a daughter, Kaitlin, after his freshman year at Oregon State.

Having a child that early in life was "a smack in the face" for him.

"It was a big wake-up call," Edwards said. "I knew then that I needed to focus. I needed to get my degree. I needed to work my butt off in football."

Edwards graduated with a 3.1 grade point average and a degree in business administration. He then was selected by the Ravens with the 51st overall pick.

Soon after that, they had their second child, Dwan Jordan. They are expecting their third in April.

"I love being a parent," Edwards said. "Having my kids is the best thing in my life right now."

This comes at a time when his NFL career is turning in the right direction.

In his first three seasons, he played in 24 regular games and was inactive for 24 games.

As a rookie in 2004, Edwards sat behind Tony Weaver, a former second-round pick, and Marques Douglas, a former undrafted free agent.

When Douglas left in 2005, Edwards was leapfrogged on the depth chart by Maake Kemoeatu, a former undrafted rookie. When Kemoeatu and Weaver left in 2006, Edwards watched the Ravens sign Pryce in free agency and draft Haloti Ngata in the first round.

"I've had some great players in front of me," Edwards said.

He worked himself into the defensive line rotation at the end of last season and followed that with a solid training camp. He finished tied for second in tackles on the Ravens this preseason.

"Dwan has paid his dues," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "It's time for him to step up to the forefront and win some games. He's already been playing phenomenal for us. Now, he gets to do it for a whole game."

Some reporters suggested to Edwards that he was a late bloomer, a label that he doesn't embrace.

"I hate to call myself that, but it's kind of looking like that's the way it is," said Edwards, who is signed through next season. "I finally got an opportunity and here it is. Everything I've been working for is right here now."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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