Comeback corner

Like Ravens, ex-Raider Fabian Washington looks to rebound

May 09, 2008|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun Reporter

When the Ravens report for mandatory minicamp today, they'll try to take another step in moving past last year's dismal season.

Their latest veteran addition, cornerback Fabian Washington, is on a similar path.

Washington, who was traded from the Oakland Raiders on April 27, is coming off the worst year of his NFL career. He was abruptly benched for poor tackling early last season before getting arrested on a domestic battery charge after the season.

That's why the Ravens only needed to give up a fourth-round pick to acquire the former first-round selection. "Trust me, I'll prove that I'm worth way more than a fourth-round draft pick," Washington said.

The Ravens had eyed Washington in the 2005 draft and even considered moving back in the first round to take him if receiver Mark Clayton wasn't available.

Three years later, Washington could find his way into the Ravens' starting lineup, bringing new blood to a secondary that became vulnerable last season.

Washington is fast, young (24) and, now, more determined.

He joins the Ravens as a nickel back, but the club will let him compete with Samari Rolle for a starting job. Rolle was limited to a career-low six games last season because of epilepsy and a shoulder injury.

Based on Washington's first impression, the Ravens are already pleased with the deal. At last week's minicamp, he stood out to coaches because of his competitiveness in drills.

"We have to feel like that was a steal," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "To get a corner of his caliber in the fourth round of the draft -- a corner that talented -- they just weren't available at that point."

Despite having the speed and agility to be a top cover corner, Washington never became a playmaker, intercepting just five passes in 45 games. Oakland traded for DeAngelo Hall in the offseason, making Washington expendable.

Washington's time with the Raiders soured by the second game of last season, when he struggled with his tackling against the Denver Broncos. Washington was benched for Stanford Routt.

"I stunk it up big-time in tackles," Washington said. "If that was their reason for benching me, then so be it. I also know that I definitely wasn't playing my best ball at the time. I was worried about different stuff other than football. Now, I'm so focused on football that I have something to prove."

Washington's play was not the only concern this offseason.

He was arrested in February at his home in East Manatee County, Fla., after the responding police officer noticed a red mark on the neck of Washington's 21-year-old live-in girlfriend.

Washington will avoid prosecution on a domestic battery charge as long as he completes a program for first-time offenders (which includes a 26-week intervention program).

Ravens officials are hoping Washington won't be subjected to NFL discipline.

The day he made the trade, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said: "Based on the information we have at this point and what he's undergoing, I don't think there will be any league discipline at this point."

Newsome also said he had spoken to Washington about the incident.

"That was a one-time mistake. I've never been in trouble," Washington said. "That was me letting my emotions get the best of me. It's over and done with. I've moved on from it."

In looking to move on from last season, Washington has found a connection with the Ravens, a team searching for redemption itself.

"I felt that I needed a fresh start," Washington said, "and I'm happy the Baltimore Ravens gave me the opportunity."

Notes -- Team officials said offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden is not expected to attend the only mandatory minicamp, which runs over the next three days. Practices are closed to the public. ... Today's practice will mark the first for first-round quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens' other nine draft picks.jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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