Fighting chance

RAVENS CENTRAL

Lineman could be hard-nosed player team seeks

On Oniel Cousins

June 18, 2008

Oniel Cousins doesn't know former Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown, but he has heard about him. He smiles when you mention Brown's name.

Cousins is reminding a lot of people of Brown at the Ravens' practice facility. He's not as tall or as big, but, like Brown, Cousins won't walk away from a good fight.

"When I play the game, I usually tick a lot of people off, and they try to fight me," Cousins said. "Hopefully, they lose their focus, and that's all part of my game plan."

Cousins is part of the new game plan implemented by first-year coach John Harbaugh, who wants to change the culture surrounding this team.

Part of it calls for the Ravens to develop some hard-nosed leaders on offense. When quarterback Steve McNair and tackle Jonathan Ogden retired recently, the Ravens were basically out of offensive tough guys, with the possible exception of center-guard Jason Brown.

But they might have two more on the horizon in right guard Marshal Yanda, a second-year player out of Iowa, and Cousins, a rookie right tackle taken in the third round out of Texas-El Paso.

The Ravens won't reach the dog days of training camp until August, but Cousins has already reached the ornery, cranky stage. He has been involved in two fights, one with defensive tackle Amon Gordon and the other with outside linebacker Dan Cody.

"He has some Raven characteristics at this point, and he goes against some great defensive linemen every day," Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "So, we like his spirit; we like his physicalness."

Cousins has vintage Orlando Brown characteristics, except that Brown would take it further. It didn't end on the field. Brown took the fights to the showers, the steam room or the hot tub.

"Fighting is just a part of competing," Cousins said. "Everybody out there is ... being physical. It's intensity. At the end of the day, it's over. You forget about it because it's just a game. But when the whistle blows. ... "

Cousins has a decent shot of making the roster. Mike Kracalik and Adam Terry are possible starters on the right side, but neither has earned the job.

Cousins should be right in the mix. He is athletic and runs fairly well. He has decent strength, having bench-pressed 225 pounds 23 times at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis shortly before the April draft.

He is probably better at pass protection than run blocking because UTEP threw more than it ran. Most scouts label Cousins a "project" because he started at offensive tackle only for his two final seasons in college, on the left side as a junior and on the right last season.

He came to UTEP as a defensive tackle. He didn't start playing football until his sophomore year at a private California high school.

Cousins played soccer in his homeland, in Portland, Jamaica, before arriving in the United States at age 15.

"I came to the States to get an education and play soccer," Cousins said. "I played football once and fell in love with the sport. I like the preparation and the fact that when you get upset at yourself, or someone, you can take that aggressiveness out. It's legal. I have a lot of fun doing that."

Cousins' mother, Elaine Stewart, wasn't so thrilled about the change in sports. Each summer, her son was bigger and stronger when he returned to Jamaica. He came to America weighing 170. He now weighs 310.

"My momma, she wasn't too happy at first. She didn't want her baby to get hurt," Cousins said. "She also kept saying, `You're getting bigger. You must be eating well.'

"But as soon as she found I was in love with football, and that it was going to help me excel, she was happy for me."

Cousins and Brown have a lot more in common than their on-field personalities. Both are soft-spoken and easygoing. Both were long shots to make pro teams entering their senior seasons in college.

And both came from poor families.

"We just knew how to survive," Cousins said of his family. "I've learned to ... bring what I always bring to the game, and that's to be physical and have some fun."

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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