Out to prove themselves, again

3 players meet season with renewed drive

July 21, 2008|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun reporter

They are at different stages of their NFL careers, with varying levels of success. Yet as Trevor Pryce, Demetrius Williams and Nick Greisen approach the start of training camp for the Ravens this week at McDaniel College in Westminster, they do so with one common thought - proving themselves all over again.

"You have to take the mentality that you have to make the team," Pryce said during one of the team's minicamps this spring in Owings Mills. "Then you let the chips fall where they may."

Said Greisen: "Either you're fighting to get a starting spot, or if you get a starting spot you're fighting to keep it. You can never be too content with anything that you've done."

A four-time Pro Bowl selection with the Denver Broncos, Pryce has accomplished more than most of his teammates, but he now must show he can stay healthy, something he couldn't do last season.

Pryce, who will turn 33 on Aug. 3, still sees himself as an important piece of the defense that was missing last season rather than one that might be replaced. Getting back to the level he was at in 2006, his first season in Baltimore, won't be easy.

"I lost a year last year, so it's the muscle-memory part of it that is the hard part to bring back," said Pryce, who played only five games after breaking his wrist in the second week of the season and later saw his season ended by a torn pectoral muscle that resulted in surgery in November.

"It's not so much the athletic part. The physical part is easy. It's readjusting yourself and remembering what worked for you in the past."

Pryce said he must show his teammates and a new coaching staff he is still capable of being the havoc-wreaking defensive end who accounted for a career-high 13 sacks on a Ravens team that finished second in the league with 60 two seasons ago.

"You have to prove that you deserve to be out there," Pryce said.

After being cleared to begin working out after surgery, Pryce tried to ignore the injuries or the skeptics who wondered whether his 11-year career might be coming to an end.

"When I was lifting weights, I was looking at it like it wasn't there," Pryce said of the scar from the surgery on his chest. "That's what you have to do. If you let it linger, even five minutes, it'll affect you in ways you don't want it to and you don't need it to."

Although Williams is hopeful that he is just in the early stages of his career, going into his third season with the Ravens after being a fourth-round draft pick out of Oregon in 2006, he, too, is trying to quiet the doubters who began questioning his durability last season.

Having made an impact toward the end of his rookie year, Williams was expected to be the team's big-play receiver last season because of his combination of speed, height and athleticism.

But that role never materialized, first because of the inept passing game and later because Williams suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 7 against the Buffalo Bills. He tried to come back after the bye week against the Pittsburgh Steelers and then shut it down for good the last six weeks.

"I worked out as hard as I could, and I came back before it was ready," Williams said during minicamp, when he suffered a slight setback with a strained Achilles tendon. "It made the process a little bit longer. It was definitely a difficult injury to deal with."

Williams, 25, understands that the flashes he showed as a rookie, when he caught 22 passes for 396 yards and two touchdowns, will have to turn into more consistent stretches of productivity - and good health - for him to live up to expectations.

"To play for 16 games, be dominant and physical for the entire season, that's one of my main goals this year," said Williams, who wound up with 20 receptions for 290 yards and no TDs last season.

Greisen's chance last season came after perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis battled injuries. Picked up early in the season after being cut by Jacksonville, Greisen spent most of his first two months on special teams before he got a chance to play linebacker.

When Lewis went down with a season-ending dislocated finger in mid-December, Greisen took over at middle linebacker and did enough the last two weeks for the Ravens to sign him to a three-year contract after the season.

"For me, it was an opportunity to prove myself to this organization and these players," said Greisen, who had 10 tackles against the Seattle Seahawks and 11 in the finale against the Steelers.

Greisen, 28, who will continue to play on special teams, doesn't look at himself simply as Lewis' backup.

"I look at it as having the ability to play all three [linebacker] positions," Greisen said, "so if anything happened to one of them, I could fill in wherever is needed to keep the level of play at the highest level."

don.markus@baltsun.com

Training camp

@McDaniel College; first practices: tomorrow, 8:45 a.m., 3:30 p.m.

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