Corner market crowded

Pittman, Martin and Prude competing for places on roster

Secondary

August 22, 2008|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun reporter

Cornerbacks David Pittman, Derrick Martin and Ronnie Prude joined the Ravens in 2006 with varying degrees of expectations. Whether they remain with their first NFL organization is a mystery that likely won't be answered until the 53-man roster is finalized in eight days.

Pittman played for Division I-AA Northwestern State but performed well enough in the Senior Bowl to be selected in the third round of the NFL draft. Martin overcame questions about his height (5 feet 10) and school (Wyoming) to warrant a sixth-round pick. And Prude shrugged off a disappointing draft weekend and made the Ravens' roster as an undrafted rookie.

Still, Pittman, Martin and Prude are battling for one of a few spots on the Ravens' roster, and even though all three have two seasons of experience playing in defensive coordinator Rex Ryan's complicated system, their status is anything but cemented.

"I don't look at it as being any different from the pressure of the position that we play," Pittman said. "You can't be thinking about stuff like that. It's incumbent for people in this position to have a competitive edge. You have a great group of young and talented guys. So there is competition going on, but I don't think anybody really worries about the decisions that are going to be made by the front office. We just go out there and compete, and we're still trying to make each other better."

It appeared Martin had taken the lead after intercepting rookie quarterback John David Booty and returning the ball 22 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Ravens' 23-15 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday night.

But Martin has missed practice this week with a right shoulder injury and is questionable for tomorrow night's preseason game against the St. Louis Rams.

Pittman added 10 to 12 pounds of bulk to his frame to deal with bigger receivers and become a presence in the rush defense, but he has been hobbled by a sore arch in his foot. Prude has also recorded an interception this preseason, but he gave up a long touchdown during practice while goofing off with a football under his jersey.

After last season, during which the pass defense ranked 20th in yards allowed (222.3 per game) and tied for 26th in passing touchdowns surrendered (27), the organization addressed the cornerback position during the offseason.

Concerned that starters Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle missed a combined 18 games last season because of injury and illness, the club acquired Fabian Washington from the Oakland Raiders and signed Green Bay Packers free agent Frank Walker.

In addition to the presence of Corey Ivy, who played nickel and has been a standout on special teams, it would seem that the first five cornerback positions have been locked up. That leaves Pittman, Martin and Prude battling for one or two coveted spots.

Practices have assumed even more significance for all three cornerbacks.

"Everything matters," Martin said. "A missed tackle, a dropped pick, a missed assignment - all that comes into their minds when they're thinking about making cuts. So you've always got to perform to your best."

Prude might face the greatest hurdle, as teams generally loathe parting with drafted players. For Prude, it's business as usual.

"Being at the low end of the totem pole coming in, I've just got to keep grinding," he said. "Each year that I come in, I feel like I've got to prove myself and play like it's my last year. It's always an uphill climb for the free-agent guy coming in. you've just got to work your butt off and show what you can do."

If the cornerbacks are fretting about their situation, they have not been letting on publicly. Secondary coach Chuck Pagano said the players have not strayed in their approach to practice and meetings.

"They're professionals," Pagano said. "They understand that we can only keep 53 guys and that even though we have an eight-man practice squad, none of those guys are eligible because they all played last year. So they understand that it is what it is. So they're just out here competing and doing the best they can."

Martin said: "When it's all said and done, they can't play everybody. So you've got to stick to your game plan, play your best and just think about what's going to happen next."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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