Breaking up not so hard for Ravens' Washington

Despite dropped interceptions, team is in good hands with him

December 13, 2008|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,

Fabian Washington is making a name for himself among his teammates, which isn't necessarily a good thing.

When a Ravens defensive player drops a potential interception during practice, a teammate will chide that player by saying, "Fabian's rubbing off on you."

It's a reference to an unusual statistic: Washington leads the defense in pass breakups with 14 but has only one interception this season.

Washington said he endures good-natured ribbing from fellow defensive backs Frank Walker, Samari Rolle and Ed Reed on a daily basis.

"They say that I've got hands of stone, I've got feet for hands, everything," Washington said with a smile. "I know I can't catch. Coming out of high school, a lot of colleges recruited me as a receiver, but I was smart enough to know that if you can't catch, you don't go to play as a receiver. So I played defensive back. But trust me, I'm going to start holding on to a lot more of those balls."

One ball Washington wishes he had gotten his hand on was the pass that slipped beyond his outstretched fingers and landed in the hands of Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who turned the catch into a 38-yard touchdown in Pittsburgh's 23-20 overtime win Sept. 29.

Washington said he doesn't let that play linger in his mind, but he does respect Holmes, who will join the Steelers in visiting M&T Bank Stadium tomorrow.

"He's one of the faster guys, so I can't do some of the things that I would do against slower guys, because that could lead to a big play or touchdown," Washington said. "Against him, you've got to use a lot of technique and awareness because he is a good receiver and he has a great quarterback throwing him the ball."

That play was a brief hiccup in what has been a solid season for Washington. After a quiet start, Washington has been a defensive presence, deflecting 10 passes in his past three games. His 14 pass breakups already eclipse his previous career high of 11 with the Oakland Raiders in 2006, and he knocked down a career-high four passes in the Ravens' 24-10 win over the Washington Redskins on Sunday night.

Washington's play would seem to validate the front office's decision to acquire the fourth-year cornerback from the Raiders in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2008 draft.

Asked whether he has surprised himself with his performance this season, Washington said: "I'm not surprised at all. This is what I thought I would be doing in Oakland. Just too much partying and a lot less football. Now, it's just football. Here, you've got to be dedicated to the team and this defense because this defense doesn't settle for less."

Now, if Washington could only pull down a few more interceptions. Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said if Washington had turned several of the pass deflections into interceptions, the cornerback would be heading to the Pro Bowl.

"He's the player we thought we were getting," Ryan said.

"Chuck [Pagano, secondary coach] coached him with the Raiders and all that, so he's very familiar, and of course, my brother [Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan] was there at Oakland. We got the guy we thought we were going to get, and he's been tremendous."

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