Lines now uncrossed, Anderson and Ravens are reconnected

March 17, 2009|By MIKE PRESTON

During the past couple of weeks, Ravens right offensive tackle Willie Anderson seemed to be headed the way of veteran cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle.

Thank you for your services, but we're moving in another direction.

But Anderson said there was a communication problem between the Ravens' coaching staff and him about whether he was going to retire after last season.

That didn't seem to concern Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. When Newsome inquired about signing former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Marvel Smith or the New Orleans Saints' Jon Stinchcomb, he had only one plan in mind.

"Hey, I'm always looking to improve this football team," Newsome said. "At this point, we have no plans to bring in any tackles."

When asked yesterday whether he heard anything about retirement plans for Anderson, Newsome said no, and added, "but I know there has been some communication with our coaches about Willie's plan to play lately."

The Ravens spent last week putting out any fires with Anderson. The four-time Pro Bowl performer said he talked with coach John Harbaugh last week and later met with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and offensive line coach John Matsko in Atlanta to get this retirement talk out of the way.

It appears if the Ravens could have upgraded, they would have cut Anderson and saved $2.9 million against the salary cap. But because they couldn't, they have to settle for Anderson, which isn't a bad thing.

Anderson started 11 of 14 games and played reasonably well in 2008, especially when you consider he signed with the Ravens just two days before the opener. Anderson is coming back in 2009 with a chip on his shoulder.

"I might be a 14-year guy, but I've never thought about retiring," Anderson said. "As long as I can bend my knees, move my feet, don't get my quarterback killed and don't embarrass myself, I'm going to play, and I want to show people I'm still an elite tackle.

"They haven't seen the real me play yet."

Going back to his long career in Cincinnati, Anderson was always one of the better and more physical run blockers in the NFL. He was one of the league's iron men, starting 116 straight games until a knee injury forced him out of a Bengals game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 14, 2007.

Anderson played in seven games that season while missing nine with foot and knee injuries. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis released Anderson, but the Ravens thought he could be at least an ample backup for Adam Terry on the right side. As Terry battled leg injuries, Anderson became the starter.

"As a team, everything worked out well, but individually, it could have gone better if I had come in under better circumstances," Anderson said. "I'm not the type that adjusts to new things or new people easily. I had to come here and show people that I could still play. I stayed in that hotel room for two weeks and gained 17 pounds. I was on the scout team, and that had never happened to me during my career. Now, that's all behind me, and I still believe I have a couple of good years left."

The change of pace did him good. Anderson became the elder statesman for a young offensive line. He became close to Matsko, who taught him several new techniques using his hands. Anderson missed playing time in two games he started, but that was because someone rolled up on the back of his legs, which happens often to offensive linemen.

Anderson liked what he saw of his new team. The Ravens always had a good defense, but last season he was part of an offense that played a major part in their reaching the AFC championship game. Anderson played on an offensive line that allowed just 33 sacks, second fewest in franchise history.

It took him time to get over the loss to Pittsburgh in the conference title game. After 12 years with the Bengals, it was the first time he had played a meaningful game late in the season.

Anderson started his offseason workout several weeks ago and began individual workouts yesterday in Baltimore with the team. He didn't know he was believed to be retiring until he received phone calls from Smith and Bengals offensive tackle Levi Jones the past few weeks. Smith said the Ravens had told him Anderson was retiring.

"I don't know where that came from," Anderson said, "but it definitely didn't come from me."

Listen to Mike Preston on Mondays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Fox Sports (1370 AM).

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