Mystery Man

Kelley Washington Took Unusual Route To Receiver Competition

August 20, 2009|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,ken.murray@baltsun.com

He was a wing-T quarterback in high school, a shortstop in minor league baseball and a special teams ace with the New England Patriots.

Now Kelley Washington is trying to reinvent himself again in Baltimore.

At a time when the Ravens' need at wide receiver is acute, Washington arrives with a curious but promising resume. What do you make of a guy who spent four years in the Florida Marlins' farm system, then quit to play big-time college football at the age of 21?

And which player are the Ravens getting: the wide receiver who seemingly went downhill in four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals or the dedicated special-teamer who became the first Patriot to block a punt in eight years?

Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who has had difficulty stringing together a four-receiver package in training camp, isn't sure what role Washington will fill this season.

"I really don't know yet; I'm getting to know him a little bit better," Cameron said. "He's obviously doing an outstanding job in practice. ... He understands NFL defenses, and I think at the end of training camp I might have a better idea of where he might fit in."

Washington, who turns 30 on Friday, is a superb athlete with defined muscles and long limbs, a quiet countenance and a quick smile. He has entertained Ravens' fans in Westminster with some nifty catches. And he has infused energy into the grind of two-a-days with his post-catch habit of pointing - either in the direction of a first down or back at the fans.

"That's my way of giving back," he said. "I've always done that since I was a young kid."

Still, for all his athleticism and his ability to adapt to almost any situation, Washington has yet to make a mark in the NFL through six seasons. If it's going to happen, in all likelihood it's going to happen here and now.

Washington says the player the Ravens are getting is the newly molded pro he became in New England, not the inconsistent youth taken in the third round of the 2003 draft by the Bengals.

Free from the Bengals, Washington experienced the NFL's version of culture shock when he signed with the Patriots in 2007.

"I was young when I got drafted by Cincinnati," he said. "That's when they were going through their years where a lot of incidents were coming up and guys just didn't really show a lot of leadership. It was an organization that was trying to get over the hump in dealing with a lot of things.

"When I went to New England, everything was different. I changed my whole mindset. That's how an organization is supposed to be run. There's professionals there, there's veterans there, there's leadership there. And I was thankful to be a part of that."

Washington had 72 catches for nine touchdowns in four years with the Bengals. He had one catch for 3 yards in two seasons with the Patriots. Even though he got little playing time at receiver with the Patriots behind Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, Washington found a niche on special teams.

Over two seasons, he logged 27 tackles in 27 games, including a Super Bowl, and blocked a punt. What Bengals coach Marvin Lewis couldn't teach him about preparing for the NFL, the Patriots' Bill Belichick did.

"In New England I learned to become a professional," said Washington, who played at Sherando High in Stephens City, Va. "I learned a lot, as far as how to come to work every single day, how to handle myself and how to take care of my body. That's what they teach you there."

For what it's worth, Washington doesn't look back at his time with the Bengals in bitterness or regret. "I grew from that as a player and a man," he said. "I'm glad I experienced what I did in Cincin- nati."

Nevertheless, the transition from the Patriots to the Ravens has not caused Washington to miss a step. He said he's hearing the same things from Ravens coach John Harbaugh that he heard from Belichick: Work each day to get better, forget yesterday, take care of your body.

"You can't make the club in the [ice] tank," Washington said. "You can't make the club in the training room."

The Ravens' receiving corps is in a state of flux. Derrick Mason returned from a quasi-retirement to reclaim his role as the No. 1 wide-out. No. 2 receiver Mark Clayton is down with a hamstring tear; No. 3 Demetrius Williams has been sidelined with a hamstring strain.

That leaves a lot of catches and repetitions for Washington, who signed with the Ravens in May after a minicamp tryout. He doesn't make any presumptions about his place on the team. He knows his role still is on special teams. But he also understands the laws of supply and demand.

"It's like playing baseball," he said. "If you can hit, they'll find a place for you. It's the same in this league. If you can make plays, if you can catch the ball, they'll find somewhere to put you. I want to make a play, I want to catch the ball."

TODAY

Practices at 8:45 p.m. and 2 p.m. (special teams)

SECOND

PRESEASON GAME

Jets@Ravens, Monday, 8 p.m.

TV: Ch. 11, ESPN

Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

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