Wed., Aug. 5: Landry's Hard Work Has Him Healthy Again
STRONG SAFETY MAKES STRONG COMEBACK FROM SPINAL INJURY
By Joe Platania
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
WESTMINSTER -- What do Antonio Goss, Winston Moss and John Mobley all have in common?
The linebacking trio suffered career-ending spinal injuries in games played in Baltimore.
Goss, a St. Louis Rams linebacker, was carted off the Memorial Stadium field in a 1996 game, and Moss suffered the same fate on 33rd Street one year later as a Seattle Seahawk.
Mobley, whose pass breakup helped secure the Denver Broncos' first-ever Super Bowl title, went down in a 2003 game at M&T Bank Stadium.
They also have one other thing in common: they were all visiting players. The concern from the Ravens and their fans was genuine and sincere, but their hearts skipped a beat even more quickly on the afternoon of September 21, 2008.
That was the day when Dawan Landry, a six-foot, 210-pound strong safety blessed with a rangy frame, good speed and a nose for contact, raced over to the sideline to tackle Cleveland Browns running back Jamal Lewis.
The resulting collision gave Landry a spinal-cord concussion, sending him into searing pain.
"I just said a quick prayer," Landry recalled this week. "I asked the Lord that whatever is in store for me, that my life just be in His hands."
Landry has always taken matters into his own hands, often praised by head coach John Harbaugh as being one of the hardest offseason workers he's ever seen.
However, Landry had to take his program to a new level to get back on the field because he knew his career, unlike those of Mobley, Goss and Moss, wasn't over by a long shot.
"I really didn't think about (the possible end of the career) too much," he said. "I started rehabbing maybe two weeks after the initial hit. I didn't really do too much neck work because I was able to move a little bit the whole time.
"But I had a tingling sensation down my right side and that's what hindered me in getting back."
Landry was put on injured reserve in November and underwent surgery in February to fuse the C3 and C4 vertebrae to alleviate the spine-tingling sensations he felt well past Christmas.
However, that didn't stop him from putting his legendary work ethic into effect.
"I was able to do pretty much everything," he recalled. "When I ran, I couldn't go as hard as I wanted to go because of some tingling sensations, but I could still get a lot of the process done."
While that was going on, the Ravens were getting a huge season out of his playmaking replacement, the small but fiery Jim Leonhard. There was a chance Landry, a fifth-round draft choice from Georgia Tech three years ago, could have lost his job due to his injury.
But the coaching staff was mindful enough of his work ethic -- and of the salary-cap numbers involved -- to let Leonhard follow defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to the New York Jets and wait for Landry to get better.
When the team reconvened for organized team activity (OTA) practices in the spring, Landry's work had paid off so much that he didn't even need to wear the red no-contact jersey.
And in Wednesday morning's practice, there was a play where Landry lined up in the so-called "tackle box", but dropped quickly back into coverage and tipped away a Joe Flacco pass intended for tight end Todd Heap.
“You see him at strong safety," head coach John Harbaugh said. "He’s our strong safety, and he looks good. He’s going to be fine. This guy works harder than anybody I’ve ever seen. He’s just the hardest worker you’ll find in this league.
"Every bit of success he has, everybody should be happy for him. He’s ready to go.”
Landry was ready to go as soon as he was drafted, earning All-Rookie honors in 2006 from Pro Football Weekly and the Pro Football Writers of America.
He started 14 games that year and led all NFL rookies with five interceptions, including a tipped ball he returned for 12 yards in a post-bye win at the Superdome against the New Orleans Saints, a team located not far from his hometown of Boutte, Louisiana, where he and his brother LaRon, a Washington Redskins safety and a top-ten draft pick, grew up.
Did Dawan's injury serve as a cautionary tale to LaRon?
"(I told him to) just go out there and play the game, man," Dawan said. "You can't think about injuries, because if you do, you'e susceptible to getting hurt."
But no one can ever see an injury like this coming. Landry probably didn't.
After his outstanding rookie year, Landry went on to start every game in 2007, recording 91 tackles and breaking up seven passes.
It seemed as if everything was on track for a glittering career, and it still might be. But there was that tackle against the Browns...
"Just never take the game for granted," Landry said. "I never did, but when you see hits like that, you think it could never happen to you.
"If it does, you're like, gosh, it's here today and gone tomorrow. Just have fun."
Unlike many before him, Landry still gets to take the field... and have lots of fun.
JOEY P'S TRIVIA TIME: While there may be no prizes in it for you, Trivia Time is just another way we at PressBox have fun whetting your appetite (and ours) for the season to come.
For the Ravens, even by their high standards, 2008 was a banner year for intercepting opponents' passes.
Ten different Baltimore players got their hands on at least one pickoff for a total of 26 in regular-season play. However, that is not the franchise's single-season record.
In what season did the Ravens pick off the most passes? How many interceptions did they get?
The answer appears towards the end of this column.
ROLLE BACK SOON?: Cornerback Samari Rolle (groin, shoulder) is the only player left on the Physically Unable To Perform (PUP) list. Wednesday, he took the field in his jersey and shorts for the first time -- not to mention an electronic neck stimulator -- an indication that he is getting close to returning.
When Rolle does return to the field, he will likely be wearing the red no-contact jersey, just as safety Ed Reed does.
"Samari's going to get back out here real soon," Harbaugh said. "(He'll be practicing) the non-contact stuff, so he's really itching to get back.
"We should see him out here in the next day or two."
Two new absences came from cornerbacks Fabian Washington (knee tendinitis) and Evan Oglesby (concussion). Frank Walker took Washington's place with the first team and was picked on relentlessly during team drills by the quarterbacks.
Missing practice were the members of the Over-30 Club, save for defensive tackle Justin Bannan, who will instead get Thursday off. Reed, linebacker Ray Lewis, defensive linemen Kelly Gregg and Trevor Pryce, wideout Derrick Mason and center Matt Birk did not practice.
If the Over-30 Club rest day schedule is followed -- they won't practice every third day -- they will be off on Saturday and next Tuesday during the run-up to the first preseason game next Thursday.
Also not on the field were wideout Biren Ealy (unknown), linebackers Brendan Ayanbadejo (toe) and Terrell Suggs (heel), wideout Mark Clayton (hamstring) and defensive lineman Lamar Divens (hip). Ayanbadejo's status got more encouraging when he appeared without his walking boot.
There were six players that returned to practice: defensive lineman Will Johnson, tackle Stefan Rodgers, tight end Davon Drew (with a heavily-taped right ankle), wideout Thomas White, linebacker Antwan Barnes and safety Tom Zbikowski, who hurt his groin midway through the Tuesday afternoon session.
Tackle Oniel Cousins, now the top right-side backup with Adam Terry on injured reserve, had to pause early in the session to get his right upper arm wrapped and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is experiencing some pain in one of his heels. However, both did take the field for practice.
PRACTICE SUMMARY: A few Wednesday-morning practice highlights:
- For most of the session, the Ravens used the second field -- away from the main grandstand and closer to the McDaniel supply shed -- for a second straight day. During the team's early years, that field served as the main practice venue.
- Troy Smith was blitzed on two straight plays in the early team period. The line false-started on the first play, but Smith regrouped and found LJ Smith on the left sideline.
- Smith later tried a bootleg to the right that fooled nearly everyone except defensive end/linebacker Paul Kruger. Filling in for Suggs, Kruger easily swallowed up Smith.
- Smith threw a deep ball for Isaac Smolko on which Lardarius Webb made the first of his two interceptions on the day.
- John Beck had a rough series, overshooting Marcus Smith on the sideline, leading Justin Harper too wide and taking him out of bounds and throwing an end-zone pickoff late in practice.
- During the two-minute drill, Joe Flacco had a surprising amount of trouble finding Todd Heap, but the two did hook up for a touchdown before the final horn blew.
- Demetrius Williams made a great one-handed catch of a deep ball, but appeared to get the wind knocked out of him upon landing. He returned to the session.
- A Flacco bullet down the middle bounced off Ernie Wheelwright's hands and was picked off by Derrick Martin.
- Domonique Foxworth broke up a pass for Harper near the sidelines. The two tumbled to the ground, nearly taking out a slow-footed, bespectacled reporter.
- Yamon Figurs made his first catch of the month along the sideline, but later dropped a slant pass from Smith.
- Steven Hauschka capped off the first two-minute drills with field goals of 50 and 42 yards. He attempted approximately a dozen kicks on the day and made them all, including a long of 56 yards. Graham Gano had the day off.
- Despite the Over-30 Club day off, Ray Lewis put in a half-hour during the afternoon special teams practice, as did tight end Todd Heap.
- There were three young fans in the crowd wearing Pittsburgh Steelers gear, but they almost went unnoticed by the crowd.
- The national media continue to make Westminster a must-see stop on their training camp tours. Today, ESPN.com correspondent and former Sports Illustrated writer Jeffri Chadiha was in town and CBSSports.com writer and former Baltimore Evening Sun staffer Clark Judge will be here this weekend.
TRANSACTION: The Ravens finally placed tackle Adam Terry on injured reserve and signed former Ohio State defensive tackle Nader Abdallah to fill his spot on the roster.
Abdallah is a 6-foot-5, 297-pounder who can play both tackle and end on the defensive front. He originally signed with Jacksonville as an undrafted free agent before being released.
Abdallah, who will wear number 61, has an interesting backstory.
He is originally from Metairie, Louisiana, where the New Orleans Saints have their training facility. However, Hurricane Katrina destroyed the family home, so the Abdallah clan moved to Columbus, Ohio.
Abdallah was one of two players who worked out on the McDaniel College practice fields earlier this week.
HEAVY HEART: Harbaugh will miss the Friday-afternoon practice session to attend Jim Johnson's memorial service. Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg will be the de facto head coach.
Johnson, the Philadelphia Eagles' defensive coordinator known for his blitzing schemes, died of melanoma last week at the age of 68.
Johnson joined the Eagles' staff in 1999, one year after Harbaugh signed on as Philadelphia's special teams coach.
ALUMNI REPORT: One of the nicest guys to ever wear a Ravens uniform was former defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu.
An undrafted free agent from Utah who played in Baltimore from 2002-2005, the man known as "Kemo" helped a strong, run-stuffing line rotation that maintained what the Ravens had built in their record-setting 2000 season.
Kemoeatu, the brother of Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Chris Kemoeatu, left for the Carolina Panthers after the 2005 season and has been a mainstay on a line that, at one time or another, included current standout Julius Peppers and former Maryland Terrapin standout Kris Jenkins, now with the New York Jets.
However, "Kemo" suffered a torn Achilles tendon earlier this week and will miss the rest of the season.
That injury could prove to be a difference-maker in a very competitive NFC South Division, one in which the last-place team has rallied to either finish first or otherwise make the playoffs for an astounding six consecutive seasons.
PLAY LIKE A RAVEN: That simple four-word slogan adorns the cover of this year's Ravens media guide.
It often spills from Harbaugh's lips when he talks about what kind of players he wants to work for him.
But long before that, general manager Ozzie Newsome set the philosophical tone for this team by stating he wanted to draft or otherwise bring in guys who "played like Ravens." That says something, coming from someone who is one of the greatest Cleveland Browns in history.
Now, the "Play Like A Raven" mantra is being extended to the fans in the form of certain game-day happenings and ticket photos, as well as official merchandise.
“We are pulling back the curtain and allowing fans access into the team philosophy,” Ravens vice president of marketing Gabrielle Dow explained. “Plus, tying each characteristic to a particular team member for home games marks the first time we’ve showcased individual players on tickets.”
The "Play Like A Raven" items can be found at BaltimoreRavensStore.com or at the M&T Bank Stadium stores on game days, as well as the nearby Sports Legend Museum.
OFF THE PATH: Staying with local football, but digressing a bit:
We're sure that fans of the four area FBS and FCS -- which respectively used to be known as Division I-A and Division I-AA -- squads already know when their favorite team's seasons start.
But just in case you're not aware of it, we think that this is the first time in recent memory that when it comes to Maryland, Navy, Towson and Morgan State, three of their four season openers are on television on the same day.
On Saturday, September 5 at noon, you have your choice of Towson at Northwestern on the Big Ten Network, which is available on most Comcast digital systems, or the Navy-Ohio State clash on ESPN.
Later that night at 10 p.m., the Maryland-California rematch will air on ESPN2.
You might remember last year's game, in which the Golden Bears didn't arrive at College Park until late Friday afternoon for a Saturday noon start. With Cal's body clocks still three hours behind, Maryland romped to a win.
COMING UP: Many promotional events usually dot the training camp schedule.
The rowdy "Bacon And Beer" day as well as the "Purple Day" for the female fans are in the books. Thursday, it is Rookies Day, where the team's youngest fans will get to participate in a punt, pass and kick contest on the practice field.
Saturday is slated to be Club Seat Holders Day, followed by Suite Holders and Sponsors Day on Monday, which usually features a practice closed to all fans except for the sponsors and suite holders.
One of the most anticipated days of camp will be on Tuesday, when Baltimore Football Alumni Day takes place.
Several former Baltimore Colts players are scheduled to be in attendance to sign autographs, but no word yet on which ones.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Harbaugh and many of his players have lately taken to wearing camouflage baseball caps with the word "Surge" on them, a reminder of the coach's recent USO coaches' tour of the Middle East.
But even though all Americans are on the same team, the coach couldn't resist a partisan dig.
"On behalf of the NFL, on behalf of the Ravens, on behalf of our players," Harbaugh said, "we want to thank General Odierno, General Jacoby and all the troops in Iraq... especially the ones who are Ravens fans."
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Is there stuff in there you like, don't like or would like to see more of?
Let us know what you think by either leaving a comment in the space provided below or e-mailing us at email@example.com, and we'll occasionally list and answer the best and most compelling questions and comments right here.
TRIVIA TIME ANSWER: When it comes to interceptions, a short look back at the 2006 team provides yet another reason why the Ravens' Divisional Round playoff loss to Indianapolis was so painful.
Besides being a 13-3 team and the AFC's number two playoff seed, the Ravens picked off a team-record 28 passes that season. As in 2008, ten different players picked off at least one pass.
It seems surprising now, but safety Ed Reed was not the team leader back then. Reed had a good season, as he was tied with fellow defensive back Dawan Landry with five interceptions each.
But the team leader was since-departed cornerback Chris McAlister, who picked off six passes and ran two of them back for touchdowns.
McAlister set the tone in Week One with a 60-yard touchdown off an interception in the season-opening 27-0 road whitewash of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
ABOUT JOE PLATANIA
Ravens beat writer Joe Platania, 45, is a Baltimore native and has been a multi-award-winning sports journalist for 30 years, covering many different sports at all levels with insight, humor, a near-photographic memory and a keen, prescient eye.
A longtime member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association and the Pro Football Writers Association of America, Platania (pluh-TAN-ee-uh) will in 2009 enter his 16th season covering pro football, having manned the CFL Stallions beat for The Avenue Newspaper Group of Essex and the Ravens beat for The Avenue as well as several other publications and radio stations.
He is one of only three Baltimore-based print reporters to have covered the Ravens during their entire history.
Platania is a four-time Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Press Association award winner and was named Maryland Sportscaster of the Year in 1998 for his work on WCBM-AM (680).