Safety competition brewing

ABERDEEN – The Baltimore Ravens' safety competition could take on a fighting look whenever the NFL lockout ends. The expected combatants if Dawan Landry departs via free agency: Tom Zbikowski, an undefeated professional cruiserweight boxer, and Haruki Nakamura, whose family has an extensive judo backgroun

"The thing is, the coaches do a good job of making it a competitive thing every year," Nakamura said . "It's not like, ‘Oh my God, this spot's open this year.' We compete every single year. We put ourselves in a situation where we compete to make ourselves better." Landry started every game last season and recorded a career-high 111 tackles with one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, a sack and returned a lateral on an Ed Reed interception for a touchdown.

Landry is expected to be in demand as a free agent, and the Ravens have a history of not retaining safeties in the past. That includes past starters Jim Leonhard, Will Demps and Kim Herring. Zbikowski started the first six games of last season while Reed was on the physically unable to perform list and recently stopped boxing to concentrate full-time on football. "It was time to start the transition back to football," Zbikowski said in a statement released by his camp. "My teammates are starting to organize some workouts, so it's just time to head back.

"Wish I had more time to do both. I'm getting ready for this upcoming season. It's going to be a big year for the Ravens and I need to be ready." Last season, Nakamura registered 16 tackles on defense and 13 special-teams tackles. A former sixth-round draft pick from Cincinnati, Nakamura intercepted a pass in the playoffs against the Kansas City Chiefs.

"Whoever ends up becoming the starter, it's only because someone else improved their play," Nakamura said. "That's the way we've always looked at it, and that's helped us build a tight-knit team. That's why our cohesiveness is unmatched by a lot of other football teams." Nakamura recently talked with Zbikowski about how his training was going. "He was like, ‘I'm actually trying to do football training, this kind of hurts,'" Nakamura said. "He's getting back at it."

Nakamura attended Zbikowski's March first-round knockout victory over Richard Bryant in Las Vegas. "That was a blast," Nakamura said. "It was my first professional fight, and to see him on the undercard and to see the main event and the whole atmosphere was great. It's his passion, it's what he loves to do, and he's very good at it." Nakamura was recently involved in a car accident in Eldersburg where his car was rear-ended by a woman. Nakamura and his family were unhurt, and the woman that hit him was treated for minor injuries.

His car escaped with minor scratches, but the sedan that hit him caught fire. "That was very unfortunate," Nakamura said. "I'm going to reach out to the young lady and try to get her tickets to a game."

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