Rehabilitated Ravens relish return

OWINGS MILLS - Following the solitude of repairing their bodies from the damage of football, a few high-profile Baltimore Ravens relished their return to a full locker room. As the Ravens opened a three-day minicamp on a rainy Friday, linebacker Ray Lewis showed no negative signs with his surgically-repaired left shoulder as he swatted away passes. Quarterback Chris Redman tossed tight spirals for the first offense after undergoing offseason back surgery to repair a herniated disc.

"I'm dying to get back out there," Redman said before practice. "I think everybody's hungry, not only myself."

And right offensive tackle Orlando "Zeus" Brown couldn't contain himself after years away from the game caused by a bizarre incident in 1999 when referee Jeff Triplette nearly blinded his right eye with an errant toss of a penalty flag.

The 6-foot-7, 350-pound Brown was so eager to play he had even been wearing his helmet while riding an exercise bike in recent weeks.

In team drills of a non-contact practice, he roughly shoved defensive end Anthony Weaver backward on one play for several yards. A few hours before practice commenced, Brown said he just wanted to make sure he didn't hurt anyone with his exuberance.

During his time away from the NFL, which included a lucrative settlement last year of a lawsuit filed against the league, Brown haunted gyms and watch football games on Sundays while riding the bike.

"I don't feel like a rookie, but I feel young, though, like I have a bunch of energy to let loose," Brown said. "I have a lot built up in me. I can't let it all out, or they might say I'm crazy. I want to establish my ground, my territory. I'm a physical guy."

Lewis partially dislocated his shoulder last October against the Cleveland Browns, was eventually placed on injured reserve and underwent surgery two months later.

Then, he began to train, splitting his time between workouts under the supervision of head trainer Bill Tessendorf at the club's training complex and by himself in his hometown of Lakeland, Fla.

While caring for his grandmother after his grandfather's death, Lewis ran four to five miles back and forth from Lakeland Kathleen High.

Lewis also did pushups, sit-ups, ran on sand and up steep hills: Getting back to basics, he said. The five-time All-Pro said he returned in his best condition at 240 pounds with an intact shoulder.

"I'm hungrier now, knowing that I've worked so hard," said Lewis, who had 85 tackles and two interceptions in only five starts last season. "I don't feel any pain in my shoulder. I worked out three times a day, yoga, whatever it took. It just went to another level.

"When my body failed, I rested and went out there again. Everything that's been on my mind is football. I'm way faster. I've got a lot of running backs to chase."

Meanwhile, Redman was attempting to stake his claim again on a starting position he lost last year due to injury after compiling a 3-3 mark. Before giving way to Jeff Blake, who has since signed with the Arizona Cardinals, Redman passed for 1,034 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions for a quarterback rating of 76.1.

Redman said his flexibility and mobility had improved markedly after addressing a condition incurred while lifting weights when he played at Louisville. Noting how careful one has to be with anything close to the spinal cord, Redman said Tessendorf even had him run while partially submerged in a pool.

Now, he's apparently recovered from his injury although looking over his shoulder as the Ravens drafted quarterback Kyle Boller out of Cal with the 19th overall pick of the first round.

"I thought it was a good start," Redman said. "The real test will be the first game. Right now, I feel really good. The back feels great."

Defensive end Marques Douglas tore the anterior cruciate ligament of his right knee against the Indianapolis Colts last October and missed the remainder of the season.

Seven months after his surgery, he was still in the midst of a comeback to compete against Adalius Thomas, Joe Salave'a and Jarrett Johnson at right end.

"I want to participate in everything, but I have to respect Mother Nature and allow my body to heal," Thomas said. "A lot of us have been in some pain and put in some long hours here while everyone else has been on vacation. Getting back on the field is like Christmas."

NOTE: Cornerback Chris McAlister participated in drills under a participation agreement despite having been assigned the franchise tag. McAlister has yet to sign his one-year tender of $5.962 million.

Aaron Wilson writes for The Carroll County Times.

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