Ravens' Hunter moves to cornerback from WR

OWINGS MILLS – Javin Hunter has experienced a full catalogue of NFL misfortune since the Baltimore Ravens drafted him out of Notre Dame two years ago. <br><br> His starting stint as a rookie wide receiver was abbreviated when he tested positive for ephedra, a banned substance under NFL policy. His appeal was ultimately denied by league officials and he was suspended for the final four games of the season without pay.<br>

Determined to reassert himself into the Ravens' wide receiver plans last summer, Hunter ruptured his Achilles' tendon in August and missed the entire season on injured reserve.

Healthy again, Hunter now finds himself in an altogether different situation: attempting to make the roster as a cornerback as the team concludes minicamp today.

The team began experimenting with Hunter on Wednesday at a position that he hasn't played since he was a Parade Magazine prep All-American at Detroit Country Day.

"I thought I moved my feet well and was in position to make some plays," said Hunter, a sixth-round draft pick in 2002. "It felt natural out there basically using my foot speed and quickness to cover the receivers. I look at it as a way to get on the field as soon as possible.

"Obviously, I haven't been there in a year. Then my rookie year, I missed four games, so that put me in the hole at the receiver position. I'm not taking it as a negative. I'm taking it as a positive as they saw something in me to move me."

What the Ravens have identified in Hunter is apparently based on his prep background and impressive physical qualities that could aid him on defense.

At 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, Hunter covered 40 yards in 4.47 seconds at the NFL scouting combine. He also bench presses 315 pounds and sports a 41-inch vertical leap.

It's unclear if this will be a permanent shift, though. Hunter was still wearing No. 84 as he attempted to relearn the vagaries of defensive back Wednesday.

"Javin has got that kind of speed, that ability," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Any way that you can make a place for youself on the team. We are going to give it a couple of days to take a look at it, discuss it and come into camp and see what he wants to do.

"He can use this as a barometer and say, ‘Is this something that I want to pursue? Is this a way for me to make this team,' or ‘Do I want to stay at receiver?'"

Hunter was a walk-on basketball player as a freshman at Notre Dame. And his father, James Hunter, played cornerback for the Detroit Lions.

At Notre Dame, though, Hunter never fulfilled the promise of his high school accomplishments. In 20 starts, he caught only 63 passes for 867 yards and four touchdowns.

In three starts as an NFL rookie, Hunter caught five passes for 35 yards. 

At the time of his suspension, Hunter said taking an over-the-counter diet product was what caused him to fail the NFL test for banned substances.

"To be honest, it's been a rough, rough career for me," Hunter said. "For six years, I've been playing football after high school. I came in there [Notre Dame] with a lot of expectations and things didn't work out there. 

"Then I get drafted here and things haven't gone my way. I know things will look up. I know things can't go downhill for my whole football career. I'm still a young guy at the beginning of my career. I'm just looking forward to the opportunities that I have."

Hunter is aware of more than the Ravens' offensive playbook.

Having played receiver for six years since high school, Hunter also knows what techniques bother receivers.

"I think receivers don't like to be roughed up, don't like to be touched," Hunter said. "Anything I can do to disrupt their routes, knocking their hands down when they're running, whatever."

Hunter never played defensive back at Notre Dame, but said he began recalling some of the basic movements Wednesday.

He might face a stacked deck, though, behind Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister, Gary Baxter, Dale Carter, Corey Fuller and others. At receiver, the Ravens' starters are Kevin Johnson and Travis Taylor with Randy Hymes, rookie Devard Darling and Ron Johnson the top other candidates for playing time.

"Basically, I'm just trying to get that natural ability that I had before," Hunter said. "Being at the receiver position so long, I think that will definitely help me make the transition."

NOTES: The Ravens had a rough day offensively with fumbled snaps, dropped passes and interceptions. "We kind of talked a lot of trash during one-on-one drills, and then they got us in team," receiver Travis Taylor said. Added offensive tackle Orlando Brown: "It was pretty bad, but I'd rather see it now than us messing up like that, jumping offsides, dropping passes, in September." .. Billick anticipates that it will be well into training camp before the team is able to gauge the availability of tight end Trent Smith. Smith had surgery last summer to repair a broken leg and still has a metal rod supporting his tibia. He has been limited to individual drills.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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