Underrated Douglas won't be outworked

OWINGS MILLS -- Marques Douglas doesn't stop. <br><br> Not hoisting the heavy steel in the Baltimore Ravens' weight room, even during the season when joints and tissue are screaming for mercy. <br><br> Or hurling his undersized body, according to NFL specifications for a defensive end, into offensive tackles that dwarf him in height and heft and bursting past them to punish quarterbacks.

Not pushing past his pain threshold during a grueling rehabilitation period when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament two seasons ago.

And definitely not striving to prove his legitimacy as a starter in a league that initially viewed him as a likely discard as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Howard University.

"Every time I'm out on the field, I tell myself, 'I'm going to work harder than this guy,'" said Douglas, who's topping last year's career-best season with an even better campaign. "I might not be as big. I might not be as fast, but I'm never going to let anyone outwork me on the football field."

At 6-foot-2 and a stocky 280 pounds, Douglas has a rare combination of strength and quickness for an athlete with the dimensions of an undersized nose guard. Particularly for the 3-4 defense that demands that ends grapple head-up with offensive tackles that outweigh him by seventy to eighty pounds, Douglas is having a remarkable season.

He ranks third on the team in tackles with 66 and second in sacks with 4 ½, tying last year's career-high. Douglas calls this a blessed year on and off the field, noting that his wife is three months pregnant.

"I love a little, nasty guy like Marques who never stops coming at you," Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said."These are the guys who you love to coach. Rex Ryan deserves a lot of credit for the job he's done working with him.

"Marques is a person you really appreciate because he's smart, tough and the game matters a lot to him. He has integrity."

In the Ravens' 24-3 loss last week to the New England Patriots, Douglas recorded five tackles and a sack of two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady. He created a seam with a quick burst and then used second effort to redirect and tackle Brady.

"I'm not quitting on anything," Douglas said. "I'm trying to improve no matter what the score is."

Douglas is unlikely to draw any league-wide recognition and is rapidly becoming the poster boy for undersized, underrated and underpaid.

"I think being underrated works to my advantage," Douglas said. "I'm usually matched against the best or biggest people, and I know those are the guys you want to measure yourself against."

That's been Douglas' style ever since his days at Howard, a predominantly black, Division I-AA college where he became the school's all-time sack leader with 39 ½ sacks.

"The majority of this locker room comes from big-time conferences and I'm from Howard, so you have to show them you're just as talented to build your own reputation," Douglas said.

After being signed as a free agent by Baltimore in 1999, Douglas was starting by 2002 after the team's salary-cap purge. He blew out his knee after five games, rehabbed intensely and was back on the field eight months later.

Douglas started 16 games last year and posted a career-high 90 tackles.

"I haven't even thought about my knee in such a long time," Douglas said. "You have to believe in the good health that you've earned."
Douglas bench presses well over 400 pounds, continuing a demanding regimen during the season.

The added strength allows Douglas to wrestle with massive blockers, and be less susceptible to injuries.

"I rely on my strength a lot, and the tricks of my trade that you learn," Douglas said.

He'll have a challenging encounter Sunday against Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Levi Jones.

The Bengals, who allowed Baltimore to sack Carson Palmer four times in a 23-9 loss earlier this season, haven't given up a sack in three of their last four games.

"Levi is a tremendous athlete, one of the top guys in the league," said Douglas, who beat Jones for a sack on Sept. 26.

This is a contract year for Douglas. He's set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season along with cornerback Gary Baxter, linebacker Ed Hartwell, offensive guard Bennie Anderson and center Casey Rabach.

His preference is to remain in Baltimore.

"The Ravens are a smart organization, and I think they will look out for me," Douglas aid. "We'll have to wait and see what the future holds because I know it's a business. I know they're trying to get some things done upstairs.

"Ozzie Newsome, Rex Ryan and Mike Nolan, those are all stand-up guys who have always told it like it is. I think they have my best interests at heart. They gave me my start and that's something I'll never forget."
 

Aaron Wilson is the chief writer for RavensInsider.Com He is also the Ravens' reporter for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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