Hartwell out of Lewis' shadow

OWINGS MILLS -- Ed Hartwell is literally out of Ray Lewis' considerable shadow, and he couldn't be happier.<br><br> The former Baltimore Ravens' starting inside linebacker agreed to a six-year, $26.25 million contract Monday with the Atlanta Falcons that includes an $8 million signing bonus.

Now, Hartwell will find out if he can create a reputation as more than a formidable sidekick to Lewis, a perennial All-Pro and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

"The fans saw that I was in Ray's shadow, but several other teams' coaches and quarterbacks told me I was actually the linebacker that they game-planned for, that I was the best linebacker on the Ravens," Hartwell said in a telephone interview. "Everybody we played said that they were game-planning to stop me. Definitely, it's my time to shine and I'm going to prove that I'm the best linebacker in football."

In four seasons, the outspoken Hartwell registered 335 tackles, six sacks, one interception and forced four fumbles. He averaged 111.7 tackles in three seasons as a starter after being drafted in the fourth round in 2001 out of Division I-AA power Western Illinois.

Economics as much as anything dictated that the Ravens allowed the hard-hitting Hartwell to depart as an unrestricted free agent. Lewis is slated to be paid a $5.5 million salary in 2005 and Pro Bowl outside linebacker Peter Boulware, who missed all of last season with injuries, is scheduled to make $6 million.

Under the Ravens' proposed shift to the 3-4 from the 4-3, there would only be room for one true middle linebacker. And that's Lewis' job.

"By the end of the season, I felt unwanted because Baltimore never offered me a contract," Hartwell said. "It wasn't that I didn't want to be there. They didn't try to keep me. There wasn't anything that I could do to change the outcome."

Hartwell's new deal will pay him $10 million in its first two years and $13.25 million over the first three seasons. Hartwell wouldn't have been able to make kind of money under Baltimore's budget, which has already devoted significant financial resources to its linebacking corps.

"I will miss Baltimore a lot," Hartwell said. "I will miss my fans, friends and teammates. I put my heart into everything I did there. Now, I'm moving on with a Super Bowl caliber team and another great organization in another great city."

As well as a being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland. If you are reading this article via a news portal, you can find the original on RavensInsider.Com

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