Washington embraces fresh start

OWINGS MILLS -- Fabian Washington's exodus from the Oakland Raiders' roster took much longer than the scant seconds it takes the speedy cornerback to sprint 40 yards. After being benched following a few games last season, the former first-round draft pick had to wait several months for a change of scenery as he was traded during the draft to the Baltimore Ravens for a fourth-round pick.

The offseason acquisition of DeAngelo Hall compounded Washington's shaky status in Oakland.

"I felt that I needed a fresh start, and I'm happy the Baltimore Ravens gave me the opportunity," Washington said Friday after a minicamp practice. "I knew I was going to be traded somewhere, but I just didn't know where. Once they picked up DeAngelo, it was pretty much set in stone that I wasn't going to be back next year.

"I'm just happy the Ravens gave up their fourth-round pick for me. Trust me, I'll prove that I'm worth way more than a fourth-round draft pick."

It took just three practices for coach John Harbaugh to feel assured that the team made the right move in acquiring Washington, who ran a 4.29 for the fastest time at the 2005 NFL scouting combine.

"We have to feel like that was a steal," Harbaugh said. "To get a corner of his caliber in the fourth round of the draft, they just weren't available at that point. The thing about Fabian is he's very competitive.

"He's got tremendously quick feet, he's very fast and he's probably stronger and a little more physical than we anticipated. It's been real positive."

Not every offseason development for Washington 24, could be described as positive, though. He was arrested in February for domestic battery in an incident involving his 21-year-old girlfriend.

Washington was arrested at his home in East Manatee County, Fla., after a responding police officer noticed a red mark on the neck of his girlfriend. He pleaded not guilty to the charge and will be allowed to avoid prosecution if he completes a 26-week intervention program for first-time offenders.

"That was a one-time mistake," Washington said. "I've never been in trouble. That was me letting my emotions get the best of me. It's over and done with. I've moved on from it." Meanwhile, Washington revealed why he was demoted last season in favor of Stanford Routt.

"They said it was my tackling," Washington said. "That Denver Broncos game, I stunk it up big-time in tackles. If that was their reason for benching me, then so be it.

"I also know that I definitely wasn't playing my best ball at the time. I was worried about different stuff other than football. Now, I'm so focused on football that I have something to prove."

Washington is slated to compete with Samari Rolle for a starting job, but is likely to at least be the nickel back.

"If they play me at nickel, I'll be happy at that," he said. "If I end up becoming the starter, I'll be happy with that. I'm just here to help the team win ballgames."

Washington emphasized that the Ravens' practices are more intense than the Raiders and have a more organized program compared to the chaos that tends to reign under owner Al Davis' direction.

There's at least one major similarity as Washington goes from playing for Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to his twin brother, Rex Ryan.

"They sound alike, they look alike, other than the haircut, and they say the same jokes," Washington aside. "Everything's the same, so you feel like you went out of one office and right back in the same office."

NOTES: The Ravens experimented with offensive lineman Marshal Yanda, last year's starting right tackle, at right guard and center this week. Ben Grubbs moved over from right guard to his natural left guard position as starting left guard Jason Brown lined up at center. Because the Ravens don't have a replacement ready for Yanda at tackle, it's unclear if he will actually make a full-time move inside. "We know he can play tackle," Harbaugh said. "So, the more they do, the better off they're going to be." ...

Harbaugh acknowledged that tight end Quinn Sypniewski could possibly be out for the season. Sypniewski tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee prior to the draft. "We're still assessing it right now," Harbaugh said. "We're not sure where it stands at this point." ...

Former majority owner Art Modell addressed the team after practice. "He just told them we had the makings of being a good football team," Harbaugh said. "It's nice to hear that from Art Modell. That meant something to the guys." ...

The Ravens are using the minicamps as an evaluation period, but it doesn't represent the the final word on who will be starting. "No one is winning a job right now," Harbaugh said. "It's laying the foundation. Football is played in pads. It's not played in shorts. You don't want to rule anybody out or in until you put the pads on." ...

Tight end Todd Heap and wide receiver Derrick Mason attended practice, but didn't work out. …

Heading into next week's mandatory camp, several veterans were absent from this voluntary minicamp, including: linebackers Ray Lewis, Bart Scott and Gary Stills, defensive end Trevor Pryce, kicker Matt Stover, cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle, safety Ed Reed, running back Willis McGahee, fullback Le'Ron McClain and unsigned franchise player Terrell Suggs. ...

Tight end Daniel Wilcox (toe) didn't practice and offensive tackle Adam Terry (ankle) was limited.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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