Cody: 'You just have to believe'

OWINGS MILLS -- Hard luck and surgical scars have defined Dan Cody's NFL career as a series of medical setbacks have landed the Baltimore Ravens' outside linebacker on injured reserve for three consecutive years. As the Ravens continue a voluntary passing camp today, Cody is hoping to reverse that trend and fulfill the potential the Ravens identified in him as a University of Oklahoma star.

Although the Ravens have made alternative plans to their lineup, they haven't given up on the former second-round draft pick and he definitely hasn't given up on himself.

Despite the adversity of a torn anterior cruciate ligament during his first training camp practice as a rookie, subsequent knee cartilage damage and a broken foot last year that both required surgeries, Cody remains in competition to emerge as a situational pass rusher.

"I don't think frustration even begins to describe it," Cody said. "I tore my cartilage and had to have surgery right before training camp last year. When I was almost back from that, I broke my foot. The timing is pretty demoralizing, but I've got people around here who believe in me.

"At some point, it's going to stop happening. You just have to believe that it will. I haven't had any problems finding motivation, that's for sure. A lot of people have been looking out for me and have been very supportive."

During a mandatory minicamp, Cody was sidelined with a sore foot that he aggravated during practice and a charity run. Unlike some of the other medical problems, this qualified as a minor setback as Cody was held out for precautionary reasons.

"The pin in my foot from when I broke it is just kind of giving me little problems," Cody said. "This is the worst time to miss. You can go out there and look like Joe All-American right now, but it's when you put the pads on that's the most important thing. I could probably force the issue, but they're not putting any pressure on me."

The Ravens' coaching staff views Cody as a potential X-factor. Given his lengthy injury history, the team isn't counting on him for full-time duty. However, they remain encouraged by the 6-foot-5, 255-pounder's athleticism and motor.

"Cody looks great," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "That's a wild-card. That would be a bonus for us."

At Oklahoma, Cody overcame a bout with depression to record 25 career sacks, 49 tackles for losses and 42 quarterback pressures as a two-year starter.

A consensus All-Big 12 Conference selection, he was a finalist for the Ted Hendricks award as the nation's top defensive end.

However, his NFL career has been derailed, infected by the infamous injury bug.

Besides the debilitating effects of so many injuries, there's also the rust factor to contend with.

"There are a few things to work out because I've been out of the game for the last three years," Cody said. "I don't feel like any injury that has happened is going to keep me from doing anything. I just need to get back in the groove.

"I can tell a big difference every time I'm out there. With a new coaching staff, I definitely feel like I've been able to get a fresh start on things. Coach Harbaugh sees the potential in me and there's a lot of football left to be played."

When Cody was drafted in 2005 with the 53rd overall pick, he immediately drew comparisons to former Ravens star defensive end Michael McCrary for his intense approach and pass-rushing skills.

However, Cody has been limited to just two career games and one tackle due to the injuries.

That hasn't curtailed Cody's determination to prove himself despite becoming a fixture on the injury report for his entire tenure in Baltimore.

Cody has haunted the weight room at the Ravens' training complex, enduring a rigorous regimen to try to regain his speed and flexibility.

"I know there hasn't been a lot happening to believe in, but people around town have always shown me a lot of respect," Cody said. "I don't think you find that everywhere. I think that's unique to Baltimore and makes it special.

Cody can still envision himself blitzing from the outside, bursting past an offensive tackle for a quarterback sack. That was a regular occurrence in college, one that has yet to translate into NFL success because of a lack of durability.

"It's been so long, and I was thinking the other day that it's kind of like riding a bike," Cody said. "I'm starting to make some plays, but it's almost like you forget how good that feels. It's probably even hard to imagine how good it's going to feel when it all comes together for me."

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

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