Washington looking for more picks

OWINGS MILLS -- The texture of the football wasn't usually very friendly to Baltimore Ravens cornerback Fabian Washington last season, eluding his grasp at times as if it was covered in grease. It wasn't, though.

It was a case of Washington's hands betraying him with several potential interceptions squandered.

Invariably, the former Oakland Raiders first-round draft pick would do everything correctly in terms of guarding a wide receiver, reading quarterbacks' eyes and making a crisp break to jump into the passing lane.

Yet, he only intercepted one pass during his first season in Baltimore despite recording a career-high 15 pass deflections.

Now, Washington has vowed to alter the reputation he built last season for having shaky hands.

"There will be a lot more caught this year, I promise you that," Washington said recently as the Ravens continue a passing camp today. "That's one thing I've been emphasizing this offseason is catching the football. It was just a lack of concentration.

"You take your eye off the ball and you drop it. It has a lot to do with a confidence issue. You keep dropping balls and it's like, 'I can't catch.' Once you get that groove and that feeling back, it's like riding a bike."

Besides recuperating from two surgeries this offseason, Washington has spent his time steeped in the fundamentals of playing cornerback.

For Washington, whether he's at the Ravens' training complex or back home in Florida, there has been a special emphasis on extra ball drills to improve his consistency at catching the football.

"I just want to finish," said Washington, who has intercepted six career passes in four NFL seasons. "I've been working on that a lot back at home. I come out of my break and I catch it just like the coaches tell you to do. I'm getting there."

There's another area of his game that Washington is looking to shore up: his tackling.

Washington recorded 31 tackles last season after being acquired via a trade from the Raiders for a fourth-round draft pick last season. Almost all of them were painful, though.

Especially when he collided with big running backs in the open field.

Washington was dealing with damaged vertebrae in his neck that had to be repaired surgically as doctor fused the vertebrae together. And he underwent shoulder surgery as well.

"I feel great," he said. "It relieved the pressure. I got my shoulder fixed, too. I'm like the Bionic Man. I had a rough year last year, but now tackling won't hurt so much."

Washington, who has been limited in offseason minicamps while he recovers from his pair of surgeries, wrote on his Twitter account that he returned to full-team work Monday.

"I had my first full practice today and I stunk it up," Washington wrote. "I'm so out of shape. I'll be ready by the end of July."

Washington's comment about his conditioning drew a quick rebuke in a Tweet from NFL Network analyst and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Raiders defensive lineman Warren Sapp.

"Out of shape???" Sapp wrote. "WTF."

Washington appears slim and trim, but hasn't been able to take part in the majority of the workouts.

A slender 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Washington said he has gained a few pounds, too.

A little additional armor in terms of upper-body muscles could make Washington's tackling sounder after missing too many tackles last season.

"I'm a little heavier now, a little bulked up," Washington said. "Not too much. I need my speed, but I needed some more muscle. Every little bit helps."

Entering the final season of his contract, Washington is due to be paid $1.515 million this season and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Washington remains hopeful, as do his agents, of ultimately striking a new deal with the Ravens.

"I definitely want to stay in Baltimore," Washington said. "I just need a successful season and we'll see what happens. I stay out of the business stuff. I have enough stress in my life."

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