Landry passes first test, dishes out first hi

WESTMINSTER --Dawan Landry barreled into the backfield on a blitz and aggressively collided with imposing fullback Le'Ron McClain, delivering a hard shot with zero hesitation. It was anything but a routine play for the Baltimore Ravens' starting strong safety as the team conducted its first full-team practice of training camp Friday morning in Westminster.

It was considered a really strong sign that Landry's surgically-repaired neck is sturdy once again nearly a year removed from his scary collision with Cleveland Browns running back Jamal Lewis.

Instead of fear and pain, Landry experienced jubilation and confident encouragement as he connected with McClain and felt that old, refreshing pop with the sound of ricocheting plastic resonating across the football field.

"I feel great, everything's fine," Landry said. "I just went and hit Le'Ron. I think they probably knew I was going to go. It felt good to hit somebody again."

Landry was carted off the field in September after the crown of his helmet bashed into Lewis' driving knee and left him prone on the ground at M&T Bank Stadium for several minutes.

It would be several months before the tingling sensations in Landry's neck subsided. Not until he had surgery did the neck return to normal.

Except for the distinctive two-inch scar across the front of his neck and the video of his dangerous run-in with Lewis, there's virtually no sign of what Landry endured last fall.

"Yeah, I've got the scar, but I don't think about it," Landry said. "You just can't. You have to play football with no fear. It's a relief that my neck doesn't have any pain, but it's what I expected. I wouldn't be out here if I had any doubts."

Landry's neck has been tested for flexibility and strength several times with multiple magnetic resonance imaging exams conducted to ensure that the neck was ready for full-contact drills. And he passed those medical exams with flying colors.

"There's nothing wrong with me," Landry said. "I've done everything you need to do to make sure of that."

Now, the first football test has been passed. Landry has survived, thrived even by running into a 6-foot, 260-pound Pro Bowl fullback without incident on Friday.

"I never second-guessed it," said Landry, who has recorded 194 career tackles, five interceptions, four sacks and 20 pass deflections since being drafted in the fifth round out of Georgia Tech in 2006. "Whenever the live period was going to come, I knew I was going to hit somebody."

Through a diligent exercise and diet regimen, Landry has gotten down to 208 pounds. And a lot of that size is in his arms, chest and back.

With Landry back in the starting lineup, the Ravens felt comfortable letting versatile, scrappy Jim Leonhard depart via free agency to the New York Jets to play for former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.

"He's our strong safety, and he looks good," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He's going to be fine. He's just the hardest worker you'll find in this league. Every bit of success he has, everybody should be happy for him. He's ready to go."

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

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