Oher's life comes full circle

WESTMINSTER -- The compelling story of Baltimore Ravens rookie offensive tackle Michael Oher's life is being made into a movie, and the latest chapter in his journey unfolded Thursday when he officially signed a five-year contract with a total maximum value of $13.795 million.

For Oher, whose guaranteed money of $6.88 million plus his playing-time incentive clause adds up to a total of $7.82 million following a holdout of two days, his contract stamps a major milestone in his winding life journey.

Oher grew up homeless for a time as a teenager in Memphis, Tenn., with his mother addicted to crack cocaine. His biological father was a stranger to Oher. Oher never met his father, who was murdered.

Adopted and embraced by a loving, wealthy family that embraced him and enrolled him in an exclusive private school, Oher progressed in life, education and football to emerge as a first-round draft pick. Now, he's being counted on to start immediately at right tackle as the Ravens launch their first full-team practice of training camp this morning.

"It is very special," Oher said. "You've got to forget where you came from and move forward and continue to work hard and put all your trust in the right people."

Drafted 23rd overall after thriving in the ultra-competitive Southeastern Conference, Oher is intent on justifying the Ravens' investment of a $940,000 roster bonus this year and a $4.68 million option bonus next March.

The consensus All-American blocker felt badly that he missed a total of four practices while his agent, Jimmy Sexton, and Ravens vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty hammered out the final details of his deal.

"I was disappointed I couldn't show up the f irst day when the rookies reported," Oher said. "I felt like I let my team down, but I put all my trust in my agent and he steered me in the right direction. I'm pleased to be here, and I'm very excited the Ravens decided to pick me. I feel like I have to give it my all.

"I'm very relieved that I'm in camp with my teammates and being able to practice, having all that stuff behind me. I wanted to be there with them and go through everything they're going through. All I can do now is play football, work hard and give back to them because they've given to me."

With four-time Pro Bowl tackle Willie Anderson retiring this offseason, the Ravens are banking on Oher being ready to anchor the right side opposite left tackle Jared Gaither.

Oher is expected to compete with Adam Terry and Oniel Cousins for a starting job, but will be given every opportunity to earn a full-time spot.

The 6-foot-5, 309-pound Oher has bullish strength and ideal size, but has a rare physique for an offensive tackle with very little body fat.

During offseason minicamps, he excelled in blocking drills and will be counted on to protect franchise quarterback Joe Flacco.

Oher's quiet intensity and accountability have further sold the Ravens on him.

"As we said on the day of the draft, we traded up to get him for a reason," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Nothing that we've seen since that day has ch anged our mind. We feel even better about it. . . .

"We sat here a year ago, drafted a quarterback, and hoped that we didn't have to deal with that for a while. We're hoping the same thing now with Michael. Maybe the offensive tackle spot is taken care of."

The Ravens acknowledged that it was difficult to finalize the Oher deal because of a lack of completed deals above and below him.

Under the NFL slotting principle, Oher's agent and Moriarty had to estimate where the numbers should be and ultimately reached a compromise.

"It was an issue," Newsome said. "I think they were able to step outside of the box a little bit and project what the slot would be."

Oher's life is the subject of a New York Times best-selling book called "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game."

And his personal story is being made into a film starring Sandra Bullock as his adoptive mother and Kathy Bates as his academic tutor.

Newsome said that the Michael Lewis book was on his summer reading list.

"I think I know Michael a little bit more now than I did before the draft," Newsome said.

Oher's work ethic was one of the top reasons the Raven became enamored of him along with his selfless attitude.

"Those are some of the intangibles that attracted us to him in the draft," Newsome said. "Not only is he a hard worker, not only is he a good team player, he feels a responsibility to his teammates."

Oh er emphasized that the Ravens can count on him, on and off the field.

"I'm a very emotional guy, hard-nosed, physical, and I have a passion for the game." Oher said. "Playing football and winning is very important to me."

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

Ed Reed placed on physically unable to perform list

Washington placed on PUP, McGahee, Grubbs activated from PUP list

By Aaron Wilson

WESTMINSTER -- Baltimore Ravens All-Pro free safety Ed Reed was placed on the physically unable to perform list Thursday.

The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year battled a nerve impingement in his neck and shoulder last season that prevented him from being utilized as much as usual in run support and on safety blitzes.

Reed was still the only unanimous All-Pro selection in the NFL last season, leading the league with nine interceptions as he returned one a record-setting 107 yards for a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Meanwhile, former Pro Bowl running back Willis McGahee and starting offensive guard Ben Grubbs are no longer on the physically unable to perform list.

McGahee and Grubbs were activated from the list Thursday and are slated to practice today at McDaniel College during the Ravens' first full-team practice.

McGahee has been recovering from offseason arthroscopic knee surgery. Grubbs had ankle surgery after last season.

Plus, the Ravens placed veteran wide receiver Kelley Washington on the PUP list.

Washingt on isn't expected to remain on that list for long, though. He has been suffering from flu symptoms, but is expected to be healthy enough to practice soon.

Also, the Ravens signed former Baylor wide receiver Thomas White.

White is a 6-foot-2, 210-pound former walk-on who earned a scholarship and caught 34 passes for 475 yards and eight touchdowns two years ago at Baylor. He caught 35 passes for 385 yards and two touchdowns last year.

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

Rookie looks up to Reed in a big way

By Aaron Wilson

WESTMINSTER -- A bit nervous and excited, Lardarius Webb approached his idol in January with his fingers crossed that Baltimore Ravens All-Pro free safety Ed Reed would be amenable to an autograph and an enthusiastic greeting.

For Webb, that introduction to Reed outside the visitor's locker room represented a thrilling moment following the Ravens' road playoff victory over the Miami Dolphins.

Reed, who intercepted two passes and returned one for a touchdown against the Dolphins, is the gold standard as far as NFL safeties go. And Webb, a fast-rising draft prospect at the time from tiny Nicholls State in Louisiana, was just hoping not to be snubbed.

Instead, Webb was greeted warmly. Little did he know that he would eventually wind up in the same defensive backfield as Reed after being drafted in the third round by Baltimore in April.

Now, Webb will join Reed on the field this morning in Westminster as the Ravens will conduct their first full-team practice.

"When I met him, I never knew how he would be," said Webb, who attended the Miami game as a guest of Ravens cornerback Frank Walker. "When I met Ed, he was the coolest guy. It made me love him even more. He was like, 'How are you doing? Yeah, I'll sign an autograph. Anything you need, just call me. Get my number and call me. I'll help you out.'

"As a young guy, it was like, 'That's what I want to be to the little kids when I grow up. I want them to look up to me like that and still be positive to them, being good, not mean like a lot of guys."

The two-time Division I-AA All-American selection arrives with prestigious credentials of his own with 179 career tackles, seven interceptions, three sacks, two fumble recoveries and totaling nearly 1,500 return yards with three touchdowns.

The Opelika, Ala., native's reputation as an Ed Reed fanatic preceded him in Baltimore after being picked 88th overall.

And that has already set up the rookie for some good-natured ribbing from the veterans.

"They knew it, the coaches told him," said Webb, who signed a three-year, $1.714 million contract this summer that included a $529,500 signing bonus. "I didn't go up like, ‘Ed, I love you.' It's great to be around him. He's a great guy. I don't want to crowd him."

Webb even wore Reed's trademark No. 20 jersey in college.

And Reed is definitely worth emulating as a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year who was named to his fifth Pro Bowl last season as the only unanimous All-Pro selection in the NFL last year.

Reed has intercepted a franchise-record 43 career passes, more than any other player since he entered the league seven years ago. And he has returned five intercept ions for touchdowns while also blocking four punts and returning three for scores.

Webb is primarily playing cornerback, but has the versatility and athleticism to also play safety and also return kicks.

"Lardarius Webb should play a lot of special teams," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "The more he plays on defense, the more we'll have to manage his reps. But he's a young guy, and I would be disappointed if he didn't earn a lot of spots in different roles."

Working toward that goal, Webb is trying to follow Reed's mental and physical regimen as a fellow student of the game.

"I was crazy about him, I idolized him, Ed, Ed, Ed," Webb said. "To be in the same defensive meeting room as him, I try not to crowd him. I just try to listen to him and pick his brain to see how he studies, how he practices, how he does everything. Greatness is not just talent.

"It takes more to be great. I try to sit back and watch him. There's a lot those guys can teach me as I grow up. I try to pay attention to them, what they eat, all the little things and what they do after practice. Is it cold tub? Film room? They pay attention to everything. It's straight studying the game."

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

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