Terrence Cody off to fast start in Baltimore

OWINGS MILLS – Rising out of his stance, massive nose guard Terrence Cody shot his meaty hands into the midsection of veteran center Matt Birk and charged forward. The power that Cody generated was sufficient to stand Birk up high enough to straighten out his upper body after being hunched over the football at the snap.

That wasn't the most impressive move from the Baltimore Ravens' beefy rookie defensive lineman.

Cody disengaged from the clinch and nimbly maneuvered his 6-foot-4, 354-pound frame through the center-guard gap to penetrate the backfield.

The surprising quickness from the second-round draft pick from Alabama opened a few eyes around the Ravens' training complex during their minicamp that concludes today.

"Terrence is a big, strong guy who uses his strength and hands well," said Birk, a six-time Pro Bowl selection. "He's more than just big. He's got a little wiggle to him. He's impressive so far.

"Pushing a guy like that, I've got to use good technique or I don't stand a chance because he's so much bigger and stronger. It's good practice for both of us."

Despite weighing 400 pounds when he was in junior college and slightly less than that astronomical figure in high school, Cody is extremely athletic.

He claims to be able to dunk a basketball, which no one has ever disputed. He played tight end in high school, also starting on the basketball team. He even played fullback at times in junior college.

Is he off to a good start a few practices into his NFL career?

"I feel like I am, and the coaches think I am," Cody said. "And it's good right now."

Cody weighed 370 pounds at the Senior Bowl, 354 pounds at the NFL scouting combine and 349 pounds at his Pro Day workout.

The weight is melting off.

"He's been on schedule," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He's been losing and he's been lifting and training, and I think he looks good. I know he's going to even look better when training camp starts."

Cody has set a goal of eventually getting down to 330 to 335 pounds.

With his weight decreasing, his stamina seems to have improved.

He's noticeably leaner than he was a few months ago.

"My conditioning is good," Cody said. "I feel I can get my conditioning is better, and I can practice my way into shape. My weight is fine. The Ravens like it and I'm good with it."

While Cody is one of the slowest defensive linemen to be drafted into the NFL in terms of the 40-yard dash with a 5.72 clocking, his ability to provide leverage and clog holes are extraordinary and he covers ground fast in a short area.

The Ravens like what they've seen out of Cody so far.

"The one thing you noticed on film and the one thing he showed out here, for a guy as big as he is, he's got a really quick first step," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "He really moves quick on his first couple of steps, and that's very important in there with the guys he's going to be playing against.

"We've always prided ourselves in stopping the run first. Terrence Cody has had a great reputation, has done a great job in his college years as a run-stopper and I don't see any reason why he won't do the same thing here."

With starting defensive linemen Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata sidelined after shoulder and pectoral surgeries this offseason, Cody has been operating with the first-team defense.

Cody hasn't looked out of place with one of the top defenses in the league.

And his run-stuffing, block-occupying style has been met with approval by All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis.

"My mindset definitely changed when we drafted Cody," Lewis said. "I think I get to run around and have fun again, and that's always a good thing."

Cody's intimidating presence is reminiscent of when the Ravens had super heavyweights Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams lined up in front of Lewis, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

"I'm getting a lot of positive feedback," Cody said. "We have a lot of fun in meetings. When I make a good play and it helps him out, he's happy and I'm happy."

During Cody's two seasons at Alabama, he recorded 52 tackles, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, 10 ½ tackles for losses and two blocked field goals.

During that span, the Crimson Tide never allowed an opposing runner to eclipse the century mark. Lining up behind Cody, middle linebacker Rolando McClain won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker before being drafted eighth overall by the Oakland Raiders.

Now, Cody is learning on the fly in the NFL as an understudy to Gregg.

"He's been teaching me a lot, telling me a lot, telling me things I can key in before the snap," Cody said. "I have a real big chance to be probably a starter or sharing reps and such. I think it's a big opportunity I can be that.

"I came from one of the best programs in college, but it's a whole lot different. The speed is faster, and everybody's bigger and stronger." At 6-foot-4, Cody occasionally plays too high. There's been an emphasis that he lower his pad level.

Practicing against a technician like Birk has been an invaluable experience for Cody. "We had a couple good battles," Cody said. "He'll get me sometimes, and I'll get him sometimes. We just duke it out."

Before the Ravens launched their minicamp, Cody was visited at his Florida home by defensive line coach Clarence Brooks.

While the playbook was discussed, it was mostly an opportunity to form a bond.

"At first, it was just to get to know me as a player and then as a friend because he wanted to build a relationship," Cody said. "So, he wanted to get to know how my personality was. That's when we talked about the defense and he went over some plays to get me ready for camp."

Now that Cody is in the NFL, he has improved his discipline and eating habits.

For him, it's a lifestyle choice as much as a smart move for a demanding job.

And Cody emphasized that his fitness is more important to him than it is to the Ravens.

"It wasn't hard, it's just that you had to think about your future and I thought about if I didn't do the right things then I wouldn't be here right now," Cody said. "It was just a life thing. I feel it's more important to me than it is to them because it's my life and if I don't get control of it and do what I'm supposed to do then I'm not going to have a long career or a long life."

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