Hard-hitting Landry 'brings it'

WESTMINSTER -- Dawan Landry accelerated toward Willis McGahee, uncoiling his upper body as he led with his forearm and shoulder. The Baltimore Ravens' strong safety delivered his blow with such force that the running back suffered a significant cut on his lower lip. McGahee was spitting out blood as he left the field during the first full-team practice of training camp.

Roughly a week later, Landry bashed into Derrick Mason hard enough that he upended the veteran wide receiver and separated him from the football. Mason sprained his ankle during the exchange.

"Dawan brings it every play," McGahee said. "He's a hard hitter, but he plays clean football. You've gotta respect him."

It's not only the brute power that Landry has displayed that's impressing the coaching staff and causing teammates to be mindful of his presence.

He's also been a virtual magnet to the football, intercepting quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Marc Bulger several times.

With star free safety Ed Reed sidelined indefinitely after undergoing offseason hip surgery, Landry is emerging as the leader of the secondary.

The 27-year-old is the most experienced defensive back on the team in terms of longevity, entering his fifth season as the starter.

"Dawan is the guy that's probably been there the longest, maybe the most experienced guy back there now," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I really feel good about our safeties. I think the safeties have anchored us so far in camp." It's Landry who has set the tone with his physical nature.

He's a punishing hitter whose aggressiveness sets the standard in the secondary.

He also doubles as the one the other defensive backs look to for guidance.

"It's something I've embraced," Landry said. "If I'm the guy people look for, I'm all for it. I'm doing the same as ever. I'm just trying to lead by example and play my game.

"I'm always trying to fly around to the ball. I'm not trying to be the leader. I just want to be a positive influence out there."

Last season, Landry was voted by his teammates as the winner of the Ed Block Courage award for how he came back from a spinal cord concussion that required surgery.

One year removed from a scary injury suffered in the second game of the season, Landry wound up registering 89 tackles and tied for the team lead with four interceptions.

Other than the scar on the front of his neck, Landry said he doesn't think about the injury. "It never crosses my mind," Landry said. "After a certain time last yer, I was done with it. Once I got the kinks out, it was fine."

With Reed's return date unclear and cornerback Domonique Foxworth out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Landry's contribution has become even more integral to the defense.

"The injuries have been tough, but that comes with the territory," said Landry, who has recorded 276 career tackles and nine interceptions. "It gives the young guys an opportunity to step up."

The sculpted 6-foot, 210-pound Landry is an intimidating tackler, so much so that he's nicknamed "Whop," for the noise his hits generate.

"It was my childhood nickname," Landry said. "It was for hitting and my dad said I had a ‘Whop' head."

Landry said he has no intentions of slowing down his hell-bent-for-leather approach regardless of whether it's practice.

"When it's live, it's live," Landry said. "You try to make plays and wrap up. You hit hard, and that's how I play."

Landry has been mentoring Tom Zbikowski, Reed's likely replacement.

"I talk to Dawan and he always has an answer, the right one," Zbikowski said. "He stays calm. He's like a quiet storm kind of guy."

Added Landry: "Zibby and I are working great together. The safety positions in our scheme are pretty much interchangeable."

A restricted free agent signed to a one-year, $1.759 million tender, Landry is entering a contract year.

He'd like to play in Baltimore for a long time, but no talks have taken place toward a long-term deal.

"I never heard anything, but that's the nature of the business," Landry said. "I've always wanted to be a Raven. Hopefully, something can get worked out after the season. Right now, I'm just focused on football."

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