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Ravens go for defense on 2 picks
The Baltimore Ravens were determined to come away from the first round of the NFL draft with a linebacker, and they were pleasantly surprised that former Miami star Ray Lewis was available when it was their turn to take the 26th pick.
Baltimore, which lost a chance to get Kevin Hardy when Jacksonville landed him as the overall second pick, didn't let Lewis get away. The Ravens only hope Lewis develops with them as quickly as he did at Miami, where he established himself as a freshman middle linebacker in 1993, and went on to have three solid seasons.
The Ravens also are hoping cornerback DeRon Jenkins is worth the price they paid for him yesterday. Baltimore gave up its third- and fourth-round picks and a seventh-round choice to Denver, then selected Jenkins late in the second round.
Ozzie Newsome, Baltimore's director of football operations, said the Ravens' need for a cornerback, plus Jenkins' combination of speed and size, compelled Baltimore to take the 5-foot-11, 183-pound former Tennessee standout.
Lewis, 6-0, 235, isn't especially big for his position. But in coach Ted Marchibroda's mind, the proof is on the film. There, Marchibroda saw a guy who relentlessly fought through blocks and pursued ball carriers and had the kind of speed to run them down from all angles. Then, there is Lewis' demonstrative demeanor.
"He has the football temperament that we were looking for. When you watch him on film, he catches your eye, and you love to watch him play," Marchibroda said. "He was a guy we didn't think would fall this far, but we're thankful that he did. He's going to be a big help in an area where we had to have it."
The Ravens, who considered taking running back Leeland McElroy or tight end Jason Dunn before choosing Lewis, see him as a versatile type who can play outside in their base 4-3 alignment or move inside in the 3-4 set.
"He commands respect when he steps into the huddle. He's all business. He knows what his profession is, and he's going to attack it. He's very much like Greg Lloyd," said Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, who coached linebackers for the Pittsburgh Steelers before coming to Baltimore. "As a young player, he was a great player at Miami. He wasn't intimidated. He intimidated people with his attitude and persona."
In three seasons with the Hurricanes, Lewis made 388 tackles, fifth on the school's career list. In 1993, he became the first freshman to start for Miami in five years, and had 76 tackles. As a junior last year, he was a consensus first-team All-America choice after making 160 tackles (95 solo).
"The way I play the game is like a dog," Lewis said. "You take food away from a dog and run from him, he's going to come and get you. That's the way I play when a man has the ball in his hands.
"I just love to play the game. I love the competition, just being out there sweating, trying to beat the next man in front of you."
It was a day of mixed emotions for Lewis. Hours before being drafted, he attended the funeral of former Hurricanes teammate and roommate Marlin Barnes, who was murdered last week.
"Right now, all I can do is be happy," Lewis said. "I know he is looking down on me, smiling right now."
By adding Jenkins, the Ravens went through the draft's first day without filling a need at running back. They even passed on UCLA's Karim Abdul-Jabbar and Minnesota's Chris Darkins by trading with the Broncos.
Owner Art Modell said the Ravens probably would get a running back through trade or free agency.