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Again on the IR, Foxworth doesn't deserve this

"The best way I can put it is that the feeling that you have after a bad game that might have cost your team the game, I feel that way every week, every time I walk in [the locker room]. Every now and then, guys will say, 'We miss you out there,' and I know they mean it in a good way, but it just feels like a turn of the knife.

“Of course I want to be out there.”

Those words were spoken by Domonique Foxworth 10 months ago. The Ravens cornerback, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament at the start of training camp in 2010, was in NFL injured reserve purgatory, rehabbing his injured right knee at the team’s Owings Mills. He might as well have been rehabbing in Siberia.

“As much as coaches and teammates try to make you feel like you're part of the team, you're definitely not,” Foxworth said at the time. “Those people are the ones who go out and play on the weekend.”

Once again, three weeks into the 2011 season, Foxworth is no longer one of those people. Foxworth was placed on the injured reserve Wednesday, ending his season after two games and a week of inactivity.

In a conversation late last season -- you can find a link to the feature here -- the Maryland graduate told me he was ahead of schedule. Mike Preston reported that Foxworth continued to make good progress until the NFL lockout. But Foxworth spent most of the offseason in a courtroom negotiating labor peace instead of a practice field and fell behind. Preston said Foxworth “never regained full strength to twist, turn and accelerate.”

Ravens fans and opposing offensive coordinators noticed, too.

Foxworth was targeted often when he was in the lineup against the Tennessee Titans in Week 2. A week later, Ravens coach John Harbaugh made him inactive for the team’s 37-7 win over the St. Louis Rams. Foxworth said he understood the decision, adding that he was still in pain and taking a toll emotionally.

“It hurts like hell,” he said Sunday. “I’ve been fighting through it, and I’ve been good enough not to hurt the team. But I think last week, the pain in my knee hurt me, and my lackluster performance hurt them.”

I have no idea what kind of pain Foxworth is going through this week now that he has found out that he will essentially miss a second straight season due to a serious knee injury. But I feel for him. How could you not?

Yes, Foxworth is making a lot of money (I don’t know about you, but I’ll be lucky in my lifetime to make a tenth of what he pulls in). Chances are you don’t need me to tell you the terms of the contract he signed in 2009 because Foxworth’s salary gets mentioned every time he slips to the turf or lines up 10 yards off the line of scrimmage. (FYI: It’s $27.2 million over four years. He will reportedly make $5.6 million in 2012.)

Unfortunately, Foxworth has not gotten a fair chance to live up to that deal, and it remains to be seen if the team will bring him back for the fourth and final year of the contract. He struggled in the first half of the 2009 season, but he bounced back to play pretty well down the stretch. Months later, he was robbed of his health by the football gods and he may never get it -- or his confidence -- fully back.

It’s not his fault the Ravens felt he was worth $27.2 million. It’s not his fault his knee blew up when he made a quick cut in a non-contact drill last July. And I’m not going to blame him for making the salvation of NFL football, probably the most popular leisure activity in America, his primary focus this offseason. (Thank you, Domonique.)

I just hope the Randallstown native can get his knee right this time around so he can give us a glimpse -- even if for only a season -- of the player he was supposed to become when the Ravens inked him three years ago.

"You just try to find the blessings even in the bad things that happen to you,” Foxworth said last year.

Here’s hoping he finds one in this.

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