Last season, Brendon Ayanbadejo bounced back from a torn quadriceps injury that cut his 2009 campaign short to play in 10 games and contribute on defense and special teams.
But the Ravens linebacker and special-teams ace said he is much healthier this summer despite undergoing surgery in the offseason.
"I'm not 100 percent," Ayanbadejo said last week, "but compared to how I felt last year when I first came off of the [physically-unable-to-perform] list, I feel a million times better, and I still have a month or so to heal before the season starts. So I've come a long way."
After tearing his left quadriceps muscle against the New England Patriots on Oct. 4, 2009, Ayanbadejo battled a staph infection in his left knee in April. Ayanbadejo said the swiftness of the infection shocked him.
"I felt so good, and I was training so hard and finally felt like I was 100 percent," he recalled. "And then, bam, the infection popped out of nowhere. I got the infection on a Friday and then by Monday, I was in the hospital and having surgery. It was crazy, but I've come a long way. I feel good. I'm just glad to be out here. I try to take as many reps as I can and soak it all up."
Ayanbadejo said he overcame the infection after being hospitalized for five days by taking antibiotics for six weeks. At a sculpted 6 feet 1 and 225 pounds, Ayanbadejo doesn't appear to have lost his speed or physical nature, and he said he is prepared to challenge Jameel McClain as a starting inside linebacker alongside 12-time Pro Bowler Ray Lewis.
"Being out here every day, I'm probably getting in 100 reps a day, and I'm stacking those days up," said Ayanbadejo, who made one start before the season-ending injury against the Patriots in 2009. "So I think I'll be able to handle the load. But the mistake I made in 2009 was I was playing special teams and playing a lot of defense. Now I'm smart enough to know that I can't do both. So something's going to have to give."
No assurances for Carr
Chris Carr was the only Ravens cornerback to start all 16 regular-season contests last fall, making a career-high 67 tackles and three forced fumbles and tying a career best with two interceptions.
But Carr is part of a logjam at cornerback, where Domonique Foxworth, Lardarius Webb and rookie Jimmy Smith are jockeying for the right to start in the team's season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 11.
Carr, who has publicly expressed his desire to be a starter at cornerback and not safety, said he received no assurances that he would start when he agreed on July 30 to return to the Ravens.
"We haven't really talked about it now and I really don't expect to talk about it," Carr said. "It seems like they're going to give me a fair shot, and if you're a competitor, that's all you ask for. And that's all I've ever asked for in my career. So my main concern is always getting better, and I feel like if I get better, then I will start. In the offseason, I worked on a lot of things that I wanted to improve. So hopefully, we'll see if it pays off."
Cundiff feels stronger
Coming off of his first Pro Bowl season, Billy Cundiff made his first 23 field goals of training camp before missing a 45-yarder Tuesday. He has nailed field goals of 58 and 59 yards in camp thus far. The 31-year-old kicker, who recorded an NFL-best 40 touchbacks last year, credits his offseason regimen for his length this summer.
"I definitely feel like my leg is stronger than it's ever been," he said Saturday after the team's practice at M&T Bank Stadium. "It's a different situation. I'm feeling more comfortable here. For the first time in my career, I've had the same snapper and holder. Just in everything, there's more continuity from last season. So in the offseason, I really made it a point to really work on my strength in the weight room, and I was doing stuff on the field that was non-kicking related to really try to make myself as explosive as I possibly could be."
Coach John Harbaugh marveled at Cundiff's performance even as the team waits for long snapper Morgan Cox (anterior cruciate ligament surgery) to be activated off of the PUP list.
"He did great," Harbaugh said of Cundiff. "He's working with a new snapper [in rookie Patrick Scales]. I don't know if you guys realize that, but Morgan has the knee. So they've kind of been working on timing a little bit, and it's been getting steadily better."