By Jamison Hensley
The Baltimore Sun
September 7, 2005
The one smudge to Jonathan Ogden's otherwise All-Pro career can be erased in Sunday's season opener.
Ogden will confront Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney as well as memories of Freeney spinning around him for a couple of sacks last year.
This time, Ogden won't be fighting injuries. He won't be fighting crowd noise on the road.
It will strictly be Ogden, one of the best linemen of his generation, against Freeney, last year's NFL sacks leader.
"It's a good test to see where I'm at for the first game of the season," Ogden said. "You'll know where you stand early. That's the way I'm approaching it this week. You're just jumping into the deep end of the pool."
The result of Ogden's matchup with Freeney - which also included two quarterback hurries - shocked many watching last year's nationally televised game.
Consider this: Ogden allowed two sacks to Freeney and just one to everyone else that season. In fact, excluding that Colts game, Ogden has surrendered nine sacks in his last 59 games (dating back to 2001).
One NFL scout recently told Sports Illustrated, "The one time Jonathan Ogden showed me a chink in his armor last year was against Dwight Freeney. That's the only time I've seen him frustrated. Other than that, he was a dominator."
Asked if this game against Freeney gives him any extra motivation, Ogden said, "Yes and no. Last year, I had what I considered a bad game by my standards. But it wasn't a horrible game like everyone thinks."
Ogden, the franchise's first pick in 1996, has silenced some of the best pass rushers over his eight-time Pro Bowl career.
Some of his memorable battles have been against such players as Bruce Smith and Simeon Rice. Ogden said he would put the lightning-quick Freeney in that class, saying the Colt was among "the top five or six" he's faced.
"He can spin without really stopping," Ogden said. "He never stops moving his feet."
Ogden had his way with Freeney in their first meeting three years ago, holding him to no tackles and no sacks. Freeney returned the favor last season, although Ogden probably wasn't at full strength.
According to Ogden, he can't remember how much he was banged up for that late December game in Indianapolis, but last year was his worst involving injuries. Missing a career-worst four games, Ogden sprained his knee in the final preseason game and then hurt his hamstring at midseason.
"I never really got a good run of feeling 100 percent all year," Ogden said. "At the age I'm at , I feel about as good as I can expect to feel right now. I think that's a good thing."
The Ravens contend Freeney also had a home-field advantage over Ogden last year. The noise that reverberated in the RCA Dome did not allow the Ravens' linemen to hear the snap count, causing them to react slower.
"Freeney is an outstanding player, probably as good a player rushing off the edge in the league," coach Brian Billick said. "Let's keep in mind that is a very difficult place [to play] and Freeney plays to that strength. Now, we're at home and that should play to our advantage."
As Ogden starts his 10th season, he admits to wondering how many more he has left.
He still is considered one of the top tackles in the NFL, and the national media regularly ranks him among the top 20 players in the league. He remains in great health by linemen standards and has never had to have surgery in his Ravens career.
"I look at some of these guys, and they were in junior high when I started," he said. "That's when you notice, `I've been doing this for a long time.' So yeah, I think about it [retirement]. If I'm feeling good and playing OK, I don't worry about it."
Ogden signed a deal last season that will keep him under contract through 2010, but he likely won't last until the end of that agreement.
"I guarantee you there are fewer years ahead than behind," Ogden said. "Whether I will play two more, three or four more, I can't really tell you. I don't know what's going to happen and how I will feel.
"As long I feel like I'm enjoying the game and getting it done, then I'll keep doing it. When that day doesn't come, I'll go up to [general manager] Ozzie Newsome's office and tell him, `I think I'm done.' "
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