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Ravens rookie Timmy Jernigan becoming pivotal player due to injuries and his progress

When Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees huddled recently with the San Francisco 49ers' coaches, they kept singling out rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan for praise.

It was an encouraging sign about Jernigan. The second-round draft pick has become a pivotal figure along the defensive line due to injuries at the position and his speedy progress.

The Ravens have lost defensive ends Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore to season-ending injuries.

"Quick, explosive, everything we saw on film, a good draft pick," Pees said of Jernigan. "I really like him. I think he's practicing really hard. I'm real pleased with where he's coming, learning every day about the system. It's a little different than what he did at Florida State. Very active."

Jernigan has impressed the Ravens' coaching staff and teammates with his ability to shoot gaps and penetrate the backfield since his arrival in May.

During practice Wednesday, Jernigan bull-rushed rookie offensive guard John Urschel into the backfield to shut down a play.

Jernigan has recovered from back spasms that affected him for several days earlier in camp. He played against the 49ers during a preseason game last Thursday, but didn't register any statistics.

"I'm 100 percent, I'm feeling great," Jernigan said. "Coming into that game was the first time to really get to go like I wanted to do. I'm just getting back into the groove of things."

An All-American selection for the national champion Seminoles, Jernigan recorded 63 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season before declaring early for the NFL draft. He was signed to a four-year, $4.382 million contract that includes $2.126 million guaranteed and a $1.507 million signing bonus.

"Timmy's doing a great job, playing with a lot of energy," outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. "He's smart. He plays with a lot of awareness. You can see why this guy won a national championship."

Jernigan smiled when he was told that Ravens rookie inside linebacker C.J. Mosley said he wants to become the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

"He'll have to compete with me," Jernigan said. "C.J. is a great player. It's great to come in and have a great linebacker playing behind me. We had some great ones at Florida State. I feel like that's a blessing."

Heading into the draft, Jernigan was regarded as more of a fit for 4-3 schemes than the Ravens' 3-4 alignment. However, the 6-foot-2, 300-pounder has adjusted well to the Ravens' system so far. Jernigan runs the 40-yard dash in 4.97 seconds, has bench pressed 225 pounds 27 times. At Florida State, he recorded 139 career tackles, 25 for losses with 8.5 sacks.

"I definitely feel like that's one of my greatest assets during the draft process is my ability to play whatever I need to do along the defensive line, I can do it," Jernigan said. "I feel like I'm very disruptive. The biggest thing is to continue to get better and be disruptive throughout the scheme and not put our entire defense in a bad position. I'm definitely playing within the scheme. I'm human. Everybody makes mistakes now and then. I'm just trying to eliminate all the mistakes."

awilson@baltsun.com

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