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Zbikowski gets up to speed

The first minicamp after the draft is mainly about rookies, but one veteran who stood out over the weekend was third-year safety Tom Zbikowski.

In one of camp's most revealing plays, quarterback Joe Flacco scrambled out of the pocket and bolted down the sideline with surprising speed, leaving defenders in his wake. The only one who could catch him was Zbikowski, who had a bad angle to start but still made up the difference to take Flacco out of bounds around the 10.

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It wasn't just one play, either. Overall, Zbikowski looked quicker and smoother in the drills. That wasn't by accident.

Since the season ended, the former Notre Dame star has been working on his vertical leap "to get an extra spring in my step," he said.

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His idea, he said. "It's a game of speed."

When Zbikowski replaced injured Ed Reed for four games last December, he was solid and rarely was caught in mismatches, thanks to the Ravens' scheme. But speed has not been Zbikowski's forte since joining the Ravens in 2008 as a potential special teams ace.

Zbikowski has already shown the defense can count on him. With his new "burst," and a healed Haruki Nakamura (broken leg), the Ravens should be protected if Reed can't get back to the field early or is unable to stay.

And Zbikowski hasn't sacrificed muscle at the expense of his new-found speed, either. He played at 192 pounds last year. This camp, he weighed 200.

At Notre Dame, Zbikowski played for three different defensive backs coaches, but all were corner coaches. He didn't have a safety coach until he got Mark Carrier (now gone) in Baltimore. But Reed has served as a coach, both on and off the field, for Zbikowski.

"He's the best safety that ever played the game," Zbikowski said.

Both Zbikowski and Nakamura know there's a chance Reed could be slow getting back to the field after hip surgery. They're both pulling for him to get back, but they're preparing as if they will play.

"I'm taking the approach I've got to be prepared, even if I'm not playing," Zbikowski said.

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