For most of the Ravens, today's minicamp signifies the unofficial start of the 2000 season. For Anthony Poindexter, it marks the start of a celebration.
Poindexter, the Ravens' last pick of the 1999 draft, couldn't walk that well, much less run, at last year's minicamp, coping with the effects of tearing three of his four ligaments in his left knee midway through his senior season in college. He watched his teammates practice while rehabilitating his injury as well as his outlook, coming to grips that his rookie season basically would be lost.
This time around, however, the second-year safety known primarily for his hitting won't be sitting. If he reverts to his previous All-America form, Poindexter is expected to contend for a starting spot in the Ravens' defensive backfield.
"It's really the beginning of my career," said Poindexter, who spent more than half of last season on the physically unable to perform list and never made an active game roster. "I'm just looking forward to it and feel blessed to make it this far."
Said defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis: "We're hopeful that he's back to what he was prior to being injured. We'll have a better feel for that after this weekend. We're hopeful he'll compete to be a starter on our football team."
Poindexter is all too familiar with battles in his short professional career. But the playing field used to be operating rooms and trainer's tables.
Poindexter had 4 1/2-hour reconstructive knee surgery a year and a half ago and needed further arthroscopic surgery four months later. To this day, he still cannot fully pull his leg back because of scar tissue.
The two-time, first-team All-America dealt with the blow of falling from a top 15 draft pick to the 216th player taken as a result of his knee, losing millions yet not his drive.
He endured several months of pulling and pushing on his leg to regain motion and to give himself a chance to practice with the Ravens for about four weeks. When it appeared Poindexter might be activated to play in November, he developed fluid on his knee and had to be placed on injured reserve the rest of the season.
Poindexter attended all of the team's off-season workouts and stayed an additional half-hour each time for extra rehabilitation. And it still may take until training camp until Poindexter full reaches his athletic skill level again.
"It's still unproven on the field of competition," Ravens trainer Bill Tessendorf said. "I'm not so worried about this camp or the training camp, but it's still unproven."
Poindexter doesn't feel any pain in his knee, but he seems anxious to inflict some. Before the injury, he was characterized by his hard-hitting fashion, resembling a linebacker more than a safety at times.
So, despite not playing in a game since October 1998, Poindexter believes his powerful style won't be hard to recover. It's all about the amount of confidence, not contact.
"I'm still the same football player," said Poindexter, who had 73 tackles and three sacks in seven games as a senior. "A lot of how you play is in your mind. I had a few bolts and screws put in, but my mindset hasn't changed one bit."
His most-anticipated hit, though, will have to wait until the end of the season. During his rehabilitation, Poindexter thought a lot about his statement to those scouts and teams that doubted he could return and make an impact in the NFL.
"I'll take great satisfaction in saying, 'I told you so,'" Poindexter said. "At the [draft] combine, I told them I was going to be back and be ready to play. A lot of guys thought I was blowing hot air. It would be just great to tell them I'm back and I'm playing football again."
Ravens' camp schedule
Today-Sunday: First full-team minicamp
May 15 - 18: Passing camp
June 5 - 8: Passing camp
June 12 - 15: Veterans camp
July 23: Report to training camp at Western Maryland College