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Hunter goes on the defensive

The last time Javin Hunter played in a game with the Ravens, he did so as a starting receiver.

That is a fact best suited as a trivia question, since Hunter has not suited up in nearly a year and a half and his future with the team now looks to be elsewhere.

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Hunter took his first repetitions at cornerback yesterday, the third day of the Ravens' final minicamp of the offseason. With a glut of receivers that includes third-round draft pick Devard Darling and sixth-round pick Clarence Moore, coaches decided Hunter's best chance at making the team will likely come as a reserve cornerback and kickoff return specialist.

His first go of it was not bad.

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"I thought when he got in for a couple of plays, he did a nice job while he was in there," secondary coach Johnnie Lynn said. "Now it's just a matter of getting in the playbook and learning what we are doing. We're going to try and get some time together where he can work with some of our guys or even myself so he can work on some technique things to try and catch up. But he's a welcome transition."

One advantage Hunter has going for himself - he knows how to annoy receivers.

In one-on-one drills, Hunter kept his hands on the receivers, tugging and jamming through the 5-yard buffer and beyond. He had the speed to recover on one particular out-route, forcing an overthrow from the quarterback.

His play even drew a little stir from his fellow defensive backs. "He was all right the first day," cornerback Corey Fuller said. "The one thing about playing our position is that they want consistency and toughness out there. He looked good on his first day, but we have to put on pads and everything. I think he'll make the transition pretty smooth because he's an athlete, and that is going to help him."

Hunter's participation in full-squad drills was limited to two uneventful plays, but after the practice, he already started talking like a cornerback.

"Receivers don't like to be roughed up," he said. "They don't like to be touched. Anything I can do to disrupt their routes - knocking their hands down when they are running, grabbing a little bit - anything to stop them from running their routes would definitely be to my advantage."

Ravens coach Brian Billick did not want to guarantee the move would be a permanent one, but with things going relatively smooth, chances are, it is.

"The defensive backfield coaches wanted to take a look at him," Billick said. "Javin's got that type of speed and ability. We're going to give it a couple of days, then discuss it. We'll come back in camp and see what he wants to do with it.

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"We wanted to get a good look at it so he can get a barometer for himself so he can say, 'Is this something I want to pursue? Is this a way for me to make this team, or do I stay at receiver?' "

When he was at receiver during his rookie season of 2002, Hunter finished with five catches for 35 yards. Despite the unimpressive numbers, coaches were impressed enough with Hunter to move him into the starting lineup for Brandon Stokley (who was on injured reserved) against the Tennessee Titans (Nov. 24) and Cincinnati Bengals (Dec. 1).

It was bad enough Hunter did not record a catch in either game, but things got worse when the league suspended him for the final four games of the season for using a banned dietary substance.

The topper, however, came the next preseason when Hunter tore an Achilles' tendon and was placed on injured reserved. In all, Hunter has missed the past 21 games (including playoffs).

"To be honest, it's been a rough career for me since entering college," said Hunter, who estimates himself at 90 percent. "I came in [Notre Dame] with a lot of expectations, and things didn't work out there.

"Then I get drafted here and things haven't gone my way. But I know things are going to look up. Things can't go downhill for my whole football career. I'm still a young guy, so I'm just looking forward to the opportunities I have."

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What Hunter does have, and what the coaches have been impressed with since Day One, is speed. It is why they thought he would make a solid receiver and why he may turn out to be a better cornerback.

"I felt like I could make the team as a receiver," Hunter said. "But for me to use my athletic ability to get on the field as soon as possible, I think my chances were better at DB. That's the approach I'm taking into this move."


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