Fabian Washington said he does not harbor a grudge against the Oakland Raiders, the team that selected the cornerback in the first round of the 2005 NFL draft but traded him three years later to the Ravens.
In fact, Washington said he would have done the same thing if he were Raiders owner Al Davis. The Ravens gave up a fourth-round pick for Washington.
"I don't blame them at all," Washington said yesterday before practice at the team's training facility in Owings Mills. "I blame myself. I was the one on the field, I was the one playing. If I was playing well, I would still be there right now. I was playing terrible. At the time, I would have traded myself if I was playing that bad.
"I asked to be traded, and they did that for me."
It's a candid confession from a professional athlete, but it's not surprising considering the source. In a locker room dominated by personalities such as linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, Washington is a soft-spoken, introspective player who prefers action over words.
That's why Washington, 25, did his best to smother any notion of payback when Oakland visits the Ravens at M&T; Bank Stadium on Sunday.
"It's a little extra, of course, just because they're my old team and I've got a lot of friends still there," he said. "But I'm still taking it as just another game. I'm preparing the same way."
Washington has eight tackles and no interceptions in three starts for the Ravens, but his value has increased as injuries have taken a toll on the secondary. Cornerback Samari Rolle (neck surgery) and strong safety Dawan Landry (spinal cord concussion) were ruled out and will miss their fifth consecutive games. Cornerback Chris McAlister (knee) and free safety Ed Reed (neck/hamstring) have also been slowed by injuries. Reed did not practice yesterday, and McAlister was limited.
Washington hasn't played nearly as much as he would like because of his own injuries. A hamstring injury forced him to miss the preseason finale, a bulging disc in his neck sidelined him for the Ravens' game against the Cleveland Browns Sept. 21 and a dislocated right shoulder kept him out of the Indianapolis Colts game two weeks ago.
Washington, who also dealt with neck spasms, said he has been frustrated at times by his frequent visits to the medical staff.
"Me getting hurt this year is something that I've never been through in all of my years of playing football," he said.
In Oakland, Washington started 25 games in his first two seasons before being benched after three starts for poor tackling last season.
Washington acknowledged off-the-field activities distracted him from football.
"Sometimes, you can get a little complacent when you have a little success. A little too much partying, a lot less film-watching," he recalled. "I just really wasn't focused on football like I am now. All I do is football right now. I go home and watch film, watch it here, run around and [practice.]"
Washington was arrested on a domestic battery charge after last season and served a one-game suspension, but coaches and players say Washington has been a model citizen since joining the Ravens in a draft-day trade.
"All we know is what we've seen of him here this year," coach John Harbaugh said. "Fabian's been a real professional. Obviously, he's a very talented guy. He's had some of the injury thing, which we want to continue to work through, and he worked hard. He's one of the better practice corners that I've seen since I've been in the league. He really practices well, and I think that reflects in his play."
Washington said he is grateful to Oakland for essentially renewing his appreciation for the sport.
"You always want to have success, but are you willing to work to have success? That's something I'm doing right now, and I'm just trying to take it game by game and improve game by game," he said. "I'm very happy that [the Raiders] traded me here. It's definitely a blessing to be traded to a great organization and a great defense like this. All that can do is help me, and it has."
Sunday, 1 p.m.
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Line: Ravens by 7