Breaking up not so hard for Ravens' Washington

The Baltimore Sun

Fabian Washington is making a name for himself among his teammates, which isn't necessarily a good thing.

When a Ravens defensive player drops a potential interception during practice, a teammate will chide that player by saying, "Fabian's rubbing off on you."

It's a reference to an unusual statistic: Washington leads the defense in pass breakups with 14 but has only one interception this season.

Washington said he endures good-natured ribbing from fellow defensive backs Frank Walker, Samari Rolle and Ed Reed on a daily basis.

"They say that I've got hands of stone, I've got feet for hands, everything," Washington said with a smile. "I know I can't catch. Coming out of high school, a lot of colleges recruited me as a receiver, but I was smart enough to know that if you can't catch, you don't go to play as a receiver. So I played defensive back. But trust me, I'm going to start holding on to a lot more of those balls."

One ball Washington wishes he had gotten his hand on was the pass that slipped beyond his outstretched fingers and landed in the hands of Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who turned the catch into a 38-yard touchdown in Pittsburgh's 23-20 overtime win Sept. 29.

Washington said he doesn't let that play linger in his mind, but he does respect Holmes, who will join the Steelers in visiting M&T; Bank Stadium tomorrow.

"He's one of the faster guys, so I can't do some of the things that I would do against slower guys, because that could lead to a big play or touchdown," Washington said. "Against him, you've got to use a lot of technique and awareness because he is a good receiver and he has a great quarterback throwing him the ball."

That play was a brief hiccup in what has been a solid season for Washington. After a quiet start, Washington has been a defensive presence, deflecting 10 passes in his past three games. His 14 pass breakups already eclipse his previous career high of 11 with the Oakland Raiders in 2006, and he knocked down a career-high four passes in the Ravens' 24-10 win over the Washington Redskins on Sunday night.

Washington's play would seem to validate the front office's decision to acquire the fourth-year cornerback from the Raiders in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2008 draft.

Asked whether he has surprised himself with his performance this season, Washington said: "I'm not surprised at all. This is what I thought I would be doing in Oakland. Just too much partying and a lot less football. Now, it's just football. Here, you've got to be dedicated to the team and this defense because this defense doesn't settle for less."

Now, if Washington could only pull down a few more interceptions. Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said if Washington had turned several of the pass deflections into interceptions, the cornerback would be heading to the Pro Bowl.

"He's the player we thought we were getting," Ryan said.

"Chuck [Pagano, secondary coach] coached him with the Raiders and all that, so he's very familiar, and of course, my brother [Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan] was there at Oakland. We got the guy we thought we were going to get, and he's been tremendous."

Notes:: Rookie running back Ray Rice (calf) is doubtful for tomorrow's game even though coach John Harbaugh called him a game-time decision. "He's definitely getting better, moving around a lot better," Harbaugh said of Rice, who has not practiced this week. Wide receiver Marcus Maxwell (hip) is also doubtful. Listed as probable are wide receivers Derrick Mason (dislocated left shoulder), Mark Clayton (knee) and Yamon Figurs (bruised left knee), safeties Ed Reed (hamstring) and Jim Leonhard (illness), cornerback Samari Rolle (thigh), offensive tackle Jared Gaither (right shoulder), rookie guard David Hale (left ankle) and kicker Matt Stover (sprained right ankle). Mason, Stover, Leonhard and Gaither were limited in practice yesterday. ... Pittsburgh ruled out defensive end Brett Keisel (sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee) and offensive tackle Marvel Smith (back). Two defensive starters, strong safety Troy Polamalu (calf) and linebacker James Harrison (knee), are probable. ... Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 38 times, which is the second-highest total behind the New England Patriots' Matt Cassel (42). But at 6 feet 5 and 241 pounds, Roethlisberger can shrug off pass rushers and buy extra time to connect to his receivers. "It's kind of a weird comparison, but he's kind of like [suspended quarterback] Michael Vick because he makes plays with his legs," said linebacker Jarret Johnson, who ranks second among the Ravens with five sacks. "When he's scrambling is when he's at his best." ... Reed said he greatly respects Polamalu. "He's a guy that I look at on film just like [the Philadelphia Eagles'] Brian Dawkins and those guys who are good safeties that, when you're watching tape of those different teams, they're on it," Reed said. "So you have to pay attention. If you can't learn from watching somebody else, then I don't know what to say." ... Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco was asked about his thoughts on dealing with the media. "A bunch of pains in the asses," Flacco quipped. "No, really, truthfully? You guys probably don't even have to interview me. You can just write down whatever you want. 'Joe said this ... ' But it's fun. It's always fun, and it's especially fun this year because we're winning."

hey, jamison!

Each week, Baltimore Sun reporter Jamison Hensley will answer questions about the Ravens. To submit a question, e-mail sports@baltsun.com. Give your name and phone number so we can verify the e-mail.

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