Run stopper can't wait to get going

Rumors were starting to surface that Kelly Gregg's knee problems were worse than expected and he might not play football in 2009 - or ever again. But Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome dismissed that talk yesterday.

In fact, no player on the roster might be readier than Gregg.


"The medical report on Kelly was great, and trainer Bill Tessendorf says he is chomping at the bit to play," Newsome said. "If we had to play a game tomorrow, Kelly Gregg would be ready to go."

Gregg, a nine-year veteran, is known as a tough guy. Along with inside linebacker Ray Lewis, Gregg has always been one of the Ravens' most hated players in training camp because he never takes a play off.


Gregg never needed any outside motivation, but he has it now. Look out, NFL.

"This is the time of the year, most players want to get away from the game; they don't even want to talk about" it, Gregg, 32, said. "It's different for me this year. I can't wait to get out on the field. I can't wait to play again. The other players are looking at me like I'm crazy."

Gregg, 6 feet, 315 pounds, missed all last season because of cartilage damage in his left knee. The Ravens hoped Gregg would be available to play after arthroscopic knee surgery in training camp. But after he missed the first four games, he was put on injured reserve.

"Every week, I thought I might be able to go," Gregg said about the beginning of last season. "But if it wasn't one thing, it was another. I either had swelling or the leg wasn't at full strength. There were times I thought I was going to play, and then it would buckle once I started running. Finally, the coaching and training staffs, as well as Ozzie, agreed that it would be best for me to have the surgery and get ready for next season."

Gregg was still a little apprehensive about having microfracture surgery, even though former Ravens standouts Peter Boulware and Michael McCrary had the same procedure years ago. Gregg had the operation in October.

"Mike called and said he had it done and wished he would have had it done sooner," Gregg said. "I feel great, so good that I believe I may have extended my career maybe two more years."

According to Newsome, the Ravens are having a hard time keeping Gregg out of the building even when he isn't supposed to be there. Gregg lifts weights five days a week, at least two hours a day. If he isn't in the weight room, he is looking at film or rehabilitating his left knee.

Before he was injured, Gregg was squatting 405 pounds; he is back to that point now. His right leg is still a little stronger than his left, but not much.


"I had this knee scoped twice, hoping to clean things up, but that didn't work. It was just bone on bone," Gregg said. "But now I can bend it at full range and there has been no swelling at all. There is no more time for lying around."

That's all Gregg did last season. He stayed with the team during the regular season, but he didn't feel as if he were part of the Ravens' success. It was hard watching his teammates jog out onto the playing field every Sunday. It frustrated Gregg, and it was tough on his family, as well.

"I think I was driving my wife crazy," he said. "I got three little boys, and I had to explain to them why Daddy wasn't playing. That drove them crazy. I tried not to think about it, but I was lost. Now, all I want to do is play again."

Gregg is at the point of his career when most players start to decline, but his performance has improved. He had 61 tackles in both 2005 and 2006 and 80 in a Pro Bowl-caliber 2007 season. Gregg is considered one of the best run stoppers in the NFL.

"That's one great rotation with Justin Bannan, Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg," Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said recently. "I think we should be able to get pressure up the middle on the pass rush because we're going to have some fresh legs."

Gregg just wants to get back onto the field.


"You saw what was going on last season, and you really wanted to be a part of it," Gregg said. "We had a rookie quarterback and a new coach, and those were signs that pointed to us not having a good year. But I liked what we did. My weight is good, and I didn't blow up. I'd play right now if I could."

Listen to Mike Preston on Mondays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Fox Sports (1370 AM).