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Rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley leads the Ravens in tackles.
Rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley leads the Ravens in tackles. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

It was either the night before the game against Miami or the morning of when rookie inside linebacker C.J. Mosley asked Ravens head coach John Harbaugh a seemingly innocent question.

"What week is this?" Harbaugh said Mosley asked.

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"What week is this?" Harbaugh responded, smiling. "It's the time between the end of the regular season and the bowl game, but we play games in there, so just keep playing."

And so he does.

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Thirteen weeks into the regular season, Mosley's 110 tackles lead the Ravens and are tied for sixth in the NFL. He is the only NFL defender who has posted at least 80 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, forced one fumble and recovered another.

He might be named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year, which would put him in the same company with two other oustanding Ravens linebackers: former great Peter Boulware and current standout Terrell Suggs.

The Jacksonville Jaguars will be the Ravens' next opponent, but a more formidable challenge for Mosley is the proverbial wall that all rookies hit. It's called fatigue.

When at Alabama, the most games Mosley played in a season was 14 in 2012, when the Crimson Tide won the national championship. The Ravens (8-5) have three more regular season games, plus the possibility of the postseason.

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"Everybody hits it [the wall]," said Suggs, in his 12th season. "I did and I didn't play like most normal first round rookies. I was just used on third downs most of my rookie season and I started to start at the end. It's a long season."

Has Suggs seen Mosley slow down?

"No, he is playing special, phenomenal," Suggs said. "That's why we call him half man, half amazing."

The NFL season is a grind for a lot of top picks because they are basically playing two seasons without much rest.

They have to prepare for their final college season and most will play in some type of bowl or All-Star game. Afterward, they continue to train for the NFL combine or pro scouts at their own schools.

Once drafted, they attend the various off season mini-camps. Then it's time for training camp and another new season.

By this time of the year, injuries start mounting.

"They pretty much have seen my pain, especially the last game with my wrist," Mosley said. "[My] knee [is] hurting a little bit, and I caught a stinger or two. So, I kind of went through the grind for this past game. But that's just what comes with it. I have to put my body on the line for this team. We have somewhere to be at the end of this year and in January, so we have to do what we have to do."

Being injury prone was the knock on Mosley coming out of college. He dislocated his elbow and hip in 2011 and had shoulder surgery after the 2012 season. Some draft publications also criticized his tackling ability, claiming he wasn't fundamentally sound.

Those things haven't shown up in Baltimore. In fact, Mosley could be special. His speed is outstanding from sideline to sideline. He has saved the Ravens a couple of times by making tackles in the open field on what appeared to be big gainers or possible touchdowns.

The Ravens also use him to cover tight ends or receivers in passing situations. He is a three-down linebacker in a league that has gone pass happy. And he's just a rookie.

"I've never seen a rookie come in and play like him. There is great potential there, it comes down to what he does with it," Suggs said. "He plays every snap. He never comes off the field. Never."

He also plays on the punt team.

That's unusual for players like Mosley. According to a former Ravens coach, former Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis played on special teams for only the first preseason game of his career, and that was it.

After that game, defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis had a meeting with head coach Ted Marchibroda to strongly suggest Lewis never play on special teams again.

Mosley is already thinking about how he can stay fresh for the remainder of the season.

"Getting treatment and pretty much the cold tub and hot tub, and getting some good sleep," he said. "That's about the only thing you can really do."

When asked if he did any extra conditioning, Mosley joked: "No, I'm pretty much playing every snap, so that's keeping me pretty conditioned."

Harbaugh likes to hear that.

"His humility and work ethic are really high," Harbaugh said. "He's not a guy that takes anything for granted, and that's a great quality in anybody."

Mosley has a high football IQ. He has learned to handle the pace and grind of the game from veterans such as Elvis Dumervil, Daryl Smith and Suggs. And he doesn't pay much attention to talk about being the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Suggs has told him to pretend he is a race horse with blinders on. But with stiff competition from Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller, and linebackers Chris Borland of the San Francisco 49ers, the Oakland Raiders' Khalil Mack and the Minnesota Vikings' Anthony Barr, Mosley admits winning the award would be special.

"It would be a great accolade," he said. "With all the hard work I've put in, pretty much since last January since my last bowl game, I've been grinding ever since to get to this spot.

"It may just be a great accolade for me and for this organization to have another player win, but that's at the end of the year. We still have three more games to focus on."

And Mosley has showed no signs of slowing down.

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