As veteran cornerback Aaron Ross covered receivers Tuesday during his minicamp tryout with the Ravens, the former New York Giants starter quickly realized how long it's been since he's played football.
Although Ross displayed some lingering signs from his inactivity since being placed on injured reserve last season by the Giants after four games due to a back injury, he had solid mobility and knocked down a few passes.
"It was great to get the rust off," said Ross, a first-round draft pick in 2007 who won two Super Bowls with the Giants and has 11 career interceptions and 41 pass deflections. "I've been home for a while. It was good to go against some people instead of going up against air. I'm happy they brought me in. I'm just trying to make the team."
Besides Ross, the Ravens auditioned several other free agents at their minicamp. That included former Carolina Panthers cornerback Drayton Florence, former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dominique Franks, who intercepted a pass Tuesday, former Indianapolis Colts cornerback Kevin Thomas, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Bobby Felder, who played at Nicholls State with starting Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb, and former New England Patriots and New York Jets cornerback Marquice Cole.
They also worked out former Miami Dolphins linebacker Austin Spitler and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe and former San Diego Chargers wide receiver Mike Willie.
None of the players were immediately signed, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn't rule out adding someone to the roster as soon as this week. The Ravens have two roster vacancies after wide receiver Aaron Mellette (knee surgery) and outside linebacker Adrian Hamilton (wrist surgery) were waived Tuesday after they failed their physicals.
"We were pleased with them," Harbaugh said of the cornerbacks. "I couldn't sit here and distinguish one from another right now. It's just too hard to watch all that with the naked eye, but they all looked good. They all got through the practice.
"They are all in shape, which is a credit to those guys. I thought they did a good job. We'll go back and look at that tape really closely tonight, take a look at those guys again tomorrow and see where we are."
The Ravens lost nickel back Corey Graham in March when he signed with the Buffalo Bills, leaving them with a void of experience at the position. Young cornerbacks Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson are vying for the job, but the Ravens would like to create more competition at the spot.
"We're taking a look at all the guys who are available," Harbaugh said. "These guys are guys who want a job. So, their agents are calling and we're talking to them. That stuff is always going on behind the scenes. Hey, let's kick the tires a little bit and find out what these guys are all about.
"A lot of these guys are proven players that have had injuries the last couple of years. We'll see if they're healthy. Each one of them has a different story. So, let's bring them out here and take a look at them first-hand."
Ross has played in the NFL for seven seasons, six of them with the Giants where he played for Ravens secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo when he was the defensive coordinator in New York. The 6-foot-1, 193-pounder spent one season with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2012 after signing a three-year, $15 million contract before being released and rejoining the Giants.
Ross downplayed the severity of his back injury that ended his season last year.
"I healed up pretty early in the season in New York," Ross said. "A lot of defensive backs were down. It wasn't really a season-ending injury as far as people would think."
At the University of Texas, Ross won the Jim Thorpe award as the nation's top defensive back.
This marks the first time in his career where Ross had to try out to earn a roster spot.
"It's great," Ross said. "We have the same mentality. Everybody wants to better themselves and be great. We help each other out. We know where we're coming from. I've had to battle."
Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith played with Florence last season with the Panthers and has played against him before hwen he was with the Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions.
"There's going to be new faces," Smith said. "This is the part where football that gets exciting. It's also unfortunate. At a certain point, all these guys get trimmed down as it gets deeper into the summer and into the fall."
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- Drayton Florence
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