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It’s an extremely positive sign when an NFL head coach knows an undrafted rookie free agent by name. It’s even more noteworthy for the prospect’s burgeoning status when he’s continually praised and rewarded with playing time. For Baltimore Ravens rookie cornerback Ronnie Prude, it’s just two more reminders of his strong bid to make the football team.
“I really like him,” Ravens coach Brian Billick said. “For an undrafted free agent, he’s really opened some eyes.”
The former LSU standout is operating as the dime back, the sixth defensive back in a talent-laden secondary. He’s slated to enter tonight’s preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles prior to two drafted cornerbacks, David Pittman and Derrick Martin.
“I’m just trying to make a better impression every day with my technique and knowing the defense just like a veteran knows it,” Prude said. “I’m trying to put confidence in their eyes every day I’m out here.”
Prude opted to sign with Baltimore after turning down an offer from the Miami Dolphins to play for his former LSU head coach Nick Saban. He was apparently miffed that Saban didn’t expend a draft pick on him. “I liked this situation much better as far as having a better shot of making the team,” Prude said. “Plus, I feel like this is the best defense in the NFL."
Team officials have lauded Prude for his physical nature, confidence and willingness to tackle. He registered a team-high four tackles last week against the New York Giants. An avid weight lifter, Prude is listed at only 5-foot-11, 178 pounds, but he appears bigger than that because a lot of his bulk is in his upper body.
“You’ve got to be physical in this game,” Prude said. “I try to get my hands on you and make plays again the run or the pass. Chris McAlister took me under his wing and has been teaching me what to do.”
In 52 games at LSU, the Shreveport, La., native started 21 games and posted 114 tackles and three interceptions. In 13 starts as a senior, he finished with 11 pass deflections. Prude hasn’t been shy about challenging receivers, but says he’ll save the verbal displays until he’s proven himself.
“You can’t come in thinking you can trash-talk when you haven’t really done anything yet," Prude said. "My confidence is definitely high. I’m trying to be one of the great cornerbacks in this league one day.”
TRAINING ROOM: Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, who remains on the physically unable to perform list, isn’t scheduled to play along with offensive guard Brian Rimpf (pulled hamstring), wide receiver Clarence Moore (sports hernia), safety B.J. Ward (migraines), wide receiver Matt Cherry (dislocated shoulder) and tight end Rob Abiamiri (calf).
Ogden is working hard to shed 25 to 30 pounds that he gained while dealing with his father’s death. “Jonathan will be ready when the time comes,” Billick said. “We have to make sure we go about it the right way.”
Rimpf, a seven-game starter last season at right guard who has been out for a week, is moving around better and remains upbeat about his prognosis. He didn’t offer a specific time table for his return.
KING UGLY: One of the Ravens’ annual traditions at their rookie show is their “King Ugly” contest. Newcomer Mike Anderson won the prize. Jamal Lewis was the runner-up and fullback B.J. Dean took third, winning the prize money.
“It’s one thing to call a guy ugly, it’s another to pay money to vote him in,” Billick said. “Mike accepted it graciously.”
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs won a special distinction with the “King Ugly” Lifetime Achievement award. “The lifetime achievement for Suggs caught me by surprise since I didn’t vote or anything,” linebacker Adalius Thomas said. “I’m getting a lot of blame for this. I don’t know how my name got in it.”
QUICK HITS: Besides Prude, Billick singled out rookie running back Cory Ross as one of the surprises of training camp. "They were the ones who probably jump out at you the most," he said. … During the Ravens’ three-week stay in Westminster, they were big eaters, consuming the following items on a weekly basis: 2,800 strawberries, 700 pounds of steamed vegetables, 630 pounds of potatoes, 420 pancakes, 420 pounds of fish, 360 pounds of steak, 350 eggs and 280 rotisserie chickens.
Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.