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WESTMINSTER – The deep touchdown pass from Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco landed softly in the outstretched hands of wide receiver Anquan Boldin, a sequence that triggered a raucous reaction from the crowd at McDaniel College as the team kicked off training camp.
The mood dimmed considerably Friday following the revelation that starting cornerback Domonique Foxworth is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, a major injury suffered Thursday during an orientation session that removes the top cover guy from the Ravens’ secondary.
“I saw him fall down on the field,” said cornerback Chris Carr, Foxworth’s camp roommate. “When I saw his face, I didn’t have a good feeling at all.”
It’s a serious blow to a secondary already reeling from star free safety Ed Reed being sidelined indefinitely with a hip injury and cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington still on the mend from their own torn ACLs suffered last season. The injury seems to put a dent in the Ravens’ Super Bowl aspirations.
“It’s unfortunate,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He wasn’t touched, there was no contact. He just planted the wrong way, and the thing popped. We’re disappointed. Nobody has worked harder during the offseason and we were counting on him.”
A somber Foxworth is now getting around on crutches and wearing a large brace on his right leg.
Now, he’s dealing with the end of his season before it ever started, a pending surgery to repair the damage and a long rehabilitation to strengthen the knee.
“I feel a ton of emotions, but the biggest one I’m feeling is I let people down,” said Foxworth, a former University of Maryland standout from Randallstown. “I know everyone is excited about what we were going to do, about this team and excited about the season. I feel like I let a bunch of people down. I know it’s stupid and everyone keeps saying, ‘You didn’t do it on purpose.’
“I’m just going to try to continue and find a way to help. Maybe the guys can still come to my house and watch film. I’ve got to find a way to contribute because if they win the Super Bowl, I want to be able to wear the ring with pride and say that I had something to do with it even if I’m not on the field.”
Foxworth said it bothered him even more that it was such a routine play where he got hurt.
Plus, it wasn’t even a contact situation.
“I was just running and tried to change directions, something I’ve done a million times in my career,” Foxworth said. “This time, it just didn’t work. It wasn’t anything odd. It happened on grass, so I can’t even blame it on turf.”
With Foxworth out and Washington still not cleared for contact after passing his physical and being activated from the physically unable to perform list, the starting cornerbacks Friday were journeyman Travis Fisher and former nickel back Chris Carr.
By the end of the day, the Ravens had brought in someone else to fill out the depth chart. It was a fairly obscure transaction, though, adding former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Nashville Dyer.
Dyer was out of football last season and has most recently played with the San Jose Sabercats in the Arena Football League. He has previous stints in NFL Europe and the Canadian Football League.
“I’ve been all over,” Dyer said.
Baltimore was immediately linked to former Ravens cornerback Frank Walker, whose agent contacted general manager Ozzie Newsome shortly after word broke about Foxworth’s injury.
Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison expressed confidence that the personnel department will make the necessary adjustments.
“Ozzie is always going to get guys here,” Mattison said. “He’s going to always give you enough bullets in there and we are very confident in that. We’ll do whatever we have to do to keep that defense ready.”
Carr picked off backup quarterback Marc Bulger during team drills and returned the interception for a touchdown. He celebrated by punting the football into the air, which would have drawn a penalty and probably a hefty fine if it had been an actual game.
It was a bit of an escape for Carr who was with Foxworth when he received the bad news about his magnetic resonance imaging exam.
“We were both kind of in shock,” Carr said. “I didn’t want to give him too many speeches. I wanted to be there for him to vent. As a person knowing him, it’s so tough. That hurts. It was hard even sleeping last night knowing that he’s not going to be there. It’s the first day and he tears an ACL. It’s like, ‘What’s going on?’”
One adjustment the Ravens will be making with Foxworth out of the equation and the secondary depleted is ramping up the pass rush.
The cornerbacks are going to need the front seven to apply some heat.
“You definitely got to take the pressure off those guys,” said outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who has lost 20 pounds to try to regain his Pro Bowl form after a career-worst season last year. “Nine times out of 10, they’re on an island. We need to get to the quarterback more than ever now. We’re going to miss Domonique terribly, but that gives another man the opportunity to help us be a great football team.”
Despite the loss of one of their better defensive backs, the Ravens remain upbeat that the injury won’t derail their season.
It’s a sentiment shared by Foxworth.
“They’ll be fine without me,” Foxworth said. “I promise you, if there are going to be shortcomings on this team, it won’t be in the secondary.”
All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis has been around the game long enough to know that an injury, even a significant one like this, doesn’t necessarily cripple a good team.
“The next guy has to step up, and that’s what teams are built by,” Lewis said. “The bottom line is: Figure it out, move whatever pieces you’ve got to move around and keep moving. It really hurts to see somebody go down, but all you can do is pray for them and keep on moving.”