OWINGS MILLS — These are the good times for Cory Redding, an unusual experience for the veteran defensive lineman.
Redding is part of a winning football team for the first time since he entered the NFL, headed to the playoffs in his first season with the Baltimore Ravens.
Of course, Redding has been part of the worst aspects of pro football.
Two seasons ago, he was a member of the Detroit Lions team that failed to win a single game.
“All I can tell you is that 0-16 team taught me a lot about myself, about things I can work on to get better,” Redding said. “It taught me, as a man and as a player, how to handle adversity. As a football player, that was as low as I could ever be. I questioned myself, my skills, my talent, my leadership.”
Redding was part of the Lions for six losing seasons in Detroit after being drafted in the third round out of the University of Texas.
Then, he was traded to the Seattle Seahawks last year and promptly went 5-11.
Signed to a two-year, $6 million contract by the Ravens this offseason, Redding, 30, is enjoying the ride.
“It’s huge, to look at wifey and tell her we’re not going anywhere in January,” he said. “We’re staying put.”
Normally, Redding is preparing to travel this time of year and head south for the winter for the postseason.
Instead, he’s about to make his plans for the playoffs.
At age 30, Redding is eager about everything.
“We normally pack up and go back home, but not this year,” Redding said. “My wife is excited because she knows all the hard work and injuries and woes I’ve gone through to make it to this point.”
Redding has contributed to the Ravens’ winning cause.
He has recorded 34 tackles, three sacks and intercepted one pass, the first of his career.
He posted five solo tackles during the Ravens’ 20-10 win over the Cleveland Browns.
“He’s a veteran guy, been in a lot of locker rooms, a high-round pick, high-contract guy, at one time one of the premier defensive linemen in the league,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. “If you watch the last three or four games, he’s playing at that level again. He’s playing the best he’s played here all year.”
The Ravens have embraced Redding’s veteran presence after cutting Trevor Pryce and having him sign with the New York Jets.
“He’s been great,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “We thought we could exchange him and Trevor Pryce out, but after the deal with Trevor, he’s been our primary defensive end and he’s done a great job for us.”
Redding had other opportunities to play in the NFL after last season with the Seahawks.
The Ravens sold him on being part of a winning operation with a tradition for making it to the playoffs.
“He’s a guy that was an up-the-field guy and an effort guy, and that’s why we liked him so much,” defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. “I’ve been really proud of him. He’s really fit in. He’s doing a great job of trying to do what we’re asking him to do.”
This is the Ravens’ third year in a row in the postseason, a franchise record, and Redding is a big part of the defense as a starter at defensive end.
“That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come here,” Redding said. “There were plenty of teams I could have gone to being a free agent, but I chose to come here. For things to work out the way they did is awesome. Words can’t express how I feel.”
Redding is a Houston native.
And he’s even allowed himself to envision a Super Bowl trip to Dallas.
“That’s on everyone’s mind,” Redding said. “It’s one thing to get here, but the bigger accomplishment is getting that first win, getting that second win, however many it takes to get to Dallas.”
IMPROVING: Cornerback Cary Williams began the season suspended for two games for violating the NFL personal conduct policy.
Now, he’s emerging as an important special-teams contributor and reserve defensive back.
The Ravens have increased Williams’ playing time in the nickel package.
He also decked Browns star Josh Cribbs on a punt return last week.
“Cary is just developing as a player,” Harbaugh said. “On special teams, obviously, he’s playing really well, and I think that’s carrying over into his defensive play. He’s really learned the system.
“He’s learned the roles. He’s in certain packages. He’s learned those roles. He does a nice job in man coverage. He’s got some length and some speed. He’s a tenacious guy. He’s practiced really well, so that’s how guys get better.”
Williams has played in 12 games this season.
“Every week you want to go out and get better,” Williams said. “You want to grow as a player and do a lot with those chances and opportunities. Pretty soon, the game will start coming back to me and I appreciate coach for giving me those opportunities. They put the trust in me and I trust those guys out there. I want to do my job as good as possible.”
At 6-foot-1, 182 pounds, Williams has excellent size and speed.
Although his season didn’t begin well, Williams is helping out the team as the playoffs approach.
“I’m starting to get into the groove, especially in December,” Williams said. “The game changes and you want to put your best foot forward for the playoffs. They got to get into the groove and you got to understand that at any given moment on special teams or defense that you’re ready.”
PRODUCTION DOWN FOR BOLDIN: Three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin has caught 62 passes for 828 yards and seven touchdowns during his first season with the Ravens.
Last year, he caught 84 passes for 1,024 yards and four touchdowns.
Two seasons ago, Boldin caught 89 passes for 1,038 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Facing consistent bracket coverage, Boldin’s production has dipped recently over the past three games.
“Yeah, target is a target,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. “I know what target means; target means the ball was actually thrown to a guy. You’re really targeting guys, and then the defense, like you said, takes it away. But people know who he is. Early on, you see kind of an ebb and a flow. You see they’re taking him away, and now that [Derrick] Mason is starting to come alive a little bit more, then you see they’re taking Mason away.
“Now, there have been games where they double Mason and ‘Q’ [Boldin], then T.J. [Houshmandzadeh]. It’s about execution. We’ve seen some outstanding execution. We’ve still got some areas we’ve got to clean up and improve on.”
Boldin caught two passes for 15 yards against the Cleveland Browns, one pass for two yards against the New Orleans Saints and three passes for 41 yards against the Houston Texans.
His last big game was a five-catch, 118-yard outing against the Pittsburgh Steelers that included a 61-yard touchdown.
Cameron was asked how the Ravens can get Boldin the football if he’s being double-teamed.
“It depends on how they’re doubling him,” Cameron said. “They’re doubling him inside-out, over-and-under, outside-in. If you know, then there are ways to get another receiver inside to get the other guy doubled and get him singled. So, there are some ways within concepts to get a guy singled up without necessarily having to put him in the backfield.
“That’s another way you can get it done. So, there are ways to do it. Double coverage does not keep a guy from getting open. Triple coverage, depending on how they’re playing it, if they’re playing it over-the-top, inside and out, there’s still a soft spot in between them in all three. There’s still ways for us to get guys open, and I think you’re going to see that here down the stretch.”
SHOWING THE SCORES: The Ravens do plan to display scoring updates from the Pittsburgh Steelers-Cleveland Browns game on Sunday. Harbaugh said he’s not concerned about any possible distraction.
Former Ravens coach Brian Billick once ordered no scoring updates from a game that had playoff implications for his team because he was worried it would distract his players. Harbaugh doesn’t plan to do that, though.
“I didn’t know I had that kind of power, that’s good to know,” Harbaugh said. “I can see why you might do that. We’ll let [scores] be up there.
“I’m not worried about our players one bit. I know our guys will be focused and play the game.”
Harbaugh said he doesn’t plan to contact the Browns to offer them any tips on how to strategize for the Steelers.
“They don’t need our help,” Harbaugh said. “They know Pittsburgh inside and out. Pittsburgh knows them inside and out – just like all the teams in our division. They wouldn’t need any help from us.”
GETTING READY: Newly-acquired long snapper Kevin Houser has had a smooth transition after being signed this week as the injury replacement for rookie long snapper Morgan Cox.
“Yeah, he looked fine,” Harbaugh said. “He stepped right in. He’s a guy that understands the protections already, just kind of had to learn the calls and get a feel for how our guards work in there. It’s usually the center and the two guards and the personal protector who work together on the protections, and he seems really comfortable.”
QUICK HITS: It should be a quieter scene for Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis with Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco not constantly chirping in his ear Sunday. Ochocinco didn’t make the trip to Baltimore due to an ankle injury that’s going to require offseason surgery. “I really haven’t thought too much about that talking part of it, but they have good receivers,” Harbaugh said. “They have good, young guys that showed up pretty well last week, and we’re going to have to cover whoever they put out there. But I really like their talented young guys, and Carson [Palmer] seems comfortable with them.” … Harbaugh said he has no preference on which team the Ravens face in first round of the postseason, which could be the Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs or the Jacksonville Jaguars if they remain the fifth seed. “Yeah, you get focused in,” he said. “We’ve done all the preliminary work on the possibilities of who we might play, and it’ll be nice to get honed in then on who it is.” … The Ravens have had trouble with Bengals running back Cedric Benson in the past and are bracing to stop him Sunday. “Well, if you don’t stop the run against the Bengals, they’ll keep running it,” Harbaugh said. “And they’ll keep running it anyway. They’re very committed to the run game. They do it as well as anybody in the league. You have to stop the run against Cincinnati.” … Cameron said he doesn’t buy into the theory that quarterback Joe Flacco can’t solve Cover 2 schemes. He busted into laughter at the question. “There’s nothing to back it up,” he said. “I really have never stood behind a mike and defended one of my quarterbacks. You just kind of let that stuff float around out there, and you just encourage people to just go do the due diligence on it and see what you find. That would be my encouragement to you. Just getting into trying to defend a guy on stuff like that is really ridiculous because this guy is playing extremely well against all coverages.”