Oniel Cousins’ ambition goes much further than being relegated to backup status on the Baltimore Ravens’ depth chart.
One year removed from throat surgery to remove a noncancerous cyst, Cousins remains intent on earning a starting job despite the arrival of third-round draft pick Jah Reid.
"I’m not just trying to be on the roster, my goal is to be the starting right tackle," Cousins said Friday in Westminster during Derrick Mason’s youth football camp. "I said that last year, but it didn’t play out like that obviously for health reasons or whatever it is. I know I can do it. I believe in myself. My family believes in me and I hope the coaches believe in me, too."
Heading into his fourth NFL season, the Jamaica native’s situation is complicated by the added presence of Reid and the unresolved free agent status of incumbent right tackle Marshal Yanda.
If Yanda returns via a new contract, the Ravens would ideally like to shift him back to his natural right guard spot.
Under that scenario, Cousins would have to beat out Reid, a rangy All-Conference USA blocker, and Ramon Harewood, a sixth-round draft pick from Morehouse who missed his entire rookie season due to a pair of knee surgeries.
What did Cousins think when the Ravens drafted Reid and coach John Harbaugh declared that he would immediately contend for the right tackle position?
"In the back of your mind, you’re kind of wondering, ‘Do they not believe in me enough?’" Cousins said. "The more you spend time thinking about that stuff, the more it’s going to get in your head. What I can control is go out there and prove and show them that I can play and help the team win and achieve a common goal: to win a Super Bowl. It is what it is. I ain’t going to sit here and say, ‘I’m pissed off.’"
Cousins endured a major health scare last summer that effectively derailed his chances after starting three games two seasons ago.
The cyst on his esophagus and operation forced him to start last training camp on the physically unable to perform list.
"I’m glad we found out early," Cousins said. "I didn’t wait and let it get worse."
Cousins initially had difficulty swallowing food and lifting weights because the surgery went through his chest.
Although he played in every game, Cousins only started once as Yanda had a banner season on the right side.
"No excuses, it is what it is, but it did set me off a little bit," Cousins said. "You can’t ever look back at the past. You have to move forward and try to make yourself better.
"There’s always frustrations, but I played my role. What I can control is whenever we start back up I can go out there and show them what I can do."
Cousins is noticeable bigger and stronger than a year ago when he was listed at 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, saying he has bulked up to roughly 325 pounds.
"I feel really good, I feel way better than last year coming off my surgery," Cousins said. "I’ve been pretty consistent with my workouts. I’ve been putting on muscle the right way."
Like many of the campers at McDaniel College this week, Cousins had a limited football background growing up and concentrated on soccer.
He didn’t begin playing football until he was a sophomore in high school.
"I’ve improved a lot," Cousins said.
Cousins insisted that he’s not disappointed that he hasn’t established himself as a starter yet.
"My mentality wasn’t that I was going to start the first year, but I didn’t want to wait and see," Cousins said. "I came in here and I knew I had to work on a lot. It could have been then or now. The time frame doesn’t matter."
Cousins made a name for himself as a rookie because of his pugilistic nature.
He got into several fist fights with teammates on the practice field, never backing down an inch from older defensive players.
"Yeah, offensive line, you can’t be passive," Cousins said. "You have to be aggressive. People think offensive linemen are passive because we’re always backing up and trying to hold people or punch or whatever. You want to show them you’re here to make a statement."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times