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Ravens CB Williams mounts impressive salary drive

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Ravens CB Williams mounts impressive salary drive

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) It was with no small amount of angst that cornerback Cary Williams declined a $15 million, three-year offer from the Baltimore Ravens during the past offseason.

Williams thought he was worth more. And lately, it's looking like he might be right.

After playing in 42 NFL games without an interception, Williams has picked off four passes in his last five games. He leads the AFC in interceptions, and his efficient play has taken some of the sting out of the loss of injured cornerback Lardarius Webb.

``He's a guy that I really believe in,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Williams. ``Cary is a competitor. Cary is a fighter. Cary wants to do well so badly, and he's kind of an emotional guy. That's one of the things that I love about him.''

Williams, 27, took a rather unconventional route to the Baltimore defensive backfield - beginning with his trip out of Liberty City, the Florida neighborhood where he was born and raised.

``It's one of the murder capitals in the world. It's dark and there's not a lot of hope,'' Williams said Wednesday. ``You see people getting killed, friends dying over drugs and gang violence. It's a struggle to get through.''

Williams then played two seasons at Fordham and two at Washburn University in Kansas before being selected in the seventh round of the 2008 draft by Tennessee.

He spent the majority of his first season on the Titans' practice squad before being signed by the Ravens in late November 2009. After first being used almost exclusively on special teams, Williams started all 16 games last year.

In August, he spurned Baltimore's three-year contract offer, taking the chance that he will be worth more to the Ravens - or another team - next year.

``I felt like I was worth more. I felt like I brought a lot of the table,'' Williams said. ``There were a lot of third (string) corners that were getting more than that. In my eyes, I felt like I deserved a lot better. I think I played up to that billing thus far in the season.''

Lately, yes he has. Not so much in September, especially in a game against New England in which Tom Brady repeatedly picked on Williams instead of throwing on Webb's side of the field.

Brady ``made me a better player,'' Williams said. ``I'm not perfect. Some days, guys are going to have better games than you. I understand that's part of growing up, I'm a younger guy. I haven't had much game experience until last season. I want to put my best foot forward. Fortunately for me, I've been doing it the last few weeks.''

The trend started immediately after the New England game, when Williams took his first NFL interception 63 yards for a touchdown in a 23-16 win over Cleveland. He followed that with pickoffs against Kansas City and Dallas, then came up empty at Houston before intercepting a pass last weekend in Cleveland.

Williams hopes to keep the momentum going Sunday when the Ravens (6-2) host Oakland (3-5).

``People can say it's the contract negotiations or he's going into his last year, whatever, but Cary is a focused football player,'' Ravens safety Bernard Pollard said. ``People have said all sorts of crazy things about him, people have dogged him, but nobody understands that he's his worst critic. We're his worst critic. We want greatness from everybody.''

Williams isn't motivated by money. He wants to be an exceptional football player, and if he achieves that goal he will be paid accordingly.

``Fifteen million dollars is a great deal and it's a wonderful opportunity,'' he said. ``But at the end of the day, my scope has never been small. I take that from days I grew up in Liberty City. I want to continue to strive for more and greater things.''

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Will Suggs still be an impact player when he comes off PUP?

Will Suggs still be an impact player when he comes off PUP?

Clifton Brown and Bo Smolka are taking turns putting 25 key Ravens under the microscope leading up to veterans reporting to training camp. They’ll speculate on a best-case, worst-case scenario for at least one player every day, concluding with quarterback Joe Flacco on July 25.

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: Terrell Suggs, 33-year-old outside linebacker

Best-case scenario:

Suggs makes a full recovery from Achilles injury and returns as a double-digit sack artist and three-down linebacker.

Why it could happen:

Suggs knows people are wondering how much quality football he has left. It’s dangerous to write off great players too soon. Suggs would love to silence skeptics with a strong season, and if some of the young Ravens pass rushers develop, they won’t have to overwork Suggs. If he stays healthy once he comes off the PUP list, a player with Suggs’ talent and experience can still be a valuable defensive leader.

Worst-case scenario:

The Achilles injury limits what Suggs can do, and he is no longer an impact player.

Why it could happen:

It’s asking a lot of Suggs to remain a cog in the Ravens’ defense, after 106 ½ career sacks, and entering his 14th NFL season. Sooner or later, the NFL road will end for Suggs, just like it ended for his former great defensive teammates like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. It will be interesting to hear Suggs’ thoughts on his career when he meets with the media Wednesday. If 2016 is not Suggs’ last ride, the end of the journey is getting closer.

RELATED: FIVE YOUNG PASS RUSHERS TO WATCH

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Five young pass rushers to watch, with Suggs and Dumervil on PUP

Five young pass rushers to watch, with Suggs and Dumervil on PUP

With Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil starting training camp on the PUP list, the Ravens’ young pass rushers have an opportunity to show what they’ve got.

It’s not surprising, or overly alarming, that Suggs (Achilles) and Dumervil (foot) aren’t ready to participate in full-team practices, which begin Thursday. The priority for them is to be ready by Week 1.

But the reality is that Suggs is 33 years old and Dumervil is 32 – closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. Remember when the Ravens loaded up on pass rushers in the draft? Training camp and the preseason will shed light on which young pass rushers are ready to contribute, and which ones are not.

RELATED: RAVENS NAME SIX PLAYERS TO THE PUP LIST

Here are five young Ravens pass rushers to watch closely during training camp and the preseason:

Kamalei Correa, rookie OLB

Correa might see more time at inside linebacker as a rookie, because the Ravens are looking for a starting inside linebacker next to C. J. Mosley. However, Correa’s skills as a pass-rushing outside linebacker at Boise St. convinced the Ravens he was worthy of being a second-round pick. If Correa is getting pressure on quarterbacks, the Ravens will find consistent snaps for him.

Matt Judon, rookie DE

He led the nation in sacks last season with 20 at Grand Valley State. As a fifth-round pick, Judon is making a major leap to the NFL and he is raw. But he also has size (6-foot-3, 275 pounds) and athleticism. Judon could earn an immediate role as a situational pass rusher.

Bronson Kaufusi, rookie DE

He’s huge (6-foot-6, 285 pounds). He’s mature, already 25 years old after completing a two-year Mormon mission before attending BYU. And he’s athletic, good enough to spend one season on BYU’s basketball team before focusing on football. The Ravens’ third-round pick, Kaufusi could also earn a role as a situational pass rusher.

Victor Ochi, undrafted OLB

Ochi (6-foot-1, 245 pounds) has a body build like Dumervil – powerful with a low center of gravity. The Ravens have had at least one undrafted rookie make their roster for 12 straight years. Ochi could extend that streak. He was hoping to be the first player from Stony Brook ever drafted. Now he’s hoping to prove he should have been drafted.   

Za’Darius Smith, second-year OLB

Smith finished strong as a rookie. Of his 5 ½ sacks, 3 ½ came over the final three games. According to Smith, Ravens coach John Harbaugh wants 10 sacks from Smith this season. If Smith becomes a double-digit sack artist, the Ravens’ pass rush will take a major leap.

MORE RAVENS: WILL SMITH'S BODY BETRAY HIM AGAIN?

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Suggs, Smith among six Ravens named to PUP list

Suggs, Smith among six Ravens named to PUP list

The Ravens announced six players placed on the physically unable to perform list Saturday - linebacker Terrell Suggs, wide receivers Steve Smith Sr. and Breshad Perriman, linebacker Elvis Dumervil, running back Trent Richardson, and cornerback Jumal Rolle.

Quarterback Joe Flacco (knee), cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot), tight end Dennis Pitta (hip), and cornerback Will Davis (knee) were not placed on PUP, indicating they were ready for the team’s first full-team training camp practice Thursday.

Any player on the PUP list can be activated and return to practice at any point prior to the regular season. Once a player is placed on the regular-season PUP list, he must sit out at least the first six weeks of the regular season.

RELATED: WILL SMITH'S BODY BETRAY HIM AGAIN?

Rolle (Achilles injury) is expected to miss the entire season. Here’s the breakdown on the other five PUP list players:

Suggs – He still has not fully recovered from his season-ending Achilles injury suffered in Week 1 last September. Suggs is scheduled to meet with the media Wednesday, where further details about his progress should be revealed.

Smith Sr. – Also recovering from a season-ending Achilles injury suffered in November. Smith said he would not care if he missed the entire preseason. His priority is to be ready by Week 1.

Perriman – He suffered a knee injury during minicamp which did not require season-ending surgery. However, Perriman has still not played a preseason or regular season game since being drafted in the first round in 2015. After two knee injuries in two years, the Ravens have every reason to be cautious with Perriman until they think he is ready to return.

Dumervil – He had offseason foot surgery after playing through pain last season. Dumervil missed mandatory minicamp, but did not sound concerned about being ready for Week 1.

Richardson – His lingering hamstring issue could ruin his bid for an NFL comeback. The Ravens are deep at running back, and Richardson needs to get healthy to have any chance to win a roster spot.

MORE RAVENS: FLACCO HAS LONG ODDS FOR MVP