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Weaver nets Nest honor

April 04, 2004|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

All Baltimore Ravens defensive end Anthony Weaver had to do was look at the guys who have won the Tri-State Ravens Nest 12 Lineman of the Year award to know he was in select company.

"A couple of other guys who have been honored, Rob Burnett and Lionel Dalton, those guys are Super Bowl-champion linemen, and to be recognized with those guys is truly an honor," said Weaver, who accepted the award during the fifth annual awards banquet Saturday at the Four Points Sheraton in Hagerstown.

Weaver, in his own words, has "come a long way" since his days at Notre Dame, where he earned Honorable Mention All-American honors as a senior following a standout season in which he recorded 21 tackles for a loss and seven sacks on the way to becoming a second-round pick by the Ravens in 2002.

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"I think playing at Notre Dame prepared me for the league," Weaver said. "The expectations are so high and you have to deal with the pressure and the media, and it's almost like an entry exam."

Very few things - even playing under the intense spotlight in South Bend - can prepare a player for life in the NFL, a lesson Weaver had to learn like many others.

"In college, I was on the ground maybe all of five plays," Weaver said, "and I was on the ground more than that in my first minicamp."

Weaver was thrown into the fire immediately, starting all 16 games in his rookie campaign. With tutelage from the now-retired Michael McCrary - a standout defensive end on the Ravens' Super Bowl XXXV championship team - Weaver steadily improved.

"I learned a lot from McCrary about small technique things I had to clean up," Weaver said. "In college, you can use your strength and speed to overpower people, but my pass rush moves needed tweaking."

After two seasons, Weaver has become an integral and established part of Baltimore's always-tough defense, including Pro Bowlers Peter Boulware, Ed Reed, Chris McAlister and the undisputed leader, Ray Lewis.

"One of the things I respect about Ray is he never takes a play off, whether in practice or in games," Weaver said. "He's a natural leader because of his actions."

It's that defense - along with 2,000-yard rusher Jamal Lewis - that led Baltimore to the AFC North division title with a 10-6 record last year and has the Ravens thinking Super Bowl this year.

"We feel we're a team on the brink," Weaver said. "We felt we had a team that could get to the Super Bowl last year, and unfortunately we lost to Tennessee, but we think we can get there again."

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