Commentary

Ex-Louisville star Elvis Dumervil must be a Ravens leader

The Baltimore SunMay 25, 2013 

Ravens Dumervil Football

Baltimore Ravens' new defensive end Elvis Dumervil answers questions after being introduced during an NFL football news conference Tuesday, March 26, 2013, in Owings Mills, Md.(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

GAIL BURTON — ASSOCIATED PRESS

BALTIMORE — Elvis Dumervil had just settled in to meet the media after the Ravens' workout Wednesday when a voice rang out behind the semi-circle of TV cameras, tape recorders and notebooks.

"What the hell, Elvis?!" Joe Flacco yelled in mock outrage.

The Ravens' quarterback was pretending to be upset that Dumervil was going before him at the podium, even though talking to reporters is something Flacco enjoys about as much as heartburn.

Dumervil just shrugged and smiled. There are perks for being a three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher and the Ravens' biggest off-season acquisition, too. And maybe he was getting his first taste of that in Baltimore with a breeze to the podium.

In any event, Wednesday's OTAs provided our first real look at Dumervil, the 29-year-old outside linebacker who left the Denver Broncos because of a clerical error — you could Google it, it's a hoot — and signed a five-year deal with the Ravens that could pay him as much as $35 million.

First impressions? I've got a few.

He's not very tall — listed at 5-foot-11, which means he's probably closer to 5-10, since everybody in the NFL lies about their height and weight.

But he has a massive chest — he looked like he's wearing a small refrigerator door under that jersey. He moves well and loves being in the weight room and around his new teammates at the Under Armour Performance Center, where he might as well have his own room and key.

"He's been here every day," John Harbaugh said. "He hasn't missed one thing since he's been here. I feel like he's emerging as a leader for our football team, and he's had no problems learning the defense."

But here's the thing: The former Louisville Cardinal doesn't seem to want to hear about that leader stuff — at least not yet.

The questions were understandable, of course. The Ravens defense underwent a complete overhaul in the off-season. Gone are the great Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, as well as Bernard Pollard, Dannell Ellerbe, Cary Williams and Paul Kruger.

Someone has to step up to fill that leadership void. It can't all fall on the shoulders of Terrell Suggs, who's coming back from both a torn Achilles tendon and a torn biceps, too.

And who better to fill it than a high-motor veteran who had 63 sacks and 17 forced fumbles in his six seasons in Denver?

Still, Dumervil appears to want no part of that conversation.

When asked if he thought the coaches were pushing him to be a leader to some of the younger guys, he shook his head.

"I wouldn't call it pushing," he said. "I'm just coming here, just being who I am. I think I learned a lot from a lot of good guys when I came into the game, (former Broncos) Al Wilson, John Lynch, Rod Smith and (current Denver safety) Champ Bailey ... I think before you become a good leader, you've got to follow."

Well, maybe.

But the Ravens aren't bringing Dumervil to Baltimore and paying him all that loot to be a follower.

This is an impact player who led the league with 17 sacks four years ago for the Broncos. This is a guy who averaged 12.5 sacks over his last three seasons, a guy who should team with Suggs to give the Ravens one of the best pass-rushing twosomes in the league.

But they need him to be a leader, too.

Oh, you can't blame Dumervil for not wanting to big-foot anyone and act like he's proclaiming himself the next Ray Lewis.

He's just trying to fit in with his new teammates right now, trying to learn a new system and all that's expected of him in Dean Pees' defense. But at some point this season, Dumervil will have to step up and lead. He might not be "The Man" on this defense — that role goes to Suggs right now.

But Dumervil has to be way more than a follower on this young team, that's for sure.

What's clear so far, though, is that Dumervil is fitting in just fine with the Ravens. He said he's not thinking yet about the first game of the season, when the Ravens will travel to Denver to play his old team on national TV, the same team that let him go after one of the biggest contract screw-ups of all time.

At the time, Dumervil said he'd be playing this season with a chip on his shoulder.

And now?

"I have a brick wall now," he said Wednesday.

Funny, that's how leaders talk.

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