The Ravens have had reason to be excited about the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s past induction ceremonies.
General manager Ozzie Newsome has been in attendance when three players to suit up for Baltimore, Rod Woodson, Shannon Sharpe and Deion Sanders, took their places among the greatest to play the game. But this weekend will be a little different.
Newsome will be presenting his first Ravens draft pick as the organization’s first true Hall of Famer when offensive lineman Jonathan Ogden is enshrined in Canton tonight.
Newsome, semi-jokingly, ties his own place in the Ravens’ successful history to Ogden.
“I can probably say it this way: If we don’t pick Jonathan Ogden with that first pick, I may not have this job,” Newsome said. “Jonathan (was) very good, but he got better. And if it wasn’t for the toe (injury in 2007), Jonathan could have probably played another four or five years. But he decided to walk away from the game.
“To steal a quote: ‘You never leave home without him.’ When we had Jonathan, we didn’t care who we were playing. We played against some of the best pass-rushers - guys that have gone into the Hall of Fame. But when we had Jonathan, we didn’t worry about those guys. That’s how important ... We didn’t have to worry about keeping backs in, chipping, tight ends staying in to chip or help. We had Jonathan. And when you have someone like that, it just expands your offense and your ability to do things.”
When it was the Ravens’ turn to draft in 1996, there was some guessing about whether they’d go with Ogden out of UCLA or running back Lawrence Phillips out of Nebraska.
Newsome said there was no question in the war room.
“If Jonathan would have been picked, then we would have taken Lawrence Phillips,” Newsome said. “But, in that he was not picked and he was still available, then he was clearly the No. 1-rated player on our board, and that’s why we took him.”
There were a lot of reasons Ogden was so desirable to the Ravens.
“Football is a hard game. It’s hard to play. Jonathan made it look so easy,” Newsome said. “I don’t know if he even had to sweat half the time when he was out there playing. He played against some very competitive people. He made the game look so easy with the way he played it. That’s because of the way he prepared. ...
“I think (intelligence is) why the game was so easy for Jonathan. It wasn’t just because he was athletic, and he was competitive. He had the intellect also. He had the ability to understand schemes, what other people were doing on defense, and that made the game so much easier for him to play. ...
“I think if you could just take silence and the meaning of silence, Jonathan did his job so well you didn’t even know he was on the field. The way he carried himself as a player, you didn’t even know he was on the team. I just think of Jonathan as someone who was just silence - nothing. When he was playing, when he was living in this community, you never heard anything about it. You just got a chance to see how effective he was.”
It didn’t hurt that Ogden had the exact specifications you’d want in a left tackle.
“That’s the poster child. And the thing about Jonathan - he was 6-8, 340-plus, but Jonathan could bend and get his weight down to be able to block the 6-1 and the 6-2 defensive lineman,” Newsome said.
Newsome sees this weekend as a special one since he gets to go back to the Hall of Fame to watch his first draft pick and a major part of Ravens history be immortalized as one of the greatest offensive linemen of all time.
“Watching his career, being a part of his career, seeing how it transpired - he played at a Hall of Fame level. He had the longevity. He played in and won a Super Bowl, but to be able to be there at the outset and then to be there (when) he’s going in, I don’t think I can put it into words,” Newsome said. “It’s so different. I guess all of us have - most of us - have probably had a child in your life, and (it’s like) watching a child grow up and then maybe seeing them go off to school for the first time.
“The foundation of this franchise stands on the shoulder of Jonathan as well as Ray (Lewis). But Jonathan was first. To be able to have someone like that, and then if you combine that with Ray, that anytime that a player walked into that locker room for the first 12 years, they saw what it took to be a Raven. Jonathan was a big part of that because of the way he practiced, the way he prepared and the way he carried himself off the field.”