Ellerbe ready to claim starting spot for good

Dannell Ellerbe was the only undrafted free agent to make the Ravens’ 53-man roster last season.

He was inactive the first three games of the season, worked his way onto the field on defense and special teams by Week 4, and got the start at the Jack linebacker position for the Ravens’ last five games of the year (including two postseason contests).

In the Ravens’ regular season finale against the Raiders, Ellbere recorded his first career interception (which led to a key touchdown) and notched his first forced fumble. In Baltimore’s Divisional Round playoff loss to the Colts, he made a team-high 10 tackles.

How’s that for a rookie statement?


Now, after that impressive 2009 campaign, Ellerbe is out to prove that he can get the job done again in year two.

“I’m ready, ready as I’ve ever been,” Ellerbe said yesterday.

Even after earning the starting job in Week 15 last year, Ellerbe battled with Tavares Gooden and Jameel McClain for playing time down the stretch. Both of those guys, along with Brendon Ayanabdejo and Jason Phillips, will be in the mix for reps again this year.

Despite the competition, Ellerbe has remained in the starting Jack linebacker spot thus far in minicamps, earning reps next to Ray Lewis with the first team.

Asked if he felt he had firmly established himself as the starter, Ellerbe hesitated before saying that he believes that day isn’t far off.

“Not so much, but I feel like I’ve got a good shot,” Ellerbe said. “When it’s all said and done, I’ll have it set in stone that I’m the starter.”

One of the factors that Ellerbe thinks will help get him into that starting role is his conditioning.

Admitting that he was a little too bulky at the 243 pounds he played at last year, Ellerbe says that he plans on spending the rest of the offseason trying to trim down. He says monitoring his weight and being on top of his conditioning throughout the summer will allow him to report in good shape come training camp.

Sounds like a veteran already.

For Ellerbe, last year was all about acclimating himself to the NFL and the Ravens’ defense. Now that he’s got those steps checked off his to-do list, the 24-year-old says he’s looking forward to getting back to work and prepping for the 2010 season.

“I’m real anxious, being that I know a lot more than what I knew last year,” Ellerbe said. “I feel like I know more than most second-year guys know because of the steady playing time and everything like that.

“It’s just [about] having fun now. The practices seem shorter than when I got here last year because I know what to expect. It’s just a fun time right now.”

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