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News » Veteran FB Neal fits nicely into Ravens offense

Veteran FB Neal fits nicely into Ravens offense

Veteran FB Neal fits nicely into Ravens offense
WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) - Wearing an unfamiliar number and droopy shorts that nearly covered his calves, Lorenzo Neal made a solid first impression Wednesday during his initial practice with the Baltimore Ravens.

Feeling right at home in Cam Cameron's offense, the Pro Bowl fullback bulled up the middle to open holes for an assortment of running backs. It's the same job he's done, quite efficiently, over the past 15 years.

"I understand you're a grown man playing a kid's game," Neal said, "and this is a great way to make a living."

After being cut by the San Diego Chargers in February, the 37-year-old Neal was virtually ignored despite making it clear he had no desire to retire. The 5-foot-11, 255-pounder stayed in excellent shape, and finally began preparing his return to the NFL after taking a call from Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome about a week and a half ago.

Neal subsequently worked out for Tampa Bay and was contacted by Detroit, but picked the Ravens because they asked him first. He signed a one-year contract Tuesday and was banging helmets with his new teammates less than 24 hours later.

His acclimation with the offense was made easier by his relationship with Cameron. Neal was San Diego's starting fullback when Cameron was the team's offensive coordinator from 2003-06, and both are delighted to be together again in Baltimore.

"He's been in the system, which helps, but he gives us another physical guy," Cameron said. "He gives us some flexibility at running back with Willis (McGahee) being dinged up. It also allows (fullback) Le'Ron McClain to play tailback if we need him to."

Neal participated in practice wearing a No. 42 jersey without his name on the back. His usual number, 41, has been assigned to cornerback Frank Walker, with whom Neal expects to soon be involved in a negotiating session.

"I'll probably have to spend some money to get my old number back," Neal conceded.

In 15 seasons with New Orleans, New York Jets, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Cincinnati and San Diego, Neal has 214 carries for 782 yards. But running with the ball is not really his job; his task is to unselfishly plow a path for his backfield mate.

Few people in the game today do it better than Neal, lead blocker for a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the past 11 seasons.

"I know my job. I don't need to run the ball," he said. "I'm just here to hit guys, be the battering ram that I can be. When you say Baltimore Ravens, you know defense. I was brought here to bring a physical attitude to the offense."

He is no stranger to his new teammates, many of whom lined up against Neal twice a season when he played with the Bengals and Titans.

"The thing about him is that the players all know him," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "They all respect him. All of our linebackers have been hit by him. Kelly Gregg has been hit by him. As a matter of fact, he threw off Kelly Gregg's face mask a few years ago. Kelly still has the face mask in his den."

In Neal, the Ravens have a player who blocks with his upper body and arrives with a chip on his shoulder. Although he broke his leg during the latter part of the 2007 season, Neal was disappointed and upset that he had to wait at home for months during the offseason as an unwanted free agent.

"I kind of feel like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Because of my age, I got left out of the game," he said. "I think that was the toughest part of sitting out, knowing you're still in great shape, knowing you can still run, knowing you're still ready to compete. Those people out there that doubted me, I'm back. And I'm coming after you."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: August 13, 2008

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