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Burly fullback Le’Ron McClain hit the hole on the Ravens’ first full-contact play of the 2009 season and was promptly met by safety Dawan Landry.
It was a moment nearly a year in the making.
Landry knew he would have to wait until training camp to be fully confident that he had recovered from the spinal cord concussion he suffered in September of 2008. In that game, against the Cleveland Browns, Landry was carted off the field when running back Jamal Lewis’ knee hit him on the crown of the helmet.
The former fifth-round draft pick could only smile when asked about the shot he delivered in Friday’s practice.
“I feel great,” he said. “Everything’s fine. I just went and hit Le’Ron. I think they probably knew I was going to go.”
And go he did.
Landry said that the Ravens’ coaches weren’t calling for him to blitz on purpose, but it was fitting that he got an early chance to rush from the secondary. With Jim Leonhard, who excelled when he filled in for the injured Landry, joining the New York Jets, the Ravens need Landry to step back in to his starting role
“I never second-guessed it,” Landry explained. “Whenever the live period was going to come, I knew I was going to hit somebody.”
Landry impressed coaches this offseason by being one of the most dedicated workers on the team. The player nicknamed “Whop” for the sound of his pads crunching against a poor ball carrier cuts a trim 208-pound figure despite the massive biceps that poke out from underneath his shoulder pads.
“This guy works harder than anybody I’ve ever seen,” head coach John Harbaugh said of Landry. “He’s just the hardest worker you’ll find in this league. Every bit of success he has, everybody should be happy for him. He’s ready to go.”
Mentally, Landry always had confidence in his ability to come back from such a scary injury. After all, he participated in the majority of Baltimore’s offseason minicamps.
But physically, Friday’s session was a milestone.
“He took a whop in practice a few months ago and bounced right back up and laughed about it,” said secondary coach Mark Carrier. “That showed that he was mentally ready. You want to see what happened on the next play, and he showed no ill effects.”