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About this time last year, Tavares Gooden was about to win the Ravens’ starting “Jack” linebacker spot, but various injuries and some inspired play from Dannell Ellerbe took away that designation as 2009 came to a close.
One year later, Gooden knows he has yet another climb up the depth chart ahead, and to him, it begins now.
“This is a game of ‘what have you done for me lately,’ and I’m not going to say I’m happy with where I’m at,” Gooden told BaltimoreRavens.com. “The door was opened for me to start. I beat everybody out by working hard and competing. I wasn’t just given that spot in the summertime.”
He played in 13 games (12 starts), but was limited at different points by groin, knee and head ailments. When Gooden was held out, Ellerbe excelled, and then never relinquished the first-string status.
“I love to compete,” Gooden said. “I’ve been doing it since I was 10, and nothing has changed. This is going to be another one of those years.”
Gooden is focused not only on getting in shape during the Ravens’ voluntary offseason conditioning program, but also guarding against further injuries.
Moving forward, the training room has been just as important as the weight room for Gooden, as the battle for “Jack” between Gooden, Ellerbe and Brendon Ayanbadejo will be closely watched.
“Health is not an issue now,” Gooden said. “I want to leave it on the field and not take anything home. That’s why I’m always going full speed. That’s the type of player I am.
“I’ve always worked so hard in the weight room, and now I’m working hard in the training room, so when the season comes around, there are no setbacks.”
Gooden doesn’t want to sound as if he has sour grapes, however. He contributed in any way he could, whether it was at linebacker, where he notched 52 tackles, or through his 13 special teams stops.
“Next year, I want to grow my role as much as I can, but now we know that we have depth at linebacker and we can all stay healthy,” said Gooden. “We have ways of rotating people, and coach [Greg] Mattison knows how to use his players. I’m looking forward to having fun this year, because you can only control what you can control.”