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Now that Tom Zbikowski is going to hang up his boxing gloves for the time being and begin training to return to the gridiron, Haruki Nakamura expects a heated competition for the Ravens’ starting safety position.
Should Dawan Landry leave Baltimore via free agency, as the Ravens have allowed in the past with Ed Reed’s running mates (Jim Leonhard, Will Demps), it would likely be Nakamura or and Zbikowski jockeying for that spot.
If it gets to that point, Nakamura welcomes the battle with his good friend “Tommy Z.”
“The thing is, the coaches do a good job of making it competitive every year,” Nakamura told reporters at Ben Grubb’s charity softball game Sunday. “It’s not like, ‘Oh my God, this spot’s open this year.’ We compete every single year. We compete to make ourselves better.”
Nakamura has never started a game in his three-year career, but he has seen time on the field in dime packages in addition to his special teams duties.
Last season, the former sixth-round draft pick tallied 16 tackles and 13 special teams stops.
When Reed has missed games in the past, it’s been Zbikowski who stepped in with the first unit, including six starts in 2010. Landry would likely keep the spot if he remains with the Ravens, as he dependably started all 16 contests in the last two years.
“Whoever ends up becoming the starter, it’s only because someone else improved their play,” said Nakamura. “That’s the way we’ve always looked at it, and that’s helped us build a tight-knit team. That’s why our cohesiveness is unmatched by a lot of other teams.”
Nakamura said he spoke with Zbikowski last week, and Zbikowski admitted that training for football was an entirely new kind of sore after he competed in three boxing matches this offseason.
“He was like, ‘I’m actually trying to do football training. This kind of hurts,’” Nakamura said with a laugh.
Nakamura said he got a kick out of watching Zbikowski fight. The safety went to Zbikowski’s March bout in Las Vegas, where Richard Bryant was felled in the first round by a devastating body blow.
“That was a blast. There were a bunch of us out there,” said Nakamura. “It was my first professional fight, and to see him on the undercard and to see the main event and the whole atmosphere was great.
“It’s his passion, it’s what he loves to do, and he’s very good at it.”