An Investment in Oher

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Michael Oher  felt he let his new teammates down when he did not report to Ravens training camp on time.

But two-day holdout aside, that sense of accountability is exactly what the Ravens like about the offensive tackle.

Oher finally arrived on Thursday and took the field with his fellow rookies and all veterans after signing his new five-year contract. Now, Oher is determined to give the Ravens a return on their investment.

"I was disappointed I couldn't show up the first day when the rookies reported," Oher said at his introductory press conference in Westminster, Md. "I felt like I let my teammates down, but I put all my trust in my agent. He steered me in the right direction. I'm pleased to be here today and I'm very excited the Ravens decided to pick me.

"I'm very relieved that I'm in camp with my teammates and able to practice," he continued. "All I can do now is play football and give back to them because they gave a lot to me."

In fact, it took some slick negotiating from Oher's agent, Jimmy Sexton, and Ravens vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty.

When both parties agreed to the terms, which have been reported as a total value of $13.8 million and $7.8 million in guaranteed money, only five first-round draft picks were signed. Teams typically slot their contract offerings according to where the player was selected.

"It was an issue, but when you have a veteran guy like Jimmy Sexton and a veteran guy like Pat that have been in the wars and dealt with the first-round picks at the top and bottom of the draft, they were able to step outside of the box a little bit and project what they thought the slot would be," said general manager Ozzie Newsome. "Most importantly, we try to do what we would consider a 'Raven deal,' and we felt that what we got with Michael was a Raven deal."

The deal is especially momentous for Oher considering his background. Homeless at times as a child, Oher was taken in by an affluent family in Memphis and developed into a star on the gridiron.

He went on to become a First-team All-American at the University of Mississippi, and then the 23rd-overall pick.

Oher's journey was documented in a *New York Times *best-selling book titled "The Blind Side: The Evolution of the Game," which Newsome admitted was his summer reading. The story is also being made into a movie that debuts this year.

Instead of dwelling on his extraordinary past, Oher chooses to look to the future.

"It's special, but you have to forget where you came from and move forward and continue to work hard," stated the 6-foot-4, 310-pounder.

Oher is slated to start at right tackle, completing a young and promising offensive line that can follow the lead of six-time Pro Bowler Matt Birk*and coaches John Matsko and Andy Moeller*.

The Ravens feel Oher will also help in the progression of second-year quarterback Joe Flacco, who became the first rookie in NFL history to win two playoff games last season.

And, with Oher, Jared Gaither, Oniel CousinsAdam Terry and Joe Reitz on the roster, the offensive tackle position has solid depth.

"We sat here a year ago saying that we've drafted a quarterback and hopefully we don't have to deal with that," Newsome noted. "Maybe the offensive tackle spot is taken care of. And every time we get something nailed down – and I'm sure there's always something else to look for – but getting one thing nailed down has allowed you to concentrate on others."

Oher never wanted to miss any part of training camp. He cared too much about the franchise that jumped three spots in the draft to take him.

Every word that comes out of Oher's mouth demonstrates his desire to prove he was worth it.

"I don't want to let my teammates down," he said. "I wanted to be there with them and go through everything they're going through. I would just tell them to hurry up and get me in camp." 

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