Ravens linebacker **Prescott Burgess** lasted eight games during his rookie campaign when a thigh injury landed him on Injured Reserve.
Last year, a broken wrist in the first preseason contest didn't even let him out of training camp.
So with only two seasons in the NFL and not much to show for it, Burgess knows he has a lot to prove in 2009. The good news for him is that he should have every opportunity to do just that with the Ravens' linebacking rotation currently up for grabs.
With Bart Scott following Rex Ryan to the New York Jets, **Tavares Gooden** is expected to step into Scott's starting spot alongside Ray Lewis!(/team/roster/ray-lewis/1c6d5ed3-fe49-4a89-a6b5-9e358e906ae7/ "Ray Lewis"). But behind Lewis and Gooden at inside linebacker, Burgess could be a key reserve. That role used to belong to veteran Nick Greisen, but he was not re-signed this offseason.
Even though special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo!(/team/roster/brendon-ayanbadejo/0e939635-1a76-4e0f-a8e4-525731af352f/ "Brendon Ayanbadejo") is still there, and the Ravens will likely add some more depth at the position through the draft, Burgess is just happy to have a chance to compete.
"Whatever my role is, I'm up to it," Burgess said. "I just want to be out there to play football. There is still a lot to prove for me, so I think if I get that opportunity, I can do that. All I need is a chance."
It has been a tough road for the former Michigan linebacker. Selected in the sixth round of the 2007 draft (207th overall), Burgess was an All-Big Ten Conference honorable mention honoree who posted 48 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions as a senior.
At 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, Burgess has the size to be a thumper to patrol the field, and a high school career as a highly-touted safety gives him the ability to drop in coverage, as well.
The versatile young talent promised to contribute to special teams before earning time on defense, and he tallied seven special teams tackles his first year as a Raven before the injuries hit.
Still, Burgess considers his two season-enders to be more along the lines of freak accidents than regular occurrences.
"These are two completely different injuries that don't normally happen to football players," said Burgess, who added that he never suffered a serious injury in college. "I tore my quad. That was unlucky, but not a football injury, really. Then, my wrist was broken. I don't know what happened. I've had a chance to get in the book more this offseason and meet with the coaches."
The most difficult part of coming back yet again has been the mental aspect of watching his professional career cut short by injuries that could strike any player.
"The mental part of it was the most challenging," Burgess affirmed. "Physically, I just had to get healthy before I could even look to the future. I started off doing light weight and moving that up to the point to where I could do 100 percent of what I can do."
Now, Burgess maintains that he is completely healthy.
He has been a regular at the Ravens' offseason conditioning program, which is run by strength and conditioning coach **Bob Rogucki** and assistant **John “Mother” Dunn**. It is just as demanding in the weight room as it is during training runs on the field.
For a guy that hasn't felt the camaraderie of competition for nearly an entire year, that is exactly how Burgess wants it.
"It's been a process," said the Warren, Ohio, native. "At first, you're down. But then, you have to look at like you have a chance to get better in the weight room and get your body to the point where you won't have that injury anymore. Since I've been healthy, I've been working hard with Mother and Bob to get stronger.
"I'm blessed to be back out there with my teammates. We're all competing in the runs and the weight room, and it's like a big family. Last year, I wasn't around as much. I felt like I got away from them a little, so I'm praying that I can stay out here for the long haul."
All defensive players that get drafted by the Ravens are immediately excited to play with what is annually one of the best units in the league. If Burgess can stay healthy, he might have a chance to add to that institution.
"I can't put myself down because I have two injuries in two seasons," he said. "I'm going to fight for my spot. That's my whole objective - to just go out and play. I want to show my coaches that I have the ability to contribute to the tradition of Ravens defense here."