Ravens defensive tackle Dwan Edwards has long made basketball a large part of his offseason training program.
He would play pickup games up to four times per week at area high schools with anyone willing to lace up their sneakers.
But after a few seasons of matching up against teammates and college athletes, even Edwards had to admit guarding Baltimore Oriole legend Cal Ripken, Jr., was a challenge he never could have expected.
That's where the unexpectedly nimble, 295-pound Edwards found himself earlier this week, maintaining a fundamental defensive stance across the baseball Hall-of-Famer.
Edwards was participating in a scrimmage at Ripken's Maryland home Monday evening along with running back Ray Rice, forming a trio of mixed-up Baltimore sports figures.
"He's a big guy, which was surprising," Edwards said of Ripken, who played in his heyday at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. "He tries to bang down in the post. I'm not too small either, so I think I hold my own, but he's definitely got some game.
"I actually had played at his house before, and I ran into one of the guys who said they needed some bodies. I'm always looking for a good game."
And even though he works out nearly every day at the castle-like Ravens headquarters in Owings Mills, Md., complete with a half basketball court and two racquetball courts, Edwards was impressed with Ripken's digs.
"He's got a great setup out there, with locker rooms and his own jerseys," Edwards added with a smile. "It's pretty sweet."
Edwards knows that basketball is only a leisure activity at this point in the offseason, however.
After sitting out the entire 2008 campaign with a neck/back injury, Edwards considers football preparation his full-time job.
The Oregon State product came into his own in 2007, when he registered 13 starts for an injured Trevor Pryce. That year, Edwards posted a career-best 58 tackles, and his first-career sack and interception.
When the Ravens didn't make the playoffs because of their 5-11 showing, Edwards was hungry to again show that he was worth 51st-overall pick in the 2004 draft.
That didn't happen, as he landed on Injured Reserve when he landed on Injured Reserve following Baltimore's second preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings.
It took all Edwards' might to sit back and watch his teammates advance to the AFC Championship without him.
"It was very disappointing," Edwards said. "I felt like the way I was playing going into camp, I was one of the better D-linemen on our team. To have that letdown and not being able to play after putting in all that hard work was disappointing.
"One of the hardest things is watching our team play the way they did last year. I wanted to be a part of that, but I had to watch. You just have to keep going and use that motivation to get better every day."
Edwards, whose wife, Kelsey, and two children live with him in Baltimore, thinks it's been easy to remain dedicated to his training.
"I want to make sure my body is right so I'm ready to go when we start up," he simply said. "And, my wife's sick of hearing me complain about not being able to play. I just want to get out there."
Edwards signed a one-year contract extension in December and will join one of the most formidable defensive lines in the league - should everything go according to plan - with Haloti Ngata, Pryce, Justin Bannan, Brandon McKinney and Kelly Gregg, who is successfully rehabbing a knee injury that required micro fracture surgery.
Last season, the Ravens were NFL's third-stingiest unit against the run, did not allow a 100-yard rusher and only gave up four rushing touchdowns to set a franchise record.
"I'm excited about this group right now," Edwards explained. "I think it could go down as one of the best the Ravens have had. I'm proud about being a strength of the team, and I think we're going to have a huge impact next year.
"Having everybody healthy is going to be huge. No matter who's in there, we'll be fresh and ready to go."
At least Edwards knows he'll have conditioned lungs after running up and down the hardwood so much this spring and summer.
The Ravens released linebacker Nick Greisen Thursday. Greisen only made five tackles from scrimmage last season, but he was a special teams contributor with 12 stops. The seven-year veteran has been a vital backup at inside linebacker for Ray Lewis during his two-year stint in Baltimore. ... Running back Willis McGahee changed his jersey number from the No. 23 he originally wore as a Raven to the No. 21 he sported for the majority of his career. No. 21 used to belong to the recently released Chris McAlister. Cornerback Domonique Foxworth will don No. 24.