Figurs Must Make Up Lost Ground

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Ravens wide receiver and return specialist Yamon Figurs knows he is facing a tough battle to catch on at both of his positions.

There is the crowded wideout group, headed by Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton, that also boasts a logjam of young prospects that have all made plays in training camp.

As for special teams, the Ravens cast a shadow over Figurs' chances when they signed talented returner Chris Carr to a two-year contract in free agency and drafted the electrifying Lardarius Webb in the third round.

That's why Figurs hopes to continue to turn heads like he did in Tuesday's training camp practice when he raced down the field past cornerback Evan Oglesby and made a 45-yard fingertip grab from quarterback John Beck.

"It's always a fight to keep your spot," Figurs said. "I'm confident in what I can do, and now I have to go out and make some plays every practice, every day."

The sequence, which drew delighted cheers from the large crowd in attendance, showcased what Figurs does best: run fast.

The former high school track star blazed a 4.3-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, the fastest from the Class of 2007.

Baltimore was so impressed with the Kansas State product that they selected him in the third round that year, primarily for his potential in the return game.

Figurs returned the Ravens' investment by becoming the first player – rookie or veteran – in franchise history to take a punt and kickoff return for a touchdown in the same season.

The following campaign wasn't as positive.

Last year, Figurs averaged only 6.0 yards per punt return and 21.0 yards on kickoffs.

Determined to get back on track for 2009, Figurs was a dedicated participant in the Ravens' conditioning program and minicamps until he broke a bone in his foot. Offseason surgery landed him on the Physically Unable to Perform list to open training camp, and the Fort Pierce, Fla., native was finally activated on Aug. 4.

"When you're starting practice after the beginning, you're playing catch-up learning the offense and everything," Figurs said. "I'm just going to go back to doing what I've been doing since I first got here.

"I was very excited to get out there and run," he continued. "I was working out before, running routes and stuff like that. I was doing that at practice, so that got me away from being tentative about it. I eased my way back into it."

Figurs, whose only catch last season was a 43-yard touchdown pass against the Houston Texans, is hoping to show that he's added "sure hands" to his football resume.

He believes he is ready to take the next step as a receiver. His first test on a grand stage comes this Thursday in the Ravens' preseason opener against the Washington Redskins.

"I know the playbook like that [snaps his fingers], so I'm just trying to learn everybody's position to play everything," Figurs said.

Still, he also must showcase his trademark speed to make up the ground lost to Carr and Webb as a returner.

On his first day back to practice last week, Figurs was asked by reporters if he still had it.

Without missing a beat, Figurs replied, "Yeah, I'm probably even faster... 4.2 consistently."

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