Foxworth Taking Charge

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It took some encouraging from safety Ed Reed, but Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth has really stepped up as a leader of the secondary.

For a unit that has recently been decimated by injury, Foxworth remains a constant.

Three interceptions and eight pass deflections over the past two games demonstrates the playmaking ability Baltimore anticipated when he was signed as a free agent in the offseason.

"I was just trying to fit into the defense and learn my role," Foxworth said. "I didn't really think about trying to become a leader when I first got here. We had our troubles on defense as a whole in the beginning of the season, but I think we've improved greatly, myself included. I feel like I'm back to being the player that I was when Ozzie [Newsome, general manager] first called me."

Foxworth's production is much-needed, too.

First, safety Haruki Nakamura broke his ankle in Week 9. Then, starting cornerback Fabian Washington went down with a season-ending knee injury two games later, opening a spot for promising rookie Lardarius Webb.

But just when Webb was showing that he could handle a first-team role, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

In addition, Reed has missed the last four contests with a groin injury.

Once Reed realized he would not be on the field for a while, he went to Foxworth with a request. Actually, more like an order.

"Ed said it to me point blank," explained Foxworth. "He said, 'It's your group now, so take charge.' I think I've tried to do that, and it's helped my play on the field, just having a distinct role on the team."

Foxworth admits that he spent some time adjusting to his surroundings, even though he was supremely familiar with the area as a Baltimore native, University of Maryland product and Western Tech (Catonsville, Md.) alumnus.

"I think when you come to a new team, you try to find out where you fit in," Foxworth said. "This is definitely a team with no shortage of leaders, so you come in and work hard and just try to play your position. But, when all the injuries happened, Ed telling me that gave me more free reign. I feel like a leader in this group, so I just have to answer to myself. It's been more comfortable late in the season."

Since Foxworth assumed a bigger and more vocal role, people have recognized. For his two-interception and five-pass deflection outing two weeks ago against the Chicago Bears, Foxworth earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Inside the locker room, the sentiments are well-deserved.

"He's done a great job," said Reed. "I told him it was time for him to step up. He's communicating out there and really helping these guys along. You can see it in the way he's playing."

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison agreed, citing Foxworth's ability to brush off criticisms from fans and media earlier in the season.

"I've seen Domonique continue to work,"' Mattison said. "Like I said six weeks, seven weeks ago, Domonique goes out there every day, he tries to go as hard as he can. [Secondary coach] Chuck Pagano does a tremendous job of coaching those guys, and when that play is over, if it's positive, great. Go to the next one. If it's negative, great. Go to the next one. And there is a reason why it was positive, and there is a reason why it was negative, and just go from there.

"You know, I'm just proud of him. I'm proud of 'Fox.' He just stays on course like I've said, and he just keeps trying to do it the way we want him to do it."

Foxworth boasts 56 tackles, four interceptions and 20 defensed passes on the year, and his contributions have been steady. At this point, however, Foxworth feels comfortable with what Pagano and Mattison want him to do.

The former Denver Bronco and Atlanta Falcon said it was a challenge to become acclimated to a third defensive system in only his fifth NFL season. The techniques and overall scheme changed each time he made a move.

"Everywhere you go it's a little different," stated Foxworth. "For example, here, they want you to key the receiver more. You read the three-step of the quarterback, and then you focus on your receiver. I've been used to seeing the whole field and using clues from different receivers and quarterbacks to get the big picture.

"I've managed to get better and make that work for me the same way I've made other systems work for me. It takes some time, but you figure out how the coaches want you to play."

Now that he is comfortable with the Ravens, with his hometown and with a defense he grew up rooting for, Foxworth is enjoying his responsibilities as a leader, especially as he prepares to play the Oakland Raiders for a playoff spot this weekend.

"It's definitely a job and hard work during the week," said Foxworth. "But, when you're winning on Sunday, it's a great job. It's definitely more fun now when people were scoring touchdowns and doing dances on us."

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