Gerard Could Be Next Demps

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Considering the Ravens' recent history, at least one man from their 2009 crop of rookie free agents will make the active roster.

Linebacker Jameel McClain is looking to see a more active role on the defense, and he went undrafted last season. So did tight end Edgar Jones in 2007. There has also been linebacker Bart Scott, safety Will Demps and center Mike Flynn in the past.

Defensive back K.J. Gerard is making a strong bid to take that title this year.

The former Northern Arizona cornerback moved to safety at the start of offseason minicamps, and he has continually turned heads with each practice.

Rarely will a session pass without Gerard snatching one interception out of the air. In many, Gerard grabs two.

While most undrafted free agents are extra bodies that take some of the burden off regular contributors, Gerard regularly makes his own contributions.

"The coaches always see the players that are around the ball, so when it's in the air, I'm trying to get there," he said.

"Making plays in practice out here is a big deal. In college, it was like, 'Whatever.' But here, everybody is congratulating you and everything. They make it seem like you just won a game."

Coaches have cheered Gerard's performance, even though he is still very much a raw prospect coming from the Football Championship Subdivision alma mater.

"He's learning where to line up still, so he's not always in the right spacing. He's not always in the right spot," said head coach John Harbaugh. "But, [Mark Carrier, secondary coach] is doing a great job of bringing him along that way. And he has a natural nose for the ball. He can catch it.

"You know that he's making a bunch of plays when the offensive coaches start inquiring about taking a look at him at wide receiver. He's done a good job."

The transition to the NFL hasn't been easy for Gerard, even if that's how he sometimes makes it look on the field.

He played cornerback at NAU, finishing his stellar career with a school record 19 interceptions.

But after clocking a time of 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Gerard didn't seem to possess the top-end speed cornerbacks need in the pros, prompting the Ravens to make the switch.

As he learns a new position, Gerard is eager to soak up as much knowledge as he can from incumbents Ed Reed and Dawan Landry.

"This is my first time playing safety, so it's a lot to learn right now," Gerard said. "It might have helped to play it in college, but I feel like I'm catching on. I know I'm not up there with all the safeties, but I am learning from them. Every day, I learn a lot more, so that's helping."

So far, Gerard has been enjoying his role.

"You can be more of a ball-hawk at safety," he said with a smile. "When you're at corner, you're pretty much locked on your man, but at safety, you can see the whole field. It's fun."

One question is whether Gerard can stand up to playing opposite bigger and stronger athletes. He measures in at 6-foot-1, but he is a slight 187 pounds. A big test will come at training camp, when Gerard can put on pads and actually hit. He left NAU with an impressive 232 tackles over 45 games.

If he can do that, Gerard could follow in Demps' footsteps – a safety that may have been undersized and not as fast as the rest who beat the odds by being around the ball.  

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