'Shakespeare' Called Ozzie Newsome For NFL Shot


Stevie Baggs was the highest-paid defensive player in the Canadian Football League last year.

But after he rejected a pay cut, the player nicknamed "Shakespeare" (because he always makes plays) was suddenly out of a job.

Baggs had other CFL teams pursuing him, but decided to give the big leagues another shot. His resume is full of experience, traveling the world to keep his dream of playing football alive. Yet he has never accrued a season in the NFL – essentially making him a 30-year-old rookie.

Baggs picked eight teams who he felt fit his defensive style and started dialing away, simply to ask for a chance.

He reached General Manager Ozzie Newsome's office phone, got no answer and left a message saying he would be "humbled" to get a work out. Baggs got a call back the same day.

Signed minutes before the Ravens'* *M&T Bank Stadium practice Saturday, Baggs now has another opportunity to finally make an NFL 53-man roster.

"Words really can't explain it," he said. "What my family's been through, what I've been through in this league and playing with as many teams as I have, it's great that somebody is still able to see my ability and hunger for the game."

"I think I'm the only pro football player in history to play for 10 teams."

The three-time All American at Bethune-Cookman University was originally signed by the Detroit Lions as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2004. He spent time on their practice squad, as well as with the Jacksonville Jaguars, before leaving the NFL for six years. Shakespeare On The Field

He briefly played in NFL Europe, then the Arena Football League. Baggs signed with the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2006, then signed with the Edmonton Eskimos, then the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

He led the CFL with 12 sacks in 2009, which prompted the Arizona Cardinals to take a chance on him in 2010. Baggs was one of their final training camp cuts, and he returned to the CFL to be their highest-paid player, reportedly at $150,000 a season.

The deeply religious Baggs looks at his football journey with rose-tinted glasses.

"I always look at it as, no matter what happens to me it's purpose," he said. "The mountains are good. Through the valleys, I have to consider those joy too because they build character and perseverance to be able to give the message to somebody else to never give up.

"I want to show everyone that no matter what the odds are, you can still hold onto your goals."

Baggs will have an uphill climb if he's going to make the Ravens' 53-man roster. He appeared in his first practice Monday wearing No. 40 with no name on the back, and saw limited snaps as he acclimated himself to the difficult, high-tempo practices in Baltimore.

The 6-foot-1, 240-pounder will compete in what has become a crowded linebacker corps that also recently added two former Oakland Raiders in Ricky Brown and Darryl Blackstock. There's also returning outside linebackers Sergio Kindle, Albert McClellan and Chavis Williams, who are jockeying for spots behind projected starters Paul Kruger and Courtney Upshaw.

Baggs is already at a disadvantage considering he landed with the team midway through camp, but he'll be a player to keep an eye on. After all, Baggs didn't get his "Shakespeare" nickname from a former college teammate (which he now has tattooed on his trapezius) for no reason.

Baggs said whether he makes the team or not is "already written" by God. So he is at peace with whatever happens.

"I don't want anybody to feel sorry for me because God has blessed me with an amazing gift and ability to play this game," Baggs said. "I'm just elated to be here, truthfully. It's an amazing, amazing, amazing testimony."

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