The Ravens officially announced the signing of former Cincinnati Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson, making him the second-most decorated offensive lineman in team headquarters Friday.
The top honor would go to the recently-retired Jonathan Ogden, who stopped by the Ravens' training facility in Owings Mills, Md., before heading to his home in Las Vegas.
Now that he is charged to bring veteran leadership to a young Baltimore offensive line, Anderson is hoping to live up to the standard Ogden set over his 12-year tenure. Anderson's four Pro Bowls pale in comparison to Ogden's 11 honors, but the respect the newest Raven has for No. 75 is evident.
"When J.O. had his success early on, I always envied that," Anderson said after his first Ravens practice. "I always envied his third or fourth year, him making the Pro Bowl that early and being on a winning team. Myself, it took me until I was 28, 29, 30 to start making the Pro Bowl. Our careers definitely kind of paralleled each other."
The parallels are obvious. Both players were first-round draft picks in 1996 (Ogden was fourth-overall; Anderson went six spots later) and went on to become the icons of offensive tackles for their generation.
"For me to come here, I'm still chasing J.O.," the Auburn product continued. "He is a Hall of Fame guy, and I watched so much film of him. I patterned myself after him and his game. He made this line better for years, and I wanted to do the same thing in Cincinnati."
Anderson was released by the Bengals Saturday after refusing to take a pay cut. Cincinnati opted instead to promote five-year veteran Stacy Andrews to the first string after he stepped in when Anderson was limited to a career-low seven games (five starts) due to injuries last season.
But that was the first time he had ever dealt with injuries throughout his career. The durable 6-foot-5, 340-pounder has started 173 of 181 games played, including nine seasons where he started all 16 contests.
Anderson believes that he has a lot to give late in his career and proclaimed a clean bill of health heading into his 13th campaign.
"I feel like any 13-year lineman feels," said Anderson. "Am I 21 again? No, I'm 33. That still weighs in. It's funny to me to talk about health because my whole career, I never talked about health as an issue until I took a [hit] to the knee last year."
Coming to Baltimore – and staying within the AFC North – just seemed like the right fit for Anderson. He has the opportunity to mentor the Ravens' young prospects, can enjoy the top-notch facilities the Ravens offer and is reunited with former Bengals receivers coach (and current Ravens quarterbacks coach) Hue Jackson.
"It was one of the teams that we in Cincinnati always envied – the way the organization is run, the players they had traditionally and the integrity that they had," Anderson said. "We, as a team in Cincinnati, always looked up to the Ravens as a goal to get to. It's funny being here, but the guys welcomed me in. That made the whole process kind of easy."
In addition to having another reliable lineman, the Ravens will also benefit from Anderson's deep knowledge of Cincinnati's offense when they face the Bengals twice a year.
Anderson doesn't know if he'll play when Baltimore kicks off the regular season this weekend against their tiger-striped rivals, even though he hopes to challenge Adam Terry for a starting nod as the season progresses.
"Right now, you've got guys that have been battling there," Anderson said. "Those guys have been there for the whole training camp, and I would be crazy to sit here and think that I'm more prepared than those guys right now and be up to speed for where they're at right now.
"I'm just trying to recover from this week of being off, being out of work for a week. I'll take it day by day and do what I can do to be out there."
Including Anderson, the Ravens currently have five active offensive tackles on the 53-man roster, with Terry, Jared Gaither, Mike Kracalik and rookie Oniel Cousins. Terry, who is coming off an ankle injury that limited him to only two preseason games, said he isn't threatened by the Pro Bowler's addition.
"You never know. It's a situation where I have to do the best I can going into this game," Terry said. "There is a myriad of variables that could happen, and every game you have to go in as the starter. As far as I know, I haven't heard anything."
At this point, Terry thinks his ankle will hold up fine as he continues to battle for his job.
"It feels great," he admitted. "Probably the best it's felt in a long time. For me, that's a great sign. I'm just going to go out there and showcase what I can do."
To Anderson, who had previously spent his entire career in the same locker room, it was a different experience when he first walked into his new home.
"I'm still just trying to get here, fit in and not come in with any ego," he said. "I'm an old-time guy. I'm 33 years old. I found that a lot of these guys are young guys up here, so my thing is just to come in and fit in and do what I can to make this team better and make myself better."