Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Great Raven's career winds down

My first memory of Kelly Gregg dates back to summer camp 2001 when he inadvertently ended Jamal Lewis' sophomore NFL season after he submarined the Ravens tailback and tore his ACL. The darting move would be one that would define Kelly Gregg's career.

Undersized but stout, Gregg borrowed from his wrestling skill set to gain leverage against much bigger opponents. He established the leverage through a combination of great technique, timing and quickness. How else can you explain why Gregg, perhaps the slowest man on the field in a foot race was able to once catch the fastest (Mike Vick) and then body slam him to the turf?

Bart Scott told me often when I hosted his show back in 2007, the Ravens defense starts and ends with Kelly Gregg. Perhaps Bart overstated Gregg's importance a bit but the message was clear - that disruptive and relatively pint-sized defensive tackle ignited the Ravens defense, formerly known as organized chaos.

Gregg joined us down at Della Rose's in Canton for one of Bart's shows. The shows ran from 6-8PM and I would arrive to set up and do some pre-show prep at around 5:30. Almost always Bart arrived fashionably late and as the torturously underachieving season progressed, his tardiness grew increasingly exaggerated.

But Gregg arrived before I did during his guest appearance. I went to the bar where Kelly was enjoying a burger and a Budweiser before we started the show. He is exactly the type of person you would expect him to be: down-to-Earth, unpretentious, polite, funny, engaging and happy-go-lucky. He is the little engine that could; the underdog who succeeded. He is exactly the type of athlete, like the Art Donovans and the Tony Sirgusas before him, that Baltimore embraces and endears itself to.

It's been a great run for this overachiever, one that should have included at least one Pro Bowl nomination. But that was never to be and it never will be. I doubt that bothers Kelly at all. He'd probably prefer to have a beer in an Edmond, Oklahoma neighborhood tavern than fly to Honolulu anyway.

Unfortunately for Kelly and Ravens' fans, the 11 year vet appears to be nearing the end of the road. That powerful, menacing presence in opponent's backfield just doesn't have that quick first step any longer and without it, he's unable to gain the leverage that made him so successful against the behemoths he's faced. Today more times than not, he's gobbled up by larger foes.

Whatever happens from this point forward, Ravens fans can and will always be thankful for Gregg. They will always remember fondly Baltimore's Buddy Lee - No. 97 on the scorecard and No. 1 in the hearts of many here in Ravenstown.


Harryos29 said...

Harry os 29
..Wow..this blog brings back sad memories for me. I still think if GRBAC had a healthy JAMAL in the back field...the Ravens would have gone much further, than a first round play off win over the DOLPHINS. "STUFF" happens and I 'm sure buddy lee did not intend to hurt JAMAL: but he did... He has had a good career as a Raven. They'd better draft wisely in 2011 to replace ..more than Buddy LEE.