Anderson in step with Ravens' plan
Newest running back unfazed by return of J. Lewis
By Jamison Hensley
Sun reporter
Originally published March 15, 2006
Just like a former Marine, Mike Anderson was a good soldier yesterday.

In his introductory news conference, Anderson expressed no regrets about coming to the Ravens, saying he was assured by team officials that he will have the opportunity to compete against Jamal Lewis for the starting running back job.

It was assumed Anderson would be the Ravens' featured back when he reached a four-year, $8 million agreement Sunday night. Just a few hours later, he didn't know what to think after the Ravens re-signed Lewis.

"It was a surprise. But if you've been in this business long enough, you know anything can happen at any given moment," said Anderson, sitting between the Ravens' other newest free-agent additions, defensive end Trevor Pryce and defensive tackle Justin Bannan. "That was fine with me. I know Jamal. I am going to love playing with him."

Did Anderson assume he would be the starter when he agreed to play for the Ravens?

"I assumed that I was going to come in and compete," he said. "Nothing is guaranteed in this business. That's all I've been doing since my rookie year."

Anderson has never been given the easy road.

He spent four years in the Marines after high school. He was an All-American at junior college and the University of Utah only to fall to the sixth round in the 2000 draft.

In his six years with the Denver Broncos, Anderson went from the leading rusher to fullback to featured runner again.

Now, he is entrenched in a crowded and unconventional backfield with Lewis. It's rare that a team loads up with three power runners (Anderson, Lewis and Musa Smith).

"In the AFC North, if you have three big backs, I think you're ahead of the game," said George Kokinis, the Ravens' director of pro personnel. "You hear all the time that a team is going to run the football and defenses aren't going to be able to stand up to the running game by the fourth quarter. Why let somebody off the hook because you put in a smaller back in the middle of the game?

"If you can consistently give that kind of back to a defense, then they might wear them out a little faster than [by] the fourth quarter. We can serve one back, two back and then Musa as a third back, too. I don't think a lot of people are going to want to tackle that too much."

The tricky part about having two former starting running backs is keeping them both happy with their number of carries. The Ravens have never had a season in which two backs each had more than 160 rushing attempts.

"Winning helps players get happy," Kokinis said. "If our instincts are correct on how we're going to use the big backs, people will be happy."

The coaching staff has talked about playing Anderson and Lewis at the same time. Anderson, who played fullback in the past for the Broncos, said he wasn't opposed to a similar scenario with the Ravens.

"I see myself fitting in a great situation and helping the offense move forward," Anderson said. "To me, it can't get any better than that."

The sentiment of "fitting in" was shared by Pryce and Bannan, the latest additions to the starting defensive line.

The Ravens' three newest members gushed over the state-of-the-art training facility. They joked about the uncertainty of free agency, talking about how family members worried about them being unemployed. And they spoke of continuing the Ravens' stellar reputation for playing defense and running the ball.

"I think the Baltimore Ravens got better this weekend," Kokinis said. "Anytime you match quality talent with quality people, you've got a good marriage. You can't pick three better guys and better football players in terms of what they want to do and how they want to get there. I'm like a proud father."

Notes // The Ravens have expressed interest in free-agent quarterback Brian Griese, who started 16 games the past two seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was expected to re-sign with the Buccaneers last weekend, but he has begun to talk to other teams. ... In addressing his plans for the defensive line yesterday, Ravens coordinator Rex Ryan said yesterday that Bannan will start at defensive tackle and Kelly Gregg will move to nose tackle. ... Punter Jason Baker, a free agent from the Carolina Panthers, could visit the Ravens later in the week. ... Free safety Will Demps, who started the past four seasons for the Ravens, is scheduled to visit the New York Giants today.