OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Cory Redding was once a part of the worst team in NFL history, which goes a long way toward explaining why he is grateful to be a member of the playoff-bound Baltimore Ravens.
During his first seven seasons, Redding never played on a team that finished with a winning record. He hit rock bottom as the starting defensive end for the 2008 Detroit Lions, the first NFL club to complete a 16-game schedule without a victory.
“All I can tell you is that 0-16 team taught me a lot about myself, about things I can work on to get better. It taught me, as a man and as a player, how to handle adversity,” Redding said Wednesday. “As a football player, that’s was as low as I could ever be. I questioned myself, my skills, my talent, my leadership.”
After being drafted in the third round of the 2003 draft by Detroit, Redding suffered through six losing years with the Lions. He was traded in March 2009 to Seattle, and sure enough, the Seahawks finished 5-11.
Redding became a free agent and signed with the Ravens last March. And now, with much delight, the 30-year-old is preparing for his first postseason experience.
“It’s huge, to look at wifey and tell her we’re not going anywhere in January,” he said. “We’re staying put.”
Baltimore (11-4) faces Cincinnati in the regular season finale Sunday before beginning its third consecutive playoff run. While some of the Ravens consider the postseason to be an annual rite of winter, Redding is treating the pending trip with all the anticipation of a wide-eyed rookie.
“We normally pack up and go back home, but not this year,” said the Texas native. “My wife is excited because she knows all the hard work and injuries and woes I’ve gone through to make it this point.”
Redding has done his part to make it happen, contributing 34 tackles, three sacks and his first career interception despite missing a game with a concussion. After getting off to a slow start while getting accustomed to playing in Baltimore’s complicated defense, he has played exceptionally well in December.
Two weeks ago, he knocked away two passes and made the game-clinching interception in a win over New Orleans. Last week, Redding had a season-high five solo tackles in a 20-10 victory over Cleveland that assured the Ravens no worse than a wild-card berth in the AFC playoffs.
“He’s a veteran guy, been in a lot of locker rooms, a high-round pick, high-contract guy, at one time one of the premier defensive linemen in the league,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. “If you watch the last three or four games, he’s playing at that level again. He’s playing the best he’s played here all year.”
Redding figured it was only a matter of time.
“The beginning of the season I was still learning,” he said. “As the year went on I found myself getting stronger and better in the scheme, making more plays and just having a lot of fun.”
Redding was signed to fill the void left by the departure of free agent lineman Dwan Edwards and to work in tandem with aging end Trevor Pryce. After Pryce was released early in the season, Redding got more playing time and increased his production.
“He’s been great,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “We thought we could exchange him and Trevor Pryce out, but after the deal with Trevor, he’s been our primary defensive end and he’s done a great job for us.”
This defense belongs to veteran middle linebacker Ray Lewis, but Redding has done his share in terms of leadership and rallying the unit to play at its best.
“I know this is Ray’s team and I’d follow Ray to the end of the world as far as football,” Redding said. “I just want to play my role, do my part and lead by example. Going out and practicing hard, playing hard, lifting weights and studying film, doing what I can do to better myself and my teammates around me.”
The payoff was the playoffs, and Redding couldn’t be happier.
“That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come here,” he said. “There were plenty of teams I could have gone to being a free agent, but I chose to come here. For things to work out the way they did is awesome. Words can’t express how I feel.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)