BALTIMORE (AP) — As the 2011 season was drawing to a close, Haloti Ngata felt like a 335-pound weakling.
The Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle was well under his standard playing weight, and that was not at all beneficial in his collisions with opposing guards and centers.
“Toward the end I felt like I wasn’t that strong,” Ngata said Monday. “I felt like I could do more, but just wasn’t able to.”
Ngata addressed the situation during the offseason by throwing more weight on his 6’4′ frame. He’s at 342 pounds, and has no intention of dropping a single ounce.
“I feel stronger, especially out there with these guys trying to double-team us,” he said. “There’s a lot more hitting in camp, so it feels great to have that strength. I’m comfortable with it.”
Ngata played all 16 games last year, earned a third consecutive Pro Bowl invite and led all Baltimore defensive linemen with 65 tackles. He got off to a great start, but by December was struggling for reasons that extended beyond his lighter weight.
The 2006 first-round pick was also dealing with a deep thigh bruise, an injury he kept a secret until after the season ended with a loss to New England in the AFC title game.
“You just try not to think about it,” Ngata said. “In the beginning of the game you feel pretty good, and you think you’re going to feel good throughout the game. But then it slowly starts to creep up on you and slows you down a little bit.”
Ngata had two forced fumbles after four games and didn’t get another. He had three sacks over Baltimore’s first five games and only two after that, both in a Thanksgiving game against San Francisco. He didn’t get a sack in the postseason and managed only three tackles in two games.
“Toward the end of the season I wasn’t getting as many sacks,” Ngata acknowledged.
Ironically, Ngata came to camp last season at 330 pounds because he thought it would enable him to have more stamina later in the season. Turns out, it was only good for getting him through training camp.
“It was great during camp because I was able to breathe easy and move around,” he said. “But toward the end of the season I didn’t have that strength that I usually feel like I do. I think some of it was just being lighter.”
Or the injury.
“Haloti was healthy most of the year, but those guys are never going to be 100 percent,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s trench warfare in there, and there are always going to be things.”
Ngata didn’t get off to a good start this summer, pulling a hamstring during his conditioning test. Upon his return, he slipped into his usual spot in the middle of the line.
He knows it’s imperative that he perform to his potential — and then some — because Baltimore lost linebacker Jarret Johnson and defensive end Cory Redding to free agency, and linebacker Terrell Suggs will be out with an torn Achilles tendon until at least late in the season.
“If I try to do more than my own job then I might end up messing up the whole defense,” he said. “Sometimes I find myself trying to do more than I am supposed to. I’ve got to have more faith in my guys that they’ll get the job done.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)