Gooden aims to uphold legacy

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

It's a popular saying in Baltimore, particularly on defense, that you must "play like a Raven" to make the team. There is no set definition for that term, yet everyone on the Ravens' roster seems to understand it.

Second-year linebacker Tavares Gooden is the latest player looking to uphold Baltimore's legacy of being physical and punishing. He is competing for a starting inside linebacker job vacated by another physical player in Bart Scott.

Also adding to the pressure is the nickname Gooden has received in "Baby Ray." Defensive leader and fellow Miami Hurricane Ray Lewis is taking Gooden under his wing to teach him the nuances of the game, and the pair is expected to play side-by-side this season in Baltimore's 3-4 scheme.

"Being the youngest in my family, I've always had to exceed whatever somebody else did," Gooden said at Ravens camp this week. "My brother -- he was a great football player -- and I was the baby. So, I was always called 'Little Byron,' or 'Little Stump.' So, I had to go through that.

"Now, it's the same thing with Ray -- they're like, 'Baby Ray.' Eventually, I just want to come out here and make my coaches proud, make my team proud and earn my own name."

Gooden said making the transition a lot easier is playing behind a stout defensive line featuring players like Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg. Much of his job in Baltimore is to read and react to the defensive line and fill the holes accordingly.

If Gooden wins the job, as projected, he will be the least experienced starter on Baltimore's defense, which ranked No. 2 in the NFL last season. He could see a lot of teams test him early, but Gooden says he doesn't plan on letting his teammates down.

"You didn't need to be a rocket scientist to know that Bart, Ray and 'Sizzle' [Terrell Suggs] were all up on their deals [last year]," Gooden said of the situation this season. "They brought in another linebacker. You never knew how it was going to unfold, but this is how it is. Now it's time for us to start playing together, start building communication."