Ravens' defense prepared Rams' Brown for job

March, 24, 2009
3/24/09
1:42
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

DANA POINT, Calif. -- Jason Brown's departure from the Ravens to the Rams in free agency might have helped both teams in some ways.

 
  Joel Auerbach/US Presswire
  Practicing against the Ravens' defensive linemen made Jason Brown a better center.

The Rams gained a physical center to help open holes for Steven Jackson in the power running game St. Louis envisions developing. The Ravens lost a good young player, but they recovered by adding veteran Matt Birk.

The head coaches I polled on the subject -- Mike Tomlin, whose Steelers face the Ravens twice a year, and Rex Ryan, who coordinated the Ravens' defense before joining the Jets -- offered their perspectives from the NFL owners' meeting Tuesday. Tomlin coached with the Vikings when Birk played for Minnesota.

Ryan: Jason came a long way. He was a country kid and he's a great kid. But it's funny because we used to beat him up every day in practice. When he was going against Kelly Gregg and Trevor Pryce and Haloti Ngata every day, he would get to a game and the game was easy. He was one of the top centers in football. He grew up and it was great to watch because he's a great kid and he's going to be one of the top centers in football, I believe.

Tomlin: I know Matt Birk personally, and I don't know Jason Brown. But I have a great deal of respect for Matt Birk. What they are getting with him is immeasurable from what happens outside the white lines. This is a guy that is a program guy, that will be a leader in their offseason program, is a great communicator. I have all the respect in the world for Matt Birk as a professional. He is going to make them a better football team.

The part about Brown developing under fire in practice resonated in this situation. The Ravens' defense played and practiced with an attitude unseen elsewhere. Lining up against those nose tackles in practice would have forced Brown to step forward.

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