OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) - C.J. Mosley completely understands the significance of becoming part of a defense that has a long-standing reputation of greatness.
Mosley, the 17th overall pick in the 2014 draft, will seek this summer to become a starting linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens. Athletes who have starred at the position for Baltimore include Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware, Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott - who once wore the No. 57 now utilized by Mosley.
The Ravens won two Super Bowls by playing rugged defense, and now Mosley is being asked to adhere to that custom.
Fortunately, the situation has a familiar ring to it.
''That's one thing about me coming from Alabama. It's all about tradition,'' Mosley said Tuesday. ''Great defensive players, great linebackers came out of Alabama. For me to come to another great team, another great defense ... just for me to add on and keep that tradition going, I'll do what I can to fit in.''
Mosley has yet to put on a pair of shoulder pads for the Ravens. That won't happen until Saturday, when the full squad practices in full gear for the first time. Still, the 22-year-old has already made an impression on at least one of his veteran teammates.
''He's a natural, man. He looks like he covers ground out there really well,'' quarterback Joe Flacco said. ''It will be interesting once we get the pads on to see some of the running backs and some of our other guys go toe-to-toe (with him) a little bit. But he's definitely a natural athlete who can move around out there.''
The 6-foot-2, 234-pound Mosley won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker in 2013 and was the SEC defensive player of the year. He started all 13 games at weak inside linebacker and was Alabama's leading tackler for a second consecutive season.
Baltimore lost linebackers Jameel McClain and Arthur Jones during the offseason. Although Mosley can play inside or out, he will likely compete against Arthur Brown to join Daryl Smith in the middle of the Ravens defense.
''The competition is going to start as soon as we get our pads on,'' Mosley said. ''Everybody knows what to do, everybody is athletic, everybody is fast, everybody wants to play. Whoever plays on Sunday will have to show it in preseason and in these practices.''
There once was a time when a top draft pick held out for a bigger contract and began practicing for the first time after training camp had already started. Not anymore. Mosley signed a standard contract long ago, familiarized himself with the Baltimore defense during offseason minicamp sessions and is now ready to go.
''I grew so much, watching the older guys and the veterans come in and just knowing what to do,'' he said.
The veterans report Wednesday and the first practice is Thursday. When the pads go on Saturday, Mosley will begin to really show his stuff.
''So far, so good,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ''We'll know more in a week, once we get more in and the bullets start flying a little bit faster and he's got to make decisions more in game-like situations.''
Mosley can't wait. At this point, being a starter isn't as important as simply proving he belongs.
''I have to show what I'm made of,'' he said. ''We've been practicing for a long time. I'm ready to get in pads and show these coaches that they picked me for a reason.''
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