Bad luck constant companion of Ravens’ Dan Cody

When the Ravens begin their only mandatory minicamp today, there will be a noticeable absence on the field, although it is hardly a surprise anymore.

As he’s been for most of his injury-marred career, linebacker Dan Cody will be sidelined with a knee injury.

During a non-contact pass-rush drill May 20, Cody hyperextended his right knee and tore a piece of cartilage about the size of a thumbnail. It was his third knee injury since being drafted in the second round 26 months ago and likely will cause him to miss the final two offseason minicamps.

“The most frustrating part is that as soon as I get going, I get the rug pulled out from underneath me,” Cody said.

The Ravens are taking a cautious approach with Cody because they don’t want to lose their young pass rusher for a third straight season.

The team doesn’t consider this latest injury as serious as Cody’s previous ones and is optimistic that he’ll be ready for training camp at the end of July.

But there is a possibility he could need surgery; if so, that would require four months of rehabilitation, which would presumably end his season.

“They say more times than not, it heals on its own,” Cody said. “But there is no 100 percent guarantee.”

The Ravens feel it’s about time for Cody to catch a break.

In the 2005 draft, Cody thought he would be taken in the first round, but he dropped into the second because teams were worried because he had been diagnosed with clinical depression.

His rookie season then abruptly ended during the first practice of training camp when he sprained the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee without being hit. He injured the knee when turning quickly in an attempt to hustle after a misdirection play.

Cody’s misfortune continued last season when he tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Nov. 26 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It occurred on the first play of his second career game when he accidentally collided with teammate Trevor Pryce.

As a result, Cody has lined up for about 20 plays in two seasons.

“It’s just been a run of bad luck for Dan,” outside linebacker coach Mike Pettine said. “We’ve seen flashes of what he can be and we’re so encouraged by it. But it’s hard to rely on him, knowing the injury history is there.

“At the same time, we have faith in Dan – that when he’s healthy he’s going to be a heck of a player for us. Nobody is more frustrated by the whole injury thing than Dan himself.”

The Ravens have long envisioned Cody as a high-motor, pass-rushing end in the mold of former Raven Michael McCrary.

Cody, 25, is expected to compete with rookie Antwan Barnes to be the team’s left rush end in passing situations, although Jarret Johnson will be in the mix, too. Cody has heard the Ravens are high on Barnes, a fourth-round pick out of Florida International.

“It’s extra motivation for me,” Cody said. “I want to see the kids do well, but at the same time, this camp was really going to be a good opportunity for me to stake my claim on this defense.”

Cody was considered one of the top pass rushers coming out of college in 2005.

In his final two seasons at Oklahoma, he led the Sooners with 20 sacks as they played in back-to-back Bowl Championship Series title games. He was the Sooners’ top defensive playmaker as a senior with 10 sacks, 12 quarterback pressures and 17 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

The Ravens still see that potential at the NFL level.

“He’s relentless. He never stops,” Pettine said. “He’s like a shark. He’s always on the move.”

Cody has also shown that relentless attitude in trying to overcome his injuries.

Because of his exhaustive schedule to recover from his knee injuries, he has only returned home for 20 days since last July. He just hopes the hard work pays off.

“This kind of starts to wear on you and you think, ‘Am I going to be able to get out there before my contract is up?'” said Cody, who is signed through 2008. “There is nothing you can do about it. I know I got a lot of respect here. They know it’s not a lack of effort. They’re as frustrated about it as I am.”

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