A championship has eluded Cory Redding, dating back to his days as a teenager.
He got close once with his high school team at North Shore in Houston, where the veteran defensive end was teammates with fellow Baltimore Raven and backup center Andre Gurode.That team got to the semifinals of the state playoffs but lost to a squad from San Antonio. For Redding, he still thinks about that season and how close they were to getting a ring.
“We often talk about that game because that was the closest we’ve ever been to a championship, in high school,” Redding said. “And I was a few plays away from making a big bowl game in college.”
Redding attended the University of Texas from 1999-2002, but never played for a team that reached a BCS bowl game. The Longhorns played in two Holiday Bowls and two Cotton Bowls.
Detroit drafted Redding in the third round of the 2003 draft, which led to a lot of losing from his rookie year until the infamous 2008 season when the Lions finished 0-16. Redding was then traded to Seattle and spent 2009 on a Seahawks unit that floundered to a 5-11 record.
Mired in a career filled with more losses than wins, Redding jumped to Baltimore when he had the chance before the 2010 season. His playoff appearance last year was the first of his NFL career, and his first postseason game since college.
With another shot at a deep run this year, Redding knows he can’t take these games for granted.
“Having the chance to continue to fight for what you’ve always been dreaming of, hoisting that trophy over your head, is a privilege and an honor,” Redding said.
Redding has put up his best stats since 2006, when he tallied 48 tackles, eight sacks and two forced fumbles. This season, he’s racked up 43 tackles and 4.5 sacks, though he’s played on an injured ankle of late.
He said the bye this past week helped rest the injured ankle as well as many of his teammates’ lingering ailments.
The Ravens will host the Texans, Redding’s hometown team, this Sunday, though Redding grew up watching the Oilers, who are now the Tennessee Titans. Redding said he had to put his phone away last weekend because once Houston defeated Cincinnati, family and friends from back home began calling and texting him nonstop.
Redding, like a lot of veteran Ravens players, have more of their playing days behind them than in front. Sure, there’s always a sense of urgency no matter what year it is for a professional athlete. But time is of an essence, especially in the NFL.
“Two out of my first three years in the league I went to the NFC Championship game,” said center Matt Birk, who began his career with Minnesota in 1998. “At that time, I probably didn’t know what it meant or just how precious it was. And I haven’t been back since. So we have this opportunity in front of us to be in the playoffs and be in the second round now. You certainly don’t take it for granted, and as you get closer to the end, it just becomes that more precious.”
For Redding, it’s about seizing the opportunity this postseason, since it’s impossible to tell how many more there will be.
“I’m telling everyone to just take every day, soak everything in and don’t take this thing for granted, because we don’t know when the next time we’re going to be here,” Redding said. “It’s a tough league, and right now, we’re just enjoying the moment and preparing as hard as we can to get ready for this game.”
by Jason Butt