Four out of the first five games of the 2013 season have featured a Miami Dolphins player going against his former team – two on the road and this Sunday makes two at Sun Life Stadium.
But only one of those players – middle linebacker
“I keep it in the safe,” said Ellerbe, who led Baltimore with nine tackles in the win over San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII. “I just don’t see a reason to walk around and where it because I’m trying to get one here with the Dolphins. I wear my (University of) Georgia ring everyday and I wear Georgia stuff everyday – Georgia shorts and the hat.”
Last season was Ellerbe’s best in Baltimore, as he started seven of the 13 games he played and racked up 89 tackles (66 solo), 4.5 sacks and two pass breakups. In four seasons in a Ravens uniform he totaled 190 tackles (138 solo), 5.5 sacks, one interception, seven pass breakups and one fumble recovery.
With future Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis occupying the middle linebacker position in Baltimore, Ellerbe flourished as an outside linebacker and was used a lot in pass coverage. Lewis was the defensive captain and called all of the plays while also being the only voice in the defensive huddle and that is Ellerbe’s role now in Miami.
“The football part of it, we see all the things that he ever meant to us here and even better,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “It seems like he’s taken his game to an even higher level. Sideline to sideline, makes plays on runs inside, screens outside, he’s good in pass coverage. He’s a complete linebacker right now and a good man. You can tell he seems like he’s in a leadership role there with calling the signals and things like that. It seems like he’s done a real good job.”
It’s never easy to switch teams, especially for the first time after being signed as an undrafted free agent like Ellerbe was. Even though Lewis and future Hall-of-Fame safety Ed Reed are no longer on the Ravens, he still will see many familiar faces on the opposite sideline.
Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco also acknowledged how different it will feel to see Ellerbe wearing a Dolphins uniform and lining up on the opposite of the ball. Both continue to have respect for the player they got to know so well over his four seasons.
“It’ll be interesting. His locker was actually right next to mine since he’d been here, so we had a good relationship,” said Flacco, who was the Super Bowl MVP last year. “He’s a very instinctive football player, very physical. He’s pretty much all-around good, but he’s really provided some physical play in the middle for those guys and he always has his challenges. He’s a good athlete, he can run around the field, and he plays physical. He gives them a variety of things to be able to do. I like the way he plays.”
Once the ball is kicked off, all of the pleasantries will go to the wayside and Ellerbe will be doing everything he can to get to Flacco and disrupt the passing game. He has made a fresh start with the Dolphins and moved on from Baltimore not re-signing him.
“I know it’s a business and I knew that from the first day I walked in there,” Ellerbe said. “Ray Lewis told me about it so I wasn’t surprised. I mean I was surprised a little bit but I really wasn’t surprised because they’ve go to do what’s best for their organization.”
This Sunday both teams will find out which one is better off.