Corey Graham signed as a free agent with the Ravens during the offseason and has played well, starting eight games at cornerback in the regular season and two more in the playoffs, and intercepting Peyton Manning twice in Baltimore’s upset at Denver. Graham says he could have played that well earlier in his career with the Bears — he just never got the chance.
According to Graham, Bears coach Lovie Smith always viewed him as a special teams player only, and wouldn’t give him a chance to play defense.
“From my rookie year, I was put in the special teams and I felt like I did well at it,” Graham told USA Today. “When they label you as a special teamer, it’s tough to get that label off of you, no matter what you do. . . . Lovie Smith, he loved what I did as a special teamer and that’s what he wanted from me, no matter what. So I could go out and practice, get six interceptions at corner, but no matter what I was going to be Corey Graham, special teamer. That’s just how it was. That’s what he wanted from me, so I went out there and tried to be the best special-teamer I could possibly be.”
Graham says teammate Brendon Ayanbadejo, who also left Chicago to sign in Baltimore, had the same experience.
“In Chicago there was no way [Ayanbadejo] was going to touch the field on defense. There’s no way,” Graham said. “Then I come here and I’m watching games and I’m seeing him out there playing and I’m like, ‘Wow, he’s getting a chance.’ And that’s all you want as a player, is a chance to play.”
Graham is getting that chance now. And making the most of it.