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Appearing noticeably heavier while participating in the Ravens’ first two weeks of organized team activities, outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw acknowledged Sunday he needs to shed pounds in time for his sophomore season in the NFL.
The 35th overall pick of the 2012 draft told reporters at a charity event in Aberdeen, Md. that he currently weights 285 pounds, a significant increase from the 272 pounds at which he played during his rookie season. The Alabama product cited the need to handle “personal issues” as a reason why he’s gained weight.
Upshaw raised eyebrows in his rookie season when he was heavier than the Ravens preferred during OTAs and training camp before finally getting into better shape by the early portion of the regular season. A shoulder injury also slowed the linebacker during training camp before he eventually earned a significant role in the Baltimore defense.
Expected to back up projected starting outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, Upshaw recorded 60 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, and a forced fumble while making nine starts in his first pro season. With the 30-year-old Suggs and the 29-year-old Dumervil both advancing in age, the Ravens likely envision Upshaw as a key piece to replace Dumervil in obvious running situations at strongside linebacker. This would then allow the former Denver Bronco — who will be playing out of position at the “Sam” linebacker spot — to either gain a breather or spell Suggs at rush linebacker.
Though he’s entitled to some benefit of the doubt regarding the personal issues that have supposedly impacted his ability to work out and eat right, Upshaw showing up in poor shape for a second straight year doesn’t speak well for his standing with head coach John Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees. Some have speculated that the Ravens could use Upshaw some at inside linebacker, but that possibility would appear unlikely if he’s showing even less quickness and agility.
Playing in 42 of the Ravens’ 62 defensive snaps in Super Bowl XLVII, Upshaw collected five tackles and forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive lineman Arthur Jones to help the franchise win its second Super Bowl title.