The comparison between C.J. Mosley and Ray Lewis began on draft day, when the former Alabama standout became the first middle linebacker selected in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens since Lewis in 1996.
Minutes after being plucked by Baltimore with the 17th overall pick last May, Mosley insisted he would carve out his own niche.
"I'm not trying to go in there and be the next 52 or anything like that," Mosley said. "I'm going in there to be C.J. Mosley and help the team win."
Mosley stands by that assessment five months later, even though he's showed many of the same traits Lewis displayed during his stellar 17-year career with Baltimore.
Five games into his professional career, Mosley is the Ravens' leading tackler. He had 14 tackles and an interception last week against Indianapolis and has batted away five passes, high among NFL linebackers.
Very Lewis-like. And still, Mosley will have none of it.
"When I first came in, I said I wasn't going to try to be the next Ray Lewis," Mosley said Wednesday. "I have to be me and play the way I play. But to be mentioned with him is a great honor."
Mosley has a lot to learn, but so far he's been impressive. His 47 tackles is high among NFL rookies and he's the only player in the league with at least 40 tackles, an interception, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble.
"He makes very few mistakes," coach John Harbaugh said. "He's playing good football, he's a really good tackler, he's done a nice job of coverage. But he'll be the first to tell you, he's not going to rest on any past performance."
Yep, that's exactly what Mosley says. Ask him his thoughts on being Baltimore's leading tackler, and he shrugs and talks about just doing his job.
"I can't say I thought about that, but I knew what kind of player I was and I knew that's why the Ravens drafted me, to make plays and run around on the field," Mosley said. "That's the kind of linebacker I am. I've got to keep doing that and be better every week."
At Alabama, Mosley played on two national championship teams and earned the Butkus Award in 2013 as the nation's best linebacker. None of that guaranteed success at this level, so Mosley arrived at training camp with the understanding that he would have to earn a starting spot.
That is precisely what happened. Like Lewis, Mosley started in his first NFL game. Not only that, but Mosely finished second on the team with six tackles in a loss to Cincinnati.
"From Day One, he's been a humble guy who wants to learn," Ravens veteran linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. "He's very mature in his preparation, so really, we're not surprised in how he's been performing. He's been really preparing the right way ever since training camp."
Maybe playing at Alabama had something to do with it.
"I just refer to a saying we had at Alabama, and that's 'Do you job.' That's really all I'm doing," Mosley said. "You're supposed to run to the ball, make tackles and defend players in the passing game."
Dumervil kiddingly said Mosley would be even better if he played at his alma mater, Louisville. But he added, "Obviously Alabama is a good program and they've done a lot of good things there. But a kid like that, I've got to give him the credit. He has the want-to-do and he has been doing that. He comes in with his mind right. Kudos to him."
Mosley is already getting noticed around the league. Baltimore faces Tampa Bay on Sunday, and Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon knows he'd better watch out for No. 57.
"He's done a great job for them right out of the gate," Glennon said. "I'm sure he's going to continue to develop throughout the course of the year as he gets more comfortable with their defense. Already, just through a couple games, he's making a lot of plays. He just has a knack for the ball."
In other news, the Ravens put cornerback Asa Jackson (toe) on the IR-designated to return list, cut tight end Phillip Supernaw, signed cornerback Dominique Franks and claimed tight end Ryan Taylor off waivers.
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