Three years ago, the Ravens signed Domonique Foxworth, a Maryland native, to one of the most lucrative free-agent contracts in team history. But an injury never gave Foxworth an opportunity to live up to the deal, and Monday, the Ravens terminated the veteran cornerback's contract.
Foxworth, who hails from Randallstown and starred at Maryland, played in just two games for the Ravens the past two seasons after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a noncontact drill on the first day of training camp in 2010.
A day after shredding his knee, Foxworth -- supporting himself on crutches as tears welled up in his eyes -- told reporters at an impromptu news conference in the lobby of the Westminster Best Western that he felt he was letting the franchise down. He spent that season on injured reserve, and after the pain in his knee persisted in 2011, Foxworth was placed on injured reserve in late September.
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"We appreciate all Domonique did for us the past three years, both with his play and his important leadership off the field," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said Monday in a statement. "This does not preclude us from bringing back Domonique back at a later date."
The Ravens said Foxworth failed a physical. As a vested veteran, meaning he has at least four years of NFL experience, Foxworth is now a free agent and can sign with any team.
Foxworth, who turns 29 on March 27, was due to make $5.6 million in 2012, the final season of a four-year, $27.2 million contract that he signed in 2009 with much fanfare in his hometown.
"You sacrifice some of the other things that are important to you because being close to home is obviously of premium importance in my thinking," he said in 2009 when he joined the team.
Foxworth's release came three days after the Ravens cut fellow cornerback Chris Carr and wide receiver Lee Evans. The roster moves give the Ravens more than $14.5 million in combined salary cap relief.
Foxworth started 16 games for the Ravens that season, making four interceptions and breaking up 16 passes. He played well down the stretch as the Ravens went 9-7 and reached the AFC divisional round.
He next played in 2011, suiting up for the first two games. But he was mostly ineffective because of a knee that had not fully recovered. After being inactive in Week 3, he was placed on injured reserve. At the time, coach John Harbaugh said Foxworth's future with the Ravens was "up in the air."
"We'll see how it goes," Foxworth said when asked about his future after the Ravens' season ended. "I'm not that high on the food chain to make those types of decisions. I just do what I'm told."
Foxworth starred at Western Tech, earning first-team all-Metro and all-county honors from The Baltimore Sun in 2000, then was recruited by Ralph Friedgen to play for the Terps.
He started 40 games at Maryland, totaling 143 tackles, eight interceptions and 31 passes broken up.
After graduating from Maryland, Foxworth was a third-round draft pick by the Denver Broncos in 2005. In his three seasons in Denver, he played in 46 games, starting in 18, picked off three passes, broke up 24 passes and forced three fumbles. He made a career-high 70 tackles in his rookie season.
He was traded to the Atlanta Falcons before the 2008 season and started in 10 of his 14 games.
Foxworth said he relished mentoring the team's young cornerbacks -- who include Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith, a first-round draft pick in 2011 -- in his three seasons with the Ravens.
In an interview with The Baltimore Sun after the Ravens' 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game in January, Foxworth said, "My heart's been broken all season," and that it was "really tough" to watch the team come so close to a Super Bowl only to fall short.
Because of his knee injury, his impact on the field was limited. But Foxworth has remained active off the field. As a member of the NFL Players Association's executive committee, he played a key role in negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement and salvaging the 2011 NFL season.
Foxworth has also given back to the Baltimore community through his nonprofit organization, Baltimore B.O.R.N. (Boys Opportunity and Resource Network). The organization provides opportunities and resources to male students from low-income families who live in Baltimore.
For his work off the field, Foxworth was the first recipient of the Tim Wheatley Award in 2010. The award, named for a former sports editor of The Sun and given annually, was created by the Baltimore Sun Media Group to honor a local athlete whose contributions off the field are as important as those on the field.