Leading up to the Tennessee game, no one was talking about the potential of Anthony Levine starting the game at cornerback. Levine, himself, wasn't either. No one told him the coaching staff's plan for the secondary until the morning of, which was to put Levine — a safety that has cross-trained at corner this year — out there with the starters.
It was a bit surprising to see Levine out there opposite of Lardarius Webb after kickoff. But Levine did more than enough to hold his own. He finished the game with four tackles and two pass deflections, drawing praise from coach John Harbaugh in the process.
"It's something that we've kind of been watching for a number of weeks and months, I guess," Harbaugh said. "And he gets better every single week. I guess we're not going to call him a safety anymore. He deserves to be called a corner, and he deserves it.
Levine has had a long journey to reach this point. A standout special-teamer, Levine entered the NFL undrafted out of Tennessee State in 2010. After some time with Green Bay's practice squad during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, he ended up on Baltimore's practice squad in 2012. He was eventually called up to the 53-man roster late in the season to assist the team on special teams.
Last season, he made the 53-man roster out of training camp and continued being a special teams standout. This year, with injuries and a lack of depth in the secondary, Levine began working at both corner and safety this preseason. The cross-training paid off as the Ravens placed Levine out there with the starters this past Sunday.
"I've been waiting for this for a long time," Levine told reporters after the game. "To call myself a starting something in the NFL — whether it was safety, corner — I was happy to say that I was a starting corner today for the Baltimore Ravens."
Until cornerback Asa Jackson comes back from the injured reserve-designated to return list, Levine can be expected to continue being a part of the cornerback rotation. Whether he continues to start remains to be seen. The Ravens also brought in Danny Gorrer and elevated Tramain Jacobs from the practice squad last week. Those two figure to split reps with Levine.
In the NFL, lots of guys have to wait for an opportunity to prove they belong. Levine got his shot on Sunday. After one game, Levine is off to a good start.
"I was happy, I was humbled," Levine said. "I'm glad that coach Harbaugh believed in me. Him and coach Spags [secondary/assistant head coach Steve Spagnuolo] and [defensive coordinator] coach [Dean] Pees. They believed in me, and I go out there and I compete every day in practice. Coach Spags sent me a text, and he was like, ‘Be ready.' I didn't know what that meant. I was just like, I'm going to go out there and compete in practice and I ended up starting."