An end run for Lee

Former QB working to get a read on new position


June 18, 2008|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN REPORTER

The indoctrination of Xavier Lee, tight end, continues today at the Ravens' Owings Mills training facility with painstaking care and renewed dedication.

A one-time prize quarterback recruit at Florida State, Lee has come to Baltimore to reinvent himself for the NFL.

As much as the Ravens look at Lee's raw athleticism, his muscular frame and his soft hands, they also are looking to see whether he brings passion to the position. Passion that shows he wants to maximize the opportunity he has.

The jury, tight ends coach Wade Harman said, is still out.

"[He shows it] at times. At times, he needs to work on it," Harman said after a rookie minicamp practice this week.

"The willingness I think is there, but he's got to understand he can apply himself more. He can use his time better. He's got opportunities that he's not taken advantage of. It's my job to help him understand where those opportunities are and how he can take advantage of them."

To that extent, Harman reviews each step, each play, each pass on video with Lee to help him through the introductory process. Yesterday, between plays in 11-on-11 drills, the coach mentored Lee off to the side on his footwork.

"Just the way he pushes me lets me know I need to show more passion," Lee, 22, said. "I've been working at it. It's not easy coming in and making that transition."

It's a rare athlete who can complete the transition. Among those who have done it in the NFL are Derrick Ramsey, who played with the Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots and Detroit Lions, and Jim Jensen and Bruce Hardy with the Miami Dolphins.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Lee is making progress but has a long way to go to become an NFL-caliber tight end.

"He is starting to look a little bit like a tight end," Harbaugh said. "He's running routes somewhat like what a tight end looks like. He's blocking in some fashion, not unlike a quarterback."

Said Lee: "I'm getting there. Every day I feel I'm getting better, stronger and smarter at the position."

Folks in Tallahassee, Fla., will find Lee's conversion to tight end interesting. At Florida State, Lee went from one of the top recruits in the class of 2004 to one of the biggest busts in school history. He threw for 98 touchdowns and more than 9,000 yards in high school in Daytona Beach but started just six games - only two of them wins - for the Seminoles.

Last season as a redshirt junior, he was suspended twice for missing classes and was among 21 scholarship players left home when Florida State went to the Music City Bowl in the wake of an academic cheating scandal.

After the coaching staff asked Lee to switch to tight end, he decided to forgo his final year of eligibility.

Lee acknowledges making mistakes at Florida State, but he said the request to become a tight end was not the reason he left.

"I didn't do everything possible that I could for me to play and start all three years I was there," he said. "There were a couple other little things that happened, but for the most part, I think I could've done a lot more. That's in the past. ... I can't really go back and change that."

Lee went through his own crisis of confidence during the ordeal.

"Going through that whole situation, I definitely questioned my potential, my ability even to play the position: Am I supposed to be here? Do I deserve to be here?" he said.

"I learned when the chips are down, you can't get down on yourself. You've got to put God first and stay focused and have confidence in yourself."

Lee joined the Ravens for a tryout in May - as a quarterback. He was signed May 15 as a tight end after a series of injuries left the team short-handed at the position.

"He's a sharp kid, he picks things up well," Harman said. "He's got some ball skills, catching the ball. Being a quarterback, he understands routes and how things are supposed to space out."

Harman had to teach Lee the most basic essentials of the position, however: how to get into his stance, how to step to the left and right, where to line up next to the tackle.

Lee said he has made the mental conversion to tight end.

"My thought is to go 100 percent as a tight end," he said. "That's what they brought me here for. I'm going to go [all out], work hard, and whatever happens, happens."

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