Willis grabs attention

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

Notebook

Receiver dives into competition

August 02, 2008|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun reporter

Matt Willis was a long shot to make the Ravens as a free agent last year but did. The second-year wide receiver from UCLA is still fighting the odds, but he is also finding a way to get noticed.

Among the team's offensive highlights so far in training camp was a diving catch Willis made this week on a slightly off-target pass from quarterback Troy Smith.

Making those kinds of catches has become something of a Willis specialty.

"It's just staying focused and working hard and opening everybody else's eyes so they see what I see," Willis said.

A practice squad player who wound up playing in five games as a rookie because of a season-ending ankle injury to Demetrius Williams, Willis is trying to catch whatever opportunity - and pass - is thrown his way.

"I know what I'm capable of and how hard I work," Willis said after practice yesterday at McDaniel College in Westminster. "I know I'm able to compete with these guys and one day be a starter."

Willis, who caught one pass for 11 yards in a late-season loss to the Indianapolis Colts at M&T Bank Stadium, has again been given a chance this summer because of injuries to others.

Williams has yet to practice because of a heel injury, and Mark Clayton suffered a shoulder injury yesterday in practice. The extent of Clayton's injury is unknown, but Clayton was seen at the team's hotel wearing a sling on his right arm.

"It's a physical game," said Willis, who hasroved to be fairly durable, though he is small for a receiver at only 5 feet 11 and 190 pounds. "Younger guys in my situation have to be prepared when you get the opportunity."

A different test

Many wondered where Smith was for the first 75 minutes of a two-hour workout, but the absence of the second-year quarterback was cleared up later by Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

"There's an issue - we've had this happen three or four times at camp - with the new drug-testing policy that's in place. It's very strict, very stringent, and they have to get the drug test done before they can come out and practice in the morning," Harbaugh said.

"Sometimes it takes guys a little longer to get it done. Troy took awhile to get that taken care of."

Newest Raven

After cutting second-year cornerback Anwar Phillips yesterday morning, the Ravens signed Alex Haynes, a 5-10, 223-pound running back who was recently cut after two seasons with the Carolina Panthers.

"Anytime you're sitting at home and someone signs you off the street to participate in camp, it's always an opportunity," said Haynes, 26, who had three carries for 3 yards a year ago.

Haynes, who signed with the Ravens as a free agent out of Central Florida but failed his physical, was brought in because of injuries to Cory Ross and P.J. Daniels.

Joked Harbaugh, "Le'Ron McClain was complaining that he wasn't getting enough reps today. He was taking all the reps [Thursday]."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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