Rookies try to get up to Ravens' speed

Fullback McLaughlin, wide receiver Reed among intriguing first-year players for team

May 08, 2010|By Ken Murray, The Baltimore Sun

As introductions go, the start of a three-day minicamp was a "reality check" for Ravens free-agent rookie Mike McLaughlin. For fifth-round draft pick David Reed, it was just "crazy."

Two weeks after the draft and one week after all Ravens rookies received their new playbooks, it was time to join the veterans in a fast-paced NFL practice.

"I thought I had it a little bit," Reed, a wide receiver from Utah, said about his playbook. "I thought I'd be able to hear key words and I'm hearing new words, words I never knew. … I was just trying to keep pace."

Reed, who had 106 catches and 11 touchdowns at Utah after two years at junior college, looked quick running routes and good catching the ball. It was his indecision upon hearing a play called that slowed him. He got on-field advice from wide-out Marcus Smith, who is coming off major knee surgery.

Reed expects to get up to speed quickly. What does he want to show the Ravens before camp closes Sunday?

"I just want them to see they got a player, that I'm a competitor, that I'm a player and I can make plays and be a playmaker," he said. "I know I can. I've just got to get that system down."

For McLaughlin, Friday's debut was even more vexing. A former middle linebacker for Boston College, McLaughlin is trying to make the Ravens as a fullback.

"I have played it, but not at this level," he said. "Today's a little bit of a reality check. This is the biggest, best football in the world. I'm glad to be on board, but I've got a lot of learning to do."

McLaughlin had been projected as a late-round pick in the draft, but the 6-foot, 245-pound linebacker was never taken.

"It was a little bit of disappointment," he said, "but I'm not worried about that anymore. I'm here, I'm sitting in this locker room with these guys, with the Baltimore Ravens. I've got my place, now it's just about going to work. … I'm around a great group of guys and a great group of coaches. I'm going to work as hard as I possibly can."

Coach John Harbaugh was pleased with what he saw from his rookie class. For the first time in Harbaugh's three seasons in Baltimore, he sent members of his coaching staff out after the draft to meet early with draft picks.

He sent new linebackers coach Dean Pees to visit outside linebacker Sergio Kindle, Clarence Brooks to visit with defensive tackles Terrence Cody and Arthur Jones, and assistant offensive line coach Andy Moeller to see offensive tackle Ramon Harewood.

"We tried to get those guys kind of honed in before they got here and it really paid off," Harbaugh said.

Kruger packs on pounds

Paul Kruger looked bigger and stronger at 275 pounds — up from the 260 he played at as a rookie — but the second-year player is not exactly comfortable in his own skin right now.

"I didn't feel myself today," he said. "I just need to start getting used to the [added] weight," he said. "But it's kind of a shock to the body. It's like wearing a backpack with rocks in it."

Kruger had success at Utah as a quick, athletic pass rusher, and was used sparingly at outside linebacker last year. But he will primarily play a defensive end position at his new weight.

Clayton on the mend

Wide receiver Mark Clayton won't participate in drills this minicamp because he had an arthroscopic procedure on his right shoulder three weeks ago and is still rehabilitating. He said he'll be ready to return to practice in three weeks.

He appears undaunted by the overhaul of the team's receiving corps, adding veterans Anquan Boldin and Donte' Stallworth this offseason.

"I look at it as, we want to get better, we're bringing in guys we know can contribute," Clayton said. "We did great getting those guys, as well as two tight ends in the draft. To me, we're loading up."

Clayton hadn't signed his tender as a restricted free agent with the Ravens, but he said that was only because he has been in Oklahoma finishing work on a degree in communications. He's going to graduate May 14.

Orange defenders reunited

Defensive tackle Arthur Jones' first day on the job with the Ravens felt a little like his old days at Syracuse with linebacker Jameel McClain playing behind him.

"It felt like old times out there today," Jones said. "I got that vibe from being on the field together. It felt like the old days back at Syracuse. He was like a big brother to me at Syracuse, and he's still like a big brother to me."

Jones said he has recovered from a knee injury that cost him the last three games of his college career — and perhaps several rounds in the draft.

"I thought I should have gone in the second or third round, realistically," he said. "Things didn't work out in my favor because of the injury. Once it went into the fifth round, that's when I got a little scared. … But you count your blessings and I'm happy to be with the best defense in the NFL. I wouldn't want to be anyplace else."

Baltimore Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

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