Rookie WR Reed impresses at Ravens' passing camp

But it's only a minicamp, so let's not get too excited

  • Wide receiver David Reed catches a pass and is lifted by Tom Zbikowski during camp. "I feel I have great hands and I can catch any ball," Reed says.
Wide receiver David Reed catches a pass and is lifted by Tom Zbikowski… (Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd…)
May 20, 2010|By Kevin Cowherd

There's an old NFL saying that goes something like this: In minicamp, every wide receiver is a superstar.

Watch him in shorts, cutting fearlessly across the middle when no one's trying to take his head off.

Watch him run precise routes when no one's in his face talking trash and the contact is more like two-hand touch.

Watch him extend fully to make a catch instead of alligator-arming the ball, as he might do in the regular season when a wild-eyed linebacker is lowering a helmet to knock him into the next ZIP code.

Oh, yeah, the league is full of stories about players who were Jerry Rice in minicamp and promptly turned into Jerry Seinfeld once the pads were on and the hitting started.

Which brings us to David Reed, the wide receiver from Utah selected by the Ravens in the fifth round of last month's draft.

Reed has looked impressive this week at the Ravens' passing camp at The Castle in Owings Mills. The coaches are saying nice things about him. Quarterback Joe Flacco loves how he runs his routes.

"He catches everything," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He gets in and out of the routes well."

OK, you think, that's a good thing.

But in the next breath, Harbaugh turns into a killjoy.

He throws in the caveat he uses whenever he talks about a rookie or free agent in camp.

"It's shorts," he says. "You see what you see."

Right. And what you see isn't always what you get when training camp opens in July and everyone's smacking one another in full pads.

But watching him in camp, it's not hard to see why the Ravens were so high on Reed after he set a single-season Utah record with 81 catches for 1,188 yards and five touchdowns his senior year.

One play in particular Tuesday had everyone buzzing. With the ball on the 20-yard line, Reed ran an inside post pattern to the back middle of the end zone. Flacco threw a bullet.

Without breaking stride, Reed extended high and to the left to make the catch. Coming down, he got both feet in bounds. Touchdown.

The ability to catch in traffic is why Joe Hortiz, the team's director of college scouting, called the 6-foot, 190-pound Reed "one of my favorite guys in the draft."

"He'll get knocked back and snapped and he jumps right up, and the next play he's catching the ball over the middle of the field," Hortiz said. "He's just a really tough, aggressive wide receiver with some playmaking ability."

Reed struggled in his first minicamp, his head spinning from how much the Ravens expect their rookies to absorb from the get-go.

The biggest difference between the college and pro games?

"You've got to pick up the details," he said. "You've got to know everything here. It's a real thinking game as much as a playing [game.]"

He knows that even if he makes the team, he'll have to scrap for playing time with newcomers Anquan Boldin and Donte' Stallworth and veteran mainstay Derrick Mason ahead of him on the depth chart, not to mention Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams, who might or might not be on the team next season.

"I know those guys are going to play," Reed said. "Hopefully, I'll get a shot -- when they get tired or something. I'm a rookie. I'll play special teams, whatever. Any way to get on the field."

You get the impression Reed isn't blowing smoke with that one. For one thing, he also returned kicks his junior year at Utah, averaging 25.4 yards per return.

With Lardarius Webb trying to come back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament -- he has been gingerly testing the knee in backpedaling drills -- Reed could get some time at kick returner.

But the guy lives to catch passes.

"I feel I have great hands and can catch any ball," he said.

At Pasadena City College, where he went before transferring to Utah, it seemed like he caught every ball. In 2007, he set a national junior college record with 111 catches for 1,661 yards.

Those are astonishing numbers for a junior college player.

"Did they throw to you on every single play?" I asked Reed.

"I ran a lot of screens," he said, smiling. "I mean, I ran a lot of screens."

So here he is, the quintessential NFL story: the rookie trying to make a team.

It's minicamp. It's shorts and shells instead of full pads.

But Reed is opening some eyes.

When you're a fifth-round draft choice, that's what you have to do.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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