Every day that Courtney Upshaw walks into the Ravens’ practice facility in Owings Mills, he steps on a scale. The six or seven pounds shed since the Ravens selected him in the second round of the NFL draft is proof of the hard work the outside linebacker has put in since late April.
The weight loss is welcomed as Upshaw prepares for his first NFL training camp, but his biggest concern during organized team activities has been getting the Ravens defense down, not his weight. After all, with star linebacker Terrell Suggs sidelined with a season-threatening injury, Upshaw is expected to line up with the first-string defense at next week’s mandatory minicamp.
“I feel I’ve learned a lot. These past few weeks coming in, the preparation has been a lot,” Upshaw said. “We’re all trying to get better each and every day and I feel I’m improving in every aspect of whatever they want me to do.”
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Upshaw is faring well in the transition from college to the professional ranks. With the loss of Suggs and Jarret Johnson, who signed with the San Diego Chargers, Upshaw may have to meet high expecations for the Ravens to improve a defense that ranked third overall in 2011.
Upshaw will get the first crack at the strong-side outside linebacker spot that used to be manned by Johnson, and he spent a decent chunk of time in OTAs dropping into coverage. But Paul Kruger, who could sub in for Suggs, will need some help chasing the quarterback at times.
First things first, though, Upshaw gets to chase down Ray Lewis next week. Lewis is expected to be at the mandatory minicamp — along with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and perhaps Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed — and Upshaw is excited to learn from the legendary linebacker.
“Just the fact that I get to play with Ray Lewis and actually get to see him in action and be on the same field with him [is special],” Upshaw said.