OWINGS MILLS – The ink had barely dried after signing his $2.6 million contract when Baltimore Ravens rookie offensive tackle Jah Reid aced his conditioning test and bolted onto the practice field.
Greeted by offensive line coach Andy Moeller on the sideline, Reid was immediately directed toward the starters’ huddle.
And the third-round draft pick from Central Florida demonstrated that he understands at least a few basic tenets of football during his first NFL practice:
When in doubt, hit somebody and bring a nasty attitude to the line of scrimmage.
The 6-foot-7, 336-pounder knocked linebacker Sergio Kindle to the ground and he grappled with veteran linebacker Jarret Johnson, not backing down an inch.
“It was kind of a trial by fire, sink or swim,” said Reid, who received a 563,000 signing bonus. “They just kind of threw me out there since I was on the field. I just have to absorb everything I can and take my licks, learn from it, go out there and perform and get used to the speed and the strength of the players. There are a lot of good people out there, so eventually I’ll improve. Right now, it’s a learning experience.”
It’s only a few days into training camp, but Reid has already established a few qualities: controlled aggressiveness, solid technique and good athleticism and power.
The two-time All-Conference USA selection has taken almost every snap with the first-team offense because offensive tackle Oniel Cousins isn’t allowed to practice until Aug. 4 due to new NFL rules regarding restricted free agents. And Ramon Harewood is on the physically unable to perform list.
Reid could wind up the starter as much by default as by merit even though he seems to have more upside than his competitors.
“There’s definitely a lot to learn, but I’ve got this camp to do it,” Reid said. “I’m just going to do the best I can and I expect to go out there and start. That’s what I want to do, that’s what I came here to do. I’m just going to go out there and be like a sponge and soak up as much information as I can.”
As much as Reid has delivered some shots, he’s also proven that he can absorb some punishment.
He’s definitely not brittle.
“I took a good one today, those guys don’t hold back,” said Reid, who couldn’t remember which linebacker collided with him. “The Ravens come out to play. They’re a tough team and I expect that when I go out there.”
This isn’t the first time the Ravens have gambled on a precocious young offensive tackle.
After drafting Michael Oher in the first round two years ago, they installed him as their starter for every game at right tackle.
Oher, though, had the benefit of an entire offseason that included minicamps, organized team activities, classroom sessions and a supervised conditioning program to be groomed for the position.
“Jah’s looking great,” said Oher, the Ravens’ starting left tackle. “He’s going to be able to help the team this year. He has all the tools. He has the right mindset. He’s going to be pretty good.”
Oher has been providing his knowledge of the game to Reid, giving him tips.
“He helps me with different techniques,” Reid said. “He’s a great person to watch. I’ll be on one side not doing so great and then the coach tells me to look at him. So, that helps a lot. He’s a great person to model myself after and hopefully live up to how he’s been doing.”
Having tangled with Reid on the field in pass-rushing situations, Johnson came away impressed with the big rookie who used to weigh a doughy 375 pounds in high school and has now transformed himself into about 340 pounds of bad news.
“He’s a big, strong kid,” Johnson said. “He’s got a lot of talent. He’s real long, and that’s what you want in a right tackle. With their situation, give him a lot of reps and see how tough he is.”
Toughness is one of the traits the Ravens identified in Reid when they scouted him at the East-West Shrine game and in a bowl game against the University of Georgia when he shut down Kansas City Chiefs third-round rookie outside linebacker Justin Houston.
“You definitely have to be tough, but a big part of that is being able to put things behind you,” Reid said. “If you make a mistake, you have to go on to the next play. Every play isn’t going to go my way, but I have to put that behind me, improve and learn.
“I want to go out there and show that I can hang with the tough guys and do this, so they can have faith in me. You’ve got to go out there and push people around. That’s my job.”
Reid’s job before enrolling in college was to lose weight and improve his diet.
Dreadlocked and the son of a Jamaican father, (his first name means God in Jamaican) Reid was a relatively unknown commodity out of high school in part because of his heft as only Connecticut and Middle Tennessee State pursued him besides Central Florida.
Now, Reid runs the 40-yard dash in a respectable 5.29 seconds, has a 29-inch vertical leap and bench presses 225 pounds 23 times. He’s a self-described gym rat who loves to play racquetball.
“I do a lot of cardio,” Reid said. “I’m a lot more active than I was in high school. Definitely eat healthier, I try and stay away from the fast food as much as possible and I don’t eat any candy really.”
The Ravens wanted Reid badly enough that they traded up five spots to select him 85th overall, sending their third-round draft pick and a sixth-round selection to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Before the draft, Reid worked out for the Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs and the Cleveland Browns. And he visited Baltimore, the New York Jets and the New Orleans Saints.
The Ravens are thrilled with Reid so far, but he did get yelled at by Moeller for a mental mistake.
The Ravens’ regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers is fast approaching.
Even though Reid is on an accelerated learning program, blocking Steelers star outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley is an arduous task. Pittsburgh is sure to test his mettle.
“I feel like there’s a lot I need to get ready for, and that’s what practice is for,” Reid said. “I know the Steelers are a great team, but our goal is to go out there and beat them and that’s what I want to do. I’ve got to do whatever I can to go out there and get ready for them.”
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times