The proverbial “roster bubble” is about to become the most popular phrase in NFL training camps, and former Maryland Terp and current Ravens rookie undrafted free agent Matt Furstenburg finds himself firmly sitting atop it.
Following tight end Dennia Pitta’s season-ending hip dislocation, Furstenburg has been given a legitimate opportunity to earn a spot on the Ravens 53-man roster. When one door closes, another opens, and although Pitta’s injury was detrimental to the offense, it created an open door where there wasn’t one before – at the TE position.
“It’s always terrible to see someone get hurt like that,” said Furstenburg. “[Dennis Pitta] is a great player and a good teammate but it’s a good opportunity for another tight end to make the team.”
“Unfortunately, Pitta got hurt, but it’s a great opportunity for somebody else.”
The day after Pitta’s injury, Visanthe Shiancoe was signed by the team. The move had to be a shot to the confidence of Furstenburg, who had yet to have a real shot to prove himself. Now, he’ll have to beat out a ten-year veteran as well to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. Furstenburg understands the business of the game, and isn’t fooling himself.
“I could be borderline cut, or practice squad,” he said when going over his options. “I’m just trying to make the team.”
For Furstenburg to have a shot to crack the Ravens’ active roster, he’ll have to set himself apart with his special teams work. If the Ravens believe they can get equal production from both tight ends at that position, Furstenburg could possibly bring more value to the coach’s table with his abilities on special teams.
“I know that if I’m going to make the team and make an impact, [special teams] is where it’s probably going to be,” said Furstenburg, who is trying to show that he can be versatile. “I just try to be with [Jerry Rosburg] and tell him where I can go, where I can fit, learn from my mistakes and just be a reliable option.”
During the NFL Scouting Combine, Furstenburg ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash time for tight ends. His speed is an asset and one that he hopes to use to catch the attention of the coaching staff.
“I try to just go as fast as I can on everything,” he said. “Even if I’m not doing it right, I just try to go full speed, and show the coaches that I can get down field and make plays with my legs.”
As the Ravens prepare to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday for their first preseason game of the season, Furstenburg will likely have to adjust to two totally different styles of play from quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Caleb Hanie. Luckily for Furstenburg, that’s something he got used to during his senior season at College Park, when Maryland lined up six different starting quarterbacks (including a converted linebacker).
“I’m eager to get out there for my first game and show everybody what I can do,” he said. “The preseason is where you showcase your skills, not only for this team but if you end up with another team, that’s where they look at you. I’m just trying to play my best.”
Furstenburg’s best is certainly something the Ravens need as it’s been difficult for them to keep their two best tight ends healthy. At this point, the team isn’t absolutely desperate for another tight end, but seeing some encouraging signs from Furstenburg in Tampa Bay would be a nice bonus.