Street Talk Rookies Put Best Foot Forward

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OWINGS MILLS — Whether it was first-round draft pick Ben Grubbs or unheralded free agent running back Greg Pruitt Jr., the Baltimore Ravens’ rookie class had plenty in common Friday morning.
As the team began a two-day rookie minicamp, nervousness, excitement and a desire to make a strong first impression typified the rookies’ NFL initiation.
During non-contact drills conducted in shorts, the Ravens’ goal is to get the rookies, including seven draft picks, 16 undrafted free agents and a few players here on a trial basis, comfortable during their first official day in pro football.
“They found the chow line, and they know where to go to the bathroom,” Ravens coach Brian Billick quipped. “So, we’re ahead of the curve there.
"That’s what this is all about. These two days are about them getting comfortable with their circumstances. It’s very broad-based."
Although Billick acknowledged that it was practically impossible to draw conclusions in this static setting, that didn’t stop the rookies from trying to separate themselves.
For Grubbs, a 6-foot-3, 315-pound offensive guard from Auburn selected with the 29th overall pick, that meant demonstrating his conditioning, quickness and power while hustling around the field and hitting the blocking sled.
“I just want to show them that I know how to play the game,” said Grubbs, who received a crash course in the playbook at the team hotel. “I’m a student of the game, I work hard and, in general, I want to show them I know football.
“I’m living a dream right now, and it can’t get any better. .. During the first day at Auburn, we took baby steps. Now, we’re all grown up and stepping right into the fire.”
Pruitt, a 5-foot-9, 210-pound undrafted former North Carolina Central standout, had the benefit of being counseled by his father, former Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl running back Greg Pruitt, Sr. The elder Pruitt had several 1,000-yard seasons during a career that overlapped with Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome’s Hall of Fame stint in Cleveland.
“I was born the last year my dad played, and I grew up watching those films,” said Pruitt, who rushed for 3,000 yards “I’ve seen them so many times that I can lay down in the bed and close my eyes and still see them. My dad is always telling me what I can do better. I’ve known Ozzie since I was a little guy running around, so it’s good to be here."
UNDRAFTED CLASS: The Ravens signed the following undrafted rookie free agents: Northeastern tight end Kendrick Ballantyne (6-4, 243), Syracuse punter Brendan Carney (6-4, 203), Notre Dame tight end Marcus Freeman (6-2, 246), Houston cornerback Willie Gaston (5-10, 187), Penn State safety Donnie Johnson (6-0, 209), Southeast Missouri State defensive end Edgar Jones (6-3, 263), Virginia Tech long snapper Nick Leeson (6-1, 255), Notre Dame defensive end Travis Leitko (6-6, 273), Central Michigan wide receiver Damien Linson (5-10, 186), San Diego State middle linebacker Joe Martin (6-1, 229), San Diego State cornerback Terrell Maze (5-10, 171), Mississippi State defensive tackle Andrew Powell (6-0, 317), Pruitt, Tennessee kicker James Wilhoit (5-10, 200), UCLA wide receiver Matt Willis (5-11, 185) and Hawaii defensive tackle Lawrence Wilson (6-0, 296).
QUICK HITS: Grand Valley State quarterback Cullen Finnerty and Hampton cornerback Calvin Bannister are among the players trying out for the team. … Billick said he didn’t expect the Ravens to be affected by the NFL-NCAA rule restricting players from attending full-team minicamps until their respective colleges conclude classes for the year. Last year, the rule prevented defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and wide receiver Demetrius Williams from attending several minicamps. … Former Ravens secondary coach Donnie Henderson, who was fired from his post as Detroit Lions defensive coordinator after last season, attended practice and was scheduled to meet with Newsome and Billick afterward. That prompted speculation that Henderson might join the staff as a consultant, but it’s believed no deal is in the offing and it was basically just a friendly visit.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors. 

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