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WESTMINSTER — The impending rituals of rookie hazing weren’t troubling offensive guard Ben Grubbs’ mind Wednesday morning.
The first-round draft pick was mainly just relieved that a sprained knee that sidelined him at practice isn’t a more serious injury. Grubbs sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during a Tuesday afternoon special-teams workout at McDaniel College.
Although the former Auburn star was able to finish practice, his knee swelled up enough overnight that he underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam as a precautionary measure. The prognosis is Grubbs could be back on the field soon, but might have to miss the Ravens’ scrimmage against the Washington Redskins on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium.
"Just a moderate sprain, day to day," said Grubbs, whom Baltimore drafted 29th overall and signed to a five-year, $8 million contract. "I continued practicing yesterday, so that’s how I knew that it wasn’t that serious. I just wanted to get it checked because it was kind of uncomfortable. But I’ll be back in no time."
While Grubbs said he might perform some individual drills as soon as today, this minor medical setback could delay his bid to become the Ravens’ starting right guard. Not only is Grubbs competing with Chris Chester, he’s also trying to make the transition to the right side after playing his entire career at Auburn at left guard.
"That’s been the hard part," Grubbs said. "I’m comfortable with where I’m at with the system. Right now, I’ve got the basics down.
"I really need to work on my technique and mechanics as far as moving from left guard to right guard. The biggest surprise would probably be just the athletes out here."
A consensus All-American, Grubbs was regarded as the top pure guard in the draft.
In 50 career games, he graded out at over 90 percent 30 times and allowed just three sacks. He was penalized only four times.
"He’s one of my favorite players in the draft," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said after selecting Grubbs. "I think he’s one of the elite guys in terms of playing ability, durability and quickness. He passed every single test, he passed with flying colors."
Now, Grubbs has to make a dramatic adjustment to a higher level of football.
Does anyone have any advice for the 23-year-old rookie?
"He shouldn’t have a social life," said defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, last year’s first-round draft pick who started all 16 games. He has to be in his playbook the same way that I was. I think that’s what helped me get on the field pretty fast.
"I was in my playbook every day, in between meetings and nap times. I think he’s a great player. He’s real strong with his arms and quick hands. I think he can be a great player for us."
Grubbs got off to the right start by reporting on time, fulfilling a promise he made at minicamp to not be a holdout. Grubbs signed a contract with $5.5 million in guaranteed money, including a $1 million signing bonus, becoming the first Ravens first-round draft pick to not hold out since tight end Todd Heap in 2001.
"That definitely was a goal of mine to be here with my teammates and get that respect and get better," Grubbs said.
Earning that respect, though, might entail performing tasks that extend beyond learning blocking schemes and walling off blitzing linebackers.
Grubbs is fully aware of the tradition of veterans putting rookies in their place, including: pies being smashed in their face, being taped to goalposts and doused with Gatorade or, more conventionally, being forced to sing for their supper.
"It’s coming," Grubbs said. "That’s just a tradition. I haven’t had to sing yet, but I’ve been practicing."
Grubbs acknowledged that he doesn’t have a particularly melodious voice.
During an interview, he struggled through the Temptations classic, "I Wish it Would Rain," with some assistance from Ravens senior vice president of public relations Kevin Byrne and a local television anchor.
Plus, Grubbs is likely to have to make a small dent in his signing bonus in the near future. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is demanding that Grubbs buy a fancy radio for the locker room.
"He told me what kind he wanted and how much he wanted it to be," Grubbs said. "When you have a guy like that telling you something, you might want to consider buying it."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.