THE GRAPEVINE: Let’s give them something to talk about

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: Let’s give them something to talk about

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During one of the Ravens recent OTA’s Cam Cameron insightfully pointed out that it’s easy to get excited about the performances of players running around in shorts without padding and without the “threat of contact.”

The threat of contact…

For me those four words lingered and in many ways they reshaped my perspective on OTA’s.

A new passing weapon like tight end Ed Dickson or wide receiver David Reed may look great crossing the middle of the field, extending and catching confidently and then quickly tucking the football to add yards after the catch when there’s no threat of No. 52 trying to separate the receiver from the ball.

Or worse…

Just ask Chad Ochocinco.

The pads and contact make a big difference and it’s then that we’ll really see what the Ravens have in their new rookie toys.

For all intents and purposes, these OTA’s help build chemistry on and off the field. They create familiarity and help the coaching staff install new plays, collectively leading the way to a more productive training camp.

Think of OTA’s along the lines of new employee orientation.

It’s all fresh and promising, perhaps even inspiring yet means very little until the curtain is drawn up and the real lights come on signaling the start of the season.

Until then OTA’s are just something to talk about.

Those NFL guys are pretty smart.

The Back-up

It’s been said often that the most popular player in town is the backup quarterback for the city’s NFL team. However you don’t hear much of that here in B’more.

Troy Smith certainly has his supporters among fans and on the team. He’s a natural leader and possesses extreme confidence – some say he’s overly confident.

Smith was once described to me this way by a Ravens’ insider…

"If you see ten players gathered in the cafeteria and nine of them are listening, there’s a good chance that the tenth man is Troy Smith."

He’s charismatic and well spoken. He’s ambitious.

And he’s not your prototypical backup QB.

Long-term backups are often cerebral, less physically gifted than the guy at the top of the QB food chain and they willingly accept their subservient role on the team. Perhaps most importantly they accept who they are and that mindset enables them to contribute in ways that seem subtle, perhaps relatively meaningless to observers yet highly valuable to club insiders.

They are often calming influences in supporting roles.

Todd Collins comes to mind.

Now there’s a guy who was stealth. He collected an NFL paycheck for 15 seasons before retiring last year. He holds the post merger record for time elapsed between NFL starts – 10 years, 2 days. Ten years and 2 days ago Joe Flacco was a freshman at Audubon (NJ) High School.

Collins, drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the second round of the 1995 NFL Draft, cashed a ton of healthy paychecks for a guy with a career 76.0 QB Rating and 4,479 yards to his credit.

That’s 299 yards PER SEASON!

No, I don’t think that is a role for Troy Smith.

That said, I could see former second round pick John Beck embracing such a career path.

I even thought former Raven Kyle Boller could be that kind of player. Boller offers a great work ethic, dedication, humility, class, toughness, a team-first approach and outstanding athleticism.

And let’s not forget that he can throw the ball through the uprights from his knees 60 yards away.

Think Kyle and his bride-to-be Carrie Prejean would give up their San Diego digs for a townhome in Canton?


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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of and His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts “The Fanimal” also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi.

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