OWINGS MILLS – All arms and legs and raw speed and ability, lanky rookie outside linebacker Michael McAdoo took a winding path to the Baltimore Ravens’ practice fields.
McAdoo didn’t play football at all last year, and he missed the Ravens’ entire training camp after being signed once he went undrafted in the NFL supplemental draft.
Declared ineligible by the NCAA for all of last season due to academic violations and accepting impermissible benefits, the former University of North Carolina player is aware of how much ground he has to make up in a short window of time.
“It’s a big transition,” McAdoo said Monday. “It’s real difficult because everybody had three or four weeks ahead of me. You’re just coming in, and you’ve got to catch on to everything real fast.
“You can do a lot of conditioning, but you can’t be in football shape. I’ve got to knock all the rust off, I’m still knocking all the rust off. I’ve got to work hard. I’m catching on fast. They can’t throw enough stuff at me.”
Signed by the Ravens to a three-year, $1.4 million contract last week, the 6-foot-7, 245-pounder is regarded as an interesting project.
McAdoo was a blue-chip recruit for North Carolina whose top moment for the Tar Heels was registering four sacks and an interception in the annual spring game.
However, he finished his brief career with just 29 tackles, 10 for losses and 3 ½ sacks while playing in a rotation with talented players like St. Louis Rams first-round defensive end Robert Quinn.
In order to establish himself in the NFL, McAdoo will need to put on a considerable amount of weight. With little bulk on his body, the Tennessee native resembles a power forward more than a football player.
“Big, tall, long angular guy that has been away from football and needs to spend a tremendous amount of time in the weight room getting stronger and getting more physical that way,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “But he’s got skills. I know right now that he can be an edge pass rusher, but he’s got to work in the weight room and put some bulk on that frame.”
McAdoo sued the university and the NCAA seeking damages when he was ruled ineligible, asserting that he was wrongly deprived of the opportunity to play and said the governing body for college athletics based its decision incorrect information.
However, his request for an injunction was denied.
McAdoo was punished for submitting a paper that didn’t properly credit someone else’s work after an investigation by the student honor court. Although they didn’t find him guilty of academic fraud, the NCAA reached that conclusion.
He also accepted a total of $103 in extra benefits consisting of lodging in Washington, D.C., admission to a nightclub and free tutoring, repaying that money to charity.
“I’m not a bad person," McAdoo told Ravens24x7.com. “I love the game of football. The people that I hung out with and associated with, they assumed I was just like them other guys.
"It was guilt by association. I’m a good guy. They can check my background and know that I don’t have any issues off the field. They just have to get to know me.”
Making matters worse, McAdoo lost his belongings in a fire at his apartment.
Now, McAdoo is intent on making his mark in the NFL.
Outside linebacker seems to be the best fit for him right now, not defensive end.
“I like outside linebacker because you can basically rush and do what you’ve got to do,” McAdoo said. “I like the outside, but I like defensive end, too, getting down and getting dirty. My pass rush is the main thing I bring to the table.”
The Ravens didn’t utilize McAdoo in their third preseason game against the Washington Redskins, but he is expected to play in the preseason finale against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Ravens will have to make a quick decision on McAdoo and can do one of three things as they prepare to cut the roster down to 53 players by the NFL deadline of Sept. 3.
They can keep him on the active roster and likely have him be inactive for games.
They could cut him outright since they’ve made a modest investment of a $5,000 signing bonus.
Or they could cut him and hope he clears waivers and joins their practice squad.
“I really don’t know,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I didn’t watch him or study him. [Director of college scouting] Joe Hortiz and [general manager] Ozzie [Newsome] and those guys brought him in, so we’ll just have to see. It’s impossible for him to come in and contribute in any way.
“He hasn’t played football in two years. He’s just a young kid. They say he’s talented, so we’ll just kind of look at him and see how he does. I say that’s a flyer right now. It’ll be fun to see how it works out.”
McAdoo runs the 40-yard dash in the 4.6 to 4.7 range.
He was ranked as one of the top 50 defensive ends in the nation as he registered 60 tackles, 12 for losses and five sacks as a senior after recording 13 sacks as a junior.
Having ability is one thing, but learning the details of the NFL game is McAdoo’s primary task.
“I’ll take a couple of days and I’ll be back to normal,” McAdoo said. “Everybody around me at my position is helping me out, teaching me the plays, going over things I don’t understand.”
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times