For many, last chance to catch on
Neither rookies nor veterans are absolutely safe from getting the call to see the coaches at the end of this week. Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, who is backing up starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, has been with the team since he was selected in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL draft, but said Tuesday that tenure does not provide blanket security.
“I really don’t think about the future,” said the 6-foot-4, 315-pound lineman who has made seven tackles in his second preseason; he missed the 2013 season because of an ACLtear and the 2014 season because of an Achilles tendon tear. “Whatever happens, happens. I personally feel like I’m a good enough player to play in the NFL — whether that’s here or somewhere else. But obviously, I definitely want to play here. But I don’t dwell on things that I can’t control. The only thing I can control is going out every day with a smile on my face and a great attitude and just doing anything to help this team win.”
That’s a common mantra for Ravens trying to make the 53-man roster.
Among rookies, former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds might have the steepest and most high-profile climb to a roster spot. After changing positions, he seems to be in a competition with third-year receiver Michael Campanaro (River Hill) for slot-receiver and puntreturn duties. Campanaro, when healthy, has outperformed Reynolds, who will try to use Thursday night’s game to make a lasting impression on the coaching staff.
Left tackle James Hurst might be on firmed ground. The 6-5, 312-pound backup to rookie Ronnie Stanley has started in 13 games the past two seasons, and NFLcaliber left tackles don’t grow on trees.
But Hurst said he, too, can’t afford to be comfortable with his position.
“I don’t like to think about security,” he said. “I knowthatIhavetobeabetterplayer than I was yesterday. That’s what I try to Wide receiver Jeremy Butler, who made the Ravens from the practice squad in October, said “small activities” like reading help take his mind off trying to make the roster. focus on. This is a high-stress job for a lot of reasons, and I try not to think about that.”
Jeremy Butler can empathize with those who have been cut. After spending his rookie season in 2014 on injured reserve because of a shoulder injury suffered in training camp, the wide receiver was waived on the final day of the 2015 preseason.
But Butler’s story has a happy ending — though it won’t really be an ending if he makes the roster to begin this season. Signed to the practice squad, he was promoted to the active roster Oct. 26 and caught 31 passes for 363 yards in eight games.
“At the end of the day, we are human,” Butler said. “You build relationships with guys. But it is just the nature of the business we chose, and you have to deal with that. But you can’t really let it control your thoughts. You can’t really let it linger on.”
Butler leads the team in receptions (13), yards (114) and touchdown catches (two) in the preseason and can play on special teams, which suggests that his future is not as tenuous as in previous years. But he said he has found a way to keep his mind off whether he will make the roster.
“I started reading this year,” he said, adding that he is reading a Christian book titled “When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box.” “That has been helping me — reading a lot. Small activities — I like fishing. I went fishing with a teammate. Playing [video games], [‘NBA] 2K.’ We play that a lot. I’m just enjoying the moments of life in general. At the end of the day, we still have a life to live. That is howIapproach it.”
Reynolds’ approach to his future involves understanding that he is one of nine wide receivers on a team that doesn’t have enough room for all of them.
“In my mind, everybody out here is fighting for a job,” he said. “Nobody’s safe, and that’s certainly how I feel.”
Perhaps more than any other player’s, Reynolds’ bid involves a drastic position change.
“The big picture [is], he’s a quarterback going to receiver, so everything is like a foundation,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He has to make strides everywhere. He does that very well every day.”
Reynolds said the coaches told younger players to expect to play extensively Thursday as starters and some valuable backups likely won’t get onto the field. That could mean plenty of chances for players such as Reynolds, who is looking to prove his worth.
“Grateful for this opportunity, grateful to be out here for another day, grateful for the opportunity to put on the uniform one more time because the next day isn’t promised,” he said.
“You should play each play like it’s your last.”