Two TEs look­ing be­yond idle time

Waller and Boyle plan to stay in shape while they serve their sus­pen­sions

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Ed­ward Lee

The Ravens will be­gin pre­par­ing for Sun­day’s sea­son opener against the Buf­falo Bills at M&T Bank Sta­dium with 53 play­ers on the ac­tive ros­ter sit­ting in meet­ings and work­ing out on the field. Two play­ers who are healthy, how­ever, will be forced to watch from a dis­tance.

When the team re­turns to its head­quar­ters in Owings Mills to­day, tight ends Dar­ren Waller and Nick Boyle will be un­able to join them, as they will be serv­ing mul­ti­ple-game sus­pen­sions for vi­o­lat­ing the NFL’s drug pol­icy. Waller, a sixth-round pick in the 2015 draft, will miss the first four games of the sea­son be­cause of il­le­gal sub­stance use. Boyle, a fifth-round se­lec­tion in the same draft, will sit out the first 10 games for his sec­ond per­for­manceen­hanc­ing drug vi­o­la­tion.

It is a pump-the-brakes mo­ment for two play­ers who did well in the pre­sea­son. Waller fin­ished sec­ond on the team in re­ceiv­ing yards (84) and third in catches (eight). Boyle caught six passes for 46 yards.

“I learned a lot from it,” Boyle said last week, re­fer­ring to the sus­pen­sion. “But it’s hard think­ing about it now af­ter go­ing through the whole off­sea­son with the team and lead­ing to that. But you can’t re­ally look back. You can only keep go­ing for­ward. The big­gest thing is to have a re­ally good plan for the time I won’t be here. If I can put a re­ally good plan to­gether — which I think I will — with the work­outs that I have to do, when I come back, I can hop right back in.”

Asked how he is deal­ing with his com­ing Sea­son opener Sun­day, 1 p.m. TV: Ch. 13 Ra­dio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM Line: Ravens by 3

sus­pen­sion, Waller replied, “I don’t. I just come to work ev­ery day and deal with it one day at a time and work as hard as I pos­si­bly can and show my team­mates I’m re­li­able and ac­count­able. That’s all I can do. If I try to think too much about every­thing, like if I’m go­ing to be on the team or my fu­ture, I may not be do­ing what I need to do to­day to set me up the right way. So I just keep it as sim­ple as pos­si­ble.”

Waller and Boyle played sig­nif­i­cantly in the pre­sea­son be­cause of a spate of in­juries that plagued the tight end po­si­tion. Pro­jected starter Ben­jamin Wat­son tore his right Achilles ten­don in the Ravens’ third pre­sea­son game against the De­troit Lions on Aug. 27 and is out for the sea­son. A bro­ken fin­ger pre­vented Den­nis Pitta from play­ing in the pre­sea­son, and an un­spec­i­fied in­jury side­lined Maxx Wil­liams for the fi­nal three games.

“Thank good­ness we have those guys,” coach John Har­baugh said of Boyle and Waller. “I would put Daniel Brown in the same cat­e­gory. He has taken a lot of reps, too. It is very valu­able be­cause that is the only foot­ball they are go­ing to get. They are guys that fig­ure into our fu­ture, yes.”

The tight ends know they might have been in line to get more play­ing time if not for their sus­pen­sions. But they agreed that play­ing the what-if game is point­less.

“I’ve got to deal with the cards that I’ve been dealt and work on my sit­u­a­tion,” Waller said. “I can’t ask for an­other sit­u­a­tion. I’ve got to deal with it and fight through it and show the peo­ple who­took a chance on me when they drafted me that I am ac­count­able and I am re­li­able.”

Waller and Boyle avoided the anx­i­ety and agony of fi­nal cuts Satur­day, know­ing that their sus­pen­sions did not count against the team’s 53-man ac­tive ros­ter. The Ravens did a lot of ros­ter jug­gling in the past few days, re-sign­ing run­ning back Justin Forsett af­ter cut­ting him Satur­day and sign­ing wide re­ceiver-kick re­turner Devin Hester to a one-year deal. But the sta­tus of Waller and Boyle will be de­ter­mined when they com­plete their sus­pen­sions.

For now, the tight ends know they will be rel­e­gated to work­ing out on their own be­cause they are not per­mit­ted to go to the team’s fa­cil­ity in Owings Mills and train, study or oth­er­wise pal around with team­mates and coaches.

Boyle said repli­cat­ing what the tight ends did in prac­tice in train­ing camp and the pre­sea­son is not that dif­fi­cult.

“If you’ve been pay­ing at­ten­tion to prac­tice, you can ma­nip­u­late all the drills you do in prac­tice,” he said. “You know the routes you have to run. You know the foot­work you have to do. So as long as you can have a Jugs ma­chine or some­one throw­ing you the ball, you can work on your run­block­ing and every­thing by your­self. So you re­ally just have to carry the drills and bring them home.”

Waller agreed, but added that train­ing away from the team is more of a men­tal road­block than a phys­i­cal one.

“It’s got to be from within,” he said. “You’ve got to en­vi­sion your­self out there with your team­mates mak­ing plays so that you [are able to] come back while you’re do­ing the mun­dane things where you may not be out here with the guys and hav­ing en­ergy and ca­ma­raderie. It’s a mat­ter of, do you re­ally want to cap­i­tal­ize on the op­por­tu­nity? I feel like if I don’t have mo­ti­va­tion to do that, then I don’t need to be here.”

Still, Boyle and Waller will be rel­e­gated to the com­fort of their so­fas while watch­ing their team­mates play. Pitta, who has played in just seven games in the past three sea­sons be­cause of in­juries, em­pathizes with them, and ex­pressed con­fi­dence they will re­bound quickly.

“They’re both young play­ers who are good play­ers, and they asked a lot of ques­tions be­cause they want to get bet­ter whether they were go­ing to be here or not,” he said. “That’s part of the process for them. I’m ex­cited for what those guys have in store for their fu­ture, and we’re ex­cited to get them back as soon as they can.” Dar­ren Waller Nick Boyle

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