For­mer Mids star pa­tiently strives to reach next level

Baltimore Sun - - NFL & RAVENS - By Jeff Zre­biec

A year after he set sev­eral NCAA records, gar­nered a groundswell of sup­port for col­lege foot­ball’s high­est in­di­vid­ual honor and fin­ished lead­ing Navy to an un­prece­dented run of suc­cess, Keenan Reynolds is work­ing on his skill set in near-anonymity.

A mem­ber of the Ravens prac­tice squad, Reynolds is on the side­line for home and away games, but he’s typ­i­cally in a sweat­suit rather than a uni­form. He prac­tices with the team ev­ery day, but his role on the scout team usu­ally has him wear­ing the jersey num­ber of a wide re­ceiver the Ravens are pre­par­ing to face that week­end. Much of Reynolds’ work with wide re­ceivers coach Bobby En­gram is done after prac­tice, when few peo­ple are watch­ing and most of the Ravens have long set­tled into the locker room.

“It’s def­i­nitely an ad­just­ment, but it’s also very hum­bling and an im­por­tant part of my ca­reer,” Reynolds said after a re­cent prac­tice. “I’m just work­ing ev­ery day, try­ing to keep my eyes on the end goal and be­ing pa­tient be­cause the time will come.”

The Ravens drafted Reynolds in the sixth round in April, be­liev­ing that the pro­lific for­mer quar­ter­back could make the tran­si­tion to NFL wide re­ceiver and re­turn spe­cial­ist. About eight weeks after Reynolds was among the team’s fi­nal pre­sea­son cuts, cleared waivers and was re-signed to the prac­tice squad, Ravens coaches sound more res­o­lute than ever about their be­lief in Reynolds.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that Keenan Reynolds is go­ing to be a very good re­ceiver in this league,” coach John Har­baugh said Wed­nes­day.

“He’s a guy that we value a lot. We all have high hopes for him,” said as­so­ciate head coach and spe­cial teams co­or­di­na­tor Jerry Ros­burg.

Reynolds, 21, wouldn’t go as far as to say that he needed this time away from the pres­sure cooker of games and a sum­mer ros­ter strug­gle. As an ul­tra-com­pet­i­tive player who has proved peo­ple wrong be­fore, it would be un­char­ac­ter­is­tic of him to make that con­ces­sion. But he will read­ily say how ben­e­fi­cial his time on the prac­tice squad has been.

His slew of drops and muffed punts dur­ing train­ing camp prac­tices were well doc­u­mented and re­vealed a player who had a lot to learn about a new po­si­tion and dif­fer­ent role. Reynolds had just one catch for 2 yards in four pre­sea­son games, and showed lit­tle to sug­gest that he’d be able to help the ac­tive ros­ter im­me­di­ately.

But his cur­rent role al­lows him to work on his skills while help­ing pre­pare his team­mates for op­po­nents. Reynolds has mim­icked the New York Giants’ Ster­ling Shep­ard, the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins’ DeSean Jack­son and other re­ceivers dur­ing game weeks. To pre­pare, he watches film on them and other pass catch­ers through­out the league, look­ing to in­cor­po­rate el­e­ments of their play into his game.

“Just be­ing on the prac­tice squad in this role, it gives me an op­por­tu­nity to just fo­cus on the craft, and not have to

ROB CARR/GETTY IM­AGES

After a record-set­ting se­nior sea­son as Navy’s quar­ter­back, Keenan Reynolds is hon­ing his skills as a re­ceiver and kick re­turner on the Ravens prac­tice squad.

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