Ravens’ Kyle Juszczyk tran­scends tra­di­tional full­back role

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By SEAN GRO­GAN

sgro­gan@ce­cil­whig.com

— Full­backs are an en­dan­gered species in to­day’s NFL.

Kyle Juszczyk knows this. He knew that if could not con­trib­ute as more than just a run blocker, his ca­reer with the Bal­ti­more Ravens would not have lasted long.

“I think a lot of times, if you’re strictly a full­back, and you can’t con­trib­ute in an­other way – whether it’s spe­cial teams or pass pro­tec­tion on third down – you’re prob­a­bly not go­ing to have a job for very long,” Juszczyk said. “To try and ex­tend my ca­reer, I’ve tried to help in as many places as I can.”

Juszczyk helps ev­ery­where. Run­ning backs coach Thomas Ham­mock called him the team’s best pass­block­ing back. On Tues­day,

OWINGS MILLS

head coach John Har­baugh ap­plauded his spe­cial teams.

“Kyle is one of our very best spe­cial teams play­ers – Top 5 at the worst,” Har­baugh said. “That’s re­ally ver­sa­tile to have an of­fen­sive player that plays like a linebacker on spe­cial teams. He has em­braced the other part of it, too. He has played a lot in dif­fer­ent spots.”

Juszczyk had his best of­fen­sive sea­son in 2015. He led all NFL full­backs in re­cep­tions (41), yards (321) and touch­downs (four). Har­baugh re­ferred to Juszczyk as a ‘Swiss Army Knife’ be­cause he is ca­pa­ble of do­ing so many dif­fer­ent things.

“It hasn’t fazed me at all,” Juszczyk said of play­ing so many roles. “I might be listed as a full­back, but I don’t know if I re­ally have one po­si­tion on this team. I’m go­ing to go wher­ever they put me and wher­ever I can help, and I’m go­ing to con­trib­ute as much as I can.”

In Bal­ti­more’s of­fense, he could be con­sid­ered a tight end in many for­ma­tions. Juszczyk, a fourth-round pick in 2013, has es­pe­cially filled that role in this year’s train­ing camp be­cause of a high num­ber of in­juries to the Ravens’ tight ends.

“He is a legitimate block­ing full­back. We all know he has the abil­ity to catch the foot­ball out of the back­field; he did an ex­cel­lent job of that last year. He can do cer­tain things on the line of scrim­mage,” of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Marc Trest­man said. “We had him in the flats and the side­lines. We will con­tinue to uti­lize him up the field, and he is tran­si­tion­ing into play­ing on the line of scrim­mage as well. He is re­ally con­sid­ered one of our tight ends, as well, in a lot of our for­ma­tions.”

Juszczyk’s ver­sa­til­ity is key to land­ing a ros­ter spot. The Ravens have four run­ning backs ex­pected to make that ros­ter and likely as many tight ends. Juszczyk gradu- ated from Har­vard with a de­gree in eco­nomics, but he doesn’t need that to see the odds are against him.

“It would be easy to look at how many tight ends we have. We have a plethora of them – great play­ers. You look at how deep our run­ning backs are this year. I think we prob­a­bly have the best group that I’ve been a part of the last four years,” he said. “It’s easy to won­der where you might fit in, but hon­estly, at the end of the day, I just know that if I take care of what I can do and I per­form at my best, I’ll find my way on the field. The coaches will find a way to get me in there. It’s not nec­es­sar­ily in my hands. I just know if I take care of my job, it will take care of it­self.”

Fol­low Sean Gro­gan on Twit­ter: @Sean_Ce­cilWhig

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY SEAN GRO­GAN

Kyle Juszczyk is listed as a full­back, but plays a much larger role for the Bal­ti­more Ravens.

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