Undrafted Rookies Putting In Heavy Work

Expanded roster sizes give more players a chance, but increase the competition.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Friday, May 18th, 2012 at 11:42 am | Categories: 2012 Offseason, Ryan Mink

It’s approaching 6 p.m. and rookie free agent Terrence Moore is swinging heavy ropes in the Ravens’ sweltering hot indoor practice field.

The Nebraska product has been at the training facility since about 8 a.m. and he’s just wrapping up his day well after the veterans have hit the road to enjoy some extra time off during the offseason.

There’s a 10-hour cap on how long players can work out at the team facility, and Moore is taking full advantage.

Exhausted, Moore returns to the locker room to find he’s not alone. It’s bustling with 20 or so (the number changes nearly daily with cuts) undrafted free agents surrounding a row of metal lockers brought in to house the surge of rookies.

The NFL expanded rosters by 10 players to 90 this offseason, meaning there’s an additional 320 players in the league with a chance to make a roster.

It also means Moore and every rookie has more competition this summer, and thus a tougher time making the 53-man roster. Thus, the group of rookie Ravens is grinding trying to make an impression before the full cast of veterans arrives.

“In college, you’re one of the top dudes and you get used to that,” Moore said. “Here, you’re working 10 times harder than you ever have. And you’re undrafted so you’re trying to do that little bit extra to put you over the top. So it’s the hardest thing I’ve done in my career – thus far.”

“Thus far” means Moore has no idea what new challenges tomorrow brings.

On Wednesday morning, he woke up at around 7:45 a.m., enough time to brush his teeth and hop on a shuttle from the rookies’ hotel to the facility. He came in, got some breakfast and reviewed his notes from the previous day.

Soon there was a full team meeting, defensive meetings, then some field time with the veterans before the rookies were split out on their own. Lunch was the break in the day, then it was back to special-teams meetings, rookie positional meetings and a seminar preparing the newbies for the NFL. Conditioning and lifting capped the day, taking the rookies straight into dinner at the facility.

Moore took the shuttle home, got in about 20 minutes more of studying, watched some of the NBA playoffs and was in bed by 10 p.m., in time to be up and at it the next day.

The defensive end has plenty of competition. There’s seventh-round pick DeAngelo Tyson and fellow undrafted rookie Elliott Henigan at rookie camp. That’s not to mention veterans Pernell McPhee, Art Jones, Ryan McBean and Michael McAdoo.

But Moore doesn’t think about his odds – which got even longer this offseason – of making the team.

“If you look at it competition as a bad thing, eventually it’s going to get you,” Moore said. “At this level, I’m learning to look at everything as a positive. We’re up here for a lot of hours and working our tails off, but at the end of the day it’s good for us. We’re not doing this for nothing. It’s definitely not put in place to hurt us.”

Moore isn’t the only rookie with such an attitude.

There’s Wake Forest safety Cyhl Quarles, who is competing with fourth-round safety Christian Thompson. The Ravens also signed safety Sean Considine and re-signed strong safety Bernard Pollard.

“You just pray,” Quarles said. “If this is not the plan for you to be here, then God will make another way. If you work hard, then at least you can walk away and say, ‘Well, I tried my best.’”

There’s Florida quarterback John Brantley, who was one of the nation’s top recruits coming out of high school. He succeeded legendary Gator Tim Tebow.

Now he comes to Owings Mills, Md., and is joined by rookie free agent quarterback Chester Steward (Temple), along with Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor and recent veteran signee Curtis Painter.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be any type of top guy coming out of college. I had my mind set that it’s the reality of things. I’ve realized that – quickly,” Brantley said.

“I just look at it as a great opportunity. I’m going to do everything I can to make the other quarterbacks better, make myself better. Down the road, if something happens then it happens. This is another chapter in my life and I’m going to make the most of it.”

However long the odds, the Ravens do have a history of keeping undrafted free agents on the team.

Last year, wide receiver LaQuan Williams made the roster out of training camp. Linebacker Josh Bynes, linebacker Chavis Williams, guard Justin Boren and McAdoo also spent time on the roster.

Starting linebacker Jameel McClain, long snapper Morgan Cox, linebacker Albert McClellan and Maake Kemoeatu are other examples of former undrafted rookie free agents who have made a name for themselves in Baltimore.

After rookie minicamp last weekend, Harbaugh didn’t rule out a player from this year’s rookie free agent crop from making the team.

“The beauty of this whole thing is, probably more so than anywhere else in life, this really is a true meritocracy,” Harbaugh said.

“We’ve got some talented guys here. There will be a couple undrafted guys that have a shot to make the team. I wouldn’t bet against it.”

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