When Ravens rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan arrived in the media room at the Under Armour Performance Center, one of the sleeves of his team-issued shirt and part of his shorts were rolled up.
It was unintentional but it sure was a fitting look for a player who has vowed to go to work and put all the issues that contributed to him falling into the second round of last week's NFL draft behind him.
"The only thing I'm worried about is playing football and winning football games," said Jernigan, the former Florida State standout who the Ravens selected 48th overall in the draft. "After a while, I feel like the more I play, I'll be able to prove my point. I'm not going to get in any trouble. I'm walking a straight line. I'm just ready to play ball."
The Ravens' three-day rookie minicamp officially got underway on Friday, though the first-year players have been at the team facility all week, sitting in meetings, participating in walk-through practices and getting to know new teammates and coaches.
Tight end Crockett Gillmore, a third-round pick out of Colorado State, talked excitedly about meeting and learning from veterans Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels. Seventh-round selection Michael Campanaro (River Hill) did the same about fellow wide receivers Torrey Smith and Steve Smith, admitting that this week he's felt like a freshman in college all over again.
Few Ravens rookies, however, will be under as much scrutiny as Jernigan, who arrives in Baltimore with a national championship and several All-American honors on his resume, yet plenty to prove. Considered a likely mid first-round pick, Jernigan's drop in the draft was caused by questions about his conditioning and on-field consistency, along with a diluted drug specimen at the NFL scouting combine in February.
Jernigan said the diluted sample was caused by dehydration. The Ravens, meanwhile, did their homework on the 21-year-old and don't consider him a risk. For his part, Jernigan says it's all in the past and now part of his motivation.
"I'm definitely going to prove people wrong," he said. "Ever since I got drafted, I put that behind me. I'm moving forward with my life. I'm just trying to be the best Raven I can be, the best teammate I can be. I'm not worried about that stuff. I'm here to play football and be a great teammate. That's it.
"One thing I told myself is, I want to play for a team that wants me to be on their team, that understood my situation and is going to help me get past it. I definitely feel like this was the perfect situation, being able to go from one great defense right into another one. I feel like God put me here for a reason. I'm definitely here to prove a point."
Jernigan started 16 games over three seasons at Florida State, making 139 tackles, including 25 for losses, 8.5 sacks and one fumble recovery. He had nine tackles in the Seminoles' BCS national championship victory over Auburn.
At times last season, he was the most dominant player on one of the nation's best defenses.
"He was a beast," said Campanaro, who played at Wake Forest, a conference opponent of Florida State. "Our whole game plan … we were [in] quick game because of guys like him and they had a few other D-ends. We just had to get the ball out as soon as possible and run outside zone a lot."
Jernigan started every game at nose tackle last season for the Seminoles. He established himself as a reliable run stopper, but he lamented not getting more of an opportunity to show off his pass-rushing skills in Florida State's two-gap scheme.
"Now, I feel like I'm in the right type of defense that is really going to turn me loose and showcase my ability," he said.
There are some questions about how Jernigan will fit in the Ravens' base 3-4 scheme. At 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, he'd be a little undersized for an NFL nose tackle. Plus, Haloti Ngata, a guy Jernigan said he is looking forward to learning from, is entrenched at that spot.
But the Ravens do have to fill a starting spot along the defensive line with Arthur Jones' free-agent departure to the Indianapolis Colts. There are several potential candidates, including Jernigan, DeAngelo Tyson and second-year players Brandon Williams and Kapron Lewis-Moore.
"I'm just going to continue to put in the work day in and day out, and learn from my teammates and the other defensive linemen around me," Jernigan said. "We're here to make each other better. When Day 1 comes and Game 1 gets here, if I'm a starter, I'm a starter. If not, I'm just going to continue to do whatever my role is. I just want to be the best at it."
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