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'Hard-nosed' rookie WR Jeremy Butler off to good start with Ravens

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Before rookie wide receiver Jeremy Butler had signed his first NFL contract, he already felt like he was officially on the Ravens' roster.

That's because Butler was frequently in conversations with Ravens wide receivers coach Bobby Engram leading up to the NFL draft. It was an effective recruiting sales pitch that led Butler to choose the Ravens over the Green Bay Packers in May after previously visiting the NFC North franchise.

"Bobby Engram called me a lot leading up to the draft," Butler said in a telephone interview. "He was giving me coaching advice already. He said, 'I'm going to coach you up and get you to be even better.' By the end of the draft, I had made up my mind and my decision was easy."

It's a choice that the Ravens and Butler feel good about considering how the undrafted rookie from Tennessee-Martin performed during organized team activities and minicamps.

At 6-foot-2, 218-pounds, Butler is an imposing downfield target with size, strength and leaping ability working in his favor. Behind the scenes, Butler has consistently drawn praise from team officials as an intriguing developmental prospect.

Butler displayed the capability to go over the middle or compete downfield for contested catches. He was among the younger players who got snaps with the second-team offense while other rookies worked on a separated field.

"I would say I bring versatility in the schemes and being able to play all over the passing game," said Butler, who's signed to a three-year, $1.534 million contract that includes a $4,000 signing bonus. "I make the plays downfield in the deep game. I go across the middle. I enjoy the dirty work and like the short, quick game.

"I bring that physicality to the table and overpower defenders. I'm just a hard-nosed Ravens style player. I can bring that element to the offense."

In particular, Butler has looked forward to running routes against starting cornerback Jimmy Smith. Smith is the biggest cornerback on the roster at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds.

"It's a benefit, definitely," Butler said. "Jimmy's a really good man-to-man matchup. You test yourself every time when you line up across from him."

In two seasons at Tennessee-Martin after transferring from a California junior college, Butler caught 141 passes for 1,953 yards and 20 touchdowns. He broke records last season with 90 receptions for 1,203 yards.

Despite his production, Butler went undrafted. He didn't run an especially fast 40-yard dash with a 4.56 time at his Pro Day. He bench pressed 225 pounds 15 times.

Butler reported at roughly 225 pounds and says he's down to 218 pounds now. He's hoping to get down to 215 to 210 pounds to improve his speed.

"I'm trying to work on it and get a little quicks going by getting some weight off of me," Butler said. "That should help me with my vertical routes."

Not getting drafted has provided motivation for Butler to prove himself, the native of Sarasota, Fla., acknowledged.

Butler is chasing a spot on the Ravens' roster, competing with several other receivers.

"Each and every day, I try to make the most out of each practice and make at least one play a day to stand out," Butler said. "It's going good. I'm having fun and enjoying the process. I just want to put myself in the best situation going forward and control what I can control and put my best foot forward."

awilson@baltsun.com

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FootballBaltimore RavensNFC NorthGreen Bay PackersJimmy Smith (football)NFL DraftNFL
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