Moments after the Ravens drafted rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk out of Harvard in the fourth round, the immediate reaction centered on what his arrival means for the future of All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach.
Leach is entering the final year of his contract and is due a $3 million base salary and carries a $4.33 million salary-cap figure. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said after the draft that there could be a spot for both players on the Super Bowl champions' roster.
As Juszczyk took part in his first NFL practice Friday after signing a four-year contract that includes a $300,000 signing bonus, the Ohio native said he's eager to learn from Leach and is confident they can coexist.
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"I hope to learn a lot, I'm looking forward to having a mentor like Vonta," said Juszczyk, a Senior Bowl standout who caught 125 career passes in the Ivy League for 1,576 yards and 22 touchdowns. "He's arguably one of the best fullbacks in the league. I think all I can do is take pieces from his game and kind of add them to mine."
Juszczyk is an accomplished receiver who played tight end and wide receiver at Harvard and is likely to have a versatile role with the Ravens that includes playing fullback, tight end and H-back. Leach is a punishing lead blocker with a reputation for bulldozing linebackers.
"I think that's what professional football is, you're always competing for a job," said Juszczyk, an athletic 6-foot-1, 248-pounder who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.71 seconds, bench pressed 225 pounds 24 times and has a 37-inch vertical leap with a 10-1 broad jump. "Who knows? I feel like we're two different players, so there might be two different roles for us."