In five years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, left tackle Eugene Monroe never experienced a winning season. Over his last 20 games played, he's celebrated just two victories.
So when Monroe walked to the Ravens' indoor practice facility Thursday and spotted the giant banner of the Lombardi Trophy that hangs from the far wall, a whirlwind couple of days came into focus.
"Coming to a situation like this where they're winning is unique," Monroe said after participating in the Ravens' morning walk-through. "It's something I haven't really been around. It's exciting to experience this. … It's definitely a fresh start."
Monroe passed his physical in the morning, completing the first in-season trade in franchise history. The Ravens sent a 2014 fourth and fifth-round pick to the Jaguars for the 26-year-old left tackle, who started 62 games for the Jaguars after they made him the eighth overall pick in the 2009 draft.
To make the deal work, the Jaguars agreed to pay approximately $2.35 million of the remaining $2.9 million left on Monroe's deal. Monroe will be a free agent at the end of the season, but he said that he would be interested in exploring a contract extension with his new team at the appropriate time.
"It doesn't look like they brought me the way they did to not have me here for the long term. I have to do my thing on the field and prove that I deserve this opportunity, which I'm fully confident that I will," said Monroe, whose wife is from Columbia so he's familiar with the area. "Being that this is my contract year, this is it in terms of the future for me. So, looking down the road, you always want to have some sense of security for your family. That will play a big part in it."
Of course, Monroe and the Ravens are more focused on the immediate future and getting the left tackle ready for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins. So far, the Ravens' coaching staff has been noncommittal about whether Monroe will play. If he doesn't, Bryant McKinniewould likely get the start at left tackle for the fifth straight week.
"Obviously, [Monroe] just arrived today. We're going to have to get him up to speed as quickly as we possibly can with the system, and then, we'll see how quickly he learns," said offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell who didn't rule out using Monroe in a part-time role Sunday. "He obviously is a bright, young man. He's got a great background. He's played a lot of football. I'm sure there's going to be some things he's going to be able to relate to. But we'll see how quickly that transpires. But an athletic guy — big, strong, obviously can move. He'll be fun to coach."
Monroe, who played his college ball at Virginia, said that he'd be ready to go physically but he acknowledged that learning the new offense so quickly will be a challenge. He participated in the Ravens' afternoon practice, but it was more in an observatory mode.
"I see the challenges just being the learning curve — coming into a different offense with different terminology," Monroe said. "A lot of things on the O-line, as far as techniques and assignments, have some similarities, but when you're speaking a different language, you have to be on [the same] page with the other guys or it's not going to be a good outcome. So, overcoming the learning curve and getting acclimated with how things are done around here is going to be the big challenge. … I'm just working to make this change happen as quick as possible so I can fit right in."
While the Ravens haven't made any declarations about how they'll use Monroe this week, head coach John Harbaugh made it clear Wednesday that "we're bringing Eugene in to play" without mentioning what effect that will have on McKinnie. For his part, Monroe immediately downplayed any potential competition with McKinnie, the 34-year-old veteran who has struggled, particularly with his run blocking, this season.
"When I first got drafted, [it] was a similar situation. The Jags had just picked up Tra Thomas, who was in Philly, right before I got there so [I was] competing immediately," Monroe said. "But regardless of that, my mindset might be different. I can only compete with myself. I can only play as good as I can go. I can only push myself as hard as I can. So, whether there's another guy ahead of me, behind me, whatever, his play or what he's done shouldn't affect how I perform. That's the mindset I have."
When the Jaguars used the No.2 overall pick in April on Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel, Monroe figured that his days in Jacksonville were probably numbered. Joeckel played left tackle in both high school and college but he started this season at right tackle with the idea that he'd eventually replace Monroe.
The Jaguars, under first-year head coach Gus Bradley, are 0-4 and clearly in rebuilding mode. But it still never dawned on Monroe that he could be traded in the middle of the season.
"I was sitting at home on my iPad reviewing film, getting ready for St. Louis, and my agent calls me and he's like, 'I need you to sit down. I've got to talk to you about something.' I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me,'" Monroe said. "But it happened, and it happened quick. It's an exciting change for me. I'm definitely glad to be here, glad that I was sought out, definitely appreciative of that. And my wife, she's from here, her family lives right outside of here, so for her, the transition will be nice. For me, it's just an awesome opportunity."
Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun