When Ravens cornerback Chykie Brown arrived at training camp last week, the challenges began in earnest.
Brown was tasked every day with shadowing five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith, and was vastly overmatched in terms of experience. The fourth-year pro had trouble against Smith and overreacted to double-moves from Jacoby Jones, frequently biting on fakes.
Despite the rough start to Brown's audition to replace Corey Graham as the Ravens' third cornerback, the former University of Texas player said he hasn't become frustrated and is focused on improving.
"I'm good," Brown said. "Everything people are saying about me, I just keep doing me, keep getting better. I know it's practice."
The Ravens and Brown hope those performances aren't a preview of similar missteps during the regular season.
When the Ravens declined to engage in a bidding war to hold onto Graham -- he signed a four-year, $16.3 million contract with the Buffalo Bills in March that included $7.6 million guaranteed -- they did so with the knowledge that they could potentially be vulnerable without him.
Now, they're banking on either Brown, Asa Jackson or Dominique Franks asserting themselves in the competition to replace Graham. Brown emphasized that it's early in camp.
"Of course, that's what practice is for," Brown said. "They get paid just like we do on the other side of the ball. Mistakes, get them out in practice and try not to make the same mistakes.
"It's early in training camp. It's only Day 5. We just got to keep on playing then put the plays behind you."
Practicing against Smith, who competes with trademark intensity every day, is extremely difficult.
"He's a veteran, he's a 14-year vet," Brown said. "There's a lot of stuff that he knows that I don't know. That's why I'm practicing.
"I'm learning. I'm getting better every day. Going up against him is a good challenge, I'm up for it."
After being held out of one practice with a tweaked hamstring, Brown returned Monday night and had arguably his best practice since the start of camp.
"I had pretty much my best day out of the whole training camp," Brown said. "It's just the beginning. I got to start making plays.
"I'll be there at the right time with the ball. I just got to start finishing. Today is a step I took. It's just going to get better from here."
Brown, who suffered a leg injury on Saturday that he initially thought might be serious, said he didn't suffer a setback on Monday.
"I feel pretty good," Brown said. "I had to get loosened up. [On Saturday], I thought my hammy was going to give out on me. My legs felt heavy and I was steady trying to force it and felt dehydrated. They kept locking up on me.
"So they took me out. Instead of practicing, I just let it get treatment and rested it for one day. I told them I wanted to test it out and see how it feels. It feels good."
Brown played in every game last season and finished third on the team with eight special-teams tackles and had two tackles and one pass deflection on defense. In 39 career games, Brown has recorded 19 tackles and eight pass deflections.
In 2012, Brown played extensively in sub defensive packages due to injuries and had a career-high 14 tackles with six pass deflections.
"It's just me being consistent," Brown said. "I just got to stay healthy, don't get complacent. They trust in me to keep getting better every day. My biggest thing is staying consistent."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun