The football existence of J.R. Jenkins, the Ravens' kickoff specialist, is a necessarily wary one, much like a homeowner who buys the most elaborate home security system, only to sleep each night with one eye open, waiting for someone to barge in.
In Jenkins' case, he has heard the good news from coach Brian Billick that the team will dedicate a roster spot to someone like him, a person whose lone task is to kick off and pin the opposition deep in its territory.
The trouble is that Jenkins, a second-year veteran from Marshall, likely will spend the season looking at the waiver wire to see if there's a kicker out there who could steal his spot.
"You never have anything too nailed down and all to yourself," said Jenkins yesterday after the Ravens broke camp in Westminster. "You watch things. They've committed to maybe keeping a kickoff specialist. You hope that's the route they take and that I'm the guy. I don't think you want too much of a comfort level. You want to keep pressure on yourself."
Jenkins was signed last year as a rookie free agent and got into seven games before he was placed on the practice squad roster in mid-November. His lone field-goal attempt, a 55-yard try against Tampa Bay in September was blocked, but it's in place-kicking where Jenkins believes his NFL future lies.
"I'm looking to get better, not just as a kickoff specialist, but as a field-goal kicker," Jenkins said. "I want to be a field-goal kicker in the league someday, whether it's this year, next year or whenever. But success for me right now is touchbacks."
'Can't stand the Redskins'
A handful of Ravens have been with the team long enough to know that Saturday's game against the Washington Redskins isn't just another game on the schedule for the fans, but rookie wide receiver Chisom Opara knows the rivalry from a native's perspective.
Opara, a Gilman graduate, said he didn't mind the Redskins much when he was a kid, since they were the only football in town during his formative years, as the Colts left Baltimore when he was 3 years old.
"But when the Ravens came to town, that's when the rivalry started," Opara said. "And now, I can't stand the Redskins. But without even saying anything, these guys know what the rivalry is about. You have two of the best linebackers [Ray Lewis and LaVar Arrington] separated by [Interstate] 95 South. You have teams that are similar in terms of the coaches and by the kinds of players they have. So, you don't have to say much about the rivalry. You know there's a bit of animosity between the two squads."
Opara should have bigger things to worry about than the Ravens-Redskins rivalry, namely making the roster. .
"I came out with a goal to play the football I could play and to just keep getting better and to let the coaches decide," Opara said.
The reviews of the veterans of the annual Ravens rookie talent show, held Monday night, are in, and if they are to be believed, the producers at American Idol won't be looking among the rookies for contestants.
"It was the worst," said defensive end Adalius Thomas. "It wasn't too good. It's been a lot better. I hope those guys don't quit their day jobs. Don't quit their day jobs."
Said lineman Edwin Mulitalo: "The quality was poor. The last two years we've had some good ones. They [this year's rookies] get an F for creativity. Rookies are rookies."
Quarterback Kyle Boller drew particular scorn from his teammates for his rendition of an R. Kelly song, Benny.
Said Thomas: "Kyle Boller stunk. His singing stunk."
In his defense, Boller said the CD player he was singing with didn't work properly, thus dragging down his performance.
The apparent highlight of the show was the now-staple war dance performed by Mulitalo, joined by Joe Salave'a, Maake Kemoeatu and rookie Chris Brown, all of Polynesian descent.
"Now, you've got four guys going out there doing their dance," Thomas said. "It's real nice to show how they go to war. You can't understand what they're saying, but it's nice."
Said Mulitalo: "Now, we've got a few more pineapples on the team. The warrior dance is awesome."
The team "awarded" its ugliest player trophy to defensive back Corey Fuller.
"It hurt my heart to see him win," said safety Ed Reed. "I want to send out congratulations to him."
The Ravens drew 66,120 fans to this year's training camp. It is the second highest ever - trailing only the 2001 camp - and is nearly four times the amount that attended the team's first camp in 1996.