Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. talks his new teammates during Lardarius Webb's charity softball game at M&T Bank Stadium. (Baltimore Sun video)
It happens every summer. A young receiver stands out in practice, the media starts writing about him a little bit and the fans get excited. Remember Tommy Streeter? Deonte Thompson? How about Aaron Mellette?
The early candidate to get such treatment is DeAndre Carter, an undrafted free agent out of Cal State-Sacramento. Carter is only 5 feet 8 and 185 pounds, but he was one of the quickest and most active players on the field in the portion of Ravens' mincamp open to reporters on Saturday.
Carter was a coveted college free agent, but he looks up to Steve Smith, so signing with the Ravens made sense. He also had an extremely prolific college career, albeit against lesser competition. Carter caught 99 passes for 1,321 yards and 17 touchdowns last season and has return skills that could come into play with the Ravens looking to replace Jacoby Jones.
For Carter and any of the undrafted wide receivers, it's going to be a tough lineup to crack. Smith, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro (River Hill) and Kamar Aiken are back and the Ravens also drafted Breshad Perriman and Darren Waller. A lot can happen between now and September with injuries and roster moves, but that won't leave a whole lot of room for any other receivers to make the squad.
Speaking of receivers -- and I only mention this because it will be a popular topic all summer -- Perriman dropped two balls during Saturday's practice. One was routine and the other was on a deep pass. He got his hands on the latter one, but it was a tough play.
It still was fun to watch him get off the line of scrimmage and run a deep route. Between Perriman (6 feet 2, 212 pounds), Waller (6 feet 6, 240) and former James Madison wide receiver Daniel Brown (6 feet 5, 225), who was trying out at minicamp, the Ravens had the makings of a pretty good basketball frontline at the wide receiver position.
I would expect the Ravens to make some back-end roster moves over the next couple of days. Their 90-man roster is full, but usually after the rookie minicamp, the team signs a couple of the tryout players at the expense of a few of their undrafted free agents.
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler, the third overall pick in the recent draft, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in his first practice. Denver Broncos tight end Jeff Heuerman, a third-round selection, suffered the same injury. Houston Texans defensive end James Rouse, an undrafted free agent out of Marshall, tore his Achilles. And Ravens cornerback Julian Wilson, an undrafted free agent from Oklahoma, broke his lower leg.
Injuries are going to happen, and that so many significant ones occurred in non full-contact practices just shows the randomness of it all. But it also reaffirms why some veterans stay away from organized team activities until they are required to be there. All it takes is an offensive lineman losing his feet and falling into the back of another player's legs, a freak collision or one misstep to end someone's season.
You can see why some players take the stance of: '"Why put myself at unnecessary risk when I can just work out at my own?"
The Ravens will have their first voluntary organized team activity from May 26 to 28. If tradition holds, the Ravens will get a pretty good turnout, but several of the older and more established veterans will opt to stay away until the mandatory minicamp starts on June 16.
On the other hand, it is important for certain returning players to be on the field and getting offensive and defensive reps. One player who fits in that category is third-year safety Matt Elam.
The former first-round pick had a nightmare season last year, and the Ravens' signing of Kendrick Lewis and re-signing of restricted free agent Will Hill will leave Elam fighting for playing time.
To his credit, Elam appears to understand how important this season is for him. Making an appearance at Lardarius Webb's charity softball game last Friday, Elam looked to be in great shape. He told Wilson that he's lost 5 percent body fat and he's stronger than he's ever been.
Of course, what ultimately matters is whether Elam has improved his tackling and his coverage and reaction skills. But he has to start somewhere, and coming into training camp in the best shape of his young career would be a big first step.
Beyond all the logistical stuff, I like the Ravens' decision to have joint practices with the Philadelphia Eagles in advance of their Aug. 22 preseason matchup.
Under head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles have a unique offense and they run extremely fast-paced practices. The Ravens do as well, but matching up for a couple of days against another team should be pretty good preparation for dealing with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos' high-octane offense in the regular-season opener.
It will be interesting if these joint practices become a semi-regular summer occurrence for the Ravens and Eagles. It probably won't happen in 2016, though, with the two teams scheduled to play in the regular season.