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Ravens rookie tight end Maxx Williams making fast adjustment to NFL

Maxx Williams displayed a flair for the dramatic in college, hauling in diving sideline catches, making one-handed receptions and hurdling defenders.

The Ravens rookie tight end hasn't needed to apply those methods so far in practice sessions since being drafted in the second round out of the University of Minnesota.

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Williams has executed a series of intermediate catches since his arrival, showing a workmanlike approach to the game as he absorbs the Ravens playbook.

Although ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. projected him as an NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate after the Ravens picked him, Williams' focus is on the more immediate priority of daily improvement.

"For me, my goals are just go out there and play," Williams said following an organized team activity this week at the Ravens' training complex. "And, really, whatever [media is] saying about that, really, I can't affect that. All I can do is do what I do, and that's go out there every day and try to improve, try to earn my spot on the team and go out there and try to make plays."

Williams declared early for the draft after catching 61 passes for 986 yards and 13 touchdowns in two seasons for the Golden Gophers, drawing comparisons to veteran Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. Williams left school after his redshirt sophomore season when he caught 36 passes for 569 yards and eight touchdowns.

He earned second-team All-American honors and was a finalist for the Mackey Award, which goes to the nation's top tight end.

"Hopefully I'm ready to make the jump, because I did declare early," Williams said. "For me, it's just going out here and just trying to improve every day knowing that I do have to make that next step. So, it is taking it one step at a time, learning the playbook as much as I can, learning how to watch film.

"Learning how to just play football is really what it comes down to, and every day that's what I'm striving to do. .. I'm trying to prove to them that they did draft me for a good reason and coming out here and proving; trying to be with everyone, even the guys who have been in the league for what, 10 or 15 years?"

What Williams has done so far is create an impression with his serious approach to the game and a sense of timing on the field.

Williams doesn't have blazing speed. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound former All-Big Ten Conference selection ran the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds, but knows how to get open and does have quickness and body control working in his favor. Williams has good leaping ability with a 34 ½-inch vertical leap and a 9-9 broad jump.

"What we saw on tape was a guy who would be in the right place, do the right things, make a play when he had the opportunity to make a play," offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said. "That's what we saw in Maxx, and that's a lot of the reason why he is here. He was able to make the right plays at the right time during the course of his short career, really, in college, and that's what we would expect to see here."

Younger than most NFL rookies at 21 years old, Williams is expected to work in tandem with second-year tight end Crockett Gillmore and fellow rookie tight end Nick Boyle.

The Ravens traded up to draft Williams with the 55th overall selection, signing him to a four-year, $4.05 million contract that includes a $1.2 million signing bonus and $2.261 million guaranteed.

"He has come in from Day One and just worked," wide receiver Kamar Aiken said. "I haven't seen anything that says anything other than him just coming in and working. He has been focused, just trying to learn and soak in everything from all the vets. So, I see a lot of great things from him."

Williams joins an offense regarded as extremely tight end friendly based on how Trestman utilized the position with the Chicago Bears prior to being fired by them as head coach and being hired by the Ravens as their new offensive coordinator.

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Last year, Bears tight end Martellus Bennett caught 90 passes for 1,038 yards and six touchdowns.

The Ravens' offense is vastly different from what Williams was accustomed to in college, though.

"It's just a whole different scheme," Williams said. "In Minnesota, we were going to run power all day and just run play action. That's all we did unless we had a drop-back. For me, it's really just kind of learning a brand-new playbook, so it is starting off fresh where I don't really have any old habits. So, it's just learning the technique and trying to run with it. ...

"I don't think you really can expect anything coming into the NFL until you actually experience it. So, for me, I came in with an open mind knowing that it was going to be much different than college."

Williams has an athletic pedigree in his family.

Williams is the son of former New York Giants starting center Brian Williams, a 1989 first-round draft pick. His mother played volleyball at Minnesota. His grandfather played quarterback at Notre Dame and was drafted by the Chicago Bears.

"My dad has told me one thing since the beginning of college, beginning of high school and now in the pros, it's, 'Take it one step at a time, day by day,' because, really, I can't affect what's going to happen tomorrow," Williams said. "For now, it's what happens today. I'm going to improve on that, and when tomorrow comes around, I'll work on things then."

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