For long stretches of the offseason, Ravens first-round pick C.J. Mosley and his fellow rookies have toiled on their own, learning the playbook and the team culture while veterans parachuted in for organized team activities and minicamp.
After a week of practices mostly on their own, Mosley said he and the newest batch of Ravens are ready to show themselves to both the coaching staff and their new teammates.
"I just grew so much [this spring], especially all the guys that came in with me," Mosley said Tuesday, a day before the full team reports and two days before the first full-team practice of training camp. "All of us coming in first, watching the older guys and veterans coming in and knowing what to do, then coming in by ourselves with no backup, and we're running everything.
"By the third or fourth install, I feel like everybody here knows it already and it's going to be a big gain for us coming into training camp because we're going to know what to do. It's pretty much all about us showing what we can do with our pads on, just executing plays."
Coach John Harbaugh said after practice Tuesday that Mosley has continued to show an understanding of the scheme, but that he'll "know more in a week."
"Once we get more in and the bullets start flying a little bit faster, and he's got to make decisions more in game-like situations, I think we'll have a better feel for it, but so far so good," Mosley said.
Mosley believes a good idea of his own role and the Ravens' scheme keeps the game from getting too fast.
"If you know what you're doing, speed is pretty much the same [at any level]," Mosley said. "The game gets fast if you don't know what you're doing."
But when players are only in helmets, or just in shells, it's hard to play as fast as Mosley can, he said. The speed that he said has helped him establish himself at every level of football is harder to display without being able to play full-contact — which the Ravens won't do until Saturday.
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"One thing I always had going into wherever I played was just me being fast to the ball, making plays in the passing game or running sideline to sideline making tackles," he said. "When we get pads on, it's got to be free football. You've got to execute your plays, but at the end of the day you've got to be athletic and make plays. When we get pads on, I'll be able to do that."
Harbaugh said Mosley is "in a fight now for playing time," as he joins a linebacker group that includes veteran starter Daryl Smith, plus Arthur Brown, Josh Bynes, and Albert McClellan all vying for a starting spot.
Mosley comes from an Alabama program where the tradition of defensive success is just as strong — if not a little longer — than the one he's joined in Baltimore.
So when speaking about that impending competition, Mosley must have some idea of the significance of the comments he relayed the sentiment from linebacker coach Don "Wink" Martindale about the quality of players fighting for starting spots.
"Coach 'Wink' will tell you, like he told us, this is one of the best linebacking groups that he's had in a while," Mosley said Tuesday. "Everybody knows what to do, everybody is athletic, everybody is fast, and everybody wants to play. So if we're going to have to, we'll have to do it on special teams. But whoever plays on Sunday, we're going to have to show [up] in the preseason and while we're in these camp practices."