Ravens coach John Harbaugh on the progress and play of the team's rookies. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
Ravens associate head coach and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg spotted wide receiver Keenan Reynolds on Thursday at the first meeting of the team's rookie minicamp and said, "Timing is everything, huh Keenan?"
Rosburg's comment was a reference to the United States Department of Defense's recent decision to rescind a policy that allows military service academy athletes to play professionally immediately after graduation. A year earlier, the Department of Defense had given Reynolds the green light to defer his military service and play in the NFL, while serving in the Navy Reserves.
Reynolds, the Ravens' sixth-round draft pick last season, spent the majority of his rookie year on the team's practice squad.
"It's just crazy how it's just the right time, right place," Reynolds said Saturday after the second day of the team's three-day minicamp. He's eligible to participate because he only spent one week on the team's active roster last year.
Reynolds, 23, acknowledged that he reached out to several players from service academies that were affected by the new ruling to offer his support. Air Force wide receiver Jalen Robinette, who led the NCAA In yards per catch last year, and Navy wide receiver Jamir Tillman were both reportedly garnering NFL interest.
With the new ruling, they'll have to serve two years of active duty before applying for reserve status that would allow them to pursue a professional football career.
"The most important thing is that it just reiterates what we already knew and what we already believe, that service is the most important part," Reynolds said. "Yes, I'm out here able to play but also serve as well in the reserve capacity. It's just as important to me as it is for somebody that is serving full-time.
"It is what it is. That's what the policy was when I first came to the academy. I never came to the academy with the intention of trying to make it to the NFL. I was just fortunate to have the opportunity to go play right away and I'm just taking it day by day."
Reynolds, who had a record-setting college career as Navy's quarterback, made the transition to wide receiver last year. He struggled during the various minicamps and training camps in learning his new position. He was cut late in the preseason, but he cleared waivers and the Ravens added him to their practice squad.
"He's looked good. Obviously, he's got a year under his belt, so he and Brennen Beyer and Stephen Houston, the guys who have been here before, they certainly have an edge and I think they can kind of show the other guys how to do it," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Saturday. "For Keenan, it's a new position. He's obviously worked hard the last three months on his own, to kind of train himself how to play receiver. I know he's made some trips and traveled and worked at it. He's doing a good job."
Reynolds acknowledged that absorbing the playbook and where to line up was challenging last season. He said that the learned a lot from veterans like Steve Smith Sr. and Mike Wallace. With Smith having retired and Kamar Aiken leaving in free agency, there will be opportunities for Reynolds and other Ravens receivers to step into bigger roles.
"When it comes down to it, our position is about making plays, especially when they count the most," Reynolds said. "The opportunity is there. I just have to do my part and take care of my business and just keep working every day. The one thing I learned last year is you can't just rely on the summer and OTAs and minicamp. You have to continue to stack the training camps, the preseason games, all of that to roll into the season in order to have a shot at being on the [53-man roster]."
Harbaugh acknowledged that the Ravens' failure to select a wide receiver in the draft allowed them to attract several coveted undrafted free-agent pass catchers. Of the team's 16 undrafted free agents, four of them are receivers.
That group consists of Mississippi's Quincy Adeboyejo, Utah's Tim Patrick, Arizona State's Tim White and Tennessee-Chattanooga's C.J. Board, who sprained his ankle and didn't practice Saturday.
"It's a little tougher when you draft two or three guys at a position to recruit free agents to that position," Harbaugh said. "So these guys feel they have an opportunity to make this team, so we got some good guys. They've looked so good so far out here. It's a good group."
The minicamp practices are noncontact and players aren't wearing pads, but Harbaugh is pleased with what he has seen so far from the team's rookie class. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey, pass rushers Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams, defensive end Chris Wormley, offensive linemen Nico Siragusa and Jermaine Eluemunor and safety Chuck Clark are all healthy and getting their reps in the practices.
"I think Marlon so far is just what we expected. He's really smart. He picks things up. He has no problems with assignments. Moving well. He's doing a nice job with his skills. He's a smart guy. He's done well. They all have," Harbaugh said. "Tyus has looked really good. Chris has looked good. Tim has looked good. The two offensive linemen have looked good. Clark has done a nice job. You can tell he's a real instinctive guy. He has a nose for the ball. It's fun watching those guys."
The Ravens are trying out a host of players at the minicamp, including former Maryland defensive lineman Roman Braglio (McDonogh) and former Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner. … Harbaugh brought up the recent hostility between the Orioles and Boston Red Sox in his post-practice news conference. "It's Ravens-Patriots. It's Baltimore-Boston," he said. "That's a pretty good rivalry, too." Harbaugh called the 77 mph curveball that Orioles starter Kevin Gausman hit Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts with, resulting in Gausman's ejection from the second inning of Wednesday's game, a "love tap." … The rookie minicamp officially ends Sunday.