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'It’s important to give us that freedom early’: Ravens players talk about Fair Pay to Play Act in California

Several Ravens players expressed support Thursday for the Fair Pay to Play Act, which was signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week and would allow student-athletes in that state to profit from their name, likeness and image.

The bill, which would also permit student-athletes to hire agents to help secure business dealings, comes as a threat to the amateurism model of the NCAA.

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“I know that college struggle,” said cornerback Cyrus Jones, who spent four years at Alabama. “So looking back on it now, it would have definitely made things a little bit easier, as far as having money in your pocket, taking care of yourself, not having to ask other people for stuff, your family, or whoever is close to you back home or whoever you can go to if you need help.”

Offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. believes allowing student-athletes to be paid would serve as an introduction to the business world for future NFL players.

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“To be in a position that early at the age of 18 or 17, at the earliest to be able to profit off of football and profit off your appearance or whatever it is you can do, I think it’s fair," said Brown, who was at Oklahoma for four years.

"It’s important to give us that freedom early. It’s not going to do anything but — by the time someone is 21, 22 years old in the NFL, they’re going to understand the off-the-field [nuances] and be able to focus on the field more.”

Kicker Justin Tucker wondered how the bill would affect the future of the NCAA, which many have decried for years regarding its rules on amateurism.

“The passing of this bill is just a small step in the right direction, in my opinion," said Tucker, a four-year player at Texas. "If you have talent, if you have ability, if you have a skill set that an employer values, you should be able to be compensated for it. That’s kind of the beauty of our system here in the United States and in many developed parts of the world.

"It’s a great start but it’ll be really interesting to see how it really affects college football as we currently know it.”

The Fair Pay to Play Act does not become law until 2023.

It’s not clear whether Maryland would attempt to pass such legislation.

Other lawmakers have taken notice, including former NFL wide receiver and Ohio congressman Anthony Gonzalez, who is planning to introduce a nationwide bill that would allow student-athletes to receive compensation.

Extra points

>> Special teams coach Chris Horton said despite botching two kickoffs in four games, the team still has faith in rookie running back Justice Hill.

Hill, after failing to secure the opening kickoff in the second half of the team’s 40-25 loss to the Cleveland Browns, was replaced by wide receiver Chris Moore, who handled return duties last season.

The 2019 fourth-round pick also muffed the opening kickoff in the team’s season opener against the Miami Dolphins.

“We trust Justice,” Horton said. “We believe in him, and we still do. At that point in the game, [it] just felt like we needed to make a decision just so we can create some momentum. I can guarantee you guys, you will see Justice again.”

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>> Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said tackling is an increased focus this week, following multiple costly missed tackles against the Browns. During the portion of Wednesday’s practice open to the media, the team had tackling sleds on the field.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” Martindale said of the defensive issues. “But it basically comes down to fundamentals, technique, angles to the football and tackling.”

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