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In fifth year, Jah Reid's mind is finally set

As an organization, the Ravens don't typically traffic in puzzling personnel decisions, but many filed re-signing free agent offensive lineman Jah Reid in that category this spring.

Reid acknowledges he's "had a very limited role" with the Ravens, a situation compounded by injuries and the crippling pressure that comes with being a third-round NFL draft pick who's become a perennial backup.

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Viewed through that prism, the Ravens could have been blameless in letting Reid walk at the end of his rookie contract.

Now in his fifth training camp with the team, Reid believes he can change that narrative simply because he's stopped being so engrossed with it.

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"If I said it wasn't tough, I'd be lying," Reid said in a recent interview. "It's very stressful. I've been very stressed for a long time. This is the first time in a long time I haven't been stressed. I'm trying to take things as they come."

The new approach seems to be working for Reid, who was a quiet standout for the Ravens in training camp before back spasms robbed him of a week on the field, including Saturday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles. He returned to practice Monday.

Some of that old stress came back, but Reid maintained the perspective that has made him believe success can finally come in Baltimore, where so much had been expected of him.

The Ravens traded up in the 2011 draft to select him, and coach John Harbaugh said Reid was "a little bit developmental, but I think he's going to develop fast."

They used him as an extra lineman in his rookie season, and started Reid for seven games at left guard in 2012 before a toe injury landed him on injured reserve for the Super Bowl run.

He's been active for just 14 games in the two seasons since, with a hand injury last December robbing him of a chance to make an impact when starting tackles Eugene Monroe and Rick Wagner were injured.

The injuries and the Sunday scratches wore on Reid.

"There's always expectations to perform when you're drafted high, that you're going to come in and play," Reid said. "I put a lot of stress on myself. … It'll keep you awake at night worrying. You feel this constant pressure just to prove yourself every day."

Now that he's not feeling that pressure, he's free to actually do it. Reid has played a major role in training camp this year, spelling starting right tackle Rick Wagner as he comes back from foot surgery, and is thriving at his natural position. His injury, though, was part of a spell that peaked with the Ravens missing nine offensive lineman by halftime of the preseason loss to the Eagles.

"Injuries happen," he said. "It's the preseason. It's all unfortunate, but hopefully everybody can get healed up and healthy for the regular season. I'm just going to go out there this Saturday [against the Washington Redskins] and perform to the best of my ability and put my best foot forward and show them what I have."

Harbaugh attributes the lineman's otherwise strong preseason to Reid's health, and his weight, which is below 320 pounds but was a problem earlier this summer, Harbaugh said.

"He has continued to improve every single practice," Harbaugh said. "He just has to continue to do that."

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"He's working his butt off out here," guard Marshal Yanda said. "It seems like he has a little more sense of urgency, but he's playing good football."

Reid wasn't a major part of the Ravens' plans last year, but his spot on the roster doesn't seem tenuous this month. He and James Hurst are the two top reserve tackles, and his ability to play guard could make him a valuable swing lineman on Sundays in September.

"Things will work out," he said. "I've had to deal with a lot of introspection. Things will work out regardless. Football is great. I love football. I want to play football for a long time. But if something terrible happened and I couldn't play football again, I'd be OK. Life goes on. And I think that's helped me a lot, having that outlook."

Reid, who was a psychology student at Central Florida, seems to have benefited from applying his laid-back demeanor to football. Off the field, he's a television and movie buff, and after a recent practice, he extolled the virtues of a new CBS show, "Zoo."

"You're still going on about that?" fellow offensive lineman James Hurst asked.

He's a regular viewer of "The Bachelor" franchise. He has no love for Twitter, but plenty of time for yoga, which has been a growing hobby. In consecutive thoughts, he'll quote an old yoga maxim — "You're never happy unless you don't care what the outcome is" — and Houston Texans defensive star J.J. Watt — "Success is leased, and you've got to pay every day."

Finding the place where those mindsets meet has put Reid, overall, in a good one.

And when things do go wrong for him — as they did in March 2014 after he was arrested for misdemeanor battery following a bar fight in Key West, Fla. — he's found positives in the aftermath.

He completed his 75 hours of mandated community service at the Helping Up Mission, a men's homeless shelter in Baltimore, where he tutored in their GED program every Friday. He scoffed when his girlfriend told him the service would be good for him, but came out of it with more than the required, court-ordered hours.

Vince McHugh, now of Annapolis, said he was recently out of prison and recovering from substance abuse issues when Reid began helping him toward his GED. Reid maintained a relationship with him after McHugh left the facility. The two talk every day, and because McHugh doesn't have a car, Reid and his girlfriend went to Annapolis to hang out and go to the movies over the summer.

"I'm not a Bible thumper, but it's just a blessing from God," McHugh, 29, said. McHugh loves the Ravens, and thinks Reid gets a "bad rap" among fans.

Reid is proud of the work he did at Helping Up Mission and his friendship with McHugh, all born out of an embarrassing chapter in his life. Now it's on to a second act in his football career, all based on the same guiding idea.

"There are experiences you learn from, and you try to take the positives," he said.

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