A mid-practice shoving match with defensive tackle Chris Wormley notwithstanding, Ravens rookie Mark Thompson has drawn more attention for his size and playing time.
At 6 feet 1, Thompson matches fellow rookie Gus Edwards for tallest running back on the roster. And at 235 pounds, he is only three pounds lighter than Edwards. Thompson is hoping to use his bulk to secure a spot on the active roster.
“I have a unique skill set,” he said. “I’m bigger than the rest of the running backs, and I believe that I’m faster. I bring to the table what I said I bring. I’m working on the things I lack at, and the things I’m good at, I try to be better at.”
As running back Kenneth Dixon has been sidelined for the past five practices because of a hamstring injury, Thompson and Edwards have earned more repetitions behind Alex Collins and Buck Allen. Whether it’s because of his size or that scuffle with Wormley on Monday, Thompson was on the receiving end of a couple of extracurricular hits from the defense, but he did not think his larger frame makes him a bigger target.
“You could say or think that way, but being bigger, I just have to hit before I get hit,” he said. “A lot of big backs like [the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 6-0, 228-pound] Leonard Fournette and [the Pittsburgh Steeers’ 6-1, 225-pound] Le’Veon Bell, they don’t get blown up too often, and that’s because they’re delivering the punch. Just because I’m a running back doesn’t mean that I’m the one that has to get hit.”
Coach John Harbaugh said he likes what he has seen out of both Thompson and Edwards.
“They’re very big, physical players,” he said recently. “They take the ball and get north. They’re very conscientious. They’re quiet guys, all three of those guys. … They put their pads down and go north and south, which is what we like.”
Thompson carried the ball 58 times for 297 yards and a career-high three touchdowns last season at Florida. But that performance was not enough to compel any of the 32 teams to select him in April’s draft, which is why he is eager to play in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Chicago Bears in Canton, Ohio.
“I’m very anxious, excited,” he said. “I’m ready to get out there and show what I’m capable of,” he said. “My time at Florida, I didn’t get to do everything that I wanted to do. So this is my opportunity to come out here and show what I’m made of and show the country what I’m made of.”