Gus Edwards knew the score. The former Rutgers standout knew that the Ravens returned running backs Alex Collins and Buck Allen and would welcome back Kenneth Dixon from a torn meniscus in his left knee that sidelined him for the entire 2017 season.
But that logjam at the top did not dissuade Edwards from signing as an undrafted free agent after the NFL draft concluded without him getting selected.
“I kind of came into this knowing what it was like,” he said after Thursday’s practice. “I knew I was going to come in as a free agent and I was going to have to work harder than everybody. I think I’ve got a great opportunity.”
Edwards’ faith seems somewhat prescient now. With Dixon leaving Thursday’s practice after about 30 minutes because of an unspecified injury, Edwards was the first running back off the sideline behind Collins and Allen. Mark Thompson and De’Lance Turner, two other undrafted rookies, also took some reps, but Edwards appeared to be the most immediate beneficiary of Dixon’s absence.
“We kind of mix it in there, but I’m just here trying to control what I can control,” Edwards said. “I’ll let them make the decision over that.”
At 6 feet 1, Edwards is tied with Thompson as the tallest running back on the roster, and Edwards is listed at 238 pounds, three pounds heavier than Thompson. That size might be helpful in short-yardage situations, but Edwards understands that he must refine his skills as a receiver out of the backfield.
“I know on this team, they use the back in the receiving game a lot,” said Edwards, who rushed for 1,690 yards and 18 touchdowns on 350 carries in his college career, but only caught 16 passes for 156 yards and one score. “So I have to be ready for that. I’m working on that in my free time, and I’m trying to learn from the other guys like Buck. Buck is really good at that. So I kind of learn from him.”
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said he likes having a running back of Edwards’ size.
“There’s all kinds of advantages and not many disadvantages,” he said. “This is a big man’s game. So he’s done a heck of a job so far.”
It’s too early to say whether Edwards, who said he is also working on his blocking in pass protection, has gained a favorable footing in his quest to join the team. He acknowledged the long odds facing him.
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“It’s pressure, but at the same time, I try not to think of it like that,” he said. “I just try to control what I can. I just want to practice hard.”