Kyle Hamilton called it a “dream come true,” but Ravens rookie minicamp wasn’t everything the first-round pick thought it might be. Certainly not what he thought it might sound like, anyway.
Hamilton arrived at the team’s indoor practice facility late Saturday morning with a headset in his helmet. He joked that no one bothered to warn him. In the first period of the Ravens’ second minicamp practice with draft picks, undrafted-rookie signings and free agents still vying for a spot on the 90-man roster, the safety heard a loud noise. It was defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald’s disembodied voice in his ear.
“I had a jump scare because I didn’t know he was going to be talking to me just yet,” Hamilton said. This was a new experience; in college football, one-way helmet communication is not allowed. “But I got used to it. First time I heard it, I had no clue what he was saying. But now I can kind of identify it pretty quickly. So it’s a pretty cool little nuance to NFL football that I appreciate, for sure.”
When minicamp opened Friday in Owings Mills, a wave of instruction and information flowed in. Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens’ rookies are “drinking from the firehose a little bit,” then added: “But we want them to drink from the firehose.”
In some ways, as he’s told the dozens of young players on hand, the NFL game isn’t altogether different from the college level: same field dimensions, same team size, same objectives. The goal of minicamp is not only to coach them up on the differences, Harbaugh said, but also to teach them how to practice, how to absorb the Ravens’ fundamentals.
“It’s a pretty steep learning curve in terms of volume,” he said. “There are very few teams out there in college football, offense or defense or special teams — they all do all the things you see in pro football, but very few do all the things that a team will do in pro football.”
For Hamilton, one of the top safety prospects in recent years, that’s meant trial by error. At minicamp, he said he has “the opportunity to come out here, get better, make mistakes and learn from them.” He’s been asked to learn both safety spots in the Ravens’ system (“Definitely challenging”) and run more coverage shells with three deep defensive backs than he did in college (“Pretty different from Notre Dame, I would say”).
“It’s the NFL, and that’s what guys get paid to do,” Hamilton said. “So I’m up for the task, but I’m just going to rely on coaches, vets to help me out, whether that be playbook stuff or just mentally how to navigate the game.”
On offense, Tyler Linderbaum has “a lot to learn,” Harbaugh said, just like every first-round pick ever brought to Baltimore. The former Iowa center is learning the Ravens’ verbiage. He’s ramping up his volume of shotgun snaps, which weren’t as heavily featured in the Hawkeyes’ offense. He’s figuring out how to make the right presnap calls and sort out the team’s protections.
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Offensive tackle Daniel Faalele, a fourth-round pick, said learning the playbook would be his biggest challenge; Linderbaum estimated Saturday that the offense is running only 10% of the plays that it’ll be expected to execute this season. But this is the time of the offseason for growth, Harbaugh said.
“Everybody’s developmental,” he said. “I’m developmental. We’re all developmental. We’re trying our best to become better at what we do.”
>> The 6-foot-2 Linderbaum is undersized for an NFL center, but in offensive line drills Saturday, he showed the burst off the line of scrimmage that made him such an effective blocker in space at Iowa. Faalele, meanwhile, showed impressive flexibility in drills and moved well for a 375-pound tackle.
>> Hamilton was active and found himself around the ball often. He didn’t hesitate to break on passes from depth before the ball was in the air.
>> Tight ends Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar were popular targets throughout the day, but drops were a problem — a surprise considering the fourth-round picks’ sure-handed production in college. Kolar, running a route up the seam in one 11-on-11 play, had a pass bounce off his hands and into the grasp of undrafted rookie cornerback David Vereen.
>> Defensive tackle Travis Jones had a dominant stretch in 11-on-11 action, knocking the opposing lineman down on one play and winning handily on a pass-rush repetition on the next. The third-round pick is lean for a 325-pound interior presence.
>> Cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis missed at least the final half-hour of practice and didn’t return for a team photo with his fellow draft picks. It was unclear what happened to the fourth-round pick, who had an injury history at Alabama.