Top Ravens draft pick Rashod Bateman hasn’t caught a pass from an NFL quarterback yet. He hasn’t spoken with Lamar Jackson yet. He was fitted for his No. 12 jersey and helmet only days ago.
But life comes at you fast in the NFL, and on Saturday, the first day of Ravens rookie minicamp open to reporters, Bateman at least looked the part of an instant-impact receiver. The No. 27 overall pick glided through drills under the watchful eye of wide receivers coach Tee Martin and pass-game specialist Keith Williams, attacked the ball at the catch point in seven-on-seven and 11-on-drills and afterward gave the no-nonsense answers of a 10-year veteran.
“First impressions are very positive,” coach John Harbaugh said after the second of three minicamp practices. “He has a nice demeanor about him. He’s a quick learner. [He’s] everything we thought he would be, in terms of the athleticism and the skill set. That’s usually the case, but not always the case. What you see is not always what you get, and you don’t know until you get them out there in, really, the first rookie minicamp. I would say that he is as advertised from a talent standpoint.”
Fellow first-round pick Odafe Oweh loomed large at the line of scrimmage, and third-round pick Ben Cleveland looked at home at left guard, but minicamp was otherwise a first-look showcase for the Ravens’ skill position newcomers, Bateman and fourth-round pick Tylan Wallace chief among them.
With undrafted rookie quarterback Kenji Bahar (Calvert Hall) spreading the ball far and wide Saturday, Ravens receivers got a preview of organized team activities, which start May 25. Bateman even took some repetitions as a punt returner.
“My job is to go out to perform, no matter if I was a first-round [pick] to seventh round, to wherever,” he said. “I have high expectations for myself, so my job is to go out and to perform anyway. I put that standard on myself, so every day I go to work, that’s what I look forward to doing.”
Bateman, who said he was back to feeling “100% healthy” after dealing with the coronavirus last season at Minnesota, said he’s not worried about being the Ravens’ No. 1 wide receiver. His goal is “to be the best I can be for this team.” That means figuring out what he has to be.
“Coming from college to the NFL, there are some things that you’ve got to learn,” he said. “The feels are very different, so I’m just getting adjusted to that — different landmarks and things like that. So right now, I’m just learning to pick up the playbook, just learning my adjustments and fine-tuning my details.”
Missing in action
Ravens rookie fullback-tight end Ben Mason and tight end Jake Breeland, who missed all of his rookie year while rehabilitating a 2019 knee injury, were the only players missing Saturday.
Harbaugh said Mason, a fifth-round pick, had “a bad shoe situation” Friday, the first day of rookie minicamp — bad enough that he tore the skin off part of his feet. “So that’ll grow back quickly, I’m sure, and he’ll be OK,” Harbaugh said. “He goes hard. He went so hard yesterday, he tore the skin right off the bottom of his feet.”
Harbaugh said Breeland is still recovering from his knee injury, which led to his going undrafted two years ago. Harbaugh said the former Oregon star hasn’t been cleared to practice yet, but that he could be ready for training camp.
Tight end Eli Wolf, who spent part of last season on the practice squad, impressed with his hands and ability to get open. Near the end of one session, Bahar found him up the seam for a catch between undrafted rookie linebacker Barrington Wade and third-round pick Brandon Stephens, who lined up primarily at cornerback. He also ran a couple of out-breaking routes for short completions, including a catch against safety Ar’Darius Washington.
Outside linebacker Daelin Hayes had a standout day in 11-on-11 action. On a play-action drop-back, he dipped around undrafted tackle Adrian Ealy, a two-year starter and All-Big 12 Conference selection at Oklahoma, for a quarterback pressure. A few plays later, the fifth-round pick dropped a would-be interception over the middle after reading Bahar’s eyes as he rolled out and flashing to the ball.
Washington, the Ravens’ most highly touted undrafted rookie, capped a day of what-could’ve-beens for the defense by just about running undrafted rookie tight end Tony Poljan’s route for him. The two wrestled for the quick-hitter throw before the ball popped loose for an incompletion. Fifth-round pick Shaun Wade also had a highlight-reel pass defense when he drove on a sideline shot to wide receiver Donte Sylencieux and made a diving deflection.
Trying it out
With teams limited to five tryout players at rookie minicamps this offseason, the Ravens had to be picky. Inside linebacker Blake Gallagher, an All-Big Ten Conference selection at Northwestern, made a strong case for a 90-man-roster spot Saturday. He had a full-extension near-interception after dropping deep into coverage on one play and was active throughout practice. He also appeared responsible for much of the presnap communication.
Also trying out were undrafted rookie offensive lineman Sam Cooper (Football Championship Subdivision’s Merrimack), former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Chidi Okeke, former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Daniel McCullers and former Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Joey Ivie.
Harbaugh said the Ravens’ “quirky’ schedule, which includes a five-week home stand and two games in three weeks against the Cleveland Browns — who themselves have a bye in the intervening week — “gave me a headache trying to figure it all out.”
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“Two years ago, we had an every-other kind of a deal,” Harbaugh said, referring to an unusual home game, road game rotation. “So it’s probably our turn to get the crazy one, and we did. There are a lot of crazy turns in there. I’m sure some teams are happy with their circumstance — you mentioned the Browns. I’m sure other things are in our favor, so that’s just kind of the way it works. All those home games in a row are different. All those road games in a row are different.”