There have been times during the past few weeks of the Ravens’ organized team activities as well as at this week’s minicamp when Keenan Reynolds looks, at least to the untrained eye, as if he has been fielding punts and catching passes for a few years rather than a couple of months.
To those who have watched other college quarterbacks make the difficult transition to punt returner and receiver, as Ravens special teams coach Jerry Rosburg did with Josh Cribbs when they were both in Cleveland, there is still plenty of work left for the former Navy star to do.
"He’s starting from scratch, so it’s a long journey. But what we’ve seen on a daily basis is improvement,” Rosburg said Wednesday, after the second day of the three-day minicamp that ended Thursday in Owings Mills. “Starting from where he’s starting, I think he’s making really good progress.”
Reynolds, who broke the NCAA record for rushing touchdowns during his four seasons in Annapolis, is hoping to make the Ravens as a punt returner and receiver after being drafted in the sixth round.
“I don’t think about progress, I don’t look in the rear view. I just take one step forward, keep working, keep grinding, day in and day out, and at the end the day when all is said and done, then we’ll look up and see how far we came,” Reynolds said Thursday.
Rosburg said that like many late-round choices, Reynolds’ best opportunity to make the team will come by excelling in all phases of special teams.
“There are a number of guys who have come into a situation like this and made the most of it, because you have to find your way on the field,” Rosburg said. “It’s not just the punt returner because in this league, with 46 guys dressing for Sunday, if you’re just the punt returner, and that’s all you can do you better be really good.”
While Reynolds got more opportunity at minicamp playing receiver with the continued absence of Steve Smith Sr. and the knee injury last week to Breshad Perriman, Rosburg said “he’s getting as many reps [at punt returner] as we can give him.” The Ravens were next-to-last a year ago averaging just 5.0 yards per punt return.
Reynolds missed part of the team’s first OTA because of his graduation, and the second OTA was canceled as a penalty for the team violating the collective-bargaining agreement. It was time Reynolds could have used given his inexperience.
“Anytime you don’t get out here and get reps with the squad, being around on the field and in the meetings, you get behind but I did my best to catch up in my off-time studies as much as I can,” Reynolds said. “It’s what you’ve got to do, it’s your job, it’s your profession now. You have no excuses.”
Reynolds was able to spend time with Wes Welker when the former All-Pro worked with the Ravens receivers one day at practice recently.
Asked what he picked up from Welker, Reynolds said, “The list is long. You’ve got a guy with an established career, had an opportunity to speak with him, watch tape with him, watch his film and see what he did and everything he was saying on the field. Just try to soak in as much as I can.”
Reynolds plans to spend the time until training camp begins in late July working on running routes, catching passes and punts, and getting off the line of scrimmage. With the last part, he might be helped by his uncle, a track coach outside Nashville, who helped Reynolds during his Navy career.
“Run,” he said of what he plans on doing during the next six weeks. “And run and run and run and keep running. … It’s a lot of work. I’m working every day, trying to learn from the older guys, asking as much as I can. I have a long way to go. It’s the work I’m willing to put in.”