When Lorenzo Taliaferro ended last season on injured reserve — for the third time in his three seasons with the Ravens — running backs coach Thomas Hammock had a suggestion.
Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Taliaferro might want to try fullback, Hammock said. After all, the running back had trouble staying healthy and cracking the backfield rotation.
In March, the idea became reality.
So, Taliaferro has embraced the position switch entering a preseason during which he hopes to establish a consistent role in the offense.
“Blocking, that has always been my strong point, like pass protection,” Taliaferro said. “It’s technique to it, but it’s more of a will. If you’re willing to stick your nose in there and get dirty and protect the million dollar man and the guys behind him, that’s all it’s about. I don’t think there’s too much learning. It’s just about willpower.”
The Ravens lost fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who had 266 receiving yards as an option from the backfield, in free agency, and coach John Harbaugh has said throughout offseason workouts the team will turn to in-house candidates as replacements.
That’s meant Taliaferro has channeled his junior college role to acclimate to getting fewer carries.
In 2010 and 2011, he was a 205-pound fullback at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pa. Taliaferro said the experience helped him develop the toughness, stamina and blocking skills to emerge as a running back at Coastal Carolina in 2012 and 2013.
“I probably was a free agent without pass blocking,” said Taliaferro, a 2014 fourth-round pick. “The ability to be a great pass protector is what got me drafted.”
Taliaferro added that those skills will determine whether he keeps his roster spot this season.
He’s ended each season on injured reserve, battling foot, knee and thigh injuries. In the past two seasons, Taliaferro has played in a combined six games and had 14 carries for 47 yards and eight catches for 39 yards.
“We’ve got to get a great evaluation, he has to get comfortable there, and then we know he can also play halfback as well,” said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, confirming Wednesday that Taliaferro’s primary position is fullback. “That may end up being a important part for him.”
The 6-foot, 225-pound player said he’s added a few pounds to withstand the physicality but hasn’t dwelled his shortcomings to prompt the change.
Instead, he’s planning to work out in San Francisco until training camp starts in late July with an emphasis on avoiding injuries.
“Coaches know that I can play football,” Taliaferro said. “The biggest question mark around me is my health, and I feel great right now.”