Billick, Ravens rookies converge for minicamp
OWINGS MILLS, Md. - They came from all parts of the country, each with one common goal: to show the Baltimore Ravens that they have enough talent to play in the NFL.
The Ravens launched their two-day rookie minicamp Saturday, putting their 2006 draft choices and a couple dozen free agents through two get-to-know-you practices. The object of the camp is to get the players acclimated to the team's training complex and provide them a sampling of life in the NFL.
"What we want to get out of it is simply them getting the routine," coach Brian Billick said. "Where are they, where are the bathrooms, where's the chow hall, where's the field, who's in the training room, who's the guy with the goofy glasses and the too long shorts?"
The guy in glasses and lengthy shorts was Billick, who will spend the weekend looking for a few players that can help the Ravens rebound from last year's 6-10 disaster.
Top draft pick Haloti Ngata made an immediate impression, even though the 6-foot-4, 340-pounder from Oregon did little more than run through a series of drills without pads.
"When you watch him moving around, that combination of size and athleticism, until you see it in the flesh it's hard to truly appreciate," Billick said.
Ngata and free agent Nick Leaders of Iowa State were the only defensive linemen in camp. That's twice as many as there were quarterbacks - Drew Olson of UCLA did all the passing on Saturday.
Olson started 37 games for the Bruins but was not picked in the draft. At UCLA, he completed 654 of 1124 passes (58.2 percent) for 8,389 yards, 64 touchdowns and 29 interceptions, joining Cade McNown as the only players in school history to throw for more than 7,000 yards in a career.
Those impressive numbers won't guarantee him a job with the Ravens, but this weekend he will receive an opportunity to strut his stuff.
"It was fun because you get a lot of reps, a lot of experience," Olson said after Saturday's morning session. "It's the best thing I could ask for, coming in being a rookie and learning and getting a lot of reps."
Said Billick: "He's not going to go out of here thinking, 'Geez, I didn't get a chance to show what I can do.'"
The same can be said for wide receiver Demetrius Williams, Baltimore's fourth-round pick. Williams, who played with Ngata at Oregon, is one of three receivers in camp.
"It's a new environment for me. Just coming out here and being with the guys and being on an NFL team is a lifetime dream," he said. "I was a little nervous at first, but I think the more practices we get, it will be a whole lot easier for the guys."
None of the rookies will make the team this weekend, nor will they blow their shot at being a part of the 2006 Ravens.
"We do not want a good football player to leave this team because he was unfamiliar, didn't know what he was he doing, or was confused or hesitant. And that's easy to do, because they're unfamiliar, they're confused and they're hesitant," Billick said. "You don't want to miss on a good football player that way. You want to give them time to get comfortable. There's only so much evaluating going on right now."
Billick, however, was delighted to be back in a familiar environment.
"It feels good. Any time you can step on a field with a bunch of young people and coach ball, it's a good day," he said. "Now it begins. All that time we had off from the end of the season to now, it starts in earnest now."