Versatile rookie Figurs hopes to make Ravens one way or another
WESTMINSTER, Md. - Yamon Figurs cut to the outside at the precise moment a football bounced off the side of his helmet. Minutes later, he made a fine running catch on a pass from Kyle Boller and glided into the end zone.
Such is life these days for the Baltimore Ravens rookie. There are good days and bad days, fine plays and awful plays. The only guarantee is that nothing is certain -- especially in regard to his role on the team.
Figurs, Baltimore's third-round pick in the 2007 draft, is both a wide receiver and kick returner. In three seasons at Kansas State, he caught 73 passes, ran back 21 kickoffs and returned 48 punts. He also had five carries for 79 yards and two touchdowns.
His goal is to contribute to the Ravens in any way possible. Asked Friday whether he expected to be a kick returner or receiver, Figurs replied, "Both. I just need to get the ball in my hands on a reverse, kickoffs, whatever."
Figurs was known primarily as a kick returner in college, but he was adopted by Baltimore receivers as one of their own. Maybe it's because the six veteran wideouts made the newcomer buy each of them an iPhone. Total expenditure: $3,500.
"It's a little thing the receivers have, when a new rookie comes in he has to buy the team stuff," Figurs explained. "It goes on and on. So I'll get something next year."
Figurs is low on depth chart at wide receiver, in part because he's learning a new offense and competing at a higher level than before. At this point, speed is his biggest asset. A track star in high school, Figurs ran the fastest 40-yard dash at the 2007 NFL combine and can blow past virtually any cornerback.
Now, if he can master the finer points of his position, Figurs could be a significant contributor in 2007.
"He's at that point in camp where everything is kind of jumping together. It kind of happens to a young guy," receivers coach Mike Johnson said. "He's starting to come out of it now and starting to be a little more instinctive. He doesn't always use them, but he has good hands. When he's thinking, it kind of slows him down, and that slows down his progress."
Compared to learning the playbook, running pass patterns and shedding off hits from eager cornerbacks, returning kicks is easy. Catch the ball, react and run.
"Returning the ball is, 'Show me you won't cough it up and you know where you're running,'" coach Brian Billick said. "Those are instincts he has, so he will do just fine. The subtitles at wide receiver, that's what's weighing down on him right now because he's thinking a lot."
Said Figurs: "Right now I'm getting better and better at it. I'm thinking fast. You have to slow your mind down and just think and do my thing. It's not really concentration; it's how they put you in the game plan and what stuff they want you to do."
The tools are there. Now it's just a matter of using them efficiently, and that's where Johnson comes in.
"You can't teach a guy to run that fast or have good hands," the coach said. "He has all the attributes. My job is to refine them."