Ravens begin recruiting process

OWINGS MILLS – This is supposed to be an evaluation period for NFL franchises to determine college football's prospects and suspects. Toward that end, it's also evolved into something of a recruiting process not completely foreign to the way universities sell their respective merits to prep blue-chippers. Beginning today, the Baltimore Ravens start hosting players at their training complex in an effort to get beyond the practiced, cursory interviews conducted at the scouting combine.

"It's very beneficial," said Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, whose team has the 10th overall selection of the first round. "Up until this point, we've only had 15 minutes with guys, so this gives us the opportunity to have them here all day and to watch tape with them.

"This really gives us a chance to develop a relationship with a player and to get a feel for them on our turf."

Teams are allowed to host up to 20 players, and Newsome said Baltimore would use its entire allotment. Visits usually include a tour of the facility, meetings with team personnel, meals, film study and occasional gifts of team apparel, which is allowed in the NFL and prohibited in the college game.

Among the players linked to the Ravens for Top 20 visits in published reports: Cal quarterback Kyle Boller and Arizona State defensive end Terrell Suggs.

Boller has enjoyed a meteoric rise up draft boards because of his personal workouts, including an audition for Ravens personnel on the Berkeley campus. At 6-foot-3, 234 pounds, Boller covered 40 yards in 4.59 seconds at the combine.

He's also purported to have enough arm strength to toss a football from midfield through the uprights while kneeling on one knee.

With the Golden Bears, Boller was plagued by a poor supporting cast and a succession of offensive coordinators.

He was 7-21 as an erratic starter his first three years, throwing 38 interceptions to go with 36 touchdowns. Playing for Jeff Tedford last fall, Boller led Cal to a 7-5 season as he threw for 2,815 yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Suggs is an All-American and Lombardi Award winner who set a collegiate record last season with 24 sacks.

However, he struggled in his workout earlier this month in Tempe, Ariz., running relatively pedestrian times of 4.77 to 4.86 with a 32 ½ inch vertical leap and a 9-foot standing long jump.

Newsome declined to confirm who's visiting.

"It's no secret," he said, "but I'm not giving any names out."

Just because the Ravens have the 10th pick doesn't mean they will entertain only players projected as high selections.

Allowed 20 visits to players out of their geographic area, Newsome said the Ravens will bring in a mixture of likely first and second-day selections along with other players who conceivably won't be drafted.

Teams compete with each other to sign top undrafted free agents.

Occasionally, some of those players prosper and even become starters as safety Will Demps did as a Baltimore rookie last year out of San Diego State.

Randy Hymes started twice at receiver for the Ravens last year after going undrafted out of Grambling as a converted quarterback.

"That's how we got Randy Hymes last year," Newsome said. "He's one of the guys we brought in who got a chance to know us."

NOTE: Newsome said negotiations continued with free agent outside linebacker Jamir Miller and receiver Frank Sanders, but he didn't offer any predictions for when deals might be completed.

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