No open tryouts for wanna-be Ravens

OWINGS MILLS -- Those who dream of gridiron glory often encounter a hard dose of reality. Football often educates people about their limitations. For every truck driver or welder with visions of becoming a bone-crunching linebacker, few are able to translate that passion into a paying job in the National Football League. Joe Sixpack rarely blossoms into Joe Namath. That hasn't stopped a bevy of misguided individuals from knocking on the Baltimore Ravens' door. Literally.

"You don't want to kill someone's dream, but this is an elite league with elite athletes," Ravens director of pro personnel George Kokinis said. "As a scout, you would love to be driving and find an absolute stud walking down the street, but that rarely happens."

Although the policy of open tryouts ended during the Ted Marchibroda era, the Ravens still receive a wide range of inquiries. Nobody is allowed to try out without an invitation.

Some were once legitimate prospects who have simply been out of football for various reasons. The majority are quite suspect. And a few are amusing and overzealous enough to generate a chuckle or raise an eyebrow.

Of course, there was that tape the Ravens received of a man trying to race a horse. Who crossed the finish line first? What do you think happened?

"He got smoked by the horse," Kokinis said. "That had to be the most unusual one."

Yes, a gentleman whose girth approached Tony Siragusa proportions showed up one night at the training complex claiming to cover 40 yards in 4.8 seconds.

He was advised to send a tape of that feat to the personnel department. It must be stuck in the mailbox because it hasn't arrived yet.

Another hopeful attempted to demonstrate his intensity by sending a tape of him flexing his muscles in the weight room while heavy metal music blared in the background. There are also the off-the-wall approaches of sending in video of prep wrestling matches or playground basketball encounters.

When the Ravens were the Cleveland Browns, one truck driver kept begging for a shot. One major problem was his age: 45.

Scouting is a serious business, so the Ravens will take a look at virtually any worthy athlete. No one wants to miss out on the next Kurt Warner, the St. Louis Rams' standout passer who once stocked shelves at a supermarket before bouncing around the Arena Football League and NFL Europe.

Yet, a cursory perusal is a far cry from a scout actually staking his reputation and recommend signing a guy off the street to general manager Ozzie Newsome.

"A lot of them have excuses: 'I got bypassed. I got overlooked,'" Kokinis said. "If you entertain every call, Ozzie is going to question what you're looking at."

This isn't Hollywood. It's the bottom-line world of pro football.

Not often are you going to find a prison guard or construction worker capable of surviving in this league, or even getting their foot in the door. That won't stop people from dreaming and scheming, though.

"It's great to have a passion for football, but you have to be realistic," Kokinis said. "Sometimes, you have to move on."

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