Hymes learning on the fly

OWINGS MILLS - At the end of a fly pattern, the football deflected off Randy Hymes' gigantic hands and fell to the ground. Hymes became visibly frustrated after a sequence where he ran his route to perfection yet didn't reach the end zone at the Baltimore Ravens' veterans camp Tuesday morning. "Yeah, because sometimes when it hits you in the hands on a deep ball and you drop it the quarterback won't throw it to you anymore," Hymes said. "I don't take anything for granted."

"I was taught at Grambling that you better make the play or you won't get another opportunity. "I've got to catch that ball."

Hymes, who's vying to become the fourth receiver, is a classic case of a versatile athlete with limited experience.

Hymes was an accomplished quarterback at Grambling who doubled as a shooting guard on the basketball team. The Texas native also excelled at the triple jump and long jump for the Tigers' track and field team.

Because Hymes represents a rare package of size at 6-foot-4, 218 pounds, leaping ability, hands large enough to palm a helmet and a penchant for circus catches, the Ravens are investing considerable time in teaching him the nuances of receiver.

"Randy's role depends on how fast Randy develops," Ravens quarterbacks and receivers coach David Shaw said. "He's got great hands, great leaping ability; great natural tools. He's just got to keep progressing and he's got to be a big-play receiver. "He's still a little bit behind in the techniques. When we get his skills to meet his potential we're going to see the real Randy Hymes."

By the end of last season, Hymes had been elevated from the practice squad to play in seven games and start in two contests. In the regular-season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Hymes caught two passes for 76 yards, including a 33-yard reception on third down corralled with one hand in the fourth quarter.

"A lot of guys have big hands, but he's got exceptionally big hands," Shaw said. "You really don't hear a loud sound when he catches the ball. He's got to be one of those guys when you throw the ball to him you know he's going to catch it."

Departed quarterback Jeff Blake trusted Hymes enough to toss him the football in the final minutes of the Ravens' loss to Pittsburgh. However, the pass was intercepted in the end zone by Steelers cornerback Dewayne Washington and sealed the game for Pittsburgh.

"Randy's one of those guys where you just throw it up, kind of like a Todd Heap, and he'll jump up over everyone and get it," quarterback Chris Redman said. "Obviously, he's a very smart guy. For a guy who's only played receiver for two years, it's unbelievable where he is."

In a December game against the Cleveland Browns, Hymes caught three passes for 36 yards in picking up two first downs. For the season, Hymes finished with six receptions for 123 yards and led the team with 20.5 yards per catch.

Hymes also opened a few eyes by demonstrating the arm strength before games that allowed him to pass for 4,413 yards and 33 touchdown passes in directing Grambling to two league titles.

"I've seen him throw the ball 70 yards," receiver Travis Taylor said. "Jeff Blake and I couldn't believe it. The guy is quite an athlete."

Hymes sports a vertical leap of 40 inches, covers 40 yards in 4.5 to 4.6 seconds and remains capable of dunking a basketball. At Grambling, Hymes averaged 5.3 points and 2.9 rebounds as a senior.

"It's a blessing to be good at so many things," said Hymes, who has gained seven pounds of muscle since last season. "I can't do anything but thank the Lord for letting me explore my talents."

For Hymes to progress from an intriguing prospect to an integral part of the Ravens offense, he has to continue learning the offense and become more consistent.

Because the Ravens have added veteran receivers Frank Sanders and Marcus Robinson, a starting role isn't likely in the offing for Hymes. Yet, considerable playing time and a red-zone role are strong possibilities as he competes with Ron Johnson and Javin Hunter.

"Right now, I'm comfortable with the position that I'm at: I'm still here," Hymes said. "I'm fortunate to be able to watch receivers who have been at this for a while. Learning as much as I can is my whole objective right now. "I'm still adjusting to running routes instead of dropping back in the pocket."

NOTES: While Ravens coach Brian Billick was attending his daughter's eight-grade graduation, two minor scuffles broke out in practice.

First, running back Chester Taylor and linebacker Ed Hartwell had to be separated. Then, offensive tackle Orlando Brown and end Tony Weaver began to fight.

Offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh stopped practice and chastised the players. Linebacker Ray Lewis addressed the team after practice about the incidents.

"I'll let everybody get their emotions out of the way," Lewis said. "When it comes down to the end of practice, people are fighting for one common goal. That's my job as a leader, to step in and let them know what we're here for."

... Cornerback Tom Knight was held out of the workout with a sore leg. ... Fullback Alan Ricard returned to work after missing Monday's practice session. ... The Ravens hosted veterans of the war in Iraq from Walter Reed Army Medical Center at practice.

"It's special," Lewis said. "We play a game. That's real life. When you look in a guy's eyes like that, who fight for people they don't even know, that's special. "That's a special person with a special heart."

Ravens Insider Top Stories