Ravens' rookies set to hit the field

OWINGS MILLS – In any orientation, particularly the demanding environment of the NFL, having the proper attitude is critical. As the Baltimore Ravens begin a two-day, introductory minicamp for their rookie class Friday at their headquarters, wide receiver Mark Clayton, the team's first-round draft pick, appears to have the right approach to getting acclimated to the next level.

"Whatever they ask me to do," said Clayton, the Oklahoma Sooners' all-time leader in receptions (221), receiving yards (3,241) and touchdown catches (31) whom Baltimore drafted with the 22nd overall pick. "I'm very proud of my blocking. I'll go down and hit a safety, hit a corner, it don't matter. I like blocking.

"And then making plays downfield, catching balls and catching short passes, getting to the end zone, which brings excitement. People enjoy that. Coach wants me to get a couple of reverses, whatever it is – punt return, kick return – I'm doing it, full speed ahead."

Clayton and the Ravens' other six draft picks – Oklahoma outside linebacker Dan Cody (second round), Syracuse offensive tackle Adam Terry (second round), North Carolina center Jason Brown (fourth round), Montana fullback Justin Green (fifth round), quarterback Derek Anderson (sixth round) and Texas Tech linebacker Mike Smith (seventh round) – will hit the field for a total of three practices.

They will be joined by several undrafted free agents expected to include former North Carolina quarterback Darian Durrant, former Maryland Terrapins receiver Curtis Williams and tight end Rob Abiamiri, Central Florida running back Alex Haynes, Illinois linebacker Matthew Sinclair and Minnesota kicker Rhys Lloyd, according to their respective colleges' sports information departments.

The Ravens will officially release a list of their undrafted rookies today after they pass physicals and sign contracts, which typically include a modest signing bonus. Not surprisingly, the list of undrafted players expected to join the Ravens includes nickel back candidates like South Carolina cornerback Taqiy Muhammad and Louisiana-Monroe cornerback Cash Mouton and a few others after Baltimore didn't draft any defensive backs last weekend.

The rookies will be fitted for helmets, assigned lockers (many in the past have shared one due to limited space) given a tour of the Ravens' $31 million training complex, receive thick playbooks and participate in classroom-style meetings. Everything, down to how to stretch and how to use the weightlifting equipment, will be outlined for them.

As vital as the three practices in shorts and helmets are, the classroom work is equally integral to the rookies' progress. Plus, with only a handful of roster spots available on a veteran-laden team, the majority of the rookies will have to make an impression on special teams to have an opportunity to make the 53-man roster or the eight-man practice squad.

"The first weekend, you want to be careful about expecting too much," Ravens coach Brian Billick said Thursday, detailing a few of his basic goals for the rookies. "If we come out of this weekend with them having a basic awareness of where they are, where the john is, where the cafeteria is, where the meeting rooms are, what a meeting is like, how to conduct themselves in a meeting, in the weight room."

NOTE: The Ravens' coaching staff, including Billick, quarterbacks coach Rick Neuheisel and defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, will hold a football clinic for area high school and youth coaches May 21 at M&T Bank Stadium. The annual NFL clinic's featured guest speaker is veteran offensive line coach Tony Wise, who won a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys in 1992.

The clinic fee is $10 per coach if registration is postmarked before May 9, or coaches can register at the stadium for $20 apiece. For more information, access www.baltimoreravens.com.

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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