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Byrne Identity: Bird Attacks Ravens Scout At Manziel Visit

Posted May 2, 2014

Plus, more crazy draft stories, including a team offering three draft picks for tight end Dennis Pitta.


Bird Attacks Ravens Scout At Manziel Visit

Ravens Director Of College Scouting Joe Hortiz’s trip to watch the workouts of quarterback Johnny Manziel and receiver Mike Evans did not go as planned.

It started with Joe's flight from Baltimore to Dallas on March 26. It was delayed. "I got to Dallas around 11 p.m., and by the time I got the rental car, it was 11:30 to midnight. I decided not to drive to College Station – a three-hour drive – and booked a hotel in Waco, about halfway there," Hortiz said. "When I arrived at the hotel, they said they had given away my room, but had space at another hotel nearby. I got to bed around 2 a.m. and was up a few hours later to make a 9:30 a.m. workout for three [Texas] A&M players I hadn't seen yet. Manziel and Evans were scheduled to work at 11 a.m."

Joe's headaches had just begun. About 45 minutes outside College Station, the home of Texas A&M, Joe noticed some "large birds" in his driving lane. "That part of Texas, the speed limit is 75, and I was doing all of that. I moved to the left lane as I got close to these three vultures eating some roadkill. As I got close, the one smart buzzard flew right. The dumb ones took off left."

Joe was on the speaker phone with Ravens coaching executive assistant/football information manager Megan McLaughlin at the time. "Joe yelled 'Oh my God,' and then kept repeating that," McLaughlin explained. "I kept asking Joe if he was OK, and I was really worried. I had heard a thump, and Joe was just repeating 'Oh my God.' I wondered if I should call the police."

"I remember seeing the full bird right in front of me, and I ducked, felt this thing hit my arm and focused on keeping the wheels straight. Glass was everywhere. It was like an explosion. When I opened my eyes, I expected to find a giant turkey buzzard in my lap. Turns out what had hit my arm was the light console from right behind the window. The bird didn't come all the way through the windshield, but the force of the hit burst the inside of the window," Hortiz said.

But, hey, we're the Ravens, and our scouts "Play Like a Raven," too. "I pulled over and got as much of the glass off of me and out of the car as I could. It was a mess. I called the rental company, and they couldn't deliver a car to me right away. I couldn't see through the part of the windshield in front of me, so I leaned left and right and drove [for 45 minutes] to the workout. I got there halfway through the workout for the first three players and then saw all of the Manziel and Evans stuff."

Love The Draft

I love the NFL Draft and all that comes with it. It's like Christmas. There's a "Wish List," and the excitement of putting that together. But, you're not quite sure what will be under the tree.

Sometimes you're not even sure when you are sure.

In 1979, the Browns drafted cornerback Lawrence Johnson in the second round. Owner Art Modell would always call the top choices to welcome them to the team. When he called Johnson, the Big Ten sprint champion, the conversation went something like this:

Modell: "Lawrence, Art Modell, owner of the Cleveland Browns. We just selected you in the second round and I want to be the first to congratulate you and welcome you to the Browns."

Johnson: "Yes sir, that's great. I am so excited. My agent didn't think I'd be drafted this high, and I'd be happy if you signed me as a free agent."

Modell: "They tell me you can really run and that you'll fit right in with our defense."

Johnson: "I have pretty good feet for a big guy, and I'm working to be faster."

Modell: "How big are you?"

Johnson then explained he was "right around 300," but he wanted to play at 285 pounds.

Modell: "300? Are you kidding me? And, you're a cornerback?"

Johnson: "No sir, I'm an offensive lineman."

Modell: "Is this Lawrence Johnson, cornerback from Wisconsin?"

Johnson: "No sir, I'm Lawrence Johnson, offensive lineman from Boise State. Does this mean I'm not drafted by the Cleveland Browns?"

Modell: "Sorry son, maybe we'll come back and draft you later. Good luck."

Art hung up and asked: "Can we get the smaller, faster Lawrence Johnson on the phone?"

More Road Woes

In the spring of 2004, current Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta headed to Corvallis, Ore. to work our defensive end Dwan Edwards, who we selected in the second round a month later. "My flight was delayed, and by the time I got to my hotel near Oregon State at midnight, the front desk manager told me they had given my room away.

"I begged: 'Don't you have anything?' DeCosta said. "We do have a room that is equipped for the physically disabled, and we can put you in there until morning," the attendant replied.

"I'll take it," Eric remembered.

"I went to the room and was a little surprised to find the radio on, but hotels sometimes do that. When I saw a wheel chair near the bed, I was still OK. The room was for someone disabled. But, I was stunned when I opened the bathroom door, much to the surprise of an older woman resting in the bathtub. She screamed and called for help. I quickly closed the door, trying to calm her down and bolted out of the room. By the time I got to the front desk, it was clear she was on the phone reaming the guy. But, I did make the workout that morning."

‘We Love Draft Picks

As DeCosta said to the media at this Wednesday’s pre-draft press conference: “We love picks. We can’t have enough of them. The more you have, the better your chances of improving the team.”

But, Eric might have pushed a little too hard to protect draft picks in 2008. If you recall, we started that draft with the eighth spot in the first round. We traded it to Jacksonville for the 26th slot, plus some other picks in lower rounds. Our target was the Delaware quarterback now known as Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco.

“We knew we had to get a quarterback we all loved, and Joe was that guy,” DeCosta explained. “I thought we could stay at the 26th spot and get him. Ozzie [Newsome] started asking out loud: ‘Are we sure Joe will make it to 26?’

“Well, I was pretty sure.”

Steve Bisciotti said: “Look, you guys love Flacco. You like him as much as [Matt] Ryan, and he went third. If he’s that good, move up and get him.”

DeCosta held firm. “Steve, I don’t think we need to move up, and I don’t think we should give up the draft choices. Those choices could be starters for us.” Newsome then talked about what he thought teams in front of our 26th spot might do. It appeared none were going to take a quarterback. “Let’s just stay where we are. Sure, some team could trade and get in front of us, but I believe we love Joe more than anyone else. Oz, let’s keep the picks.”

Bisciotti, smiling, stared at Eric and said: “Don’t be such a draft [hoarder].” DeCosta jumped right back and said: “I am a draft [hoarder]!” (Truth serum: Steve and Eric did not use the word ‘hoarder.’ They did use a word that sounds a lot like the first syllable of ‘hoarder.’)

Newsome, after announcing, “We’ve been in the desert a long time looking for a quarterback,” then made a trade to move up eight spots in the first round to No. 18, and the rest, as they say, is history.

(Newsome and DeCosta did not bite on the opportunity to add three draft choices in 2010. “We took Ed Dickson in the third round and turned around and took another tight end, Dennis Pitta, in the next round. Almost unprecedented to take tight ends in back-to-back rounds,” Eric explained. “Soon after we drafted Dennis, the [an East Coast team] called and said, ‘You nailed us. We wanted Pitta. Our coach loves Pitta. You have to trade him to us.

“The guy repeated that his head coach had to have Pitta and questioned how we could take Dennis after drafting Dickson and having Todd Heap on our roster. I said, ‘Make an offer.’ They offered two fourth-round picks, and Ozzie said, ‘See if they’ll go one more fourth.’ They said no, but then called back a little later and said: ‘OK, you’ve got the three [choices], let’s make the deal.’ We discussed it and refused. We loved Pitta, too. And, the three guys they drafted in the spots they offered us are no longer in the league.

One more nugget regarding the possible trade of Pitta: When the team called back and said it would give the three choices, the guys in our draft room were watching John Harbaugh on ESPN. Harbs was doing an interview via satellite from another room in our building and had just said how much we loved Pitta. Ozzie looked up and said chuckling, ‘We ain’t trading him now.’)

Know it has been a long time coming, but the draft is close. Only six more days. Can’t wait! More stories are about to unfold.

Talk with you next Friday,

Kevin

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