Thursday was a day of mixed emotions for
He saw depart the man who taught him what it meant to give back to the community, the man who hooked him up with his masseuse and even taught him how to buy a sharp suit.
But with his mentor, Vonta Leach, released by the Ravens, Juszczyk is now in line for the starting fullback job and a large role in the team’s new offense.
And for that, Juszczyk is pretty pumped.
“[Head Coach John Harbaugh] expects a lot and I expect a lot from myself as well,” Juszczyk said. “I’m excited to be more involved next year, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure it works.”
Juszczyk had a similar opportunity last summer early in training camp. The Ravens had parted ways with Leach last year after drafting Juszczyk in the fourth round out of Harvard. But Juszczyk had trouble in training camp, particularly one day filled with brutal goal-line action, and the Ravens brought Leach back.
Juszczyk was almost entirely limited to special teams, where he excelled. He had one pass thrown his way in Miami, which was just out of reach after a diving attempt. That was it on offense.
This time around, however, Juszczyk feels he’s ready.
“I definitely notice the difference,” he said. “I can relate to when I was a freshman in college. There’s just something about getting that first year under your belt. There’s just a comfort level; you’re more comfortable with your environment, the playbook, with your teammates and coaches and how to approach everything and handle it. I definitely look forward to my second year and building on what I did last year.”
Juszczyk won’t serve the same role as Leach. He isn’t the same kind of battering ram, which is fading out of the NFL. Leach was on the field for less than 20 percent of the offensive snaps last season.
Instead, Juszczyk will be moved around the Ravens offense to better utilize his pass-catching skills and versatility. He’ll be a Swiss Army knife in the offense, which could get him on the field often.
Juszczyk has talked with Harbaugh, Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak and his new position coaches, Tight Ends Coach Brian Pariani and Running Backs Coach Thomas Hammock, about what they expect next season.
“They all have the same idea that I’m really going to be a guy that can move around to a lot of different positions,” Juszczyk said. “I can be flexed out, I can be in the backfield when I need to be in short-yardage and goal-line situations. It’s a lot of what I expected to do last year but we never got to it.”
One name Juszczyk continues to hear is James Casey. Casey is a tight end/fullback for the Philadelphia Eagles who previously flourished in Kubiak’s system in Houston. In his final year as a Texan in 2012, Casey caught 34 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns. He ran just six times.
“I’ve gotten that comparison a lot,” Juszczyk said. “I got it a lot during the whole draft process, and I got it the first time I talked to Coach Kubiak. That was one of the first things he mentioned to me. He told me I reminded him a lot of Casey and he saw me doing a lot of what he did.”
After the season ended, Harbaugh told the media that Juszczyk “has got to be a huge part of what we do going forward.”
It looks like that time has arrived.