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Late For Work 5/18: Will Keenan Reynolds Wear Johnny Unitas' No. 19 Jersey?

Posted May 18, 2016

Does recent signing give clues about starting left tackle? Or are we reading too much into it? History suggests Ravens can rebound from a 5-11 season. Ravens’ best acquisition of the offseason. Outside corner still appears thin.

Will Keenan Reynolds Wear Johnny Unitas’ No. 19 Jersey?

When sixth-round pick Keenan Reynolds stepped onto the Ravens practice fields for the first time last week, he wore an unfamiliar No. 6 jersey.

It was a striking change from the No. 19 that Marylanders were accustomed to during his record-setting career at Navy. The school even honored him by retiring it for good.

So here’s the question: Will Reynolds eventually don his college number with the Ravens?

It doesn’t look like he’ll get the chance, not that he’s even requested it.

League rules stipulate that receivers must wear a number between 10 and 19 or 80 and 89, which is probably why he has since switched to No. 81.

He could still switch again seeing as his college number is still available. But, it’s available for a reason. It’s Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas’ former number.

While quarterback Scott Mitchell wore No. 19 in 1999, the Ravens stopped handing the number out in 2002 after Unitas passed away.

“Out of respect to Johnny Unitas, we don’t issue the number 19,” Ravens head of PR, Kevin Byrne, wrote in an email to Capital Gazette. And for the record, Reynolds has not requested to wear it and never intended to do so, according to his agent Che Mock.

Russell Street Report’s Tony Lombardi was curious how the Unitas family would feel about Reynolds wearing their dad’s number and reached out to his son Joe.

“You know my dad never really cared much about stats, numbers,” Joe Unitas told Lombardi. “Only thing was, ‘Did we win?’”

“I think it would be great if Keenan wore 19,” Joe added. “He is a tremendous athlete, and probably an even better young man. What I’ve seen of him on TV and interviews he handles himself very well, he’s a true leader, awesome work ethic, someone to be respected, and a guy that many of the young kids should look up to and try to model themselves after. If he wants to wear 19 I’m all for it as I’m sure my mom, Chad and Paige would be as well.”

Those are glowing words, and Reynolds surely would be honored to hear them.

“For the Unitas family to come out and say they would like to see Keenan wear the No. 19 is a big deal,” Mock said. “Keenan is a very humble young man and has great respect for the history of the National Football League. He knows all about the great Johnny Unitas and what he accomplished.”

While Mock reiterated that Reynolds hasn’t requested the number, he “guessed” that his client wouldn’t turn it down if offered.

“Given the numerous records Keenan set while wearing the 19 jersey for Navy, I am sure he would be tremendously honored to do so with the Ravens,” Mock said.

On a separate note, it looks like Reynolds is going to sign a promotional contract with Under Armour, according to Capital Gazette. Mock said he couldn’t comment on it, but several sources told the paper that the Baltimore-based sports apparel company is very interested in having Reynolds on board.

Does Recent Signing Give Clues About Starting Left Tackle? Or Are We Reading Too Much Into It?

The Ravens’ recent signing of veteran guard Vladimir Ducasse has Jeff Zrebiec’s mind spinning.

The Baltimore Sun reporter wonders if the addition of Ducasse is the Ravens’ way of preparing for first-round pick Ronnie Stanley to start at left tackle this season over veteran Eugene Monroe.

“Perhaps, I’m reading a little too much into a back-end roster move, but it just seems to me that if the plan was to start Monroe at left tackle and Stanley at guard, the Ravens wouldn’t have a whole lot of use for Ducasse, who started 21 games at guard over the previous three seasons,” wrote Zrebiec.

The Ravens already have many options for left guard, including John UrschelRyan Jensen, rookie fourth-round pick Alex Lewis and maybe even tackle James Hurst, who could transition over. Putting both Stanley and Ducasse in the guard mix seems a little excessive to Zrebiec.

But, he also acknowledges that Newsome could simply be preparing for injuries that can pile up during the season.

“However, if Stanley is at left tackle and the Ravens were looking for a veteran to compete with Urschel and Jensen, the Ducasse signing makes more sense,” Zrebiec wrote.

History Suggests Ravens Can Rebound From 5-11 Season

It may be asking too much for the Ravens to go from a 5-11 squad to a playoff contender in one year. But NFL teams have done it before, regularly.

CSNMidAtlantic.com’s Clifton Brown points out that over the last five seasons, seven NFL teams jumped from five wins or less to the make the playoffs the following year. The only anomaly was in 2014:

2011: Bengals went from 4-12 to 9-7 and made the playoffs as a wild card; Broncos went from 4-12 to 8-8, won AFC West

2012: Colts went from 2-14 to 11-5 and made playoffs as a wild card; Redskins went from 5-11 to 10-6 and won the NFC East

2013: Chiefs went from 2-14 to 11-5 and made playoffs as a wild card; Eagles went from 4-12 to 10-6 and won the NFC East

2015: Redskins went from 4-12 to 9-7 and won the NFC East

Brown says that part of the reason the Ravens fell last season was because of key injuries to star players, including Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs and Steve Smith Sr. They are all on track to return. The Ravens are also high on their 11-man draft class and Head Coach John Harbaugh has a strong playoff track record (six appearances in eight seasons).

“None of that guarantees anything for the 2016 Ravens,” wrote Brown. “But while going from [5-11] to the playoffs won’t be easy, that kind of leap is hardly unprecedented.”

ESPN’s Pick For Ravens’ Best Acquisition Of Offseason

ESPN looked at all 32 teams and named their top offseason acquisition of 2016. It’s no surprise that they picked Pro Bowler Eric Weddle for the Ravens.

“Weddle needs to be the Ravens' best offseason addition, based on their investment. He received $13 million in guaranteed money, becoming only the second free agent from another team to receive more than $4 million in guaranteed money from the Ravens since 2010,” wrote Jamison Hensley.

“The Ravens are banking on Weddle to give them their most experienced leader in the secondary since Ed Reed and end a run of free-agent failures at safety that includes Darian Stewart, Will Hill and Kendrick Lewis. Weddle needs to be a difference-maker for a pass defense that finished last in the NFL with six interceptions and allowed a franchise-worst 30 touchdown passes last season.”

Ravens Still Appear Thin At Outside Corner

General Manager Ozzie Newsome has stocked up on corners this offseason, with the most recent signing of veteran Jerruad Powers, who has a chance to be a starter in 2016.

The Ravens’ search for cornerback may be over, but Zrebiec wonders if they’ll still go out to find more players that have experience playing on the outside. Powers, Kyle Arrington, and rookie fourth-round pick Tavon Young all have the size for the slot and have more experience there.

“That’s not to say they couldn’t play the outside, but it wouldn’t necessarily fit with coach John Harbaugh and Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees’ desire to put players in the best position to succeed,” wrote Zrebiec.

“Behind them are all unproven cornerbacks: sixth-round pick Maurice CanadyJulian WilsonSheldon Price and undrafted free agent Sam Brown. I’ve heard nothing to suggest the Ravens are still in the market for an outside corner, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they were.”  

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