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83 Degreez: Minicamps and Mini-Golf

I'm back! This is Ravens tight end Daniel Wilcox, coming to you from Owings Mills. As I'm sure you read, I'm still not at the point where I can run full-out yet because of the foot injury. I've been doing some running in the offseason, and right now I can run for about 40 minutes without feeling fatigued, so it's definitely getting stronger. Honestly, I would get fatigued after about 20 minutes early on. About a month and a half ago, my foot would just flare up every time I put a shoe on for more than a half hour. Now, I don't feel that at all. It's definitely healing and progressing. When I had the surgery in January, doctors gave me about a six-month timetable, so I'm staying pretty close to that. I think I'll be able to get back by late June or early July.

I know they need me out there, looking at the injury list for tight ends. I've never seen anything like it. Of course, I've been hurt since last year. Todd Heap has been hurt since last year. We had injuries that really kicked our butts. We're both trying to do the right things to get back.

And then you have Quinn Sypniewski, who blew out his knee in an early camp. He's done for the year. That is so unfortunate, but I look at it like everything happens for a reason. It still could be a blessing for Quinn. He and his wife, Mia, just had a newborn, and I know he will enjoy spending the extra time with her. He can come over here for three or four hours a day for treatment, and then go back to see what being a daddy is really like. To me, that's a huge blessing. It was hard for me to not be there for my son during his first months. Quinn is going to get all those late-night crying spells and feedings and everything like that. I commend him. Most of us as NFL players don't get the chance to do all that, especially with the demanding schedule of the league.

For me personally - my rookie year seems like forever ago (eight years now!) - if I was one of these young cats, there is ample opportunity to get in where you fit in and stay here for a while. This is a chance for every one of those free agents. You've got Jake Nordin, Lee Vickers, Scott Kuhn, Joe Reitz and even Xavier Lee, who just was converted to tight end.

Now, Jake switched to fullback, Kuhn broke his thumb and Lee hasn't practiced, so we're really thin. It's just a weird thing for the tight ends - last year and this year. Hopefully, the fact that we can get everyone healthy now will help us. It's definitely an opportunity for one of those guys to take a job. That's what the NFL is about. If you get the opportunity, I say go full blast. I'm not going to knock anybody down. I'm going to try to do everything I can to help them. I feel like I've been blessed with enough athletic ability to hold my own out there, so I love the competition. I just feel like I have to work harder and do what I do a little bit better.

These young kids are getting a great opportunity to learn the offense. I didn't get that opportunity. When I came in as a rookie, I had to sit and watch the starters, and then when they threw me in there, I was suddenly supposed to know what to do. What?! I was getting the practice squad reps, giving a good look to the starters, but that's like learning in reverse. Right now, they are practicing like a starter in minicamps. They should take advantage the opportunities when they come along.

Off the field, I've got a great event Thursday night that should be a lot of fun. It's called "Smoke on the Water," which is a cigar-themed night on the Inner Harbor in downtown Baltimore. We will be at the Baltimore Museum of Industry off Key Highway. This is one that I'm really excited about. I have to say "Thank You" to Three Sisters Event Planning, who did a wonderful job putting this together for my foundation, Empowerment M.I.N.D.S.. They put it together every year, and up until last year, it was Adalius Thomas' event. I was happy to take it over, because it's a great way to raise money for my foundation in a different way.

I would say that it is really a grownup event. If you love to smoke cigars, or even if you don't, it's a fun night to come out and enjoy the company of everyone participating. We're going to have about 50 cigar vendors on-site, and you can sample their products and even make some orders. Our owner, Steve Bisciotti, is a big fan of the event, as are a lot of people around the Ravens. This event has the entire package: live music, an auction, food, drinks and atmosphere. There are still a few spots left before Thursday night, so go here for more information on how you can join the party.

One of the things I wanted to do with my foundation was to be different. Everybody always has the food drives and the clothes drives, or a simple autograph show. All that is wonderful. I believe that any way you can help and support the community is great. But, I wanted Empowerment M.I.N.D.S. to be different. I thought, "Everybody's got a golf tournament. How can I twist it?" That's when the Putt-Putt idea came up.

It was so much fun last year, because it's really a time when the fans can get to know us as men. Not just as untouchable football players. On the field, they know us as animals trying to kill each other. We're hiding behind masks; we're modern-day gladiators. I want to show that football players are approachable; we're not like the stereotypes you hear about.

This is a great family-based event. It's fan- and family-friendly. I hope people can sign up and bring their kids, so fans can just hang out with us, shake our hands and talk to us. We'll all be out there playing mini-golf, and how many times can you say you played mini-golf with an NFL player?

I remember last year, Justin Green got into a pushup contest with a kid, so that the loser of a hole had to do pushups. We had Ed Reed out there for the hole-in-one competition, and everybody was getting into it, shouting "Reeeeeed!" and "Wilcox! Wilcox!" Man, it's a great time for everyone.

I do want to stress that this event is not an autograph signing. I tell the players and everyone that comes out that it's not about getting autographs. We'll have plenty of signed stuff out there that you can bid on that won't be high-priced so you can't get something you want. If you see a football or a shirt you like, you have a chance to bid on it. The money is going to a great cause, and I want the players to feel comfortable with everyone there.

Keep an eye out for my celebrity paintball tournament that is coming up May 31. That was another big success last year. I'll be back with another blog before then to tell you more about it. Visit this site for more information on paintballing.

For now, that's all from No. 83. Thank you guys for reading my blog this week. Come play Putt-Putt, come out to "Smoke on the Water" with us. 2008 is just beginning, and let's start it off with some goodwill and fun times in the community.

Have a blessed weekend,

  • Daniel Wilcox
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