Dreams Are Ending Today And Tomorrow
May 8, 2015 was an exciting day for the Ravens. We hosted a rookie minicamp, and we were seeing our first-year players, including the group we had just drafted the week before, in Ravens uniforms for the first time.
Among the observers was Steve Smith Sr., who addressed the rookies after that workout at John Harbaugh's request, after this first session.
When Smith finished, I asked him if any of the rookies impressed him that day. "I like that little No. 16. He attacks the ball when he catches. He's impressive."
Little No. 16 is DeAndre Carter, a 5-foot-8 and 190-pound receiver from Sacramento State. Carter signed with us as a rookie free agent.
Last Monday, Vincent Newsome, our director of pro personnel, met with Carter to tell him that he was being released that day. Carter then was taken to Coach Harbaugh's office to hear from the head coach.
"It's never easy," Coach Harbaugh said.
Since he was in grade school in Fremont, Cal., DeAndre was a star. At Washington High School, he caught 69 passes for 1,093 yards and 15 touchdowns, adding another eight rushing touchdowns on 380 yards rushing.
In college, Carter was spectacular, catching 207 passes for 2,760 yards and an impressive 35 touchdowns. Because he was so valuable to his team, they limited his work on special teams, but, when they needed him, he returned punts and kickoffs.
He set school records. And, he was a leader at Sacramento State, serving as a team co-captain.
His college was so proud when Carter became a Raven. Could we send them a picture of DeAndre in the Ravens' uniform? Could we give updates on his progress?
Then Monday came, and he was one of* *480 players released by NFL teams. Stamped on his forehead: "Not Good Enough."
No Raven fan lost sleep over Carter's release. Hell, none of us did.
In a blink, this young man went from the locker room, dressing for practice alongside Steve Smith Sr., Terrell Suggs and Joe Flacco, to a lonely walk out our front door, and an even sadder flight across country to his home.
Sad, but a reality.
But, this is a salute to all those DeAndre Carters who fought bravely in this most physical sport to be part of this elite set of athletes. He gave it his best shot. He fought with everything he had and could walk out of the Under Armour Performance Center with his head held high, despite the tears in his eyes.
"I've gotten teary doing this," Harbaugh said. "It's hard. Sometimes you're ending a young man's dreams. I try to be positive, but not in a phony way. I told DeAndre that he did well in camp, or we would have released him earlier. I reminded him that he was a success just by being here, and that he was our type of player.
"And, that we had better players right now at receiver.
"From doing this through the years," the head coach continued, "players want to hear how they competed and where they came up short. I've learned they don't want to hear much more than that. They're not looking for a long conversation.
"It's not like 'The Bachelor.' It's usually not emotional. There are probably tears when they leave my office. I try to put myself in the young man's shoes. Most believe they are better than they are. They've all been standouts in high school and college."
Harbs will be back at it today and tomorrow as we reach our 53-player roster. We had 90 players at the beginning of the week. Ten of these will have a chance to be added to our "practice squad." But, we also have our eyes on players released by other teams who may be added to the 53 or our 10. That has a lot of young players nervous. There's not much celebrating right now. That's the reality.
You could probably tell, by some of the reaction by the Ravens, that a lot of us were happy for Tyrod Taylor, who was named as the Bills' starting quarterback by Rex Ryan. Harbs said good things about Taylor at a presser that day, while former teammates Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett and Torrey Smith all tweeted congratulations.
Taylor is a good person who works as hard as any athlete to better himself. As Joe's backup the last four seasons, he was one of the most popular and respected teammates.
Taylor's name in the NFL headlines reminded of an incident a few years ago. During practice, conversation turned to dunking a basketball and who was the best at it. Eventually, Suggs looked at Joe and claimed: "Bet you can't dunk." Flacco shook his head: "Sizzle, I'm 6-6. I can almost dunk without jumping."
"Betcha can't," Suggs challenged. Immediately after practice, without taking off his uniform, Joe headed to our basketball court to show Suggs, and about 20 teammates who followed them, that he could dunk.
Flacco stood under the basket, and without much of a jump, he flushed the ball down through the hoop.
"That's not a dunk," Suggs yelled. Joe shrugged, "My hand was above the rim, and I threw it down."
While Suggs continued his argument, Tyrod grabbed the ball, dribbled in a circle and headed to the hoop. He elevated, turned 360 degrees in the air and slammed the ball through the hoop. "Joe," Suggs yelled, "now, that's a dunk!"
AFC North fans like to brag about the strength of the division. It is the toughest. The AFC North has sent more teams to the playoffs in the last seven years – 15 in all – than any other division. In six of those seasons, two AFC North teams have advanced in the same postseason. And twice – 2014 and 2011 – three of the division's teams earned the playoffs.
The AFC North is tough again. We'll be ready for it.
Talk with you next week,