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Darren Waller Reacts To Position Move To Tight End


A position change is nothing new for Darren Waller.

He started out as a quarterback at North Cobb High School near Atlanta. After having elbow surgery, he returned as a safety because it was the only open position. It wasn't until college at Georgia Tech that he became a full-time wide receiver.

So when the Ravens approached Waller and asked whether he'd be alright with moving to tight end, Waller shrugged his shoulders and said "doesn't matter to me."

"I'm excited about it," Waller said this week as the team's voluntary strength and conditioning program began.

"I've been playing different positions since high school, so I think picking new things up won't be hard. It's just applying everything and being comfortable with it. It's working at it every day and focusing on the fundamentals."

Waller wasn't caught off guard when the Ravens asked him. When he was entering the draft, about half the teams he talked to said they could see him moving to tight end. The Ravens weren't a team he had much contact with, so Waller didn't have an indication from them.

"It was always a case where, if it happened, it wouldn't surprise me," Waller said.

The Ravens approached Waller about the move soon after the rookie's year ended on Oct. 28, seven weeks into the regular season. The sixth-round pick suffered a hamstring injury and the Ravens needed the roster spot, so they sent him to injured reserve.

Waller had shown flashes of his athletic pass-catching ability in last year's training camp and preseason, and he had one impressive 17-yard catch in a Week 4 win over Pittsburgh. But he had just one other catch after that, and in a crowded wide receiver room, didn't emerge quickly enough.

The Ravens told Waller to start learning the basics of being a tight end over the offseason.

"They said, 'When you come back, we'll still be teaching you like it's Day 1, but you won't be so lost,'" he said.

At 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, Waller has the body to be a tight end. He's two inches taller and just five pounds lighter than Maxx Williams. Waller is listed as the same height as Crockett Gillmore, but 25 pounds lighter.

Waller knows he'll need to add strength in order to block bigger defenders in the trenches. If he can't block, teams will know he's in the game only as a receiving threat, which would limit Baltimore's play-calling. Waller said the teammates he's lifting with now are pushing him to put up more weight.

At the end of the day, if Waller can learn the position and add more bulk, his potential as a pass-catching tight end is alluring.

"I think I'm somebody who can stretch the middle of the field so opponents can't really be over the top of our receiver outside," Waller said.

"So they have to respect the middle of the field between the hashes. If they don't, I feel like I'll have an advantage over linebackers because I've been facing corners all these years."

Waller said he sees the move as an opportunity to get on the field more, but he still has an uphill climb to make the roster. Just as the Ravens were crowded at wide receiver last year, they've got a lot of talent at tight end this season.

The Ravens signed veteran Benjamin Watson and Gillmore is already back in the weight room after shoulder surgery. Williams returns, Dennis Pitta could make a comeback from his hip injury and Nick Boyle is still in the plans, though suspended for the first 10 games.

"It's learning everything I can from those guys, but at the same time I need to make plays and separate," Waller said. "I have to give coaches reasons not to take me off the field."

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