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Harper Briefly Moves Up


Being a seventh-round draft pick, Ravens wideout Justin Harper wasn't necessarily expecting much playing time this offseason, but he got that chance during Wednesday's passing camp with three-year veteran Demetrius Williams sidelined due to an Achilles injury.

With Troy Smith at the helm, there was Harper, running routes with Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton as the Ravens' No. 3 receiver.  He had a solid session that included a touchdown grab.

Harper considers his influx in reps something he can use to hopefully steal the eye of the coaches. 

"For coach to give me a chance and throw me into the fire with the 'ones' and learn the process as much as I can is really needed," he said.  "I hope I can take that and break down the tape and go from there.  It's a big learning curve, but I'm just happy to have a chance."

While he understands his time with the first-string may be limited, Harper, 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, is also relishing the chance to study under the other Ravens' receivers in meeting rooms and on the field.

"I'm listening to everything Mason, Clayton and Williams are saying," he explained.  "They help us and we help push them.  It's a good situation for all of us.  We stress 'the team' here, and that's what it's all about.  By them teaching us things, it helps them learn.  And, we get the chance to learn from them."

He needs all the work he can get.  Over a four-year career at Virginia Tech, Harper saw sporadic game action.  As a senior, he caught 41 passes for 645 yards on a team that sported two other drafted wideouts in Eddie Royal (by Denver) and Josh Morgan (by San Francisco).

The Hokies, who are considered an annual football powerhouse in the ACC with a 11-3 record last season, ran a sophisticated offense, but Harper admits that Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's system is something entirely new.

"There is college level and the NFL, and I believe that I have to throw what I learned in college out the window because everything is so different," he said.  "But, I did get to go to the East-West game, and coach [Dick] Vermiel actually helped coach us up there. But the terminology, motions and everything else coach Cameron does is pretty tough."

When draft day came around, the Ravens saw a big-bodied receiver willing to work hard to initially make an impact on special teams. Any receiving help would be an added bonus.

At a time when making any NFL roster as a seventh-round pick is no guarantee, Harper is first hoping for that big-league distinction. He has competition at the receiver position from Marcus Smith, a fourth-round (106th overall) pick, and rookie free agents Patrick Carter and Ernie Wheelwright.

In addition, the Ravens recently signed Kerry Reed, who previously played under Cameron in Miami, and have Yamon Figurs and Matt Willis on the roster.

Still, when asked about getting a few reps with the starters in practice, Harper immediately recalled some choice advice from his grandmother, Oddie Belle.

"She always told me about opportunities and to take advantage of my opportunities," said the Catawba, N.C. native with a smile.  "I have four brothers and sisters, and I'm in the middle.  I learned everything from her, so that's why I go back to opportunities.  She told us that when you get one, you have to run with it."

Note: When asked about Williams' Achilles injury after practice, head coach John Harbaugh said he didn't think it was serious.

"Demetrius has an issue with his Achilles," he explained.  "We're working on that right now."

Williams dressed out Wednesday, but did not participate in drills.

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