BR.com wants to use the Hey Rookie! blog as a way to let every rookie on the roster tell a little bit about their story. We'll have different voices speaking to you throughout the season. Offensive tackle Joe Reitz, a former college basketball player from Western Michigan, weighs in less than a week before the first cut.
So, we have the first cuts coming up next week, but I'm not thinking about it too much, just trying to take it day-by-day and keep getting better. Still, there is that day looming in front of you that can only give you a sense of uneasiness. I've found that in life, if you worry about stuff you can't control, it's going to do you no good. What I can control is go out, try to practice hard every day and play well. Then, if it's meant to be, everything will take care of itself. If not, it's not in the grand plans.
For a player in my situation, playing basketball in college, it's a dream to be at this point. Whether I make the roster or make the practice squad, I just want to stick around and be a part of this team. I know that, given the time, I can become a solid player in this league.
Since my first few days here, I've gotten more comfortable with the speed of the game. Everything has kind of slowed down, and I feel like I know what I'm supposed to do, whereas I couldn't tell you what my job was on every play back when I started out. Also, my technique has improved. I still have a long ways to go, but if I went back and watched film of my first minicamp in May, I'm a totally different player now. I just have to keep learning.
I began as a tight end here, but then they moved me to tackle. I've still played tight end on some goal line sets, but they mostly have me at tackle now. I like that the coaches feel comfortable using me at different spots. The more versatile you are, the more marketable you are. It's just the truth. Wherever they tell me to play, I'm excited to do it, because I want every chance to learn.
And even though this is a different game than basketball, I'd say footwork is the biggest thing I took from the court. Pass blocking is basically covering a guy with your feet, and while I don't always use the perfect technique, I can still make the block because I'm shuffling my feet - just like when you're guarding someone man-to-man. Another thing that helps me from my background is a sense of competitiveness. Playing college sports at a high level will give you that.
The Ravens have a great indoor half-court here at the facility, so I've had the chance to go in there and shoot a few jumpers here and there. I'm just trying to keep myself sharp. When you do something for four years, it's kind of hard to go cold turkey, so I make sure I hit three or four in a row and then quit on the makes. Hopefully, I still have it deep down.
I'm also keeping an eye on my Western Michigan Broncos. We graduated five seniors, so we'll be young, but I think they'll be competitive. It might take a while before everybody meshes together, though. One guy that you have to watch is Dave Kool. He led the MAC in scoring last year as a sophomore (in conference games), and he and I were both first-team All-Conference, so I wouldn't be surprised if he won Player of the Year in the MAC for the next two years. He's pretty good.
Since college, I have put on a lot of weight. I came in at around 255 pounds, but got up to 285-290 before training camp. It's one of those things where you just have to eat, eat and eat, and then eat some more. I make it a point to eat before I go to bed every night. The main staples are peanut butter, milkshakes and a lot of eggs. It's been tough to gain any weight now, with practices twice a day, but I'm just trying to maintain it. Hopefully, once the season starts, I can keep getting bigger and stronger.
Being heavier hasn't felt too much different for me, but the one thing I've noticed is that my wind isn't what it used to be. In football, you don't need to be able to go long distances, though. It's more about short bursts of energy. I still have my quickness and agility, so the weight gain has been good for me.
It was awesome coming out of the tunnel at M&T [Bank Stadium] last weekend. The adrenaline I had running onto the field was one of the most amazing experiences in my life.
I'm pretty impressed with the fans here in Baltimore. The people you meet in the grocery story or at training camp, everybody has been really nice and supportive, even though I'm not a big-name guy. They still treat you like a superstar. Thanks to all the fans that have followed my experience here with the Ravens.
I hope it continues for a long time.