When the Ravens opened training camp last week, one of the key players back on the field was fourth-year offensive lineman Jah Reid.
Reid missed the entire offseason program with a calf injury, but he was back at the start of training camp and thrust into the competition for the starting right tackle spot.
"It feels great to be out there playing football," Reid said. "I'm feeling good. I feel healthy. I still feel a little rusty after I missed OTAs, and I have some catching up to do, but I feel really good."
Reid, 26, is entering a critical stretch of his Ravens career. The former third-round pick has struggled to get on the field and stay healthy the last three years, and now he's up against second-year player Rick Wagner for playing time.
Reid is also entering the final year of his rookie contract.
"Every year in the NFL is make or break," Reid said. "You're always competing for your spot. You just have to come out and be better every day."
To get in the best position to earn a spot, Reid has transformed his body this offseason. The 6-foot-7 lineman spent the last few months conditioning while his calf injury prevented him from practicing, and he's now listed at 320 pounds, 20 pounds lighter than last year.
"I'm a little lighter than I've been in the past, so I feel good," he said. "I feel faster." Shedding the weight and adding some speed was important for Reid to become a better fit in new Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak's scheme. Kubiak wants athletic linemen who can move well in order to execute his zone blocking scheme, and he has been impressed with Reid since he's returned from the injury.
"Jah looks better – he's lost some weight," Kubiak said. "To me, he's moving better. … It'd be nice to see Jah stay healthy and really compete at a high level."
Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda has also liked the work ethic he has seen from Reid.
"Jah is out there battling, looking for a spot," Yanda said. "I'm not going to play coach and say who is doing this or that, but I know he's working his tail off. He's busting his butt, so we'll see what the coaches decide. He's fighting out there and he's doing a good job."
Reid was used sparingly last season, as he saw action in 10 games on special teams and as an extra blocker in jumbo packages. He played just 23 snaps all year, compared to 2012 when he started eight games as left guard.
Despite starting at guard earlier in his career, Reid is a natural tackle who played right tackle in college.
"I'm glad to be back out on the outside," Reid said. "I love playing tackle. I love being on the edge. Also I like to feel that I'm versatile and they can use me at either position, tackle or guard. Any way it's a win."
Wagner still appears to be the frontrunner for the right tackle spot, as he's taken the first-team reps for the last few months. The competition looks like a two-man race between Reid and Wagner, and the Ravens have moved second-year lineman Ryan Jensen back inside after giving him some snaps at tackle during the offseason.
The competition between Wagner and Reid will likely last throughout camp, with the preseason games serving as a key indicator for who will end up winning the job.
"This year I want to show that I'm a sponge, and I can learn the offense and perform out there," Reid said. "You want to move fast and show your physicality, show you're an all around, tough, rough and poised football player."