Whatever James Proche II does between now and training camp, working on his craft will be a major part of it.
Proche is always grinding, always striving to improve. He has been that way since he joined the Ravens – the first wide receiver on the field for practice, the player most likely to spend the longest time catching passes from the Jugs machine.
"I just love football," Proche said. "I love my job. I love what I do. This is my nine-to-five, plus some overtime.Some people are at desks and cubicles or whatever they want to do. Salute to you all, but I need to play football. That's not going to change. I'm super grateful, I'm super blessed. I wouldn't want to be doing anything [else] in the world right now."
This season marks Proche's greatest opportunity to earn regular snaps, one of the young wide receivers being relied upon to emerge after the trade that sent Marquise Brown to the Cardinals. After playing just 3% percent of the offensive snaps as a rookie in 2020, Proche played 21% of the snaps last season and envisions having a much larger role in 2022.
Proche was a workhorse wide receiver at SMU with 93 catches as a junior and 111 catches as a senior. But in the NFL, Proche has 17 catches in two seasons, and while he's a team player, he admits not seeing more action has been frustrating.
"Yes, it would be frustrating for anybody just because you want to play," Proche said. "That's why you work hard, to play. But, like the best thing that I've ever heard in my life is, 'Control what you can control.' It almost makes me feel invincible at a point, just because God has a plan for me – it's already out there. I just have to keep walking in those steps, keep working, keep my head down and just keep grinding. Control what I can control."
Proche did that during mandatory minicamp by making tough catches in traffic and building on the chemistry he has established with Lamar Jackson. Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace and Proche all benefited from the extra reps with Jackson, who plans to have throwing sessions with his targets at Florida Atlantic University prior to training camp.
Proche is on board with spending more time with Jackson. They also worked together off-site prior to the start of the offseason practices. The more the franchise quarterback learns about his young targets, the better.
"I think that chemistry is important just as people," Proche said. "We can go out and throw all day, but the closer we get as people, watching film, knowing each other's thinking, knowing each other's tendencies, what makes them tick, what makes them go. How to get each other going when we're in a rut. That's an everyday grind. As the season goes – it's not just an off-season thing – during the season, we'll keep picking it up and hopefully for years to come."
Running the football is a big part of Baltimore's offense, and Proche says he won't shy away from working to become a better blocker. Pass Game Specialist Keith Williams demands effort from the wideouts in the run game.
"Blocking is just a fight," Proche said. "Coach 'Dub' (Williams] put it great perspective. If this dude is blocking you or throwing you around, he's basically saying he could whoop you in a fight. So, you can't whoop me, so we're going to block you. That's basically what it is."
Proche was surprised when Brown was traded, and the two remain close friends. But his departure means more will be expected of Proche and other receivers, and he's ready to seize the moment.
"Every day is an opportunity," Proche said. "Just kind of have to keep the same mindset no matter what the outside extremities are. Just focus, blinders on, don't worry about anything else."