Michael Pierce Accepts Full Responsibility For Physical Shape
Michael Pierce appeared at the top of headlines during mandatory minicamp last week for all the wrong reasons.
Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Pierce was sent off at the start of Tuesday's practice by Head Coach John Harbaugh over concerns about his physical condition.
Following a week of scrutiny, Pierce spoke publicly for the first time in an interview with WNSP-FM 105.5 and accepted full responsibility for showing up out of shape.
"Throughout the offseason, I tend to lift more than run," Pierce said. "Being a nose guard, I want to be strong or what not. I, honestly, just mismanaged my running a little bit."
"At the end of the day, you expect a team leader to come back in better shape than I did," Pierce said. "That's a mistake on my behalf I have to correct. I don't want to get into much more than that."
While pundits believe Pierce made a mistake, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec acknowledged that there's still plenty of time to turn things around as he enters a contract year.
With the offseason program wrapped up, the Ravens break for five and a half weeks. Pierce will have the opportunity to slim down and get into shape before the start of training camp in late July. Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said during minicamp that he had no doubt Pierce would eventually work his way back into form.
"The quickest way for Pierce to silence the negativity is to get on the field and make an impact, although that comes with its own set of challenges," Zrebiec wrote. "The last thing either party wants is for Pierce to push himself so hard that he sustains a significant injury or has another setback. While it's unclear just how much Pierce is over his playing weight, Harbaugh and Martindale's words the past few days didn't indicate that this was a situation that would resolve itself with a week of good workouts."
Pierce finished as the Ravens' highest-rated defender last season, according to Pro Football Focus, and served as one of the league's top run stuffers for a unit that allowed only 82.9 rushing yards per game.
Even though his snap count is typically fewer than most starting defenders, Pierce's physical shape is crucial to the Ravens' defensive success.
"They need him to be one of the anchors of a run defense that no longer has tackling machine C.J. Mosley or interior physical presence Brent Urban," Zrebiec wrote. "They need him to provide inside penetration after their pursuit of free agent Gerald McCoy came up short with McCoy signing with the Carolina Panthers. They need him to help mentor young defensive linemen such as Zach Sieler, rookie fifth-round pick Daylon Mack and priority undrafted free agent Gerald Willis. With questions about the Ravens' options at outside and inside linebacker, the last thing the team needs is a drop off in its defensive line play."
It's step one in the process of steering the attention back to his production on the football field.
"Nobody at One Winning Drive enjoys seeing Pierce getting mocked and torn down, which is why the process of building Pierce back up started in earnest Wednesday," Zrebiec wrote. "To a man, the Ravens know that they need Pierce at his best."
The Surprise Offseason Standout Who Continues to Impress
With a loaded secondary featuring one of the league's brightest young cornerbacks, a top-tier slot defender, two rock-solid veterans, and a future Hall of Famer, it's DeShon Elliott who is grabbing the attention this offseason.
The former sixth-round pick didn't see the field during his rookie season after suffering a fractured forearm but has made strides in his second year.
Elliott was named the Ravens' surprise offseason standout by ESPN.
"The 2018 sixth-round pick made the play of the offseason when he raced nearly halfway across the field to make a diving interception and then added another pick during mandatory minicamp," ESPN wrote. "Baltimore has a loaded secondary, but it looks as if the Ravens are going to need to find a way to get Elliott on the field this season."
"With veteran starters Tony Jefferson and Earl Thomas easing back from injuries this spring, Elliott got an extended audition and took full advantage," Smolka wrote. "The second-year safety had perhaps the play of the spring when he ranged far to his right and made a diving interception of a deep pass during one OTA workout. During a minicamp practice, he again showed great range as he picked off a long pass from Robert Griffin III."
Added Jones: "Whether it's working Elliott into the dime package or using a little bit of a safety rotation like we saw at cornerback last year, the Ravens will have a hard time leaving the 2018 sixth-round pick on the sideline if what he did in the spring carries into the preseason."
Hayden Hurst Talks Year Two Expectations, Lamar Jackson's Maturity
Hayden Hurst is a man on a mission. Coming off surgery to repair a fractured foot which limited his impact as a rookie, Hurst bulked up,[comma] after reportedly adding 20 pounds of muscle this offseason, and is poised to be a key contributor among a loaded tight end group.
Hurst joined "The Jim Rome Show" Friday and spoke about the expectations heading into his second season.
"I think the biggest thing for me is the more I get into the rotation, the more the coaches trust me, it's just going to help my confidence because it's going to let me know I'm playing at a high level, which I know that I'm capable of," Hurst said.
Hurst, who was drafted seven picks ahead of Jackson in 2018, praised the maturity of his teammate.
"He's just so impressive the way he carries himself," Hurst said about Jackson. "I know he catches a lot of slack in the media, but he's such an incredible athlete. It's fun to watch him grow just every day. He'll have one bad throw in a period, and the next period he's incredible. He just bounces back. … He's really fun to watch, and I'm glad I'm his teammate."
Brenda Tracy Delivers Strong Message to Ravens in Visit
One of the most important portions of the Ravens' mandatory minicamp came off the field.
Sexual assault survivor Brenda Tracy, who travels the country detailing the horrific events of her past, met and spoke with Ravens players on Thursday morning.
Through a recommendation from Jim Harbaugh, it was the first time Tracy spoke to an NFL team.
In a Q&A with PennLive, Tracy said she hopes the Ravens and other teams can use their platforms to change the culture of sexual violence.
"I hope that Ravens — whether they partner with me or someone else — that they continue to do that work," Tracy said. "Because the platform, it's big. And they have the ability, I think, to influence our colleges and high schools, too, to be doing this activism. I kind of envision a world of like, 'What if every guy going to the NFL was exposed to the Set The Expectation campaign for like four to eight years before they got there? What would the NFL look like if that were the case? If these guys were already knowledgeable about these subjects, about what a healthy relationship looks like; they were already giving back; they already had empathy and compassion? What would the NFL look like?'"
- "[O]ne thing that was obvious throughout the offseason program was that, what Baltimore lost in experience they've picked up in speed, part of a concerted effort over the last two years to get faster on that side of the ball," wrote Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer. "Older additions Earl Thomas and Pernell McPhee look like they've got plenty left in the tank. Linebacker Peanut Onwuasor has gotten more vocal in the absence of Mosley. And Timmy Williams and Willie Henry look ready to take a step forward up front. Add that to a strong, deep group of corners and, while they might not be what they were last year, there's optimism that the dropoff will be manageable."