When Michael Pierce was sent off the field at the start of minicamp because he was too overweight and out of shape, it caused all sorts of problems.
Somewhere on that list was that he had a summer trip to Italy already booked. Not the best look to go to arguably the foodie capital of the world when you've got to shed pounds.
Here's how serious Pierce became about his diet. He lost weight in Italy.
"I traveled with the scale," Pierce said with a laugh. "That was my thing. I ate a lot of seafood and light stuff."
Pierce was on the field for the first practice of Ravens training camp, capping a stunning physical transformation. In five weeks, the mid-300 pounder says he lost a little more than 20 pounds.
The Ravens staff overhauled his diet and Pierce put in the work. When his teammates left to go home after minicamp ended, Pierce remained in the gym until he lost enough weight to get the green light on Italy.
When he returned to Baltimore, he passed the team's conditioning test, clearing him for the field.
"You all know how hard our conditioning test is. You can't fake that," Pierce said.
"I'm very impressed with the progress that Michael Pierce has made," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He's lost a lot of weight. It's all been good weight loss. He's lost the bad weight, not the muscle. He still has a ways to go, but he passed the conditioning test, and I think that's quite an accomplishment."
Still, the whole ordeal was embarrassing and surprising. The former undrafted defensive tackle from Samford is entering his fourth season – a contract year – and has a lot at stake.
He's a player the Ravens will rely on heavily this year. Pierce received the highest grade of any Ravens defender last year from Pro Football Focus. Pierce said he apologized to his teammates for "letting them down."
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"I missed OTAs. I delayed my dieting. I wasn't diligent in my conditioning, focused more on lifting. That's a mistake I learned from," Pierce said. "It really, really won't happen again. That's going to be my mission, to prove to the guys that I'm here to work."
Pierce said his teammates were supportive through the whole process. They didn't seem too worried.
"We know who Michael Pierce is. For the last three years, we've seen what Michael Pierce has done," outside linebacker Matthew Judon said. "You go check the film, and you're going to see Michael Pierce when he's on the field. I'm glad he got to his goal, a weight goal, for camp, but we know who he is."
The Ravens support staff, including Director of Sports Nutrition Sarah Snyder, Head Strength & Conditioning Coach Steve Saunders and Head Certified Athletic Trainer Ron Medlin, took Pierce under their wing. Pierce said it was a "overhaul" of his diet, from sodium, chloric and protein intake. He mentioned paleo.
"They forced me to invest in myself more," Pierce said. "Stuff I should have learned, obviously, my first three years, I have learned this year. I have a little road to go, but I felt good today, made some plays and feel like I'm in good shape."