Nakamura Picks It Up


Haruki Nakamura may only be a rookie, but he made some veteran plays in Friday's afternoon practice at Ravens training camp.

Twice, the safety came up with big interceptions, and he very nearly tallied a third if not for split second when the football bounced on the grass. It was the first day all Ravens were on the field after two rookie days earlier in the week, but Nakamura wasn't fazed.

For a sixth-round pick out of Cincinnati, not necessarily known as a football powerhouse, it seems Nakamura is digesting defensive coordinator Rex Ryan's complex schemes just fine.

"I think the biggest thing is trying to take things as little as you can and not try to take everything in at the same time," he said walking off the field after signing autographs. "I still get overwhelmed sometimes, and that's just because there's so much information. Sometimes you just have to take things as slow as you can and slow the game down itself - maybe good things will happen."

Nakamura credits the extended work he and fellow rookie safety Tom Zbikowski received on Tuesday and Wednesday, when not only were there no veteran safeties around, but the only cornerback in Westminster, Md. was Anwar Phillips, who wasn't even signed until Wednesday afternoon.

Those extra reps gave Nakamura the opportunity to make calls and receive singular coaching without the pressure of performing for their elder teammates.

"That was the best thing that happened to us," said the 22-year-old. "On top of that, having Anwar come in as a corner for that last day and having to communicate with a guy who really doesn't know what to do either, it forced us to show what we know.

"I think we benefited a lot from that and especially having the coaches out there to correct us right when we make a mistake. It's always good to have that."

But, Nakamura has never been one to make many mistakes. As an All-Big East selection his senior year, the former Bearcat started all 13 games and led his team with a whopping 95 tackles, along with four interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

He readily admits that those statistics weren't the product of superior athletic ability, conceding that his 40-yard dash fell in the 4.5-4.6 range. Nakamura's toughness and instincts define his game, which utilizes a knowledge of angles to always be close to the football.

"I think that's usually just having the right feel for the game," he said. "I think that's something that I definitely took from playing in a very fast conference in the Big East. You had to take good angles in that conference, so I think that's just something that continues to grow with my game. If you're not going to do it in the NFL, you're going to be in trouble. So, that's something that just has to continue to progress."

The Ravens obviously liked what they saw out of Nakamura in college, rolling the dice by drafting another safety after selecting Zbikowski in the third round.

"Looking at him on film, I thought he was the best all-around safety in college football last year," said Baltimore secondary coach Mark Carrier. "Whether it was a tackle, a turnover or a sack, he seemed to always be around the play."

That was exactly what happened in Nakamura's breakout performance in practice.

Early in the session, he followed quarterback Joe Flacco's eyes going through his reads. Once Flacco looked outside, Nakamura said he jumped on the route, even before the ball was thrown. Later, he did the same to Troy Smith.

"Once he [looked] out, I broke on that, because when he gets to his second read, he's going to have to throw sooner or later," Nakamura explained. "It's just being able to know the situation."

Nakamura understands that there are still a lot of situations he doesn't know at this point, but he's committed to learning them all. Sometimes, a player can learn faster by taking it slow.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content