Willie Snead is 26 years old and entering his fifth season, but he looks around and knows he’s the leader of Baltimore’s receiving corps.
That’s why Snead is practicing during Organized Team Activities despite still rehabilitating a finger injury that he said he had a “slight procedure” on early this offseason. On Thursday, he wore a non-contact red jersey to make sure it didn’t take any shots.
Many vets would just sit it out, but not Snead.
“You can’t keep him off the field,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “If we didn’t put him in the red jersey, we’d have to lock him in the locker room to keep him out of here. He’s just that kind of guy.”
Snead led the Ravens in receptions last year (62) and was second in receiving yards (651). He’s one of just four Ravens wide receivers who has caught a pass in an NFL game before. Two of those four (Seth Roberts and Michael Floyd) are in their first year in Baltimore.
“I feel like my role on this team has grown a little bit more, not as a No. 1 receiver, but as a leader on the team,” Snead said. “I definitely just wanted to be here with the guys and grow with the guys and learn the offense as they learned it, and just to still be around the guys, bring that energy, bring that life, and just continue to get better.”
Despite his “senior” status in the Ravens’ receiver room, Snead is still a player on the rise. His mission this offseason was to get faster, so he dropped 10 pounds, going from about 203 pounds down to 193.
Snead has made a living being a scrappy possession receiver who will do the dirty work to move the chains and be a force as a blocker. That skillset is still very valuable in the Ravens’ altered offense, but there’s no doubt that Baltimore wants more speed around Lamar Jackson.
“This year, I was feeling pretty healthy, lower body-wise, so I did a lot of running, just trying to lighten up,” Snead said. “I’m just trying to run faster this year, run by guys and definitely get some more separation in my game.”
Earl Thomas III Is Making a Good First Impression on the Field
New safety Earl Thomas III returned to the field for the first time this week after breaking his leg early last season and is already making a good first impression.
Thomas isn’t taking all the reps as he eases back in, but he’s gaining familiarity with his teammates and flashing some of his ball-hawking ways.
“He’s had a great week. He’s looked really good,” Harbaugh said. “Great anticipation, and then great ability to cover ground. He shows up in the right spots on a regular basis, so to me, that’s what great safeties do, and he’s doing a great job.”
Harbaugh Told Gerald McCoy He’s a Raven
The Ravens have a good track record when it comes to recruiting free agents, and they gave Pro Bowl tackle Gerald McCoy the full experience during his two-day visit in Baltimore.
McCoy reportedly had dinner with Ravens players and coaches, spoke briefly with Owner Steve Bisciotti, attended Haloti Ngata’s retirement press conference and much more.
Harbaugh gave McCoy his pitch, and relayed some of that when asked about it Thursday.
“He’s an A-plus guy. He’s an A-plus personality. All the things he stands for principle-wise and what he wants to be about as a football player fit us,” Harbaugh said. “Before he left, I said, ‘You haven’t been here yet but to my mind, you’re a Raven. You’ve always been a Raven. So let’s make it official.’ So we’ll see.”
High Praise for David Culley and Brian Billick
One Ravens offseason move that has flown under the radar is the hiring of David Culley as Assistant Head Coach / Pass Coordinator / Wide Receivers Coach.
Culley, who last worked with the Buffalo Bills but also coached alongside Harbaugh in Philadelphia, is in charge or coordinating the Ravens’ passing attack – a very important job alongside Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman.
Harbaugh said he had been trying to get Culley to Baltimore for a “number of years” and feels it was a “coup” to finally make it happen.
Culley has quickly made his impact felt. He’s one of the voices that stands out on the practice field, and Harbaugh was very complimentary of what he’s doing behind the scenes as well.
“I would say he’s the best straight-up teacher, communicator, that I’ve seen coaching football one-on-one, not just because he coaches it so well, but because he’s so relentless, and he coaches the important things,” Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh also had high praise for former Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick, who Owner Steve Bisciotti announced will go into the Ring of Honor presented by Meritage Jewelers during the 2019 season.
Bisciotti said the close relationship that Harbaugh and Billick have formed was one reason for the decision, and Harbaugh certainly expressed that admiration for his predecessor Thursday.
“Brian Billick is one of the all-time great coaches in the National Football League, and one of the unique coaches, one of the guys that did it his own way, just with a lot of fire and a lot of enthusiasm,” Harbaugh said. “He established a culture here, I think, for toughness and for – I don’t know if ‘brashness’ is the right word, but certainly with confidence and swagger, and was a great offensive coach as well.”
Mark Andrews ‘Ecstatic’ About Getting Marquise Brown
The Ravens haven’t seen top draft pick Marquise “Hollywood” Brown play on an NFL field yet, but tight end Mark Andrews has certainly seen in-person what Brown is all about.
The two former Sooners teamed up in 2017 to give Baker Mayfield a dynamic pair of receiving targets. Brown caught 57 passes for 1,095 yards and seven touchdowns while Andrews hauled in 62 passes for 958 yards and eight scores.
Now they’re reunited in the NFL after Baltimore drafted Brown in the first round.
“I was ecstatic,” Andrews said of the pick. “Marquise is, first of all, a great teammate, something I remembered from playing with him. But, he’s an electric player. He’s a guy that’s going to change a game in a blink of an eye.
“I remember being on the field a couple of times and we ran one play and it was a touchdown – then I’d get to run off and rest some more. He’s a guy like that. He’s going to change games. He’s so fast and so electric that it’s going to be tough for defenses to stay over top of him.”