Ramon Harewood walked into an empty Ravens locker room this week after just signing a new one-year contract.
The offensive lineman* *sat on a stool in front of his locker and started talking about how much he's already looking forward to next season.
"You're always happy to continue employment in this league, and nothing is ever really guaranteed," Harewood said. "Right now I just kind of feel like it's time to get back to work."
The fourth-year lineman made it clear that his focus heading into training camp is to earn back the starting job he briefly held last season.
"I have zero doubts that I could be a starter in this league," he said with confidence. "For me the decision [to sign with Baltimore] was more about the opportunity, more so than the money or anything else – just a chance to get back on the field."
Harewood knows as well as anybody that success can be fleeting in the NFL. He learned that hard lesson last year when he lost his starting job six weeks into the season.
Harewood won the left guard spot coming out of training camp after Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs parted for New Orleans. He started the first five games, but then the Ravens decided to give veteran Bobbie Williams a shot at the job and Harewood never got back on the field.
He was active just one game the rest of the season.
"It was rough at first," Harewood said. "I'm not going to sit here and act like it wasn't."
When the Ravens decided to bench Harewood, he said that Head Coach John Harbaugh told him they wanted to go with a more experienced player. The team then started Williams the next four games before giving Jah Reid (seven starts) and ultimately rookie Kelechi Osemele (four playoff starts) the chance at left guard.
During the process, Harewood leaned on some of his teammates for support and also tried to keep the lack of playing time from derailing his young career.
"At the end of the day, you can only control what you can control," he said. "So I just figured that I would come in, work hard, and maybe I would get back on the field. It was only going to get me better."
Last season was the first chance for Harewood to actually see game action. The former sixth-round pick out of Morehouse College spent his first two seasons with the Ravens on injured reserve before cracking the 53-man roster last season.
Even though his time in the starting lineup was short-lived, he still emphasized that the game experience paid dividends for him and will be critical moving forward.
"It's hard to put it into words," Harewood said. "As the games went on from the first to the second to the third, I could watch the film and see myself growing."
Harewood, 6-foot-6, 334 pounds, was drafted (sixth round, 2010) as a developmental player with good size and raw talent. The Ravens saw him as somebody who could play tackle or guard, and Harewood has worked at both positions in the preseason and in practice.
"I honestly don't care [what position I play]," Harewood said. "I'm going to come in and if they ask me to play right tackle, then I'll line up at right tackle and play to the best of my ability. If it's left guard, then I'm going to do the same thing."
The Ravens offensive line for next year is still very much in limbo, as center Matt Birk has retired and left tackle Bryant McKinnie is an unrestricted free agent. Depending on what the Ravens do at the tackle spots, that will likely dictate where Harewood ends up playing.
He isn't worried about what positions he plays, and is more concerned about just finding his way back on the field.
"At the end of it all, I think I came out more experienced from having gone through that whole ordeal," Harewood said. "I'm a better player, better person, if you ask me."