Ravens running back Lorenzo Taliaferro shed weight. Now he's looking to shed labels.
Taliaferro heard whispers that he's just a short-yardage, goal-line running back. He doesn't know where there that label originated, and he hasn't heard it from a coach, but he's looking to prove it wrong.
Taliaferro has dropped eight pounds this offseason, including 4 percent of his body fat. He's down to about 220 pounds, and his altered physique drew reporters' attention last week during the second practice of Organized Team Activities (OTAs).
"I just felt like I was getting a label as just a short-yardage guy," he said. "I thought that if I lost a little bit of weight and got a little quicker, things would start to pan out and I would be labeled as an all-around back."
Entering his second season, Taliaferro will compete with fourth-round rookie Javorius "Buck" Allen for the backup job behind starter Justin Forsett. Taliaferro shared the backup role with Bernard Pierce a year ago.
Taliaferro finished with 68 carries for 292 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games before his rookie season ended prematurely with a foot injury. The Coastal Carolina product was effective in spurts.
He ran 18 times for 91 yards and a touchdown in Cleveland in Week 3 and 15 times for 58 yards and a touchdown the following week against Carolina. He saw very limited touches the next four weeks, then lost a key fumble in Pittsburgh that got the Steelers rolling in an eventual blowout loss.
Taliaferro fell behind Pierce after that, hardly touched the ball again until a trip to Miami, where he injured his foot, sending him to injured reserve.
"It was definitely heartbreaking not to finish the season and go out there in the playoffs," Taliaferro said.
When the season ended, Taliaferro talked with Running Backs Coach Thomas Hammock about shedding some pounds after he was cleared to get back on the field. Hammock told him to go for it to see if he noticed a difference.
Shedding labels is nothing new for the fourth-round pick. He was lightly recruited coming out of high school, then stuck at fullback at Lackawanna Junior College. It wasn't until his senior year and a transfer to Coastal Carolina that Taliaferro even got a shot at being a running back.
"No matter where you go, you're always going to be labeled by someone," Taliaferro said. "It's not that you're in competition with them; you're in competition with yourself. How much better can you get year to year?"
Taliaferro said he feels like he can be a lot better than last year, in part because he feels the effects of his more toned frame.
Taliaferro feels like he can do more in the passing game after catching just eight passes for 114 yards last season. He feels more confident with an NFL year under his belt. The offense has become second nature, so he's not thinking as much on the field.
"Lorenzo's going to be good, man," Forsett said. "He's a smart player, big, physical. I think this year he's going to make a big leap. I think our backfield is one of the best in the league, so I'm excited about it."