In a little more than three weeks, veteran Billy Bajema has gone from roster longshot to the top tight end in the rotation.
The Ravens kept Bajema in the first round of cuts this weekend over former fifth-round draft pick Davon Drew, who was the No. 3 tight end on the depth chart at the start of training camp. Now Bajema has to beat out undrafted rookies Matt Balasavage and Bruce Figgins for the No. 3 tight end spot.
Injuries to Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta have given Bajema opportunities to run with the first-team offense throughout camp, and with final cuts now just four days away, Bajema looks to have the edge for a spot on the active roster.
"It's been awesome to be here over the last month," Bajema said. "Having Dennis and Ed down has allowed me to get in the mix, get thrown in and really get involved quickly."
Bajema, 29, pointed to his hard-nosed style of play as a reason that he's caught on with the Ravens during camp.
"I think being the type of player that can be relied upon as physical and tough," he said. "My mentality right now is to give everything I've got right now every day through the end of the preseason. Right now I'm having the opportunity to do everything in the offense that tight ends do. I'm just trying to make plays when I have the chance to make them."
The eight-year veteran has spent the last three seasons with the St. Louis Rams. He started 12 games for St. Louis last year and was primarily a blocker, as he tallied nine catches for 71 yards. In his career, Bajema has 38 receptions for 398 yards and two touchdowns.
He has started the last two preseason games for Baltimore, and has five catches for 38 yards and a touchdown in preseason action. Balasavage has two catches for 17 yards and Figgins has two catches for 12 yards.
Pitta and Dickson returned to practice as limited participants on Saturday, but their status for Thursday's game against the St. Louis Rams is currently unknown. If they're out again, Bajema would likely get the start against his former team.
With that one final audition coming on Thursday night, Bajema says that he's not approaching the game any differently in an attempt to guarantee his spot on the roster.
"I'm the same as I've been the entire preseason – just focused on the next practice and the next game and the next play," he said. "Hopefully I'll leave it all out there and give it everything I've got. Things usually work out best when you stay focused and hopefully it will all work out."