Crockett Gillmore wasn't about to sit by and watch the Ravens' intense tight end competition play out without him.
After having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder this offseason, Gillmore was already back on the field for the first week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs). Gillmore didn't do full-team drills, but ran routes and did individual work.
"If it was up to me, I'd already be doing everything," Gillmore said. "I should be back for training camp for sure. We're going to try to push it and see if I can go for minicamp."
Then Gillmore grinned.
"My timeline and their timeline are a little different – as usual," he said.
Gillmore has played through injuries for much of his football career, particularly to his shoulder. He tore the labrum in both shoulders last season. It was determined in March that surgery was only required on one, but Gillmore said he could need surgery on the other down the road.
Injuries are just part of football life for Gillmore, who said pain tolerance is simply all in the head. He said it comes down to what you're willing to put your body through, and Gillmore is willing to put it through a lot.
Gillmore said he suffered the first torn labrum on his first catch last season in Week 1. He still played in nine more games.
It was in the fourth quarter in Denver, and the Ravens were driving for a comeback win. Gillmore caught a pass and came down awkwardly with a Broncos defender landing on top of him. Not only did the labrum tear, but Gillmore said he also dislocated his shoulder.
Gillmore popped his shoulder back into socket and finished the drive. He was even the targeted receiver on the final pass, a lob to the end zone that was intercepted.
Gillmore started the next game and had his best performance of the year, catching five passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns, including one score in which he dragged a couple Oakland Raiders defenders over the goal line.
Gillmore said he injured his other shoulder in Week 8 against San Diego. After a bye the following week, he returned to start the next game. Finally, after taking a vicious hit to the back, Gillmore went on injured reserve after 10 games.
The collection of injuries have been tough for Gillmore. He said he also played through a torn shoulder during his sophomore year of college at Colorado State, which eventually required 11 sutures.
In an effort to prevent injuries, Gillmore said he's become smarter with his diet. He also slimmed down to 260 pounds after showing up for last year's OTAs at a whopping 275 pounds. Still, it will be tough for the 6-foot-6 bully to change his violent style of play.
"You learn how quick you can be done," Gillmore said. "If you keep having injuries, you better get your degree. So that's what I did this offseason."
Gillmore isn't ready to use that sociology degree yet though.
With Gillmore out at the end of last year, the Ravens relied on rookies Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle. Now Gillmore returns to a tight end corps that is drastically different.
Not only will Gillmore be competing with youngsters Williams and Boyle again, but the Ravens signed veteran Benjamin Watson and one of quarterback Joe Flacco's former favorite targets, Dennis Pitta, is slated to return.
There's a lot more competition this year for Gillmore to beat out for the starting job.
"I welcome the competition," Gillmore said. "I have my expectations just like I always do. … I expect to be the guy."
"We've got a lot of guys that can contribute, whether it's here or somewhere else. Obviously, [we're] not going to keep eight [tight ends], but I think every guy out there can compete for a job, whether it be special teams or playing tight end full time."
Gillmore said the Ravens have some "young guys that don't really know what they're capable of."
Williams set Ravens rookie tight end franchise records with 32 receptions and 268 receiving yards last season, but still has room to grow. Boyle will serve a 10-game suspension at the start of the year after his second violation of the performance enhancing drug policy. Sophomore Darren Waller is converting from wide receiver to tight end.
"At the end of the day, it's who can make the team better and who can help the team win," Gillmore said. "That's what we've got to get back to around here. If you're going to be in our room, you're going to be tough and do what you're asked to do."