Veteran Leadership 'Priceless' On Special Teams


The Ravens special-teams unit struggled at times last year, and fixing those mishaps has been a clear priority this offseason.

They brought in a handful of proven veterans and the coaching staff has already seen the benefit of them leading the pack.

"It's priceless," Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg said Wednesday. "These guys are not only knowledgeable as to the X's and O's, but they understand the techniques and the nuances that even a coach perhaps can't articulate quite as well."

Baltimore signed special teams Pro Bowler Corey Graham, veteran safety Sean Considine and proven returner Jacoby Jones. They also re-signed their own special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo.

Between them, they have 26 years of NFL special-teams experience.

Those players are not only expected to make big contributions to the special-teams unit, but they have also been tasked with leading a group of young players who are looking for special teams to be their way onto the 53-man roster.

"Even though in some cases some of the younger players are competing with the older players, the older players are helping the younger players, and that's what our team is all about," Rosburg said.

Part of the struggle last season was that the rookies didn't have the benefit of going through the offseason to learn the Ravens' approach to special teams.

That isn't the case for the 2012 rookie class.

They have special-teams meetings every day and learning the fundamentals has been emphasized since they first arrived in Baltimore.

"The rookies that we have right now can't believe that last year's rookies went right into training camp without these sessions, because they can't imagine not having the ability to be coached and to watch the film and to develop, and [then] be thrust right into a preseason game," Rosburg said.

One of the challenges for rookie players is that many of them have not played special teams in recent years. Special teams is often dominated by young players at the college and NFL levels, so by the time established college players enter their junior and senior years, many of them have moved to strictly offense or defense.

Once they get to the NFL, they have to re-learn some of the basics, which often doesn't come easy. That's what makes this time pivotal for many rookies.

"It's really the opportunity for those players that haven't played a lot of special teams lately in their career to re-learn it or for those that haven't played special teams at all in their college careers to really learn how to do it," Rosburg said.

And having veterans like Ayanbadejo, Graham, Considine and Jones to help teach them will make the process just a little bit easier.

"The energy is good, the guys are competing hard, and the elder players are helping the younger players," Rosburg said. "It's been good."

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