Willie Snead IV had to wait longer than he would’ve liked to join the Ravens.
A snowstorm cancelled his first scheduled visit. Then Baltimore waited until the last possible day to offer the restricted free agent a contract, which started the clock on a five-day window for the New Orleans Saints to match.
But finally, Snead signed a two-year deal with the Ravens last week and has since joined his new teammates in offseason workouts. And he couldn’t be happier.
“It’s like a breath of fresh air,” Snead said Tuesday afternoon.
“Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I’m like, ‘I can’t believe I’m in Baltimore.’ I have so much respect for this organization and just the opportunity to be here and possibly be an impact player is like a dream come true. I just think I needed a fresh start.”
In his first meeting with reporters since signing with the Ravens last week, Snead talked about his difficult 2017 season with the Saints and why he feels he can bounce back.
After going undrafted in 2014, Snead broke out in 2015 with 69 catches for 984 yards and three touchdowns. He followed it up with 72 receptions for 895 yards and four scores in 2016.
But last season was especially tough, both on and off the field. Snead’s production plummeted to just eight catches for 92 yards and no touchdowns in 11 games (seven starts).
It started with a three-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, reportedly stemming from driving while intoxicated (DWI).
“You have to be smart,” Snead said. “I definitely learned from my mistakes and keep moving forward. I’m just blessed with a second chance.”
He also suffered a hamstring injury midway through training camp. Snead was healthy enough to returned to the field in Week 6, but said he wasn’t quite physically back. He caught one pass for 11 yards in that game, sat out the next, then didn’t record another reception until Week 11.
At that point, the Saints offense was already rolling. They had won seven straight games and weren’t going to fix what wasn’t broken.
“They had their offense at that point,” Snead said. “As a player that was in the offense and the scheme heavily the past two years, that was frustrating because I felt that I was game ready, working very hard to get myself in the type of shape to be an impact player.
“Not getting those opportunities – it was frustrating. You definitely have to be patient in those situations and keep learning and growing and just coming to work every day with that business mentality.”
Now Snead is in a situation where it’s not just a fresh start for himself, but for pretty much the entire Ravens receiving corps. True to their word, the Ravens cleaned house and brought in Michael Crabtree, John “Smokey” Brown and Snead. They drafted two more rookies – Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley – in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively.
“I feel like the whole room has a great vibe right now,” Snead said. “Everybody is learning from each other, everybody is meshing well together, and we all know the situation: we’re all competing for a job, and we’re all competing for a starting position.”
Analysts have pegged the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Snead as the perfect complement to Crabtree and Brown as a slot receiver. But Snead doesn’t want to limit himself, and said coaches told him he’ll be “all over the place.” Snead spent much of his 2015 season outside but the past two years mostly in the slot in New Orleans.
“I believe in myself and I know I can be a game-changer at any moment, and [the Ravens are] giving those opportunities where I can prove that,” Snead said.
Snead said he’ll always be grateful to the Saints for what they did for him. They wanted him back, even though they offered a low tender. But Baltimore wanted him more.
“Every person I met in this building has made me feel at home and made me feel that they’re happy that I’m here. That’s a huge feeling – a great feeling,” Snead said. “That just motivates me to get better and keep doing what I’m doing, and hopefully help this team win games this year and take us beyond the [regular] season.”