Ravens' Top Rookies Accustomed To Winning

Posted on May 16, 2014 by Joe Platania

OWINGS MILLS -- It was a moment that might have made Vince Lombardi turn over in his grave.

In the midst of the NFL Draft, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome stated that it wasn't a priority for the team to draft players with winning experience, even though the team's top three 2014 picks have played on the last three Bowl Championship Series championship teams.

"We stack the board based on the way the guys played on tape and all the information that we had," Newsome said. "We were just fortunate enough to get three players that have come out of national championship teams in the last two or three years. We're just fortunate that it happened that way."

Lombardi, the man for whom the Super Bowl trophy is named -- and two of them are displayed prominently in the Ravens' Under Armour Performance Center lobby -- said: "Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing."

And winning is practically the only thing that first-round linebacker C.J. Mosley, second-round defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan and third-round free safety Terrence Brooks have ever known.

Among the three of them -- who reported to the Ravens' rookie camp May 16 along with the rest of the nine-man draft class, 18 undrafted rookies and several tryout candidates -- they bring four national titles, five conference championship game appearances and five conference crowns to Baltimore, all of them won within the last four years.

Jernigan was a high school All-America pick, and Mosley's prep team was one of Alabama's best during his time there, getting upset during the state playoffs.

Mosley said it hadn't been difficult transitioning from one winning program to another.

"[Alabama head] coach [Nick] Saban wants you doing the right thing off the field just as much as he wants you to do the right thing on the field," Mosley said. "[Coming to Baltimore is] pretty much jumping onto the next step. Everything is on me.

"I have all the moral support that I need. … So, it's all on me."

It will be up to everyone that makes up the bottom rung of the Ravens' roster to contribute to a team that missed the playoffs last year after not only winning the franchise's second Super Bowl, but also making the postseason for the ninth time out of the previous 13 seasons, a hard feat to accomplish in the current parity-ridden salary-cap era.

In the case of the Florida State-bred Brooks-Jernigan tandem, having played together for the Seminoles for the last three seasons certainly seems to have helped.

"Honestly, it's kind of crazy, because the whole time I was like, 'If I could take one guy with me [to the NFL], it would be Timmy,' " Brooks said. "I just know we do damage together. We did it at Florida State; we can do it anywhere.

"I'm just real happy to have him with me, and I know there is another real strong safety over there in Matt Elam. I just can't wait to get into that physical defense. I'll feel right at home."

After this weekend's activity, the next item on the Ravens' spring practice agenda is the allowable 10 days' worth of organized team activity sessions.

The OTAs are being broken up into four segments, scheduled for May 28-30, June 3-5, June 9-10 and June 12-13.

All of those sessions are classified as voluntary, but only the most season-hardened veterans are allowed to skip them, and even then, not too many will do that.

The preparatory phase will conclude with the mandatory, full-team, three-day minicamp June 17-19.

Following that session will be the longest downtime period of the calendar year for the league, as players rest their bodies and coaches take vacations before the late-July start of training camp.

At that point, depth-chart positions will be sorted out and those stars who shine the brightest will get one of the 22 coveted starting jobs. Of the top three draftees, Mosley and Brooks appear to have the best shots at starting.

But no matter how things shake out for them and Jernigan, the trio's time at the top could help them at the game's top tier.

"[To start is] my standard and my mindset going in," Brooks said. "Florida State prepared me very well to take over a defense and just be the commander back there, so it wouldn't be a problem."

That would be music to Lombardi's ears. 

Joe Platania is in his 21st season covering professional football.

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