Doing anything to make the team

Aug. 14, 2013 @ 08:18 PM

The Baltimore Ravens drafted Aaron Mellette as a wide receiver. It’s where he was a star for Southern Lee High School and Elon University.

To make the Baltimore roster after being a seventh-round draft pick though, Mellette’s having to learn more than how to catch passes for the Ravens.

Between the first and second preseason games, with the second game coming up versus Atlanta at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium, Mellette has been practicing on punt and kickoff coverage, but not in the glamour positions of the returners.

“We’re working Aaron (Mellette) in a number of different positions,” said Baltimore assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg in a press conference following Monday’s practice at the team’s training facility in Owings Mills.

“He’s a young man who’s got size and speed. He’s a long-armed guy, so we’re training him for gunner. We’re training him for end on a punt rush. We’re training him on the front line on kickoff return,” Rosburg said.

The “gunner” position is a wide out for the punting team, who often gets roughly double-teamed by blockers while tasked with sprinting down the field and stopping the punt returner.

Mellette is still getting his shot at his natural position. In last Thursday’s preseason opener at Tampa Bay, Mellette caught one pass, a 21-yard touchdown catch from second-string quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the fourth quarter of a 44-16 Baltimore win.

On Sunday, as the Ravens held a public practice at M&T Bank Stadium in front of more than 25,000 fans, Mellette had “one of the toughest catches of the afternoon down the sideline,” said a report on baltimoreravens.com.

“Mellette held onto the ball as he took a hit from (Chykie) Brown (a Raven cornerback), and was still able to get two feet in bounds. Mellette then added another long reception in the middle of the field later in the day, which brought big cheers from the crowd.”

It isn’t all pats on the back for a rookie though. Mellette’s plays during Sunday’s practice came following a learning experience delivered from the top.

The Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson reported, “one day after being dismissively banished to the bench and called lazy and lackadaisical by Harbaugh in front of his teammates, rookie wide receiver Aaron Mellette shrugged off the criticism. Mellette accelerated past the secondary for a long touchdown reception and didn’t seem fazed by the scolding from Harbaugh.”

The combination of playing receiver, and anywhere else he can help on a 46-man game-day roster, could be the ticket for Mellette as it is for many rookies.

“So, we’re giving him a lot of different skills that a lot of the wide receivers that come into the National Football League have never done,” Rosburg said. “It’s an incremental process. He was better this week than he was in practice, and this coming week, we expect him to be even better.”

The Atlanta at Baltimore game will be the first Raven game at M&T Bank Stadium since Baltimore’s win over Indianapolis in the wild card round of the AFC playoffs in January. It’s the second of four preseason games for both teams.

Atlanta, coming off winning the NFC South Division and losing to San Francisco in the NFC Championship last season, lost 34-10 to Cincinnati in its first preseason game.