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Rookies brace for big stage on MNF

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Rookies brace for big stage on MNF

A season opener on Monday Night Football and a division game doesn't get much more high profile in the NFL. While this is nothing unusual for veterans, it is new territory for rookies.

If rookies thought their first preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons was a big deal, wait until they're in the national spotlight against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Running back Bernard Pierce, the No. 2 running back, is a rookie. So is Bobby Rainey, who is third, and trying to work his way into playing time through special teams.

"It's more focus now becuase it's the regular season. I go into it the same as I always been," Rainey said of the difference in his preparations. "I'm going to prepare how I've been preparing. That's what's got me here."

That's what center Matt Birk, in his 15th season, would suggest.

"The stage is a little bit bigger and things get a bit more pumped up but at the end of the day its just football," said Birk, who at some point will share offensive line duties with rookie guardtackle Kelechi Osemele. "Its still the same whether youre out there on the practice field or preseason. The fundamentals dont change. Nothing changes in the game. Its just all the external stuff that you can't focus on."

Receiver Jacoby Jones, in his sixth season but first in Baltimore, is the No. 2 receiver behind Torrey Smith. Jones has rookie Deonte Thompson behind him. They were brought in to add depth to a receiving corp that was a major weakness last season.

"You teach a rookie to learn to get yourself into a routine. That's how you become a vet," said Jones. "Every morning, I've got the same routine. Once you get yourself going it makes it easy for you. It's easy on your body. That's what you try to teach those guys."

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Ravens cancel Saturday's open practice at M&T Bank Stadium

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USA Today Sports

Ravens cancel Saturday's open practice at M&T Bank Stadium

The Baltimore Ravens cancelled Saturday night's free open practice at M&T Bank Stadium due to a forecast that calls for heavy rain and inclement weather.

There is no official word from the team on whether this practice will be resheduled, but it seems like Sunday may be an option, even though there's rain in the forecast then too.

Ravens fans who were looking to see first-round draft pick and potential future starting quarterback Lamar Jackson will have to wait for another day. His presence at training camp, an inevitable competition with the incumbent, Joe Flacco, and potential two-quarterback packages involving both of them are set to be some of the biggest storylines of Ravens camp this summer.

As a Heisman Trophy winner, Jackson was one of the most dynamic players in college football during his time at Louisville. If he can replicate that kind of performance in the NFL, he will be at plenty more training camp sessions for Ravens fans to watch.

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

This time last year, running back Alex Collins wasn't a part of the Baltimore Ravens.

After being released by the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the 2017 preseason, the Ravens placed the 23-year-old on their practice squad, and by Week 2, Collins was already making plays.

As the season progressed, Collins found himself as the Ravens' top running back. He finished 2017 as the team's leading rusher with 973 yards while Javorius "Buck" Allen followed behind him with 591 yards.

If the 2018 NFL season began today, Collins would likely be the Ravens' starter, which is quite ironic considering the fate of his 2017 preseason.

"I always go back to where I started and where I am now, and I use that as my motivation," Collins said after Thursday's training camp practice.

"No matter the day, no matter how tired I am, I think to myself, at this time last year, I didn’t know my position, where I was, where I’d end up. So just having that security behind it is definitely my motivation to keep it this way and keep pushing forward and keep trying to get better instead of being complacent.”

Over the course of 15 games, Collins proved he had the strength and speed to make an impact on the team after Danny Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury on the first drive of the Ravens' Week 1 game and Kenneth Dixon sat out the entire season with a torn meniscus. 

While job security is something we all strive for, Collins isn't getting too comfortable with the hierarchy. 

“I don’t want to say necessarily ‘comfortable,’ because when I use that word, it makes me feel like I’m too relaxed and lackadaisical," Collins said.

"I’m more focused. I don’t want to get comfortable. I don’t want the team or our group to get comfortable, because we just want to get better every day. So, in the position I am, it’s a great feeling, but I’m always pushing myself to be better.”

While Collins has set personal goals for himself – like a 1,000-yard season – he is equally as focused on making the Ravens backfield one of the best groups in the National Football League. 

“I expect that," Collins said on being the Ravens' starter.

"I would hope that all the other running backs expect [to be the starter] as well, and that’s what kind of drives our group – when we all know that we have that capability to be the No. 1 guy, and we’re out competing and push each other and try to be the best. No matter who’s out there during the game, you’ll see a productive play out of that person. So, I have that mindset. I want to be the guy. I have that fire in me, and I hope [that is] as well as the other running backs, as I encouraged them as well.”

Collins noted that he's coming into training camp a bit heavier. He added five pounds to his 200-pound frame "just to see how that feels," but is still maintaining the stamina and strength he's always had. 

Collins – who was one of several veterans released from practice early as the team begins to adjust their way into the extended preseason – finished his media availability with a friendly warning to fantasy football owners: "Draft me now before it’s too late, guys."

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