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Neighbors Eric DeCosta, John Harbaugh talk shop after the draft

Neighbors Eric DeCosta, John Harbaugh talk shop after the draft

Coworkers aren't always fond of living close together. The thinking goes: leave work at work and relax at home. 

But when a global pandemic shuts down economies and sports facilities alike, being neighbors with your coworker can make conversations about major personnel decisions that much more convenient. 

That's exactly what happened after the 2020 NFL Draft when the Ravens posted one of the best social distancing videos this quarantine period has seen. 

Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta lives just a backyard away from coach John Harbaugh, taking just 45 seconds for DeCosta to reach the man who'll be finding the best fits for what was another home-run draft for Baltimore. 

Several post-draft rankings have indicated a superb performance from the Ravens during the uniquely virtual draft, including some high marks from NFL Network

"It was a team effort," both agreed. 

When DeCosta reached Harbaugh's back fence, he was hilariously greeted by a purple Gatorade bottle to cheers a job well done. Then, you can really sense how excited the two were to get to work with some of their newly drafted players. 

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"I love bringing some of these guys in like Justin (Madubuike), and having him play with Calais (Campbell), you know, and playing with Derek (Wolfe), Brandon (Williams) and those guys. Playing with Matt (Judon), it's going to help those young guys so much I think," DeCosta said to Harbaugh. 

Harbaugh then asked DeCosta how he expects the chemistry to fare, and his answer was an astute realization that Ravens fans may not have noticed. 

"I think it'll be good. It wasn't intentional, but we got a bunch of Texas guys," said DeCosta, who helped select both Texas A&M's defensive lineman Madubuike and Texas wide receiver Devin Duvernay in the third round, along with Southern Methodist University WR James Proche in the sixth. "We got a bunch of guys who love the game."

Both were also ecstatic about the team's undrafted free agent signings. Said Harbaugh, "We got some guys we were going to draft." 

Baltimore signed "a couple awesome tight ends" in Georgia's Eli Wolf and Oregon's Jacob Breeland, along with "a good center" in Missouri's Trystan Colon-Castillo. 

"It worked out extremely well. I think we're in a good place," DeCosta affirmed. That's just music to Black and Purple fans' ears everywhere.

With the reality of social distancing and the expected gradual reopening of the economy, Harbaugh and DeCosta said they were excited to adapt and learn about their new players via Zoom meetings. 

The two ended with a proper fist bump - six feet away from each other of course!

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Marquise Brown is ready to make big second-year leap for Ravens after bulking up 20 pounds

Marquise Brown is ready to make big second-year leap for Ravens after bulking up 20 pounds

Marquise Brown was hardly himself in his rookie season.

Not only did he have a Lisfranc injury in his foot that hampered his health all season long, but he also played portions of the year at less than 160 pounds. 

On the surface, his numbers didn’t take a hit. He was second on the team in targets (71), receptions (46), yards (584) and touchdowns (seven), but he had more to offer than what he showed in 14 games last season. 

This offseason, he added 20 pounds of muscle and, as he said Wednesday on a Zoom call with reporters, is up to 180 pounds. His foot is feeling better. And Marquise Brown is himself once again.

“I feel I got bright days ahead,” Brown said. “I feel 100 times better than I did last year. So, all I got to do now is focus on the plays, focus on the stuff that I’m supposed to focus on, instead of focusing on my feet and trying to stay healthy.”

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Brown’s added weight was the product of a mindset he had about trying to allow himself to undergo the rigors of an NFL season easier than he had a year ago. 

Whenever Brown would catch a pass, he would scurry out of bounds or dive forward to could avoid a hit. While that was certainly a product of the weight he played at and his desire to protect himself, it also had to do with his injured foot, too. 

He wasn’t able to run as fast as he did at Oklahoma, and he still isn’t quite at that speed, either. 

“Sometimes, I would try to make a cut that my foot wasn’t able to make, and I would go down,” Brown said. “Or sometimes, I just know that I’m not going to be able to make that move, so I’ll go down. It was more about getting the yards that I could get, get down, get ready for a next play. It was better for me to be in the game than to be out the game.”

Brown feels better now, and not only that, his teammates have taken notice, too.

“I could tell he put on a lot of weight,” Willie Snead said. “He’s put on a good amount of weight, and you can tell he’s solid now. I know the first thing he said coming into the building is, ‘I’m trying to block somebody. I’m trying to set the tone in the run game, man.’ I could just tell by his build that he took that part seriously.”

The Ravens sent him a GPS tracker while he trained in the offseason, so that while he added the weight, he didn’t lose any of his patented speed. Brown said he’s been able to keep his speed, despite the increased weight now on his 5-foot-9 frame. 

As the team’s top wide receiver, Brown will have an increased workload in his second season not only due to his progression with quarterback Lamar Jackson, but also the Ravens’ desire to pass the football more than they did a year ago.

It's for that reason the Ravens will put a lot more weight on his shoulders this year, as expectations for the organization are sky-high entering the upcoming season.

In that regard, it’s probably a good thing Brown will be a bit bigger in 2020.

“What people fail to realize, when I was at ‘OU’, I was 173-170, so I honestly just gained about 10 pounds,” Brown said. “I actually lost weight last year. To me, I feel back to normal, sort of to say. I feel like myself.”

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Tom Brady is ready to 'embrace the challenge' of starting over in Tampa Bay

Tom Brady is ready to 'embrace the challenge' of starting over in Tampa Bay

Even for the greats, the NFL offseason is a grind.

For the first two decades of his career, Tom Brady called New England home. Over that span, he's had just one head coach, Bill Belichick, and three full-time offensive coordinators: Charlie Weis, Bill O'Brien and Josh McDaniels.

Year in and year out, things remained relatively the same in New England. But with Brady leaving behind the only NFL franchise he's known for Tampa Bay this offseason, the quarterback has had to tap into a different mental state this offseason, one he hasn't been in for nearly 20 years.

"It’s been different having the opportunity with this time to move and, for example, study my playbook," Brady said Thursday via Zoom in his first media session of training camp. "I mean, I really haven’t had to do that in 19 years. You forget, 'Man, that is really tough.' Like all the different terminologies and you’re going back a very long time in my career to really put the mental energy in like I did."

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For any quarterback, switching teams is a difficult task, even for greats like Brady. However, the move this offseason has been even more difficult due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, which effectively eliminated all organized offseason activities across the league.

Training camp has started league-wide, but teams are still a couple of weeks away from real, padded practices. Right now, clubs are mainly doing walkthroughs and installs, working on things that would have already been taught during minicamp and OTAs in a regular offseason.

For Brady, that's also been a difficult adjustment.

"Mentally, that has been the thing that obviously has its challenges and I think you couple that with the coronavirus situation it became even more difficult," Brady said. "I think conversations we probably would have had in April we are having now. I think that part is a bit challenging too."

However, the six-time Super Bowl champion is hoping to embrace the challenges of this pandemic-riddled offseason, rather than to use it as an excuse.

"The only thing you can do is adjust to the situation the best way you can, put as much time and energy in now as we can into it and I think the reality is the clock is ticking on everybody," Brady said. "We’re going to have to work as hard as we can and not waste any minutes of any day trying to get used to one another, embrace the challenge and see it as an opportunity to see what we can become."

And while the quarterback is still in the process of learning Bruce Arians' offensive system in Tampa, Brady reminded us in typical Brady-fashion that he's not worried about the challenges that come with it.

"Mentally, I feel like I have all the ability," Brady said. "I’ve seen every defense. There’s no play I haven’t run. There’s no defense I haven’t seen."

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