Since the Ravens drafted Patrick Queen 28th overall in the NFL Draft just over three months ago, he hasn’t had a normal offseason for a rookie entering the NFL.
All workouts have been remote, all learning has been online and all questions about what his year could look like didn’t, and still don’t, have firm answers.
With the COVID-19 pandemic having changed everything in the NFL’s offseason from the schedule to the operations, rookies only recently reported to their team facility for the first time last week.
Now for the Ravens' rookies, it’s time to play catch-up.
“The vets are already ahead of everything, you’re playing catch-up,” Queen said Friday on a conference call with reporters. “It’s tough, but at the same time, you’ve got to come in to work. Being at LSU, we were prepared for that. Battle-tested and just ready to get acclimated with whatever situation that occurs. That’s my main focus right now...try to become that person everybody wants me to be.”
The Ravens’ two highest-drafted rookies, Queen and second-round running back J.K. Dobbins, are expected to play critical roles this year in Baltimore. Queen is, by all accounts, a Day 1 starter at inside linebacker. Dobbins is set to see a significant amount of carries, even if he’s not the starter and has to backup Mark Ingram.
“Definitely different, but I think it will all work itself out,” Dobbins said. “Losing some time is tough on all the rookies, but if you just come in and work hard, do what you’re supposed to do, I feel like everything will fall into place.”
The rookies won’t have preseason games, either, which takes away any game experience they could receive before the regular season begins on Sept. 13 against the Browns.
Now, the first time Queen and the rest of the rookies that make the 53-man roster play in a game, it will count.
“That’s the time for you to process everything, learn everything, they take their preseason games here very seriously,” Queen said. “That’s a learning process for us. For me, not to be able to get that is unfortunate. But at the same time, you’ve got to adapt. When the time comes for game one, let’s rock and roll."
Both Dobbins and Queen, however, played at major college programs and aren’t strangers to high levels of competition.
Dobbins was a three-year starter at Ohio State and played in the College Football Playoff in his final season — a year in which he rushed for just over 2,000 yards. Queen started just one season at LSU, but he made it count. The Tigers went 15-0 and were national champions, as Queen led the way in the middle for their defense.
“No matter what team you play in the SEC, it’s a battle every week,” Queen said. “Waking up that Monday morning is like, ‘I got another SEC game,’ so you’ve gotta hit the training room and go and get ready, go and get right for the week coming up. My biggest thing is the level of competition is always greater in the NFL than it is in college. Being able to play in the SEC, playing hard-nosed football every week, I feel like that prepared me for the NFL.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed numerous question marks around the season, ranging from what the season could look like with potential outbreaks across the league, to the simple question of if the season will be able to happen at all.
But no matter the circumstances outside of the NFL’s bubble, rookies are still about to accomplish a dream they’ve had since childhood.
“It’s something that has never happened and if I can contribute to helping my team win a Super Bowl during times like these, where you really have to hone in on what you do and perfect your craft, I feel like it’s going to be even more special,” Dobbins said. “Being without fans will definitely be different if that happens, but I feel like we’ve got to bring our own juice anyways if you want to win the game on Sunday, or Monday, or Thursday.”
Both Dobbins and Queen remarked that the Ravens have done an excellent job making it easy to follow protocols at the team’s facility in Owings Mills.
There, players are being constantly reminded to keep their distance, wash their hands and wear a mask to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus.
Once they get out of the facility, however, Queen doesn’t think anyone will have a problem adhering to social distancing.
“Go out for what? It’s football season,” Queen said. “This team is pretty mentally strong. Everybody understands the task at hand that we have. Every day we come in, we’ve got the simple task of six feet apart, wash your hands, keep your mask up and just do what the people tell us to do. If we do that, we’ll be fine and the season will be perfect for us.”
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