At 28 years old, Willie Snead smiles when he is described as the wise old sage of the Ravens’ receiver room. But his seven years of experience exceeds that of Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay and James Proche combined, as the Ravens are likely to have four rookies or second-year receivers on the roster.
And Snead sounded like ever the responsible mentor when he explained the approach Ravens players are going to need to take as they navigate this pandemic-altered season.
“As a professional, we’re not going to be able to do a lot of things that we’re used to doing, like going out to dinner … going out and stuff like that,” Snead said. “You gotta be a pro. You gotta know what’s on the line. The season’s on the line. If guys test positive, it’s going to be a problem.”
“The NFL and the [players’ association] took the best steps to make sure that we can have football this year,” he added. “When it comes down to it, every guy has to hold themselves accountable to be able to make sure they’re ready for Sundays.”
Snead has carved out a nice role during two seasons in Baltimore, a reliable slot receiver whose blocking ability has been instrumental to the Ravens’ record-setting run game.
After leading the team in receptions with 62 in 2018, Snead’s production dropped to 31 catches for 339 yards last year, but the Ravens like his intangibles — his blocking ability, his work ethic, his leadership in the young receiver room — enough that they signed him to a one-year contract extension in midseason last year. Now Snead, who was listed at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds last year, enters another contract year about 7 pounds lighter, he said, after offseason workouts that focused on getting faster.
Apart from the daily testing, the social distancing, and other protocols put in place this training camp, Snead says there is one other obvious change: the lack of fans.
During a special teams portion of training camp last year, Snead walked over toward the ropes that separated the players from the fans, took a knee and casually chatted with 20 or 25 jersey-wearing children, the number steadily growing as the drill went on.
This year, fans will not be attending any camp practices because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It stinks,” Snead said.
“I know we look forward to the fans,” he said, but described it is a necessary evil to keep players safe and healthy as the NFL eases toward a regular season with minimal disruptions.
The alternative, Snead says, is unthinkable.
“Can you imagine a fall with no football? At all?” Snead said. “I can’t.”
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox