The 219th overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft out of Iowa, Ravens safety Geno Stone couldn’t enjoy the advantages of a typical NFL offseason with rookie minicamps and OTA’s.
Instead, Stone, like the rest of the rookies in his class, was confined to his home and computer conducting meetings virtually and was unable to get in any work on the practice field at the Ravens’ practice facility.
Those valuable rookie minicamps and OTA’s allow young players entering the league to expedite their transition and get a jumpstart to learning the team’s systems. That unconventional offseason made it difficult for Stone to find his place on the Ravens’ roster, appearing in just two games last season.
On Oct. 8, Stone was released by the Ravens and the next day he was added to the team’s practice squad. A little more than a month later on Nov. 14, Stone was activated from the practice squad for his first NFL action all season. However, just before the conclusion of the regular season, Stone was released and signed off waivers by the Houston Texans on Dec. 29.
“[The Ravens] really didn’t try to get rid of me at the end of the year,” Stone said on Glenn Clark Radio March 24. “It just kind of happened that the Texans picked me off waivers. They kept in contact with me throughout the whole free agency and me and my agent talked it over and thought it was probably best for me to go back to Baltimore.”
After he was cut by the Texans and a free agent this offseason, the Ravens signed him back to a reported one-year, $780,000 contract. By returning to Baltimore, Stone doesn’t have to worry about learning a new defense and getting acclimated to a new city.
Instead, Stone is familiar with the players and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s scheme. Therefore, Stone won’t encounter the same challenges as he did last offseason when trying to learn Martindale’s system. It’s unknown whether the NFL will have a fully virtual offseason, but returning to his old team puts Stone in a more advantageous position for success.
“Now I already know the defense, I know the coaches, the whole organization so it’s kind of like it will just help me be up to speed again,” Stone said. “I wanted to go back, that was my place they drafted me. I felt like that’s the place that fit me.”
Arriving in Baltimore last season, the unconventional offseason made it more challenging for Stone and the entire 2020 rookie class. Like all of his teammates, Stone didn’t have the ability to work out on the field before training camp. That time away from the field meant learning virtually, which gave Stone a unique rookie experience.
“A bunch of the vets were telling me that I wasn’t really getting a rookie season that I should have,” Stone said. “It was definitely tough to adjust without any OTA’s really just getting there during camp and you have to try to learn on the run. I feel like just getting up to tempo, getting up to the NFL mental part of the game is the biggest thing for me to adjust to.”
Now returning to Baltimore, Stone learned an important lesson from his rookie season. Fluctuating from the practice squad to waivers to the active roster, Stone leaned on fellow safety Anthony Levine for advice.
Levine began his career in similar circumstances as Stone. Levine started his career by bouncing around on the Packers’ and Ravens’ practice squads in 2011. However, he played in at least 15 of 16 games in eight straight seasons for the Ravens, developing into one of head coach John Harbaugh’s most trusted veterans.
“You can only control what you can control and let the rest handle itself,” Stone said. “I kind of leaned on him throughout the whole year, trying to take as much information as I can from him.”
In taking Levine’s advice, Stone is prepared to contribute in whatever way possible in Baltimore next season. As someone who rarely played, Stone often spent much of last season on the scout team helping his teammates prepare for the looks they could see from that week’s opponent.
Moving forward into the 2021 season, Stone is committed to assisting his teammates, but also improving himself each day. He figures to compete for the third safety role behind DeShon Elliott and Chuck Clark while also contributing on special teams.
Playing for the Ravens once again, Stone is confident and has high expectations for the team moving forward.
“We’ve got the talent, we got everything we need,” Stone said. “We got the great coaches, a great organization, we got everything. I watched my best friend Tristan Wirfs win a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year and I was like, ‘Dang it’d be pretty cool to win one.'”
For more from Stone, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox