OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Matt Furstenburg is just another anonymous purple jersey here, indistinguishable among the proven stars, the stable presences, the has-beens and wanna-bes. He wears No. 85, unlike during his days with the University of Maryland football team, because now he’s starting over, climbing up from the bottom once again, fighting for a contract and roster spot, working to prove he belongs.
Little about the tight end’s persona lends itself to the extraordinary, or even noticeable among the seas of Baltimore Ravens working out during Thursday’s organized team activities at the team’s Under Armour Performance Center, a sylvan campus barely visible from the two-lane road that winds through the local hills. This, in a way, is where the soft-spoken Furstenburg belongs, anonymous to the general public yet still a member of the defending Super Bowl champions.
“Every rookie’s got to do it,” Furstenburg said after practice, dressed down from the pads, shorts and helmets attire. “I don’t really mind it. I get to learn from some great tight ends who are here, and pick up some stuff they’ll do. Hopefully I’ll be able to make the team.”
Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are already entrenched as Baltimore’s two tight ends, each with four years of NFL experience. Furstenburg is currently splitting third-team repetitions with Alex Silvestro, who spent several weeks on New England’s practice squad last fall before being released and subsequently signed by the Ravens.
Furstenburg’s final season in College Park was plenty forgettable, given the tumultuous injury bug gnawing its way through four quarterbacks. Furstenburg caught just 16 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns, but left with his NFL draft prospects still high, given his size and blocking capabilities. Teams projected him as high as the fourth round, and lined up to sign him as a free agent once Furstenburg slipped through undrafted.
Now he joins a team that spent Wednesday afternoon meeting President Obama at the White House and will receive its Super Bowl rings on Friday. With no rookie workout restrictions, Furstenburg stays each day until around 6 p.m. at the facility. He lifts after OTAs, attends meetings then sits through a rookie seminar about life in the NFL.
“I don’t really see much of it important, but there’s some stuff I take away and learn,” said Furstenburg, an entrepreneur at Maryland who co-invented a spray-on aerosol tack that won a $2,500 competition. “They do a lot of financial stuff, so that’s all good. They check your credit.”
Mentally, Furstenburg said adjusting to the playbook and technique has been the hardest part, though both Pitta and Dickson have proved valuable resources. Former Terps Torrey Smith and LaQuan Williams, both wide receivers, have helped Furstenburg transition, too, though it hasn’t been too rough so far.
“Hopefully I stay a pro,” Furstenburg said. “Just here and I go back to the hotel, hang out, not really much. Get to go home a couple weekends, do whatever we want. It was an easy adjustment from Maryland, 30 minutes up the road on [Interstate] 95.”
Thursday, Furstenburg got several second-team repetitions with backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, even catching a shoestring touchdown pass on a red-zone out route. Mostly, though, he remained in the trenches, lining up at tight end or H-back, blocking and trying, little by little, to make an impression.
“I try to go out and work as hard as I can on every play, whatever they need me to do, but keep my mouth shut, not say anything and let the vets do what they do,” he said. “Sometimes you have to show people up, though. You’re here to take another person’s job. It’s do your best, not sit back and relax. There’s no time for that.”