“He came in and he’s already a pro,” Higgins said, via Bengals.com. “You can tell. He came in locked in and focused and just ready to go and learn. He asks questions. He’s not one of these guys who is stubborn and thinks he knows it all. He actually asks questions and wants to learn from others. That’s all you can ask in a teammate.
“Sometimes he makes mistakes, obviously that happens being a rook learning the offense. When he do make them, I’m like ‘Damn, that was me. That was me last year.’ But I just encourage him (and) tell him ‘just make a mistake, don’t make it again. You’ve got learn from it.”
Rams TE Mark Andrews, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, said he’s not concerned about his expiring deal but is eager to stay in Baltimore long-term.
“I think for me, how I approach every offseason is I just try to get better and better,” Andrews said, via Todd Karpovich of Sports Illustrated. “I try not to worry about the things that are not in my control. I love Baltimore. I love being here. I love playing here. I want to be here for the rest of my life, man. This is home for me. So, that’s where I’m at. I’m just going to, as a player, be the best player that I can be for this team. I know as a team that we all have a certain goal.”
Andrews said he’s “moving in the same direction” with the Ravens towards a deal and reiterated that he’s not focused on his looming deal.
“We all are moving in the same direction, and that’s really all that I’m worried about right now,” Andrews said. “You can’t worry about too much of the outside noise and what happens with that. I’m just going to let my play speak for itself. Obviously, I love Baltimore. I love being here, and I would love to be here for my whole life.”
Ravens HC John Harbaugh said Andrews “looks really good” in practice this offseason and keyed on his route-running ability.
“He looks really good,” said Harbaugh. “He’s practiced very well. I told him, I really feel like he’s running routes the best that I’ve seen him run routes since he’s been here. [They’re] very crisp, very sharp and explosive and all of it. I’m just happy that he’s here. I think it’s an opportunity for us to improve as a team, and each player to improve individually as a player, and he’s doing that.”
- The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly writes Steelers WR J.J. Smith-Schuster didn’t expect to return to Pittsburgh and told several teammates last year that he was all but gone as he entered free agency. Ultimately his market didn’t materialize in part because of the pandemic and he settled on a one-year, $8 million deal to re-sign with the Steelers.
- Smith-Schuster had offers from the Chiefs and Ravens that might have been for more money but he turned them down to stay in a familiar setting and hopefully boost his value with another crack at free agency in 2022: “I prefer everyone taking a one-year deal until things get better and then going back into the market and hitting it for more or a bigger prize. For me, a couple of million … I am looking at the bigger picture going into next year. It just makes everything easier on me this year going into next year and making free agency a lot better.”
- When asked if he’d sign with the division-rival Ravens next year, Smith-Schuster joked “If the price is right,” but Kaboly believes there’s truth to that statement.
- Smith-Schuster also wants to play more outside rather than exclusively in the slot as he aims to maximize his value. He hasn’t discussed it with OC Matt Canada yet but plans to: “To be honest, I haven’t even had a conversation with Matt about playing outside, but there have been plays in OTAs that he put me outside or in the best situation getting the ball outside.”
- Smith-Schuster clarified he doesn’t want to play exclusively as an “X” or a “Z” receiver but he does want to recapture some of what helped him to a breakout year in 2018: “I still don’t mind playing inside (more) than outside. How we do it is that we move around. You can never really tell if I am the No. 3 receiver as the slot, but playing outside so it all varies.”
- He also isn’t ruling out coming back to Pittsburgh again but he’s pragmatic about the organization’s history of not re-signing receivers: “To come back for another four years and have nine years as a Pittsburgh Steeler would be tremendous and remarkable. It would be unheard of from a receiver standpoint. Don’t get it wrong, Pittsburgh is still an option on the table, and they will fight hard, and I know they are one of the teams that have the most cap space. A lot of people are playing on a one-year deal, so you better play your butt off because you never know what’s going to happen.”