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Flacco expects to be ready for first day of training camp

Posted on 16 June 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Joe Flacco and the Ravens see the light at the end of the tunnel.

No longer limited in anything he does physically, the 31-year-old quarterback will primarily focus on getting his throwing arm in shape for training camp with most of the heavy lifting from rehabbing his surgically-repaired left knee now behind him.

“If I had to go play in the Super Bowl today, I’d be out there playing in it,” said Flacco, who underwent surgery just over six months ago. “I expect to be on the field for the first day. We’ll see how I feel at that point. I’m kind of curious to see as training camp goes along. Am I going to have sore days and stuff like that? But I expect to be out there and ready to go.”

The Ravens will welcome him back to the field with open arms as they try to rebound from the first losing season of the John Harbaugh era. It’s been difficult to evaluate the Baltimore offense this spring with backup quarterback Ryan Mallett at the helm, but Flacco downplayed the significance of missing spring organized team activities and mandatory minicamp as he continued to recover.

Though expressing excitement to work with free-agent newcomers Benjamin Watson and Mike Wallace in the passing game, Flacco quipped that seeing the veterans look so tired after spring workouts made him not miss being on the field as much at this point in the offseason.

But it’s almost time to get back to normal work for the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player, who signed a three-year extension worth $66.4 million this offseason that keeps him under contract through the 2021 season.

“I know you have this itch, this desire to get out there, but you’re just not quite ready,” said Watson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury as a rookie with the New England Patriots in 2004. “I can relate to him on that level. Just watching him knowing that he has control of the offense and that he’s one of the great quarterbacks in the league is exciting for me when he does get out there.”

Even as Flacco expects to be ready for the first day of training camp physically, some unknown exists as it relates to being back in the line of fire.

After all, Flacco was injured in the pocket when offensive tackle James Hurst was driven back into his knee, tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee. That kind of environment can’t be replicated during the rehab process.

“When I’m out there running around and cutting on it and doing those things, there is no tentativeness because I didn’t hurt it that way,” Flacco said. “I hurt it getting hit. I’m curious. It will probably be a little different the first time I take a couple dropbacks and feel a little bit of guys coming [after me in the pocket]. I’ll have to step and throw still, but I don’t expect to have those kinds of thoughts linger in my head.”

Participating in meetings and continuing to rehab and work out throughout the spring, Flacco has watched portions of practices and hasn’t been completely isolated from the rest of the team. However, nothing beats the camaraderie fostered from being on the field with teammates.

That feeling was absent after he suffered the worst injury of his entire football career.

“I wanted to be the guy that played 15, 16, or 17 years and didn’t miss a snap,” Flacco said. “To come to grips with that was definitely tough to begin with. To see your teammates out there and not be out there with them [or] see them come back in the locker room on Monday or Tuesday after the game and see the fun they had or even the distraught that was in their eyes because they lost a game, it was all that stuff that you missed out on being a part of.

“You very quickly get isolated and tossed aside when you’re not on the team and not playing. That is just the reality of this game. It goes very quickly; it moves on very quickly.”

Fortunately for Flacco and the Ravens, that time is finally behind them.

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Ravens release veteran left tackle Eugene Monroe

Posted on 15 June 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The divorce between the Ravens and Eugene Monroe became official Wednesday after the veteran left tackle’s contract was terminated.

A day after head coach John Harbaugh confirmed that general manager Ozzie Newsome was in trade discussions regarding Monroe’s services, Baltimore officially parted ways with the 29-year-old, who signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract in 2014 that included $17.5 million guaranteed. Despite missing a total of four games in his first five NFL seasons, Monroe started just 17 of 34 games over the last two seasons as he was sidelined with a variety of ailments.

It became apparent early this offseason that the Ravens were ready to move on from Monroe, first attempting to re-sign standout guard Kelechi Osemele to play left tackle permanently and then taking Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley with their earliest draft pick in 16 years. The veteran tackle’s stance on medical marijuana has also grabbed headlines over the last few months with Monroe even posting on Twitter last week that he felt the organization was distancing itself from him and his position.

By cutting him after June 1, the Ravens save $6.5 million in salary cap space while carrying $2.2 million in dead money. The 2017 salary cap will also carry $4.4 million in dead money from Monroe’s contract.

The frustration with Monroe likely boiled over in Week 11 last year when he exited with a shoulder injury before his replacement, James Hurst, was then pushed into starting quarterback Joe Flacco’s left knee, causing his season-ending ACL injury late in a 16-13 win over St. Louis. That would prove to be Monroe’s final game with the Ravens as he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery the following month.

Monroe had been cleared to return to the practice field last week, but the Ravens held him out of the first day of minicamp while attempting to trade him. According to NFL Network, the New York Giants were interested in Monroe but not at his $6.5 million salary for 2016 as well as his $6.75 million salaries for the final two years of his contract.

A first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2009, Monroe was traded to the Ravens on Oct. 1, 2013 and played well in 11 games, prompting Newsome to invest a long-term contract in the University of Virginia product.

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Ravens attempting to trade veteran tackle Monroe

Posted on 14 June 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are poised to move on from veteran left tackle Eugene Monroe.

Despite being cleared to return to the field from last December’s season-ending shoulder surgery last week, Monroe was not on the field for the start of Baltimore’s three-day mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed that general manager Ozzie Newsome was engaged in discussions to trade Monroe, who is scheduled to make $6.5 million in base salary this season.

Monroe said via his official Twitter account on Friday that the Ravens had distanced themselves from him and his strong position in favor of medical marijuana, but the organization had been noncommittal about his future throughout the offseason. After unsuccessfully trying to re-sign Kelechi Osemele with the intention of permanently moving him to left tackle, Newsome selected Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley with the sixth overall pick in April’s draft.

“My understanding right now is that teams are inquiring about Eugene,” Harbaugh said. “When you’re in that kind of a situation, when there’s a possibility of those kinds of things happening, you’re pretty much obligated to pull back and not practice a guy. That where it’s at right now. It’s in Ozzie’s hands, and we’ll just see where it goes.”

Entering the third season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract that included $17.5 million guaranteed, Monroe, 29, has started just 17 games since the start of 2014 while missing action with a variety of injuries. He was sidelined last November when backup left tackle James Hurst was pushed into Joe Flacco’s left knee, causing a season-ending injury.

Trading or cutting Monroe now would clear $6.5 million in salary cap space — leaving $2.2 million in dead money on this year’s salary cap — and would push $4.4 million in dead money to the 2017 cap.

The only other surprise absence from the field on Tuesday was outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who is scheduled to speak with reporters on Wednesday. Like a few other veterans, Dumervil hadn’t taken part in any voluntary organized team activities open to the media.

“I think Elvis is going to be up here tomorrow, so he can give you the details,” Harbaugh said. “But he had what has been termed a ‘preventative procedure.’ He’s not ready to go in minicamp. He’ll be ready to go in training camp, but he can explain that to you [Wednesday].”

Other players missing from Tuesday’s practice were quarterback Joe Flacco (knee), linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon), defensive linemen Bronson Kaufusi (back) and Michael Pierce (undisclosed), cornerback Jumal Rolle (Achilles tendon), and wide receivers Steve Smith (Achilles tendon), Breshad Perriman (knee), and Michael Campanaro (calf).

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was on the field and wearing a helmet, but the veteran defensive back was limited to playing catch as he continues to recover from foot surgery earlier this spring.

Kaufusi signed his four-year rookie deal on Tuesday, meaning the Ravens’ entire 2016 draft class is now under contract.

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Perriman receives good news regarding 2016 status

Posted on 14 June 2016 by Luke Jones

It appears Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman’s 2016 season hasn’t come to an end, after all.

Tuesday’s arthroscopic surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews revealed that the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee is stable, meaning Perriman won’t need season-ending reconstruction surgery. The 22-year-old received a stem-cell injection to speed up the healing process, and the Ravens expect Perriman to be able to play this season.

The 2015 first-round pick hurt his left knee on the final day of organized team activities last week and was initially diagnosed with a partially-torn ACL, leaving his season in jeopardy before receiving the second opinion.

“I would just say that it’s not a tear that needs to be repaired,” head coach John Harbaugh. “I don’t know if it’s a tear or it it’s a partial tear or what exactly. I wasn’t there. Maybe Breshad can comment on that from what the doctors told him when he comes back. It just needs treatment, and he should be back at some point in time during training camp [and] will certainly be ready for the regular reason.

“But, again, that’s always unpredictable. I think we’ve been down this road before. We’ll continue to just work hard and do that. It was really good news today.”

As Harbaugh alluded to, skepticism will remain about how quickly Perriman can return to the field after he missed his entire rookie season with a partially-torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee that was originally considered minor. However, this appears to be good news for the 2015 first-round pick and the Ravens compared to the alternative of season-ending ACL reconstruction.

With Thursday’s news, the Ravens still envision Perriman and veteran newcomer Mike Wallace becoming a dangerous downfield duo for quarterback Joe Flacco this season.

“You just feel for him and especially feel for him to not even be able to get his feet wet yet,” said Wallace about the second-year receiver. “He was just telling me last week how excited he was for this upcoming season. And we’re still hopeful that he’ll be back soon. We’re going to stay prayed up and keep hope alive for him, and I think hopefully he’ll be back at some point this season to help us.”

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Tuesday surgery to reportedly decide Perriman’s 2016 fate

Posted on 13 June 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are holding out hope that wide receiver Breshad Perriman won’t miss a second straight season with a knee injury.

According to ESPN, there is “absolutely” a chance that the 2015 first-round pick could still play this season if Tuesday’s arthroscopic surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews determines he doesn’t need reconstruction of the partially-torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. If reconstruction isn’t required, NFL Network reported that a stem-cell injection could aid in the healing of the ACL, a treatment that was also used for the partially-torn posterior cruciate ligament in Perriman’s right knee last year.

Of course, the odds are still against Perriman as most “partial” ACL tears still lead to the same reconstruction procedure that would end his 2016 season. The critical questions are how stable and functional the knee is after the injury and how quickly he heals as it was no secret that the Ravens were frustrated by his slow recovery last year.

The Ravens begin their three-day mandatory minicamp on Tuesday with head coach John Harbaugh expected to address the media after practice.

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Ravens lose needed upside with Perriman’s latest injury

Posted on 13 June 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are better equipped to handle Breshad Perriman’s absence than they were a year ago when he was their only hope in replacing Torrey Smith.

But that doesn’t make his latest knee injury any less disappointing for both him and the Ravens as they try to bounce back from a 5-11 season. We’re still waiting to see how Perriman’s skills translate to the NFL, of course, but that kind of upside is what Baltimore was counting on to help return to the playoff picture in the AFC after a one-year absence.

Perriman’s injury hardly ruins their season, but the Ravens have now lost a potential solution to a problem that plagued them a year ago. Even before the many injuries that sent the 2015 season spiraling out of control, John Harbaugh’s team lacked game-changing talent on either side of the ball, too often leaving the Ravens on the losing end of close games.

Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman and quarterback Joe Flacco will now lean more heavily on veteran newcomer Mike Wallace, a former 1,200-yard receiver coming off the worst season of his career. To be fair, the 29-year-old wasn’t a good fit in Minnesota with Teddy Bridgewater’s limited throwing arm, but Wallace’s career hasn’t exactly been trending in the right direction since leaving Pittsburgh a few years ago.

The combination of Perriman and Wallace made you salivate about the deep-ball potential with Flacco’s strong arm, but the Ravens will likely now take a longer look at fourth-round rookie Chris Moore, another vertical threat out of Cincinnati. Perhaps Moore is a diamond in the rough who can pair nicely with Wallace, but neither possesses the same apparent ceiling as the speedy Perriman.

When you’re coming off a 5-11 season, you need game-changing talent. The Ravens have enough solid-to-good players on this roster, but first-round picks are supposed to have the potential to become great ones, which is what general manager Ozzie Newsome envisioned when he took Perriman last year to compete in a division that has such game-changing receivers as Antonio Brown and A.J. Green.

That’s why the 22-year-old’s latest setback stings for a roster with aging players at a number of key positions. Perriman was himself still an unknown, but the Ravens hoped he would be a major answer at wide receiver, a position where there are other options but plenty of questions.

Will Steve Smith still look like the same player at age 37 and coming off an Achilles tendon injury?

Can Kamar Aiken prove last year’s production wasn’t merely the result of Ravens quarterbacks having no one else to throw to in the second half of the season?

Does Wallace still have the ability to hurt opposing defenses in the vertical passing game?

Will anyone from the group of Moore, Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, Keenan Reynolds, and Chris Matthews emerge to be a bigger force than expected?

If the Ravens were coming off their typical season under Harbaugh in which they made the playoffs and were firmly in the AFC title hunt, Perriman’s injury would be a bummer but calmly received with the “next man up” mantra. But a lot of ground needs to be made up when you’re coming off the type of season Baltimore had in 2015.

The Ravens need high-impact talent to emerge and the ball to bounce their way in 2016 after a season in which seemingly everything went wrong.

Perhaps they will still find their answers elsewhere, but it hurts to again lose a talent envisioned as such a difference-maker.

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Ravens receiver Perriman suffers partial ACL tear in left knee

Posted on 11 June 2016 by Luke Jones

After missing his entire rookie season with a right knee injury, Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman has reportedly sustained a serious injury to his left one.

As first reported by ESPN, the 2015 first-round pick suffered a partially-torn anterior cruciate ligament during the final week of organized team activities. Perriman will visit Dr. James Andrews on Monday to determine whether he needs season-ending surgery.

Perriman participated in Tuesday’s OTA open to media and had been running at full speed, sprinting right past Baltimore defensive backs on several occasions during the practice. However, the injury occurred in one of the remaining days closed to the media.

The 22-year-old said last month he felt “like a kid in a candy store” being back on the football field after his lost rookie year and a difficult offseason in which his father — former NFL wideout Brett Perriman — nearly died from a brain aneurysm.

The Central Florida product sustained a partially-torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the first full-squad day of training camp last summer and then experienced a setback after briefly returning to practice in late September. He was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Nov. 17.

The Ravens were hoping that the return of Perriman coupled with the free-agent addition of veteran Mike Wallace would add much-needed speed to a passing game lacking explosiveness in 2015.

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Five Ravens questions ahead of mandatory minicamp

Posted on 10 June 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will hold their three-day mandatory minicamp in Owings Mills next week, giving us our final look at John Harbaugh’s team before the beginning of training camp in late July.

Below are five questions pertaining to the Ravens as they conclude spring workouts:

1. How will Eugene Monroe look and where will he fit in?

We’ve heard at length — and then some — about the maligned left tackle’s stance on medical marijuana this offseason, but he revealed this week via Twitter that he’s finally been cleared to play after undergoing shoulder surgery in December, meaning he should be on the field for mandatory minicamp. It was telling how coach John Harbaugh alluded to 2016 first-round pick Ronnie Stanley playing exclusively at left tackle during organized team activities, so what will that mean with Monroe back at practice this coming week? Many continue to doubt whether the oft-injured veteran will be on the roster come September, but it will be interesting to see how he’s handled in the meantime.

2. Will Terrell Suggs break his lengthy silence?

It’s been nine months since the outside linebacker tore his left Achilles tendon in the fourth quarter of the season-opening loss to Denver, and we’ve yet to hear from him to any meaningful degree regarding his health and where he stands mentally entering his 14th year in Baltimore. The Ravens have given no indication that the 33-year-old will be on the field for minicamp, but he has been at the team’s Owings Mills facility working out during OTAs, an encouraging sign in terms of where he is mentally for the 2016 season. Considering how introspective he was talking about the twilight of his career a year ago, Suggs will inevitably be asked whether this could be his final year whenever he does talk to the media.

3. How are the reps divided for the Ravens’ deep group of tight ends?

Crockett Gillmore saying Baltimore had the best collection of tight ends in the NFL sparked debate, but it was interesting how he acknowledged that the Ravens will likely be forced to let go of a couple NFL-caliber tight ends due to numbers. Gillmore, veteran Benjamin Watson, and 2015 second-rounder Maxx Williams are roster locks, but the Ravens must evaluate what kind of player Dennis Pitta is after two serious hip injuries and have intriguing young options in converted receivers Darren Waller and Daniel Brown and the suspended Nick Boyle. With Watson possibly only in Baltimore one year and Pitta’s health a major question, you’d hate to lose a promising option or two for the future.

4. What will Breshad Perriman show us over the three-day period?

Though the 2015 first-round pick was a full participant in both OTA days open to media, it will be interesting to see how he performs over three full-squad practices next week. Perriman looks healthy as he easily sprinted past defensive backs on several occasions on Tuesday, but his development is far from finished after missing so much time with the knee injury during his rookie season. Maybe it’s putting too much pressure on a 22-year-old who’s been through a lot this offseason, but you can’t help but think Perriman could be one of the biggest X factors in determining whether the Ravens return to being a dangerous playoff contender in 2016 or are more of a team fighting to finish .500 or so.

5. Can Trent Richardson provide some substance to accompany the attention he’s received?

We always look for captivating stories at this slow time of year in the NFL, but the attention being paid to a player who was out of the league entirely during the 2015 regular season has felt excessive, especially when there are five running backs ahead of him on the depth chart. Anyone can appreciate a redemption story, but Richardson already tweaked a hamstring before OTAs even began and rarely showed good field vision in Cleveland or Indianapolis when those teams weren’t already displeased with his weight and conditioning. It’s admirable for Richardson to have goals that still include making the Hall of Fame, but there was a reason no one wanted him after being cut by Oakland last summer.

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Flacco remains on track to be ready for training camp

Posted on 07 June 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh continues receiving the question and again provided the same answer regarding the status of Joe Flacco on Tuesday.

How is the franchise quarterback progressing with his surgically-repaired left knee?

“He’s ahead of schedule, just as he has been,” said Harbaugh while smiling. “He’ll be here for training camp. The big thing is no setback. He was running out here — he’s been running. I saw him running and I’m like, ‘Man, you’re running!’ I didn’t know he was doing [as much as] what he was doing. I hadn’t seen him run really. He was running more than I thought, so it looked good.

“That [progress evaluation is] with the training room and the strength and conditioning coaches. I feel like it’s going well.”

The 31-year-old is still less than seven months removed from tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee, but the Ravens remain confident that he will be back on the practice field this summer in plenty of time to get ready for the 2016 season. Flacco had never missed a game prior to injuring his knee in the final moments of a 16-13 win over St. Louis on Nov. 22, 2015.

He underwent surgery on Dec. 8 and has now been running for a couple months.

In addition to Flacco, linebackers Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon) and Elvis Dumervil, wide receivers Steve Smith (Achilles tendon) and Michael Campanaro (calf), cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (foot) and Kyle Arrington, and offensive linemen Marshal Yanda and Eugene Monroe were not on the field for Tuesday’s organized team activity open to reporters. As he did during the first week of OTAs, Suggs was rehabbing and working out at the team’s Owings Mills training facility during the practice.

Rookie defensive end Bronson Kaufusi remains sidelined with a back injury suffered during last month’s rookie camp. Harbaugh confirmed that he is not expected to return until training camp, which will put the third-round pick behind veteran Lawrence Guy and 2014 fourth-round pick Brent Urban in the competition for the starting 5-technique defensive end job.

“I don’t think he’ll probably practice,” Harbaugh said. “They told us that when it happened that it was going to be a [lengthier absence]. He kind of wrenched his back for lack of a better term. He will definitely be back in training camp. He’ll be training hard here between now and then.”

In positive injury news, running backs Kenneth Dixon and Trent Richardson both returned to the practice field after sitting out the first week of OTAs with hamstring injuries.

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One-time Raven and Gilman grad still making mark in Baltimore

Posted on 05 June 2016 by Luke Jones

Strive to be the owner, not just a player.

That’s one of the key messages former Ravens linebacker and Gilman grad Brandon Copeland tries to convey when speaking to youth who are aspiring to be professional athletes. The Detroit Lions linebacker wants kids to know that their options stretch beyond the dream of playing professional football.

“Let’s set our dreams high. You know there’s a guarantee that football won’t last forever,” said Copeland, who graduated with an economics degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2013 and interned on Wall Street. “Let’s set ourselves up so that no matter what, we’ll be able to provide the lifestyle we want for ourselves and our families.”

Fulfilling a dream to give back to his local community, Copeland will host Beyond the Basics, a free football camp open to kids in grades seven through 11 at Utz Field in Patterson Park on Saturday, July 9. Online registration is available at www.bcopeland.com with same-day registration taking place at 8:30 am before the camp takes place from 9 a.m. to noon.

In addition to traditional drills and activities you’ll find at many football camps, the day will focus on teaching young players other practice and training methods to use individually before their season begins. A speed trainer and a strength and conditioning coach will be on hand for instruction.

A group of current and former Ravens including Torrey Smith, Jameel McClain, Jeremy Butler, and Carl Davis are scheduled to attend to help out, but other volunteers include fellow Gilman products and NFL players Darius Jennings and Cyrus Jones as well as friends and former teammates of Copeland who are serving in other career fields. It is Copeland’s hope that the latter individuals can leave as big of an impression as the NFL players on hand for the camp.

“My biggest goal with the kids is we’re all in our volunteer t-shirts and having fun and playing with the kids,” said Copeland, who signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2013 but was released at the end of that preseason. “The kids are going to say, ‘Oh man, this one guy is cool. This guy must play for [some NFL team].’ Then, they’ll come to find out this guy’s a lawyer. Maybe a kid says, ‘Maybe I’ll start looking into law school a little bit.’

“My thing is giving kids role models outside of the box of [only] an NBA player or an NFL player or a professional athlete.”

In addition to the on-field activities, MedStar Orthopaedics is providing a date for campers to receive free physicals while Under Armour and Living Classrooms have also made extensive contributions.

The grandson of former Baltimore Colts defensive end Roy Hilton, Copeland provides his own inspirational story that can be a lesson to his campers. Despite spending much of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 on the practice squad of the Tennessee Titans, the 6-foot-3, 248-pound linebacker was released in September and remained unsigned for the remainder of the 2014 season. After taking part in last year’s veteran combine — which wasn’t held this offseason — Copeland was one of only two participants to make a 2015 regular-season roster and would appear in all 16 games as a reserve with the Lions last season, collecting 14 tackles and a half sack.

Though his Ivy League education left him prepared to move on from football, Copeland wasn’t ready to relinquish his dream of playing in the NFL.

“I was counted out. I was the underdog. I sat at home for a whole year unemployed,” said Copeland, who described himself as a late bloomer both physically and as a football player. “I went to the vet combine. It was my last straw. I remember the first thing they told us, ‘Most of these scouts think that they’re here for no reason.’ Fortunately, I came out of it with a few job offers. I work every single day to keep it going.

“I’m going to go home and give back and try to at least say what’s on my heart to the kids while I have this platform today.”

Unlike many camps that are open to younger ages, the 24-year-old chose to focus on junior high and high school kids who are facing more immediate pressure to make good choices for the future.

While he is using football as the fun hook to get their attention, Copeland wants kids to know there’s an entire world out there beyond what may or may not happen for them on the field over the next few years.

“They’re at a very impressionable age,” Copeland said. “They’re at the age range where you’re either setting up your life or hurting your potential. Football for me in high school was a means to an end, not the end-all, be-all. There are other things in this world besides football.”

Register online for Beyond the Basics at www.bcopeland.com

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