The Baltimore Ravens were without one of their key defensive players when training camp started. Defensive tackle Michael Pierce was held from practice during minicamp because of weight issues. He made it his mission to come back for training camp ready to go.
Pierce reportedly shed between 20 and 30 pounds before reporting to training camp. The 2019 season is a pivotal one for Pierce as he is entering a contract year after signing with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2016.
He passed the conditioning test and took part in the first Ravens practice of training camp. Getting to the point of being able to pass the test didn't go unnoticed by head coach John Harbaugh.
"I'm very impressed with the progress Michael Pierce has made. He's lost a lot of weight. He lost the bad weight, not the muscle," Harbaugh said. "He passed the conditioning test, and I think that's quite an accomplishment."
There aren't many big men who can squat 725 pounds and do a perfect cartwheel. That's the kind of freakish athlete that Pierce is. With the minicamp and conditioning test ordeal behind him, Pierce can now go back to focusing using his rare blend of size, strength and athleticism to help Baltimore's defense.
Normally a six-foot, 340-pound man would be hard to overlook. But since Pierce doesn't fill up a box score, his impact tends to go unnoticed by casual observers of the game.
Pierce is a space-eating defensive tackle for the Ravens. He causes traffic jams at the line of scrimmage. The inside linebackers for the Ravens benefit from Pierce taking up blockers that would normally be an obstacle for them. They get clean, free shots at running backs allowing the linebackers to make plays on the ball.
The Ravens defense lost some of their leaders to free agency during the offseason. Pierce is in a position to be one of the new leaders on the defense. He is earning that title by being the first in line for drills.
Pierce apologized to his teammates for what happened in minicamp. Now he is letting his effort throughout practice speak for him and it shows he was sincere. Now, that's a leader!