Ravens rookie Stanley settles in as starting left tackle
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Ronnie Stanley won't have the luxury of watching from the sideline to learn how to play left tackle in the NFL.
The Baltimore Ravens weren't looking for an apprentice when they nabbed Stanley out of Notre Dame with the sixth overall pick in the 2016 draft. They expected the 6-foot-6, 320-pounder to start somewhere, perhaps at guard or right tackle.
The recent release of Eugene Monroe, however, means Stanley now sits atop the depth chart at what is widely considered to be the most important position on the offense line.
Stanley's priority will be protecting quarterback Joe Flacco, who's returning from a serious knee injury that forced him to miss the final six weeks of the 2015 season. The last thing the Ravens need is for Flacco to get struck from the blind side, and Stanley knows it.
''It's been going good, but definitely I feel a lot of pressure,'' the rookie said after practice Wednesday. ''Being put in such a high-valued position of blocking for a player like Joe Flacco, I'm pretty much one of the five responsible for his well-being. But I think I can handle it.''
Fortunately for Stanley, he learned the finer points of the position within one of the most esteemed college football programs in the country.
While playing with the Irish under head coach Brian Kelly and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand – both of whom have NFL roots – Stanley made 26 consecutive starts at left tackle over his final two seasons.
''I want to give a ton of credit to coach Hiestand,'' Stanley said. ''He's done a tremendous job getting guys ready for what to expect.''
Two weeks into training camp, Stanley has handled every obstacle in his path – from learning the playbook to fending off defensive ends and linebackers.
''That's a premier position in the National Football League, and Ronnie continues to progress manning that job as a rookie,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ''He's doing well. All positive so far. Up to this point, he's proven to be up to the challenge.''
Stanley is receiving on-the-job training from one of the best linemen in the game, five-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda, who is thus far impressed with what he's seen.
''He has the right mindset. He is a hard worker and keeps his head down, and I love a rookie like that,'' Yanda said. ''I love a rookie that stays quiet and does his job and just produces on the field. Just do what you do on the field. He is doing everything the right way, so we will see.''
Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman agreed.
''He's had a very good start. He's got an excellent demeanor,'' Trestman said. ''He carries himself with a quiet confidence. He's doing good things over there, and he's just working to get better every day.''
Some rookies buy fancy cars and lavish homes after receiving their signing bonus. Stanley invested in items he hopes will make him a better player. He's hired a masseuse, a nutritionist and a personal trainer.
''I'm very blessed and fortunate to be able to afford those kinds of things,'' he said.
Stanley was on his own when it came to performing in the annual rookie show. He was forced to wear a chicken suit while singing ''Ignition Remix'' by R Kelly for the veterans.
Tough work, but he handled it like a pro.
''He sang his song. He got the guys singing along with him and having a great time,'' Harbaugh said. ''It's nice when you are a first-round pick, effectively kind of the leader of the rookie class, and make the statement: We'll have some fun, and I can fit in.''
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