“That was the hardest six weeks of my life. I’ll just keep it real with y’all,” said the Notre Dame product with a chuckle.
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Sporting a chain and a t-shirt from his alma mater, Hayes spoke to media after Thursday’s practice about his time with the Ravens since being drafted in the fifth round in May.
“This was my childhood favorite team,” said Hayes, “it means everything to me to be out here with the vets, to be out here with the coaches.”
“I’m in class with eight of the best professors at football,” said Hayes, including Wilkins, who he called “one of the most brilliant football minds I’ve ever been around.”
Hayes Primed for a Strong Rookie Season
The Ravens drafted Hayes for the versatility he showed at Notre Dame, where he dropped into coverage, set the edge against the run, and pressured the quarterback.
But Hayes knows that he’ll have to take his game to the next level to succeed in the NFL, focusing on improving his coverage and pass rush skills in the preseason.
The results are already showing for Hayes, who made a number of highlight plays in the preseason, showing off his bend and flexibility to get to the quarterback.
When asked about his ‘dip’ move, Hayes responded, “This offseason I was really able to refine a couple moves that I could really utilize to make me more effective than I was in college. That move is just a culmination of so much hard work and dedication this offseason.”
He’s already started to earn the respect of the Ravens’ veterans after making the 53-man roster, which he called a “dream come true.”
The impact of his accomplishment fully set in when Hayes had a conversation with longtime team leader Anthony Levine Sr. and said “‘I guess y’all don’t do that on the Ravens,'” to which Levine responded, “‘Nah bro, we don’t do that, you’re a Raven.'”
“At that moment, hearing that from a vet, it was surreal to be a part of this brotherhood,” continued Hayes.
Hayes will look to carry his strong training camp into the regular season for the Ravens’ Week 1 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Ravens Re-Sign Pernell McPhee
Hayes will continue to learn from McPhee this season, as the veteran re-signed with the Ravens on Thursday.
Former Ravens wideout Torrey Smith, who won Super Bowl XLVII with McPhee, responded to the team’s announcement on Twitter.
McPhee was released on Tuesday as part of the Ravens’ 53-man roster cuts, but was widely expected to re-join the team after they moved players to the injured reserve list.
Once Miles Boykin and Rashod Bateman were placed on IR, McPhee’s re-signing became a formality, as he has been a steady contributor to the Ravens’ defense during both of his stints in Baltimore. He first arrived as a fifth-round draft pick, making multiple key plays in the Ravens’ Super Bowl run during his sophomore season.
McPhee signed with the Chicago Bears after his rookie contract expired, but injuries cut his tenure in the Windy City short. The Mississippi State product eventually returned to Baltimore in 2019, but a triceps injury ended his season in October.
He recorded 26 tackles and 19 pressures in 15 games for the Ravens last season, earning a 78.7 run defense grade from Pro Football Focus, good for 11th-best among all edge defenders.