The minute the Ravens released fullback Vonta Leach, rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk might as well have had a spotlight put on him.
Juszczyk, the 6-foot-1, 248-pound rookie fourth-round pick out of Harvard, now becomes the lead blocker for Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. Juszczyk, though, sees his role as much more than just the battering ram that Leach was.
Juszczyk could line up as a tight end, or split out of the backfield as an H-back. At times that was his role at Harvard. Juszczyk, who also played tight end at times and even slot receiver, caught 52 catches for 706 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior. But when the Ravens need him to lay a hat on someone, as they say, and open a hole for Rice, he is ready.
"I'm not thought of as a traditional fullback just because that's something I haven't done yet," Juszczyk (pronouced yous-check) told WNST Radio. "I think that's going to become a bigger part of my game as we move forward because we're going to need a guy who can do that. ... I feel I'm totally capable of doing just that thing. I do also think I bring more to the passing game."
"People don't tend to put a good route runner with a smash-mouth lead blocker," he added.
Leach was an occasional safety valve out of the backfield, and pity the defender who faced Leach as he squared his shoulders and turned upfield after catching the ball. Leach finished the regular season with 21 catches for 143 yards, and had 15 catches in 2011, his first season in Baltimore.
Juszczyk said the Ravens suggested he could have a dual role as a blocker and as a receiver, and through OTAs and the minicamps, that is how it played out.
There is still an entire training camp before Juszczyk suits up for his first official NFL game, but he said he is ready for a dual role in the Ravens backfield.
"Whenever there's something more on your plate you're going to have a little more pressure, but that's something that I've always kind of embraced," he said.
"I feel like that just shows the confidence they have in me."