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Mike Wallace bounces back after failing conditioning test

By Todd Karpovich, The Sports Xchange
Mike Wallace bounces back after failing conditioning test
Former Minnesota Vikings receiver Mike Wallace. Photo by Art Foxall/UPI | License Photo

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The biggest adjustment for veteran wide receiver Mike Wallace has been the intensity of the Baltimore Ravens training camp.

Wallace, who signed a two-year, $11.5 million deal in the offseason, learned a hard lesson about that challenge on the first day when he failed his conditioning test. This initially raised some questions about his dedication and apparently raised the ire of Ravens coach John Harbaugh

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When asked if Wallace was close to passing the test, Harbaugh replied, "I'm not going to get into all that. Either you pass it or you don't."

Wallace, however, bounced back, passed the test and has shown in early practices that he can be a dominant receiver for quarterback Joe Flacco. In the third and fourth days of camp, Wallace made several exceptional catches and showed glimpses of the speed that should provide Baltimore with a much-needed downfield threat.

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For now, Wallace admittedly is still adjusting to his new surroundings and life with Harbaugh.

"Every coach has their different thing that they do," Wallace said. "Coach [John] Harbaugh is definitely one of the most intense coaches in the league, so our practices are going to be the same way. He's not letting up. I don't even put that in my mind of any day being easy. It's going to be hard. It's a grind, but we wouldn't have it any other way. I don't think you can have easy training camp and be a good football team. It has to be tough."

Wallace is expected to play a vital role entering the regular season opener Sept. 11 against Buffalo, especially with the uncertainty surrounding former first-round pick Breshad Perriman, who missed the entire 2015 season with a knee injury. Perriman suffered another knee injury in offseason workouts and may not return to the field until later this month.

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Chris Moore, a fourth-round pick from the University of Cincinnati, is also expected to provide a downfield threat. However, he has been out with what Harbaugh described as "a little tweak."

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This creates a bigger opportunity for Wallace to entrench himself in that starting spot. Over his seven-year career, Wallace has 414 receptions for 6,307 yards and 49 touchdowns. He is trying to rebound from last season when he tied a career-low for receptions (39) and had his fewest touchdowns (two) in 16 games for the Minnesota Vikings.

He is confident those stats will improve with Flacco under center.

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"The play-calling is just aggressive, and that's what I was looking for," Wallace said. "I've been on some great teams. My quarterbacks before were really good quarterbacks. I have no problems with those guys. It's just this style of offense fits what I want to do."

Wide receiver is one of the most intriguing battles at the Ravens training camp. Baltimore will likely enter the regular season with Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Wallace, Perriman and Moore on the final roster. This leaves Michael Campanaro, converted quarterback Keenan Reynolds, Jeremy Butler, Chris Matthews and Kaelin Clay fighting for one of the final spots.

Wallace is beginning to separate himself by his work on and off the field. Wide receivers coach Bobby Engram has been impressed with the veteran so far.

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"I have no problems with his work ethic," Engram said. "I think he was a little frustrated by not making the test. It's a tough test, but I think he learned a lesson. Having this many years under his belt, you can still learn as a player of things you can do better. I'm excited to have him here."

NOTES: LB Kamalei Correa has been taking snaps with the first team. The rookie, who was a second round pick out of Boise State, is expected to provide a boost to the Ravens' pass rush. Correa has mostly been used at inside linebacker and his size (6-foot-3, 250 pounds) makes him a formidable presence. "As a rookie, with my mindset, I'm coming in here, I'm not trying to overstep any veteran," Correa said. "I'm just trying to do my job as best I can and if these coaches feel like I am ready to run with the 1's, I'm going to do what they say. I'm trying to keep a job." ... K Justin Tucker is showing the Ravens they made the right choice by signing him to a four-year, $16.8 million contract just hours before the July 15 deadline for long-term deals for franchise players. Tucker has already hit a 69-yard field goal on the fourth day of training camp. ... WR Chris Moore, a fourth-round selection from the University of Cincinnati, has been one of the early surprises of training camp. On the second day, he beat veteran quarterback Jimmy Smith for a 60-yard touchdown on a deep pass from quarterback Joe Flacco. Moore, however, has missed the past several practices with "a little tweak." ... TE Dennis Pitta appears he has put two devastating hip injuries behind him. Pitta has gotten up from several hard hits and has caught almost every pass thrown his way. During the team's first practice at M&T Bank Stadium, Pitta sprained a finger on his right hand during a scuffle between the offense and defense. ... CB Maurice Canady, a sixth-round pick from Virginia, has shown signs he could make an impact in his first year. Canady has shown an ability to find the ball in the secondary. However, he has been out with an undisclosed issue. Ravens coach John Harbaugh would not elaborate on Canady's situation. ... DT Timmy Jernigan is emerging as one of the top defensive lineman in the league. The durable defensive tackle has been dealing with a rib issue and has missed practice time. The injury, however, is apparently not serious. ... LB Patrick Onwuasor is turning some heads with his aggressive play. The undrafted rookie defensive tackle has made some big hits, including one on fullback Kyle Juszczyk during an 11-on-11 drill that prompted a minor scuffle. Juszczyk didn't appreciate it and got in his face as the two were quickly separated. Onwuasor also knocked rookie running back Kenneth Dixon out of practice with a hit out of bounds. Finally, Onwuasor also had to be separated from second-year running back Javorius "Buck" Allen during a team drill.

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