OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — The horn ending practice had sounded long ago, and Mike Wallace was still hard at work.
Moving to his left, shifting to his right, Wallace stood in front of the machine as it spit out footballs. Catching with two hands, then with his left hand and the right, Wallace worked at his craft Wednesday until finally — as always — he was the last man off the field.
Wallace signed with Baltimore as a free agent in March looking to revive a career that stalled last year in Minnesota. Two weeks into the season, the move has worked for both the Ravens and the 30-year-old receiver.
Baltimore (2-0) has scored three touchdowns, all of them by Wallace. He caught a 66-yarder in a 13-7 win over Buffalo, then scored on passes of 7 and 17 yards to help the Ravens overcome a 20-point deficit and beat Cleveland 25-20.
They aren’t calling him Mr. Touchdown in the locker room heading into this week’s game at the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Wallace certainly has received a hearty welcome from a team he despised when playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Mike has been everything we expected and hoped for,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He just works really hard.”
Wallace knows all too well that fame can be fleeting. He enjoyed four solid seasons with the Steelers, performed well in relative obscurity with Miami in 2013 and 2014, then scored only two touchdowns last year with the Vikings.
He’s already surpassed that in two starts with Baltimore, which is why Wallace attracted a crowd of reporters and cameramen at his locker on Wednesday.
“I’ve seen the highs, I’ve seen the lows, I’ve seen how fast things can change on you,” he said. “So just like you’re all sitting here talking to me, I don’t buy into none of this. Next week you could be gone.”
That’s been the pattern in the eight years since he starred at Mississippi.
“I came in third-round pick, not much. I got a lot of love once I started making plays,” Wallace said. “But you don’t make a couple plays, it all turns around on you.”
Wallace has seven catches for 132 yards. Every one of his receptions has produced a first down or a touchdown. Although quarterback Joe Flacco has a variety of targets, including tight end Dennis Pitta and Steve Smith, none of them have been more productive than Wallace.
“I know he’s very confident and we want to keep him that way,” Flacco said. “We want to keep him juiced up and keep feeding him the ball. The more he continues to feel like that, the better it’s going to be for our team.”
During his days with the Steelers, Wallace and the Ravens had little love for each other. There were hard hits and trash-talking, boasts and taunts, leaving open the question of whether he could get along with his former enemy.
“It’s football. You leave it on the field unless it’s too serious,” he said. “When I got here, I had no doubt it would be a great fit. I knew from afar it was a great organization. It was easy for me to come here and just go with the flow.”
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