The Ravens were shocked on draft night when safety Kyle Hamilton was available for them at pick No. 14.
They weren't the only ones. So was veteran safety Chuck Clark, when he saw Baltimore draft a safety in the first round.
"I was definitely surprised. I didn't know it was going to happen," Clark said. "But, right now we're just going with it."
Speaking for the first time this offseason, Clark was straight-forward about his feelings regarding the Hamilton addition and his unclear vision of what it means for his future in Baltimore. Clark confirmed that he requested a trade this offseason.
"Me personally, I just felt the situation that I was in, how things were going, of course, yeah I did ask, 'Can I get out of here?'" Clark said. "And so, I felt like that didn't happen and I wasn't just going to give away my spot. If I'm not going to be a starter, it's going to have to be taken from me."
Hamilton was the top safety in the draft and was viewed by many as a top-5 talent. The Ravens felt they couldn't pass him up, even though they already had Clark and had signed top free safety Marcus Williams in free agency.
That didn't mean it was an easy pill to swallow for Clark, who worked his way from a 2017 sixth-round pick into one of the team's most respected players. Clark has been a three-year starter and worn the "green dot" helmet relaying defensive calls.
After logging his trade request, Clark still reported for voluntary organized team activities. He still practiced hard every day. And day after day, Clark kept showing up around the ball. He kept doing his job, just as he's done for the past five seasons. As the Ravens approach Week 1 – less than three weeks away – it doesn't seem like Clark's starting status will change.
The Ravens could still use Hamilton in a variety of three-safety looks this season, giving them more versatility and ways to keep the opponent on its toes. New Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald plans to deploy Hamilton and Clark in various roles and packages. Asked if his role has changed in the revamped secondary, Clark said, "as of now, not really."
"I don't know what's going to happen moving forward, but I think that what you all have seen so far is how everyone has been in place," Clark said.
"There was definitely a time I didn't know what was going to happen, honestly. And whatever was to come with that was going to come. At one point I did feel that way, but now that I'm out here with my team, man, I'm just like … I'm here, I'm locked in. They're going to get what I got for right now. So, whatever comes in the future, that's what's going to come."
It's still clear that Clark is a key cog in the Ravens defense, which is looking to bounce back after finishing last in the league in passing yards allowed in 2021.
Clark has been one of the few Ravens players who has had any success stepping in against tight end Mark Andrews in one-on-one drills, and the safety has been around the ball a lot in training camp practice.
"I think slowing down the game and seeing route concepts and what they're about to be, for sure," Clark said of where he's improved. "In the past, I kind of knew when stuff would happen, but I was just playing ball. Now I can slow it down even more, and I think with every year that comes it just slows down even more for you."
Part of Clark's value also comes in the mentorship he provides off the field. One of the Ravens' biggest film nuts, he has helped Williams make the adjustment to Baltimore, which can be a more difficult transition than people recognize. Williams gradually made more and more plays in practices.
"He's definitely a playmaker on the back end, for sure," Clark said. "There have been some things that he's been able to teach me, and I've been able to teach him as well. So, it's been cool being back there with another guy that came in the same year as me, and just to see how our paths have gone and to finally meet up again."
When Hamilton made his first interception of Ravens training camp, Clark was still the first player off the sideline to congratulate the rookie. He's complimentary of the Notre Dame product who has all the tools but is still learning the game at the NFL level.
"He's a big body, for sure. He covers a lot of ground," Clark said. "He's young right now, but when he gets older … I mean, even right now, he's going to be good later this season and moving forward. So he's definitely going to be good.
"But sometimes I'm not really a verbal leader, honestly. I just kind of do things by action. However, a few guys gravitate around me, [we'll] keep it going."