Heading into Vital Season, Kamalei Correa Has a New Mindset


Kamalei Correa was one of the few people left in Baltimore's locker room after a recent day of Organized Team Activities (OTAs).

The third-year linebacker was finishing up work in what is a critical offseason for him, and he recognizes the importance of putting in extra time over the next few months. 

"As soon as we started up again, my mindset was different this year," Correa said. "I knew I needed to work hard with everything I got because I'm not sure what the outcome is going to be this year. I've been coming in early, I've been leaving late."

Correa, a former second-round pick, is competing for a role on this year's team. He's played inside and outside linebacker over his first two seasons, but hasn't been able to step into a consistent contributing defensive role. 

Patrick Onwuasor won the weak-side linebacker spot last year, limiting Correa mostly to special teams. He finished the year with 15 total tackles and one pass defensed.  

As the Ravens look ahead to the 2018 season, Correa's spot is still in flux. He worked at inside linebacker during last week's OTAs when C.J. Mosley, Albert McClellan and Bam Bradley were all sidelined, but the coaches also want to get him reps at outside linebacker, where he thrived in college.

"I think everyone would agree that his natural position is probably on the edge – SAM, RUSH, coming off the edge," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He believes that, and that's where he starts. But I talked to him earlier this week. I said, 'Versatility is also your friend. If you can play every linebacker position for us, it is going to be a big edge.'"

Working as a jack-of-all trades linebacker is Correa's focus this spring. He has a better grasp of every linebacker position by nature of experience, and he wants to convince the coaching staff he can fill in wherever necessary.

Correa has also embraced special teams, which played a big part in him being active for all 16 games last year despite playing sparingly on defense.

He still has his eyes on a starting job, but competition will be stiff. He would have to unseat Onwuasor to win the inside job, and Terrell Suggs and Matthew Judon are both entrenched on the outside. Opportunity exists for Correa to work into a rotation, but he'll have to carve out that space during training camp and the preseason.

"This is the NFL. You have to get it by any means that you can, whether that's playing inside linebacker, outside linebacker, whether that's playing on special teams," he said. "If I'm out there on Sundays with my brothers just playing football, then I can't complain.

"Quite frankly, I'm going to work my butt off every single day – whether I'm playing inside or outside – I'm going to give this team the best effort that I can."

Correa and the Ravens have reason to hope he could still develop into a high-caliber player. Paul Kruger is a fairly recent example of a high draft pick at that position who took a while to make an impact. 

Kruger, also a second-round pick, had one sack over his first two seasons before breaking out for 14.5 over the next two years. He played a key part in getting the Ravens to Super Bowl XLVII – he had 4.5 sacks over that four-game postseason run – and then cashed in with a $40 million contract that offseason from the Cleveland Browns.

"For some guys, like myself, it didn't click right away, whether that's my first year, my second year. And I honestly couldn't tell you why it didn't click. It just wasn't my time," Correa said. "I'm just waiting my time, working hard every single day in the weight room, on the field and attacking every single day.

"If I work hard, I know it's going to pay off. And I'm just going to thank God for it. I know He's got a plan for me. And these past two years didn't work out, but it's not on my time, it's on His time. I'm hoping it's this year."

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