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Kamalei Correa Is Having '1,000 Times More Fun,' And It Shows


This time a year ago, it wasn't all that uncommon to hear Ravens linebacker Kamalei Correa getting an earful from a coach.

This year, it's a whole different story.

"I'm having 1,000 times more fun than I did last year," Correa said Thursday.

Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees bristled at labeling Correa's rookie season disappointing. After all, he was just a rookie. But there's no doubt that it was, at times, frustrating.

Correa came from a more simplistic defense at Boise State and had trouble learning the Ravens' complex system, especially since he bounced between multiple positions. He didn't take well to playing special teams.

As a result, the second-round pick played in just nine games and hardly saw any defensive action. He finished the year with four tackles.

"Last year was just a learning experience for me," Correa said. "It was a lot to take in, but it has nothing to do with the coaches.

"It was my fault. I didn't work hard enough. I didn't show them and they couldn't trust me to put me out there on the field. So I take that upon myself 100 percent, and I learned from it."

Now Correa is in line to be the Ravens' starting inside linebacker next to C.J. Mosley. Zachary Orr's sudden retirement because of a congenital spine/back condition opened the spot, and Correa has seized the opportunity thus far.

He began training camp with interceptions on back-to-back days. In Sunday's practice at M&T Bank Stadium, Correa knifed into the backfield to lay a huge hit on rookie running back Taquan Mizzell.

"It felt pretty good to get a good smack on a teammate," Correa said with a grin. "He actually got me a couple plays before that, so I had to make it even on him for sure."

Correa knows the defense a lot better now, which is enabling him to play faster. He's not thinking so as much. On a number of occasions, he's flown aggressively at the offensive line and made what would be stops in the backfield. He's done well when dropping into coverage as well.

When the Ravens drafted Correa last year, they raved about his attacking style of play. He careened downhill, found the ball carrier (or quarterback) and pounced.

Now Baltimore is going to see that on Sundays. Fellow inside linebacker and two-time Pro Bowler C.J. Mosley said he's seen "a lot" of improvement from Correa.

"It's all about being comfortable," Mosley said. "Once you have confidence and know the defense, the sky is the limit with your potential. He's been making plays all [through] OTAs and all through camp. You don't expect anything less with him."

Correa said the change on the field stemmed from his improvement off it. He reevaluated his rookie season and how he handled it while back home in Hawaii this offseason, and returned to Baltimore a more matured man.

"Honestly, it has nothing to do with on-the-field stuff. It's off-the-field stuff," Correa said. "It's being myself, being confident in me and who I am as a person. That's just going to translate to me being who I am on the field. I'm just having more fun with life in general."

"I'm really proud of him," Pees said. "I think he took a lot of criticism that I don't think he should have taken. I think he's bounced back from that."

Of course, Correa's work isn't done. The Ravens could still use veteran Albert McClellan next to Mosley. Correa made a statement with his play at the M&T Bank Stadium practice with 26,000 people in the stands. Head Coach John Harbaugh wants to see more.

"Kamalei has done really well – he's had a good camp," Harbaugh said. "The next stop, obviously, will be getting ready to play the first preseason game and play well there. It's a process, but he's on schedule."

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