The Ravens can count on cornerback Brandon Carr handling any situation with class, whether it's playing more in the slot or extending his consecutive game starting streak.
Tavon Young's season-ending neck injury will likely result in Carr playing more nickel corner, with Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith as the primary outside corners. Meanwhile, Carr enters the season having started 176 straight games, the longest active streak among non-quarterbacks in the NFL.
Is Carr worried about his starting streak ending at some point this season? He is far more concerned with helping the Ravens win.
"I can't control it," Carr said. "It's on the coaches. They'll let me know if I'm hopping out there to start the game. At this point of my career I would love to keep it going. I worked my butt off at the start of each every day.
"(But) my biggest goal right now is to win a Super Bowl. I've been playing for a long time and my family has sacrificed a lot for me. I think it's about time we make some noise and make a run this year. That's way more important, more of priority than trying to keep the streak alive. I'd gladly put that streak aside and take a ring on the way out. We'll figure it out."
Playing nickel cornerback is not foreign to Carr. He played there some last season, including extensively in the Ravens' playoff game, and his versatility has helped make him so valuable. The passing game has evolved during Carr's 11 seasons, with teams deploying three or four wide receivers more often, putting them in different formations to create mismatches. Putting Carr in the slot will test his coverage skills against a variety of receivers, but it will also put him closer the football where he can potentially make more plays.
"Now I have an opportunity to impact the run, closer to the ball," Carr said. "I stay ready for whatever. Wherever my number's called, whatever position on the field, I just go out and try to ball. The game is wide open. There's so many different formations, shifts and motions. Teams try to find the mismatch. I feel like I can cover anyone."
Chris Board Ready After Preseason Concussion
Chris Board is expected to be the new starting inside linebacker next to Patrick Onwuasor, which makes Sunday's season-opener even more special for Board. He suffered a concussion Aug. 15 against the Green Bay Packers, but Board has returned to health, overcoming that temporary setback.
If Board is nervous for his first pro start, he's not showing it. He made the 53-man roster last year as an undrafted free agent from North Dakota State, and now he's starting in the NFL.
"I'm definitely excited to come back and compete, playing football again," Board said. "I don't like watching. I played a lot of special teams last year. At the end of the day, football is football. I'm not really nervous, to be honest with you."
Patrick Ricard Key Piece in Defensive Line Rotation
With his strong play during the preseason, Patrick Ricard earned a spot on the 53-man roster and figures to play much more than last season. The Ravens are carrying just five defensive linemen, so Ricard could be part of the weekly rotation.
After spending the last month of the 2018 season inactive on game days, Ricard vowed to be a bigger part of the team this season.
"Being inactive really put a chip on my shoulder, and I came into this year knowing I had to give everything I have," said Ricard, who can also play fullback and serves as the team's fourth tight end. "This my third year now, my second year in this defense. I understand more and can play faster."
Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale loves the way Ricard is progressing.
"He had the best training camp that he's had up to date, and congratulations to him," Martindale said. "I've got a great deal of respect for Patrick, because he's come in there and won that spot. He's won this opportunity. He's worked his tail off to get to where he's at, and it's really cool as a coach to see somebody do that."
Ricard had two sacks during the preseason and believes he can be a consistent interior pass rusher.
"I love playing defense," Ricard said. "Wink let's us be ourselves in this defense; we're not robots out there. I think I showed during the preseason I can bring the rush from inside. I'm very excited for Sunday. It's going to mean a lot to me."
Cyrus Jones to Return Punts Sunday, Kickoff Returner Remains Under Wraps
Special Teams Coach Chris Horton said Cyrus Jones will return punts Sunday, but Horton would not reveal who would return kickoffs. Last year's returner, Chris Moore, rookie Justice Hill, and Jones are all candidates.
"We have guys that we can throw back there," Horton said. "Chris Moore has done an outstanding job for us. We love what Justice Hill brings. We gave Cyrus some opportunities in the preseason. So we'll go forward, and you guys will find out on Sunday."