Chuck Clark has a new running mate at safety, but one who he knows very well.
Clark was drafted in the sixth round in 2017, a year before DeShon Elliott was drafted in the sixth round in 2018. When Elliott joined the team, he was used to playing, not sitting on the bench waiting for his turn.
However, Elliott learned patience from Clark, who was also waiting for his opportunity behind Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson. Clark and Elliott studied film together. They became friends. Clark encouraged Elliott when he suffered season-ending injuries in both 2018 and 2019.
"For me and him to both be able to finally be on the big stage together, we're going to make some noise out there," Elliott said. "I trust him; he trusts me. We love each other, so I know we're going to play for each other, and we're [not going to] let each other down."
Their bond is strong. Now that Elliott has moved into the starting lineup next to Clark, Elliott is inspired to show his friend that all the time he spent mentoring Elliott will pay off.
"Chuck was there to help me and guide me all along," Elliott said. "I learned how to grow from him. Watching his success and watching how hard he worked … I just want to be a part of that. Chuck's my dog. I rock with Chuck. Win or lose, I'll always rock with Chuck."
Clark is confident Elliott is ready for his expanded role, and part of that belief comes from the relationship they have.
"Me and DeShon, we communicate really well," Clark said. "He has a high motor, a lot of energy. When we're other there paired together, we gel. It's been like that. We've been out there running together with the two's before he even stepped into our roles as starters. We know how each other plays."
Highly-Respected Chuck Clark Is 'Moving Forward'
You don't have to be the loudest voice in the room to be the most respected. Clark carries that persona for the Ravens.
Clark wears the green dot on his helmet, given to the defensive player who relays calls from the bench to his teammates. He has steadily earned the respect of his teammates, working his way up in four seasons from sparingly used backup to key starter.
Even offensive players recognize the level of respect Clark has earned from his defensive teammates.
"Chuck's been kind of the guy, quietly on the defense, that guys go to," Andrews said. "He knows that defense incredibly well, and I'm not in those rooms or in those meetings, but those guys definitely respect him a ton. He's the guy that they go to when there's questions. He's a great player. There's really not much else to say."
After the release of Thomas on Sunday, Clark said that as a team and organization, "we're just moving forward and putting that situation in the rearview."
"I think that's what we stand on here – in our team and our organization – is that we're a family," Clark said. "We're down for each other. If you're down for the ultimate goal that we are about around here – and that's winning and trying to get a championship."
Mark Andrews Says Jimmy Smith Will Flourish Covering Tight Ends
Jimmy Smith has made a living for nine seasons at cornerback, defending a variety of wide receivers. Now that Smith expects to play both safety and corner this season, he's matching up against tight ends more frequently in practice.
Mark Andrews is certain that Smith can handle it. Andrews should know. He's a Pro Bowl tight end, and he's been enjoying his practice duels with Smith.
"Jimmy and I have had a really fun camp so far," Andrews said. "He's honestly a natural. He's going to flourish at the position. I've been against a lot of great players, and he's definitely very good at what he does. So, we've been battling it out, and it's been fun to be able to go against him. We're making each other better."
Head Coach John Harbaugh likes having a flexibility secondary because it gives the Ravens more opportunities to create matchups in their favor. Putting Smith at safety is another card Baltimore's defense will be able to play.
"He's been back there in certain packages, in certain coverages," Harbaugh said. "But we have good safeties. I like the guys we have."
Tight Ends Getting Paid Is a Movement Andrews Supports
Two of the NFL's top tight ends were rewarded with lucrative new contracts this offseason, George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers and Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs. Kittle got a five-year extension worth $75 million while Kelce got a four-year, $57 million extension.
Andrews is only in the third year of his rookie deal, so there is no rush to set the parameters for his second contract. But anytime someone in the top tight end fraternity gets paid, Andrews notices. And he's all in favor of tight ends climbing the NFL pay scale.
"Obviously you see it," Andrews said. "The tight end position is always pretty tight knit, so you're always rooting for other guys. Obviously, Kittle and Kelce are two of the best in the game. So, whenever they do something, whenever something happens, you're going to hear about that.
"It's good to see that the position is growing. Obviously, it's been underpaid for a long, long time. If you look at what they're doing – 1,300 yards the last couple years and they're blocking on top of that. They're having more yards than receivers and they're blocking, but they're getting paid less than receivers. So, it's good to kind of see that get re-upped. I was very happy for them."