After signing a three-year contract extension, Patrick Mekari remains willing to line up wherever the Ravens ask.
Mekari took over as the starting right tackle this season and has played at a high level despite having little experience at the position. It wasn't the original plan for Mekari to play right tackle, but with All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) out for the season after Week 1, Alejandro Villanueva moved from right tackle to left tackle and Mekari found his home on the right side.
If he remains at right tackle next season, Mekari is fine with that. But he can play all five positions on the offensive line, so if the Ravens ask Mekari to play guard or center in the future, he won't hesitate.
"My understanding is that I'm still employed by the Ravens, and whatever they ask me to do, that's my job," Mekari said.
"When Ronnie's injury happened, I kind of just got thrown into that position, and I just wanted to make the most of it. When I get an opportunity, I just want to capitalize on it, and that's what happened. I knew I could play tackle and guard and center – wherever they need me to play – but the circumstances this year just forced me into that position. And it's unfortunate that an injury had to happen for me to be in that position, but I'm grateful for where I'm at, and I just want to keep moving forward."
Head Coach John Harbaugh said Mekari's success at right tackle this season does not change the team's outlook on where he fits long-term. Baltimore also has Stanley, Villanueva and Ja'Wuan James under contract for next season.
"I think a big part of his value is that he can do all the jobs," Harbaugh said. "That's a talent. That's not something that you see every day. It's not always celebrated, but that kind of versality is a big plus in a football team, especially on the offensive line. So, no – I think we see him exactly the same way as we did before, and we see that he has excellent value.
"He's the best. He's one of the best guys you'll ever come across. He does all the things that if you're a young player and you want to look at how to be successful in the National Football League, what priorities [to have], how to organize yourself, how to work [and] how to make the most of yourself as a football player, he's the guy to look at, because he does it perfectly, day-in and day-out. I just have great admiration for him, great respect for him. [I'm] very happy for him; it's well-deserved."
Money Won't Change Mekari's Mindset
Mekari signed his new contract wearing a blue collar work shirt with his name on it, perfect for a blue collar guy.
After being undrafted and entering the NFL with plenty of doubters, his attire when signing his contract was not a coincidence.
"That's kind of what the team embodies, we're just hardworking people," Mekari said. "When they told me I had to go up and sign, I was just getting ready for practice. I thought at least I should have something [like] a button-up shirt on. So, I looked in my locker, saw the button-up shirt, I said, 'This will be perfect.'
"I'm still undrafted. That doesn't change, so the mindset stays the same – that I still have to get better, still have to prove myself every day – and I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Many players have a specific purchase in mind to make after signing a new deal, but not Mekari. Don't worry about him splurging on anything frivolous, staying true to his nature.
"If it was really up to me, I'd get a coffee can, I'd put the money in it, and I'd put it underneath my bed," Mekari said. "But my financial advisor does not advise me to do that."
With the Ravens fighting to make the playoffs, Mekari's mind is on Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Rams.
In 2019, Mekari became the starting center after Matt Skura suffered a major knee injury against the Rams. Mekari stepped in and played well against All-Pro Aaron Donald, holding him to just one tackle and no sacks. Two years later, Mekari is facing the Rams again, just days after signing a new contract.
It seems playing the Rams brings major change in Mekari's life, but he's not getting caught up in the symbolism.
"We're just very focused on the game we have ahead," Mekari said. "I haven't really thought about the correlation – that was my first game and now I signed a new contract [before] this game – but we're just looking forward to this week. They're a great opponent, it's a great challenge, and I'm excited to go out there and play."
Tyler Huntley Says COVID-19 Took a Toll
Tyler Huntley returned to practice Thursday and says he'll be ready to start Sunday if Lamar Jackson can't. However, Huntley said he had symptoms last weekend when he missed the Cincinnati Bengals game on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
"I had some tough symptoms," Huntley said. "It really hit me Friday. It was very hurting that I couldn't go to the game, and then, too, it was Christmas when I found out I was positive, so it was a tough little weekend for me. But I'm feeling way better now."
Huntley has responded with poise whenever called upon this season, and says he won't play tentatively if he starts Sunday in a must-win situation.
"I'm treating it just like another week," Huntley said. "We've just got to get a win."
Reports: David Sharpe Will Be Signed to 53-Man Roster
Offensive tackle David Sharpe will be signed to the 53-man roster from the practice squad, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported.
Guard/tackle Tyre Phillips (knee) was placed on injured reserve Thursday, so Sharp would add depth to the Ravens offensive line, particularly as a backup tackle. Sharpe has already seen action in one game this season, playing off the bench at right tackle against the Green Bay Packers.