During Organized Team Activities, one of the Ravens’ defensive linemen came up with a nickname for undrafted rookie Patrick Ricard: “Project Pat.”
It’s because the small-school Maine product was splitting his time between defensive end and fullback, trying to make a favorable impression wherever he could.
“Someone said it, and it stuck,” Ricard said. “Now everyone keeps saying it.”
That “project” has come far enough, however, that the Ravens gave Ricard a major vote of confidence when they added him to the 53-man roster. Despite not playing fullback since high school, Ricard is now the Ravens’ only fullback.
He’ll replace Pro Bowler Kyle Juszczyk, who departed for San Francisco in free agency. The Ravens had two other true fullbacks this summer, but Lorenzo Taliaferro was released and Ricky Ortiz landed on the practice squad.
Even though he still works with the defensive coaches after practice, Ricard said he’s getting more practice reps on offense now.
“It’s awesome,” Ricard said. “I just soak it in, like, ‘Man, I’m really in the huddle with Joe Flacco, Danny Woodhead and all these great receivers, the offensive linemen with Marshal Yanda.’ It’s cool.”
Ricard still could be a rare two-way player. According to ESPN Stats & Information, just five players over the past decade have logged more than 50 snaps on offense and defense in a single season.
The Ravens have a ton of depth on their defensive line, as they kept all eight players that worked with the team over the summer. Thus, Ricard may see more time at fullback.
Don’t expect Ricard to put up Juszczyk-like numbers, however. He's still not expected to have a large offensive role, and the Ravens could also still use tight end Nick Boyle at fullback.
Juszczyk was a versatile offensive weapon who caught 78 passes for 587 yards over the past two seasons. His 10-yard touchdown rumble against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Christmas Day nearly sent Baltimore to the playoffs.
Ricard will likely be mostly called on to win blocking battles with sheer size, strength and physicality. He’s 6-foot-3, 304 pounds and was bulldozing offensive linemen during training camp and preseason games. Linebackers won’t pose as much of a problem.
Ricard was one of three undrafted rookies to make the Ravens’ roster, joining cornerback Jaylen Hill and linebacker Bam Bradley. To make it at a position he hadn’t played in more than four years is even more astonishing.
So what would Ricard have thought if, when he first came to Baltimore, he was told he would be the Ravens’ starting fullback?
“I probably wouldn’t believe it,” he said. “I hadn’t played it since high school. Now that it’s happening, it’s crazy, but it is what it is and I’m just going to ride with it.”
And what does Ricard see as his long-term position? After thinking on it for a few seconds he shrugged his shoulders.
“I just want to play football, so any opportunity I have to play, I’m going to do it,” he said. “I don’t really think about it too much.”