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Rookie Safety Terrence Brooks Climbing Learning Curve

It's easy to watch rookie Terrence Brooks' impressive college highlights and eye-popping combine performance and say he'll be the Ravens' starting free safety in no time.

Baltimore needs a playmaker. The rookie has the skills.

But there's an essential part of the game that often gets overlooked: the learning.

It's quite a challenge for Brooks, or any rookie, to cram the intricacies of the Ravens defense in time to start on Sept. 7 against the Cincinnati Bengals. It's not to say it's impossible, but it's daunting.

That's why Brooks has his nose buried in his playbook this summer. For now at Ravens organized team activities (OTAs), he's been running primarily with the third-team defense behind veteran safeties Darian Stewart and Jeromy Miles.

"It really is a steep learning curve," Brooks said. "You've got to be the commander back there. They do so many formations and you've got to know each and every call and make sure the defense is set. It's a lot for the safeties. I feel like that's one of the hardest positions to learn out there on the field."

Brooks ran a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash at the combine. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder started 13 games for last year's national champion, Florida State. He made 56 tackles, defensed five passes and grabbed two interceptions.

Now it's a matter of Brooks turning that athleticism into making plays in the NFL. The third-round pick feels like he's come a long way since he first arrived in Owings Mills.

"I feel like I've got the playbook down pretty pat and now I feel like I'm able to play how I'm supposed to," he said.

When Brooks needs to ask a teammate for help, he goes to projected starting strong safety Matt Elam. Elam is a natural choice. He was in the same boat last year.

A first-round pick, Elam was seen as an immediate starter and competed with veteran Michael Huff throughout the summer. Huff ended up starting in Week 1 in Denver, but after some struggles, Elam replaced him late in the game and was the full-time starter from then on.

"I just try to keep him positive," Elam said. "The day he got drafted, I shot him a text and told him that it [isn't much] different from college – you just have to study. You have to study a little more and get a better understanding of the game."

Elam has been impressed with Brooks' movement. "He's very athletic. He's a Florida boy – it's in our water," he joked.

But more than athletic skill, it's going to take an understanding of the defense to fully show off those abilities.

"You have to have that confidence. That's what it's going to take in the back end," Elam said. "If you know what you're doing, you'll have confidence and you'll play fast. He's a very smart guy [that] knows what he's doing. All it's going to take is the confidence and him knowing that he can do it. … He can be great."

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