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Undrafted Rookie Patrick Mekari Steps Into Center Role


Being thrown into the fire doesn't sum up Patrick Mekari's first extensive NFL action. The undrafted rookie got dropped into a volcano on Monday Night Football.

When Ravens starting center Matt Skura suffered a knee injury early in Sunday's game, Mekari was called on to step in.

Who did he have to go against? Oh, just arguably the best defensive football player on the planet – Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

Offensive linemen don't get stats, but here's one that shows how well Mekari handled his debut. Donald – the back-to-back NFL Defensive Player of the Year – was credited with just one assisted tackle all night.

"I was ready," Mekari said. "I knew with the interior three, whatever happened, I'm the next guy up. And the time presented itself and I just wanted to go in there and make it happen and come out with the win and just help my team."

Mekari will now be called on a lot more, as Skura has been placed on injured reserve and will miss the remainder of the season. Mekari will be tasked with making sure the red-hot Ravens offense doesn't slow down on his watch.

Mekari came out of nowhere this offseason to make the 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie – just like Skura. Now he's playing out of his natural position.

The last time Mekari was a starting center was in high school. He was a guard and tackle at the University of California, Berkeley. Mekari played some center in the preseason and has been practicing there, but he's still learning the position on the fly.

Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday night's performance said a lot about Mekari and Offensive Line Coach Joe D'Alessandris.

"To step in there and still play at that high level ... I mean, Matt Skura was playing at a very high level. It looks Patrick did the same, there was no drop off at all.," Harbaugh said. "Rookie ... it says a lot."

According to Pro Football Focus, Mekari played 61 of the Ravens' 77 offensive snaps and gave up just two quarterback hurries. He also helped open holes for a running game that posted a season-high 285 rushing yards against a strong defensive front.

Mekari's progress this season will be crucial, as the Ravens' offense is so sharp in part because of the precise timing of motions and top-notch ball handling. Lamar Jackson and his center have to be on the same page. Baltimore cleaned up a lot of last year's fumbling issues, and Mekari will have to continue that if he's the starter moving forward.

Mekari said when he got in the huddle for his first play, he told Jackson he was ready for whatever. He's the same age as Jackson, both 22, and has been amazed watching how Jackson leads the team.

"I would do anything for that guy," Mekari said. "The fact that he did so great, it's awesome. It's awesome to be part of it."

Mekari's family is from Lebanon and fled to the Los Angeles area. Mekari had close to 40 people at Monday night's game. The last college game he played for Cal was at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – where he got his first extensive NFL action.

After the game, Harbaugh gave several game balls to players with ties to Los Angeles. Better bet Mekari will treasure the one handed to him.

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