Every team needs a Swiss Army Knife. The Ravens have Patrick Ricard

Andrew Gillis
NBC Sports Washington

BALTIMORE - When defensive tackle Patrick Ricard recovered a fumble at the beginning of the third quarter, he turned toward the sideline and immediately realized his personnel group was being called. He had to stay on the field - this time as a fullback.

Ricard has been a swiss army knife of sorts in the preseason for the Ravens, playing in a variety of situations. In Thursday's 26-13 win over the Green Bay Packers at M&T Bank Stadium, he did just about everything imaginable. 

The third-year veteran made one tackle on defense and was disruptive in the backfield on a handful of others. He carried the ball twice for four yards and was a lead blocker as a fullback on multiple plays. In the team's second preseason game, he was on the field from nearly start to finish.

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"He has been very versatile," coach John Harbaugh said. "He's in the backfield quite a bit on defense, he's in the backfield quite a bit on offense. That's a good balance, I guess. He has played well, and he's really establishing himself as a really valuable part of our team."

Last week against the Jaguars, he played seven snaps on offense, 14 on defense and one on special teams. Against the Packers, he played nearly 20 snaps - double what he did on offense and got significant time on the defensive line.

"I've been doing it for so long, I do everything in practice," Ricard said. "You kind of have to switch (mentalities) a little bit, but at the same time, when I'm on offense I bring my defensive mentality to offense and then vice versa. When I'm on defense, I understand offenses better because I play in this offense."

The only issue, however, is how many snaps he's on the field. Harbaugh said there's not a set limit to offensive or defensive snaps, it's just when he's needed on the field.

"No, just when he starts looking like he's really gassed, we try to give him a break," Harbaugh said. "He recovered a fumble, he came off, and when his personnel group was called, he kind of looked up. It was like, ‘Dude, this is what you wanted. Get out there.' He did well."

An undrafted free agent in 2017 out of Maine, he played in all 16 games his rookie season. Last year, he played in just 10. But entering 2019, his reps are expanding on both sides of the ball.

In the team's first preseason game, he had two sacks. Thursday, with an expanded role, he found himself more involved on the offense and nearly just as big of a factor on the defense. 

"This is my third year of doing it, so it's kind of all I really know," Ricard said. "It gets a little exhausting, especially in the third quarter when I'm going back and forth the whole time. That's what I'm here to do, so I just have to mentally stay tough and get my breath back and try to recover as much as I can when I'm on the sideline. Whenever they want me in, I have to go in and play as hard as I can."

Fatigue aside, Ricard has been able to play his skillsets off of one another as he improves on both sides of the ball.

"For the most part, I kind of understand schemes more and things defensive guys might not because they've never had offensive exposure," Ricard said. "At first, it was weird to switch my brain back and forth because it's slightly a different mentality. Offense is more of like, using your brain more with more composure. Defense is more like, attack your thing and just go. But I'm getting better with transitioning."

He's also picked up some knowledge on the offensive side of the ball, which has helped him have the strong start to the preseason that he's had. 

"When I'm on the D-line, and they're making all of their calls and all their checks, I understand it more because when I'm playing fullback, I have to listen to the center make our call and who they're Mike-ing, Lion calls," Ricard said. "When I'm on defense I'm like, ‘Alright, I'm pretty sure where I know the play is going.'"

Additionally, with every team in a roster crunch each August, he's been able to take up two spots at both fullback and on the defensive line. He's become a key fixture for the Ravens, as he'll hold two spots on the roster by himself.

He's played offense for a few years in Baltimore, where he's firmly settled into a role where he's ready to be on the field - on offense, defense or special teams - no matter when his number is called.

"My answer always is whatever gets me on the field at this point," Ricard said with a smile. "I (just) like playing football, it's fun. Defense is just different, especially this defense. Last year, we were ranked No. 1 and it's a lot of fun. Whatever gets me on the field, I don't care."

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Every team needs a Swiss Army Knife. The Ravens have Patrick Ricard originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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