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When the Baltimore Ravens two-way player Patrick Ricard found out the gyms were closing in his native Massachusetts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he decided to jump into action by building a gym in his home in Spencer.
“I had some unfinished space in my basement. So I went to Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart, and I have a friend who owns a Crossfit gym, and I bought some metal plates and dumbbells off him,” said Ricard, a former All-America defensive lineman at the University of Maine. “We have been doing virtual workouts on Zoom during our OTAs [Organized Team Activities].”
Ricard said he has been able to get in meaningful workouts as NFL players wait for the OK to return to team facilities. He is happy that he took action when it became apparent a long shutdown might be coming.
“You have to make sure you’re in good shape. Some guys didn’t think ahead and didn’t do anything and they will be at a disadvantage when we come back,” he said.
Ricard is confident the precautionary measures being taken are necessary and will result in a faster return to play.
“The NFL is doing everything it can to make it safe for the players, coaches and fans,” he said.
The ability to improvise is nothing new for Ricard. He maximized his potential at UMaine, which doesn’t have the same resources as many of its Colonial Athletic Association rivals. And David Prouty High in Spencer is a small school with approximately 300 students in a town of 12,000 people.
“It taught me that you have to work with what you have,” Ricard said. “Everything is earned, not given to you. You have to be creative and resourceful.”
He admits missing the Ravens’ training facility and training room at his disposal.
Ricard, who is preparing for his fourth NFL season, is coming off a memorable campaign. He earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl as the Ravens posted the best regular-season record in the league (14-2).
Baltimore was upset by Tennessee in the American Football Conference semifinals.
The 6-foot-3, 311-pound Ricard is a bruising blocker from his fullback slot and helped the Ravens lead the NFL in rushing yards (3,296), rushing yards per game (206) and yards per rush (5.5). The Ravens rushed for 991 yards more than their closest pursuer, the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers.
Baltimore led the NFL in points scored (33.2 ppg) and was second in overall yards per game (407.6) behind Dallas (431.5).
The undrafted free agent also caught a career-high eight passes for 47 yards and a touchdown while playing in all 16 regular-season games.
On defense, he made nine tackles, eight of which were solos, registered a sack, forced a fumble and had two quarterback hits.
His AFC Pro Bowl team beat the NFC 38-33 in Orlando, Florida.
He called the Pro Bowl experience surreal and said the players and their families were treated like royalty.
“We got a six-hour VIP tour of Disney World and passes to Universal Studios,” Ricard said. “There were free buffets throughout the park. I got to be around some amazing athletes like [Saints quarterback] Drew Brees and [Seahawks quarterback] Russell Wilson. It was such a cool experience.”
He said it was a nice way to end a season that had ended on a sour note.
“It was an awesome year but to end the way it ended left an awful bad feeling,” he said.
Ricard is a rare two-way player in the modern game. He was rewarded for his play by receiving a two-year contract extension in December for $7.3 million that will keep him in Baltimore through the 2021 season.
He is intrigued by the New England Patriots’ decision not to re-sign quarterback Tom Brady after 20 seasons, nine Super Bowl appearances and six championships.
“Why wouldn’t you finish your career in New England? He is a god up here,” Ricard said. “But, on the other side, maybe he wants to prove he can win and be a great player with another team. It definitely takes a lot of courage to do that.”
He believes the Patriots will still be good, depending on the quarterback situation, but said all the other teams in the AFC East have improved.
Ricard is a newlywed whose wife, Hayley, is a physician’s assistant. He is looking forward to the season amid the COVID-19 restrictions.
“It has given us a longer offseason and we have had the opportunity to spend more time with our families and friends,” Ricard said. “But we all want to get back to our facility and get to work.”
Watch: What will it take for COVID-19 to go away?