Pat Ricard could see more playing time at tight end this season for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.
The former University of Maine All-America defensive lineman should benefit after 2018 first round-draft pick Hayden Hurst was traded to Atlanta during the offseason.
Ricard was a Pro Bowl fullback last season and one of the few players in the NFL who played both ways as he also saw time on the defensive line.
The Ravens have decided to go with three tight ends as Pro Bowler Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle have also returned.
“I’m just trying to expand my role every year,” Ricard said before Sunday’s opener against the Cleveland Browns. “I want to stay healthy and make myself available wherever the team needs me on game day.”
He said he has been involved in some plays he hadn’t been part of before.
“I’m becoming more versatile and can play in more situations now,” he said.
“That’s how I’ve made my living in the NFL, by being adaptable,” said Ricard, who took 342 snaps on offense and 140 on defense last season.
He said that there’s a significant learning curve, which is frustrating because of his personal expectations.
“It takes perseverance and good support from my coaches and my teammate,” Ricard said.
He said that by Baltimore trading Hurst (30 catches, 349 yards, 2 touchdowns last season), it shows that the coaches have confidence in Andrews, Boyle and him to get the job done.
Ricard has earned a reputation as a punishing blocker at fullback. He helped the Ravens lead the NFL in rushing yards [3,296], rushing yards per game  and yards per rush [5.5] last season. They also led the league in points per game [33.2] and were second in total yards per game [407.6].
The undrafted free agent enjoyed his best season during 2019-2020 with eight catches for 47 yards and a touchdown. On defense, he made a career-high nine tackles and his first career sack.
Ricard, a fourth-year pro, signed a two-year, $7.3 million contract extension in December. He said training camp was different with all the COVID-19 protocols.
They included wearing face masks unless players were practicing, working out or eating, along with daily testing, social distancing for meetings and dining, and a tracker to gauge who an infected player has been around.
“The way we conduct business hasn’t changed but how we have to go about it has,” he said. “I think we’ve adapted to it pretty well. What they have asked us to do isn’t too crazy.”
The players will be isolated when they are on the road, he said.
The 6-foot-3, 311-pound native of Spencer, Massachusetts, is excited to get the season started. The Ravens are eager to atone for last year’s stunning American Football Conference playoff loss to wild card team Tennessee. Top seed Baltimore went 14-2 during the regular season.
“I haven’t played in a game since January. I’m excited to get started,” the 26-year-old Ricard said.
He admitted that the threat of the coronavirus is omnipresent.
“It is still somewhat scary,” he said. “You never know.”