If Patrick Ricard hangs around the NFL long enough, there’s no telling what position he might play.

Defensive line? That’s where he started. Fullback? Four straight Pro Bowls as a stalwart in the backfield. Offensive line? That might be next — though probably not this season.

But make no mistake: It’s hard to find a Raven who thinks Ricard can’t play whatever role he sets out to play.

“He can move, he can block, but also he can run some fly routes, stick routes, and he does it well,” tight end Mark Andrews said. “So a guy like that, weighing three-whatever and being able to move the way he does, he’s a freak of nature.”

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In the modern NFL, fullbacks are rare, 6-foot-3, 311-pound fullbacks even more so. So there was something appropriate about Ricard’s presence in the Ravens’ offense the last few years in Greg Roman’s heavy personnel schemes. Ricard’s blocking, which drew him the moniker “Pancake Pat,” was a perfect role in a throwback, gladiatorial run game.

In Todd Monken’s spread scheme — with a stated goal to unlock the passing game more — it might have seemed like Ricard’s fullback role would go the way of the dinosaur. So few other NFL teams have fullbacks to begin with.

But the 29-year-old hasn’t gone anywhere. He played 28 snaps (44% of downs) in Week 1′s win over the Texans, including a pile-driving block into two Houston linebackers to free Justice Hill for a touchdown.

“A lot of guys my size can’t move the way I do. I can do a lot of things at my size that a lot of guys can’t.”

Patrick Ricard

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - NOVEMBER 07: Patrick Ricard #42 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates his third quarter touchdown reception against the Minnesota Vikings by spiking the ball in the end zone at M&T Bank Stadium on November 07, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)
Ricard's role serves as the connective tissue between the Ravens' old offensive scheme and the new one. (Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)

For Ricard, 28 snaps were actually a lot. He hadn’t played that many in camp or in the preseason after coming back from hip surgery, and his conditioning was tested Sunday. But, if Monken had asked him to play every snap, he would have.

He sees a chance to show that he’s not a “system” fullback. His key trait isn’t that he can block in a “medieval” offense; it’s that he’ll do anything he’s asked to do.

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“A lot of people pigeonhole me that I can only play in a Greg Roman offense,” he said. “It’s my seventh year. I’ve had four straight Pro Bowls. I know what I’m doing. It’s a great feeling to know that [Monken] values me, that the team values me.”

There’s good reason to value Ricard, who played a huge role in a rushing offense that was top five in yards and yards per attempt in each of the previous four seasons. Last season, he played a career-high 64% of the Ravens’ snaps. He’s seemingly helped Lamar Jackson succeed. When both are on the field, the Ravens average 5.8 yards per play and a 45.7% success rate, bumped from 5.4 ypp and 41.5% with Jackson alone.

It’s a role that might not be well understood outside of Baltimore. Ricard’s bulky frame has sometimes become meme material, like when a video of heavyset comedian Druski was used as a point of comparison. Although Ricard said he understood the joke, he doesn’t appreciate his role being reduced to a punchline.

“It almost diminishes what I can do — like a big, fat, unathletic guy trying to do things, while I’m a big, lean, athletic guy,” he said. “A lot of guys my size can’t move the way I do. I can do a lot of things at my size that a lot of guys can’t.”

The Ravens agree. For a while this offseason, they explored if they could keep his contributions but at another position.

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Ricard and his agent came up with the idea that he could play offensive line, and coach John Harbaugh allowed Ricard to join the offensive line room for the early part of camp. Tackle Morgan Moses didn’t see him as out of place there, either: “Working some guard, studying some guard tells you about the physicality he brings to the offense.”

The Ravens shelved the idea after deciding Ricard wouldn’t be able to make the shift after his offseason surgery, even though he had gained a significant amount of weight to give it a shot. But it could still happen next season — or in an emergency this season, given that the Ravens are already down two injured offensive linemen.

Offensive coordinators change, but Harbaugh clearly is happy to make room for Ricard. He doesn’t have a guaranteed snap count every week, and he knows some of it is matchup dependent, but Ricard feels the strength of Harbaugh’s backing.

“I think I’m the kind of guy that John Harbaugh loves: physical, will do anything for the team, play multiple spots,” he said. “And I think that our relationship is really good to where I think that he wants me here and makes sure the OC figures out a role for me with us and what it is.”

While new offensive coordinators are often painted as someone coming in as a polar opposite of the previous regime, the reality is not as simple as the narrative. Although Monken’s system is very different than Roman’s, he’s pledged to find ways to keep the running threat that Roman’s offenses were so good at creating.

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Ricard’s role is a kind of connective tissue between the old and the new. While the Ravens are sure to keep evolving their packages and plays with Monken’s guidance, he’s sprinkling in a lot of familiar looks as well.

“I think Coach Monken’s doing a good job at trying to install things that we did in the past that worked, as well as adding his stuff on that,” running back Gus Edwards said. “That’s gonna make us better.”

The Ravens are still the Ravens. They still want to be physical and win the battle of wills in the trenches. And no player on offense might represent that mentality more than Ricard, who is ready to run you over no matter his position.

“I think, at the end of the day, you look at our offense and the mentality that we bring in the running game, he’s a needed asset for us,” Moses said. “Just having him on the field regardless brings a different spark. His mobility to be able to run block and attack guys on the edges is obviously a big part of this offense and what he does great in this scheme.”

kyle.goon@thebaltimorebanner.com

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum. 

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