Patrick Ricard admits that he ended last year with "a chip on my shoulder," frustrated by a month's worth of sitting on the bench, humbled by an embarrassing social media firestorm and determined to reassert his value to Ravens coaches this summer.
Signed in 2017 by the Ravens as an undrafted rookie defensive lineman out of Maine, Ricard added the role of fullback as a rookie, and his status as a two-way player helped cement his spot on the roster.
Three years later, Ricard is still at it, and perhaps more than ever, his role as a 300-pound fullback could be vital for a Ravens offense that is expected to feature a downhill running game led by Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards.
Last week, the Jacksonville Jaguars became plenty familiar with Ricard. During the team's joint practices, Ricard was a battering ram in goal-line run drills, pounding Jaguars as a lead blocker when the teams ramped up the intensity for that practice period.
Then in the preseason game against the Jaguars, Ricard showed his strength on defense, with half-sacks on back-to-back plays and another later in the third quarter. In 14 defensive snaps, Ricard registered four tackles and two sacks, and he also batted down a pass.
"I've been doing this now for three years, playing both ways, so that's nothing new to me," Ricard said after the game. "My approach to this camp is just leave no doubt."
It's understandable if Ricard had some doubt at the end of last season. He appeared in 10 of the first 11 games, averaging about 20 snaps a game -- 10 on offense, five on defense, five on special teams. But then in early December, a series of racist and homophobic tweets that Ricard had written while in high school surfaced. The team called them "totally unacceptable," and Ricard publicly apologized, writing that he was a "young and immature" 16-year-old at the time.
Whether that episode had any bearing, Ricard was not active again the rest of the season.
"At that point, it was just control what I can control, stay ready, be a good teammate," Ricard said. "Just keep working, and get ready if I was going to play."
Harbaugh said Ricard simply didn't fit in their game plan for the final five games.
"It's tough to get on the [46-man gameday roster]," Harbaugh said. "Probably toward the end of the year ... I didn't see enough to activate him compared to some other guys."
Ricard finished the season with four tackles on defense and did not handle the ball offensively -- after catching two touchdown passes as a rookie.
Ricard said being inactive for the final month of last season "kind of really put that chip on my shoulder to leave no doubt, play hard, execute and do what they want."
"You have to prove yourself every day," Ricard added.
Ricard's status on the roster would be tenuous if he were only a fullback or reserve defensive lineman. The fact that he can do both, and contribute on special teams, greatly helps his cause.
One person in his corner is new offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who as the Ravens tight ends coach and senior offensive assistant three years ago was the first to suggest that Ricard work at fullback.
"He's the reason I'm playing fullback in the first place," Ricard said, "so once he got the [offensive coordinator] job, I was really happy, because I know what he wants to do with an offense."
Indeed, in Roman's previous work as offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills, his teams consistently ranked among the top-five rushing offenses in the league. Last year, the Ravens ranked No. 2 in rushing, relying heavily on the run once Jackson took over as the starting quarterback.
With Jackson, Ingram and Edwards leading the way, the Ravens are expected to pound the ball on the ground again, and the 300-pound Ricard could have a big role in that.
"We know we're going to run the ball a lot," Ricard said, "so I know there are opportunities for me here."
As for being an old-school, two-way player -- he quickly throws a blue mesh pinny over his white jersey to indicate he's moved from defense to offense in practice -- Ricard said he relishes the role.
"There's not many left, and if I can be the guy, I'll do it," he said. "It just feels great to play."