OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- During the weekly periods when the Ravens' locker room is open to the media, safety Chuck Clark has frequently floated in and out or sat at his locker without a lot of fanfare. On Oct. 9, though, a throng crowded around the third-year safety, emblematic of his increased role as he prepares to take over a starting job in the wake of the season-ending injury to veteran safety Tony Jefferson.
"I feel really prepared," said Clark, a sixth-round pick out of Virginia Tech in 2017. "I've been waiting for this for three years. Now it's here, it's time to take advantage."
Second-year safety DeShon Elliott also could figure more prominently with Jefferson sidelined, and head coach John Harbaugh said he expects "both of those guys to play quite a bit" when the Ravens (3-2) host the Cincinnati Bengals (0-5) Oct. 13.
Clark made two starts last year in place of the injured Jefferson and recorded his lone career interception in one of those games -- against the Kansas City Chiefs and reigning league Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes.
Clark, 24, has played in all five games this year, primarily as a dime back and on special teams. He has totaled 11 tackles on defense, with one pass defensed. Elliott has totaled two tackles, playing a handful of defensive snaps per game.
"It's all about the next man up," Clark said, noting that the key is "to go out there and be comfortable and lead the defense."
The Ravens will be losing one of their field generals in Jefferson, but in Clark they are getting a player who is roundly praised for his intelligence and football acumen. Veteran safety Earl Thomas has called him the smartest person in the defensive backs room.
Thomas, who came to the Ravens as a free agent this year, said he noticed that immediately when the players reported back to the facility this spring.
"I saw it the first day of football school," Thomas said. "He was on it. He was just like a starter. I was like, 'Bro, why would they bring me in and they got this guy? I have total trust in him and DeShon."
Clark described himself as a "student of the game," and said that, "Before you go out there, you gotta know what you're doing, so ... you try to be as prepared as you can be."
TEN ABSENT FROM PRACTICE: Ten players were absent from the portion of practice open to the media Oct. 9, and while it might have been a veteran's day off for players such as Brandon Carr, Marshal Yanda and Earl Thomas, it was still a lengthy list -- not uncommon right after a Ravens-Steelers game.
Absences include wide receiver Marquise Brown and tight end Mark Andrews, who missed portions of the Steelers game, and linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, who is dealing with an ankle injury.
Other absences included offensive lineman Ben Powers, running back Mark Ingram, cornerback Maurice Canady and cornerback Jimmy Smith, who remains sidelined by the knee injury that has kept him out of action since Week 1. Harbaugh said Smith is "doing well," but would not put a timetable on his return. It seems likely he will miss his fifth straight game.
JACKSON: PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE PEOPLE, TOO: One of the more memorable images from the Ravens' win against the Steelers was quarterback Lamar Jackson barreling into Pittsburgh photographer Shelley Lipton as he was shoved out of bounds, then stopping to help her up and check on her before returning to the field.
Asked about that at his weekly media session Oct. 9, Jackson said sideline photographers are "human beings, too. I know we're moving fast and get physical out there on the field, and we're coming full speed. ... I know that kind of hurt so I had to make sure she was all right."
Jackson said he reached out to Lipton via social media after the game to check on her and also complimented her for the photo she got of Jackson stiff-arming Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt.
TUCKER WINS AFC WEEKLY HONOR: Kicker Justin Tucker was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after he went 4-for-4, including a game-tying 48-yard field goal with 10 seconds left and the game-winning 46-yard kick in overtime in the Ravens' 26-23 win against Pittsburgh Oct. 6. It is the 10th such weekly honor for Tucker, a franchise record.
The game-winner for Tucker was the 14th of his career, and his second to beat the Steelers in overtime. He is the most accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history with a success rate of 90.5 percent (247-for-273).
RAVENS ADD SAFETY TO PRACTICE SQUAD: After losing safety Tony Jefferson for the season with a knee injury, the Ravens have signed safety A.J. Howard to the practice squad. Howard was originally signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted rookie out of Appalachian State in 2018 but didn't make the team out of training camp. He spent that season on the practice squad of the New York Giants, and was on the New England Patriots practice squad during the playoffs last year and was with the Patriots through training camp this year.
To make room for Howard on the practice squad, the Ravens cut practice squad tight end Cole Herdman.
Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox