Patrick Ricard is notoriously known for being a threat all over the field, having been successful at defensive line, fullback and the offensive line. There's no telling where we may be seeing him next, but one things for sure is that he'll find a way to excel no matter where he finds himself. 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.”
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.” said Ricard.
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.
“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.
The Ravens agree. For a while this offseason, they explored if they could keep his contributions but at another position.
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. Guard 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 maintain their unwavering identity as a team that thrives on physicality and strives to dominate the battle of determination in the trenches. Among their offensive players, there's perhaps no one better exemplifying this mindset than Ricard, who is always prepared to bulldoze opponents regardless of his position.