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Call of (double) duty: Patrick Ricard is NFL’s top two-way player

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Patrick Ricard finished off the Baltimore Ravens’ first drive in last Thursday’s preseason game by catching a 6-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco.

Four days later, Ricard reached the end zone again, grabbing a deflected pass in practice and running back the interception for a touchdown.

Ricard is pulling double duty for a second straight season as a fullback and defensive tackle in an experiment that went by the name “Project Pat” last year. This summer, it’s more like Playmaker Pat.

Using athleticism, opportunity and a good number of burritos to bulk up, Ricard is looking to make an increased impact on offense and defense. He could become the first player in nine years to record over 100 plays on both sides of the ball.

“It’s almost like playing in high school again, because in high school, I never came off the field,” Ricard said. “I was playing both ways. It’s just a way higher level, and I have to know way more. It’s way faster, but it’s awesome. It’s a lot of fun.”

Two-way players have become a rarity in the NFL since the days of Sammy Baugh and Chuck Bednarik. Ricard was one of five players last season to line up for double-digit snaps on both sides of the ball, participating on 143 plays on offense and 37 on defense.

Leading the way for Alex Collins, Ricard replaced Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk and became the NFL‘s top-rated fullback last season by Pro Football Focus. He still believes he could do more on the defensive side of the ball.

Ricard added 10 to 15 pounds this offseason to help his chances of getting into the defensive line rotation. He put in long hours at a sports performance center in Indianapolis as well as Chipotle, where he scarfed down burritos every day.

The early results have been impressive for the 6-foot-3, 311-pound Ricard, who wanted to find the happy medium of being able to physically take on blocks on defense while being able to move around as a fullback. In last Thursday’s preseason game, he scored a touchdown, made four tackles and recorded a quarterback hit.

“I graded the tape [and] I don’t think I gave him a minus the whole time,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I think it was all pluses. That’s pretty remarkable for a guy playing offense and defense.”

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