'Project Pat' is no longer a novelty act for the Ravens backfield

Patrick Ricard has changed his number from 91 to 42 after winning the role as the Ravens' fullback. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Rookie defensive lineman Patrick Ricard first heard the nickname in offseason workouts, when he became the Baltimore Ravens' latest experiment at fullback.

A defensive lineman referred to Ricard as "Project Pat."

"And it stuck," Ricard said.

Ricard is no longer a project, though. He has replaced Pro Bowl player Kyle Juszczyk as Baltimore's top fullback.

In the preseason, Ricard practiced with the defensive linemen and got a handful of snaps with the offense as a lead blocker. After Baltimore cut its top fullbacks on the roster (Lorenzo Taliaferro and Ricky Ortiz), Ricard got a new number -- the eligible receiver No. 42 -- and a new role.

Ricard primarily works with the offense these days and meets with the defensive coaches after practice. He's getting more comfortable with the playbook and a position he hadn't played since high school.

"It's awesome," Ricard said. "I'm just soaking it in, 'Man, I'm really in the huddle with Joe Flacco, Danny Woodhead and all these great receivers.' It's really cool."

Ricard can become a rare two-way player in the NFL. Over the past decade, only five players have totaled more than 50 snaps on offense and defense in a single season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

At this point, Ricard doesn't think of himself as an offensive or defensive player.

"I just love playing football," he said. "Any opportunity I have to play, I'm going to do it. I don't think about it too much. I really don't."

Ricard came to the Ravens five months ago as a long shot to make the team. He was a Colonial Athletic Association first-team defensive lineman at Maine who made 50 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.

What would Ricard's reaction have been if someone told him in April that he'd make the Ravens as a fullback?

"I probably wouldn't believe it," Ricard said. "Now it's happening. It is crazy. It is what it is. I'm just going to ride with it."

The Ravens have a history of developing fullbacks, from Alan Ricard to Ovie Mughelli to Juszczyk. But Ricard would be the team's first 304-pound lead blocker.

The next step would be to hand the ball off to Ricard or throw him the ball.

"If it happens, it happens," Ricard said. "I'm just going to make sure I take care of the football and just run someone over."