Ravens rookies ready for preseason opener
James Ihedigbo is teaching the NFL ropes to Ravens rookie Matt Elam. Ihedigbo is also competing with Elam for a starting job at safety.
Don’t those roles ever conflict? Not for Ihedigbo. He feels a responsibility to teach Elam what it takes to be a successful rookie. As for the competition, Ihedigbo feels the coaches will play whoever gives the Ravens the best chance win.
“I don’t ever want to seem like I’m a standoff person or negative,” Ihedigbo said of his relationship with Elam. “I treat him like a brother. That’s what he is, a fellow Raven. I teach him the things I didn’t know as a rookie, but at the same time we’re still competing for the starting job. He actually pushes me to excel. That’s what I’ve been doing throughout training camp.”
No matter who starts, the Ravens will have a new look at safety, starting with Thurday’s preseason opener against the Buccaneers in Tamps. Both starters from last season are gone - Ed Reed (Texans) and Bernard Pollard (Titans). Reed is a future Hall of Famer. Pollard was a fierce hitter who led the team in tackles.
A huge gap to fill, but the Ravens believe it’s been handled. Michael Huff, acquired in free agency from the Raiders, is expected to start, leaving Elam and Ihedigbo dueling for the other job. After Reed and Pollard signed elsewhere, Ihedigbo had a conversation with general manager Ozzie Newsome, and ended their talk feeling inspired.
“Yeah, I spoke with Ozzie after the decision was made,” Ihedigbo said. “It’s my time to step up. It’s about seizing the opportunity. People talk all the time about, `Oh, if I ever get my chance, this is what I’m going to do with it.’ As they’re saying that, their chance is passing them by. I actually have a great opportunity in front of me, and I plan on seizing it.”
And while Ihedigbo is doing that, he still plans to mentor Elam.