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How Patrick Ricard Went From Project to Perennial Pro Bowler

The ingredients that make the man known as (among other things) “Pancake Pat” the Ravens’ do-it-all secret weapon.

Patrick Ricard has received many locker room nicknames over his six seasons with the Ravens, all of them strictly alliterative, none of them especially creative. “Some guys used to call me Party Pat, just to be funny,” the 28-year-old fullback says. “Then I signed my extension, so I was Paid Pat. Then I made the Pro Bowl, so I was Pro Bowl Pat. People like to play around with it. There’s just so many P-words out there.” But it is yet another sobriquet that stands above the rest as the clear locker room favorite.

“Ya know, it’s gotta be Pancake Pat,” guard Kevin Zeitler says. “That’s the one he got famous off.”

Pat Ricard leaps as he runs through the Jaguars defense

Originating as a half-baked paean to the 305-pounder’s penchant for putting players on their patooties with his powerful blocks—see, plenty of p-words—“Pancake Pat” has since evolved into a full-blown personal brand. His website sells Pancake Pat T-shirts and hoodies, each emblazoned with a syrup-soaked pile of pancakes and a headshot of Ricard sporting a chef’s hat. He has poured pancake batter onto a sizzling griddle in a commercial for an area pizza chain. He has autographed boxes of store-bought pancake mix. Last August, the Ravens’ social media department posted a video of fans at training camp answering Ricard-related trivia. Four out of six correctly identified at least one of his favorite pancake toppings (blueberries and chocolate chips); none knew where he went to college (Maine).

Nowhere, though, does Ricard more enthusiastically embrace his alter Eggo than where it was first cooked up: on the field. Described recently by his team’s website as “the spear at the point of the attack” in offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s run-heavy system, the brawny Ricard is more like a medieval battering ram, bashing down an opponent’s first line of defense, blasting a path for the ball-carrier behind him. “When Pancake Pat shows up in full force, it’s a sight to behold,” kicker Justin Tucker says.

As far as how he starts his mornings, Ricard actually prefers yogurt, smoothies, and other lighter fare; on this early January day, before reporting to the Ravens’ practice facility, he downed a bowl of Fruit Loops. “Sometimes if I go out to breakfast, I might get pancakes,” he says. “But it’s not like it’s my go-to thing.” The football definition of the word, however—now that is delicious. “There’s nothing more demoralizing as a defender than having somebody physically dominate you and put you on your back,” Ricard says. “At my position, I’d rather do that than score a touchdown.”

It should be noted that Ricard has only reached the end zone five times in his career, most recently in Nov. 2021. But then the Ravens rely on him to be much more than a single-purposed pulverizer, lining him up everywhere from tight end to wingback to down along the offensive line as an extra blocker. And with increasing frequency, too: This season, after which he was voted to a fourth straight Pro Bowl, Ricard played a career-high 64% of Baltimore’s offensive snaps, a higher rate than the torchbearer of the endangered fullback position, the 49ers’ Kyle Juszczyk, has ever posted in a single year. “Teams have fullbacks, but not every fullback can do the things he does,” Zeitler says. “The advantage we gain by having a man who can move like that really can’t be put into metrics. All we know is it helps.”

Call him what you want, whether Party Pat, Pro Bowl Pat, Paid Pat, Pancake Pat or just plain Patrick. This much is clear as the Lamar Jackson–less Ravens head to Cincinnati for Sunday night’s AFC wild-card game: Maybe more than ever, Baltimore’s offense will need to rely on its flapjack of all trades.

In the beginning, there was Project Pat.

An undrafted defensive tackle out of FCS program Maine who first signed with the Ravens in May 2017, Ricard initially wasn’t sure what to make of the moniker that fellow lineman Brent Urban quickly handed him soon after his arrival. “Like, are my teammates saying I’m a project?” Ricard recalls thinking. “They don’t know if I’m good enough to play D-line?”

In truth the name was merely borrowing from Memphis-born rapper Patrick Houston, aka Project Pat. (“I had no idea who that was,” Ricard says.) But it soon took on a double meaning when Roman, then the Ravens’ tight ends coach, hatched a plan to try Ricard at fullback. The goal was to groom a replacement for Juszczyk, who that March had left Baltimore after four seasons and signed a four-year, $21 million deal with the Niners, becoming his position’s highest-paid player in NFL history. Yet Ricard hadn’t played offense since high school in Spencer, Mass., and even then it was in a double-wing system that never passed and only ran with gap-scheme blocking. “I’d never zone-blocked in my life,” Ricard says. “It was a big learning curve.”

Playing for the University of Maine, Pat Ricard tackles a quarterback in one photo. In the second photo he stands outside a defensive huddle.

Pancakes were more of a sack lunch at the University of Maine, where Ricard was among the Colonial Athletic Conference leaders in sacks and tackles for loss.

On top of familiarizing himself with these broader concepts, Ricard also faced a challenge in getting the specific verbiage of the Ravens’ playbook down pat. “Defense, a play call is like three words,” Ricard says. “I remember one that was called Rock Solid. Offense, it’s like 10 to 15 words.”

But he caught on quick, playing at least one offensive snap in all 16 games that season. “I really had to be a sponge, constantly asking questions, constantly meeting with coaches,” Ricard says.

As if that wasn’t enough, Ricard continued to line up on the other side of the ball for his first three seasons as well, culminating in a 2019 campaign—the same year that Roman took over as Baltimore’s offensive coordinator—in which Project Pat became the first NFL player in a decade to log more than 100 snaps on both offense and defense. (For good measure he also topped the century mark on special teams.) “He was actually a pretty good D-lineman,” tight end Nick Boyle says. “Had some little sparks.”

Since then, however, Ricard hasn’t seen the field for a single defensive play as his offensive role has taken on increasing importance (from 342 snaps in 2019 to 402 in ’20 to 555 in ’21 to 698 this season). More complexity, too. “If we’re in U-personnel, with two tight ends and a fullback, I could be at any one of those three spots, depending on who I’m in the huddle with,” Ricard says. “Motioning, shifting—Greg Roman uses me in so many different ways.”

As Ricard’s responsibilities grew, so did his reputation for wielding his greatest strength: his, well, strength. “No defender wants to have to go in their meetings and have their coach be like, ‘This man absolutely kicked the s--- out of you,’” Ricard says. “These dudes know, if they don’t bring their stuff with me, that could happen to them.”

Joining the Ravens as a first-round pick in 2020, linebacker Patrick Queen heard an earful from his new defensive coaches about the need to take notice of the team’s No. 42. “So I’m sitting there, like, ‘O.K., probably just another player,’” Queen says. “Then you watch what he does on film, and it’s like, I’ve got my work cut out for me.” This message was subsequently hammered home in a play at the rookie’s first practice. “I saw him leading through the gap, so I’m looking at him like, ‘Bruh, there is no way this is about to happen,’” Queen recalls. “I get up to him, dip and dive, get out the way, go about my business. I wasn’t trying to be the tough guy.” Asked what he has learned about what it feels like to be blocked by Ricard in their three seasons as teammates since then, Queen replies, simply, “Manhandled.”

Queen’s welcome-to-the-NFL story tracks with Ricard’s experience. “I think a lot of players don’t realize how big I am until I’m about to hit them,” he says. Mix together raw size and strength with a low center of gravity and high motor and, voila, the ingredients for a perfect pancake. “I get most of my pancake blocks just from continuing to play to the whistle and driving my feet and getting lower than the guy,” Ricard says. “And because I’m so much bigger than a lot of the guys I have to block, I feel like if I’m not pancaking you, or driving you backward, it’s a loss for me.”

His greatest hits are often commemorated by whoops and cheers in the Ravens’ weekly film meetings, sometimes when Ricard isn’t even present. “Everyone in the offensive line room will be like, ‘Look at 42! Look at him on this block!’” guard Ben Powers says. For his part, Ricard often turns postgame to pancakes (the stat, not the food) as a down-and-dirty litmus test for his performance. “I try to get at least one, and if I don’t, I feel I didn’t play that well,” he says.

Pancake Pat as a personality, meanwhile, went public when Jackson name-dropped it to Ravens beat writers in December 2020. “I went with it, because why wouldn’t I?” Ricard says. “Good branding for myself, get my name out there.”

Not everyone is a fan. “I don’t like calling him Pancake Pat because I think that’s corny as s---,” Boyle says. Then again, the tight end admits of Ricard, “He really, truly always gets at least one pancake a game, so it’s kind of fitting.”

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Last March, around the start of NFL free agency, Ricard and his wife, Hayley, went on vacation in Napa Valley with Powers, Tucker, Zeitler, and their respective partners. One afternoon, the group was deep into a tasting at one of the area’s many vineyards when Ricard, whose contract with the Ravens had expired after they failed to make the playoffs for the first time in four seasons, received a call from coach John Harbaugh, wanting to talk business.

“He was sneaking off to take it, and we’re all rooting him on absolutely day drunk, like, ‘Go Pat, you can do it!’” Zeitler says. “I felt bad for him, because he said he was a little stressed out during that. But nothing a bunch of wine couldn’t fix.”

Nerve-wracking as portions of contract talks were, though, Ricard found comfort in the numerous other members of Harbaugh’s staff, including Roman, who reached out to express their desires that Ricard return. “That meant a lot,” he says. It was a level of feeling wanted that reminded him of when he was coming out of Maine, the only D-I school to have offered him a scholarship, and Ravens officials kept in constant touch throughout the pre-draft process. And it was what led him to re-up in Baltimore for three more seasons at just under $4 million annually, the second-highest salary for a fullback in the league behind Juszczyk.

“Weighing out other offers, I didn’t want to move to a completely different city and learn a whole new offense,” Ricard says. “And I also knew that I was going to be used a lot [with the Ravens]. You want to be utilized and appreciated.”

Pat Ricard spikes the ball in celebration of a touchdown in 2021

Along with his blocks, Ricard has had a chance to celebrate five career touchdown receptions. 

In addition to pancake-related merch, offers a line of tees and hoodies that each feature a purple-jerseyed, level-42 Ricard staring down a faceless football opponent in a Pokémon battle arena. On his character menu, Ricard has only two attack moves: RAVEN FLOCK, and PANCAKE BLOCK. So is there an evolved version of Ricard yet to be unlocked? He posted career highs in several categories this season, with 11 catches for 74 yards, and seven rushing attempts for 16 yards. Could he conceivably develop a more expansive repertoire of offensive skills?

Not likely. “I’m always trying to improve,” Ricard says. “But realistically, me running routes, it’s just not needed as much, because we have other guys that are here for that reason. So I’m not gonna take time away from receivers and tight ends who really need to run routes.” Case in point: During one portion of practice on this early January afternoon, the Ravens’ running backs were taking carries on one part of the field, the tight ends and receivers were catching passes from the quarterbacks on another, and Ricard was standing alone on the sideline. “Yeah, me running better routes is a bonus, but it’s not a priority for how I’m used here,” Ricard says.

Just as not everyone is fond of his fleet of nicknames, Ricard knows that how he is used might ruffle the features of some Ravens diehards who see it as symbolic of Roman’s sometimes stagnant passing offense. “Of course, there’s always haters out there, people who don’t like the fullback position,” Ricard says. “But I think those are the fans that don’t really understand football, and if you really see what I do, you’d understand why it’s happening.”

Still, he feels plenty appreciated from other sources, like the fans who buy his gear and the opponents who pay their compliments with quick, game-recognize-game comments at midfield after the final whistle. “I think guys see me, and they are very impressed by how I’m able to move, how I’m able to play at my size,” Ricard says. “If you ask our defense, they don’t like taking on blocks from me in practice. I don’t let up.”

The esteem extends into the Ravens’ tight ends room, where Ricard—absent a dedicated space for fullbacks—attends all of his offensive meetings. “He does so much for this team that I feel goes unseen,” Boyle says. “Project Pat was his early name. Now I think he deserves more respect. He sets the tone for our run game in a lot of spots. He helps out in pass protection. He’s really dominant no matter who he’s blocking.”

And it extends to the players and coaches around the league who voted Ricard to his fourth Pro Bowl, the same number that Juszczyk, now 31, had reached at the same age. “This year I didn’t even win the fan vote,” Ricard says. It is all enough to inspire a new nickname.

“A lot of fans still know me as Project; newer fans know me as Pancake,” Ricard says. “Now that I made my fourth Pro Bowl, I might be Perennial Pat. That one hasn’t really been out there that much yet.

“But maybe it’ll be a T-shirt, I don’t know.”