Ravens undrafted rookie offensive lineman Patrick Mekari, who made his first start of the season at center against the San Francisco 49ers Dec. 1, believes he has something to prove and looks forward to the challenge of stepping up as a leader for the Ravens’ offensive line.
Mekari, a guard by trade, was tasked with filling in at center after Matt Skura suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first quarter of the Ravens’ 45-6 victory against the Los Angeles Rams Nov. 25. Mekari took over as the starter in Week 13 against the 49ers, one of the best teams in the NFL and perhaps the most talented defensive line in the league.
Mekari, who signed with the Ravens out of Cal, was preparing for this moment all season. Now, he has the opportunity to show why he belongs in the league.
“I think at the end of the day, everyone has something to prove, especially in the NFL,” Mekari said on Glenn Clark Radio Dec. 4. “It’s not about doing it for one day or one week or one month. It’s about proving it every single day. Especially as an undrafted player, you’ve got to prove it that much more every day.
“So I knew that when the opportunity called, I’ve got to go and I’ve got to prove it every single time. It’s that much more of a chip on your shoulder, that much more preparation, and I’m happy that we’re still winning. That’s the goal.”
In Skura, Mekari stepped in for a player who was a cog in one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, so pressure was expected. However, for Mekari, no one can put more pressure on him than himself. Mekari has set high expectations for himself, believing he can step in play at the level that Skura had reached. He plans on keeping the offensive line’s performance on par with how it had been all season.
“My only goal was I didn’t want there to be any drop-off between the starting lineup and me going in,” Mekari said. “And obviously that’s hard to do with such huge shoes to fill with [Bradley] Bozeman, who’s playing so great this year, Matt Skura, who had an awesome year, and Marshal Yanda, the greatest guard to ever play. It’s definitely tough to step up to that, but that was my goal.”
Mekari may be the rookie of the group, but the rest of the starting offensive linemen have embraced him. With Pro Bowl talent littered across the offensive line, Mekari is thankful to be a part of such a good group of players and appreciates their willingness to help him seamlessly transition into his new role.
“They help every day. Whatever questions I have, whatever it could be, they’re always there for me,” Mekari said. “They’ll help me out, we’ll talk through it, we’ll go through it together. They’re great guys, great teammates and they’re [each a] hell of a player. So with me out there and them helping me out, it’s great, definitely a great team to be a part of.”
Mekari also can’t help but speak glowingly about quarterback Lamar Jackson. On the season, Jackson has 2,532 passing yards and 997 rushing yards for a combined 32 touchdowns. Although Jackson is in the MVP discussion, Mekari believes it’s Jackson’s temperament and leadership off the field that truly makes him a special player.
“I don’t think I can say enough about him,” Mekari said. “As a person, as a teammate, as a player, just the way he leads a team and involves everyone. From the top players on the team to the lower-level backups to the practice squad guys, it’s easy to believe in him and give everything you’ve got for him so he can go out and do his thing every night like he’s been doing.”
With so many role models and leaders on the team to turn to, Mekari has embraced his relationship with his teammates. Despite this only being his first season with Ravens, Mekari already feels his bond with the team goes beyond the game of football.
“It’s truly a family feeling in that locker room with the team, with the players on the field,” Mekari said. “We know at the end of the day, to get the job done everyone needs to do their job. The trust and the support from everyone, it’s remarkable.”
That also means not buying into any hype. Even as his team is on franchise-record eight-game winning streak, Mekari believes that you cannot get too ahead of yourself and that embracing your opportunities every day is pivotal to the success of the team on Sundays.
“It’s all about one day at a time,” Mekari said. “You can’t overload your plate too much. You always have a little eye in the corner maybe looking at the game ahead, but it’s all about today and what you’ve got going on today.”
To hear more from Mekari, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox