Ravens rookie free safety Terrence Brooks' status on the depth chart hasn't officially changed, but he's starting to make up ground in the ongoing competition with veterans Darian Stewart and Jeromy Miles.
Although listed third behind Stewart and Miles, Brooks' workload with the first-team and second-team defense has increased in recent days. And the third-round draft pick from Florida State is starting to become more knowledgeable with the Ravens' defense.
"You got to work your way up," Brooks said. "I don't like being just given stuff. You got to earn it. I don't have a problem with that at all. You got to work to get somewhere. I got to work to achieve greatness.
"I'm still not where I want to be yet, but I plan on being the starter at some point. In my book, I want to be a starter right away, but that's up to the coaches. I got to control what I can control."
Brooks played 19 snaps on defense during the Ravens' 23-3 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday. He registered no statistics, though. In three practice sessions against the 49ers, Brooks looked more natural operating at free safety and appeared to be reacting faster rather than thinking too much as he did earlier in training camp.
"He’s doing great," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Brooks. "He’s learning fast. Safeties have a long way to go as rookies, but he’s doing a good job. He’s going to play a lot this year, no doubt.”
Signed to a four-year, $2.871 million contract, Brooks had 56 tackles, eight for losses, one sack and two forced fumbles last season for the national champion Seminoles as he started eight games at strong safety and five at free safety. For his career, the 5-foot-11, 200-pounder had 126 tackles, five interceptions and three forced fumbles.
Now, Brooks is making the transition to the NFL.
"I'm making progress," Brooks said. "The more I got comfortable with it, the better I played. I played very fast out there. That's what I pride myself on. Once i learned all that stuff and got it down, it was so much easier.
"I just got to make plays. As you make plays, you move up, I'm glad I got the opportunity to play with those guys (first-team defense) because I got to experience what they do. It's been good. I'm excited."
Stewart has the most experience of the three starting candidates, having started for the St. Louis Rams previously for Ravens secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo. He was signed to a one-year, $1.3 million contract this spring.
Miles is a special-teams standout.
"I feel like it's always been open," Brooks said. "It was just a matter of me getting my stuff down and knowing it. They're going to play the best person out here, the person who knows the defense the best and makes the most plays."
Brooks acknowledged that initially he was a bit hesitant.
"Definitely, at the beginning, that's normal, though," Brooks said. "They put you somewhere foreign and I'm sure you would think more than react. I started learnign the defense more and making more plays."
Against the 49ers on Thursday, Brooks didn't appear to make any major mistakes. He wasn't making an impact, though.
"Honestly, I couldn't even explain that feeling," Brooks said. "It's more like excited, nervous kind of feeling. I can definitely make a lot more plays. I do feel more comfortable on the field. I didn't feel highly comfortable Thursday."
Brooks said he considers his past few days of practice as his best work since joining the Ravens in May. Brooks has also lined up at nickel and played some cornerback since the Ravens are shorthanded with cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (lower back) and Asa Jackson (ankle) sidelined.
"Oh yeah, definitely," Brooks said. "I'm so much more comfortable now. It's going real good. I just want to keep getting better."
Brooks is the fastest of the Ravens' primary free safety candidates, having run the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds.
“I think he's finally settling down and understanding,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “The coaches stay with him a lot and help him out a lot on learning everything. It's difficult to learn our defense at safety, especially. He's making strides. He's making plays. He's a physical guy. He'll hit you. He's been strong the last few practices. I think the sky is the limit for that guy.”