Although Ravens rookie safety Matt Elam has yet to unseat veteran James Ihedigbo for the starting strong safety job, the first-round draft pick had an encouraging NFL debut.

Elam recorded two tackles during a 44-16 preseason victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Thursday night at Raymond James Stadium.

That included the 5-foot-10, 210-pound former University of Florida consensus All-America crushing Buccaneers running back Peyton Hillis with a low tackle, upending the 6-2, 250-pound power back.

"I'm just improving every day, continuing to learn," Elam said. "With the way I improve and the way I learn, it's giving me a lot more confidence."

Drafted 32nd overall, Elam had 176 career tackles, 24 for losses, six interceptions and two forced fumbles in three seasons for the Gators. He's signed to a four-year, $6.767 million contract that includes $5.439 million in total guaranteed money, including a $3.301 milion signing bonus.

For the native of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., it was a chance to play in familiar surroundings.

"It was a great feeling to play in front of a lot of family back in Florida," Elam said. "It was very exciting, my first NFL game. Just going out to play ball again was a great feeling.

"It really doesn't matter if it's preseason or regular season. I just want to go out and get better and show the coaches what I can do. They tell me to keep on improving and doing the small things right." 

awilson@baltsun.com

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