By Aaron Wilson
The Baltimore Sun
6:42 PM EDT, April 26, 2013
The Ravens' immediate plan for rookie safety Matt Elam is to make the former University of Florida star knowledgeable about their defensive playbook by teaching him both free safety and strong safety.
Ideally, the consensus All-America would be interchangeable with free safety Michael Huff. The Ravens have replaced Ed Reed, who's now with the Houston Texans, and strong safety Bernard Pollard, who was cut and signed with the Tennessee Titans.
The most likely alignment is Huff playing free safety and Elam competing with veteran James Ihedigbo at strong safety, but the Ravens want to create positional flexibility.
"We've already talked about it," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "You're a safety, you need to know both. He needs to know a lot of things where he ends up fitting. They're all cross-trained. This is a guy we had targeted a long time ago.
"He adds a dimension to our defense. With Ed Reed leaving, we lost a very great Hall of Fame player and we need somebody to come in and fight for that spot. Matt knows it's not going to be given to him. He's got to earn it."
Introduced at a press conference today at team headquarters, Elam arrived in Owings Mills and met with the coaching staff.
"A very exciting moment," Elam said. "It's so exciting. It's hard to explain, having an opportunity to play for the world champions. Having an opportunity to come in and do the great things that future Hall of Famer Ed Reed did. Just coming in and working and continuing to improve and get better and just being a great Raven and win championships that Ravens are used to do."
Elam said having two safeties drafted above him -- the New Orleans Saints selecting Texas' Kenny Vaccaro and the San Francisco 49ers picking LSU's Eric Reid -- will motivate him.
"They gave me a chip on my shoulder, seeing those two safeties go ahead of me," Elam said. "Then again, I'm happy they went ahead of me because I got the opportunity to play for the world champs. It was a very nerve-wracking experience.
"I was ready to go. I'm ready to play again. I felt jobless. I wasn't going to school. I didn't ahve a job. So, I was like, 'I'm ready.' I learned a lot of things. I'm looking forward to this."
One of the reasons why the Ravens acquired Elam was the combination of his hard-hitting style, production of 176 career tackles, six interceptions and five sacks and speed: 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
"The guy can run, he can cover and, most of all, he can hit," Pees said. "The thing I liked the most about him is there's a dying art in college football in the secondary called tackling and this guy has that art. We're very very excited to have this guy."
As the younger brother of NFL safety Abram Elam, Elam has a football pedigree.
He's not accustomed to being handed anything, though, as he wasn't an instant starter as a freshman even though he was a blue-chip recruit who was named Mr. Football for the state of Florida growing up in Palm Beach Gardens.
"I don't want anything given," said Elam, who rushed for 1,883 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior in high school before choosing the Gators over Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Tennessee and West Virginia. "Growing up, I had to work through things. My parents and my brother always made me earn things. I don't want anything given.
"If it's given, it's not earned. With two great safeties leaving, I feel like it's a great opportunity for me to come in and do the great things they did and win championships and win games."
Following the press conference, Pees talked more about the Ravens liked about Elam.
"He's got really good speed," Pees said. "Generally you look at a guy and you say, 'This guy's a good box safety, this guy's a good deep safety.' We really though there were a couple in the draft who could do both."
Secondary coach Teryl Austin's enthusiasm was obvious at being reunited with Elam, whom he coached as a freshman at Florida.
"Yeah you could see back then he had a chance to be a good player," Austin said. "Like a lot of young kids, he had to come in and learn, make the adjustment, all the things he did. He was playing for us as a freshman, played special teams, played some nickel, backed up Ahmad Black and then after that started last two years and now here he is.
"It's nice when you're in the draft and a really good player fits a need for us. You're not reaching for anything. He's right where he should be. We're really happy to get him. Matt has a good knowledge of the game. We all know how tough he is, how he flies to the ball and he brings a good energy: very energetic, fiery. He plays the game the way you're supposed to."