As the Ravens' second-round pick in April, Kamalei Correa may have a sense of security about his standing with the team this fall. But the transition from Boise State to the Ravens has been a visible reminder for the linebacker of the chasm between the college ranks and the NFL.
"There's always room for improvement, and in my eyes, I always have to get better," the rookie said after Saturday night's 30-9 victory over the Detroit Lions at M&T Bank Stadium. "It's really been a humbling experience just knowing that you're not as good as most people who have been playing in the NFL for a while. So it's really been very humbling. I just have to keep improving and keep getting better each and every day."
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Correa made a rapid rise up the depth chart earlier in training camp. But he acknowledged that his education is still ongoing.
"It's way more difficult from a talent level and an intelligence level," he said. "The game is going at a million miles an hour – way faster than college. But it's exciting to know how much better you really can become and I'm willing to accept that challenge."
Through three preseason games, Correa has been credited with just one tackle in limited playing time. He is listed as the primary backup to starting inside linebacker Zachary Orr, but has also spelled Albert McClellan at the SAM linebacker position.
Correa said he doesn't have a problem with the lack of a defined role, adding, "I'm a rookie. So I'm just going to do what's asked of me this year – whether that's asked to be a defensive player or a special-teams player. What if they throw me on offense for some crazy stuff? I'm just going to do what's asked of me and if that is me playing on defense with a lot more snaps, then I'm willing to accept the challenge."
Known more earlier in training camp for his penchant for getting into physical confrontations with veteran teammates including a scuffle with Dennis Pitta that contributed to a broken finger for the tight end, Correa has enjoyed a toned-done preseason. But he said linebackers coach Don "Wink" Martindale and defensive coordinator Dean Pees have encouraged him to remain aggressive.
"Coach Wink and Coach Pees really stress to be physical and play tough and give max effort," Correa said. "I'm just trying to do that on every play – whether that's me being physical and coming out and hitting somebody."