Ravens safety Tony Jefferson’s absence has been Chuck Clark’s gain

The recent plight of starting strong safety Tony Jefferson, who has sat out four of the past five practices because of what coach John Harbaugh described as “a pull,” might seem alarming if it wasn’t the first week of August.

Those concerns have been somewhat pacified by the presence of Chuck Clark. The second-year player has been filling the spot next to free safety Eric Weddle, but has approached the promotion matter-of-factly.

“Whenever you’re called, you’ve just got to take advantage,” he said recently. “My job is just to come in and be the best that I can be every day and gain [the coaches’] trust. That comes with working hard.”

With Weddle and Jefferson sidelined for Thursday night’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Game against the Chicago Bears, Clark got the start at free safety and finished with one tackle, one pass breakup and one interception, which ended Chicago’s opening drive that had marched to the Ravens’ 14-yard line. In Sunday’s practice, he snagged a ball thrown by quarterback Joe Flacco at the line of scrimmage.

Coach John Harbaugh called Clark a “very steady” player.

“Chuck and I talked,” Harbaugh said. “He had a very sturdy game. Then again, I think he played it a little bit safe, which is OK. The next step for him is, ‘Let’s go make a few of those plays,’ and he will. [He is a] very smart player.”

A sixth-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft, Clark played in 15 games last season, making eight tackles on special teams, five on defense and two pass breakups. The former Virginia Tech standout said being able to contribute as much as he did last season has helped him set a foundation for this year.

“I would say that the game has slowed down for me,” he said. “I have a lot more confidence, and there are a lot more plays happening on the field. Things have slowed down.”

When Jefferson returns, Clark will return to being a valuable reserve who contributes heavily on special teams. Clark said he enjoys playing on that unit.

“It gave me the opportunity to get out there and get on the field and get the game day atmosphere in the NFL,” he said. “I just wanted to go out there and make plays and show them that I could play in this league.”

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