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How Elvis Dumervil led Derek Wolfe to the Ravens; Chris Board emerging at inside linebacker | NOTES

When defensive end Derek Wolfe signed a one-year deal with the Ravens this spring, he explained that it was because he wanted the chance to win another Super Bowl, to team up with Calais Campbell and Brandon Wiliams up front, to play for an organization that embodied his Northeast Ohio roots.

On Tuesday, he offered another reason: Because Elvis Dumervil told him to.

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Dumervil’s final season with the Denver Broncos was also Wolfe’s first, and he became a mentor to the second-round pick. Wolfe said Dumervil became “like a big brother to me” in 2012. So when the Ravens reached out to Wolfe after their free-agent deal with defensive lineman Michael Brockers had fallen through, Wolfe reached out to his old friend. The five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher had spent four years in Baltimore.

“I was like, ‘Hey, man. What do you think?’” Wolfe recalled during a video conference call. “And he was like, ‘Yes, sign with them immediately.’ So he was like, ‘You’re going to love it there. It’s your kind of place. They play your kind of ball. It’s a defensive organization.’”

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Wolfe has said he expected the Ravens to draft him in 2012, and he considered asking Broncos officials to look into trading him to Baltimore last season. He’d heard so many good things from then-Denver quarterback Joe Flacco about the organization.

Now that he’s finally a Raven, Wolfe said he feels like he’s “finally home.”

“Growing up in Northeast Ohio, I got to watch the Ravens play football all the time; all their games were on,” he said. “So I got to watch that 2000 Ravens defense. Those were like my early years of football. So that’s how I learned how to play defense, was from watching the Ravens and how they played flying to the ball, ripping the ball out, playing physical, being nasty and gritty and very humble. That’s the kind of football I like to play.”

Board gains

The Ravens’ top options at inside linebacker seem pretty well defined: L.J. Fort is their only returning starter at the position, and Patrick Queen is their first-round pick.

After that, the pecking order is up in the air. But Chris Board, who was in the mix for a starting job last season before a mid-August concussion, is coming on strong. The third-year special teams standout opened practice Tuesday by getting to rookie running back J.K. Dobbins behind the line of scrimmage, and later disrupted a crossing pattern to tight end Jerell Adams.

Adams got his revenge later in practice, but coach John Harbaugh said Board is “vastly improved” this year. He’s competing for snaps with second-year linebacker Otaro Alaka and third-round pick Malik Harrison. Undrafted rookie Kristian Welch could be a practice squad candidate.

“He’s a guy who didn’t play a lot of inside linebacker in college as an in-the-box-type guy, so he had a lot to learn,” Harbaugh said of Board, a North Dakota State product. “He’s just very diligent, and we’ve seen a big jump so far in this training camp. He’s all over the field. He was very noticeable today at practice; I know you guys saw that. He made a bunch of plays today. So, yes, Chris Board has made a big step, and we expect big things from him.”

Missing the preseason

At this point last year, the Ravens had played their third of four preseason games. The team had fought through 12 quarters of live contact. The coaching staff had some sense of who needed to play more, and play well, in one last showcase game.

This year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Ravens have none of that.

“It’s very challenging to simulate a game completely in practice,” Harbaugh said. “So it would have been good to see those guys compete and take that step before they play a regular-season game. The pros … I don’t really see a pro, to be honest with you. I’d rather have the preseason games.”

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