Blake Countess’ journey to the NFL took him to Good Counsel High School in Olney, the University of Michigan, Auburn University, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Los Angeles Rams, where he is now a safety for the reigning NFC West champions.
But Monday, the 24-year-old was back where it started: his hometown of Owings Mills, where he and the Rams are participating in a joint practice at Ravens headquarters.
“Growing up here, this is what you dream about, playing on Sundays,” Countess said. “So it feels great to be home. I’ve got a lot of family and a big support system out here.”
Despite his family’s proximity to the Under Armour Performance Center, Countess said his family members are not Ravens fans. And he said he has no special goodwill for the Ravens, either.
“I’m out here to handle business, and the Ravens are another team,” he said. “Granted, I grew up around here, but the Ravens are just another team, and this is a business trip for me.”
Selected by the Eagles in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL draft, Countess did not make Philadelphia’s 53-man roster and was scooped up by the Rams. Since his promotion to Los Angeles’ active roster in November that season, he has started three of his 21 games with the team, making 45 tackles, one interception and one sack. He is currently second on the team’s depth chart at strong safety, backing up John Johnson III, another Maryland native
Countess said he is still growing under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ direction.
“Year One in Coach Wade’s defense, you’re still learning,” he said. “But now we have the defense set, and it’s about making plays and being more aggressive as a player. So there’s definitely a lot more confidence in this defense with this being my second year in the system.”
After capturing the division title for the first time since 2003, then falling to the Atlanta Falcons in their NFC wild-card playoff game, the Rams partially revamped their secondary by acquiring starting cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Countess said both veterans have sought to be positive influences with their new teammates.
“That’s the beauty of Wade’s defense. It’s simple, and those guys are playmakers first,” he said. “They’ve played everywhere they’ve been, they’ve made plays, they’re Pro Bowlers and All-Pros. For them to come in and just take the coaching and really buy in, that’s going to be everything.”
Countess said a handful of family members and friends attended Monday’s practice. He anticipates as many as 35 showing up for Thursday night’s preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium.
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“I got tickets for everybody,” he said. “Anybody that’s been a part of my success and my support system at some point, they got a ticket from me.”