NFL players go through the growing pains of being a rookie and some handle the pressures differently than others.
Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam has been forced into the starting free safety role due to ineffectiveness from now-Denver Broncos safety Michael Huff, and has done a serviceable job at the position given how much he still has to learn and grow. However, the 22-year-old made his first big rookie mistake off the field as he called Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson “old” when describing the receiver most refer to as “Megatron”.
In fairness to the former University of Florida defensive back, he showed some respect when describing quite possibly the best receiver in the NFL today before he made a claim that clearly is a misconception on his part. “Big, fast, athletic, unstoppable, freak,” Elam told the media.
“He’s pretty old, so I don’t know how physical he’ll be. He’s a big guy, but he’s older. I guess when they get older they’re not going to be as physical, you know what I’m saying? We’re going to have to be physical, make him uncomfortable.”
Johnson is 28. He is six years older than Elam. Johnson has over 9,000 yards receiving and 67 touchdowns as he continues to break records in his seventh NFL season. Megatron’s numbers in 2013 are as follows: 75 catches, 1351 yards, 18.0 YPC, 12 touchdowns. Elam’s numbers? 51 tackles, no sacks, no forced fumbles and no interceptions.
The Lions were not only given bulletin board material, but it came from a 5-foot-10, 210-pound free safety who’s being remembered for eating snow after Cordarrelle Patterson scurried 79-yards into the end zone late in the fourth quarter of Week 14’s epic finish against the Minnesota Vikings.
Elam has received criticism throughout the year for missing tackles, going for the big hit and being out of position on some coverages. It’s understandable that all of these things happened. He isn’t a free safety. He was inserted into the role because Huff looked like a guy who came over from the Oakland Raiders. But, it doesn’t give him a right to make a stupid remark like he did.
Sure, the Ravens have to get physical with him. There is truth to that. Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb will have their hands full wherever he lines up on the field. Johnson doesn’t need any extra motivation given that his team is fighting for their playoff lives much like the Ravens, and they are coming off of a loss.
The NFL is always a “what have you done for me lately?” kind of league. The only plays that come to mind when Elam’s name comes up are the mishap against Patterson and the blown coverage in Week 2 against the Cleveland Browns, when he misplayed a 50-plus-yard completion to tight end Jordan Cameron.
It happens. Young guys say foolish things and don’t understand what they said. It was an error in judgement and head coach John Harbaugh probably talked to the Ravens’ 2013 first-round pick about saying the right and wrong things to media members. If 28 is “old”, then 30 has become the new 40 and so on … except for Brett Favre.