Sun, 12 Jul 2020

D.J. Fluker Embraces Challenge of Following Marshal Yanda

Baltimore Ravens
03 Jun 2020, 05:25 GMT+10

If he becomes the Ravens' new starting right guard, D.J. Fluker won't try to be Marshal Yanda.

Yanda was a special player, one that Fluker greatly admired. But after signing with the Ravens in May, Fluker is not intimated by Yanda's legacy. The job is open to replace Yanda, the eight-time Pro Bowler who had a Hall of Fame-worthy career. Fluker believes he's the right guard in the right place for the Ravens after starting 14 games last season with the Seattle Seahawks.

"I watched Yanda for a long time. He's a great guard," Fluker said on "The Lounge" podcast. "Those are big shoes to fill. Yanda did his thing. That's what he was known for, being physical and tough. But what I can do is be myself, be who I am. Be the person that comes out every single day, works hard, be physical and impose my will on people. That's me. That's D.J. - always passionate about football. That's what I can give you."

There will be intense competition at right guard to earn a starting role with Fluker, Ben Powers, and rookies Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson in the mix. However, Fluker's experience gives him an edge, as does his size and strength. Listed at 6-foot-5, 342 pounds, Fluker has been both huge and agile for as long as he remembers. He weighed over 300 pounds by the eighth grade, yet he was athletic enough to dunk a basketball.

Fluker entered the NFL highly regarded as the 11th-overall pick in 2013 by the San Diego Chargers, after winning three national championships at Alabama. Now at age 29, Fluker wants to prove he's still a quality starter. The Seahawks drafted LSU guard Damien Lewis in the third round and parting with Fluker reportedly saved them around $3.7 million in salary cap space. Fluker doesn't care why the Seahawks released him, but he said joining his third team in four seasons gives him something to prove.

"Maybe they wanted (someone) younger," said Fluker, who has been training in Seattle during the offseason. "Maybe they want a different type of player. I can't speak for that. But I can come in here, show what I am as a person and a football player. I'm going to be myself. I promise, you're going to love watching me.

"Of course, I'm going to have a chip on my shoulder. My job right now is playing like I don't have a job. That's my mindset every single season. Come in there, work my [butt] off. That's what I do. I'm going to be in the lineup somewhere, hopefully."

Fluker believes he will love playing in Baltimore's offense because of the team's run-first mentality. He is a physical player who uses his bulk and strength to control defensive linemen. Yanda's combination of talent, technique and toughness made him a special player even though he was two inches shorter and 37 pounds lighter than Fluker. But Fluker believes the Ravens can still dominate the line of scrimmage with him in the lineup.

"Yanda was a great player. He does things that most guys can't do," Fluker said. "But my thing is taking guys off the ball. Moving guys to where they need to be. I move people. That's what I'm good at."

Being reunited with Ravens running back Mark Ingram II will remind Fluker of their college days together at Alabama, and he's also looking forward to playing with league MVP Lamar Jackson. Fluker entered every game with the Seahawks believing that quarterback Russell Wilson gave them an edge. He feels the same about Jackson.

"I've never seen a kid so fast," Fluker said. "That kid's got some crazy, crazy talent. It's going to be an awesome experience to play with him. He's a smart player, he's a great player, his teammates all love him. He seems like a humble guy getting to know him through Zoom [meetings]."

Fluker has never won a Super Bowl and joining a contender like Baltimore is the kind of situation he was looking for. He has heard about and started to experience the winning culture the Ravens have created, and he is determined to help them reach their ultimate goal.

"A Super Bowl ring would mean the world to me," Fluker said. "We've got something to work towards. We've got to figure out how we're going to do it. It's all about winning and being a team and having that bond. I'm excited to be a part of that."

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