FARGO — An undrafted rookie last season, former North Dakota State linebacker Chris Board made a strong impression on special teams in his first NFL campaign with the Baltimore Ravens.
Entering his second pro season, Board is vying for an expanded role. He’s expected to compete for playing time in Baltimore’s linebacker rotation.
“I think Chris Board is playing like a starter,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said during mini-camp in June.
The 6-foot-2, 229-pound Board was in Fargo last week, competing in the AO1 Foundation charity softball game at Newman Outdoor Field. Board said Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale expects him to contribute more in his second season.
“He told me that my role on defense will definitely be expanded from last year and that I have to play both special teams and defense,” Board said. “I’m prepared for it. Mentally, I’m ready for it, physically, I’m ready for it.”
Coach Harbaugh really pleased with what he's seen from Peanut, Chris Board and Kenny Young: pic.twitter.com/FZgXDqY4AD— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) June 13, 2019
Board played in 16 games for the Ravens last season, mostly on special teams, finishing with a combined 12 tackles, including eight solo stops. Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J Mosley left Baltimore after last season, signing with the New York Jets as a free agent. Patrick Onwuasor is listed as a starter at inside linebacker for Baltimore.
Board is expected to compete with Kenny Young and Anthony Levine for playing time at the other inside linebacker spot for the Ravens. Board played 14 snaps on defense as a rookie.
“He can run. I mean my goodness he can run,” Martindale said of Board in June. “He played out in a lot of space at North Dakota State, you know, really as a nickel. And now his instincts are showing up as an inside backer. All he does, he just puts his head down and goes to work every day. He’s battling for a spot.”
Board was a special teams ace during his Bison career. He emerged as a starting outside linebacker during his senior season in 2017, which NDSU capped with an NCAA Division I FCS national championship. Board played 57 games for the Bison, finishing his career with 124 total tackles.
Board said his experience with the Bison helped prepare him for a pro career.
“A lot of stuff carried over for sure,” said Board, who is from Orlando, Fla. “Definitely the playbook and stuff. NDSU’s playbook is extremely hard. That definitely carried over and helped me prepare myself for the NFL playbook.”
Board said he knew he needed to be a strong special teams player to make his mark as an NFL rookie. Board led the Ravens with 356 special teams snaps last season.
“I definitely embraced that role," Board said. "I knew coming in that I would be a special teams guy. I definitely enjoyed that and I look forward to expanding my role on defense as well.”
Even though Board played for an FCS program and wasn't drafted coming out of college, he always thought he could play in the NFL.
“I’m definitely blessed and fortunate to be in the position I’m in," Board said. “I definitely always believed in myself and I knew that if given the opportunity I could possibly make it.”