Every week, we'll sit down with one Ravens player with 10 questions. They could be about football, life or anything random. Check back every Friday throughout the season to see their answers and get a little off-the-beaten path insight.
You've got Orlando Brown Jr. next to you at right tackle. How difficult is it for a rookie to break into the NFL?
"It's extremely hard. I feel like every rookie has to go through his growing pains of figuring out how to play the game at this level. It's another step up in competition – better athletes, faster players, stronger players. Having them go through their growing pains, get beat. We all got beat as rookies and we get beat as older players. But rookies especially, you have to go through that stuff and figure out how to bounce back from that and continue grinding and fighting."
How much does it help to come in with farm boy strength?
"There's definitely a term called weight room strength and football strength. Sometimes guys are not really big lifters in the weight room and they just have a knack for football, on the field strength. I've definitely been blessed with that. Now I've worked my tail off in the weight room, but I was blessed with some tools. I was fortunate to have that, and it definitely helps."
What was your welcome-to-the-NFL moment?
"There was a bunch of them, gosh. I got lit up on an interception during my rookie season. We threw a pick and I was just running blindly down the field looking to make the tackle and I just got killed by a safety. It was a 210, 220-pound safety, but the first thing that hit was my head. He completely blindsided me, killed me. I couldn't breathe, got up gasping for air. I felt like I've never been hit that hard in my life and I got hit by a defensive back. So I tell the young guys, when there's a pick, you better be running to tackle but you better have your head on a swivel or you're going to get killed."
What teammate helped you the most during your career?
"Matt Birk. Matt just helped with his approach every single day, his enthusiasm, his desire to get better every day. He was a straight pro, 110 percent, on the field, off the field. He did things the right way all the time. I just really respect that about him."
How did you develop your unique blocking style of giving opponents more space?
"I think that's mainly because I played tackle first. I played tackle my rookie year and fourth year. I'm used to working with space. When I moved to guard, I still set off the ball a little bit and give them space. There's a two-way street to that. If you're going to give them space, then you better be able to stop them. If you back up off the ball and they bull rush you, you have to be able to stop them. If not, you're going to be in the quarterback's lap. Some guys can't do that. But if I get caught on the bull rush, a couple hops or whatnot and I usually stop them. I definitely like that space. You're always fine tuning what you do and that's always worked for me."
Pass blocking vs. run blocking?
"Pass blocking is the toughest for sure. If you can pass block in this league, you can play football in this league. Obviously run blocking is hard too, but we all make our money on third down on offense. You have to stay on the field on third down in the NFL. It can't be you who is getting us off the field on third down. I take pride in every single block that I make, whether it's a pass block, whether it's a short set on a pass, whether it's a seven-step drop, whether it's a gap scheme runback, cut block, whatever. I'm trying to master them all, but you have to pass block if you're going to stay in this league."
What's the hardest part of an offensive lineman's job that people don't understand?
"It's the pass blocking. That's the hardest thing we do. Run blocking, if you get beat, it's not a good thing, but the ball carrier gets tackled. You can't give up sacks. Those guys are big and strong, and they're also shifty and move. You've got to stop the bull rush, the inside move, the swim move, the spin move. That's the toughest thing we do is try to stop guys like him [points to Terrell Suggs]."
Toughest opponent you've blocked ...
"I'll give that to J.J. Watt. When he was rolling, he was really tough."
Other than Super Bowl XLVII, what game stands out the most?
"That same year – that playoff game at Denver. That game was awesome to be a part of. Everybody wrote us off going into Denver because they just kicked our butts three or four weeks before that at our home stadium. Nobody really gave us a shot of going in there and getting that done. It was cold as hell. My fingers were frozen, my pads were frozen. We came out, made some plays and got lucky in the end."
Once you reach a Pro Bowl level, how hard is it to keep getting better?
"You try not to worry about the Pro Bowls, you just try to play consistent football every single week. That's the name of the game is trying to stay healthy and play consistent every single week. Pro Bowls will take care of themselves if you're doing your job. But it is hard. Obviously, you're not always going to play the game at 100 percent. You hardly ever do just because of the nature of the game. You have to play injured and you have to still play at a high level. It's extremely hard. That's why there's not many guys that can do it. It's a grind every single year. My goal this year is to start all 16 games and be consistent. That sounds like rookie goals, but that's freaking hard to do. It's hard to be consistent for 16 weeks. You can play four games and then I give up a hit or a half-sack or tackle for loss. Being consistent for that long is hard to do."