Sunday is National Tight End Day, so how does Mark Andrews plan to celebrate?
"Going off," Andrews said.
Andrews has been "going off" all season, tied with Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs for the most receiving yards among NFL tight ends. Andrews' impressive stats (34 catches, 468 yards, three touchdowns) have called attention to his status as one of the NFL's best tight ends.
But it's not just the numbers that make Andrews a stellar tight end. It's his work ethic, like the grueling regimen he puts himself through every summer back home in Arizona. It's his team attitude, the way he's constantly giving props to teammates and deflecting attention from himself. It's his durability – Andrews has missed just three games since joining the Ravens in 2018.
Andrews has leveled up in almost every way, and Pro Football Focus gives him the highest grade among all Ravens players through six games. This is why the Ravens inked Andrews to a four-year extension worth a reported $56 million. Andrews just keeps getting better.
Even people who didn't mention Andrews among the league's very best tight ends before are doing it now. Andrews doesn't mind the praise, but he's not doing it for the recognition. His primary objective is to win a championship, which is why he downplays the importance of being tied with Kelce for the league lead among tight ends in receiving yards.
"That's cool," Andrews said. "But obviously, it's very early on in the season, and there's a lot of work left to be done. The job is not finished yet. At the end of the day, there's really only one thing that I care about, and that's at the end of the season."
There is no doubt the Cincinnati Bengals will make trying to contain Andrews a top priority when they visit the Ravens on Sunday in an AFC North showdown. The Ravens are 22-3 since 2018 when Andrews has 50 or more receiving yards, including every game in their current five-game winning streak.
Andrews is an exceptional route runner who has a natural knack for making adjustments to get open. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman had an immediate feeling that Andrews had a chance to be very good early in his career.
"When he first got here, one day in, I went upstairs and basically told everybody, 'This guy's got a feel,'"Roman said. "He's got an instinct. I think that's one of his greatest strengths. He knows how to get open, he has a good feel for setting up defenders. He spent a lot of time this offseason working on releases and different nuances of route running. It's really shown itself on game day. We have high expectations of Mark and he does for himself. That's kind of where it all starts."
Andrews also has terrific chemistry with Lamar Jackson. It's a relationship that continues to grow. When Jackson and several teammates traveled to Arizona this summer to workout with Andrews, Jackson had the feeling his tight end would have a breakout season.
"When we were in Arizona, he was getting after it," Jackson said. "He just wants to be the best, and that's what you need out of your players."
There really isn't an offseason for Andrews. He has always been serious about his training, adding some things and simplifying others as he learns more about his body and gains more experience.
"I always treat my offseasons very … I'm very kind of rigid about how I'm thinking," Andrew said. "I want to have big years. I want to help this team. It was great for Lamar and those guys to come out and see where my head is at when I'm in Arizona."
That intense offseason work is paying off. Over the last two games, Andrew and Jackson have been on fire.
Andrews had a monstrous game in Week 5 against the Indianapolis Colts with 11 catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns, and the Ravens don't win without Jackson connecting with Andrews on a pair of two-point conversations that helped send the game into overtime.
Andrews also made a spectacular one-handed grab that blew up Twitter as people around the country watching Monday Night Football got a glimpse of his athleticism.
Andrews is so hyped for games that during the National Anthem, he has a difficult time keeping still, rocking back and forth, moving his legs like a racehorse that's ready to take off.
"I'm ready to go, man," Andrews said. "Football is a game of passion and heart, and it takes a lot of courage to be able to go out there and go play as hard as you can. So, I'm ready to go to war with my brothers. I know they have my back, and I have theirs. That's just the intensity."
Sunday's matchup with the Bengals is a key matchup, Baltimore's first division game of the season. For Andrews, it's another chance to "go off", playing the best football of his career as the Ravens look to extend their winning streak.
"Every time we play a division game, at the end of the day, it's going to be physical, it's going to be a good game," Andrews said. "They fly around. They're a physical team. Up front, it's going to be a handle to block. So, we have to be on our 'Ps' and 'Qs' this week. Obviously, a huge game this Sunday at 1 o'clock. I'm expecting the 'Flock' to show up."