Bradley Bozeman wasn't obsessed with winning the left guard competition during training camp and the preseason. Instead, he focused on being the best left guard he could be.
"My whole thing was, I didn't care if I got beat out," Bozeman said. "Don't think I didn't want to start. But I was going to give my best every single play. If my best wasn't good enough, then you know what? That's better for the team, because whoever else would've started was the better fit for the team. I just went out and showcased what I could do every day. Continued to work, continued to grind. It paid off for me."
It paid off for the Ravens in Week 1, when Bozeman and his fellow offensive linemen dominated the line of scrimmage during a 59-10 romp over the Miami Dolphins. It was only one game, but it was hard not to be impressed by how the Ravens' O-line performed. Mark Ingram (107 yards rushing) and other backs had gaping holes to run through. Lamar Jackson had ample time to throw and tossed five touchdown passes.
Asked about Bozeman's performance, Head Coach John Harbaugh said he was pleased.
"Bradley played really well and justified the fact that he was in there as a starter at left guard," Harbaugh said.
The entire day was a confidence boost for Bozeman, a second-year player from Alabama who was a sixth-round pick in 2018. Bozeman started just one game as a rookie, filling in for injured James Hurst at left guard against the New Orleans Saints.
However, Sunday was a different feeling for Bozeman because he earned the job over deep competition. He beat out Hurst and rookie Ben Powers during the preseason, and the Ravens also traded two left guards who had been contenders to win the job - Alex Lewis (New York Jets) and Jermaine Eluemunor (New England Patriots).
Wondering about his status could have been stressful, but Bozeman has learned not to lose focus. Early during his college career at Alabama, Bozeman said he spent too much time worrying about his place on the depth chart. Now, he simply focuses on his performance.
"If you get into the mind games and everything that's associated with this sport, it can hurt you," Bozeman said. "Not many people think about that. They just see what they see on Sundays. If you get wrapped up in that, like I've done in the past in college, it gets to you. You have to stay in your own lane and control what you can control. It's not about what the other guys do. It's about what you do."
Bozeman believes he's made great strides since last year, improving his agility and strength. That was evident on the first play from scrimmage Sunday, when Bozeman moved quickly to his right and threw a physical block that sprung Ingram for a 49-yard gain.
Under new Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, the line is being asked to work together in a variety of ways, to make the running attack more diverse and harder to defend. Bozeman loves the concepts, and the 59-point performance in the season opener only reinforced his excitement.
"It's entirely fun," Bozeman said. "You've got a quarterback like Lamar, a running back like Mark and our stable of backs. It makes it fun, receivers catching deep balls getting you off the field, keeping you fresh. It's an amazing experience to be surrounded by players like that. We started fast. We made some mistakes but it's a great starting point for us."
Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda has been a mentor to Bozeman, which has helped accelerate his development. He also mentioned left tackle Ronnie Stanley, center Matt Skura and Hurst as players he has leaned on for advice.
"Without those guys, I don't know where I'd be," Bozeman said. "It's been a real honor to play with Marshal, to be able to watch him, see what he does. I've started mimicking his habits and techniques and different things. He's a great guy to learn from."
Bozeman is not taking his starting role for granted or assuming his role won't change. He figures the best way to help the Ravens, and to keep his starting job, is to continue improving.
"This league is full of pros, guys waiting to take your job," Bozeman said. "Every week, you're playing against someone really good. In college, you have this guy or that guy, but it's kind of spotty. In the NFL, every week it's like the best guy you've ever played against.
"Who knows, I might not be the starter next week. But I definitely say I'm playing better than last year. I'm moving better than I have my entire career, and I hope to continue that. I'm not getting complacent, and I'm going to continue to work hard every day."