Courtney Upshaw has always preferred to do his talking on the field rather than through the media, and that certainly hasn't changed as he's set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
The Ravens' top pick of the 2012 draft will head into free agency after four quality seasons with the Ravens, and it's up in the air whether he will be back in Baltimore next year.
Upshaw insists pending free agency isn't even on his mind.
"I don't wonder," Upshaw said after the season finale in Cincinnati. "I'm not even thinking about it. That time will come."
Upshaw, 26, has been a gritty defender over the course of his career. He's not a flash player who racks up sacks or turnovers, but he's quietly productive and plays a key role in leading the defense on the field.
Upshaw is one of the most reliable edge-setting linebackers in the NFL, and he's a vital piece in keeping Baltimore's run defense among the league's best. He finished this season with 51 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and two passes defensed.
The Alabama product has also earned a reputation as one of the toughest players in the locker room. He hasn't missed a game during his four years in Baltimore despite playing a physical position in the trenches.
"He's a tough, tough guy, and I don't know if Courtney has missed a practice all year," Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said. "If he has, it's maybe one, and I don't know if there's any; and you know he's hurting. He's beat up. You don't play that position and not get beat up."
Pees made his feelings about Upshaw clear last week when asked whether he thought the matchup with the Bengals would be the defender's final game as a Raven. Pees cut off the question before the reporter finished and said, "Don't say that."
In many ways, Upshaw personifies exactly what the Ravens want from their players.
"He brings an attitude to the defense," Pees said. "That's what he brings to it, is just a sense of toughness – which is what you're always looking for on defense – and a leader. He's not a vocal guy, but he shows it on the field. And he's a tough, tough, hard-nosed player, and he's a very smart player."
The market for Upshaw in free agency will likely dictate whether the Ravens can keep him. He could go the route of other starters over the years like Pernell McPhee and Paul Kruger who have cashed in with big deals from other teams, but it's unclear if Upshaw will get that kind of money.
Edge setters like Upshaw don't get the huge paydays of sack artists like Kruger or McPhee, and that could help the Ravens to retain him. Upshaw has virtually the same role that Jarret Johnson had for so many years in Baltimore, and the Ravens were able to keep Johnson for a second contract.
"I'm just focused on going into the offseason, getting myself together, getting right, preparing for the next season," Upshaw said.