The past two summers, Courtney Upshaw's weight has been a hot topic. And it wasn't a positive one.
This offseason, however, the Ravens' third-year outside linebacker has good reports.
Upshaw says he's done well keeping his weight in check, and feels in better shape than usual during organized team activities (OTAs). He's a step ahead of where he usually is at this point.
"I feel good," Upshaw said. "I'm still working to drop a few more pounds, but I feel better and I'm able to run better than I was in the past. There's a difference there."
Upshaw didn't want to divulge his exact weight at this point.
Last offseason, Upshaw revealed that he got up to 295 pounds. His diet drew criticism from Head Coach John Harbaugh. Upshaw shed about 20 pounds before training camp, and was at his playing weight of 272 when the season began.
This year, he said one of his main goals was to come into OTAs close to his playing weight. He didn't have to be at or under it, but he wanted it to be manageable.
"I'm trying to stay close and not be outrageous with it like in the past few years when I got on the scale and it's a surprise with my weight because I'm like 20 or 30 pounds over," he said. "You have to work extra."
Instead of needing to drop weight over the next couple months, Upshaw can maintain and cut a few pounds if he needs to in training camp.
A contributor to Upshaw's weight trouble last year was that he was away from the team in Alabama taking care of personal matters. He was away from a healthy environment. This offseason, Upshaw spent much of his time with the Ravens' trainers and paying attention to the team's nutritionist.
Now Upshaw can focus on football. He was moving well during the Ravens' first week of OTAs, and looks like he would be ready if the season began tomorrow.
"I want to get out there on that field and produce – make some tackles, gets some sacks, whatever it takes to help the team," Upshaw said. "I can't produce if I'm overweight and tired."
The former second-round pick's stats dropped last season in his second year. He went from 60 tackles as a rookie in 2012 to 30 last year. He logged 1.5 sacks each season.
Upshaw logged more snaps as a rookie (886) than he did last year (650), in large part because of the addition of Elvis Dumervil, who took most of the pass-rush action. Upshaw and Dumervil shared the top spot on the team's depth chart.
Nothing has changed in terms of the roster to give Upshaw a chance at more snaps. Dumervil is still with the team and the Ravens extended the contract of Terrell Suggs, making him a Raven for life. Upshaw isn't worried about his role, however.
"I've got a whole new mindset," he said. "Being a part of this team, it's a privilege to just go out there and have an opportunity to get snaps and be in a position to make plays."
Upshaw was drafted to be a run-stopping, physical force on the edge of the defense. He manhandled tight ends and is stout turning the run inside. He does a lot of the dirty work.
But Upshaw wants to broaden his game.
"My main goal is to get better with my coverage," he said. "A lot of times I haven't been tested. I'm pretty sure quarterbacks will see me out there and want to test me, and I want to make plays."