Courtney Upshaw embraces the role of a grunt man.
He sets the edge to stuff the run. He grapples with tight ends at the line of scrimmage. He frees up playmakers like Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil to do what they do best and get after quarterbacks.
Padded statistics haven't defined Upshaw's first three years in the NFL, but the outside linebacker has never complained.
"Honestly, I love it," Upshaw said about his role.
Upshaw's attitude hasn't changed as he enters his fourth NFL season and final year of his rookie contract. He knows what the defense expects from him. But he also thinks he has more tools in his repertoire than what he's shown to this point – namely sacks.
"I came into this year wanting to do more – not really trying to focus on just that pass- rush thing that I know I need to try to contribute more of that phase of my game," he said. "I'm just trying to better myself as a whole."
Upshaw is still looking for his first sack since 2013, but that doesn't mean was devoid of getting his shots on quarterbacks last season. The crushing blow he delivered on Ben Roethlisberger – the sack was called off because of a questionable roughing the passer call – was one of the hardest hits the Steelers veteran quarterback has ever taken.
The Ravens could use another player to step up in the pass-rushing department after the departure of Pernell McPhee and his 7.5 sacks. Suggs and Dumervil are clearly the team's top pass rushers – the duo led the NFL with 29 combined sacks last year – but the Ravens are looking for additional production from other members of the defensive front.
"Honestly, I just want to get that first sack [of the season], and then I'll get to clicking from there," Upshaw said. "Coming into the league, of course I wanted to get sacks. Everybody knows my stats from Year 1 to 3, and like I said, I just want to do more. The time is right now."
Upshaw also knows that putting up numbers as a pass rusher will help line his pockets when it comes times for contract negotiations next spring. He's seen teammates like McPhee, Paul Kruger and Arthur Jones cash in with mega deals after increasing their pass-rush production in contract seasons.
Elevating his performance to impact additional areas of the defense could set him up for a big payday, but Upshaw is keeping his focus on the team goals for 2015.
"It's a big year for the Ravens as a whole, not just for myself," he said. "I've never been a selfish player – a lot of people know that. I think it's just a big year for us all. We all want to get back to that Super Bowl and win it."