Earl Thomas III has always focused on the work, not the talk.
Thomas and Tony Jefferson are expected to be one of the NFL's best safety combinations, if not the best. With their depth at cornerback, the Ravens are also expected to have perhaps the league's best secondary.
However, Thomas won't rank the Ravens in July. After nine seasons as part of the "Legion of Boom" that led the Seattle Seahawks to a Super Bowl victory, Thomas recognizes what it takes to build an elite defense. In his first training camp with the Ravens, who had the NFL's top-ranked unit last year, Thomas is optimistic about the possibilities, but he refuses to overlook the details.
"It's too early to say that," said Thomas, a six-time Pro Bowler. "We still have to play games. We have to start dominating. We have to start building together and working on that chemistry.
"Today, we had a great communication day, and that's the biggest thing. As long as we communicate, then we'll be the best secondary. But if we don't communicate and people keep their secrets out there, it's hard to play together."
Thomas says he's not as all-business as some portray him to be. But he's serious about his craft. When you ask Thomas a question, he looks you directly in the eyes, as if he's studying you. He's not being unfriendly, but there's no doubt he's locked in on what you're saying.
For Thomas, the transition to playing in Baltimore isn't just about learning a new defense. It's about bouncing back from a broken leg that ended his 2018 season.
So far, Thomas seems pleased with his progress. There's been a lot of running for him during the past week, including the effort it took to pass the conditioning test. It was eye-opening experience. Thomas passed, but he admitted it wasn't easy.
"This organization has put my body through a lot," Thomas said. "Even with the run test – in Seattle, we didn't have a run test – you can't even practice if you don't pass the run test. And that run test is no punk. Everybody on the team passed it, and it's a feeling of great accomplishment. I feel like I trained pretty well in the offseason, but I thought I was going to throw up at the end."
Thomas likes the way his leg has responded to training camp, another reason he feels confident he's still one of the league's top safeties with sideline-to-sideline range. Thomas turned 30 years old in May and has made a more serious commitment to taking care of himself.
"When you're younger, you don't have to take care of your body," Thomas said. "They tell you, but you just don't do it. You're hard-headed. But now, I have to hit the cold tub. I have to hit the sauna, do a little contrast. I'm trying to fly my masseuse in so I can get that on schedule. You have to invest a lot of money in your body, especially when you hit my age."
Thomas praised Jefferson for his help with learning the Ravens' defense. It's a more complex scheme than what the Seahawks used, but the faster Thomas learns it, the faster he can play.
"Tony, he knows this defense," Thomas said. "He's making me more comfortable. He's given me more confidence. When we talk about a play, we hit a call, we talk about it, I know it. When a guy tells you, basically, 'This is your job and your responsibility during this play,' when you have any grey areas, it clears everything up for you."
Thomas loves the potential of the Ravens' secondary, featuring himself and Jefferson and safety, backed up by DeShon Elliott, Chuck Clark and Anthony Levine. Meanwhile, the Ravens have perhaps the NFL's deepest group of corners, headed by Jimmy Smith, Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr and Tavon Young.
The potential for something special is there, and Thomas wants to make sure the pieces fit together.
"We definitely have the potential to be the best," Thomas said. "And it starts with attitude, which we already have. So, now it's just getting to kick-start everything and making sure we're on the same page. Communication – I go back to that, because that's big for us. We have it all. We're going to hit. We're going to fly around. We're very physical and fast. We have big corners on the outside. Tony has the juice at the strong safety. 'Tay' [Tavon Young] has it locked up at the nickel. We have people coming off the bench, that's nice, as well, with 'B' [Brandon] Carr. We have all the pieces. We have depth. We just need to keep communicating."
Here are 22 players (there could have been a lot more) to keep an eye on at Ravens training camp.