Elvis Dumervil underestimated the transition he went through last season.
After spending the first seven seasons of his career with the Denver Broncos, he ended up in Baltimore following a string of unexpected events. The cross-country move happened suddenly for Dumervil, who only hit free agency because of an infamous fax snafu between his agent and the Broncos.
The Ravens pounced once the three-time Pro Bowler was released, and Dumervil came to Baltimore with hopes of helping the Ravens get back to the Super Bowl.
"It was a lot," Dumervil said after a recent Organized Team Activities (OTAs) practice. "Leaving a team that I was with for seven years, my entire career, that took more of a toll than I thought. Learning a whole new system, coming from the West to the East, it was a lot of adapting."
This year is much different for the 30-year-old defender.
He knows where he's going to play and the expectations the team has for him. He has a grasp on the defense – the Ravens and Broncos play very different systems – and he knows the personalities in the locker room.
"This year I'm a lot more settled," Dumervil said. "There's not as much going on, so I can focus a lot more. Last year was a great learning year. It was good for the soul. I'm excited for this year."
Dumervil used his first season with the Ravens to get a feel for the culture and the organization. Not only was he undergoing a change, the team as a whole was in the midst of a significant transition.
Through free agency, retirements or trades, the Ravens had parted ways with vocal veteran leaders like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Matt Birk and Bernard Pollard. Players like outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and cornerback Lardarius Webb looked to fill the void left by those departures, and Dumervil worked to figure out where he fit in the puzzle.
Dumervil took a lead-by-example approach last season, and was routinely praised for his attitude and work ethic. But now he plans to take more command in the locker room.
"I'm going to be a lot more vocal for us," Dumervil said. "I'm going to be a lot more hands on. I have to do more. I'm excited to embrace that role."
Dumervil was a highly productive player last season, and he finished second on the team with 9.5 sacks. He also had 31 tackles and two forced fumbles. The Ravens primarily used him as a situation pass rusher and paired him up with fellow outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.
He was the team's best player by a large margin, according to the statistical analysis website Pro Football Focus.
Despite the strong numbers, Dumervil was hobbled during the second half of the season by a nagging ankle injury. He played through the pain, but his production was limited and he notched just one sack in the final seven games.
"Obviously last year wasn't as good as we all wanted it to be," Dumervil said.
To make some tweaks to his game, Dumervil has spent the last few months of the offseason bulking up and adding some weight. He said that he's added about 8-10 pounds this offseason to withstand the beating he takes over the course of the season.
"This division is a lot different," Dumervil said. "I just think throughout the year, a little extra size helps. It allows you to take the pounding on your body, and I think it's a good move for me to make."
Dumervil has big expectations heading into his second season with the Ravens, and the team has made moves to upgrade their defense after finishing last year ranked 12th in the NFL. They re-signed Suggs and then took defensive players with their top three picks for the second year in a row.
The group has potential to develop into another talented Ravens defense, and Dumervil thinks that is key for the Ravens to play at a championship level.
"To win the Super Bowl, you have to have defense," Dumervil said. "You have to have depth. Hopefully these young guys come in and push the veterans and try to earn a spot.
"We can be really good. I think we have the speed and athleticism. We're very versatile. Size. Smart. We just have to continue to grind and continue to work, and the sky is the limit."