Ryan Jensen walked into the Under Armour Performance Center locker room at 7:47 a.m.
"This is a lot better than 7 o'clock," he said.
The second-year offensive lineman has been one of a handful of players taking part in morning workouts orchestrated by the Ravens' newly re-signed left tackle Eugene Monroe. They usually start at 7 a.m. Jensen was essentially thanking his workout warrior for pushing it back an hour. Oh so gracious.
Monroe has less than a full season under his belt in Baltimore. But he's already showing his leadership. And in the process, he's proving why he was worth a reported five-year, $37 million deal.
Even though it's the offseason and there's still 10 days before the Ravens' voluntary strength and conditioning program begins, Monroe and few offensive linemen have been getting after it in the weight room.
"We definitely do not have to be up here this time or year," Monroe said. "But I feel like you have to train year-round in order to have success, in order to keep your body at its best all the time.
"I want to be the best and I'm not going to let anybody outwork me. I'm going to make sure no stone is unturned."
Even when Monroe was an unrestricted free agent and wasn't guaranteed to come back to Baltimore, he still worked out at the team's training facility. Part of the reason is that he lives nearby, but often a free agent stays away from the place and people his agent is negotiating with.
Monroe officially signed his contract on March 12. A press conference was scheduled for later that day. Usually players knock both out in one fell swoop – sign the deal, get a picture taken, go talk to the media, then go out and celebrate.
Not Monroe. He came in for an early-morning workout before doing anything. Then he went home, showered up, got in a suit and came back to sign his contract and talk to the press.
"That's the kind of leader you're looking for," Head Coach John Harbaugh said at the press conference.
It hasn't stopped since then. Monroe works out at least five days a week, sometimes six. He often does two workouts a day.
This is nothing new. After his rookie year, Monroe followed the lead of other veterans and most players take a few months off to let their bodies rest after a grueling season. But the next year, Monroe decided he was going to have a different offseason strategy.
"The next year, I started immediately and felt much better for it," he said. "I think the recovery time is not being on the field and running into each other every day."
Monroe isn't just benefitting himself. Other players take notice when a teammate signs a contract as lucrative as Monroe's. They wonder what he's doing right because they eventually want that same payday. That's what brought Jensen back to Owings Mills.
"Seeing him sign a big extension, it was motivation," Jensen said. "I kind of wanted to base myself off him a little bit and see what he does during the offseason on a daily basis. That was a big part of coming back."
Jensen would normally be in his home state of Colorado at this time. He would find a gym, a trainer and potentially some other NFL players to work with. That's what a lot of players do in the offseason before they can work with their coaches.
But Jensen put his training routine in Monroe's hands. Others followed, including guard/tackle Jah Reid and guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele. Osemele is doing rehab for his surgically-repaired back, but he sees the work the others are putting in.
Monroe has worked with a lot of trainers through college, his preparation for the 2009 draft, the lockout and change of staffs within the Jacksonville Jaguars. Through learning from all of them, he is now able to develop his own training program.
Monroe didn't call Jensen or Reid and tell them to come join him. They "trickled in" on their own. But when they did, Monroe took them under his wing and crafted workout programs for them as well.
"As a person, he's not that evil," Jensen said. "But his workouts are pretty evil."
The group does not skip days. A couple weeks ago, Monroe had to catch an early flight, so the group met at the Under Armour Performance Center at 4 a.m.
When asked for a typical workout, Monroe recited what they were doing that day.
They began with core exercises, which included a series of posterior chain exercises that activated all the muscles in their backs. Then they hit the iron, strengthening their glutes and hamstrings. That lasted for maybe an hour and a half. They finished with conditioning drills, including pushing sleds.
A lot of the exercises are muscular endurance based. Instead of doing three or four sets of eight reps, they'll push sets of 20 or 16 with weight just as heavy.
"It's tough at first because they're not used to lifting the way I do," Monroe said with a chuckle. "It takes some real man power to get through the lifts."
Jensen marvels at the amount of dips and pull-ups the 6-foot-5, 306-pound Monroe can do in a workout.
"He can do dips for days," Jensen said. "A lot of guys that weigh what we weigh, they can't do pull-ups. He can knock out 15 in a row, no problem. He can probably do more."
But Monroe isn't working out to get notoriety or impress the coaches. He didn't even do it to necessarily draw other teammates in.
He's just a leader by example, and will be so on the Ravens' offensive line for years to come.
"I don't ever do anything expecting to be seen," Monroe said. "I just work because it's the right thing to do and I want to be great."