Five Things to Know About Derek Wolfe

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He's coming off a career-high seven sacks in 2019.

Wolfe flourished last season under first-year Denver Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio, who gave Wolfe the green light to get after quarterbacks while remaining an effective run stopper. Wolfe previously did a lot of setting up teammates for sacks, but Fangio schemed him to get open on stunts more often last year. Playing just 12 games, Wolfe had more sacks than any Raven last year except Matthew Judon, who led Baltimore with 9.5. Wolfe is a complete defensive end who can make a key tackle on third-and-1, or a key sack on third-and-9.

Wolfe should love playing for Ravens Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale, another creative defensive mind who welcomes input from veteran players. Wolfe, Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams give Baltimore an experienced and imposing defensive line that has the potential to win the battle up front every week.

His career was rejuvenated by successful neck surgery.

Plagued by nerve pain in his neck since 2013, Wolfe underwent foraminotomy neck surgery in February of 2018 and has felt like a new man ever since.

"I can turn my head like an owl," Wolfe told Denver's 9News.com following his 2018 surgery. "It's crazy. I can look all the way behind me. It's insane. I feel so much better. I swear I couldn't do a push-up during the season."

Wolfe turned 30 years old in February but says he feels much younger thanks to the surgery. Playing pain free has allowed Wolfe to play faster and more aggressively.

Wolfe suffered the scariest injury of his career in 2013, when he was taken off the field in an ambulance during a preseason game after a blow to his neck while attempting to make a tackle. He was temporarily paralyzed and diagnosed with a spinal cord contusion. Though he was cleared to play weeks later, Wolfe went into a depression, had severe weight loss and suffered a seizure on the way to a game later that season.

He turned his life around the following offseason and hasn't looked back. He's also earned a reputation for being one of the team's toughest players. Wolfe played all 16 games in 2018 and didn't miss a game last year until December, when a dislocated elbow sidelined him the final four games.

Wolfe passed his physical to make his signing with the Ravens official and he isn't worried about his elbow. He posted a video of himself two weeks ago on social media and declared his elbow "Good to go."

He had a challenging upbringing, but it built his character.

Wolfe has no relationship with his biological father, and his stepfather and mother divorced when he was in middle school. He lived with his stepfather for a short time after the divorce, but he soon began moving from one friend's house to another, unable to find a permanent home for several years as a teenager in Lisbon, Ohio.

"My stepdad was a stern guy," Wolfe told ESPN.com in 2016. "Imagine having a wife that's an alcoholic, and then you have two of your own kids, and then you got this step-kid. They made me feel like I was in the way. So I just stayed away."

In his junior year of high school, Wolfe found a home when he moved in with the family of his friend, Logan Hoppel.

"Logan was like, 'Dude, why don't you just come stay at my house?,''' Wolfe said. "Then his mom actually came to me and said, 'It's time for you to settle down. You're staying with us.' And so I did."

The Hoppel family owned a farm where he learned the meaning of hard work. Those values stick with him to this day.

"Every bit of work ethic that I learned was from living with those people," Wolfe said. "If you're not working hard, then you're just lazy."

He remembers when he had far less money

After his junior year at Cincinnati, Wolfe said he almost declared for the 2011 draft because he only had seven dollars to his name.

"I was tired of being broke," Wolfe told ESPN.com. "I was tired of not being able to feed myself, not take care of myself, not being able to buy myself a pair of shoes if I wanted them."

However, Wolfe changed his mind after talking with his former head coach at Cincinnati, Butch Jones.

"He told me, 'You're not going to be quitting on this team, on your teammates,'" Wolfe said. "'You don't want to be a quitter.'"

Wolfe stayed for another season at Cincinnati, won Co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year, and in 2012 was drafted by the Broncos in the second round (36th overall).

Wolfe will soon be howling in Baltimore

Wolfe lets out a signature howl after sacks or when he runs out the tunnel during pregame introductions. One of his favorite memories occurred in 2017, when Wolfe ran out of the tunnel with his brother-in-law, United States Navy Chief Brian Burrows before Sunday Night Football.

It remains to be seen whether Wolfe will be an honorary member of the Ravens' Wolfpack of specialists with Justin Tucker, Sam Koch and Morgan Cox.

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