Gary Kubiak is preparing for his 31st season opener.
But he had to admit that he'll have some butterflies when the Ravens open the season against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"If you're not nervous, something is wrong," Kubiak said Thursday. "It's opening day in the NFL. It doesn't matter what year it is. I'll be a little nervous, but excited to go."
The Ravens new offensive coordinator spent nine seasons as a player with the Broncos and is now in his 21st season as a coach. He's seen plenty of football games in his lifetime. Yet Kubiak has reason to be a little anxious about Sunday's game, as he's in a new environment coaching the Ravens offense for the first time.
The Ravens have gone through an overall scheme change since Kubiak arrived in January, and the unit passed its first test by performing well in the preseason. Now they have to carry that over into the games that really matter.
"We've been working very hard and we're very excited about the way [the players are] working and I know they're excited to get playing," Kubiak said. "We're starting against a great group – a team that was a top-five defensive team last year. We have a big, big challenge this weekend."
Kubiak has spent the last six months installing his West Coast system that had tremendous success during his time as a the head coach in Houston and the offensive coordinator in Denver. In the preseason, the Ravens looked similar to Kubiak's offenses in Houston and Denver, which established the ground game with a zone running scheme and then relied on play-action.
The expectations is that the Ravens will closely resemble the system Kubiak has run in the past, but there is still an element of surprise for what the offense will look like exactly.
"Anytime that you have an opening game, there is some uncertainty," Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis said. "There's no question about that. Yes, we have some uncertainty of how things are."
Part of that uncertainty is the fact that teams generally only run their base schemes during the preseason. Coaches want to make sure players have a sound grasp of the system before introducing too many nuances, and they also want to keep some secrets for the regular season.
"Everybody in the National Football League is somewhat basic in the preseason," Kubiak said. "But the things that win in this league are doing your basics really well. Hopefully we can improve on that."
Kubiak isn't the only new member of the Ravens preparing for his first regular-season game in Baltimore. Veteran wide receiver Steve Smith, a 14-year veteran, has a similar attitude going into his Ravens debut.
"My first thoughts on the regular season – whether it's a new team or not – you're always nervous," Smith said. "You want to get that pass, first run, first hit, first kickoff, whatever it is, out of the way. Then you just go out there and you're like, 'Man, I just don't want to screw up.' That's the bottom line. Some people may say that's not true, but yes, you don't want to screw up. That's it."
The Ravens hope that Smith, Kubiak and the rest of the offense get rid of the nerves early in the important season opener with Cincinnati. There are always some uncertainties with a new season, but there are big expectations for the new offense in its debut.
"There are a lot of unknowns on opening day," Kubiak said. "I think the most important thing is that we line up and know what the heck we're doing and do it fast."