Justin Madubuike is a serious-minded player, but that doesn't mean he won't have fun.
"I need to work on a sack celebration, honestly," Madubuike said. "I'm still working on it. I'm trying to get some ideas, but I'll let you know soon."
Entering a contract year as key member of the Ravens' defensive line, Madubuike is determined to make Year 4 his best. The 25-year-old tackle is coming off of career highs in tackles (42), sacks (5.5), quarterback hits (9) and tackles for loss (8) in 2022, and Head Coach John Harbaugh expects Madubuike to "take off" in 2023.
"I say take off, but kind of continue on the same track – take the next step as a player," Harbaugh said. "I think he's going to have a great year."
A great year would pay off handsomely for Madubuike, an ascending starter who has taken on a larger role each season. It remains to be seen if Madubuike will sign a contract extension with the Ravens or test free agency following the season, but he's keeping his focus on getting better every day.
"Everybody at this point in their career, when they're past three years … you can make it a bigger deal than it is or you can just put your head down and work hard," Madubuike said. "I chose to pick that route. Every year is a big year I feel like, so it doesn't change anything. You just keep working hard, you keep sharpening [your tools], getting closer to the details, be the best player you can be on and off the field, and for your teammates."
After Calais Campbell's departure to the Falcons, Madubuike has played more snaps for the Ravens over the past three seasons than any returning defensive lineman. He has become a defensive leader and when a younger lineman, such as Travis Jones, approaches Madubuike seeking advice, he's more than willing to share.
"Showing them the way – the way like Calais was showing me the way – pass that down," Madubuike said. "[I'm] just trying to take it one day at a time and keep working hard, showing them how to work.
"He (Campbell) was the old vet, but he showed us a lot of great things, and I definitely want to pass that forward and just definitely be a leader by example. When I feel like I need to say something, I'll say something. [I'm] just trying to work hard every day, because we have an ultimate goal in mind."
Building off his 5.5 sacks last season, Madubuike enjoyed working with new Outside Linebackers coach Chuck Smith during OTAs and mandatory minicamp. Madubuike's run-stopping ability forged his path to the NFL, but he wants to expand his pass-rushing repertoire and enjoyed working with Smith as a private instructor before he joined Baltimore's staff.
"We had a relationship prior to him coming here, so when he came here to the team, I was like, 'Oh, this is great. We're going to learn so much from you,'" Madubuike said. "So, I'm excited.He played in the league. He's been in our shoes, and he knows what it takes to get to the quarterback. He knows what it takes for the whole D-line to be on the same accord, so we can have a great rush plan. I feel like he's a great addition to our team."
Madubuike said he'll be spending time with family during the break before training camp, but his thoughts never stray far from football or staying in top condition. The Ravens will enter camp with a deep defensive line rotation that also includes Michael Pierce, Broderick Washington, Jones, Brent Urban and Angelo Blackson.
It's a rotation that Madubuike believes can be the best in the NFL, and he feels the same way about the Ravens as a group. The intensity will ramp up during training camp, and Madubuike is looking forward to it. He plans on celebrating sacks with a new dance and celebrating with his teammates in February.
"We have the ultimate goal as a team, and we all know what that is," Madubuike said. "It starts now."