In Mark Andrews' mindset, there is no room for complacency.
Entering his third NFL season, Andrews has made the rapid rise from third-round draft pick (2018) to Pro Bowl tight end. However, Andrews wants to separate himself from the crowd, to assume the mantle as the league's best at his position.
That's a difficult task, in a league featuring talented tight ends like Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs, George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers, Zach Ertz of the Philadelphia Eagles, Rob Gronkowski of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Austin Hooper of the Cleveland Browns, Darren Waller of the Las Vegas Raiders and more. Andrews led the Ravens in receiving yards (852), receptions (64) and touchdown catches (10) season. Only three NFL tight ends had more yards, six had more receptions and none had more touchdowns.
But he sees plenty of room for growth. Specifically, he wants to be a premier blocking tight end, not just a tight end who excels at receiving.
"There's a lot of room for me to improve," Andrews said. "Looking back this offseason, had a ton of time to think and watch film, really work on my body to get to that next level. I want to be the best tight end. I'm not there yet. I'm excited to be able to show what I can do this year.
"I think blocking's got to be a huge thing for me, where I've got to improve. I'm going to make big strides in that area this year and have a lot more opportunities to do that this year. And continue to work as a receiving guy. That's my bread and butter, but I always want to get better than that. I want to be dangerous in all situations."
There could be even more pass-catching opportunities for Andrews, after his close friend tight end Hayden Hurst was traded to the Atlanta Falcons during the offseason. But regardless of his stats in 2020, Andrews' biggest goal is for the season to have a happier ending.
"I'm a team guy, I want to win a Super Bowl," Andrews said. "That's the most important thing for me."
Ronnie Stanley Hopes Contract Comes Soon, Focuses on Leadership
After being named a first-team All-Pro and making the Pro Bowl for the first time, Ronnie Stanley has made his case for being the best left tackle in football. He also could become the highest-paid non-quarterback in the league.
Stanley is entering the final year of his rookie deal, but he's not letting contract negotiations interfere with his focus.
"It's not really at the forefront of my mind," Stanley said. "We're still in talks and hopefully we are trying to get something done soon, but I think my main focus right now … for me, it's always been be the best player I can be [and] help my team win. The money usually takes care of itself after that."
Stanley carries a heavy responsibility, protecting Lamar Jackson's blindside and anchoring the left side on a team that set an NFL team record for rushing yards in a season. With the retirement of Marshal Yanda, Stanley takes over as the line's most accomplished player and embraces a larger leadership role. The Ravens drafted two offensive lineman, Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson, and he wants to set an example for them like Yanda did for him.
"I think with Marshal being gone, that leadership has to be filled," Stanley said. "I'm all for helping my teammates and being there for them. I want to be that person that they can rely on, play-in and play-out. I think that's a role of a true leader."
Practice Battles Will Bring Out Best in Stanley, Calais Campbell
The trade that brought five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell to Baltimore was the team's most talked-about offseason acquisition. When Campbell lines up across from Stanley during practices, the matchup will feature two elite players with superb technique, and Stanley believes facing Campbell will result in both players raising their games.
"Calais is a great addition," Stanley said. "I'm super happy to have him on my side. Playing against him in practice is only going to make me better [and] only going to him better. He's a force out there, and he's going to really set the tone for our defense."
Stanley and Andrews Feel for College Players With Season in Jeopardy
As some schools continue to cancel fall sports, there are players and coaches who believe the college football season should go on. While the NCAA and college administrators continue to weigh their options, Andrews said he feels for college players during these unprecedented times.
"It'd be tough to have your season cancelled," Andrews said. "I lived Oklahoma, I grew up on Oklahoma. For me not to be able to have a season would be devastating. I hoping that they're going to have it for a lot of those kids' sakes. That's their time to go out there and prove themselves. A lot those guys may make a name for themself this year. If they don't have that, maybe they don't get to the NFL."
Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence wants to play this season, but he is also calling for steps toward creating a college football players association.
Stanley, who played at Notre Dame, believes with no salaries and no union representation, college players face a more difficult situation than NFL players.
"They're really not getting compensated for the risk that they are taking," Stanley said. "I'm sure every school doesn't have the resources that the NFL has. Football is a unique sport because there are so many people involved – so many players – and it's [a] really physical sport; you can't really avoid contact, [and] you can't really avoid [not] social distancing. I'm very happy to see the players standing up for their health and their long-term health."