Following his first practice with the Ravens since mandatory minicamp took place nearly a month ago, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata knew he was going to be a little sore.
He admitted that the conditioning wasn't a problem – after all, Ngata had been working hard back in his home state of Utah since leaving Baltimore.
But just like any 6-foot-4, 345-pound lineman, the strain in the trenches is something that needs a few days to become used to.
"It kind of sucks to come back after being out for so long because you're not used to people leaning on you all practice," Ngata said with a laugh. "I can tell my joints are going to be a little sore tomorrow. But that just reminds you that you're back."
All Organized Team Activities (OTAs) across the NFL are non-contact, but anyone with a frame that massive performing drills with a similarly-sized player is going to feel it after a few hours.
Even so, Ngata was noticeably happy to be back on the field.
He bounced around with a big smile on his face, playfully harassing his teammates and coaches in between drills.
And when Ngata was inserted with the first-string defensive line, he looked as big and ready to play as ever. Despite having a new defensive coordinator in Greg Mattison, Ngata doesn't think it will take too long for him to feel fully comfortable.
"I've been working out and running, doing a lot of conditioning," said Ngata. "I do have to get used to the way our coaches and trainers do things again, but other than that, everything should be fine.
"It's pretty much the same defense, other than a little bit of different terminology. Coach Mattison's been able to tweak some things that I think can help us. And having 'C.B.' [longtime defensive line coach Clarence Brooks] here is huge for us."
It helps that the Ravens are returning their entire defensive line from a 2008 campaign where the unit helped Baltimore finish with the league's third-stingiest run defense.
What's more, the Ravens are also adding stalwart nose tackle Kelly Gregg, whose offseason appearance suggests that he will make a full recovery from microfracture surgery on his knee, and second-round draft pick Paul Kruger.
"It's one of the deepest positions on the team," Ngata said of his group. "We're so close, having been together for so long now. There are so many things that we can do this year, so I hope we can put it all together and make some plays."
Much of that will fall on Ngata's broad shoulders, however. He was absolutely stellar last year, leading all defensive linemen with 77 tackles and added two interceptions and four passes defensed.
Many NFL insiders believed he should have made his first Pro Bowl, but he only received a first-alternate designation.
Ngata hadn't been able to attend the previous voluntary OTAs because he was taking classes towards his college degree and spending time with his pregnant wife.
Now that he's back, Wednesday's practice can serve as Ngata's first major step to that Pro Bowl nod.
"It's great that some people noticed some of the things that I did last year, and this year will be another big one," Ngata explained. "We've got some big things to accomplish as a team, and it's always a personal goal of mine to get to the Pro Bowl.