At this point in his career, Pernell McPhee has returned for another season in Baltimore with a singular purpose. It's not about sacks, playing time, personal accolades or another contract. It's about winning a Super Bowl.
"I've just come back to win this championship, that's all I want to do," McPhee said on “The Lounge” podcast this week.
"We lost to Tennessee for a reason. I think it's going to light a fire under a lot of guys on the team. If it don't, they don't need to be on the team, but I know it will. 2020 is going to be very special."
It was no surprise when the Ravens re-signed McPhee to a one-year deal to fortify the edge of their front seven. Baltimore didn't draft an outside linebacker and few players know their defensive system better than McPhee.
The veteran had 19 tackles and three sacks last season starting the first seven games before suffering a season-ending torn triceps. McPhee is one of the team's most respected and liked players, credibility built from his first four NFL seasons with the Ravens (2011-14) which included the Super Bowl season of 2012.
McPhee was already a team leader last year, but in 2020 he plans on taking that to a different level. If he needs to organize early-morning workout sessions, so be it. If something needs to be said in the locker room or on the field, McPhee's voice will be heard.
Last year, the 31-year-old McPhee proved he still had plenty left in the tank. In addition, he was the primary mentor for rookie outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, who became the starter after McPhee's injury. Ferguson finished the season with 31 tackles and 2.5 sacks and improved as his first season progressed. McPhee and Ferguson will compete for reps in 2020, and McPhee wants to see Ferguson make another jump.
"I really would love for my boy Jaylon to step up and fill in there, and I could play a role I did in 2012 … when I was a third-down rusher, a run stopper," McPhee said. At this stage of my career, I understand my body. But he's going to have to work for it, because I ain't giving nobody nothing. That's my boy. It's always competition. Everybody's got to step it up. What we did last year was ok, but it wasn't acceptable."
McPhee said he has been inspired to become an even better leader this offseason by listening to former teammates Ray Lewis and Eric Weddle in Zoom meetings. Isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic has given McPhee more time to reflect, and he has used it to think about ways he can make a positive impact on teammates.
"There's never enough knowledge that you can't learn," McPhee said. "You can learn something from you child, from your next door neighbor, a homeless person. I always like to listen to people talk and try to take things from different people and put it toward my life. Just getting that moment to hear Ray Lewis talk again and really be able to pay attention, and not only Ray, even Eric Weddle? These are Hall of Famers."
Part of McPhee's charisma is his unique way of communicating – like his description of why he loves competition in practice, going against Ravens Pro Bowl tackles Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr.
"Just to be out there and Bogart everyone in front of you," McPhee said. "Once practice starts, I'm going to be lined up against one of the best tackles in the NFL. I'm going to try and take his soul if I could. But that's my boy."
Not surprisingly, McPhee is old school when it comes to communication. He doesn't have much use for Twitter or Instagram.
"I still can't get with social media," McPhee said. "I can't understand why people use social media. I'm different."
While McPhee didn't officially sign until May 14, he always planned on returning to the Ravens. Other teams may have sensed that, but McPhee had an amusing take on drawing little interest on the open market.
"I asked my agent to reach out to other teams," McPhee said. "Nobody, of course, didn't want me. It's cool though. It lit something. There's going to be a time when I catch whoever I catch. I guess it's going to be the Cincinnati Bengals. Snatch one of their souls out their chest – in a good way."
McPhee says another goal this season will be trying to avoid using profanity.
"There's certain ways leadership looks," McPhee said. "My next challenge is working on not cussing. I know that's going to be hard."
It was also hard to have to watch the second half of last year's franchise-best 14-2 season from the sideline. McPhee said he was emotional after his season-ending triceps injury; he wants a better ending for himself and the team in 2020.
McPhee loves the Ravens' new additions to the front seven featuring defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe, rookie defensive tackles Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington, and rookie linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison. The 2019 season didn't end the way McPhee expected, but he believes 2020 will end differently.
"I don't want to sound like Martin Luther King, but we all have different visions in life," McPhee said. "I thought that was going to be our year. I thought we were going to go win it all.
"With the addition of Wolfe and big boy, Campbell, it's going to be scary. I'm fired up about all the additions. I can't lie about that."