*OFFSEASON WORKOUT MEDIA AVAILABILITY
Head Strength & Conditioning Coach Steve Saunders, RB Alex Collins, WR Michael Crabtree, QB Joe Flacco, G/T Alex Lewis, LB C.J. Mosley and S Eric Weddle
Head Strength & Conditioning Coach Steve Saunders
Opening statement:"Just an update: [It has been] two days. Guys are working hard, and I will say all the clichés you'd expect to hear. They're doing fantastic. I will say that after being in the second year, and having them do the program last year, it's much easier to get them through. The guys are much more advanced, even with their base-level program. They know what to expect with the running. They knew they were going to come in and work hard right away. It's really been just a terrific two days. I'm excited about the next three weeks and beyond [with] just seeing the progress that they make. The new guys … It was a rude awakening a little bit. They didn't have last year under their belt like the other guys did, but it's been fantastic so far."
Where do you come up with some of the ideas for the program, like hopping with a medicine ball, throwing it back over the head and chasing it down? Do you just sit at home and think, "How can I design it have fun but also make them work hard?" (Pete Gilbert) "I have a long drive in the morning, so I have a lot of time early to think about how I'm going to torture the guys in the morning. For me, it's all about intensity. Intensity is, especially with football … This isn't a track sport. So, if I had our big guys, or any of the guys, go run a 400- [meter dash], they're going to go out of the gates the first 50 yards and it's going to be strong. Then, 50-100 [yards in, it] looks like they hit a good headwind, and 100-400 [yards], they just hit that wall and they can't go. I have to say, 'OK, if I want that 40-second work or 50-second work, or even 5-second work, how do I get the intensity out of that where the legs aren't the limiting factor – that fact that they're not track guys?' We'll do a lot of stuff like we did today of just varying the intensity. They'll do a short sprint and back, they'll throw a med ball and get exertion, they'll do another short sprint. They have to jump – you can't cheat a jump; you're either getting off the ground or you're not. Then I'll make them do something else. I look for time and intensity. I'm not just worrying about running for the sake of running. I think that's a lot different and it's a lot safer."
Last season we heard OLB Terrell Suggs and CB Jimmy Smith talk a lot about the program and how it really changed their body. When you get veterans like that, who endorse your workouts, does that help with the younger guys? (Kevin Richardson)"It certainly doesn't hurt. We have such great veteran leadership here – Jimmy, Suggs, [Eric] Weddle, those guys. So when the young guys, or the new guys come in and see those guys working that hard, they know what the expectation is. They know how they have to perform, how they're expected to train. There's nobody doggin' it here. All those guys are working hard, primarily because of the great vets we have here and the leadership."
What have you learned about trying to build guys' strength and speed while preventing injury going forward? How do you marry those two?(Pete Gilbert)** "I never really look at anything as 'injury prevention.' I think my job is performance: How do you get the guys to perform at the highest level for a long period of time? For us, it's just structural balance, making sure we're hitting the muscle groups that we need to during the season, making sure they're strong with their body weight, making sure they're stable, and really, keeping their level of strength through the whole season. I think it's a fallacy that guys can't get stronger during the season. Last year when I have the whole program, we really proved it. I had some stuff in their program in June before they left and in August when they first got here. We trained the whole season, and every four weeks I change their program up. In their last phase in December, I had lifts that we had in June and August, and every guy – who didn't have some type of injury we had to work around – was stronger at the end of the year than they were in the beginning. They didn't know it because I changed things up a little bit. They didn't know they were doing that, but it was a great test case for me on really proving it. It was fantastic. Everybody feels good in September. Will our guys still feel strong and fast in December?"
Without getting too specific, QB Joe Flacco was talking about how much better he feels. Can you tell from how he's walking around and going through things? (Jeff Zrebiec) "He looks great in two days. Joe's always a competitor with our stuff – with the running, with the lifting. Joe is a freak in his own right. He's been great. Yesterday we did some stuff, did some movement drills, figure-eight drills, stuff with the ball, resisted running, and Joe is getting after it. Joe likes to beat other guys. He won't say anything – Joe's not that type of guy; he's quiet. He loves being a competitor in this stuff. He looks great to me."
Have you tweaked anything in the program? Has there been a great emphasis on anything given the number of injuries last year? (Luke Jones)"The traumatic injuries, I don't think there's anything you could do about, going through the list. What I tweaked is that it's tougher. Now they have a base, they have last year under them. So, I think I can do more with them because they understand it and they can perform more now – which is great. It's really just getting the new guys up to speed and catching them up as best you can."
RB Alex Collins
On his trip to Ireland: "Ireland was amazing. Words can't describe it. Just the experience … Going over there for the first time and just seeing how different the culture is, and learning outside of the Irish dancing, learning more about the culture, and being able to experience it with some great guys like Earl Thomas and Landon Collins and Jay Ajayi – it was pretty cool! For those guys as well, just all of us going around visiting the different places, learning about Gaelic football – it was awesome. It was definitely a sight to see. I encourage you guys to go, as well."
On the difference heading into this year compared to last year: "Going into this year, I just definitely want to pick up where I left off, and that's my main focus: trying to improve my game as best I can, as far as the team's, as well. Being back in the building, being with everybody and seeing the excitement all the way around, just being with the guys, you can feel it in the air. I'm just excited to see where things go. Everybody is coming in, [it's the] second day, everybody is busting their tails, working hard and just getting right back in shape. It's a good feeling."
On if it has been easier to prepare for the season knowing he signed his tender: "Definitely, but at the same time, I always want to try to compete with myself and focus on what I can do better as a player and let everything else fall in its place. You never know what can happen in this profession. I don't want to focus on if I will be here or there. I love it here, and that's all I'm focused on is just coming back, working on my game, working on my craft and working as a group. I talked to the running backs coach, coach [Thomas] Hammock, and our goal is to just be the best group in the game. So, we just push each other. It's Day Two here, and we're pushing each other just trying to compete, run and working out – we do everything as a group. That's our main focus."
On if he is looking to prove that he can be a franchise running back:"That's my main focus. I know I'm capable of it. It's more so just me trying to show everyone else that capability as well. I know I'm durable, I can handle the load, and I can do whatever it takes. That's just my main focus: showing them that I'm conditioned, I can do it, I know the plays. That's my main thing. That's something I want to do – it's a goal. I always set that goal – ever since high school. I've been able to accomplish it all over my career. Being able to get that at this level is something that I'm working hard for."
On how satisfying it is to show everyone his multitalented abilities:"It's more so for me to show everyone that if they can put their mind to it, they can achieve it. That's why I just like to take on new challenges, as far as the Irish dance or a whether it be a new sport. Just showing like – here I am, this is something that I've never done before, I have no experience at all, but with practice, you can pick it up and master it. That's what I try to show just to encourage people to get out there and just try it. You never know what you can be good at. Just by taking that step forward … That's the first thing, taking that step forward and at least just trying, and from there, the sky is the limit."
On if he picked up a new hobby this offseason:"I picked up a little Gaelic football while I was up in Ireland. I picked up a new celebration as well. I can't wait to show you guys!" (laughter)
On if he would do Dancing With The Stars: "If I get a shot, I'm definitely taking it, for sure. I think I can handle it. I got a little practice at the talent show out in L.A., and I think I'm ready."
On the offseason offensive additions: "I love it. Those guys are coming right in, getting to work, and you can just see that they're ready to show their worth as well: coming in strong, running, conditioned. Hearing them talk, just communicating with them … It's exciting just being in the locker room. We're just getting started, but that's all we can think about like, 'Let's go!' Especially how the season ended last year, we have so much motivation moving forward, and we're just trying to keep it all bottled in. I'm trying not to peak too early. It's hard for us, because we know what we're capable of, and we're just ready to show everyone else."
On if he views it as an opportunity to develop as a receiver in the backfield now that RB Danny Woodhead is not on the roster:"Yes, and that's the thing – I just have to have the opportunity. That's why I always have to be ready for that opportunity, because I know my capabilities, but I have to show the coaches and everyone else what I can do. I can catch, I can protect, and I would love that role as well. I just want to be groomed into it. Throw me out into the fire and I'll show you guys my capabilities. That's my main focus when I'm out there. Let them know in here now that I can do it, I want to do it, and I can take the load. It's just as far as if they're ready for me to do that or not."
On if he watched the Week 17 play against the Bengals when he reversed the field:"I did! I do it religiously – just watching a bunch of plays over and over to see … It helps when your mind isn't out there. When you run a play again with the film [to think], 'What could I have done differently? Are they overrunning the play?' It just helps with the reads and the keys and everything else. That play, that was the only thing I could do, but I'm glad I did! Reversing field, having Joe [Flacco] out there blocking for me was a good feeling."* (laughter) *
WR Michael Crabtree
On what it has been like to get here and meet his new teammates:"It's been great, man. A lot of hard work since the day I stepped in the facility; we've just been working. I'm trying to adapt to that work and really having fun with it."
On what the biggest challenge is about going to a new team:"It's like the first day at a new school. It's a lot of excitement, meeting new teammates, new coaches and just a new organization. I can't even explain it to you, but I'm taking it on; and I'm having a good time doing it. It seems like the place for me."
On moving to the East Coast for the first time:"Yes, I'm from the South – I'm from Texas. Go to the West Coast, to California. And then all the way to the East Coast." *(Reporter: "How is that going for you?") *"I mean, it's football at the end of the day, but I told them I might need a heater by my locker. *(laughter) *It's just crazy."
On how long it takes to get up to speed with a new quarterback, and his early impressions of QB Joe Flacco:"Oh man, football … Be a receiver, catch the ball, finish. Do whatever it takes to help the quarterback and this offense. It's just every day, day by day, one day at a time. That's just how football goes. The more we go out there and run routes together as a group, the more comfortable we are come game time."
On what he thinks about QB Joe Flacco after catching the ball from him:"I would say the same thing – smooth. A lot of finesse. That deep ball, I haven't seen anything like that in the air. That spin is just nice. Being able to catch the ball from Flacco, it's just amazing. That's a good quarterback, man."
On if it has been his experience that developing a good relationship with the quarterback off the field has helped with production on the field:"That's with everybody. I think you need to have that relationship to have that accountability on the field. If we're talking in the locker room, and we're talking about this, and we're talking about that, then come game time he's going to expect me to do what we talked about. So, I mean, that relationship goes hand-in-hand."
On how different it is to be with a veteran quarterback in QB Joe Flacco after playing with some other quarterbacks who were early in their career when he played with them:"I hate to compare, but Joe Flacco is Joe Flacco, and that just is what it is right now. Like I said, I'm excited to be here and I'm ready to go to work."
On his thoughts about potentially teaming up with free agent WR Dez Bryant:"I don't talk about potential or anybody who is not on my team. I'm sorry, but …"
On his history with CB Aqib Talib:"I'm a football player. I mean, I feel like if you do something to me, I'm just going to get you back. That's just football. A lot of people lose sight of football. It's tough. It's football. That's where we're at with it."
On how much he brings to the wide receiver meeting room with his approach to the game of football:"I mean, when I came from the 49ers and went to the Raiders, it was pretty much the same thing. Those guys were [3-13], or something like that, so it was a challenge. Here, I don't think these guys are that far away. It's just about coming in, stepping in and doing your job and focusing on your job. So, I pretty much take it like that. I'm ready for the challenge."
QB Joe Flacco
**How are you able to schedule your children in the offseason? *(Kirk McEwen) *"My kids are at the age now where school becomes the biggest issue that we're dealing with, and how we want to do it. I just have to give a lot of credit to my wife. It just becomes a lot of pressure on her towards this time of the year. [I've] been doing this for a long time, and she knows what it's all about, and she understands that it may not be ideal all the time for her. But she also understands it and does a great job with it."
What are your thoughts on your new targets WR Michael Crabtree and WR John "Smokey" Brown? (Ryan Mink) "I'm really excited about them. I don't know much about either of them, to be honest with you, but I've gotten a chance to watch Michael up close a few times. Just the physicality that he brings, and I think his route-running too, with how much strength he runs with – and he seems to bring a lot of those things. You can tell just by throwing with him a couple times [that] he's smooth. With John, a couple years ago when he really came on the radar, you got to see just what he can do, game-breaking with his speed and all that. I almost hate to bring up his speed, just because I really do think he's a really good wide receiver. After talking to our quarterbacks coach, James [Urban] and a couple guys from around the building, they really, really, believe that he's the real deal. I'm excited about him. And same thing throwing with him, you can see what he has, and it makes me very excited about it."
**Is it different throwing to veteran receivers who have more NFL experience than it is to someone who is new to the league? *(Nestor Aparicio) *"I don't know. You really do have to look at it on an individual basis. Everybody is a little bit different. Some guys are very natural and fluid, and some guys … I always look at Steve Smith. The first ball I ever threw to Steve I was like, 'Oh my God. I don't know if I'm going to be able to hit this guy!' I threw him a hitch, and before the ball got there, he ran three yards upfield and just grabbed it like this and took off. I was like, 'Man, that's a little different.' *(laughter) *Everybody has their own way. You obviously know what Steve's done – he's an incredible receiver. So, you just have to get used to … When you're running routes individually on air, there is a little getting used to each guy. That helps, because once you get out there on the field, you're not really seeing that stuff. You're just seeing holes and guys are getting in holes. If guys are good at separating – it doesn't really matter how they do it – I just see the separation at the end. This definitely helps with that period once we do start putting the pads on and running around and stuff like that. So yeah, over the next few weeks, you'll get used to each guy individually, and once we put the pads on … Not even putting pads on in the offseason ... Once we start running routes, with defense and things like that, those kind of things will take care of themselves, and I'll just start seeing those guys in holes. I can tell you [that] those guys' hands are good – that's why that becomes so important."
Having done this a long time now, you were out last year where you didn't have the chance to throw to your receivers in the offseason. How much value is there in that? (Nestor Aparicio) "In the five weeks after minicamp, yes, because that's when you're really ramping up and we want to stay ramped up. But honestly, in the time from January through March, if you happen to be working out with guys, it's all good. I think just staying in shape, and for those guys to be running routes and catching the ball, and for me to be throwing a little bit and keeping my arm in shape – that's all good. I think when it becomes important to get with guys and really throw is after you've spent a little time with your coaches, we all understand what the common goal is, and then when you're ramping up in those five weeks towards the season, then is when it really becomes important. Other than that, if it happens to happen, it does. But at the same time, guys are all over the place, and we just talked about that a little bit."
Both head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome talked about how beneficial they believed it would be. This is a year where there's a lot of new receivers with Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace gone. Is this a year where you feel you need to do that? (Jeff Zrebiec)"There's no doubt that stuff is important, and we'll do it. We've already talked about it with John [Brown] and Mike [Crabtree]. I think sometimes those things are just as much, or more, about developing a relationship with those guys and developing that trust, for those guys to see that I really like who they are as football players, and for them to see that hopefully they like who I am as a football player. I think when you can get that relationship going, that's going to help your football team out a ton. Obviously, there are benefits to throwing and the physical aspect of it, but I think building that relationship when you have new guys is just as much, or more, important than all that stuff."
**How long did it take you to do that with former Ravens receivers Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith Sr.? *(Keith Mills) *"When I came in with Derrick, I was barely thinking about that stuff. You have so much more on your mind and you're trying to make the team … Maybe I wasn't trying to make the team, but I'm trying to prove to these guys that I can play. As your role goes on, you're not so much worried about that anymore; you're worried about being the best you can possibly be with this team, because you know it's your team. So, I would say with Anquan and Steve, I was able to focus on that a little bit more, as opposed to with Derrick, you just come in and all of a sudden you're the guy playing. You go with what you have."
How do you like the addition of QB Robert Griffin III III to the quarterback room?*(Kevin Richardson) *"You meet him on the field, but I haven't really met him until yesterday. He already seems like an awesome addition to the room. He seems like a great guy, and he's out there working hard, and that's always a really good thing."
How has the offseason been for you from a health standpoint? Any lingering issues with the back? How are you feeling going into this program?*(Luke Jones) *"I feel really good. I spent a lot of this offseason working around that, working on that, and doing a lot of big things with that. I feel great about how it went and where I am at this point."
What would you describe as your priority going into Year 11? (Garrett Downing)"My priority? Shoot – winning 12, 13 games, getting in the playoffs and winning the Super Bowl. Winning the Super Bowl is the No. 1 priority. That's what we're all here to do. I want to be able to be here day-in and day-out, stand tall in that pocket and deliver to big, strong, fast guys out there that are going to make plays. That's what our idea of this offense and this team is."
What's your impression when you hear speculations that the Ravens could draft a quarterback as high as the first round? (Bo Smolka)"It is what it is. It's a business. Eventually, at some point, that's going to have to happen. It's not really for me to worry about. I come in here and you worry about what's here and now, and doing your job – which is for me right now, getting guys out there working hard and making sure we're moving towards our goal of getting to that championship."
What's on your draft day wish list? (Kirk McEwen)"Draft day is so unpredictable. I used to pay attention to it a little bit, but at this point, I'm just fired up about what we have here and what we have right now today. Once that changes, it changes, and I become fired up about that. But I really don't concern myself too much with that. I trust the guys that we have to pick very good players, whether that's offense or defense. They're getting our team set to be a playoff football team. Us as players have to have faith in that."
Your receiving corps has changed quite a bit, but would you like to add another veteran? What do you think about WR Dez Bryant? (Shawn Stepner) "It's pretty easy to talk about him. He's played in this league for a long time and is another really physical, strong-to-the-ball-type guy that as a quarterback, he's nice to have. I got used to throwing to a guy like that when Anquan [Boldin] was here. He was a guy that even if he didn't have the separation, it may have taken me a couple games, but you got used to throwing him the ball and having trust that he was going to get it. At the end of the day, in order to win big games, you have to have guys that can do that, because eventually, you're not going to have guys running wide open – you're going to have guys that can deal with traffic, winning in traffic, catching the ball in traffic. I think he's another one of those guys."
What have been your impressions of QBs coach James Urban? (Luke Jones)"I like him a lot. I've talked to him on the phone a handful of times in the offseason, got an awesome impression of him over those phones calls, meeting him here and knowing he's been with Marty [Mornhinweg before]. He's comfortable with this system. I'm definitely happy to have him
Is there value to having a separate quarterbacks coach from the offensive coordinator? (Luke Jones)"There's definitely value. Being able to go into that room … For one, it frees your coordinator up to not have to have that burden of constantly being with his quarterback. He knows that we're going to be getting the same message in the quarterback room with the quarterback coach. It makes the relationship between quarterback and coordinator better, just because you have that one guy there that as long as they're speaking the same language, it's always a good thing."
S Eric Weddle said that you're happy in the direction the offense is heading already. What can you share about that and your feelings on what offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is doing moving forward?(Ryan Mink) **"I think it took a while last year to find out who we are, what we're all about and how we're going to merge our running game with our passing game. But I do think we figured that out towards the end and started to hit on all cylinders a little bit more and become more of a dynamic offense like we want to be. I'm very optimistic about continuing doing that moving forward, and adding a couple pieces to help with that too."
Has this offseason been different for you from a physical standpoint? You mentioned on working to make sure that's not an issue. What exactly do you mean by that? Do you mean doing different stuff for your back so it doesn't become a habitual thing every year? (Jeff Zrebiec)"It's kind of past that point where it's going to be a habitual thing anyway. But obviously, there was a little bit of getting better there with that. I don't think this offseason was any different, in terms of how I worked out, and what I've done – maybe a little bit more catering to making sure that won't be an issue moving forward."
G/T Alex Lewis
On how he is feeling:"Feeling great. I was glad to have the guys back in the building again, and we're ready to get to work."
On how hard it was mentally to go through a season watching from the sideline:"Mentally, it's very tough. You always want to be out there with the team; you always want to be playing. But at the same time, it gives you time to reflect on your game, gives you time to realize your strengths and weaknesses and how to better your weaknesses. Having a guy like Marshal [Yanda] around with me in there, I was able to talk to him, and he told me how to go through it and whatnot – that definitely benefits. You've got to look at it in a way that you can grow from it and not be sour about it."
On what exactly his injury diagnosis was:"I had a torn labrum, and they went in there and repaired the labrum. It was a six-to-eight-month recovery, and we're at month nine now, I believe, so we're feeling pretty good and ready to rock."
On if he has to wear any special braces or anything like that:"No."
On what he sees as his best position on the field:"As an offensive lineman." (laughter)
On if he has played center much in his history of playing:"Yes, I've played center here and there. My father, he played for 10 years at center, so growing up I was always taught to snap. He always said, 'The more positions you can play on the offensive line, the longer your career is going to be.'"
On if he has a preference where he wants to play:"You guys already know that – starter, man. Starter. *(laughter) *Being on the field. That's the No. 1 goal right now."
On watching QB Joe Flacco work out right now compared to where he was a year ago:"You see Joe throw in practice, you see him run, and you know he's an elite quarterback. He's an elite leader, and he's an elite man as a father and a teammate. But he's dialed in and he's ready to roll. I think this team is hungry, and we want to get to the playoffs, and we want to win the Super Bowl."
On if he thinks a major part to his maturation and success will be avoiding injuries:"Injuries are always a part of the game. Sometimes they're unavoidable, and you've just got to learn to overcome them and understand that you've got to take them one day at a time, one play at a time. You can't really worry about that. You've got to worry about the man across from you and your assignment for that play. When you start worrying about injuries, it's going to affect your game. You've just got to know that when you get in there and you're called upon, you've got to do your job."
On if he is still dealing with or worried about the labrum issue at all:"No, I'm not worried about it at all. If I was worried about it, I wouldn't be playing football. I love this sport, and I love the game, and I'm always going to look forward to the future and to the next day."
On how G Marshal Yanda is doing:"Marshal is great. He's actually here, showed up Day One and he was a great sight to see. We really enjoy his company, and we're excited for him to be here right now. We gave him a little tough time, but he knows how to handle us young cats, full of energy. He definitely brings us down to earth sometimes, but he's doing great."
On making it clear that he just wants to be on the field as a starter, but if he has any idea if he could possibly be playing center or if he has heard where he might be playing:"There's always a possibility. As an offensive lineman, you understand very early that things can change week to week. They're going to call upon you, whether it's to play center, guard or tackle – just depending on who is healthy, who is playing, who is not playing. So, I don't really go into it thinking, 'Oh, I'm going to play this one position. You've got to be dynamic and versatile, learn to understand that and accept it as a player and be able to go in there and fill in and play at a high level."
On how much he is looking forward to this season to prove the type of player he can be:"I'm definitely looking forward to this season. It's a big year for me going into Year Three. You settle down. Year One, you're pretty amped and learning so much about the game. And then Year Two came and I got hit with the injury, but it was another year for me to learn and grow as a player, learn more about the game, learn about the guys in the locker room, the coaches and the staff. So, coming into this year [I'm] a lot more comfortable as a player, as a person in the building. So, this should be a breakout year."
On where he was when C Ryan Jensen called him with news about his new contract in Tampa Bay:"Oh, I was here in the building, and then Ryan shot me the text saying he got the contract. I just asked, 'What's the number? Let's hear it.' *(laughter) *And he told me, and I was pumped for him and his wife and his newborn. What an awesome year he had, and what a blessing for him to get that contract. But seeing that is just motivation, and knowing it's not luck. Everything is hard work in this world, and it's not going to come easy. But if you put your nose to the grinder, good things are going to come about."
LB C.J. Mosley
On who will be the next Alabama alum to play for the Ravens:"I don't know. Anybody that we get, it's going to be great to add a former Alabama player with the Ravens. Whoever we draft, they have to come in and put in the work, no matter where they come from."
On Vikings LB Eric Kendricks' new contract:"If I wasn't eating breakfast when I saw it, I probably would have never noticed. It's always good to see a player in your position get paid, or anybody in this league to get paid, because everybody puts in hard work. As far as my contract goes, no, I'm not really worried about it. I'm here just like everybody else to get better, to get ready for the new season and try to accomplish our goals. All the contract stuff … That's what upstairs and my agent [do]. That's why I pay him that three percent for it. (laughter) I just play football."
On if he's aware that there have been talks regarding his contract:"At the Pro Bowl I talked with my agent. He told me they started a little bit talk, but that's the last thing I heard about it. Like I said, when I wake up, I'm not really thinking about that. When it comes, it'll come."
On if he foresees staying with the Ravens:"For sure, that's the plan. It's been the plan the whole time. I'm sure we all see eye-to-eye with that point. As far as the money and all that stuff goes, that's for the upstairs and the agency."
On his excitement towards having Don "Wink" Martindale as the defensive coordinator: "It's exciting. Being with 'Wink' my whole NFL career and being close with him, I'm happy for him and his family. Before he got here, he was a defensive coordinator with the Broncos, and that's what he always talked about – getting back to that, to that level. Now he's there. It's our job as players, and his job and the rest of the job of the coaches, to get the new scheme that he put together. So far, it's Day Two and … There's a lot of stuff that is kind of the same, but the schemes are different, the verbiage a little different. It's going to take a while for the guys to get in the process and being comfortable with switching things up on the field. He said it's pretty much going to be our playbook. The more we put into it, the better we'll be with the new differences."
On how exciting that will be being the guy who passes the signals in the huddle:"It's always exciting being a part of a great defense and a great organization and also be one of the leaders of the defense. That's always a big thing to be proud of."
On how different the new playbook is:"It's only Day Two, so I'm pretty sure he hasn't put all the hard stuff in there yet. So far, it's been pretty easy – easy as far as going from what we did last year, and the past few years, until now. There are a lot of the same types of schemes, but now there's just different ways of showing the things like that. I don't want to tell everything on Day Two, but it'll be a little switch-up, but it won't be too much different."
On if there are defensive needs:"As far as what we have right now as a defense, I feel like we can go out there and compete with any other defense or any offense. There's always going to be somewhere we'll have to get better or add a few players here, that's just part of doing a different year every year. There's always going to be something different. Once we get in the playbook these first couple weeks, get out there for OTAs, we'll see where guys are at, how we're handling the playbook and things like that."
On what his offseason has been like:"Not too much has changed. I stayed up here longer because I was figuring [that] I pay bills up here, I might as well stay at my place. (laughter) Besides that, I went back home to Alabama, hung out with family, hung out with my brother in Tuscaloosa, worked out, then came back here and worked out a little bit before OTAs and all that started. Pretty much been the same grind: come in a little bit stronger, little bit in shape and then buy into the system all over again."
On if he finished the season healthy:"Yes, no surgeries this offseason. I'm always thankful [for that]. Surgeries, they weigh a toll on you. It's been good to come out with healthy shoulders and healthy wrists. Towards the end of the season, I hurt my ankle, but I haven't had any problems with that in the offseason running. For the most part I feel pretty good."
On if he changed his philosophy for the offseason not having to rehab an injury:"Just having that setback, especially with a shoulder injury, you have to take it one week at a time. You get a little heavy because you like to eat, or don't get as strong in the upper body because of the protocol for the shoulder. It's been good just to start from where I finished and build on that."
S Eric Weddle
On how the offseason program is progressing:**"It's been good; it's been long. [I'm] finally getting my guys back. It's been a long year since the season ended, and being here, working out by yourself, is always a challenge. But we're ready and we're excited: new things, new players, new adventures, new beginnings. Everyone is upbeat, excited and everyone has championship aspirations. It's April. Some of us wish it was training camp already, but it's not, and we have to go through all this to get there. We're excited."
On the biggest takeaway he had from the outcome of last season:**"From the top-down, there's no egos in this building. When your GM comes out and says he has to do a better job, then everyone falls in line with that. I've never been a B.S.-type player. If I'm not good, I'll tell you. If I'm playing good and we still lose, [then] it wasn't good enough. I think everyone took that approach. Obviously, it was a tough loss to lose the way we did – but that's life; that's football. It's a driving force for us this year to all collectively get better and to push each other and to hopefully not put ourselves in that position where everything revolves on that one game, the last game of the year. Let's shore up with four games to go that we're cruising into the playoffs, instead of always fighting it out. Guys come back ready to rock. It's nice to see the younger guys take that approach and really grow as a player, as a person, and take football serious. This is our livelihoods. You're living a dream every day – right? I tell guys this, and I have to tell myself, that I am lucky to play this game – to live out my dream every single day I wake up. So why not give it my best, give it my all? I don't have to sit back 10 years from now and say, 'Gosh, I wish I would've worked harder,' or, 'I wish I would've gave more to my teammates.' So when you see that out of younger guys, it makes an older guy excited to come to work for them."
On the if he expects there to be major changes with a new defensive coordinator and his opinion of defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale:**"It's exciting. I've gone against 'Wink' – not me personally – but when he was with Denver back in the day and Oakland … I have so much respect and love for 'Wink,' and he's one of the main reasons why I had such a heartfelt [feeling] for Baltimore when I was a free agent, when I was with him at the Pro Bowl the year before. He's ready for this challenge. He's bringing in a lot of different elements that we haven't had. For us, as players, it's exciting. It's a challenge for us to go over new things, new terminology, and things that will give us the ability to react and change on the fly – and not be so blackboard defense, black and white, this is what we do versus this. We are able to, when it gets to the season, be able to change on the fly to put us in the best position possible, which will help us in the long run to be able to finish and be the best defense as possible."
On if he meant having an ability to change over the course of a game or season: "It's just building. We're changing a lot of stuff and adding a lot within the call, within the defense. There will be times where I can change with C.J. [Mosley], I could change with the tackle or an end on their responsibilities on what I see from the offense. So, if I see the ends dropping out right here, I could tell them, 'No, you stay on your blitz path and I'll cover for you,' where we didn't have that ability in the past. It's able to give the players more responsibility, because we have a lot of guys who are intellectually high. They understand football; they understand the game. Coach [Martindale] is giving us the tools. Obviously, it's going to take us a long time to be confident in what we can do and what we can change, but it's going to be great for us."
On how exciting it is to have continuity in the defense, personnel-wise:"Turnover always happen in this league, but for us on this defense, we have everyone pretty much intact. We're getting a lot of our guys back from injury. Tavon [Young] comes to mind. From the young rookies like Tim [Williams], Tyus [Bowser] and Bronson [Kaufusi], those guys are young, guys waiting, champing at the bit to get in there. It's great. Continuity, especially as a secondary … I mean, we have everyone back, and we can build off of what we did well last year and what we didn't do well. This gives us an extra season together to continue to mold and build the repertoire of what we want to be. We took strides last year. From two years ago when I got here to last year, leading the league in turnovers to now … The interception-to-touchdown ratio has to get down, the big plays have to get down, quarterback completion percentage needs to be under 60 percent, the quarterback rating [needs to be] 70 or below. Those are the goals that we're setting out to try to be the best in the league."
On seeing QB Joe Flacco participate in offseason workouts: "He drives this ship. It hurt us, obviously, not having him at all for training camp. People forget that he basically had his first rep the week of our first game and finally got rolling the second half of the year. It's nice to see. He's excited, he's motivated. I think he likes what we're doing offensively, and he'll get more into that. Coach [John Harbaugh] 'Harbs' does a great job of laying out the gameplan, laying out the changes of offense, defense especially into the whole team, so we kind of get a gist of what they're doing offensively, for defensive guys, because he explains it to us. This team goes as he goes. He's going to get a full offseason with our new receivers, offensive philosophy and what he wants to do, and it's going to show."
On if he reached out to recruit former Dallas WR Dez Bryant:"I've reached out to him. Dez is an amazing player, passionate, competitive, everything you want in a teammate. For a guy like that who just came off a tough situation, you just want what's best for him and where he feels comfortable. If we got a shot at him, we'll see what happens. Obviously, we're there, as a current Raven, to reach out to him and give him the pros and cons. [There are] not many cons here, but I am honest – as you guys know. I'll shoot him straight." (Reporter: "What do you say?") "That's none of your business! It's between me and my guys." (laughter) (Reporter: "What are the pros?") *"The pros for me is the city, for one, the fans, this organization – we have the best owner in sports, our head coach is top. From the position coaches to the players, this is a unique family organization from top-down. There's no ego. It's about the team. It's about winning, and everyone's personal agendas get pushed aside in this building, and that's how you win. I know we've come up short, but we've progressed every year. My belief is it will all be worth it in the end. For the guys on the outside, that's what they want – they want to feel appreciated; they want to feel like they belong. For an older guy, you still have a lot left. You hit your age at 30, and people automatically think you can't play anymore. This place appreciates leadership, they appreciate what you've done in this league, and the competitive fire that makes you a great player doesn't disappear when you hit 30. Obviously, a lot of pros. Cons – the winter sucks – especially when you're here all offseason." *(laughter)
On how the offseason preparation has changed throughout his career:"Honestly, this was a rough offseason for me. You know how I am. I'm transverse, you can see through me." *(Reporter: "Transparent.") *"Transparent! There you go. Transverse isn't the word. But I honestly just started feeling good enough to feel like I can do the things necessary, workout-wise, probably about a week ago. I don't really know why, but I'm feeling great now. But for the last three months, it hasn't been fun, at all. That's life, and you take it with it and you learn what you can do and what you can't do and move forward." *(Reporter: "Is that worrisome? That seems like a long time after the season …") *"I'm feeling so much better now that I've moved past it. But for a minute, getting out of bed and thinking – dreading – running and lifting and not being able to move the next day, was not fun. You get through it, and I'm feeling good now. Shoot, this is going to be my 12th year. Who would've ever thought, right? I'm blessed and lucky to be a part of this organization and can't wait to get on the field, make a bunch of plays and earn a bunch of wins."
On the story behind almost getting kicked out of the Masters:"I got strict orders to not really talk about what happened, because I don't really want to get banned from the Masters. Let's just say that if you want to cheer for your favorite player – don't do it." (laughter)