Dean Pees left the New England Patriots three years ago to get "renewed."
It didn't take long for that play-calling itch to creep back though.
"It was in the first game, about halfway through the first quarter, that I wanted to start calling the defense," Pees said with a laugh.
"It was like, 'What am I doing here? I've been calling plays for a long time.'"
Pees spent the past two years reconnecting with his roots of coaching. He got back to football, back to the players.
Now recharged, Pees is back where he feels he belongs – as Defensive Coordinator of the Ravens.
"I love it," Pees said. "It's been a really easy transition."
This ain't Pees' first rodeo. Pees is going into his 20th year as a defensive coordinator. It's his 40th year coaching overall. Pees spent six years in New England, including four as the Patriots' defensive coordinator.
It wasn't as if he didn't excel there. Pees' units ranked sixth, fourth, 10th and 11th in the NFL in total defense, respectively.
Since Pees left New England, the Patriots have had the 25th and 31st-ranked total defenses the past two years.
"Everybody at some point in time, sometimes in your career, you need a little change of scenery," he said. "You just need to change gears just a little bit, maybe just freshen up a little bit and need a change. After six years up there, I felt like I needed that."
The Ravens pounced on Pees. Head Coach John Harbaugh, who played for Pees as a defensive back in 1983, would have liked to have had Pees back when he took the job in 2008.
"I was ecstatic," Harbaugh said. "First of all, he's a guy that I knew well and always respected and admired and thought highly of. I would have always wanted him here. He felt like it was time for a change there. It was an opportunity that I jumped at."
Pees joined the Ravens as a linebackers coach, stepping in with veterans like him such as Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson. They loved learning from him. He loved learning from them.
"It got me back to coaching my position," Pees said. "Luckily, I had a tremendous position with linebackers and they welcomed me. They got me renewed."
Pees has visibly enjoyed being back in the saddle during OTAs.
He's perhaps the loudest voice on the field, easily heard from the sideline. When rookie safety Christian Thompson lateralled the ball after an interception, Pees yelled, "Enough of that Ed Reed [crap]!" drawing plenty of laughs from the players.
But Pees isn't the same jokester former defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano was in Baltimore. Pagano would openly talk smack even during practice. He would do leaping chest bumps with players. He was more emotional.
Pees learned from Pagano, who is now the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, but he isn't going to replicate his style.
"When somebody says, 'I'm not going to be like them,' it's not a compliment, but it's also not anything negative," Pees said. "It's just, you are who you are. I've been around coaches who have tried to be somebody other than who they are. You've got to fit your personality."
So what is Pees' coaching personality?
Well, it hasn't changed since 1983, says Harbaugh.
"I see the same guy. I see the same qualities," he said. "He's always been a guy that's real knowledgeable. "He's a guy that believes in his players. I knew that as a player, and now as a coach I see that. Secondly, it's how great he describes the assignments. He's a great teacher."
Pees makes things simple. He sat his players down on the first day and told them three things that he expects out of every single one of them to play on his unit:
- You've got to be tough
- You've got to know what to do
- You've got to give great effort
"Now, in none of those three did I say anything about athletic ability," Pees said. "Now, if you add athletic ability under that, you've got a Pro Bowler. Everybody can give me those three things right there. Everybody."
While Pees said he had the itch to get back in the coordinator's chair almost immediately, Harbaugh commended him for spending the past two seasons learning the Ravens' defense.
As with previous coordinators Greg Mattison and Pagano, Pees spent time as a Ravens positional coach before taking the coordinator reins.
"We've lost all these coordinators, yet we've maintained our level of play and I'd argue improved it," Harbaugh said. "It hasn't been a hard decision [of who to hire]. The time has been right for each one of these guys."
The time is now for Pees.