There's plenty of buzz surrounding Baltimore's offense, but Roquan Smith is setting the bar high for the defense.
The All-Pro inside linebacker is eager to begin his first training camp with the Ravens after joining the team in a midseason trade last year. Smith has been a team leader since Day 1, arriving with the credibility that comes with being an established star.
Smith believes Baltimore's defense can be special and wants everyone around him to get that message.
"I feel like the expectations are very high," Smith said. "I feel like if we play to our standard and everyone stays healthy … we're not weak in any spots if you ask me. I like our D-line versus anyone. I like our secondary verses anyone, and I for sure like our linebackers versus anyone. When I look at it from that perspective, I feel like if we do our jobs, and we give the ball back to Lamar (Jackson) and the [offense], there's going to be a lot of great things that are going to happen."
Smith echoed similar sentiments on “The Lounge” podcast in June, when he said he expects to have his best season, considering how he feels physically and mentally. Entering his sixth NFL season, Smith has only been to the postseason twice and is still looking for his first playoff win. While he's excited about Baltimore's potential, he's reminding his teammates not to begin training camp with a complacent mindset.
"It's easy to be paper champs," Smith said. "What really matters is what you do between those lines. What are we going to do starting today when the meetings officially kick off? Our mental intensity and our attention to detail? If we do what we have to do, I feel the sky's the limit for all of us."
Mark Andrews Plans to Practice Smart, Play Smart
Mark Andrews' relentless work ethic has helped him become an All-Pro tight end. However, as one of the team's main offensive weapons, Andrews plays an important role and wants to remain as fresh as possible late in the season. With that in mind, Andrews said he might be more willing to take a veteran's day off from practice in his sixth season if the coaching staff feels he needs a break.
"I love to work. [My] body feels great. I feel like if they come to me and say, 'You want to opt out' I might fight it a little bit. But I've got a big picture in mind," Andrews said. "I want to be playing late in the playoffs and feel incredible. That's my goal. I know things happen, but being smart is part of it."
Andrews said former Ravens tight end Todd Heap gave him sage advice two or three years ago about preserving his body.
"He said by Year 4 or 5, the biggest thing was … to practice and play smart," Andrews said. "I've learned to adapt (to) that a little bit."
Rookie Sala Aumavae-Laulu Loves Asking Questions
Rookie Sala Aumavae-Laulu enters training camp as one of the candidates competing for the starting job at left guard. Not only is he adjusting to the NFL, Aumavae-Laulu played almost exclusively at right tackle at Oregon, so he's learning a new position.
Asking plenty of questions is one method Aumavae-Laulu has used to accelerate his learning curve, and his inquisitive nature has impressed veteran right tackle Morgan Moses.
"He's young and athletic and poised to learn. Like, he really wants to learn, he asks questions all the time," Moses said. "As much time as he takes up asking questions in meetings, right?...But he asks those questions, and that's what you want for young players to do. When you have that mindset, man, it's a beautiful thing. Once you're able to put that ego aside and say, 'Hey, I just want to learn football – whatever way that you guys want me to learn it, I'm going to do that.'"
Morgan Moses Has a Seat on Zay Flowers' Bandwagon
Rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers put in extra offseason time working out with Jackson and Odell Beckham Jr., and Moses believes Baltimore's first-round pick is going to be an impact player.
"What an unbelievable rookie he is," Moses said. "If you've ever had a chance to sit down and talk to him, he has a mindset that he's been in the league already for three years, and obviously, he's a sponge. He's willing to ask questions; he's willing to soak it up and learn. A lot of our rookies are like that … [When] you have a group of rookies come in and [are] willing to do that, the sky is the limit for those guys."