What is your reaction to this deal and what kind of responsibility do you feel to live up to the deal?
"You know I'm always trying to do better. That's my reaction to it, and I'm just happy it got done, because like I said before, I consider myself a player of the fans – I play for them. I love the cheer that I get when I'm running out of the tunnel, and I'm just glad that we finally got back to football, and that they wanted me there and I wanted to be there. Ozzie [Newsome] and everybody, we all wanted the same thing, and we just had to agree on the little stuff. Both sides compromised a lot, and now we came to an agreement – a great agreement – that we both felt was great and now we can get back to the football."
What was your reaction to the size of the contract? Were you surprised by the amount of money you're going to be getting?
"Yeah, everybody's saying, 'You're the highest paid this' and, 'just under Peyton Manning' and all that type of stuff. That was never a focal point. That was never brought up once in the negotiation. I never wanted to be the highest-paid anything. I'm not that guy. I don't care what the next man is getting. I just want it to be fair. This is a business, and everything is structured and branded a certain way. I think the reason that the number was so high is because of the whole hybrid thing – that I do play defensive end and linebacker. So I think that's why it was so high. I think that's where the extra little bit came from. But as far as the highest-paid anything, or second to Peyton Manning, that's all just coincidence. You all know me. I would never say I want more money than Peyton Manning or anything like that. Like I said, I just wanted what was fair – what I felt that I've earned."
Can you say in general the difference in you signing to stay here and LB Bart [Scott] signing to leave?
"I think it was just going to be hard to bring all three guys back, and we all knew that. You know, Bart – neither one of us is getting any younger – so we need to start thinking about the future and long term. And with me being the younger out of the three, it kind of worked in my favor there just a little bit. I think if Bart had a better opportunity to stay [in Baltimore] he would have. It was hands down – this is where we all got the foundation of our game from is in Baltimore. Bart was fortunate enough to leave with Rex [Ryan], so he was in a win-win situation – either I stay in Baltimore and be with a family that we've all grown to love or he went with Rex, who is a coach that we've all grown to love. So it was a win-win for Bart. I'm sure he wanted to stay just like I wanted to stay, but the lesser of two evils, he got to go with Rex."
How do you explain the urgency [of getting the contract done] and what went right this year as opposed to last year?
"I think last year, the big debate was whether I was a linebacker or a defensive end. You all can clearly see that I feel I'm a defensive end. I even bulked up to show that I'm bigger than a linebacker – I'm a defensive end, I want to play defensive end. But they felt that I was a linebacker, because I was listed as a linebacker in the scheme, so it was just like they met us halfway and were like, 'All right we'll call him a hybrid and we'll give him a little bit more [money] than a linebacker, but give him a little bit less than a defensive end.' It ended up working out, and like I said, I think that's why the numbers are like they are this year, because of that linebacker/defensive position. I think pretty much that's what it was based on, because I do play both, so it was kind of like a hybrid number, somewhere in the middle."
Was there ever a point during negotiations where you felt like a long-term deal was not going to get done?
"I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't have my doubts. I did have my doubts – I mean not my doubts – I was concerned. I was like, 'All right, it's the 14th [of July].' But we were all on the phone all day yesterday and it was just like, you know, I mean what does it matter? It was little minor things here and there – and I think we both were like, 'Would you really let something minor stop you from signing a long-term deal?' That was it, so we just went in and got it done – we brought all of them in and involved, Pat Moriarty, Ozzie [Newsome] and my agent."
Did you feel like the Ravens went the extra mile to get you signed? Did they show you that they really wanted you?
"Yeah. I think they did – especially [given] that we do have a salary cap. This isn't baseball where you can just shell out a billion dollars to the best player. So, I think they did their best and now they made it the way so that they can sign some more guys and kind of keep the team together."
Does a contract like this mean that you automatically become more of a leader both on and off the field?
"Well, we already have the vocal leader [in Ray Lewis] – that position is filled. I think mine is just falling in line, and I lead on the field just by playing and going the hardest every play."
What are your thoughts on living up to and fulfilling the amount of the contract?
"Well, I'm going to continue to be the dominant player that I've always been. With me being 26, my best years are ahead of me, so I'm just looking forward to showing them that they didn't make a mistake and that you've got the right guy."
Did you always think in the back of your mind that you would remain a Raven for the long term?
"That never came to the back of my mind that they wouldn't get it done. I mean, some people just fit the Raven identity, and I'm convinced – I'm pretty sure that I'm one of them. Some people, when they retire – like Dick Butkus and Walter Payton, they'll always be Bears. Tom Brady will always be a Patriot. Ray Lewis, he'll always be a Raven. I think this has given me the opportunity to solidify that I will always be a Raven."
Given your respect for Ray Lewis, how does it feel to be the highest-paid linebacker in NFL history?
"Like I said, that happened merely on accident. Ray [Lewis] is hands down a Hall-of-Famer, and you know he's probably the greatest ever to play the position. So, like I said, that happened merely on accident. I'm not sure if I'm a Hall of Famer yet, but I'm sure going to play to try to achieve that status. But until then, Ray is arguably the greatest linebacker ever to play the game. The fact that everybody is saying I'm the highest-paid linebacker, it's merely by accident, and it's also because I play defensive end, too. And as you already know, every year somebody gets a big deal, so in the next couple of years, don't be surprised when you see the DeMarcus Wares start getting quarterback contracts and things like that."
What was your general reaction to WR Derrick Mason announcing his retirement?
"I was shocked. Derrick is a warrior. But I can understand, because I know that he is going through a lot of things emotionally right now, especially with the loss of one of his great friends in Steve [McNair]. And he had to play all of last season with one shoulder and then have the shoulder surgery. At 35 years old you really start to put things into perspective. Either way it goes, I love 'Mase.' He's a great teammate. You can't say that about a lot of guys. He's not selfish, not even in the least, and he'll always look out for you. A guy like that is always great to have in the locker room. I don't know if he decided to put his [retirement] papers in yet or whatever, but whatever he does, I stand by 'Mase' 100 percent. I would love to have him for another year, but only Derrick Mason knows what's good for [him]."
Is your gut feeling that Derrick Mason will play for the Ravens in 2009?
"I don't know. I don't know. Like I said, I really would love to have Derrick back though – I really would love to. But like he said, 'I just don't love it anymore; I don't want to do it anymore,' I can respect that because all of our days are coming, and I wouldn't want anyone to ask me to play if I was ready to hang it up."
How important was it to be at training camp this year after missing all of it last year?
"Well, I don't know. (laughing) The only thing about training camp is it brings you back closer with your teammates. You all get close again, you all become a team, you all go in there and run. So, last year I missed that, and it didn't hurt me too bad – I don't think. But it's going to be good to finally get back in training camp in the hot summer days, with all the fans looking. It's going to be interesting."
Is it nice to have the contract situation over with after talking about it for a few years now?
"Yeah, because it robs the fans. They don't understand the whole business side of it, and before last year I didn't really understand it. But now I do, so it allows everyone involved to get back to football. That's what really matters, is that we're playing a game that we love and it's just the business side of it that can really suck sometimes. It kept me out of training camp [last year], and a lot of the guys didn't see me and the fans didn't get to see me. So, it just allows the comeback."
What kind of concessions did you make in order to get the contract done?
"It was just minor things. Just like years on the deal and money to be paid out, or like this portion of the time on the deal – just little things like that. You know, I'd rather not get into it, because we did all come to an agreement and now I'm [in Baltimore] for the better part of my career. Like I said, it keeps the fans, you know, a 10-year-old kid whose favorite team is the Ravens, who Terrell Suggs may be his favorite player and he doesn't know why he's not in camp, why he's not practicing. He wants to see me line up and play because he just genuinely loves to see me play, and it's kind of riding him for a contract dispute. I've never been a guy to go to the table or complain about my deal. I always thought I was a fair guy and they gave me what we all thought was fair."
The Ravens have a history of being very successful at keeping their best players. In your mind, what is behind that, and did you recognize that when you took the job?
"I don't know if I can remember all that stuff now. I'm going to do my best. I guess the point is that it goes back to Ozzie [Newsome], and it goes back to, of course, Steve [Bisciotti] and Dick [Cass]. It's been a tremendous organization. I think, first of all, players want to be here, and even the guys who leave here leave here with some regret. They were hoping to stay and be a part of it. And I know that Terrell [Suggs] wanted to be a part of it. He's said that ever since I've been here. He's told me that, and he's said that publicly. He just wanted to be able to work out the kind of deal that could secure his future in the way he was hoping to do that. Ozzie's done a great job of recognizing, as much as anything, also the guy that gives us the best chance to move forward and be the best team we can be. Sometimes there are a lot of good players that have been forced to leave, and that's because you can't sign them all. When you draft the way Ozzie drafts, you're going to lose some guys over time that are going to go elsewhere and be successful and all that kind of stuff. I think it's a matter of Ozzie drafting well, evaluating his team well, and then understanding the cap and setting it up where he… You know, you can sign one guy, but then maybe the next guy you can't sign. So Ozzie understands the next contracts that are coming up and factors that into the one he's working on at the time."
Suggs mentioned that this contract solidifies how he fits into the Ravens' mentality. From your viewpoint, how does he fit into the Ravens' identity?
"First of all, he's a great guy. You guys have been around him; you know he's a heck of a guy. He's kind of flamboyant in his personality. We tell the guys all the time, 'Let your personality show. Be who you are.' He loves football, he's got a tremendous work ethic, and he plays really hard. He studies the game along with guys like Ed [Reed] and Ray [Lewis]. He's really into the preparation part of it. He's a Raven, he plays like a Raven. To me, he's a core foundation building block for what we're going to try to do for the next few years."
This is a two-part question: How critical is it that Suggs is going to be at camp to be around defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, and also, have you had a chance to reach out to Derrick Mason? What are your thoughts on his surprising announcement earlier this week?
"As far as 'Sizzle,' being in training camp is something that I know he wanted to do. If he had his druthers, he'd have been here for the whole offseason program. As a matter of fact, he's committed to me on a number of occasions that when this thing is done, he'll be a leader in every part of our program – offseason, training camp, every part of it. Matter of fact, he said he's moving to Baltimore as soon as he can, once he gets this thing done. So, he's the kind of guy that really wants to work on football, and I think he understands that by being with Greg Mattison, being with his coaches, being with his teammates through the entirety of the program is going to give him the chance to take the next step as a player. Just because you sign one of these mega deals, I think he understands it doesn't mean that you've arrived as a player. And a lot of what we've done in signing 'Sizzle' to this, is we're anticipating the player he's going to be over the course of the next six years. That's really what you're investing in: What do we think he's going to be? I've got a lot of confidence in Greg Mattison, and I know 'Sizzle' has a lot of confidence in Greg Mattison as both coordinator and now his position coach, to help him even take it to another level as far as being a pass-rusher, as far as understanding the defense, being multiple in everything he does. He's already a good run player, of course, and even the drop stuff, it's all stuff he can improve on. Getting a full training camp is going to give him a chance to do that.
"As far as Derrick, I had a chance to reach out, at least in an informal way through texts and things like that, and we have an appointment to talk here real soon, either by phone or when I get back next week. It'll be interesting to see where he's at with everything. I know he's gone through a lot in the last couple weeks with Steve's [McNair] situation and those kinds of things. But I'm looking forward to talking to him."
After losing Bart Scott, how helpful is it to have Terrell with the other linebackers ready to go by Day One of camp?
"That's a great point. Heck, we're looking forward to seeing all four linebackers out there together now for the first time, really, in any offseason program since we've been here. You've got Ray, you've got a battle going on for the other inside linebacker spot, of course Jarret [Johnson], and now Suggs will be out there for Day One working together. The system has been tweaked a little bit, and there is some new stuff for him to learn. I know he and Greg have been communicating regularly, and he's been doing some tests and things like that, so he's on top of the mental part of it. But, there's nothing like getting those guys out there together and practicing together and competing together. Plus, the other thing I'm excited about is his personality being out there from early on in training camp. He's a guy that perks up the whole practice field, so it will be fun to have him out there. I know the fans will enjoy seeing him out there early on, too, because he's definitely a barrel of laughs at practice. He works hard, and he enjoys doing it."
Will you wait until after you talk to Derrick, or will you maybe start to look at who's available as far as receivers go?
"We've been in the process of doing that. We've said this many times, and receiver is no exception: We're always looking at every available player that's out there. Vince Newsome does a great job of keeping a thumb on all those guys. We know who's out there at every single position, and we're always working the roster. So, obviously if Derrick does retire, that's going to perk us up even more as far as strengthening that position like we will any position. But, you can only do so much. There are only so many guys out there available, and a lot of what we do is developing the players that we have, and we think we have good players here, too. I just think there's a lot of time to go between now and when training camp starts, and of course between now and when the season starts. Derrick Mason is a warrior, he's a tremendous family man, and he's got good relationships with everybody inside the building. I'm just looking forward to seeing how this goes."
Were you surprised at how the news with Derrick broke, with it breaking on the Internet after he had reportedly been at the complex earlier that day?
"I try not to get into being surprised or not surprised, or put any values on it like that. As it presents itself, that's what it is. Without having had a chance to get into any kind of in-depth conversation with him, I'm not exactly sure what his thoughts are on it. But, obviously he's got some things he's going through and thinking about and considering. But, this is the offseason, and this is a break where we get away and we give our guys the chance to really get themselves mentally prepared, and Derrick Mason is the kind of guy that if he is going to be on board, he's going to be on board 100-percent-plus. He's going to be doing all the things that great players do, because you don't become a great player, and I think one of the premiere receivers in the game by far, without being committed to excellence. To me, getting mentally ready is part of that. To whatever extent this is part of that process, I don't know exactly where he's at with it, but I know if he decides to come back, he will be completely and totally committed and ready to go. And that's what we're thinking about. And if not, then we'll move on as a football team, and we'll still be the very best football team we can be. We don't think that's going to be… We think we're going to be a heck of a football team."
"I want to know where all these [reporters] are calling from. Are they all sitting around there, or do we have guys on beaches with cold drinks in front of them right now? Who are the guys who are there who obviously have no life? (laughing) We'll be going hard here in a couple weeks, fellas. It won't be long. I look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks for the first press conference. We're going to have a lot of fun. We're going to get after it. We're going to have the best training camp in the history of the NFL. You guys will be there to document it."