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Timmy Jernigan Wants To Be The Force He Was Drafted To Be


In order to get back to what made him a great player in the first place, Timmy Jernigan returned to his roots this summer.

The Ravens defensive end went back to Columbia High School in Lake City, Fla., and ran the stairs of his old stadium.

"In that 100 degree Florida weather," Jernigan added after last Thursday's sunny Organized Team Activities (OTAs) practice. "I like to get out there when it's hotter than hot, so days like this don't really bother me."

Jernigan is an uber-talented player who, by his own admission, hasn't lived up to expectations – probably not the team's expectations and definitely not his own.

Last year, he started six of 15 games and made 37 tackles and four sacks. The year before, he started three of 12 games and notched 23 tackles and four sacks.

It was a step forward last season, but not the leap he was expecting, especially as he stepped into a larger role with the departure of Haloti Ngata.

The Ravens drafted Jernigan in the second round in 2014, but really viewed him as first-round talent. Questions surrounding a failed drug test sent Jernigan tumbling down draft boards and gave Baltimore a bargain.

"[I] just have to become that force that I was drafted here to be," Jernigan said. "I feel like last year I came up a little bit short. I feel like I had a good year, but to my standards, I don't think it was enough."

Entering his third season, now is the time to make it happen. There's a difference between expressing desire to be great and doing what it takes.

Perhaps that's what Warren Sapp was alluding to when he made a harsh comment last week about Jernigan switching to his No. 99 jersey number.

Sapp gave Jernigan advice and his phone number in 2014, and told the young player that he would help in whatever way possible. However, Sapp said Jernigan hasn't called him seeking any help since that first interaction.

Jernigan says he has always looked up to Sapp and models his game after the Hall of Famer's "nasty, ferocious" style. But with the Sapp's number, Jernigan hasn't picked up the phone to pick his brain (or ask for his thoughts about the jersey change).

When asked if he's ready to take on more of a leadership role this season, Jernigan expressed a desire to improve his personal effort. He said new Defensive Line Coach Joe Cullen has been challenging him every day.

"We're starting drills [and he says], 'Timmy get up first, Timmy get up first,'" Jernigan said.

"If he sees me even think about slacking, 'Timmy tighten it up.' I can't even look down in the meeting at my shoe, 'Eyes up Timmy.' He's on me, so I definitely like that about him. He's going to get the best out of me."

Running his old stadium steps is a good sign. Jernigan also said he did more Olympic lifts, such as power cleans, this offseason.

"I've definitely been busting my butt every day – day-in and day-out," he said. "I'm doing whatever I can just to take it to the next level and get everybody around me to do the same thing."

That next level, from an individual perspective, is reaching the Pro Bowl. Jernigan talked about it last season and still has it in his crosshairs. With one of the NFL's best run stuffers in Brandon Williams at his side and Cincinnati's Geno Atkins in the same division, it's difficult for Jernigan to stand out.

"I won't stop until I get [to the Pro Bowl]," Jernigan said. "Sometimes you come up short in life, and it's only going to do two things: It's either going to make you or it's going to break you. It definitely opened my eyes to how hard it is to get there; it's not easy to get there. I'm definitely working hard towards that."

In the next sentence, Jernigan broadened his view. While he wants to be a breakout player in the Ravens defense, he also knows he needs to play his role and be a good teammate. At the end of the day, winning is what's most important.

"[The Pro Bowl is] not my main focus; 5-11 is my main focus," Jernigan said. "That's what I'm thinking about every day. I'm not worried about the Pro Bowl."

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