MARK INGRAM II & EARL THOMAS PRESS CONFERENCE
_E_*_xecutive Vice President/General Manager Eric DeCosta, Head Coach John Harbaugh, RB Mark Ingram II and S Earl Thomas_*
Eric DeCosta Opening Statement: "First of all, I want to thank everybody for coming out today. It's an exciting time for the Baltimore Ravens, and we're happy to announce the signings of Mark Ingram and Earl Thomas. I think both men really do define what we look for in football players – both Pro Bowl players, humility, leadership, toughness, intelligence. They've played in big games. They're good in the community. We're very excited to have them as part of this team and can't wait to get started."
John Harbaugh Opening Statement: "I feel the exact same way; couldn't say it any better. Like Jerry Rosburg just said, it's always been about the players, and it always will be about the players. And, we just added two great players, and not just two great players, but two great people that fit the Ravens. We feel like they're Ravens already. We feel like they've always been Ravens, and beyond that, family. This is great! Look at this front row right here! (points the players' families with children) This is what it's all about. This is what we're built on. This is what we believe in, and we can't wait to have all these guys and gals running around here and going crazy around the office, so welcome!"
Earl Thomas Opening Statement: "Yes, I'm just happy to be here and thankful for my family being there with me all the way. [We're] thankful for the organization for giving me a shot, especially coming off an injury. I'm here to do what I always do, and that's ball."
Mark Ingram II Opening Statement: "First and foremost, I'd like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for even bringing me to this point. I feel like He brought me here for a reason. I feel like it was a match made in heaven. It was kind of a … The interest was there both ways, and I'm glad it worked out. I'm thankful for the organization for giving me a chance. I'm thankful for my family, my wife right there, Chelsea, my three children; I've got my uncle, my agent, here. My mother, my father, my sisters, Mr. Steve Bisciotti for giving me an opportunity, the GM, Eric DeCosta, for giving me an opportunity, Coach 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] for believing in me and wanting to take a chance on me, so I'm just thankful for this organization, thankful for this city. I'm ready to bring a championship and bring my best effort, day-in and day-out, to be the best player I can be for this organization and be the best person I can be for this city. I'm excited to be a Raven."
Eric, lots of movement, lots of players and lots of directions. Why these two guys on Wednesday? (Nestor Aparicio)
DeCosta: "Well, we faced these guys in the past, and we scouted both guys coming out [of college]. Both guys have always been players that we've admired in Baltimore. Both guys really fit our culture, I think, with the style they play – aggressive, tough-minded. I think they'll be fan favorites very quickly. I think the idea that we could bring in a player on offense and bring in a player on defense and be balanced initially was something that I thought would be nice. We got two outstanding players, two of the best players in the league over the last five years at their positions."
The reports about these two guys came out about 30 minutes, 20 minutes from each other. Can you describe the excitement of getting both of these guys signed, agreeing to terms with them, in that moment? (Garrett Downing)
DeCosta: "Yes, it was neat how it all kind of came together. It was similar to what we did last year in the draft, where we got Hayden [Hurst], and then we traded back in and got Lamar [Jackson]. It just happened all at the same time. We were trying to get these deals done. I think Pat [Moriarty, senior vice president of football administration] and Nick [Matteo, director of football administration] upstairs did a great job working on both deals at the same time, dealing with different agents. We had a lot of people working together, and it was exciting, and the deals broke at the same time, which was hectic, but also very, very gratifying."
Earl, your name wasn't connected too much to the Ravens. How quickly did this come about, and were they a team that you were eyeing from the beginning? (Jeff Zrebiec)
Thomas: "It was last-minute. I didn't expect the Ravens to even give me a chance. I didn't hear about the Ravens throughout the whole process. I actually thought I was going somewhere else, but they just came at the last minute, and I definitely … I'm very appreciative for the opportunity. That's it."
Why did you feel like the Ravens were a good fit for you? (Ryan Mink)
Thomas: "Well, you look at Ed Reed, guys like Ray Lewis, I feel like that's my style of play. I have that type of swagger. It's a historic franchise, so I definitely have an opportunity to bring my blueprint to the table."
Mark, everybody says you're legendary in the locker room. Does that translate? Do you have to win guys over, or do they know what you did in New Orleans? (Kirk McEwen)
Ingram II: "I think just the report that people are giving of me is me just being myself to people. I don't try to do anything special or be anything I'm not. At the end of the day, I just try to treat people how I'd want to be treated, and I just try to just love on my brothers, man. When you have a locker room that loves each other and cares about each other genuinely, you perform better, just from my experience. So, I just try to be myself, man, and those good reports and those good words come from people that I have tremendous relationships with, have tremendous memories with, and relationships that will last a lifetime. So, I'm trying to continue to build on that right here in Baltimore, and I'm excited about this whole entire organization. From top to bottom, the team – we played them last year, so I know it's tough, I know what the environment is like in that stadium. I'm just excited to be here and am looking forward to getting with the guys and getting this thing rolling."
Earl, you mentioned opportunity after injury. How much of a factor are the past injuries as you move forward as a Raven? (Mark Viviano)
Thomas: "I don't think they're factors at all. Experience is the best teacher. I've been through this process before with this injury. I came back and went to the Pro Bowl, had an All-Pro year. I except to do the same thing this year."
Earl, in addition to injury, you were pretty public about wanting a new contract in Seattle. What have you learned about yourself, about the NFL, going through this process to get a new deal? (Aaron Kasinitz)
Thomas: "Just bet on yourself. Just bet on yourself, and just keep the faith. There are going to be ups and downs, you're going to hear the critics, but you just have to rise."
Eric and John, it's no secret you guys lost quite a bit of experience, a winning pedigree with some of the guys that have left this offseason. Was there a greater premium in not just identifying these two as really good players, but also what they bring in terms of intangibles that maybe you're not going to have from guys that left this offseason? (Luke Jones)
DeCosta: "I think that's always one of our goals is to bring in guys that have great intangibles and character and leadership, and we've tried to do that in the past, and we've been successful with guys like Brandon [Carr] and Eric Weddle and a lot of other guys. And, that's something that we really prioritize near the top. It's ability, but also what they bring to the team, and I think these guys measure up extremely well in all those different categories."
Mark, did you find it appealing, the idea of playing with QB Lamar Jackson and playing in an offense that became so run-heavy in the second half of last season? (Childs Walker)
Ingram II: "One thousand percent. That was very interesting and something that really caught my attention. Just having the opportunity to be in an offense that runs the ball and has Lamar, his run-pass-option abilities, just to be able to bring my game to this offense and be able to help this team, I'm excited about it, and it's something that was really intriguing to me. The interest and the feelings were mutual. Like coach said, he felt like we're Ravens, and I feel like I'm a Raven just from the love that I've been getting so far. I'm just happy to be here and happy to get to work with Lamar and the entire offensive staff and have us a great team."
Eric, was there a point in the process Tuesday where you didn't have a lot players, and players had left, that you wake up thinking maybe these guys wouldn't come here and move on? It's almost like the draft and the infinite amount of possibilities of things that could happen that affect these guys' careers as well as the decisions you had to make on Wednesday. (Nestor Aparicio)
DeCosta: "Yes, I think it's a chess match. One thing I think that we've all learned from Ozzie [Newsome] is to be patient and trust the process. I tend to be more anxious about things and more aggressive, but I think with free agency, sometimes if you start early, you lose late. So, I think we had a process and a plan for how we wanted to approach these players and their agents with deals, and the timeline to make sure that we could get these guys, I think it worked out well for us in this instance. It's a very stressful environment at times, especially when you lose players that are really a part of your team, a fabric of your team. It's tough to see that happen, but you have to have a plan in place, and I think we did."
Mark, did WR Willie Snead IV recruit you in any way, and did anyone else? S Tony Jefferson is famous for being a recruiter here and so forth, but were there Ravens that you talked to in the process as you thought about coming here? (Bo Smolka)
Ingram II: "Man, anybody who ever was involved in the Ravens organization that I know was reaching out to me. It was awesome. Willie Snead, Tony Jefferson, obviously, Anquan Boldin – I'm good friends with him. I know Jacoby Jones, I've met Ed Reed, I know Jamal Lewis. All those guys were just reaching out to me and just letting me know that they think it would be a perfect fit. Like I said, just all the love that I've been getting from the start, when it was just speculation if I would come here or not, it was welcoming, and it was comforting. I'm glad to be here."
Earl, what number will you wear? I saw CB Marlon Humphrey's tweet – "Welcome, let's get after it. What number will you wear?" (Kirk McEwen)
Thomas: "So me and Marlon, we worked it out, and he was kind enough to give me 29, so I'll be wearing 29." (Reporter: "Do you know what number he's going to wear?") "I don't know about what number he's going to choose." (Reporter: "Did you have to give him some dough?") "I might donate to … His mom has a track team, so I might throw a little bread that way." (laughter)
DeCosta: "So, that No. 29 Marlon Humphrey jersey is now a collector's item." (laughter)
You mentioned Ed Reed. Did you grow up watching Ed? RB Mark Ingram said you had met him also, saw from a photo. Did he reach out to you during this process, or did you talk to him? (Ryan Mink)
Thomas: "Yes, I've kind of established a great relationship with Ed. I met him at the ESPYs. We had a talk face to face, and that kind of started the relationship. But you just watch him on film, you watch how he moves. He and Troy Polamalu are probably two safeties I can kind of emulate, and they're close to how I play the game. It's just good just to see how they look at the game, and try to not be them, but just watch and see."
Mark, how appealing is it to play with another Heisman trophy winner [QB Lamar Jackson]? (Kyle Andrews)
Ingram II: "It's sweet. There are only so many of us, so I guess when you have the opportunity to play with another Heisman brother, I guess that's also intriguing. The whole situation was something that was very appealing to me from top to bottom, so I'm excited about getting to work with Lamar. We have two Heismans, so we have a Heisman backfield, so let's get it."
The past couple years, you guys found running backs kind of late in the process, undrafted free agents. What about RB Mark Ingram II made you want to invest in his talent? (Aaron Kasinitz)
DeCosta: "I think production, mindset, toughness, his impact on games, in the passing game and also the running game, the leadership. We've got great relationships with people like Willie [Snead IV], and Ben Watson is another guy. What they said about Mark as a person was as impressive as what we saw on tape. It's a good fit, I think, for us, from a leadership standpoint, character standpoint, production, durability, what he provides – total package."
Eric, are you still pretty comfortable with where you are cap-wise? (Todd Karpovich)
DeCosta: "Yes, we're in good shape compared to other years. I feel like we're the kings of the world now. We still have some money available, and so we have some flexibility over the next couple weeks to make some additional moves if we want to do that."
John, a couple guys left here that, I'm sure, meant an awful lot to you and the franchise, and then you add two really good players. What was that 24-hour period like, in terms of the swing of motion of losing guys that you had relationships with to gaining good players? (Jeff Zrebiec)
Harbaugh: "That's such a great question, and that's the thing. We do. We're close, and a lot of teams are like that. But, I haven't been a part of a lot of teams in this league. I've just been a part of the Ravens, and I know how we feel. I know that we're a family, and I know how close we get with our guys that are like that. C.J. [Mosley] was hard, but that he has an opportunity to take care of his family in such a way that is just incredible and amazing, it makes you happy. And Za'Darius [Smith], who saw this coming for Za'Darius? Well, you know what? We did. Za'Darius and I talked about this four years ago when he first came in here. But then you work like crazy and you forget about it, and then it works out for him. He has an opportunity to do something that's life-changing for his extended family forever.
"'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs], definitely didn't see that one coming. That was really a surprise, and it wasn't about money for 'Sizz.' When you talk to him about that, you understand that's not what it was, and he had his own personal reasons for it, and they're very good reasons. They're family-oriented, and that's just the way life is, so you understand it.
"I guess what I'm saying is, is that it really wasn't that traumatic emotionally, because faith enters in. We had a conversation already with Earl this morning about this – we [Mark Ingram II] talked about this, too, on the phone yesterday … It's just, you have to trust, and you have to believe. For me, you do get into prayer, and you just know that, you know what? There is a plan here, and we're going to let it unfold, and we've done our due diligence. We've done our work. We had a plan, but there were 20 other possible plans in place, but Eric and Pat [Moriarty] and Ozzie [Newsome] and Nick [Matteo] and everybody involved, working with amazing agents that have their clients' best interests at heart and do a great job … And, they're tough negotiators, too, and it wasn't just the agents for these two guys; it was the agents for all different guys. I get a chance to stand on the outside and watch all that unfold, but do it from a faith perspective. I know that things are going to come down the way they're supposed to, and sometimes, in unexpected ways that you couldn't really plan, like this, and be really thrilled about it."
When you shot in the free-agent market, it was interesting, Earl, you said "historic franchise." I remember when it wasn't here. Eric, you've been a part of it the whole time. To have top-shelf guys wanting to come here, that the club's approval process, that's something, now that you have the money to spend, that's something at your disposal that some franchises don't have. (Nestor Aparicio)
DeCosta: "Yes, I think it's a testament to what Mr. [Art] Modell started and what Steve [Bisciotti] has continued and under John's [Harbaugh] leadership, [that] we've become a destination team for a lot of players. I think our fan base, our stadium, this facility, the brand, what we do in the community, I think it all kind of gels together. We've become a team where players want to play, and that's a great feeling. Looking back from 1996 to where we are now, there's been tremendous growth, and I'm very proud of that."
Earl, considering what you were a part of in Seattle with the Legion of Boom, how excited are you to be a part of this secondary that was really good last year, and now you're added to the equation? (Luke Jones)
Thomas: "Yes, man, we've got big corners. We have a hot, active guy in Tony [Jefferson]. I just have to get used to the guys, man. We have to get in the lab and go to work. I can't harp on the 'LOB.' That's in the past."
Harbaugh: "One thing about that question, if I could just jump in, these are the two guys sitting up here, and to me, we're honored to have them, but I can tell you, a lot of guys were calling. They were calling Eric [DeCosta] and Ozzie [Newsome], and a lot of agents were calling. There are a lot of guys that wanted to come here, and to me, that's a credit to Steve Bisciotti and the fan base here and the way the organization is run. So, it's good to be in that kind of situation, and these are the two guys standing and sitting up here, and we're honored to have them."
Eric, S Earl Thomas is compared – obviously, we've brought up S Ed Reed once or twice. When you watch him, is that a valid comparison, that you see some of Ed's game in the way Earl plays? (Jamison Hensley)
DeCosta: "I think Earl is a playmaker, and there's no greater playmaker in the NFL at safety than Ed. Now, they have maybe different styles in some respects, but both guys can win a game for you. Just going back to Earl coming out [of college], he was one of the fastest, most explosive safeties we've seen. His ball skills, the combination of that and his aggressiveness, and his ability to play multiple spots, make him a unique player."
Earl, are you looking forward to playing Seattle though? I know you said it's in the past, but will that game carry any significance? (Jeff Zrebiec)
Thomas: "I want to have a good game. I definitely want to ball out. I'm just taking it one day at a time, one practice, one session, one walk-through. We'll see what happens."
Mark, I know you guys have played the Seahawks a bunch of times during your career. What was the scouting report on S Earl Thomas whenever you guys were matched up? (Jonas Shaffer)
Ingram II: "You have to know where [No.] 29 is at. You have to know where he's at, because he can affect the game. He's going to be back deep. He's going to be down low. He's going to be filling the run quick. He's going to be over the top breaking up posts and seam routes and just around the ball. If something happens, if somebody fumbles, he's picking it up. If there's a tipped pass, he's under it, returning it. So, we just knew he was a great playmaker and you had to know where he was at, because he was a difference maker. He was one of those elite dots when you do a scouting report."
Mark, how difficult was it for you? Given that your ties in New Orleans and the relationships you have in the locker room, how difficult was it for you to leave? (Jeff Zrebiec)
Ingram II: "It was tough. I've got brothers in that locker room. Of course, the office and the front office that believed in me and stuck with me for eight years, I'll never forget my time in New Orleans. There will always be memories and always love for Who Dat Nation, but I think it was just time for me, at this point in my career, to move on, and I feel like I have my best years ahead of me still. I feel like the Ravens, they wanted me, and I wanted to be here, and it just worked out. It worked out really well, and the Saints made their move, and then the Ravens came and got me. It was a tough decision. Anytime you've been somewhere for eight years, and Earl has been in Seattle nine years, I think it's tough anytime you spend that amount of time somewhere. It's not easy to leave, but ever since I've been talking to the Ravens organization, ever since I've been here in Baltimore, I feel more and more comfortable each and every way. My family, we love it. My kids are running around, having a great time, so we're looking forward to getting involved in the city and getting involved in the organization, because we're excited about great things coming up here in the future."
Eric, S Earl Thomas said "last-minute." How would you describe pivoting? Obviously, as well-documented, you guys would've like to keep ILB C.J. Mosley. How much did not being able to do that have something to do with how you pivoted, and what was that like? (Jeff Zrebiec)
DeCosta: "I think you have to stay flexible, and you have to adjust, and you have to juggle a lot of different balls at the same time. We swooped in. We have good relationships with agents. We have good relationships with a lot of different people, and we saw an opportunity, and we made a move. I think it was a great move. I'm extremely happy with what we were able to do very quickly – putting a deal together, getting a deal that made sense for the player and for the team. And, the communication between Andrew [Kessler, Thomas' representative] and Pat [Moriarty] was unbelievable. That's how you have to do it in today's modern, salary-cap age. You have to stay flexible and be aggressive. I think we can do that."
I know there are so many moving parts in free agency, but had you been able to reach a deal with ILB C.J. Mosley, do you think you still could have been able to bring in S Earl Thomas? (Jonas Shaffer)
DeCosta: "We would have loved to. We weren't able to get that done, unfortunately, but I think we're in the business of having the best football players we can, and we want to be aggressive. We want to be creative in getting that done, and we'll continue to do that, whether it's in free agency or in the draft. We have a great opportunity coming up at the end of April to draft some good football players. And then post-draft, there will be an opportunity for us to get some good players, too. As a wise man once said, we don't have to play games until September, and I think we'll be ready to play in September."
Earl, you experienced a lot of team success in Seattle, playoffs just about every year and Super Bowls. How important is that in your decision to come here in terms of joining a winner, and do you believe, are you confident, that you'd be part of a potential championship team? (Mark Viviano)
Thomas: "Of course. You have to believe that. You have to believe that. One thing I knew coming here, I knew I was going to be on a great defense. Defense is going to win you championships, so that was all I needed to know."
Mark, there's a common perception that running backs who have been around the league as long as you have, they start to decline. Does that add a little extra motivation for you, and how do you make sure you're still at that level? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _
Ingram II: "People say what they want. I don't feel like you can put an age on somebody. Adrian Peterson is 34. He just ran for 1,200 [yards]. So, say what you want, but running backs are still … I think it's up to each person. I feel like my best football is still ahead of me. I feel like I have many more years of playing this game at the highest level and being one of the best in the game, and I have the opportunity to come here and do that with a great franchise, a great organization, some great teammates. That's what I'm looking forward to."
Mark, were you aware of RB Le'Veon Bell's posturing making it look like the Ravens were involved? He put out a tweet with purple and black using Ravens font. I don't believe the Ravens were even involved. Did that shake your confidence if you were aware? (Kirk McEwen)
Ingram II: "Nothing shook me. At the end of the day, I was just kind of playing the free-agency game. I wanted to see my value and find a home. You'll hear all these reports. Everybody has a report. Everybody has the inside scoop. Everybody has a source. So, if you pay attention to all of that, you'll go crazy, but I wasn't paying attention to any of it. I was just taking it one hour at a time, one minute at a time. I was just waiting on calls and just trying to make it work. I really wasn't worried about all the antics and stuff."