You got to see this place up close and personal during the combined workouts last year. What stuck out to you the most and kind of made you think this is something that is going to work for you? Or how much was that a factor for you knowing, 'Alright, this is going to be good, because I already know what's there.'? (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, I think having some familiarity with the location is very important. Just being able to be in that environment and see the practice facility, that's a unique thing that you don't usually get to do when you're in a situation like this – getting traded or in free agency. So, that definitely played a little bit of a role. The facilities are very nice, very impressive, and I talked to a few guys who played there, and they all spoke super highly of just the staff and the people that work there. So, it played a small but big role."
How was your connection with the Ravens coaching staff at the Pro Bowl? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "It was great. Obviously, at the Pro Bowl, you only get a couple days with the staff, but we developed a pretty good relationship. I think there was just a natural chemistry there, and I think that might have played a role in the team wanting to trade for me. But we did have a good rapport." (Reporter: "Did you have a choice as to what team you were traded to?") "No, so I guess the choice I had was if I wanted to work out an extension. I was told that there were about four or five teams that were interested in trading for me, but the only team I knew for sure was Baltimore. The other teams were unknown, so I wasn't sure what was going to happen. But I knew that Baltimore had agreed with the Jaguars on the trade, and it was contingent on an extension being done. And I talked to my agent, and he said that it was probably going to have to be for less if I wanted to go to Baltimore [as] opposed to going someplace else and maybe getting the full amount that I was hoping for. And so, I did some research, I prayed on it, talked to my advisers – people I depend on during this kind of process – and when it came down to it, the familiarity with the coaches and some of the players on the team, just knowing this team and my understanding of how they do football here, I feel like I could add some value. And so, at the end of the day, I was more confident going to Baltimore even if I have to take less than going to another place. There are not many teams better. Baltimore went 14-2 last year and is a very talented, young team [with] a core nucleus of guys. This team could be very special for a good while here, so I wanted to be able to throw my hat in the ring and really just add value where I can. I know I bring some good things to the table. I feel like this is really a good connection because what I bring to the table and what the team already has, I feel like we have a good chance to be very good this year." (Reporter: "And, my last question, after winning the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award in 2019, what are you planning to do here in Baltimore to continue your community work?") "That's a great question. I think the first thing I have to do is learn the city. I haven't spent a lot of time there, so I'm fairly new to it. But from the few guys I've talked to, I feel like there's a lot of places that I kind of want to [work with]. So, I'm really looking forward to just getting to know the city, getting to know the people and just trying to figure out where I can add value in the community, because that is a big part of who I am. I take pride in trying to help the people that come after me, especially with kids in the community. So, I would like to help as many places as I can. I also have a strong background with trying to help homeless shelters and transition housing for people who have fallen on hard times that are trying to move forward. So, I'm not sure where I'll be able to add value yet until I learn the city, but there are a lot of things that I am passionate about, and I really want to try to leave my mark, not only on the team, but in the community as well."
I'm just wondering from your standpoint with the coronavirus, how you're handling it and what have the Ravens kind of told you? How are you working with them even up to this minute remotely? And if this pushes past May, how will you handle learning a new system and a new team from a distance? (Morgan Adsit) "Yes, it's going to be kind of tricky. This is unique. I haven't experienced anything like this in my 12-year career, so this is going to be different than most. Already the process of just going to get evaluated for a physical, that process is kind of hard. I was in Arizona when the trade went through, and I had to go to get a physical at the Mayo Clinic, which is independent. The process of getting the medical records to them, doing all the paperwork, it was just a little bit trickier than it normally would be. That process was very unique. And then the process of signing the contract and getting it back during all of this while everyone is trying to social distance, and the whole process of trying to follow the rules and be safe but also we have business to do ... So, it was kind of interesting. It was definitely different already, and then now the process moving forward, we're not sure when we're going to be allowed into the building. It might be a while. We might miss all of OTAs, which is the prime opportunity for me to really learn the playbook. I will say that when I talked to the organization and talked to the coaches, they have assured me that they will give me the playbooks and everything essential to learning the system as soon as they're allowed to, which I'm not sure when that's going to be. We're trying to figure it out, (inaudible), trying to figure out the way we can organize team activities virtually if need be. So, that's kind of looking like where it's going to be. So, I'm not sure how we're going to do that yet, but I do think that the biggest part of the OTA period for a guy like me being a veteran is the mental side. So, as long as I get the playbook and I can watch some tape, I should be OK running the system. I do feel like younger players are going to have a lot harder time, but I should be fine running the system. Just give me a playbook, give me some film and a couple of hours, and I should be fine."
You mentioned the coaching staff and getting to learn them during the Pro Bowl. Also, I understand you had some interactions with QB Lamar Jackson. What were they like and what kind of player do you see him as? (Travon Miles) "Yes, Lamar [Jackson] is very dynamic. I'll start off with that one. He's a guy who I've been following since he was in college and I've been a big fan of. I really enjoy the way he plays the game and just the toughness he shows play-in and play-out. And he's a guy who I still believe is underrated. I know he just won the MVP, but there's still a lot of people who doubt him. So, I'm really looking forward to seeing his development as he continues to grow as a quarterback in this league. He's done some incredible things, and consistency is the No. 1 thing that most teams hope for and everything. So, hopefully he'll continue to deliver year-in and year-out. He's a special player, and I really think that ... When I'm going through the process of this period, the quarterback position is a big part of it, especially for an older player who – my main goal is trying to win. The quarterback position is the most important position on the field, and so, I really believe that he's a guy who can lead the team to winning the Super Bowl. And hopefully this is the year for that. Just interacting with him and countless other guys on the team over (inaudible), you can tell the connection in the locker room. There's a culture that is very infectious. A lot of the guys care about each other, and they have a strong bond. Even just seeing some of the guys interact during the Pro Bowl, seeing the guys interact at the rep meeting for the [NFLPA], seeing the coaches interact; you can just tell that it's a very strong culture, and guys have a lot of trust and respect for one another. And that goes to show – you don't win 14 games without having a strong bond and buying into the system. So, I'm very excited to be a part of that culture and just try to add value where I can. Because, obviously, if the team goes 14-2 last season, they're a really talented team, really capable of doing some good things. But then, obviously, nobody's happy with the way the playoff game went. But that just shows you that the team is still young, and I'm very excited that I can come in and bring my experience and wisdom and try to add some value. I have no doubts about it – this team is going to be very, very good this year and very, very capable of winning the Super Bowl if we continue to put the work in."
Have you had a chance to talk to any of your teammates? And I hear that you're a huge Ray Lewis fan. Is that because of the University of Miami connection or something else? (Kevin Richardson) "Oh yeah, Ray Lewis, it's mainly from 'The U' [University of Miami] connection. Since I was ... I guess the University of Miami started recruiting when I was 15 or 16, and then I started doing my research and learning all the great players that played there. I mean, I was kind of a fan even before then. I remember in , the Super Bowl run, I was a big Ray Lewis fan. I was a big Shannon Sharpe fan, because I grew up in Denver. I was a big Broncos fan, and then he went over to the Ravens. And then Hard Knocks and just being able to see all of that, so I guess it was before 'The U' connection, but 'The U' connection has very much intensified it, and I became a die-hard Ray Lewis fan. I always try to study greatness. I studied from all different types of industries, but especially in the sporting world, I studied all the best of the best in the history of all sports. And Ray Lewis is still my favorite out of everybody, and it's mainly because of his leadership skills and just the dedication he puts into his craft. And then I've had the chance to talk to him personally a few times and pick his brain a little bit, and it's always motivational every time I talk to him. I always leave a conversation with Ray Lewis feeling like I can conquer the world. And that's probably the best thing about the NFL is guys that were your idols, guys that you look up to become your peers, become your friends. That's one of the coolest things about being in the NFL. So, I'm very honored to call Ray Lewis a friend, and he's definitely a big reason why I've cheered for the Ravens in the past. So, it's kind of surreal now being a Raven myself and kind of following his footsteps and trying to do my part to bring a championship to Baltimore."
I have to ask you, when you take a look at defensive coordinator Wink Martindale's unit on the defensive end, what do you kind of see that you can bring? And then the way you studied it to make the decision to come [to Baltimore], what attracted you the most? (Bobby Trosset) "Well, I think his [defensive coordinator Wink Martindale's] creativity. I think he does what he needs to do to win ball games. This last year, he blitzed more than anybody else in football. And I just think being a part of those blitz-happy teams in the past – Todd Bowles is always up there, and I played for him for two years when I was in Arizona – it's kind of a similar mentality. But the thing I like about 'Wink' is that he's very creative, and he uses people in different positions. And I believe that my versatility, lining up all over the defensive line and being able to blitz and do – I guess you call it like long movements, long rams, whatever you want to call it – but being able to move laterally and then get vertical is a very big strength of mine still at this point and time in my career. So, I'm eager to see how he uses me. To my knowledge, he tries to draw up blitzes for certain players to come free, and I've always kind of appreciated the mind of a really good defensive coordinator and just why he'll draw up certain blitzes and what he sees and stuff. So, I'm really eager to pick his brain and learn from him. I don't know if I'll ever become a coach. I don't know if I want to dedicate that much time to it, but it's still cool to learn from some of the best coaches. And he's considered one of the best coaches when it comes to creativity and being able to just take advantage of matchups."
You talked previously that you might take less to go with the Ravens, but what did you think of the fact that they immediately gave you a new contract? From what I've read, it has $20 million guaranteed. (David Ginsburg) "Yes, my agent wasn't too happy about that, because he thought I was going to get a whole lot more. But, I told him at this point in time in my career the main goal for me is winning. I've made a whole lot of money from this game, and to me, money has always played a small role. I love the game, the purity of it. So, the fact that the team was still willing to give me what I was going to make this year, which is 15 [million], and just add on another year but that number came down to 10 [million] ... My agent was pretty confident we could have got another year at 15 [million] if we wanted to someplace else, and I was just like, 'At the end of the day, to be in a locker room where I know they're committed to winning and to be in a locker room where the culture is strong – it's a very, very big-win culture – and I won't have to chase around guys trying to get them to buy in; that was a big selling point.' I'm going to be 34 when the season starts, and that motivation when you're training, starting to put the work in to be the best you can be, it gets harder and harder each year. And when you believe you can win, when you believe you have a chance to win a Super Bowl, it makes it just a little bit easier. So, the motivation to be a part of this team was that I just feel like football's going to be a lot more fun, because the alternative was a lot of unknown. I had no idea what other teams were going to try to trade for me. I had no idea what the locker rooms would be, if I would have to chase around guys or if guys would already be bought in. So, to know Baltimore and just knowing that the culture is built … There's an incredible culture here, and I can come in and just add value instead of trying to create a winning culture, [that] was a big selling point for me. So, at that point in time, I was willing to take a ... Obviously, they made it worth my while and guaranteed a good amount of money, but I was willing to take a lot less to be able to be a part of a winning culture."
You've maintained a real consistent level of production throughout your whole career, and I think you recently said even at the age of 33 you feel like you're still kind of hitting your prime. Why do you feel so strongly about that? (Jamison Hensley) "I will say, I'm always honest with myself. I reflect and I study every year. I go back and I study pretty much the year before, but I also study my whole career. So, every year I'm always studying my career and studying what I did last year, and I'm always kind of evaluating where I'm at as far as all the different strengths and weaknesses of my game. I'll figure out when I'm training what I need to work on. Looking at the tape, I look so much better now than I did when I was younger overall, as far as anticipating things that are going to happen, physicality, working moves, being more technically sound, playing with a lower pad level, just making differences in games. Even though I know you can see on tape that I was more athletic when I was younger, I didn't have the same learning curve or the same understanding of the game that allowed me to be successful later in my career. I think that obviously God has been very good to me, and I'm still very athletic and I can do the job at a high level, which is very important. Once you start losing your flexibility or you can't move the way you want to, that's when you need to (inaudible). But I can still do everything I want to do, and I can come away or do something in a game situation that nobody does. That's when I'll start worrying, when I can't do what I want to do. But as of now, I did trim my body up to make sure that I can have control over my body and do what I want to do. I just felt like mentally though, I'm so much more advanced than I have been in the past, and I think your prime is when you have the athleticism to take over a game, and the mentality to take over a game and the understanding of how to do it both at a high level. So, for me, my mindset has never been better; my understanding of the game and my matchup and how to win is at an all-time high, and my body can still do it. Obviously, you've got to take it one year at a time and really see how good you can be, but I'm pretty confident that as long as I can take care of my body, and God is good to me as far as health-wise goes, I should be able to be dominant in the near future. I'm looking forward to going out there and making plays. For me, I know the whole world tries to tell you that one day it's going to stop, but I know there are guys who did it at a high level who were older than me, so it can be done. I'm going to go out there and give it my best shot. Obviously, I'm really happy that Baltimore still thinks I can do it at a high level, and they made a big investment in me thinking that I can still do it at a high level. So, I want to go out there and prove them right and show the whole world that they are geniuses. I never want anybody to think anything else."
Along the lines of what you were just suggesting, in terms of being physically prepared for a very physical game… Team facilities are closed, gymnasiums are closed. How has that impacted what would be your normal offseason workouts? And how do you see that impacting guys around the league? (Mark Viviano) "You know, it's going to be interesting, because I think where you live kind of plays a big role, too – some areas are more locked down than others. But you have to learn to develop a routine that works for you. I will say, my body work – I haven't done as much body work as I normally would do right now, which sucks – but I'm pretty sure when I start doing body work again, I'll be OK. I've been doing my own … I've invested in a whole bunch of different machines that help with my body work. But as far as the people coming by and working with me, I haven't done as much because I'm trying to create that social distancing. Hopefully we can get back to doing stuff, interacting here pretty soon, but I don't know how long it's going to be. I guess that can be scary in a sense, but I'm pretty confident, for me, that my workout plan and what I do, I kind of work out on my own anyway. I have a routine that's worked for me for the past four or five years, and I'm still able to do that because I work out on my own, and most of my stuff is either outside at a park, or I do a lot of stuff like stairs and different things that I can do without any help. So, I'm still able to have access to doing my workouts the way I like to. I do feel like a lot of these younger guys will be affected by this, but you just have to do the extra things though. Obviously, in this business there are no excuses. Nobody is going to be like, 'Oh, he isn't playing as good because of whatever reason.' At the end of the day you're only as good as what you do on the football field, and you have to produce week-in and week-out. I try to tell all the guys that regardless of the situation, and now this is just going to intensify that. Obviously, the first thing is health and making sure that your healthy, so you have to abide by the rules. But after that, you have to find a way to be a professional and train and work as hard as you can given the circumstances, go out there, and when the time comes put a good product out there."
What has been your from afar perspective of coach John Harbaugh and his coaching style? (Kyle Barber) "Everybody I've talked to that played for him loves him, and this is going back 10-plus years. I haven't had a lot of interactions with him over the years. I've only (inaudible) and then he coached me twice in the Pro Bowl. So, I've had a few interactions with him, but the thing that I think speaks value more than anything is that every single player who I've talked to who has played for him speaks nothing but great things about him. I've talked to a lot of people over the years, and that really does say a lot, because when you're talking to players, eventually someone will say something bad about a coach. I haven't had one person say anything bad about [coach] Harbaugh."
Just to clarify, are you in Arizona right now? Is that home in the offseason? (Mark Viviano) "No, I'm in Jacksonville right now. I was in Arizona when I signed the contract, I had to do everything from Arizona. But I did come back to Jacksonville and I'm just here. Here with me and my wife – my wife is pregnant – so I just stand by her side. We're 34 weeks… So, it's coming up six weeks left, it's coming up pretty fast."
In terms of the limitations right now for you physically, what about socially with your new teammates? Do you have plans in the next few weeks to do virtual FaceTime's with these guys? Have you met the majority of them? Kind of give me a sense there. (Bobby Trosset) "I've met a bunch of the guys over the years, but I don't think there are any plans to meet virtually, at least I haven't set anything up. I do think with cell phones, social media and stuff, there is a lot of communication, but it's all just one-on-one. There isn't any team stuff, no overall stuff. But I feel like once we get to that time where we're supposed to be in OTAs and if we're not able to do that, I think that's when we'll have those virtual calls. But right now, it's just getting to know guys one-on-one through smaller communication and stuff. I feel like I have a good rapport with a bunch of the guys though. There is already a good relationship with I would say probably 10 to 15 guys on the team already just from interaction with each other and just that bond that I've developed with them. I feel like I'm going to fit right in."