For you when you entered free agency, did you kind of think this was how it was going to play out, coming back to the Ravens? Or was there a period that you thought you might be going somewhere else? (Jamison Hensley) "With the [salary] cap being how it was, I wasn't sure what was going to happen. It was actually … I wasn't sure if I was even going to get the chance to play football again with the cap being the way it was. I was like, 'Well, maybe they're going to just bet on these young players and count on the Draft.' So, I really wasn't sure what was going to happen, but I'm really excited to be back."
You said when you signed last year how much you were excited to be in Baltimore. You talked about your pre-draft experience. But having now gone through it a year and obviously re-signing to be here for the next couple of years, why is Baltimore such a good fit? What about it kind of met your expectations and whatnot? (Luke Jones) "Everything about that organization is kind of like … It's hard to put it into words, man. It's really just … I feel at home there, you know? When you walk into that building, it's the kind of place that you want to be. You enjoy going to work. You enjoy waking up in the morning and going into that building. The coaches treat you like a grown man. You're not treated like a child; you're treated like a man. To me, that is … They're all about winning. That's all that really matters. Whatever they have to do to win, they're going to do it. I really love that, and I appreciate that."
There's going to be some turnover on that defense next year. You've lost some of the outside linebackers. How do you think your role might change? [Do you think that] maybe you'll be pressuring the quarterback more? Or do you think you're just going to go in, see how things play out and trust the system? (Todd Karpovich) "Exactly. Right there – I'm going to trust the system. I've always been the type of guy [that] I'm going to do my job no matter what, and I'm just going to do my job to the best of my ability. So, whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to do it."
Could you just kind of describe the excitement when you decided that this was the place that you were going to be? [Can you describe] when that moment was finalized, and you knew that this was the place you were going to be for the next three years? (Garrett Downing) "You know, I talked to my wife about it, and she was like … I was like, 'Do you think I should take the deal?' She's sitting right here. (gestures in front of him) I was like, 'Do you think I should take the deal?' And she was like, 'Yes. Absolutely.' And I was like, 'Alright.' They take care of me there in the building. They look out for me. They put me in a position to make plays, and we're a winning football team. That's what's most important to me, winning the game. Winning football games is all I really care about at this point of my career. The money is great [and] everything, but at the end of the day, it's not worth putting your body through it if you're not competing for something. Competing for a championship year-in and year-out for the next three years is going to be great."
Obviously, you've been doing this for a long time now, so you know there's a balance; the excitement of coming back for you, but you're also watching guys who you played with last year go other places. What is that like – OLB Matthew Judon, DE Yannick Ngakoue, guys like that – watching them sign elsewhere? (Childs Walker) "I'm happy for them. I'm happy that they got to go get their money. That's what they were looking for – was to go get their paycheck and get their payday – and that's what they got. I love to see guys' hard work pay off. I hate to see them leave, but love to see them get what they were looking for."
I was reading about how Coach Harbaugh called you one of the best leaders that he's ever seen, so that must make you feel great. And I'm wondering, do you think you're one of the best fathers, because you must be excited to be a father? How's that affecting your life? (Donna Jean Rumbley) "I didn't have a really good example growing up, so I'm just doing the best that I possibly can. I just try to give her my time. I just try to spend as much time as I possibly can with her during the offseason, because during the season, there's six months of the year that I can't really give her all of my attention, because I'm giving that attention to the team. So, she loves me, I think. (laughter) And I just try to give her as much love as I possibly can, and she gives it right back."
You touched on this in your first response; you have the interesting perspective of being on the free agent market in back-to-back years. Given the cap decrease across the league, how many players are available, did it feel a lot different this offseason? Did you sense there were less opportunities for you this offseason? Less money available on the open market, in general? How did the two offseasons compare? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Well, I think COVID-19 kind of screwed me twice. I had an injury last year, so teams couldn't bring me in and see if I was doing alright or not. And then this year, they screwed us with the cap. So, it's just the way it is, man. I'm just grateful to be on a team that wants me."
Another free agent addition the Ravens signed was G Kevin Zeitler. Have you had any kind of interactions playing against him throughout your career? Any kind of memories that stand out? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, I've known Kevin [Zeitler] since the [2012 NFL] Combine. And I played against him when he was in Cincinnati a couple of times, and I played against him with his last team [New York Giants]. So, to me, he's one of the best pickups we could possibly get. That guy is one of the best offensive guards I've ever played against. He's strong; he's always available; he's smart. He's a smart football player. He's tough to beat. He's just a tough player. So, I'm looking forward to going against him and taking my game to another level."