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Transcripts: Derrick Henry Opening Press Conference (3/14)

Eric DeCosta opening statement:"Welcome. Thank you for coming in today. We're here to celebrate the signing of Derrick Henry – a player that we faced multiple times over the last five to seven years and a player that we've always admired. We've had a chance to watch from up close and also from afar. We're thrilled to bring him here to Baltimore – congratulations to him and also his beautiful family."

John Harbaugh opening statement:"Just to follow up on that – [Derrick Henry] has a wonderful family; it's been fun getting to know you guys today, and we're just thrilled and proud to have you here. I'm trying to figure out who's more excited on our staff, the offensive coaches or the defensive coaches." (laughter) "The offensive coaches are pretty fired up, but the defensive coaches, they don't have to tackle this guy anymore. So, it's just great for our team. It's going to make a difference for us. I know the players are excited, and we can't wait to get started." 

Derrick Henry opening statement: "So for me, I'm grateful for this opportunity. This is a great organization. My family's here with me – my girlfriend Adrianna, my daughter Valentina, and Adrianna's mom, Ms. Simona. Like [Eric DeCosta] said, I've had some great battles against the Ravens for five to seven years and, [I'm] happy and grateful to be a part of it. God is good, and [I'm] blessed for this opportunity."

There is a lot of talk about you and QB Lamar Jackson being on the same team; what kind of offense can you envision having both you and Lamar as a tandem?*(Jamison Hensley)*

*(HENRY) *"[Lamar Jackson]'s so dynamic in how he plays, and his playmaking ability, especially me seeing it going against these guys for a little while now. So, [I'm] excited to play with him. He had a great year this year, [and he] did a lot of great things. We have a lot of great guys in the offense, and I just want to be an added piece to this offense to help them do better than they did last year. And right now, [I'm] just trying to focus on coming earning respect from my teammates."

What went into the decision to come to the Ravens?*(Brian Wacker)* 
(HENRY) "It really was a no brainer for me. This is where I knew where I wanted to be. I love the style [and] the physicality that they play with on all three phases. I feel like it fits my style of play as well. And it really was a no brainer – [we were] just trying to figure out the business side of things. [I'm] glad we were able to get it figured out."

How much do you feel you have left in the tank? Some people think your best days are behind you. What's your response to that?*(Jerry Coleman)*

(HENRY) "Tell them to keep watching." (laughter) "People are always going to have something to say. They're always going to have opinions. I'm just here ready to work, ready to get things started, [and] do my best to help this organization." 

How important was it to be a part of a team that's a consistent contender in your decision making during this time?* (Morgan Adsit)*

*(HENRY) *"Definitely, [I] wanted to be somewhere that had a solid foundation, and this foundation has been set for a very long time, and they compete every year and [are] always in the conversation. I wanted to be somewhere where I'm surrounded by great talent, have a great quarterback and great players around him as well. So, [I'm] just excited for this opportunity, and I'm blessed and thankful to be able to land here."

Congratulations on the move. Do you quantify the week that you've had signing DT Justin Madubuike and then getting a guy you coveted for a long time in RB Derrick Henry. Last year with QB Lamar Jackson signing his contract was big. However, you got two signings in one week. Where does that rank for you as a general manager as far as a week is concerned?*(Kirk McEwen)*

(DeCOSTA) "We've had some ups and downs over the last five years. So, we've had some huge weeks. We've had some bad weeks. This is kind of a ... In some ways, remarkable, great [and] exciting. But we've also lost, what – eight players. [They were] excellent players as well. It's always bittersweet this time of year. You win some, [and] you lose some. We keep swinging. [We're] blessed to get Justin [Madubuike] done and blessed to get Derrick [Henry] done. I feel like both those guys are slam dunks. In saying that, we want to also celebrate Patrick Queen, John Simpson, Geno Stone, Gus Edwards, Ronald Darby, Tyler Ott, Morgan Moses [and] Devin Duvernay. Those guys helped us win a lot of games over the last five years. All Ravens in different ways, different backgrounds. So, there's always kind of a tough give and take this time of year, but we're blessed today to be here with Derrick."

You talked about your experience going against RB Derrick Henry, and you know about his resume. How much did your up close and personal experience playing against him go into the decision to bring him here?*(Cordell Woodland)*

*(DeCOSTA) *"So, I'll tell you, in 2019, we played that [AFC Divisional Round against the Titans], and it was just a gut-wrenching performance. I think we all kind of realized that. But I was at the Senior Bowl, and I left the Senior Bowl and met our team – our coaching staff and a lot of players at the Pro Bowl. I had the chance as a general manager to just observe. And I saw Derrick [Henry] that week, and I watched him, and I watched how the other players related to him. I watched and saw his humility. This is a guy who ran for like – I don't know how many yards that season – and all the players kind of gravitated towards him that week, and it was a tremendous respect. That resonated with me as a guy who scouts for a living, and having the chance to kind of step aside and watch his career unfold, it's been very impressive to me."

You have RB Derrick Henry and QB Lamar Jackson. Is the goal to fill out the offensive line to block for these guys now that you have some holes on the line that you have to fill?*(Todd Karpovich)*

(DeCOSTA) "That's aways going to be the priority, is the offensive line. In 2008, when we hired [head coach] John [Harbaugh], one of the first things he said to me was, 'We need a big, strong, physical, athletic offensive line,' and that's never really changed. So, that will be the mission in the coming weeks to build that out. I think we're on our way. We have a good plan. We're fortunate that this draft class is pretty good from that standpoint. I don't want to call it historically strong, but it looks like a very strong crop of offensive linemen. I say this every year, but as a wise man once said, 'We don't play games until September. We'll be ready.'" 

Did you go into free agency knowing RB Derrick Henry was the running back that you wanted?*(Childs Walker)*

*(DeCOSTA) *"Yes, I had a good indication. To be honest, we tried to trade for Derrick [Henry] before the trade deadline [last season]. I thought there was a reasonable chance that we would get a trade done; it didn't work out. It was disappointing, but we pivoted. Again, you evaluate the tape. You watch the player. You see the history of the player. You talk to people who have been around the player. It made all the sense in the world for us to target Derrick."

How much will the addition of RB Derrick Henry change the look of the offense? Will you go into the pistol formation or under center more now?*(Jamison Hensley)*

*(HARBAUGH) *"I think you always try to build the offense around the players that you have. What Derrick [Henry] does really exceptionally well is going to be where we're going to move towards, but we're versatile. We can go in a lot of different directions. That's what Lamar [Jackson] makes us, is versatile, and I also think what we've been doing along those lines fit this guy [Henry] really well. It's not just his specific talents, because he can run out of any kind of backfield. He can be in the pistol [formation]. We can be under [center]. We can be in the [shot] gun. He can move around. That's all things that [make] him a versatile player. More than that, I just think the person [and] the guy that loves football – that fits us really well, too. He's a tough, physical guy. You play at the high school he played at. You play at the college he played at, [and] where he's been with [the] Tennessee [Titans] and the kind of leader he's been. Everybody you talk to talks about him in terms of a guy who just loves football, is about football and wants to compete, wants to do his best, wants to do everything he can to help the team win. That's what it's all about here, and I'm most excited probably about that."

Have you spoken to QB Lamar Jackson, CB Marlon Humphrey or any other players on the team so far?*(Bo Smolka)*

*(HENRY) *"Well, me and social media guy Marlon [Humphrey] podcasting." *(laughter) *"Me and Marlon definitely. We've texted and talked [on] social media. Ronnie [Stanley] reached out. I've gotten to know him throughout the years. I haven't spoken to Lamar [Jackson]. I'm sure he's busy enjoying his offseason. We'll connect at some point. [I'm] just excited for an opportunity and am ready to meet my teammates and earn their respect."

Eric DeCosta said last year that he thought they might acquire you before the trade deadline. Were you kept abreast to those conversations, and was there a point where you thought you were going to be a Raven before last year's trade deadline?*(Jeff Zrebiec)* 

*(HENRY) *"Yes, I thought [there] was a good chance I was going to be [a Raven]. I didn't really know when it was going to happen when there were conversations and things going on. But I was really just focused on the season, and if anything came, just pivot and get ready for whatever was going to happen. It didn't happen, but I'm a Raven now, so that's all that matters. [I'm] getting ready to go to work."

What is the benefit of playing next to QB Lamar Jackson who is as mobile as he is?*(Cordell Woodland)*

*(HENRY) *"I don't want to make any predictions or [have] any expectations. I think [it's] just putting in the work. I'm big on earning my respect from my teammates. I know I've said that repeatedly, but that's all I want to do is earn the respect from everybody in this building and show them that I'm ready to come work, help everybody get better in any aspect that I can, be a leader in any type of way how I carry myself and by the way I work on the field [and] in the weight room and be attentive in meetings, help the young guys in any way I can and just go out and work and do the best I can to help Lamar [Jackson] in any way running the football and protecting him and helping my teammates in any way. That's my main focus, and I'm definitely excited to be beside Lamar in the same offense."

Have you and QB Lamar Jackson ever talked about the possibility and dreams of potentially playing together?*(Giana Han)*

(HENRY) "Yes, I've definitely thought about it. [Lamar Jackson]'s one of the best if not the best player in this league. I've had respect for him ever since he came into this league [with] his body of work and what he's been able to do, and [I have] respect for this organization as well. They have some great players [in] the organization just like Lamar who've done a lot of great things [like] Mark Andrews at tight end [and] Roquan Smith at the linebacker position – some great leaders [and] guys who set a good example. [I'm] excited to be teammates with everybody and excited to get in the 'RB' [running backs] room to get to know those guys and being able to compete against them, and all of us make each other better."

How did you view the Ravens from an opponent's perspective?*(Jerry Coleman)*

(HENRY) "Buckle your chinstrap. Get ready for a 60-minute fight and know that you're going to take some licks [and] you're going to have to give some licks. Every time we played [the Ravens], it was physical. We had to have a great game plan to prepare for these guys, especially on defense because they give you so many different looks. Then, our defense getting ready for Lamar [Jackson and] how you're going to game-plan against him. I'm definitely glad to go on the other side now."

What do you think is the key to longevity for running backs because not many running backs can do what you've done in this stage of your career?*(Jamison Hensley)*

(HENRY) "Really, I think it's taking care of your body, doing the things you need to do to get your body prepared, year in and year out, week in and week out and every single day, making sure that you're at your best, can perform at your best [and] creating good habits with eating healthy. As you get into the league, do more research [on] guys who played a long time. Be a sponge to guys at the running back position or anywhere else and see what they've done to try and implement that into your life, as well. That's all I try to do. I feel great. I'm blessed to be able to go into Year Nine and [for] getting this opportunity, so I just want to take advantage of it and do the best that I can."

Have you allowed yourself to think of short yardage situations with RB Derrick Henry possibly running behind FB Patrick Ricard, how much duress that can put on a defense and how that's not your problem anymore to have to tackle him?*(Jamison Hensley)*

(HARBAUGH) "I do allow myself to think about all those things, and I do it with a smile on my face. It will be great. Game planning-wise, it's going to give us a lot of options. We have a lot of – like Derrick [Henry] was talking about – we have a lot of playmakers, and our offensive line is going to be big and physical and tough and good. We're looking forward to it."

We've seen in the division and across the NFL teams get faster at that second level to account for quarterbacks like QB Lamar Jackson who can make things happen with their legs. Is there any pleasure for you in having a counterpunch with a guy as physical as RB Derrick Henry as defenders getting faster and smaller?*(Jonas Shaffer)* 
*(HARBAUGH) *"Yes. Well, I think that's a good observation – it's one way to look at it. We always talk about attacking the full width of the field, in terms of the run game, but also the pass game, and that does start in the A-gap, to your point. But, the great thing about Derrick Henry [is] it doesn't end in the A gap. It's in the B-gap, the C-gap, the D-gap, the edge and all the way out to the sideline. We saw that in London this past year on that fake reverse that [the Titans] hit on us. This is a [running] back that can do everything, and he can change the game for you, so we're excited about it. I'm looking forward to it."

Do you have any timetable for the return of RB Keaton Mitchell? Knowing that he's out for some time, is the search still on to add another running back into the mix for the first part of the season?*(Bo Smolka)*

*(DeCOSTA) *"Yes. I think Keaton [Mitchell] is doing really well. We'll see. Obviously, [it was a] significant knee injury, but we have some experience with that. I've gotten some updates from our trainers and  doctors, and we feel like he's on path to come back at some point this season. Running back-wise, we'll assess the market like we always do. There are some players out there, still, that are pretty interesting players. The Draft is another way for us to get better, and we'll attack it in different ways depending on the situation [and] depending on the value that we see. We've drafted guys, we've signed undrafted free agents, we've traded for running backs, and there are a lot of ways to skin the cat, so to speak. So, we'll look at it. We feel really good about Justice [Hill], too. Justice Hill was one of the unsung heroes of our team, I would say, in 2023, so the cupboard's not bare. We got this guy, so I think we're in good shape." 

Was it difficult watching 10 other running backs come off the board in free agency on Day One and seeing RB Tony Pollard go to Tennessee? Did you even know what you were going to do when all of these things were happening a couple of days ago?* (Kirk McEwen)*

(HENRY) "No. I wasn't too overwhelmed about it. I just prayed about it and asked God to put me where I needed to be. I trusted and believed in that process and knew it would happen, but as other running backs [went] off the market, [I was] very happy for those guys. [We] try to keep it as a brotherhood with running backs, especially in this day and age. [I'm] happy to see those guys get paid and knowing that, at some point, my chances would come, and I'd get my opportunity, and I was hoping it would be here. It all worked out, so I was happy."

You've heard a lot over the last few years about the running back position being devalued and frustration with contract negotiations. To see on Day One so many of your brotherhood of running backs get paid over the first couple of days, was that a positive thing for you? Did you view that as something good for your position, when they were getting paid and earning contracts?*(Kyle Phoenix)*

*(HENRY) *"Yes, I was definitely happy to see those guys go off the market pretty fast. I think that speaks volumes that the running back position is still needed, even though it doesn't seem like it. You still have to be able to run the ball. You still have to have a guy who can change the game in any matter of the game. I feel like the guys who signed those contracts are guys that can do that, and I think it was recognized. [I'm] very happy for those guys, and definitely want to be able to have a market where it's fair, and we are valued for the future, as well, for the guys that are coming up after us."

A couple of years ago, you talked about how running backs are a great position, but it's really hard for guys to stay healthy. Is RB Derrick Henry, just based on his track record, one of those guys who seems to defy what happens to players at that position?*(Jonas Shaffer)* 
(DeCOSTA) "Yes, I think that's right. We're talking about a guy who has missed very little time in his career. [Derrick Henry]'s kind of a unicorn, to be honest, [with] his combination of speed, power [and] durability. He's thrived in different systems and done different things. He's won wherever he's been, and those kinds of guys are rare. We've had some here in Baltimore. They are just different from everybody else, and I think Derrick is a good example of that."

After all the years in Tennessee and being in the same place, what do you see as the biggest challenge joining a new team after being somewhere for so long?*(Jeff Zrebiec)* 
(HENRY) "When you've been somewhere eight years, there are changes with the people in the organization, just getting to know everybody and getting everybody to know me. [Learning] the culture and how to do things around here I don't think will be hard. I think I will get acclimated pretty [quickly] by the guys around here. Here, it's very family oriented [and] a great brotherhood, but no. [I'm] not worried so much about that; [I'm] just excited for what's in store and getting to know everybody and getting into the swing of things. I'm trying to help in any way possible around here."

We know how physical these AFC North games can be, and you guys take pride in being a physical running team. Just how excited are you to have the most physical running back in those games?* (Cordell Woodland)*

(HARBAUGH) "Yes, [Derrick Henry] is a good fit in the AFC North. [The Titans] were in the AFC North at one time, weren't they, [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta]?"

(DeCOSTA) *"Yes, a long time ago. When was that?" (Reporter: "It was in the AFC Central, back before 2002.")*

(HARBAUGH) "You're talking historically, [and] kind of to your point, there's a long, storied history of this kind of football being played by these teams, so it continues."

Executive vice president and general manager Eric DeCosta, you said that you wanted to solidify the offensive line, and you said that process is ongoing. You were going to get a running back, and you got RB Derrick Henry. Is there anything on the wide receiver front? There's a report you may be looking at trading for WR Deebo Samuel or another veteran. Can you comment on where you're at there?*(Jeff Zrebiec)*

(DeCOSTA) "That specific report was probably ... I read [Dr. Seuss'] The Lorax last week at a local elementary school, and I would probably put that report similar to that." (laughter) "But I think the hunt goes on when you're trying to find good football players, and whether that's a [wide] receiver, offensive line, pass rushers, corners – whatever it is – I think that the challenge for us is to find the money, find the right player [and] find the perfect match on the field [and] off the field. We know we have the draft. As of right now, I think we have nine picks. We've moved up a little bit in the fourth [round], which I think is going to be advantageous for us. Moving from the bottom of the fourth to the top third of the fourth round, [we] should [select] a better player. So, I do see [an] opportunity for us to get back at the draft. Last year, [we were] kind of lean with the draft, in terms of the amount of picks we had. I think this year will be a good chance for us to kind of augment the roster with good, young, cheap, talented football players." 

Before free agency, your former teammate Taylor Lewan said that he didn't really see you being a good fit in Baltimore, because he didn't think you would like zone reads or run-pass options and those kinds of things. Are you comfortable with everything that this offense will probably ask of you?*(Jonas Shaffer)* 

(HENRY) *"Yes, I'm definitely comfortable. I'm confident in my ability, confident to adjust, and [I'm] excited for what's in store. Taylor [Lewan] is very opinionated these days." *(laughter) "He has his opinion on a lot of stuff, but I'm very confident in my ability."

(HARBAUGH) "These days? Just these days?"* (laughter)*

(HENRY) "It hasn't been a while, but this is his occupation now."

You guys have been with this organization for so long here, executive vice president and general manager Eric DeCosta, especially you. The list of great running backs is a long one here, but this is arguably the greatest running back in this franchise's history. Where would you rank him on the list of running backs that have suited up for the Ravens?*(Shawn Stepner)*

(DeCOSTA) "I'm not really going to rank players."

(HARBAUGH) *"That's a tough question, right there. We'll see how it goes." (laughter)*

*(DeCOSTA) *"It's not something that I typically will do – is rank players, especially ... But this guy [Derrick Henry] is a warrior, and he's right up there with the very best we've ever had. Certainly, we've had a number of outstanding players throughout the years. We've had multiple guys win Offensive Player of the Year in the league, whether with us or with somebody else – even a guy like Priest Holmes. But we've had so many great ones. This guy, [he's an] unbelievable player, [and I'm] excited to see what he does. It's a brotherhood, like he said, and I know that we have a lot of guys, [including] the legends – the Baltimore legends [and] running back legends – [that] are going to be cheering for this guy from Day One, and that's exciting."

Is this the first time you've worn a purple and black suit. How'd you like the color?*(Kyle Phoenix)*

(HENRY) "I actually told Coach [John] Harbaugh ... This is a funny story. This is actually the suit I wore to my grandmother's funeral, who raised me. She died in 2016, and [purple] is her favorite color. So, whenever [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta] told me that I would be coming to do a presser, I was like, 'I've got to wear this suit.' We're actually moving these next [few] weeks, so I was scrambling through boxes, pulling everything out, trying to find this suit and be able to put it together. I definitely wanted to wear this color to honor her and show all the fans around Flock Nation that I'm ready, and I'm on board."

How excited do you think your grandmother would be that you signed with the Ravens and are wearing her favorite color?*(Valerie Preactor)*

(HENRY) "Oh yes, [my grandmother] is definitely excited. The day before free agency, we were outside in my yard playing. I was outside playing with my daughter. My grandmother loved butterflies, [and] in Tennessee, I used to always see a butterfly at every practice. In the house we live in now, [we] never saw one since we've been there. We've been there going on two years. And that day, a butterfly just flew around me constantly, and I knew that was kind of like a reminder that she was around, and everything was going to be alright. So, it felt good."

In a similar vein, I wanted to ask you about your grandmother. With your upbringing, how do you think the lessons that she's imparted on you will help you as you navigate this new situation?*(Carita Parks)*

*(HENRY) *"I come from a hard-working and supportive family, and I always trust and believe in the man above that he will lead me in the right direction and never lead me wrong. So, [my grandmother] raised me to always put God first, trust and believe in His plan, and it's not always your time; it's His time, and His time is always perfect. So, that's what I always believe in. She raised me to always have great manners, be respectful, earn everything that I want out of life and never give up on my dream and what I want to accomplish."

The AFC North was the best division in football last year. With you guys and RB Derrick Henry, and with what other teams have done, how much better do you think this division has already gotten just one week into free agency?*(Jamison Hensley)*

(DeCOSTA) "I haven't really studied it. I've seen some movement. Obviously, a few of our competitors have taken some of our players. It happens every year; every year we look at the AFC North [teams], [and] they draft well, [and] they sign good players. They have a way of doing things. But let's not forget, we'll be there, too. I love our team, [and] I love our roster. We have some challenges ahead, but we're going to be ready to play in September."

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