Ozzie Newsome opening statement:"Thanks for coming out today. I didn't realize it up until we had the season-ending press conference that the trade we made with Jacksonville was probably the first trade I'd ever made during the season. And we made that trade with the intention of trying to cement a relationship with Eugene that would go beyond those 11 games that he was with our organization. And having the opportunity to be with Eugene, to watch the way he carried himself in the building, the type of work ethic that he has and the way he performed out on the field on Sunday definitely put us on the road to try to cement a long-term relationship. That's what we started to do. With free agency, you never know how things are going to turn out, but between [senior vice president of football administration] Pat [Moriarty] and Eugene's agent, Sunny [Shah], working tirelessly, we were able to come to a deal."* *
John Harbaugh opening statement:"On behalf of the coaches, I can't express enough how excited we are as a coaching staff that Eugene Monroe is going to be our left tackle for many years to come. We did take a few chances, right Ozzie, in doing this, and Eugene came in at a tough spot in the season. It hasn't happened very often that a player comes in during the season and gets plugged into the left tackle position. And for him to play the way he did just shows you what kind of a player he is and what kind of a person he is. I know our coaches are excited – all of our coaches – but especially the offensive coaches, starting with coach [Gary] Kubiak. Our coaches are out scouting and things like that right now and doing workouts, but [assistant offensive line coach] Todd Washington is representing the coaches back here as one of our offensive line coaches. I know Todd has got a big smile on his face back there and he's excited. We're just excited. We couldn't have a better player, but even a better person than he is a player. Eugene is going to be a leader for us for many years to come. He's going to be an anchor out there at the left tackle spot for many years to come, and that's what you're looking for. That's not easy to do in this league anymore, and we're really pleased we have that to build from. To build from Dennis [Pitta] and Eugene now as our first two guys that we signed, two guys on our own team that are really lynch pin-type guys for us on offense is really important. So, I'll turn it over to Eugene, and maybe you could introduce your beautiful family that's here."* *
Eugene Monroe opening statement:"I am more than excited to be here and am joined by my wife, Nureya, and my daughter, Farah, over there. You might have heard her a little bit. (laughter) *They're as much a part of all of this as I am. So, I'm definitely appreciative. It's an exciting time for me. I was drafted in the first round, which is a blessing in itself, and to be able to endure to even make it to this point is special. I'm thinking about the guys who were in that first round with me, and I'm the only left tackle that was drafted that is still playing left tackle. The second guy [Jason Smith] selected in that draft isn't even playing anymore. So it's a blessing just to be able to endure all of this time. And [I'm] definitely excited for the future. Signing this deal here with the Ravens has given me a chance to continue my career here, a place that I'm calling home. My family is two hours up the road, and my wife's family is literally right here [in Columbia], so we're home. There could be no better situation for me to be in. The way I work, and I came here midway through the season, I was fully confident that once I was on the field I would perform well, even just having a week of learning the system [and have it] under my belt here. And continuing through that process, and being helped by all the players that were on the team … They didn't have to open their arms the way they did to bring me along as quickly as I came, but I'm definitely appreciative of all of my teammates as well, especially the ones on the offensive line – guys who I am competing with for a job who did their best to help bring me along. So, I definitely appreciate those guys as well, and I'm just looking forward to continuing to do what I do the best, to grind, put in work and ultimately win ball games. I looked at just how my football career has gone, and I've never actually won a championship, and that's something that I believe I have the opportunity to do here, and I'm excited about that."* **
Eugene, the connection with your wife's family being from the area definitely helped your adjustment. You were in Jacksonville longer than here. What was it about the team and the organization that made Baltimore feel like home so quickly? (Joe Platania)
(MONROE)"It's really a family atmosphere, and that's not something that's just said. That's something that's demonstrated through how everyone interacts with each other here, how everyone treats each other here and how we go about business here. I remember coming in and the tackle that was here before me, I remember watching him while I was coming up out of high school, Bryant McKinnie, and people from the outside may have expected him to possibly treat me a different way because he knew I was here to compete for his job. But he actually did his best to help me come along, too. So, that in itself shows what type of people that they bring here to this organization."* *
Eugene, Ozzie touched on the fact that the club had a chance to watch you for 10 weeks. You had the exact same situation where you watched the club. What was it that you liked so much about the way John runs things? (Stan Charles)
*(MONROE) *"You hear people talk about needing accountability in business, but it was really demonstrated here at a level that I haven't seen before. From something not going right and whoever was responsible automatically taking responsibility for it and doing what was needed to have that thing be corrected. I've been in a place where that may not have always been the case, so that was awesome to just experience it in that way."
Question for Ozzie and then for Eugene: Ozzie, when did you feel like you knew that you had Eugene? Was it just after the signing period started to open up yesterday? And Eugene, were there other options out there for you in the end, and was Baltimore the one that pushed you over the top? (Jerry Coleman)
*(NEWSOME) "I really didn't know it was a deal up until [senior vice president of football administration] Pat [Moriarty] came in. I had two people come into my office and tell me – one being [senior vice president of public and community relations] Kevin [Byrne] – 'Oh, you got a deal? Congratulations.' I said, 'We don't have a deal yet.' And one other person [came to my office]. But up until the signing, and Pat was able to put the final dotting of the 'I's and the crossing of the 'T's, I didn't think it was a deal because it's free agency. In history, I've had a guy in my office sitting with a pen in his hand and didn't sign because [Dallas Cowboys owner] Jerry Jones sent his plane. *(laughter) So, up until you get the name on the contract, it's not done."
*(MONROE) *"The entire time, and I let my agent know, and he knew – we have a great relationship; he's one of my best friends – that I wanted to be here. It made the most sense for me career-wise and family-wise. There is no other place that I felt like I could have gone and gotten all of the things that I'm offered here. So, getting late in the process and getting interest from other teams, business-wise you have to listen to that. You have to understand what else is out there for you. But ultimately this was the best place for me, and I'm very glad it worked out here."
Ozzie, for many years you never had to worry about left tackle. When you're building a team, how much of a priority in the big picture is having a left tackle you can always depend on? (Jamison Hensley)
*(NEWSOME) *"I think it goes back to when [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] first took over, and he was in a conversation with James Harris about Jonathan [Ogden] and why Jonathan was probably being paid more in his salary than what we were paying three of the other offensive linemen. And James told him, 'Up until you don't have a left tackle, you don't appreciate it.' So, we've been fortunate enough to have that and now have someone like Eugene at the age that he's at right now and the promise that he has moving forward. That's something that we don't have to address for a long time."
Ozzie, kind of piggybacking off that, could you just talk about how difficult it is when you're often drafting at the end of each round, and tackles are such a hot commodity on the free agent market? How difficult is it to land somebody who is a long-term option at left tackle like this? (Ryan Mink)
(NEWSOME) *"We want to continue to be drafting at the end of the draft, too, because it's not a whole lot of fun to go through those Mondays. But that was probably the impetus for us to make the trade. At that point, we thought we would be in the playoffs, and good tackles don't make it down that far. The top two or three tackles will probably be gone by [pick] 15 this year. So, getting the opportunity to get one is a very positive thing because you can't [rely on] the draft. There are some good tackles that end up playing in the league that don't get drafted at the top of the draft, but the majority of them do." *
Eugene, how do you think you're going to fit in Gary Kubiak's system, and how will things be a little bit different than what you did last year in terms of what you'll be asked to do as a player out there? (Matt Vensel)
*(MONROE) *"I'm going to fit right in. I've been in multiple different offensive systems since I've been in the league with having coaching changes in Jacksonville and coming here midway through the year and learning a brand new offense in the same season. So, getting acclimated to what's new, it's something that I'm very familiar with. And I'm an athlete, so I'll be able to do anything physically. If it's different, I'm not sure yet. I'm sure I'll get into learning more of that here soon, but I'll be able to do anything that's asked of me."
Eugene, how much better do you feel you can be given that you'll have a full offseason to kind of study, whereas obviously last year you had to kind of jump into things? How much better do you feel like you can be next year? (Ryan Mink)
*(MONROE) *"I work every year to improve my game, no matter what situation there is. One, just because there is so much turnover in this league, if you're not working to get better than you're working to be out of the league. You see it all the time with talented guys not putting in the effort, and then they're no longer playing. My goal every year is to analyze my game to see where I'm weak, and work to make those points strong."
John, how much of an early impression did it make for Eugene to come in midseason and pick everything up as quickly as he did? And then, helping to decide that you wanted him to be your guy moving forward this offseason? (Luke Jones)
*(HARBAUGH) *"Probably the fact that we gave up the draft picks was already an indication that we felt really good about Eugene, really from the draft back when we evaluated him when he was coming out of college, and then what we had seen in Jacksonville. But, it's been nothing but confirmation since then. We had a chance to see how he learns. We had a chance to see how he handles adversity and pressure and all those different things, how he leads, which [is] amazing to me. Even since the season ended, and throughout this whole free agency process – which it's a challenging time – Eugene has been in here sometimes twice a day working out, early in the morning, in the afternoon, just going through his routine as if he was here all along. That's the kind of leader you're looking for. So, to me, it's just what you said, but then nothing but confirmation ever since."
Ozzie, you talked at the end of the season about wanting to solidify the offensive line. How big was this move in doing that from an offseason priorities perspective? (Garrett Downing)
*(NEWSOME) *"It would have been a void if we had not been able to get Eugene signed to a long-term deal, and we would have been facing, competing out in the market with some other teams, and there weren't a lot of other tackles out there. So, to be able to have Eugene, to know that we've had him now for 10 weeks and then the weeks leading up to free agency, it just helps us to be able to now move to some other positions as far as helping out the offensive line."