Baltimore ravens: JARRET JOHNSON RETIREMENT PRESS CONFERENCE
General Manager/Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome, Head Coach John Harbaugh,
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees & OLB Jarret Johnson
Ozzie Newsome opening statement:"It seems like I've been in front of this microphone a lot in the last two or three weeks. (laughter) Last week when we had the press conference with Ed [Reed], we had not signed our undrafted college free agents. So, we are at our 90-man limit [now]. Therefore, today, we were not able to sign 'J.J.' to the one-day contract and put him on Reserve/Retired. But, we will get that done as John [Harbaugh] and I continue to work the roster. At some point, we'll have that 24-hour period, and we will sign J.J., and then we can officially retire him as a Raven. As I talked about watching a lot of tape with Ed … John, Dean [Pees], I and the rest of the coaches, when you're watching tape, sometimes the term, 'God, that guy is a football player,' [comes up a lot]. That was a term I think we used with J.J. He was a down lineman; we had no idea what position he would play for us. Could he play rush? Could he play Sam? Could he play inside linebacker? Was he big enough to play [defensive line]? We didn't know, but we knew 'J.J.' was a football player. So we took that, and that was the reason why we ended up drafting him in the fourth round. But what we came to find out about J.J. is that not only does he fit the term that he's a football player, but he was a tempo-setter. He set the tempo in our locker room. He set the tempo in the classroom. He set the tempo out on the practice field, and he definitely set the tempo on Sundays when we would be playing games. He was a guy that from the very first day [that he] came in became one of the guys that the other guys would follow. But probably one thing that, to me, really talks about J.J. is Jarret is now – and I don't think it has changed – the only two-time captain at the University of Alabama. Now that's saying something. I don't know if that's changed, but for a junior to get the opportunity to be a captain and to be good enough to be a captain his senior year, that really says something from my standpoint."
John Harbaugh statement:"Coming here in 2008 was a new experience, and trying to become a part of what the Ravens had already built was part of the job. And I heard this term 'Play Like A Raven,' so you try to figure out what that exactly means. I think the best description was epitomized by 'Double J,' really, every single day. [He was a] really talented football player – extremely talented, very smart. [He] set the edge of the defense. He was the guy who made all the calls and set the defense. He got everybody lined up. And just the way he practiced, the way he played, the way he carried himself, the type of family man he is – a husband and father and son – I just have great admiration for him. I feel like this picture over here – we both saw it coming in – that's 'Double J' as a football player. That really captures him right there. He has that chin down, and he's laser-focused, and he's going to make a play. So, [I have] the utmost respect. [He has had] a tremendous career, and he's just a great man."
Dean Pees statement:"John hit it on the head. 'Play Like A Raven' is 'Double J.' Coming in here and being a linebacker coach and then the coordinator, this guy made my job easy. But I'd say one more thing about 'Double,' [and it is] that this guy is a man. We had a lot of long talks other than just football. [We talked] about family, about everything. This guy is my friend besides being my player. It was like coaching another coach. I don't think of me as the coach and him as the player. I just think of the two of us working together – like a lot of us – for the betterment of the defense and for the organization. The thing I can tell you the most about from a coaching staff standpoint is … 'Double' may not realize it, but when you are a coach, you set a lot of goals for your team, you set a lot of goals for yourself as a coach. One of the goals a lot of us coaches had was in the back of the room where 'Doub' sat in our defensive meeting room. He had a chalkboard right beside him – or a grease board, I should say. I'm showing my age there. [He had] a grease board beside him, and he makes this big circle, and that's called the 'Circle of Trust,' and that's 'Double J's' circle. And when your name/initials went in there, you were proud as heck, because that means that guy respected you. And I don't think there was one coach that didn't walk in that room [hoping to be in the circle]. I remember walking in there all the time thinking, 'I've got to see "D.P." in there some place.' When he stuck it in the middle of that circle, that tells you all you need to know about 'Double J.'"
(HARBAUGH) *"I saw 'J.H.' outside that circle a couple of times. *(laughter) We practiced a little longer than we should have, probably."
*(PEES) *"One time I saw one erased and moved outside of it, and that's not good. But this guy is a true Raven man in absolutely every sense of the word."
Jarrett Johnson statement:"This is an honor for me – to be sitting here [seeing] so many faces that have meant so much to me throughout my career. On the plane ride, I was thinking about what I was going to say and everything. The day I got drafted popped into my head. It was back when [the draft] was only two days – the first [round], second, third and the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh the next day. I went to a buddy's house and I had my wife – who was my girlfriend at the time – and my family all came over. We were going to cook out and watch the draft. I was projected to go somewhere around the second or third round. So, naïve on our part, we started hanging out at noon. Well, the first round takes four hours, so by the time the second round rolls around everybody is kind of tired and ready to go. Now I start paying attention [thinking] this is when I should get picked – in my mind where I thought I should get picked. Of course the second round goes by [and] the third round rolls around, and all of a sudden my phone rings, and it's the Cowboys. They're like, 'We've got a pick coming up, and I want you to be watching the board. We're probably going to take you.' So I hang up, and I'm all excited – I'm going to be a Cowboy and all this stuff. And I'm sitting there watching the TV, and all of a sudden the draft pick pops up: 'The Cowboys select Jason Witten,' and I am devastated. I can't believe it. I'm looking at the rest of the teams on the board, and I realize I'm not going the first day. Me and my wife, we drove around for probably two, three hours that night, and I'm thinking about selling the Tahoe I just bought, and it's the end of the world and all this stuff. *(laughter) *The next morning I get up, and I'm watching the draft, and my phone rings, and it's Ozzie and Brian Billick, and they ask me if I want to be a Raven. I was still pretty disappointed where I got picked, because I thought I was a better football player than that. But when I got here and I met Kelly Gregg and Marques Douglas and Tony Weaver and Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed, Adalius Thomas – I can go on and on and on and on – I found out what it meant to play here and what it meant to be a Raven. At that point all those guys … You did it their way, or you got out of the way. And I was smart enough and tough enough to learn from them and become one of those guys. All of a sudden you look back, and there are guys doing it like you did it. I can sit here and thank people, coaches and teammates, until you all start playing shut-up music, so I'm not going to do that. But there are some people I have to thank. I've never had a bad coach. I sit around amongst players … You'll hear players complain about this coach and that coach and, 'This guy is terrible,' and, 'I didn't learn anything from him.' They'll ask me, and I sit there and say, 'I've had nothing but good coaches.' Every coach I've ever had from Rex Ryan to Vic Fangio to Jeff Fitzgerald to Greg Mattison, Dean Pees, John Harbaugh – it goes on and on – 'C.B.' [Clarence Brooks], I took something from every one of them, and it made me a better person and a better player. I can't say enough about this organization [and] the fact that they asked me to come back and retire. And then these beautiful ladies sitting down here … My wife, she has been with me through a lot of highs and a lot of lows. [She] kicked me out of bed when I am too sore to get up in the morning and go to work. And then my mom, who has been there from the very beginning … I remember my first D-line coach when I was in high school [that] all the moms hated because he was too mean, too tough and yelled and cussed and everything. My mom didn't say a word. She sat back and let him do his job. I learned how to play this game from people like that. I just want to say thank you. It's an honor."
Jarret, in most cases guys who play for a particular team in a particular city, they're not from that city, they didn't grow up there. Yet, with this team, a lot of the former players, they either come back and move here or they come back and do stuff with the organization. You're familiar enough with the organization, why do you suppose that is? (Joe Platania)
(JOHNSON) "This organization – from Art Modell to Steve Bisciotti – it's always a reflection from the top down, from Ozzie and everything they do here. I just went back to the [Ravens Productions] studios and everything is [a] class act. Everything is first-class. And the people that are here you want to be around, you want to work with, and it has always been like that. If there's another organization like it, I don't know, but it's a testament to the organization when people come back and want to be a part of it."
Jarret, you decided to retire before last season, right? (Aaron Wilson)
(JOHNSON) "I knew that this was going to be it. The way my contract was structured … I felt, personally, I was still relatively healthy, but am an older player; I didn't want to be one of those guys that played too long."
Knowing that, how did you take that into the year just emotionally? (Aaron Wilson)
(JOHNSON) "I had fun. I wish that I could … I wish I played the rest of my career the way I played this year, and not only on the field, but mainly at the facility. I smiled, I had fun, I didn't complain. When there'd be little pow-wows going on over there because we were in pads that afternoon, I was like, 'Heck yeah, man! It's going to be awesome. Let's go!' I had fun with it, and I learned more my 12th year than I did probably my first year – not scheme-wise, not technique-wise, but just how to enjoy this game and how to appreciate it."
Not a lot of players get to have a ceremony like this. What does it mean to maybe finally get your day? (Jamison Hensley)
(JOHNSON) "To not be a Pro Bowler, to not be – maybe – a household name around the country, but in this building, in that stadium to be appreciated … I see Val [Wideman, the Ravens' receptionist], she comes running up to me. Just everybody. You know you're appreciated, and it's validation that you did it right – you conducted yourself the way you're supposed to conduct yourself as a player."
Jarret, they talk about toughness a lot. How much is your toughness born from your mom and some of the hardships you guys endured together? (Aaron Wilson)
(JOHNSON) "Me and my family … Hard work and tough. All of my mom's side [of the family] – my dad's – they're all workers. Of course, I played church league softball the other day [and I] can barely walk, so I don't know how tough I am anymore. *(laughter) *It's a hardworking, great group of people."
Ozzie, you've drafted Hall of Famers, you've drafted plenty of Pro Bowlers, so many successful first-round picks. How does "Double J" rank as far as being a fourth-round guy you clearly liked, but not ranked and regarded as highly as the typical draft pick for him to have the career that he had? (Luke Jones)
(NEWSOME) "I think both John and Dean described it best: He 'Played Like a Raven.' We established that – whatever it is – very early on, and to have a guy like J.J. that comes in and [is] the poster child for playing like a Raven, it's just as gratifying as it is for having guys that get a chance to go to the Pro Bowl. With 'Double J,' you knew every Sunday what you were going to get. But not [just] every Sunday. You [also] knew what you were going to get between Monday and Saturday. It's very gratifying to have a player like that to play for you."
Jarret, any particular hits stick out in your mind from over your career? (Ryan Mink)
(JOHNSON) "Hines [Ward in 2011], yeah. (laughter) Got him. Got him."
(HARBAUGH) "We all remember that one. It makes us all smile."
That was your last year here. Any particular pride from it coming at that point of your career? (Ryan Mink)
(JOHNSON) "Yes. I'll take it whenever I can get it. It was a good one."
Jarret, the first couple years, you were moving around – I don't know if you knew what position you were playing. During those first couple years did you ever think, "Maybe this might not work out?" Eventually it did and you excelled, but was there any doubt early on that it wouldn't work out? (Jamison Hensley)
(JOHNSON) "As a player, you're always going to [want to] play 15 years and make 10 Pro Bowls – all that stuff – but I didn't know. I was shocked when my third year they started standing me up and moving me around. It was kind of out of necessity, because we had a bunch of injuries. My fourth year – when I rolled into training camp – in my mind, I'm going to training camp to compete with Trevor Pryce for the starting defensive end job, which was stupid for me to think of anyways. But in my mind, I'm going to compete with Trevor to be the starter. And I go there, I'm standing with the defensive line and Rex walks up and he's like, 'Yeah, go down with the linebackers.' [I say] 'Oh yeah – whatever, Rex. Good one.' [Rex says] 'No, seriously, go down with the linebackers.' And I go down there and 'A.D.' [Adalius Thomas] and Ray and all these guys are like, 'What are you doing?' I was like, 'I don't know! They told me to come down here.' *(laughter) *But it worked out. I think a lot of … Because I played with my hand in the dirt all through college, all through high school [and] my first three years … I think scout team had a huge part of them trusting me enough, because I'd be … There's not that many players to practice, so it would be like, 'You're Mike Vrabel. You're so and so.' So, I'd stand up and do my little thing, and I think doing that over time they realized, 'Maybe he can do it. Stick him out there and see what happens,' and then it turned into a career."
So, what's next for you in your career, other than church league softball? (Ryan Mink)
*(JOHNSON) *"I'm done with that – it's over. *(laughter) *I don't know. I'm enjoying where I'm at right now. I get up early every morning and I have a different goal every day, whether it's just taking care of my two girls or projects around the house. I fish a lot; I'm on the water a lot. I have some business stuff that I do – not daily – but quite often. But I don't know. I'm not going to make any big predictions, and I'm definitely not going to close any doors. I'd love to have some role in this game. I don't know where, [but] we'll see. I would love to have a connection with this organization and with this game, because I love it. There's nothing better. But, we'll see."
Jarret, what were your emotions watching so many of your teammates in this organization win a Super Bowl the season after you left in free agency? (Luke Jones)
*(JOHNSON) *"I get asked that a lot, especially that year. I got asked a bunch. Right when they won the Super Bowl, my phone blew up with all these text messages, 'Oh, I bet you're mad!' But we were celebrating. I was happy, and it really didn't hit me until I started getting all these texts that I could have been there. But at the time, I was just excited, because I know how much work coach Harbaugh put [in] when he came here, and all the battles that he fought trying to get them to do it. You know, a lot of those were against me. *(laughter) *Doing it his way, doing it a certain way and then for it to pan out, to have the ultimate reward, it was awesome. You're sitting there watching what you've been working for. And even though I wasn't there, I felt like I had a part of it. And through this whole thing … I mean no disrespect to San Diego. That place was awesome to me. I cannot say enough about the organization. For them to elect me captain last year in only my third year [was incredible]. But my heart was always here, and when they won it, I was a fan."
*(HARBAUGH) *"Just a little side note, within minutes [of winning the Super Bowl], on my phone there was a text from 'Double' [saying] congratulations and how excited, how fired up he was. And I promise you, the text back was basically, 'You are a huge part of this, and you helped build this.'"
What did that mean to you, to get a text like that? I'm sure you got a lot of them, but what did that mean to you at that time? (Garrett Downing)
(HARBAUGH) *"That was one of the best ones. It meant more than you can probably explain, because I guess you can imagine why. The fact that he would feel that way and feel like he was still a part of it – *know he was still a part of it – and be that genuinely excited about it … It's hard to describe, but it meant a lot."
Jarret, you played in pretty much every game you were here. Was that a source of pride for you? (Jamison Hensley)
*(JOHNSON) *"Absolutely. Because you know how hard the game is to play, how physical it is. Even if they're not on the injury report or somebody's not going in and getting treatment, you know your neighbor next to you, how bad he's hurting and how hard it is to get up some mornings and continue to play. So, that's a huge source of pride for me, because I know the injuries that I had that I could have sat out. So yeah, I'm very proud of that."
Jarret, you've had teammates who are going to go to the Hall of Fame and grab the spotlight and have talked a lot. I call them "limo" guys, and you're a "pickup truck" guy. You don't mind being that, do you? (Joe Platania)
(JOHNSON) *"No. Everybody's got their role, and you have to have those guys. You have to have it. It's great for an organization, it's good for a team, it's good for young guys. But you also need to have the other side, and yeah … I don't know. Terrible answer." *(laughter)
(HARBAUGH) *"I like the pickup truck line; that's pretty good." *(laughter)