MARSHAL YANDA RETIREMENT PRESS CONFERENCE
E*_xecutive Vice President/General Manager Eric DeCosta, Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome,_*
Head Coach John Harbaugh & G Marshal Yanda
Executive Vice President & General Manager Eric DeCosta
Opening statement:"First of all, I would just like to thank everyone for joining us today as we celebrate Marshal [Yanda] and his family for his amazing career as a Baltimore Raven. This is a special day. Obviously, [it's] kind of bittersweet for some of us, selfishly, but a great day for our franchise. I would like to introduce my mentor, and also the guy who drafted Marshal back in 2007, to say a few words, Ozzie [Newsome, executive vice president]."
Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome
Opening statement:"Thanks, Eric. There's a phrase in this organization: 'Play Like a Raven.' If I had a billboard and could post it somewhere, on [Interstate] 83 or somewhere near the stadium, and put players on there that I felt like played like a Raven, Marshal Yanda would be one of the first to go on that list. He was tough, competitive, smart and had a unique respect for the game as well as his teammates. I just want to congratulate you, Marshal, on a great career, and I know sometime in the future, as I have been told, you will be getting your mail in Canton."
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement:"Watching that video, I kind of got choked up there. A whole career put together in a couple of minutes, but maybe even more telling is this room right here. This is as full as this room has probably ever been. Even more telling than that, all of the ex-players that are back here with their families to honor your family. Shannon [Yanda] and Marshal, what you have done – that says it all about the relationships. As a coach, you can never ask for anything beyond what Marshal did and gave. He even said some good things lately. (laughter) He started some good pep talks, too.(Yanda: "At the end there.") "At the end there, yes." _(Marshal Yanda: "Because there was nobody else.") "That's right, that's right. (laughter) _ would look at Marshal and say, 'You got it, right?' And he took it, but more so by example, more so by the way he played and the way he worked, every single day, like the video said, the grind of it. We had a saying a few years back that was Marshal's saying: 'Embrace the grind.' We made a t-shirt. You guys probably still have it, right? That says it all. I think that is what Marshal did. He embraced every bit of his career, made the most of it. He is, in my opinion, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and on behalf of all the Ravens – our organization, the players, coaches and the fans – thanks for everything you did." (Yanda: "I appreciate it.")_
Executive Vice President & General Manager Eric DeCosta
"Just a quick story – I was thinking about this last night. When I started as a gofer, Ozzie and I used to run every day with Kirk Ferentz, who was our offensive line coach [from 1997-98], and we became really, really good friends. [In] 2006, we had just finished 13-3, and I was scouting players. I would always go to Iowa, and Kirk and I would always run at some point during the day. We would run through the campus, and I had just finished watching tape for about six or seven hours, and we went on a run and Kirk said, 'What did you think of him?' And I said, 'Who?' Because I had a whole bunch of guys, and he said, 'That right tackle of ours.' And I said, 'He is a hell of a player, Coach. I think he would be a great guard.' And so, as the process went along, at some point in the spring of that year, 2007, I got a book sent to me in the mail. I think it was called Season of Life. It was a book about a local story about Gilman [School]. Kirk had sent that to me, and I sent him a thank you note. And the thank you note has been on my bulletin board now for about 13 years, and this is the note. It says: 'Coach, thanks for the book. I look forward to reading it someday. Yanda to the Ravens at 61, mark it down.' Well, we traded our pick that year, [when] we had the 61st (laughter).It was the second-to-last pick in the second round, and we were on the clock, and Ozzie decided we were going to trade that for two third-round picks. So, our first third-round pick didn't work out so well. Our second third-round pick, I think we nailed it, and it was this guy [Yanda]. So, Kirk Ferentz sent me this [note] back after the draft, and he said: 'DeCosta, you were pretty close. – Kirk.' So, for the last 13 years I've kept this on my bulletin board, and this guy has always been very special to me and I think to the organization."
G Marshal Yanda
Opening statement: "Thanks, Eric. Yes, [pick No.] 61 would have been a little nicer, too, than [No.] 86. (laughter) More money, no doubt. (laughter) Alright, I am just going to go off my notes here, guys. I'm going to stay focused and just roll through it here. Today I am retiring from the NFL. I want to thank [owner] Mr. [Steve] Bisciotti, Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta and [president] Dick Cass for the incredible opportunity to play for such a great franchise that treats everyone in the organization in a first-class manner. They do things the right way every day here, and I've always felt fortunate to be here my entire time.
"I'd also like to thank the University of Iowa for taking a chance on me as a junior college player. I didn't know then that I had the potential to have such an amazing career. Thank you for showing me the way. Coach [Kirk] Ferentz, Coach [Chris] Doyle and Coach [Reese] Morgan, thank you so much for helping me find that potential. I would not be here today without all of you. You taught me accountability, discipline and mental toughness to the highest degree. I continued to train at Iowa throughout my career in the offseasons. Coach Doyle continued to push me and expected, 'Nothing less than your best.' No matter how long I'd been there or how much success I'd had in the NFL, he treated me the same, and I always respected him for that. It was there in the locker room where I read the quote, 'Embrace the grind.' They would put up motivational quotes in their locker room so that players could read it, similar to what we do here, and If I can sum up my football career in three words, this would be it: 'Embrace the grind.'
"I want to thank my agent, Neil Cornrich. You have guided me throughout my NFL career with injuries, contracts and many other areas of my life. I have always respected your straightforward knowledge and approach to everything.
"My first year in the NFL was filled with highs and lows. I was left to wonder if I had what it takes to play at this level heading into training camp. I will never forget my first day of training camp with pads. J.O. [Jonathan Ogden] started the season on PUP [physically unable to perform], and I had finished my last six games at Iowa playing left tackle because of injury. I was a right tackle in college, but I finished at left tackle. So, of course, the logical thing would be to put me in at left tackle with the 'one's' [starters] on the first day in pads going against Terrell Suggs, right? (laughter) Sounds like a great idea. I wish I could tell you that I held my own, and I had an OK first day. Up until that day in my career, I had never been put on my back playing football. I had watched it happen to a lot of guys, but just thought in the back of my mind, 'That will never happen to me. That's not happening.' Well, 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs] got me that day, my first day. And after my first day, I didn't know if I had what it took to play at this level. I was thinking in my mind at the time after Day One, I was like, 'Hey, I started off in JUCO, I beat the odds, I made it to Iowa, I got to start at Iowa and was fortunate enough to be drafted, but that might be the end of the road. It could be right here.' That might have been it. That was my first day in the NFL. I realized I wasn't in college anymore and that these men were on another level, and I didn't know at that time if I had what it took after the first day. I've told that story many times to young players when they were going through it, because it's really hard. And when you're a young player, sometimes you struggle as a young player mightily, and you can have some really long days. And I wanted to always let them know that I've had those long days, too, when I was a young player. In the back of my mind it was always, 'One snap and clear.' And no matter what, do your best and move on. It was a rough start at training camp, but I fell back on my mental toughness. I continued to approach every day as a new day. Learn from your mistakes and fight your ass off. That's another phrase that rings true in my heart no matter what. That this game requires a lot of fight, and every single day you have to fight. And I tell that to the guys, as well. By the end of my rookie year, I had started 12 games in the NFL. I knew I still had a long way to go, but my mind had shifted from not knowing to knowing I could play at this level. It just was going to take an extreme amount of focus from then on.
"One of the more popular stories of my uneventful media career was the taser story. (laughter) I have to get it out there. So, I was a rookie. Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister were the old dogs on the team. They brought in a taser. I think it was Samari's wife's taser, and they were offering up serious money to anyone they could shock with it to get some laughs. They had already got one rookie, and he collapsed on the floor kicking and screaming. So, blood was in the water to find their next contestant, right? I was at my locker when I heard, '600 dollars if you will let them shock you.' I'm sitting at my locker and I immediately just stood straight up thinking, 'This can't be any worse than getting shocked by an electric fence on the farm.' So, the locker room erupted at the word that I would do it. The locker room erupted in, "Yanda will do it! Yanda will do it!' (laughter) So, literally the entire team gets around in a big circle, and they shock me. And still to this day I don't think the batteries were fully charged, because it was not any worse than an electric fence on the farm. (laughter) I was shocked for a little bit with no real emotion, and then he stopped. And I was worried that they weren't going to pay me because I'm a rookie, so I let them shock me again just to make sure of the bet. (laughter) Because those two old guys, if they would have said, 'Oh, you didn't do anything. I'm not paying you.' I would have said, 'OK, alright.' (laughter) Still to this day, that was one of the easiest 600 bucks I've ever made, and that story still will be told for a long time.
"I can't talk about my middle years of my career without talking about my first major injury. It was just my second year in the NFL. It was Week 5 at Indianapolis and we were taking a beating from Peyton Manning. Late in the fourth quarter, I got hit from the side of my leg in my right knee, and it was from planting in the ground stopping a bull rush. Up until that point, I had never been seriously hurt playing football. I thought again in my mind, just like I never thought I'd be put on my back, that I just didn't get hurt. I was never in the training room in college and was just one of those guys that didn't get hurt. Well, that all changed one day, and I started down the path of one of the toughest stretches of my career. I tore three out of the four ligaments in my knee. I had two separate surgeries to fix them. In 2008, there were doubts about me returning to playing at the high demands of the NFL. I rehabbed extremely hard and planned on getting my job back immediately when I began playing again. Well, the NFL is a very humbling experience, and to quote Mike Tyson: 'Everybody has a plan until you get punched in the mouth.' I lost my starting job and rode the bench for 11 weeks. It was a life-changing experience for me and had me at times questioning if I had indeed lost a step and maybe wasn't the same guy. I got an opportunity to start against the Steelers at home, and I still think to this day that it was the most nervous I had ever been for a football game, and I was reminded that if I didn't play well, I would be benched not after the game but at halftime I would be benched. This was a huge moment in my career where I persevered, and I never lost my job starting from that game forward. That is also a story that I tell to young players, because most people [don't] know – I'm sitting up here now after 13 years – that I rode the bench for 11 games in my NFL career. That changed my life, and when I got my job back, I was even more driven to succeed.
"We had a lot of success early on in my career. We made it to the AFC Championship Game in 2011 only to come up short and had our hearts broken by the Patriots. I still remember the feeling in my heart that we … There was a play where we had a feeling like we were going to win the ball game. I remember me and Matt Birk were hugging each other, thinking that we were going to the Super Bowl in that moment, only to have that ripped away. That was the worst loss I had ever had to deal with in my career, but I truly believe you have to go through adversity to truly achieve greatness. We were molded and hardened by those tough losses and were better people and players because of that adversity.
"The following season brings back memories of our Super Bowl run – the playoffs especially, Ray Lewis' last game in M&T Bank [Stadium], as well as my pads being a block of ice during the Denver playoff game because of the harsh cold weather and the ritual of me spraying my face with water before every single upcoming series to get alert and ready to roll, and the locker room after those huge wins. Matt Birk once said, 'You won't remember all the games,' – I definitely don't remember them all – 'But you will remember celebrating in the locker room with your teammates and coaches after those huge victories.' And that did happen in Denver. We got the chance for redemption going back to New England almost exactly a calendar year later and made the most of our opportunities. Ray always talked about watching the confetti fall, and we had heard that story a lot because we were very successful. We were in the playoffs every year [during] those years. But to finally get to the Super Bowl and win it and actually watch that confetti fall, was one of the best times of my career and my life. I remember celebrating, storming the field like a bunch of young kids, having the best time of your life. We did it, and it was just – it was something that I'll relish and have with me for the rest of my life. And having that experience with those group of guys was so special, and that team will forever be together in that we did it – World Champs.
"I look back at the past few years, and I am grateful to be part of those playoff teams late in my career. I played with guys that came from other teams, and they sometimes waited a very long time to play in just one playoff game. One player was in his ninth year, and I remember we were in the playoffs and it was his first playoff game in his ninth year. Or there was a guy in his 12th year in his first playoff game. So, I never lost sight of that, and I always felt fortunate to be drafted by such a great organization and be a part of this winning culture. As I continued my career, I wanted to set the example that was set long before me by guys who were here when I was a young player that did things the right way, that were pros every single day. You could watch them. The coaches tell you, 'Just watch him and see what he does every single day. He's a pro. He does things the right way.' I thought if I ever made it that far and played that long that I wanted to be that example for the young players to lean on, to watch, to literally lead by example every single day, not just on the field but in the locker room, in the meetings, with my family, how I approach life every single day. I wanted to be able to set the example for those guys, and I was happy to do it.
"I've never had as much fun as I had last year in 2019. To be a part of that team was special and being able to walk away from the game on my own terms is so meaningful. I'm glad I can do it my way.
"I want to thank all the doctors that worked with me to get me back on the field and playing the game that I love. I had my fair share of injuries that I had to grind through, and it wouldn't have been possible without these doctors: Dr. [Andrew] Tucker, Dr. [Leigh Ann] Curl, Dr. Steadman, Dr. Andrews, Dr. Ostrander and Dr. Anderson, thank you. Yes, that was a lot of doctors. (laughter) I was hurt a lot, a lot of surgeries.
"I also really enjoyed the tough times that I had to grind through. I had to fight through injuries my entire career, as many of us have, but my love for the game never wavered. I loved the game and played the game because I love it, and I always wanted to fight through those injuries no matter what, especially in 2017 when I had two surgeries in the offseason – one from an ankle and one from lifting weights – that I had to get through to get back on the field. But that never deterred me. The drive, the desire to play was still there.
"I was fortunate enough to only play for two head coaches during my time in the NFL, 13 years with two head coaches. Coach [Brian] Billick, thank you for showing me the way. I was just a rookie, and I kept my head down and I didn't say anything. But, I did learn a lot my rookie year. And that's just the way I love rookies: head down, quiet, do your job (laughter), and you'll earn your respect. And I learned that. Coach Harbaugh, we basically came in together, and it has been a consistent body of work the entire time. Having that stability really helped me get in the groove as a player, not having to worry about a new coach coming in trying to change the culture, trying to change this every one or two or three years. We have had a winning culture my entire time as a Raven, and that's a credit to what John has done. Thank you again.
"To the offensive coordinators and offensive line coaches that I played for: there are too many to name. But I thank you for all that you've done for me, and I am honored to have been able to share the success and all the great memories we had together.
"Where would I be without the people in the training room? Football has a 100 percent injury rate, and it's not 'If' but 'when' it happens. I came in every day to work hard and get healthy, and these guys were always there for me to push me and encourage me and help me in any way they could. Rehab is a word that I dread to hear, and I had spent some long days rehabbing, gaining range of motion and then strengthening and going through the pain. There's nothing but pain in rehab. That goes hand-in-hand, and that's just part of it. But these people did everything they could to help: 'Bill T' [Bill Tessendorf], Mark Smith, Ron Medlin, Kevin Domboski, Russ Haynes and Rose Calas. Thank you.
"To the equipment staff: thank you for doing the little things so that I could just focus on competing on Sunday and not about my wardrobe, which so many guys care so much about. (laughter) And I don't care one darn bit. (laughter) But I will say that once I find something that fits good and I like it, I don't want to change. William [Sheridan] and Tom [Wood] stockpiled a certain cleat that I liked, and I have worn that same style of cleat since 2009. I broke in my last pair for the playoffs this year, so you could say it was the perfect amount. They always took notice of things that I liked and made note so the next time it was already done that way. And I can remember driving in as a rookie and seeing Ed Carroll on the loading dock having a 'heater.'(laughter) One of my fondest memories of ol' 'Ed O.' Ed, William, Tom, Kenico [Hines] and the rest of the equipment staff, including the firemen, thank you. Ed Reed said it best: 'Respect the firemen, man. Respect them.'
"To the entire Ravens media staff – Kevin [Byrne], Chad [Steele], Patrick [Gleason] and Tom [Valente], thank you for preparing me for the tough interviews that no one wants to do after a tough loss. Your input has helped me control the interview my way and not ever feel pressured or in a corner. And Chad, thank you for helping me prepare for my retirement.
"I've had the opportunity to play with a lot of great men that were warriors. I can't name them all, but here are a few that I went to war with every Sunday and have the utmost respect for: This is mainly the older crew since I'm an old man and it's a young man's game; Matt Birk, Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Ben Grubbs, Jarret Johnson, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Chris Chester. Thank you.
"I love this game, and I love playing this game. So many guys can play this game for different reasons. Even if they do not like football, you find out that they will play the game for a bunch of different reasons, but I played this game because I love the game. I love competing, I love the teammates and the struggle and the grind. I loved that every single day; that is why I played, for the love of the game. I have been so thankful to have been blessed to have played this game for 23 years. It is a long time. This game changed my life and my family's life for the better. I am thankful for and I will miss the battles I had against so many great players and great coaches. If you want to be great, you have to beat the great players, and I relished going against the best in the world. One day you have J.J. Watt, or you have Geno Atkins, or you have Aaron Donald. If you want to be the best in the world, you have to want to play those guys, and I relished that opportunity to play the best every single time. I looked forward to it. I gave so much [that] I have to this game, but the game gave me back so much more. I will forever be thankful for the lessons I learned and the joy of being a great teammate.
"To the fans, [the] Ravens Flock: I can't think of a better place to spend my entire career. You embraced my family and myself, and I can't thank you enough for that. This team is a reflection of this city – hardworking, passionate, blue collar and committed. We couldn't have been the team we were without you. Thank you for your support. Thank you for your investment in us. It was an honor to play in this great city, Charm City.
"I would not be here without the support of my family. My mom, my dad – thank you for instilling in me the values to succeed in life. I would not be here if it was not for my parents and how they loved me and how they taught me everything that I know. I got my work ethic from my parents. We grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa where hard work was just a way of life. I learned by following my parents' example of putting the work first before anything else. This is just one of the many values I learned from my parents, and I carry them with me to this day. I love you. Thank you so much.
"To my sister Katie: thank you for always being there for me when I needed you, from traveling to all of my games from high school to the NFL. Katie used to drive me to the Iowa facility for practice, and I slept on her couch one summer to save on rent money. If I ever needed her advice, I would get it whether I liked it not. (laughter) Thank you again, Katie. I love you.
"To my wife's parents, Dennis and Sallie: thank you for your support and all of your help. You have always been so welcoming and made family life very fun and enjoyable for me. Thank you again.
"To my wife Shannon and my three kids, Graham, Libby and Logan: thank you for always supporting me and allowing me to never worry about anything other than football when I came home. I wasn't an NFL player, I was just dad, and that was great. Kids, I am really looking forward to taking you guys on trips, enjoying the outdoors, playing sports together and just being able to spend more time with you. I am excited. Shannon, thank you for always taking care of me and taking on a massive role in the household. I know that none of this is possible without you sacrificing the way you have. I love you so much. Thank you. From the years on IR [Injured Reserve], to the grueling days just after surgery, to spending nights on hospital room floors on Christmas Eve – and yes, that happened – we have been through a lot together and are stronger because of it. You have always respected, and I always tell Shannon, 'This is our life,' and she has always accepted [that] this is our life and has been nothing but supportive in me chasing my dreams. Thank you again.
"In closing, I want to thank everybody in the entire Ravens organization. This game is about relationships and people. There are a lot of great people in this entire building. If I did not mention you by name, if I did not mention you in this speech, just know that I respect everything that everybody does in this entire building and the work they put in, the people they are. It has been nothing but a great experience, and I come away with just being grateful to be a part of it, just to be a part. That is the whole team atmosphere. This entire building is a team, and I just want to say thank you."
Executive Vice President & General Manager Eric DeCosta
"So, we've decided. We talked to [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] and [president] Dick [Cass] and [head coach] John [Harbaugh] and [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] and myself, really the whole organization – we can't think of a better recipient to be in our Ring of Honor. So, at some point in the very near future, we will be putting Marshal in our Ring of Honor with all the other great players and coaches and everybody else that we have. And we're excited for that, so congratulations, Marshal."
On the decision, was there a point in time where it came to you and you arrived at the decision? Do you remember where you were, and how you arrived [at the decision]? (Jerry Coleman)
Yanda: "I would say after the 2017 season when I went through those two injuries. I just felt like in my mind, I was put on notice after the ankle, and then the shoulder on top of that. Going into the 2018 season, I was prepared mentally to retire if I didn't stay healthy. It was in my mind the last two years, and I think a lot of people knew that it weighed heavily on me. I was put on notice in 2017, and then this year I just felt that if I made it through healthy again, that no matter what happened, this was probably going to be it. Some of my close friends and family did know, and I had prepared them that this was probably going to be my last year whether I stayed healthy or not. Just because, if I did stay healthy, I felt like it was a great time to end. I would have two years of staying healthy and just the way my career has gone, if I had played that third year, it's just compound interest. I'm going to get hurt. That's just part of the way my career has been – if not at a faster rate – so I wanted to get out while I felt healthy. My body feels good, and I got to play 13 years. And I feel very grateful to be able to do that, and to have that opportunity for so long that I felt if I kept pushing – it is a young man's game and I am 35 – I didn't want a serious injury. But I am going to miss it. And I still have that desire and love of the game, but my family and my health started to outweigh that by the end of the year. I took some time at the end of the year to think about it, but I was definitely set. My heart was set. I just wanted to follow my heart, and my heart was definitely [saying], 'You've had enough. You got to play a long time, and don't sacrifice your health for your kids and your family. And don't be selfish to keep chasing that with blindness.'"
You talked about your health and everything, but was it tough knowing that you were still playing at a very high level and the Ravens had gone 14-2 and are likely to have a very good season next year as well? (David Ginsburg)
Yanda: "No, because I have watched a lot of guys on film over the years and have been a fan of the game and got to watch a lot of how their careers developed. I have watched guys as they got older lose a little bit more each year and then by the end they were almost like a liability, and it was just like, 'You need to hang it up and be done.' In the back of my mind, I said I never wanted to be like that. I wanted to train as long as I can and find ways to slow down the aging process just by doing everything right so I could be playing at a high level at the end of my career. I know there are a lot of different factors you can't control, but I did try to control every factor to be great at the end of my career. I wanted to be up here [with] these guys wanting me back rather than being at the other end of it saying, 'I'm happy you're retiring, because you're at the end of your playing potential,' (laughter) and happily clapping me out of the door. (laughter) I wanted to end playing well. And that wasn't just me though, that was the entire team. Being able to run the football last year and being able to get after teams again after all that passing was great. (laughter) It is getting me excited right now. (laughter) But anyways, yes, I wanted to end playing well, and it mattered."
How much weight have you lost since the end of the season? You already look like a different person. (Childs Walker)
Yanda: "I started right after the Titans game while I was still making sure I wanted to retire, and I could always put it back on if I wanted to. But, I'm about 265 right now. I was about 310 in the playoff game. I have just been riding the exercise bike, my wife's Peloton, and diet and sauna. The weight has been coming off, and I feel so much better already – just going up and down the stairs and bending over and flying on an airplane – my knees feel better. I have watched a lot of guys lose weight over the years. I don't think I am going to do the Matt Birk and be like 230. I don't have any goals for my weight, but I'm 265 and maybe 255 could be a good goal now that I have lost so much. I definitely was excited about it for a long time. I have looked forward to losing weight for a lot of years, so when my time came, that motivation was there. And I love to work out and train for football. Now I just have put that emphasis into cardio, light lifting weights and then your diet is the most important thing."
You have accomplished almost everything you have put your mind to. Even just losing a bunch of weight over two months sounds very difficult. What is the next thing? What are you going to do? (Nestor Aparicio)
Yanda: "My next thing is we are going to close things up in Baltimore. We're going to stay here until the end of the school year with our kids. We normally go back to Iowa after the season, but we're going to stay here until the end of the school year, have some closure in Baltimore. Then we're going to move back to Iowa, we're going to figure it out. I don't have a definite play. I can't tell you how much I'm going to miss football in my life. I want to sift through that one day at a time and see how much I want football in my life. Football has been my life my entire life. Every fall, every August, I have been playing football. I just kind of want to see where my heart takes me, spend some time with my family. My dad has a farm, a family farm, so I can spend some time with my dad on his farm and help him. And then like I said, I really want to figure out how much football I want in my life and just kind of take it one day at a time. But the plan is to go back to Iowa and see where my heart takes me."
You seemed to be having a lot of fun last year. Is that due to because in the back of your mind you knew this was your last ride, so to speak? And how much pride do you take in setting the league rushing record? (Ken Weinman)
Yanda: "For me, living in the moment, I definitely wasn't thinking about the retirement during the games. After the games, you'd have time to reflect on the game, but in the heat of the moment, when I was all fired up and happy, it was because we were winning. And when you're winning like that, and like I said, being able to run the football last year and literally take control of the defense and wear them out is something you don't get the chance to do in the NFL very often. The NFL is a passing league usually, and if you can't run the football, which it's hard to do week-in and week-out in the NFL, it turns into the defensive linemen pinning their ears back and just going after the quarterback. I had a lot of fun last year because we could actually be the imposer, possess the clock and win a lot of big games. Gosh, you get that many big wins in a year … I feel like some years we only had two or three big wins like that. But last year, Seattle was the first time we had won in franchise history at Seattle, and the San Francisco game, the New England game, the L.A. [Rams] game on Monday Night Football where from the start of the game, it was a butt kicking. (laughter) Literally, from the start of the game, put the ball in the dirt and let's run the football and get after them. That's what I live for, that's what you live for as an offensive lineman. Obviously, you have to pass the ball, too, and we get that. (laughter) But you know where my heart lies."
You talked about relishing playing against the best. Was there one player in particular that most got you ready to go, [who] you most relished facing? (Pete Gilbert)
Yanda: "There's probably like four or five guys over the years where you definitely ... Guys that are in your division, you play them twice a year. I think of Geno Atkins. I played against Geno for over 10 years now, and obviously, I've seen the highs and lows. Geno had some injuries, but when Geno is at the top of his game and he's coming, he's one of the guys in my mind where those battles were fierce. And you had him twice a year. I think of J.J. Watt in his prime back in like 2011 to 2014. He was Defensive Player of the Year, and he was wrecking games. Those two guys I can really say … And we went against Houston a decent amount back then. And I would say the guy right now – Aaron Donald – is at the top of the game, but we don't play him a bunch, obviously. But yes, those three come to mind when you think of guys."
You've always been such a team guy focused on the next game. Now that your career is done and you've heard so many people speak to your Hall of Fame credentials, what do you think of that? And what would that mean to you to be inducted into Canton one day? (Luke Jones)
Yanda: "I don't like talking about myself and the accolades. I'm a humble guy. If that happens, great. I'm not expecting anything. I feel very fortunate, and I'm thankful for my time, like I said. I was a junior college player where less than one percent of you make it to Division I football, let alone the time from there. I had a lot of things to change in my life, so I'm very grateful and fortunate to have this. So, that would be awesome, but there's no pressure. There are no expectations of any of that. I'm just … I live in the moment. I'm very thankful for my time here."
You say you don't like talking about yourself. So, what would you like fans to know about some of the young offensive linemen who are still on the roster? (Aaron Kasinitz)
Yanda: "Yes, we've got a really good group of guys. We have a young group of guys that work extremely hard. They're working and succeeding. We had a lot of success last year as a unit, and that's a credit to those guys approaching their job and approaching their lives the right way. Those guys put football first, and it needs to be first. It needs to be at the front of their minds even in the offseason. 'What can I do to make sure that this game is the most important part of my life?' And those guys are doing that. They had a lot of success, and it's a credit to them putting the work in and staying humble. It's a grind every single day being an O-lineman. There's not a lot of glam. There's not a lot of glory, but that's OK. If you have a good group in that room and those guys play for one another, good things happen, and that's what's going on in that group. I know that that room will be in a good place, and it's because of the men and the coaches in that room."
I know you don't like talking about yourself, but how would you like the other players that you played with – how would you like to be remembered? How would you want your legacy to be remembered? (Jamison Hensley)
Yanda: "That I gave it everything I had every single play. That there was no backing down. That I was a tough, physical player. If we were going to battle against each other, it was going to be … I'm a very competitive guy, and I want to win. So, I would just hope that they respect my competitiveness, my toughness and my respect for the game. Like I said, football was very important to me. Every year I enjoyed it more, and I respected it more, and I wanted to be a better player every single year. I can think of the offseasons trying to eat better every single year, trying to sleep better, trying to do more therapy, trying to take care of my body more. Every year it was more important to me. This game is more important to me every year. [It] didn't matter about the contracts and the money. I was obsessed with this game and being great and wanting to be the best."
You said there's no glam or glory for offensive linemen, but you have past teammates here, you have current teammates here. What it does it mean to you when you look around? And it was John Harbaugh, I think, who said that this [auditorium] has never been fuller for one of these. (Bo Smolka)
Yanda: "Like I said, I'm humbled and I'm happy that guys took time out of their day to come and be a part of it. It just shows that if you're doing some things the right way and you can only control so much ... But a lot of guys that you go to war with … I look at Joe [Flacco] and think of all the battles we've been in together – and Joe is a warrior – and how many games we've been in together. And it's like, you have that respect of players that you went through all those tough times [with], not just the good times, but the bad times, too. And that's not easy out there, but the guys that fight every single day, you respect those guys. And those guys respect you, too, because everybody can say certain things. 'I'm going to this, and I'm this type of player.' But on the field and on the grass when the time counts, it's when you actually truly see if a guy is actually made up of what he says. And like I said, I've met a lot of guys where they say these things, and I find out in the heat of the battle they're not what they say. So, I always wanted to be that guy that backed it up. I love the game, and in the heat of the moment, I'm there for you. Even if I'm losing and I get beat, I'm going to fight my ass off the next play for you, no doubt about it. That's my mindset."
I know it's early. You were an All-Pro. You're such a good communicator. You embraced the grind. Could you think about coaching? (Kirk McEwen)
Yanda: "I don't know. It's a possibility, but we'll just kind of see. Like I said, we'll see. I really don't have a good answer for you on that, if I'm going to coach or not. We'll kind of go down that road as life unfolds."
It's rare for a guy to play all 13 years all for one franchise. Was there ever a point where you saw yourself maybe having to play for another team? Did that ever come up? (Mark Viviano)
Yanda: "You can go down that rabbit hole and [it] never ends, but I always wanted to be here and spend my entire career here. I watched Ray [Lewis] get to do it, and 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs] almost got to do it, pretty much. I always wanted to be here. It was a great place, and I knew it wasn't the same [other places]. I've heard the stories from guys that came here from other teams and understood that this place was special, and they took care of the players and they put winning first no matter what. There weren't any corners trimmed. We were going to go out and get the best stuff if we wanted it. You want a grass field in M&T Bank [Stadium] because our joints are sore? No problem, done deal. That was a five-minute conversation with [president] Dick [Cass] and [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] to make that happen. So, no, my plan was to always be here my whole career. But, the thing is, there's only so much you can control. If you get injured and you're not playing well and you're all of a sudden a [salary] cap casualty… I understand it's a business, and they have to do what's right for the Ravens. There was going to be no ill will if that ever crossed paths. Everybody does want to stay, but the way life works you don't get to choose all that happens. So, if there's a cap space and it's a business [decision] and it's for the Ravens, it's for Steve, that's part of the NFL, and those decisions are made every year. They're tough decisions, and you want to keep everybody, but you can't. So, I also feel fortunate that with my career the way things lined up, I had a chance to stay, which was great."
You said entering last season you probably knew this was going to be it, but you also said how much fun you had running the ball and your enthusiasm. Was there ever a moment when you kind of reassessed [your decision to retire] over the last couple of months? (Shawn Stepner)
Yanda: "You're saying because we played so well to play another [season]?" (Reporter: "Yes.") "No, just because I still felt like at the end of the day, even though you're winning, those are still tough – those are still battles. Even though you're bringing it out of them and you're having that much success, it's still hard to do that, and those are still physical battles that you have to bring that out of them every Sunday. So, I was still content with being retired after [the season]."
With that said, [after] the last game against Tennessee, you took your whole family out on the field for a long while. Some of us stuck our heads out to see what was going on. You were looking around. Can you share what was going through your mind at that moment? (Keith Mills)
Yanda: "Yes, our family was prepared that if we did lose … Obviously, you don't know the outcome of a playoff game. I'm the most humble guy and anybody can win on Sunday, but I still thought in my mind, 'There's no doubt, even if we play bad for three quarters, we're going to find a way to win that football game.' But I still prepared my family that if we do lose – this is playoff time – Dad is going to be done playing. There was a small chance that I would not – that I would come back, but it was dominated by the [former]. So, I definitely had them prepared. My entire family was there – my parents, my wife's parents. All of our immediate family was there to get some pictures with me and my uniform, just because I'm a team guy and taking pictures before the game in my uniform … I'm ready to play. I don't want to talk to anybody. I'm ready to get after it. So, the pictures with me and my uniform, my mom only has a few of them from my time, just because the time before a game is not for pictures. I'm done. I'm ready to roll and compete, and stay out of my way. (laughter) So, they got some good pictures of me in my jersey, and it was an emotional time with my family. Because my kids, my son, got to really take a liking to football and really lived it and breathed it and was a Ravens fan No. 1 and then a Dad fan No. 2. So, the heart-wrenching accumulation of us losing the football game, knowing that the Ravens are done, and then Dad is done playing – it was tough, and it was hard to go through that. But that's life. Things don't always stay the same, and there's always change, but it was a special time for my family."
What will you miss most about G Marshal Yanda day-to-day? You know, the stuff we don't necessarily see? (Childs Walker)
Harbaugh: "It's a great question. To me, the No. 1 thing would be the steadiness, the steadiness of the effort, the competitiveness. I don't know how you compete [at such a high level]. You just put on the tape and you watch him in games – it's the same thing in practice. Every step is right. Every hand placement is right. Every drill, every technique that we do with the O-line, it's just done to perfection and with a high level of intensity. And then you watch the game, the competition from the beginning of the play to the end of the play against these great players where he's finishing every play and getting after it, most of them. But no matter what, just battling the way he battled and competed, that's so rare. It's just so hard to do. I don't know how he did it to that level. I'll miss that the most."
How big of a challenge is it to try to fill the void, filling the shoes of G Marshal Yanda this offseason? (Todd Karpovich)
DeCosta: "Oh man, that's a tough one. I mean, I think we're open for suggestions if you all have any suggestions. (laughter) But you can't replace a guy like Marshal. As great a player as he his, he's a better person and a leader by example day-to day, and the other guys see that. They feed off of that. It becomes contagious. You can't replace that overnight. You hope you hit on some guys at some point who could become that guy, but that's like a once-every-10-years type of guy."