Tell us what it's been like to work out on your own, not be able to see your friends, not going to camp. It's obviously been a different time for you. (David Ginsburg) "Yes, it has, man. At this point last year, obviously, we had a little group here working out in Norman [Oklahoma], and we're not able to have that just because of the social distancing stuff. But I've still been able to get really good work in, fortunately. My trainer's right down the road. I've got some stuff here at my place in a pretty big neighborhood, so I've been able to get it in, and a nice backyard. But it's been different just not being able to even go see some of my teammates this offseason and get to be around the guys a little bit more than I would be in season. It's unfortunate, but I've just been staying home trying to stay safe."
It was obvious that you guys had a really good chemistry on offense [last season]. How much of that do you think comes from the fact that a lot of you guys are around the same age? You're very young on offense. You kind of came out around the same time in draft classes. Do you think the youth of the team helps with the chemistry? (Jamison Hensley) "I think it really just starts with Lamar [Jackson] and everything that he brings every day, whether that be practice or a game [or] in meetings. The chemistry starts there, and I think it just trickles down from there to us. And then from us, the trust that the coaches have put in us and our abilities, what we can do within our scheme – I think that's the biggest thing."
How different is it going to be this year without G/T Marshal Yanda on the offensive line with you guys? Is that going to be a big challenge? (Todd Karpovich) "Yes, man. It's going to be so different. Just personally, for me, he's been next to me almost every snap for the last two years, and he's helped me grow as a player. He's helped me grow as a person, and most importantly I'm going to miss being able to ask him questions. It's very rare to get someone who's been in the league for 13 years and been able to play at a high level for so long. I didn't take it for granted at all. Every snap, every opportunity I had to line up with him in a walkthrough, in a practice, in a game, I tried to give it my all for him. He's somebody that I'm definitely going to miss. I understand that we'll probably be breaking someone new in at the right guard position, and we're going to do what has to be done. But at the end of the day, Marshal [Yanda] is a legend. He's a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I'm going to miss him a lot."
I've got a couple of draft questions for you. No. 1: Given what you went through at your Combine - everybody knows the history [with the] bad workout – next thing you know you're a starter two years in a row and you're playing in a Pro Bowl. What have you used about that message to share with the guys that will be going through the draft this year? And secondly, I know you and WR Marquise Brown were at Pro Day at Oklahoma. Give us your scouting report on LB Kenneth Murray and WR CeeDee Lamb. (Mark Viviano) "To answer your first question, I think the Combine does matter at the end of the day. It does give, I guess, from an analytics standpoint people an opinion on where you can kind of base someone off of as far as their athleticism and how it compares. And I've said it before: In today's NFL, typically, you're looking for your athletic tackles, your guys that are running anywhere below a 5.3 [second 40-yard dash], your guys that are benching anywhere over 20-21 [reps], jumping over 25 [inches]. There's a base chart for what they expect for guys and what they expect from guys at the Combine at the tackle position. Unfortunately, that's never been me. I don't think that's ever going to be me. At the end of the day, for me personally, in my situation, maybe even for some other kids this year – I didn't even really watch the Combine much – I think the biggest thing for these talent evaluators and these scouts and GMs [general managers] is understanding that it's not just about the Combine. It's not just about his film. It's about the guy that you're drafting, and at the end of the day, Baltimore knew the kind of guy that they were getting [in me]. They knew they were getting someone that loves ball, that knows ball, that's going to work hard, that still has a ton of room and a ton of potential to continue to grow. I'm not even close to being where I want to be yet. Hopefully, someday when I'm able to make consecutive All-Pros and consecutive Pro Bowls and we're winning Super Bowls, that's really where I think I'll be a little bit more comfortable, not necessarily satisfied.
"But as far as Kenneth Murray and CeeDee Lamb, you know what you're getting. I think it's pretty simple. You look at the guys that have come out of Oklahoma over the last two or three years, you know what you're getting. You're getting someone that's going to come in, work hard, show up every day to work, and you get someone who's going to know the playbook. You're getting a great guy in the locker room, a great guy in the community, and both of them are just straight dogs, man. I mean at the end of the day, they're going to win their one-on-one situations."
To kind of piggyback off the draft process [question], how much attention do draft prospects pay to all the anonymous reports from scouts and the scathing reviews that happen prior to the draft? And is it difficult to tune that stuff out, or do you just kind of work through it? (Matthew Stevens) "For me personally, I think it was pretty hard to avoid all the backlash and everything that I kind of dealt with. It was like front and center for me. For me personally, up until that point to where I was hearing so much negative [feedback] – don't get me wrong, there wasn't a ton of positive [feedback] – but I wasn't really paying too much attention to it. But like post Combine, for me personally, that weighed on my shoulders a lot. It almost kind of was getting forced to me from social media and all the questions everyone was asking and all of those different things with my visits with teams and all of that stuff. So, for me, it was kind of hard to avoid everything post Combine."
You talked about what G/T Marshal Yanda meant to you. Would you prefer, if you were asked, for them to bring in another veteran guard? Or would you prefer a young fellow drafted this year? (Kevin Richardson) "That's more so for [executive vice president & general manager Eric] DeCosta and [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] and Coach 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] and [offensive line coach] 'Joe D' [Joe D'Alessandris]. That's not up to me. I'm going to make sure I do my best to make sure that I'm ready to dominate, and whoever is next to me, I'm sure they're going to be ready to dominate."
I wonder with [Los Angeles Rams] C Brian Allen testing positive for COVID-19, does that make it kind of more personal for football players? What will it take for you to be comfortable to get back out there where you're in such close, physical contact with other guys? What's it going to take? (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, man. That's tough. I don't think that the NFL and the Ravens organization are going to put us in a bad position. If things aren't ready, they're not ready. I don't think it's going to be forced. I don't think you can force it with this disease being so deadly and so many people losing their lives from all ages and races. It's something that … I don't think it's going to be taken lightly. Like you said, it's a contact sport, so I just hope and pray that things work out for the better and that we can get ahold of it."
After working side-by-side with G/T Marshal Yanda for the past two years, what's the one thing that you took from him that you will want to impart on the person who is lining up next to you at right guard going forward? (Pete Gilbert) "Just that energy and that passion that he played with. I'm already someone who's an emotional player, and I play hard. I try to play hard. I try to practice hard. Just what Marshal did every day; whether that be practice, walk-through, playing lower, playing faster, playing more physical, and trying to finish as many blocks as he could. That's something that I think everyone should be trying to implement into their game, and Marshal was the epitome of that."
What do you remember from the day you were drafted by the Ravens? (Ximena Lugo Latorre) "It's crazy. I remember looking at my phone and seeing a Randallstown [Maryland] area code. I have two younger sisters that live in Baltimore, and at the time, one was living in Randallstown, so I thought she was calling my phone from her mom's house phone. I was just like, 'Bad timing,' but I still answered it, and fortunately it was [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome]. He was like, 'Are you ready to be a Raven?' Honestly, for me, it was very surreal, because I had been away from my sisters for so long, just with moving and ball in college. For me, it was an opportunity to be around them. It was another opportunity to be in that building, with those people in that organization; around all those front office people, Coach 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh], and all these people that I pretty much grew up around for most of my life. Also, being able to give back to the community in Baltimore, how special it is there in the city and really [in] the state of Maryland."
What has been your favorite food during this pandemic? (Ximena Lugo Latorre) "I feel like I've been eating a lot of brussels sprouts lately."
Do you have any concerns about there not being a season? And how scary is that, given all the talent you guys have, the season you are coming off of, and the expectations for next season? (Ryan Mink) "I am a little scared. Like I said before, it's a serious situation. You can only control what you can control. For me personally, I know that's making sure that I come back in the best shape and making sure that my weight is where it needs to be and that I am able to go out there and play at a high level from Day One. Those are the most important things for me that I can control. I am a little worried that we won't have a season, but like I said, that's up to the governors, the president, [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell and all those other people."
You've obviously been around the NFL your whole life. What do you see as football's role in society? Do you see football being something that one day can help us get back to normalcy? Is that something you've thought about? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I haven't really thought about it. I know that as NFL athletes, a lot of us have a very big following. A lot of us have a lot of people who look up to us, whether that is older people, younger kids, kids in high school, [kids in] college; whatever it may be. I hope that we can get this situation under control. Hopefully, there will be a vaccine that can be developed, and if we take care of all those things, then we can get back to playing ball."
How difficult do you think it's going to be for the rookies coming into the league to prepare for their rookie season with things maybe being limited for them both workout pre-draft and then post-draft? (Matthew Stevens) "I think it's going to be tough, just because, for me, I grew so much between OTAs and mini-camp. Just being able to communicate with the guy next to you, to being able to ask your coach questions in person, to being able to walk through things, step through things, get the chemistry and the feel for the speed of the game. It's going to be tough for a lot of rookies coming in, just because they won't have the opportunity to do those things. Hopefully, the virtual stuff works out in their favor and they are able to still kind of get some type of work out of it, whether that is mental or physical. I do think it is going to affect a lot of rookies."
Is the uncertainty surrounding the season particularly difficult for you guys in a way because you know that this could be a special team, and you might only get so many shots at that? (Childs Walker) "Yes. Like I said before, it's just tough with the coronavirus and the lives that have been affected by it. Obviously, we all want to get out there, we all want to play with each other, and we all want to play for each other, but it's one of those things that we have no control over."
As you've had some time now to reflect on the playoff game, and I guess the playoff game from a year prior, what's the big takeaway that you have? Or do you have one, and say, 'Alright, we understand this. Now we can move forward?' (Pete Gilbert) "I kind of just want to speak for myself. I feel like I could have played better in that game to put us in a position to win, and I am sure there are other people that feel that way. I think the biggest thing that I took away was maybe preparing a little bit harder, and playing a little bit harder in certain situations, and limiting the fundamental mistakes and the little things that happened. Obviously, we all want to win. We all want to get to the Super Bowl, and we all want to win playoff games. I do believe those are going to happen. Just from a personal standpoint, I can really more so talk about myself. I wish that I was a lot more fundamentally sound in some of those critical situations."
You talked a little bit about G/T Marshal Yanda and finding a replacement. I know G Ben Powers is one of those guys who probably will be competing, and you're pretty close with him. What do you want fans to know about Ben, and have you talked him since Marshal retired about the opportunity in front of him and his mindset? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Yes, Ben is one of my best friends and has been since he came to OU [University of Oklahoma]. We started, pretty much, two or three years together there. I've gotten to know him, I've gotten to know his family, and vice versa for him and my family. He's a great guy. He's a God-fearing man. He's someone that works hard. In my opinion, he's never had an issue getting a job or winning a job. He's always done that throughout his career. He's also someone that's always been an underdog and underrated, just because of his playstyle, and I guess you can say his personality. I will say, once he gets his shoulder pads and helmet on, he's a completely different guy. He's going to give you all he's got. He's a workhorse. He's just going to get better throughout the game, he's going to get better throughout the season, throughout his career. He's a great man overall. Obviously, I'm a little bit biased."
Since you guys have been locked down, which teammates have you had the most contact with, and what's been the most frequent way to catch up with guys? (Childs Walker) "Really just over the phone, through text, Instagram – sending and sharing stuff. I pretty much spoke to the majority of the team, of some sort – through social media, whether that be through DMs [direct messages] or mentioning. Obviously, I've been on the phone with guys like [Mark] Andrews, and [Mark] Ingram II, and Ben [Powers]. I think, overall, we've got a really good chemistry in Baltimore. I don't think us being away from each other is going to necessarily affect that."
You mentioned having the platform being an NFL player, being a Raven in Baltimore. I'm wondering – take this chance to address those fans out there – what words would you have in terms of encouragement for those who are dealing with difficulties? Everybody is kind of in the same boat. (Mark Viviano) "I just hope everyone is keeping their faith strong. I hope everyone is staying in touch with their loved ones. I think this is something that we are going to get through, overall. Especially, the city of Baltimore. Just all the resources that we're offered, and all of those different things."
One other guy that you guys have been linked to in the draft is [Oklahoma defensive tackle] Neville Gallimore. We know he's a freak athletically. Where did you see him make those strides as a player – just how rare of a defensive tackle is he? (Jonas Shaffer) "Neville is special. He's a guy that, since he's gotten to Oklahoma, he's gotten better, consistently has gotten better. He's someone who works hard, too. Just the strides that he's made even from a personal standpoint of growing from a boy to a man. I think I've been able to see that and be a part of it. I think he's going to be someone who comes into the NFL and be better than he was in college, just because of how limited he was maybe through his first few years within a scheme. I think his potential is a lot bigger than what a lot of people realize, just because he was limited a little bit early on in college. This last year, you were able to see what he was able to do within his new system."
And then on a lighter note Orlando, obviously you've spent a lot of time in Oklahoma. I know you're living there right now. Have you seen [Netflix's] Tiger King, and if you have, how does that jive with what you've seen in that state? (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes, I have seen Tiger King. Believe it or not, going to school here and being here for the last five or six years, I know a lot of people that have been [to the zoo] at some point in time. I know people that have gotten tigers for birthday parties for their kids. (laughter) It's a little weird hearing all the backstory about it. I personally have never been [to the zoo]. I'm scared of tigers. I'm really scared of dogs, except mine. I'm scared of cats, too. (laughter) It's an interesting story."
ESPN just put out a release about the number of guys doing a Madden tournament amongst celebrities and players. [WR Marquise Brown] 'Hollywood' is in that tournament. Does anyone have a chance against 'Hollywood'? (Garrett Downing) "Not a chance. I'm here to tell you he's the real deal in Madden. I wouldn't want to play him if I was anybody, straight up."
I would like to know if you're teaching any new tricks in this pandemic to your dog? (Ximena Lugo Latorre) "I just put her outside, but I haven't really taught them any new tricks. For the most part, they're pretty good listeners. My youngest one is the only one here right now. I recently just sent the older two away for a board-and-train for a few weeks, just to get a little bit more of a foundation. I don't have a profession in training dogs. I can teach them how to sit, not to pee in the house, crate training and all that stuff, but I'm not a super professional dog trainer. I can teach them the basics and they know the basics pretty well."
The question is whether John Harbaugh has reached out to you, whether he's assured you and maybe other guys to stay healthy, to work out, and that he's counting on having the season? (David Ginsburg) "Yes, I think pretty much most of the position coaches and Coach 'Harbs' have reached out to everyone and just kind of let us know to stay healthy, continue to stay inside, and make sure we're being aware of – when we're working out – who's around, and all those different things."