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Transcripts: OTA Media Availability (6/4)


On Year Two in offensive coordinator Todd Monken's system: "It's very helpful, because we know how [offensive coordinator] Todd Monken thinks. And even in this offseason, he's done a really good job of allowing us to dive even deeper into his thought process and how he sees this offense working. Between him, [head] coach [John] Harbaugh, [quarterbacks coach] Tee Martin, coach [Greg] Lewis, our [wide] receivers coach, everybody wants us to truly understand the objective – why we're running routes, why we're getting out of routes, what we're seeing from defenses, and what it looks like for us to do what we need to do well."

On how much has changed in Year Two in offensive coordinator Todd Monken's system: "First, familiarity is a positive, so we're more familiar. So, in terms of change, I would say, it's just a better understanding. A better understanding allows you to play fast; a better understanding allows you to make adjustments. So, the change is more of the knowledge in how we're teaching things that work really well, and how we're trying to eliminate things that we may have struggled at. That's what got better."

On how he's approached the difficult end to last season: "I probably have a different approach than most, because each year has a new life. You're always motivated by shortcomings, but you also have to embrace the new opportunity. Everybody has the same goal right now in the NFL. Every player has the same goal; every team has the same goal – and that's to get the Lombardi [Trophy]. So, what happened last season can fuel you in terms of your focus, but you have to be present with what you're being taught now."

On signing an extension with the Ravens: "Well, first of all, I'm blessed to be in Year 10. Like, I mean, if you told me as a child [that] I played 10 years in the National Football League and feel the way I feel, I would scratch my head, because I feel amazing, [and] I have a lot of fun doing what I do. I can run all day and have a good time, so that's a blessing. But then to do it here – this place makes it even more enjoyable. This is family. This is home, familiarity and just a great group of dudes. From my quarterback, to the guys I play receiver with, to the guys I practice with every day on the defensive side of the ball, they make me better, but we also just enjoy each other. So, I couldn't be more happy that I get to play Year 10 in Baltimore and live here and do what I do."

On what he expects from WRs Rashod Bateman and Zay Flowers this year: "Competition. [Rashod Bateman and Zay Flowers] are going to compete and get better and make a lot of plays. I think those two guys are two very electric players, but also two very tough-minded dudes, and that's what you get from veterans – you get tough minded; you get resilient, where [they have a] next play mentality, because if everybody thought that you were going to be perfect, week in and week out, that's a lie. A veteran separates himself from a rookie, because he has a next play mentality, and he's able to bounce back when things don't go ideally, and I think those two guys have done a great job of that. Bateman has done an amazing job, and Zay, man, he's hungry. He's hungry, and he's a great player."

On what sticks out to him about working out with WR Zay Flowers: "I just love the way [Zay Flowers] likes to work, honestly. He's a young dude that loves football; he loves grinding; he loves, just, anything about it – whether we're route running, whether we're speed training, whether we're weightlifting, whether we're doing recovery. He's embraced everything I have kind of introduced him to or ideas he's had. He's like, 'Yo, Nelly, want to join me with this?' Or, 'Nelly, can I join you with that?' And it's cool, because that's where the brotherhood comes from, and that's when [in] crucial situations – third-and-whatever – you trust each other, and you work well for each other."

On CBs T.J. Tampa Jr. and Nate Wiggins and how he approaches lining up against a rookie: "The first thing I do is I truly want to make them feel comfortable, in terms of, like, 'I'm happy you're here,' because they will make us a better football team – I truly believe that. And then, when we compete, if I even get one little bit on them, I'll let them know, so they can feel like, 'Man, I'm not [going to] let this old head ...' Do you know what I'm saying? Like, it's a good thing. And [T.J. Tampa Jr. and Nate Wiggins] are both super competitive, and they have great feet, and they've got good feel, and they're going to get better. It's my job, as an older guy, to be present and alive when I go against them. I can't relax; I have to do things – different things I know – [creatively] from guys I've learned from back in the day and also share some information I know [from] other corners I've gone against. But I think they're two talented dudes, and I'm grateful to play with them."

On having QB Lamar Jackson throwing the ball at practice: "I mean, Lamar Jackson is Lamar Jackson. He does an amazing job of just kind of going through his progression. He has unreal arm angles, but he also just knows how to see everything the way he needs to see it in the game and when the defense is giving you something. He does a great job. But like you started ... You were talking about Josh [Johnson]. Josh has done an amazing job this offseason. He just continues to lead, he continues to put everybody in position, and he's also doing a good job [of] helping the two younger quarterbacks [in Devin Leary and Emory Jones]. And Lamar does a great job, because those two younger quarterbacks see a guy just execute and just have command. Lamar has command without it being overly [in your face]; he can just do it. He does it, and we understand it."

On joining QB Lamar Jackson and WR Zay Flowers in South Florida last week and what kind of stuff they worked on together: "Top secret." (laughter) "But we were training – getting better. We're all Floridians, so we enjoy training down there in that heat, and it's a good time."

On QB Lamar Jackson: "I got to spend time with [Lamar Jackson] last offseason also, and I always say [that] people don't realize how cerebral Lamar Jackson is. The conversations he has with you, one on one, about what he sees and what you may see ... Like, even today ... I'll be honest, I had an in-cut, basic [route], and my mannerisms were the reason why I didn't complete the [catch], because I saw something, and he saw something else. And whether we completed it or not, just then, I got better when I walked to the sideline, and he showed me on the film; he was like, 'Yo, Nelly, the reason why I'm thinking [that you should] keep going is because I look at this nickel, and I see his body language,' [and] I say, 'Well, I did take a snapshot of the nickel, and I thought he was going to drop.' But he said, 'He's not going to get there by the time I'm going to zip it; I'm going to zip it two yards, here.' And that was what makes a special quarterback special, because you may see something, but when they allow you to see what they see, you now can be consistent with your mannerisms and your cuts."


Opening Statement: "First, I just want to thank Coach [John] Harbaugh and the Ravens for bringing me and my family here to Baltimore. It's my first time talking to you guys, so I just wanted to make sure you know how appreciative I am and thankful [I am] for that."

What are you seeing out of ILB Trenton Simpson early? I know there's a lot of expectations for him. (Nikhil Mehta)*:* "'Trent' [Trenton Simpson]'s doing awesome right now, every single day getting a little bit better, making progress one day at a time. [He's] a young player [that] hasn't played the position for very long. So, I'm just looking for every day [to be] better than the day before, and we'll continue to work that progress."

Any particular area of improvement that you're looking for or seeing? (Nikhil Mehta) "I think just seeing the game. It's a lot different. You look back from when he got to college – he played a lot of safety, transitional linebacker, so you're seeing the game at a different level from a third level player to a second-level player. Every day, seeing how he sees the game, getting his run-pass reads, all those types of things, that kind of progress I think is really good. We all know how athletic Trenton is and how fast he is and those types of things. He's great there. Just seeing that every day and that progress, I love to see him doing that."

Just by the eye test, it feels like he's really physically transformed. He looks like a bigger guy. Anything that you've seen that speaks to some of the physical transformation he's gone through this offseason? (Kyle Goon) "Obviously, I wasn't here with him last year, but from what I've seen from where he is, he's about as good looking a physical specimen as anybody I've been around. From that standpoint, he's great. The way he [uses his] burst, and his speed and acceleration are all really good."

How much of a benefit is it for him to line up next to ILB Roquan Smith every day? (Childs Walker) "I think any time you get to play next to a player like Roquan [Smith] at any position or any sport, a guy who sees the game the way 'Ro' [Roquan Smith] sees it, that's going to make anybody who plays next to him better. I think for 'Trent' [Trenton Simpson], as a young player going into the first year he's playing a lot, that's a great deal to be able to line up next to a guy like that and communicate with a guy like that. It's really, really good."

Coming into this job with the linebackers coach being elevated to defensive coordinator, what is that like having someone who's coached the same position or played this position that you coach being defensive coordinator? (Giana Han) "It's amazing, because I can go to him any time I want and ask him, 'Hey, what were you coaching here? How did you coach this?' I get the exact answer. The way [defensive coordinator] Zach [Orr] and I see the game is very similar, how the position is supposed to be played. That was a big deal, I think, in the process when I got hired was [that he] and I were very aligned in how we saw the position. For me, being able to work with him and learn from him and talk to him and talk to him about linebacker play, that's been amazing. So, I love going to work with him every day."

I know he's new, but he's carrying on some of the same things that Baltimore had last year. What was it about the defense that attracted you to the system that you were working with? (Giana Han) "The system that's been built here in Baltimore is really special. The way that we can do things defensively, schematically, and then the way that we put the players in the positions – fronts, coverages, that's all really good, and we can mix those things. But also, the way we put players in position to succeed and the different ways that we can do it, where it's complex for the offense but really simple for us."

Did you have much of a relationship with Head Coach John Harbaugh before you got hired and how did that process unfold? (Jonas Shaffer) "The first time I met Coach [John Harbaugh] was when I came here on my interview. The one person I had a relationship with was Roquan [Smith]. Obviously, I coached him in Chicago. But, I worked for Coach [Andy] Reid for six years. Obviously, there's a connection there with Coach Harbaugh. Definitely, I have some mutual connections there. It was able to work out really well. [I] couldn't be more happy to be here."

When you knew Roquan Smith, how much did you lean on him to get to know different guys? When you have his stamp of approval, and you know his role in the locker room, how much does that help you transition? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I don't know how much I leaned on him to get to know different guys. I would say that any time you get to coach somebody like Roquan Smith, it's a blessing. Roquan Smith, he's a great player. We all know that. He's a better person than he is a player. For me to have the opportunity to coach him again, be able to do that two times, that's really special."

Do you see any difference from Roquan now compared to the days in Chicago at all? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, he's a little more mature now. He's getting older and all that stuff. He's the same great person [that] he's always been. Day in and day out, the kind of person he is, the kind of man he is – I've got three boys. He's their favorite player, and I'm happy about that."

What did your years at Kansas working as an analyst – I know that role is kind of nebulous and a lot of people do different things depending on where you are. What did stepping back or zoning in, or whatever you did at Kansas, kind of help you appreciate football or study football? (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes, definitely. I feel like the role I had at Kansas was much more of a big-picture, 30,000-foot view type of a role. It allowed me to step back and kind of look at the game through a different lens, a more wide-picture view, which I think definitely now coming back ... Then, also being able to see college football and the things that are different there as opposed to the NFL, scheme-wise, I think that definitely helps me as I get into the next phase here in the NFL."

What has stood out with Zach Orr being a first-time defense coordinator? Has anything stood out as far as how he's put together the defense, how he's directing everything out there? Does anything kind of stand out to you about Zach? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, it stands out to me how organized he is, how detailed he is, how he sees the game. He's like a savant. 'Z.O.' [Zach Orr] sees the game in a way that's rare. For me to be able to go in that room every day and be with him, especially when he coached the position that I coach, it's great. It's special every day. I really enjoy coming to work."


Opening Statement: "Good afternoon, I know this is my first time speaking with you all. I wanted to say how thankful I am to Coach 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] and the Ravens organization for having me to be a part of this team with the defensive line and a special group."

What was the hiring process like, and what made this such an appealing opportunity? (Kyle Phoenix) "I've been in a good situation in college. I've been with some really good defensive-minded coaches, so it would take a special like this to get your interest to pull you away. A defensive-rich program like this, you have to try. And I know the process was kind of long, they get to know you on and off the field, bring you in for interviews; you talk to everybody. It kind of moves fast on you, but I learned a lot even within the interview process with the questions they ask and the defense that they run. You have your film, and you're watching their film, and you get to talk ball, so it was a really cool educational process."

How did you approach becoming the coach of a group that is returning all from last year? The core five Ravens defensive linemen? (Nikhil Mehta) "That's a veteran group, right? So, you want to add to it, show them things that they may not know – new techniques, eye progressions, where I want to put my hands in certain alignments [and] just fine tuning them to make them better. I know some of the run stuff that we've kind of changed and improved, they've taken to it like a fish in water. They're eager. That group wants to learn, they want to know, 'How can I do it better? How can I do it faster?' And that helps with that entire process."

DT Travis Jones took a step forward, but probably still didn't get a ton of attention for it. Do you see him as a guy who could break out in a big way like DT Justin Madubuike did last year? Does he have that kind of package? (Childs Walker) "From what I've seen, from 'Trav' [Jones], he is a special human first – a special man – and then a special football player. [He's] talented, and he wants it just as a bad as anybody you'd be around. You want to talk about attention to detail, that's how he approaches every day. Whether it's football school or it's been OTAs, in the meetings; I think he should be [able to have success]. He has to continue to work – which I know he will – but he'll be in that type of position to have a successful season."

Just being hired in the offseason, how quickly did you jump into the draft process? And I know they invested early in a D-lineman, so do you have any input on drafting OLB Adisa Isaac and what have you seen despite him being injured? (Giana Han) "That's kind of like when I first started – the whole draft thing. That was the first thing that had happened; you're watching all of these guys, but the beauty of it, I was coming from college. I've either recruited a lot of guys, or watched a lot of film, crossover film, so I had a chance to know a majority of the people in the draft, luckily. Adisa [Isaac] is a good player. He can give you power, he can give you speed, he's intelligent, he's learning the defense pretty fast, and he does a good job with the group. He blends in well, and the guys are taking to him."

What is it like working with pass rush coach Chuck Smith? (Nikhil Mehta) "I've known Chuck [Smith] for quite some time. I remember when his son was coming out of high school, and he brought him to camp when I was the outside linebackers coach at LSU at the time, so I've known Chuck for a minute [and] knowing the things that he does. [He's an] excellent pass rush coach. The guys love him – he's smart, [he's a former] NFL player, he knows how the game goes. He's even done a great job of mentoring me; how things are different from where I was in college to the NFL. Things how we practice, how some guys learn and how guys communicate, so it's really been like a great team effort working with Chuck."

Did you know head coach John Harbaugh much before he reached out to you and said he wanted you? (Jonas Shaffer) "Not a lot other than what I've seen on film. Again, you know that his team is going to play great defensive football, and they're going to be competitive, and that's one thing that you know no matter where you are. If you know anything about the NFL, you know that the Ravens are going to play great defense, and so I've always admired him and the entire program from afar. I was telling the guys, sometimes you get a little extra time when you're in college, you turn on NFL tape to watch different stuff, and you're always turning on the Ravens tape. You get a chance to really see and learn and watch how they do it the right way."

Do you think your experience in Dave Aranda's system kind of gave you a leg up in a lot of what they do in Baltimore? (Jonas Shaffer) "Again, I've been blessed to be around a lot of great defensive coaches, and Coach [Dave] Aranda is one of the biggest mentors that I have and just the amount of football I've learned from him to help translate that to here, helped a lot. It helped a lot in the interview process, it helped coming out here in a 'D' staff, because a lot of the stuff that I have learned is coming from Coach Aranda, so absolutely."

The Ravens ask a lot of their defensive linemen from rushing to protections, to even dropping back into coverage. How unique of a system is being ran here with defensive coordinator Zach Orr and company? (Kyle Phoenix) "Zach [Orr] does a tremendous job of one, presenting to the defensive staff, and two, to our guys so we're all on the same page. But again, that's what makes this place so special. You can do so much, but to the players, it's little, just because of maybe the word association or something like that. The ability to do all of those things, you're rushing, you're dropping, you're slanting, you're playing technique, really makes a defense go, especially with the effort that the guys put into it to play it. When you have that type of Xs and Os, and you have that type of effort on film, you're going to play well like [the Ravens always] have, and we want to continue to do that and improve in the areas that we need to improve."


On how different he sees things on the field at this point of the offseason compared to his rookie year: "Man, [it was] a year of growth. It's just been full circle. [I was] taking every day [of] my rookie year just day by day, learning from Roquan [Smith] and Patrick Queen, just taking it day by day. Now, it's just like, 'Man, I'm ready to roll.' Just every practice, I'm getting more comfortable and more comfortable, so [I'm] just taking it a day at a time and being blessed with the opportunity and just making every play count."

On what's been the most difficult thing to learn: "[It's] really just getting reps. [I] just have to keep repping and being on the field with the guys, being on the field with Roquan [Smith], who I'm going to play beside, is just making the things more natural for me with the communication and just being ahead of the offense before the ball is snapped."

On what's been his biggest area of improvement in his own game this year compared to last year: "I would say communication, like talking, relaying the calls [and] everybody being on the same page. That's just what a year of growth gives you, being a part of a great defense like the Ravens. Everybody is on the same page [and having] loud communication, it will take the defense so far."

On how important it was to play in the Week 18 Pittsburgh Steelers game last year to give him confidence going into the offseason: "It was the best thing that could have happened to me, because I had to be patient throughout the season for my moment to come, and when it came, I was prepared. It was just that boost of confidence that I needed, like you said, headed into the offseason knowing like I belong [and] I'm ready to play. So, it was a blessing; it was God's timing. I feel like when I got my chance to go out there and display what I can do, I feel like I made the most out of it."

On his mindset when former Ravens ILB Patrick Queen signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers: "It was definitely a blessing. You know, I wish [Patrick Queen] the best. We had a great relationship. He was a great mentor for me [in] my rookie year, but I learned so much from him, so now, [I'm] just taking what I learned and just making the most out of my opportunity and coming in and doing the best Trenton Simpson can do."

On if last year was tough for him to not be a prominent piece on defense: "Yes, it definitely humbled me a little bit, but it was exactly what I needed, because it was a year of growth, and it was a chance to come [and] practice in the NFL. That's a blessing, because I wasn't rushed and thrown into any type of pressure. I was able to grow every week on [our] scout team, and then when I got a chance to play in Week 18, I had 17 weeks of practice, I was ready to roll. It was a blessing, and everything happens for a reason, so I'm blessed to be here, and [I'm] ready for Year Two."

On his mentality coming into this year understanding he might have a bigger role in his second year: "Man. [I'm] just ready to roll, just attacking every day, making every practice rep like a game rep, just communicating, being on the same page and just every day, learning something. I'm meeting with Coach Mark 'D' [inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone and] watching practice film so I can see the game, and he can teach me the game. [I'm] taking a more professional approach [and] taking care of my body, because it's my time to go, so I just take every day, and it's a blessing. [I have to] make it count."

On if having defensive coordinator Zach Orr as his position coach last year helps him enhance his understanding of his role in the larger picture: "Yes, sir, definitely. Being in the room with [defensive coordinator Zach Orr] as my linebacker coach [last year], just us getting to know each other on a personal level, and then just us being able to talk ball. He understands me, and I understand him, so it's made it [a] very natural transition for me. I'm excited for that room and just him as D-coordinator, and then [inside] linebacker coach Mark DeLeone, the whole thing is going in the right direction, for sure."

On the thought process going into this year knowing he has the opportunity to compete for a starting job: "It's a blessing, man. I'm living my dream, you know what I mean, and just to be able to be in the National Football League is something I dreamed of since [I was] six years old. My opportunity is here, and these don't come around [too often], so I just have to make the most out of it. From when we started back and getting going with the OTAs to now, [I'm] just taking it every day at a time, and then by the time [we're] ready to roll for game one, I'll be ready. [I'm] just taking it day by day."

On the reasoning behind his number change from 30 to 23: "So, my mother actually wore [No.] 23 in softball and basketball, and I have a great relationship with my mother. [We're] very tight, and I just wanted to have something that's a connection between me and her."

On what it's like lining up next to ILB Roquan Smith and how they mesh together: "Man. [It's a] blessing, because that dude is a 'dawg,' man. [Roquan Smith's] mentality [is the same] every single day. [A] 7 in the morning early work out, that's the mentality is the same that you all see on Sundays. It's a blessing to be beside someone like that, learn from him. Also, [I'm] sitting right beside him in film. Whenever I have a question, he's there to answer it. Off the field, the relationship has grown a lot, also. Just every single day, [I'm] learning something from him and matching his energy. That's something I picked up: communication and matching his energy every day as a linebacker and leading the defense."

On if he talks to ILB Roquan Smith even when they aren't at the facility and how important that is: "Man, it means a lot to know somebody and their background. Going to grab dinner, hanging out and watching a game takes a relationship so far, because you'll go that extra mile for somebody that you know [and] you have a great relationship with, so it's been a blessing to get to know him more and more going into Year Two, for sure."

On if he's gotten used to what Patrick Queen said about Roquan Smith never shutting up: (laughter) "What? No! I love his personality, man. It's amazing. When he comes around, he's going to say something funny [or] make you laugh, so just that personality and that smile, it's infectious to everybody around him. It makes you just ... Like he always says, 'Take advantage of every day. You never know when it's going to be your last,' so we're playing football. What other better job can you have? So, his personality, and the way he attacks it day after day, I feel like it impacts everybody around him, for sure."

On if it's trippy having former Clemson teammate CB Nate Wiggins here at the Ravens: "Yes, because I saw [Nate Wiggins] come in at Clemson as a freshman. That was my sophomore year, so just being back with my college brother, it's going to be awesome. I'm excited to see him grow as I'm growing, just that off the field relationship and being on the field, we already had that bond [at] Clemson, so [we're] just taking it to another level with the Ravens now."

On what people should expect from CB Nate Wiggins: "High effort. That one play that [comes] to mind for me is that play [last year] against North Carolina: him running and punching the ball out. That's him as a player. I got a chance to play with him for two years and witnessed that every day in practice. He's super competitive, so man, I'm so excited. When I [saw] we drafted him, I'm like, 'That's the right fit.' He's a hard-working guy, high energy, and you all are going to love him."

On if CB Nate Wiggins looks more physically filled out: "Yes. [Nate Wiggins] has definitely gained a little weight, but he's so fast. Nobody is going to run past him, so whatever the nutrition staff and the coaches feel is best for him – and I'm excited for him – but I know, nobody is running past Nate Wiggins. Yes, I know that for a fact."

On if physically getting bigger and stronger was something he worked on this season and where he's at size-wise compared to last year: "I'd say I gained a couple of pounds. I'm up to like 235 [or] 236 [pounds], but just nutrition-wise, I trust in [director of sports nutrition] Sarah [Snyder] and the staff with [drinking] the shakes and the way to eat. I'm a pro, taking care of my body [with] massages and things like that. [It's] just another level with Year Two that I'm taking [and] learning from Roquan [Smith] and 'PQ' [Patrick Queen]. That's what they did to get ready for games, so [I'm] just learning every year, for sure."

On if he feels like he's relearning all over again or if it feels like he's building off of last year: "Man, the blessing is it's the same defense. We have [a lot of] the same terminology, so I've been translating [it] very well. Then, just the extra one-on-one time with my coaches and studying film at home on my own more often has made the transition a lot easier, for sure."

On if he flips a switch on the field and turns on the tenacity: "Yes. When we get between those lines, it's a whole other person. Outside of ball, I'm just loving [and] outgoing, but when it's time to put that helmet on, it's time to go. You have to have that switch as a football player, but when it's time to get in those lines, it's go time, for sure."

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