FB/DL PATRICK RICARD
Obviously, you're listed as a fullback, but last year you did several different things in the offense. How has your role changed this year, and what are you doing differently this year than you have in the past? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I knew I was going to be asked this question. If you look at year's past, every year my role has expanded in different ways. All I can do is come here, and whatever my coaches ask me to do, I'm going to do it the best I can. I can't really go into specifics about exactly what I'm doing. I think I'm just going to have to wait for Week One for everyone to see. But like I said, my role is always expanding here, and that's all I can do. Whatever the team asks of me, I'm going to do it the best I can."
Do you still try to sneak into defensive meetings? (Garrett Downing) "I'm still talking to the coaches. Whenever they need me and my number is called, I'm going to do the job the best I can. I've been with those guys for the past three years, so of course I'm still talking to them and seeing how everything is going on. But at the end of the day, I'm just doing whatever I can do."
Can you talk about your journey going from undrafted free agent, to 'Project Pat', two-way player, to Pro Bowler? You could not have seen this coming, or maybe you did? (Kirk McEwen) "It's just so surreal. Just from my beginnings … Division I scholarship, my only one was at [University of] Maine. I took it, went there [and] did whatever I could do to play. I didn't play D-line in high school, [but] I went there [Maine] to play D-line. And then, I end up being undrafted. I was a defensive lineman and came to the Ravens, [because] I felt like it was a good fit, and then I was just doing whatever I could do to make the team. Fullback was an option for me to see the field, and I seized my opportunity and did what I had to do. Fast forward now, and I signed my extension here and went to the Pro Bowl. It's unbelievable. I think it's just a tribute to my coaches here believing in me, giving me the opportunities, my teammates helping me and all the support. It's definitely helped me in my journey, and everyday I'm grateful for it. I'm just trying to get better as a person, as a player and just try to keep expanding myself, making myself valuable to myself and to the team."
Can you talk about what this day is like? You've been on that side of it as an undrafted rookie. The next 48 hours are a tough time in NFL locker rooms for a lot of guys who are nervous. What is this period like as you go through cuts and a lot of guys, unfortunately, get bad news? (Garrett Downing) "This year, especially, is so tough for undrafted guys. You're not given many opportunities. We didn't have a rookie minicamp, OTAs or regular minicamp, so this year is incredibly difficult. But yes, tomorrow's the cut day. I remember when I was undrafted, I was just constantly looking at the clock, because 4 p.m. is the deadline, and you're just thinking, 'Are they going to come and get me?' But at the end of the day, you just have to keep control of the things that you can control, and not worry about what they're going to do – just focus on what you can do. And I think the undrafted guys here have done very well. There are a lot of cases to be made for some of these guys to make this team and other teams. It's just difficult, because you don't get to see them in those preseason games and inter-squad practices. But it's going to be interesting to see what happens, and I think a lot of the undrafted guys here have had a good camp."
Defensive line coach Joe Cullen said that you're not really in the defensive room anymore and all that. What are your feelings about that – about being more strictly a fullback and not a two-way player anymore? (Ryan Mink) "My approach when I come to work here is just, whatever I'm asked to do, I'm going to do it. If I'm not going to be in that room as much, that's fine, because that means my role is going to be expanded elsewhere, or there are other guys that can fill those spots. I love defense, so any way I can get in there, I'm going to try to, but at the end of the day, I'm just going to do whatever's asked of me."
You mentioned the rookies and everything that's going on this year. I'm curious; what have your impressions been of RB J.K. Dobbins so far? How have you seen him kind of pick up the game and pick up the offense? (Andrew Gillis) "He [J.K. Dobbins] is a special player. You can just see … That's why I'm excited for Week One. It's just unfortunate with the way this [training camp] has been, you guys really haven't been able to see these rookies [because of no preseason]. He's definitely taken in the offense and is doing everything he can to see opportunities to get on the field – and that's running the ball, pass protecting [and] route running. Just seeing him in the live scrimmage last week, man, it's exciting. I'm excited for him, I can't wait to block for him, and it's exciting to see what our offense is going to be like with him in it."
Did you change your body composition at all this offseason – as your role has kind of evolved? (Ryan Mink) "With quarantine and everything – being at home – we were able to work out more and not going through OTAs here and practicing. Last season, I came in at 300 pounds, and I was around 295-300 [pounds] all season. Right now, I'm about 290-295 [pounds], so I maybe cut a couple pounds. I feel leaner, I feel a little bit quicker – still as strong as I've always been. If anything, I almost feel better now than I was [when I was] a couple pounds heavier, because I just feel a little bit leaner. And I think it's helping me play right now in this camp. I'm excited to see where it takes me for the season."
What has been the most challenging part of practice so far? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "We didn't have OTAs, so coming in for camp, you just had to take the Zoom meetings we had in the offseason and try to just make sure you were ready to go when practice hit. But at the end of the day, this offense and defense – the whole team – it's pretty much all the same guys from last year – same system. So, it really wasn't too much of a step back or a delay in us clicking and making plays happen. It wasn't too challenging, and the ramp-up for the camp was very nice. It was a way for us to meet a lot and make sure we're ready to go when the pads came on and helmets were on and we were actually practicing. So, I think it's been a good camp so far."
K JUSTIN TUCKER
We haven't really talked to you this training camp. So, I'm just curious – what was your offseason like when quarantine first started? How were you getting your workout? Can you kind of detail that a little bit for us? (Aaron Kasinitz) "First of all, it's good to see all you guys. It's been a minute. This offseason has certainly been a unique one given everything that 2020 has had to offer. In all sincerity, it was a great opportunity for me and my family to slow down. I should … Instead of saying slow down, everything just kind of came to a screeching halt for us and for much of the world. If the worst complaint that I could ever have throughout the last seven [or] eight months is that I might have been a little bored at times, then we're definitely in a good spot. As far as training goes, I got to do a lot of the same stuff that I normally would in an offseason. As soon as the season was over, [I] just took a little time off, just let my body rest and recover. Obviously, the rest and recovery time for me is significantly shorter than many of my teammates, given the fact that I'm not tackling or being tackled on a regular basis. But still, taking a minute to get everything right and aligned. Not really having anything to rush back into gave me an opportunity to hone in on different aspects of my technique, as far as kicking the ball goes. I normally would attack certain things in the offseason, but I had a unique ability to do it almost all on my own. So, I would take my camera phone out to whatever football field I could find, as soon as it was legal to do so, and make recordings of myself kicking the ball, evaluate it right then and there on the field and make adjustments as needed. This offseason was definitely a different one. It's hopefully one we don't repeat and hopefully, we can get back to some version of normal sooner rather than later, which I'm optimistic about. Just given the way we we're handling our business here with all of the COVID-19 protocols, if we can keep it up, I think we're going to have as good [of] a chance as anybody to move in a positive direction."
With you, P Sam Koch and LS Morgan Cox, you guys have been together for so long and worked together. Was it really that big of a challenge for you coming in, because you guys know each other, not having that offseason work? Or were you guys able to find your gear right away? (Todd Karpovich) "It's funny, we kind of picked up right where we left off as a unit. Having that continuity between the three of us for the last, going on nine seasons, is certainly an advantage for us. So, again, as soon as we were allowed to – per local and state regulations – we got back on the field together. Morgan's [Cox] throwing 12 o'clock laces, Sam's [Koch] spotting them exactly how I like them and the ball pretty much kicks itself. I've said it before, I'm basically a system guy. You can come plug and play at this point. But having those two guys at the start of our operation makes my job so much easier, and I'm very thankful that I get to continue working with those guys."
Do you hear the crowd when you're lining up for a field goal attempt? What do you expect it to be like this year? They're going to be pumping in sound, but it's not going to be the same, certainly. What do you expect your mindset to be? Do you like that? Do you not like that? What do you think? (Ryan Mink) "Whether or not I like it, I suppose, is irrelevant, because it just is what is. There's going to be that 70-decibel hum throughout the course of the game of the pre-recorded crowd noise. It doesn't matter if I like it or not, it just is what it is, but it's definitely different. Whether we're playing at home or away, there are various ways the crowd can have an influence or an impact on the game, particularly when it comes to lining up a kick. For example, when we're kicking the ball … When we're kicking a PAT here in the first quarter, it's usually not crazy loud. There's kind of that general hum. Whether or not it's 70 decibels, I don't necessarily know – I don't have a little meter out on the field. But when we're attempting a game winner at Heinz Field, it's loud. For that to not be a thing, potentially, moving forward will certainly be unique. It will maybe be uncomfortable in a sense, because I think we're so used to going on the road and when we line up a kick, the volume gets cranked up. It's just kind of always been like that. So, for it to not be like that moving forward will be interesting, but I don't think it's anything to over-analyze or get too worked up about."
One of your kicking colleagues said that there's a difference as far as, I think, whether wind or something with having no fans there. When you've kicked at M&T Bank Stadium with no fans there, is there a difference with fans or without fans? (Jamison Hensley) "I don't know exactly whom you may be talking about, and I don't want to just completely shred apart what anybody else has to say, because I'm not a meteorologist by any means, so there could be some validity to that. I just know in our stadium, it's tough to kick no matter what. So, when we've been down there the few times to kick in the stadium without any fans there throughout this training camp, the wind is definitely still pushing the ball around. It's hard to figure out, but the best thing we feel like we can do is just pick a small target between the uprights and hit a straight, strong ball. That principle from the Mel Gibson movie, The Patriot, 'Aim small, miss small,' will certainly hold true if … If we just do that, then we'll continue to make kicks, whether or not there are fans in the stands potentially dampening the effects of the wind. (laughter) It is funny to think about though, just … I'll leave it at that."
CB JIMMY SMITH
Sorry to go back a couple months, but we had [the] offseason and we haven't talked to you yet. What was the free agency process like for you? How did you, ultimately, end up signing this deal to come back here to Baltimore? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Free agency was … It wasn't really that great, because of all the pandemic stuff happening. So, there wasn't really a lot of stuff going on. And, really, as you can see, a lot of the top players are still out there. But the whole plan was to get back here anyway. So, I got here, I got a good deal and [I'm] happy to be back."
Do you have a preference in what role you play on defense? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "No, I actually am getting comfortable in the role that I am in now. It's pretty fun to be honest. I've never played so many different positions before. It's not really that much of a learning curve. It is something new, but I'm enjoying it."
I'm wondering – we've seen you your whole career here. [You're] a shutdown corner, cornerback safety, a little different role now as you head into the twilight of your career. What does that do to your psyche going from being the man, to watching CB Marcus Peters and CB Marlon Humphrey and CB Tavon Young, and you're in a different role now? What is that like? (Kirk McEwen) "To be honest, in the very, very beginning, it was very different. You're not used to standing on the sideline, or just not in every single play. But, at the same time, I had to realize where I'm at. Like you said, I'm in the twilight years of my career. The role that I'm playing, actually, I feel like it's an important role. I can make impact in the game, and I feel like that's my main thing. I want to be able to help the team, and I feel like the role that I'm playing right now allows me to help the team."
Do you feel like, given this new role and given the work that you've put in, you're set up for a really good season? What are your expectations for yourself going into this year? (Garrett Downing) "My expectation is just to be, like I said, to be an impact player – to get my hands on the ball [and] be around the ball a lot more, I feel like. And just to go in when my number is called, just to go in and make a play, because obviously, I'm going in on situational downs and all that. It's just to make sure that I can make that play."
I'm not asking you to look backwards – I'm just asking you to tell me what it says about the team. When you have a player who's, arguably, one of the most talented defensive players in the NFL, and the Ravens say, 'No, we're good without you. We don't need you.' What does that say about this team, the closeness of this team, and what this team wants to accomplish? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "Obviously, it was unfortunate. But I believe that the Ravens organization stands by certain principles. It's a certain type of culture here. No matter who you are, you've got to be part of us. If you're not part of us, we don't really need you." (Reporter: "Why does that matter – when you're chasing a Super Bowl? Why do you need to be like that?") "Because chemistry is everything – chemistry in your room, chemistry on the team – that means a lot."
Head Coach John Harbaugh was really impressed with your offseason workouts. What were some of your goals there coming in? What was your goal this offseason? (Todd Karpovich) "Just with the pandemic, I got lucky enough to have my trainer living with me, so I got to work out every day. We worked on little things, but the main thing was just keeping my weight down and being able to be mobile. Because once you hit that over 30 and 32 age range, everybody wants to talk about how old you are all of a sudden. (laughter) I got a text from [John] Harbaugh, probably like midway through the offseason, and he was just like, 'Just make sure you come back in the best shape of your life.' And my personal trainer actually took that as a personal challenge and kicked my butt this offseason."
You talk about helping the younger guys. When you look to Week One – [Browns] WR Odell Beckham Jr., [Browns] WR Jarvis Landry – are they picking your brain already? Are they asking questions? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "Marcus [Peters] and Marlon [Humphrey]? (Reporter: "Yes.") "These are really good cornerbacks. We all share the same knowledge with each other. Whatever we can get off of each other, we try to mix it in and try to all put our … Anything we got, we put it in the same pot so we can all see the same stuff."
I'm wondering – how important is it to you to finish your career as a Raven? Does that come into play? Or if it happens, it happens? (Kirk McEwen) "It'll happen. It's going to happen, as long as I keep calling it. (laughter) It means a lot to me to be here for 10 years already. It's tough to do that in the NFL. You see a lot of players move around, especially in the later years of their career – they end up playing a year somewhere, playing a year somewhere else. I think it just speaks a lot to the organization and my work that I'm still here."
With CB Marcus Peters – you look at his interception total – they're higher than most other people during his time period. What is different about his mindset, do you feel – in playing with him and in talking to him – that sets him, maybe, apart from others? (Jamison Hensley) "I think the fact that he's very knowledgeable of the game. He understands route concepts. He understands how to play the game. When the ball is in the air, he has that mentality that it's his ball. That's one of the reasons he has 27 interceptions."