Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "[It's] good to see everybody. I appreciate you guys being out here the last couple days. Obviously, [it was] another great day to practice. The weather was beautiful. Spirits were high and we improved as a football team. I know the guys were into practice, primarily because we have a lot of guys that like football and they like to practice. So, I sure enjoy that as a coach.
"As far as our schedule, we are moving into the last day of minicamp. Tomorrow will be a day where we focus on conditioning, testing and meetings. So, we'll be meeting with our guys – offense, defense and special teams. We'll also be working conditioning in terms of conditioning and the conditioning test will be run tomorrow. That's what we'll be doing, so that's our plan tomorrow. We had the full complement of our OTA work we got in and the full complement of our minicamp on the field work we got in. So, we feel great about where we're at. We're ready to move into the next phase, which I told the guys is an individual phase between now and when training camp starts. As a world class athlete, everything you can do to get yourself as prepared as you can be for the haul of the season but also the competition of training camp. So, that's where we're at. What questions do you have?"
After not having the spring workouts last year, how beneficial was it for, especially QB Lamar Jackson and the passing game … How much does it help that group having these workouts and this minicamp? (Jamison Hensley) "No question about it. We're a young team [with] a young quarterback, a young group of receivers and tight ends – the whole thing. So, last year really limits what you can do if you don't have a suitcase full of plays that everyone knows how to run and execute and have executed hundreds of times together before. That would've been a benefit last year to teams like that, and it did show up, probably. You look at even the two teams in the Super Bowl. So, I do believe that this will be a big help to us across the board as a young team, especially a young offense."
Knowing how pleased you were to get G Kevin Zeitler and T Alejandro Villanueva, just having a chance to see them up close and seeing them work, what have been your impressions this spring of them? (Luke Jones) "Right, same thing. Getting those guys that are new, so getting them merged into the offense is a big part of it, and then also watching them play has been a pleasure. They're all ball, all the time – both of those guys. Whether it's meeting room, weight room, conditioning [or] on the field work – they're all ball, all the time. I love that about them. I think they're going to be a formidable tandem on the right side. I'm really pleased with them so far."
Jumping to the other side of the offensive line, how do you assess the left guard battle going into training camp? Are you happy with what you've seen so far from G/T Tyre Phillips, G Ben Cleveland and G Ben Powers? (Childs Walker) "Yes, I would assess it probably as being wide open. All of those guys have played to a very high level so far [with] what we're in in this phase for what we're allowed to do. They all look good. Nobody has separated at this point, but you're not going to separate in something like this. We don't ask them to separate at this time; training camp is when that will happen. But we've got candidates, for sure, and they're all high-level candidates. So, I'm excited about that and can't wait to see it play out. I'm sure everybody is kind of … If you like football and you're a real student of the game, you'll be watching that left guard battle during training camp."
I just wanted to get your impressions on another veteran addition, WR Sammy Watkins. What have you seen from him this summer? It looked like he had a big practice today. (Ryan Mink) "He did. I've seen that work ethic, that mindset, and I've seen that steady, physical growth. He's a veteran player, so he knows how to kind of pace himself up into the season, and you can see him doing that. You guys saw it today, right? So, that's what you look for in a guy like that. He's right on schedule. He and Lamar [Jackson] are getting into the grove a little bit, too. So, I'm very happy with Sammy [Watkins]. I'm very excited about him."
I had a question about the way things have gone here. You mentioned what's going on in terms of left guard. Are there any other position battles that will be up for grabs in training camp? During the couple of days you're with the team, is anything decided in terms of position battles, or depth chart, or anything like that? Or is that just premature at this stage? (Jerry Coleman) "Great question. A lot of things are determined already, just because they were determined already going in. You have positions that are set, and you know what they are. From there, the other ones that aren't set won't be set at this time of year. So, no – we don't try to determine those until we get the pads on and start playing preseason games, too. I think the roles at wide receiver are up in the air and that's to be determined, and some to make the team, certainly. Tight end, to make the team and roles, once you get past Mark [Andrews], Nick [Boyle] coming back and Pat [Ricard] has his role. Defensively, the D-line is pretty well set, but there are some young guys vying for playing time and to make the team. Linebacker, roles, definitely – who's doing what and how much. Secondary, pretty well set in some spots, roles in other spots. So, you probably look at the first four, you'd say that's set. The nickel with Tavon [Young] and who's going to be that guy. [We'll] see how he's doing health-wise, but there will still be a competition. And then the roles after those first four guys [in the secondary]. Of course, special teams, all the different roles on special teams. Most, not all of them … Some of them are set, but that's where guys make the team also, big time, and they know that. So, that'll be a big part of it, too."
We didn't see WR Rashod Bateman and OLB Jaylon Ferguson out there after seeing them yesterday. Is everything OK from a health standpoint for those two? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Rashod [Bateman] had a real bad stomach virus he caught last night. So, he was not in good shape today from a sickness standpoint. [He] couldn't go and had to be sent back to the hotel. Jaylon [Ferguson] had a family issue. He lost a family member. I'll probably wait for him to announce that, but we are all grieving with him. Thoughts and prayers are with him and his family today. He was excused to go take care of that."
I know you want QB Lamar Jackson to get better in every facet of his game this offseason, but it looked today like he was really impressive throwing the ball outside the numbers. What kind of growth have you seen from that? How important is that development going to be in his game going forward? (Jonas Shaffer) "Very important. I do think that what you see is what it is. So, he did have an excellent day today. I've seen him work at it with other guys so hard throughout the whole program here. We'll know for sure when the games start getting played. But I think as a coach, you look for that every single day, and we've seen it every single day. Today was fun for you guys to see it, and today was a good day. There were a lot of really good, on-time throws against a lot of pressure. They were bringing a lot of heat, and Lamar [Jackson] and the receivers, I thought, were handling it very well."
I know there's kind of a downtime a little bit where you don't have on-field practice stuff, but heading into training camp … This might be a better question for executive vice president and general manager Eric DeCosta, but do you foresee there could be another veteran addition before you guys come back as a team for training camp? (Jamison Hensley) "We've talked about that quite a bit. Obviously, [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta] is always … The wheels are always going with Eric, and that's what you appreciate. I wouldn't rule it out at all, but I also don't rule it in as being a necessity either. Sometimes, read what's written; I'm not too worried about any spot on our team. But if someone comes available for what we can afford and what makes sense for us, you always love to have more players, more talent [and] better players. If they're the right kind of guys that fit into us and want to practice the way we practice, play like the way we play, then heck yes. We're always interested in improving ourselves any way we can. So, that's the honest answer. I know it's not definitive, but it's definitely the honest answer."
DT Justin Madubuike is a guy that DE Calais Campbell, DT Brandon Williams and a couple other guys have said they're really excited about his potential and what he could do this year. Obviously, when the pads come on, I'm sure you'll see more, but just what do you think with DT Justin Madubuike in his second year and a chance for him to take even another step up on the defensive line? (Cliff Brown) "I think that's a great question, a great point and a great guy to point out. You saw him today running around. He's taken a big step. He played well last year, and I do think he's taken a big step. The growth he's made between Texas A&M, where he was a good player, but there were things that maybe a first-round talent type guy that people … He dropped to the third round for whatever reason, and we were very, very fortunate and blessed to get him there. [From] when he came and the way he played last year to where he is right now is very encouraging. So, I'm excited about him. I can tell you the defensive line is excited about him, too. I saw Derek Wolfe over there celebrating with him a couple times on some things he did well. So, yes – we're fired up about [Justin] Madubuike."
You obviously know TE Ben Mason a little bit, or at least know of him, from his background at Michigan. What kind of impression has he made over the past couple of weeks? How well does his mentality fit in with the program you guys have here? (Jeff Zrebiec) "You try to draft to your team, and as a fullback/h-back/move tight end-type guy, which is what you do in the NFL at that position, he fits us. Maybe he doesn't fit everybody, but he fits us that way. I think he's the kind of player that's going to show up more when the pads come on than he does when the shorts are on, but I think he improved tremendously throughout the course of what we did with the shorts on. So, you just let him work hard, learn and get better and see what he looks like probably in the preseason games – that will be a very telling thing for Ben [Mason]. He's doing a great job. I'm very happy with him."
I know you were asked yesterday about T Ronnie Stanley, but for some of those other guys who had to sit out this part of the offseason training, is there anything you can say for guys that you don't expect to be ready for that first day of training camp when you guys come back? (Jonas Shaffer) "You blanked there. Could you ask about specific guys? That would help me." (Reporter: "I guess just is there anyone you don't expect to be ready for that first day of training camp as they work their way back from injuries?") "I think that the guys who are out right now are going to be … They probably could go if they had to, I'm guessing. It's still five weeks away, right? Talking about Nick Boyle, Pat Ricard, Ronnie [Stanley], is there anybody else? Those guys, right?" (Reporter: "Guys like Iman Marshall.) "Iman Marshall, another guy, thank you. They might be ready the first day. We might want to wait a couple of days and get them moving around and doing football things to make sure. If anything, we're probably going to err on the side of caution with those guys in the first couple of days, even if they are ready, but we'll know more at the time. That's a good question. I'm not not optimistic about any of them. I expect them all to be back and playing."
I'm curious about where you see QB Lamar Jackson and his progression? What are kind of the objectives for him for growth? How do you balance whatever you might have to improve on with what he's done well? (Jarrett Bell) "That's probably exactly the art of it. That's why we say … I know it's a satisfactory answer sometimes, but really and truly, you work on everything. You work on everything that has to do with a very complicated position, and that's what he's doing. Hopefully, it shows up in the execution like it did today. He had such a good practice today. So, that's really what it ends up being. He just becomes more diverse in his skillset. The more things that your quarterback can do at a high level … Lamar [Jackson] already does so many things at a high level that other quarterbacks can't do. So, you definitely build around those things and try to add to them, enhance them and put more tools in his toolkit that you feel comfortable using in games and calling and attacking people with. So, that's what we're trying to do across the board. Not having the last offseason really limited us in being able to do that, for sure. So, I'm excited. Like you guys have been pointing out in a couple questions, having this time is really invaluable to him and us."
What have you seen from G/C Bradley Bozeman in his transition back to center? (Ryan Mink) "Very smooth. I'm always on him, because we have a thing around here about snaps – don't we all – from last year. So, we're going to be looking at those snaps. If he's just a little low or a little high, it's like, 'Boze … [Bradley Bozeman] – low. High.' He's all over it, so he's done great. He looks very natural. I saw a quote that he said, 'Center is my natural position.' I believe it by watching him out there. So, [he] just keeps building and keeps getting better."
I'm sorry, we can't go through another interview without asking a question about QB Lamar Jackson's contract. You know QB Lamar Jackson. If something doesn't get done before the season, do you think that will affect QB Lamar Jackson in any way – the contract issue? (Jamison Hensley) "Absolutely not. Lamar [Jackson] is confident, and Lamar understands what's important. I mean, Lamar is going to get … Look what he's done; he's going to get paid. He knows that. The question becomes, what's he going to do? What's his legacy going to be as a quarterback? That's what he's focused on. That's what's so great about it. The other thing is a done deal, OK? Is it this number or that number? (shrugs) I'm sure the agents … He doesn't have an agent, but I'm sure whoever … I'm sure that that matters at some point in time, but does that really matter in the big picture? It's going to be great. The question is what's his legacy going to be as a quarterback? And that's the great thing about Lamar and why you have so much confidence in him, is that's what he focuses on. You focus on that, all the other things tend to fall [in place]. Be great at what you do, [and] someone is probably going to want to hire you to do it."
I did save this for last because people like senior vice president of communications Chad Steele and others have been chastising me for filming QB Lamar Jackson throwing the football to a receiver. Why is that such a closely guarded secret? Why are we not allowed to do that? I know I will not be rewarded with, "That's a good question," but I am curious as to why. (Jerry Coleman) "It's a fair question. The reason is because you're not us. We allow our in-house people to do that, because we trust them. We know what they're going to put out and what they're not going to put out. We open a can of worms with you and say, 'You can film this, but can't film that,' then we have to spend all of our time policing whether you pushed it over the line or not and showed a two-man route combination, or showed a complete play, that we don't want our opponent to see. So, why are we going to try to police the media when they don't work with us and for us? That's exactly why, because we do have valuable information. If it were just going to be the one-man route you put out, it wouldn't be a problem, but it never stays there. It never ends up being that. The envelope always gets pushed, the slope always gets slippery and then stuff goes out that we don't want out and that we don't want our opponents to see, or even personnel evaluators to see about our players in practice that we don't need them to see. So, it's a competitive-type issue that way. We can control our people; we can't control you in terms of what you put out. Fair enough? It's an honest answer, right?"
QB Lamar Jackson
It seemed like today, especially, the deep ball was working for you guys. How much of that part of your game have you been working on this offseason? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, we've been working – not just me. All the QBs and the receivers, we've been getting together and trying to make that a big emphasis for us this year. People are always saying we throw short, intermediate routes and stuff like that – little five-yard, 10-yard routes. But we had some chances last year. We hit some of them, but we're just trying to be more consistent this year, and that's where the strides happen. It starts in practice, and hopefully it transitions to the game. We've just got to keep working on it."
How do you plan to spend the next month? Are you still working with Joshua Harris? Is there another quarterback coach you're working with? How do you plan to prepare for training camp over the next month, when you're not in the building? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I'll do something individualized with my guys. I'll get with the receivers while we're down in Florida and stuff like that and pretty much grind, because the season is here. It's really not the offseason anymore. For us, I'll say, we've just got to keep grinding and stay in shape. We can't go backwards right now, because we already had our fun and did whatever we did during the regular offseason. Not this time; it's straight go-mode right now. The season is here. We're focusing on the Raiders."
Is it fun to have a guy like WR Sammy Watkins – trying to build that chemistry with him? Is there a challenge that comes with that? It looks like it's a great challenge and it's fun. (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, I'm not going to lie to you; it is fun. A big receiver, nice target, fast guy. I don't know who's faster out of him and 'Quise' [Marquise Brown]. I'm going to say 'Quise' is faster. Yes, 'Quise' is faster, because 'Quise' is blazing. But [Sammy Watkins is] a bigger receiver [and] will help us out a lot. We've got Mark [Andrews], we've got 'Quise,' we've got other guys. We've got Miles [Boykin] – stuff like that. But Sammy is going to make our job a lot easier. [He'll] open one side of the field up more, with his deep-ball ability and his shifty route running. He's a great receiver. I just can't wait until we start going for real."
Is the defense too nice? Are there too many nice guys over there? Are they not nasty enough? (Pete Gilbert) "Our defense? Oh, our defense … What did they used to always say? 'Defense wins championships. We must protect this house.' Stuff like that. Yes, you know the Ravens' defense has always been one of the best defenses. I feel like 'EDC' [executive vice president & general manager Eric DeCosta] does a great job at bringing guys in, and we already had a lot of guys from last year. We've got DeShon [Elliott], 'Marlo' [Marlon Humphrey], 'MP' [Marcus Peters]. We've got [Pernell] McPhee, Calais [Campbell] – those guys – Brandon [Williams]. We've got a lot of vets [veterans] and stuff coming back, and we've got great young guys coming in. I just can't wait to get after it. I'm tired of seeing our defense already, because they're flying around. They're making us compete against them, and it's going to be, I feel, easier during the game, a lot. But they're doing a great job right now for us."
As you've gained fame throughout your time in college and now in the pros for the last several years, what is it about your ties to the guys that you've seemingly stayed really close with down in South Florida? What is it? What is it about your loyalty to them, and what do they mean to you at this point in your career? (Bobby Trosset) "They are just my guys – who I grew up with, stuff like that. I won't change on people, unless they change on me. Then, I just stay away from them. But I'm going to always show love to my guys who show love to me, and that's all that's about – loyalty."
I'm just wondering where things stand with contract talks? And would you prefer something be decided by the time things get going at training camp? (Shawn Stepner) "You know, I'm not going to lie to you; I'm not really focused on that right now. I'm focused on getting a Super Bowl. I'm focused on getting better. I'm focused on working with my teammates right now. I don't really … Whatever was out there – put out there – that's what it is. Like I said before, I'm focused on winning right now. I'm trying to bring a Super Bowl here."
When you look at your offensive line, there are so many new faces or even a position change with G/C Bradley Bozeman, and it's the same for wide receivers – a lot of new faces. Does it feel that way? And how important have these OTAs and this minicamp been to build that chemistry with those two huge roles that are going to help guide the way this year? (Morgan Adsit) "With the receivers, it's a lot of stuff happening faster. Guys are working [very] hard. Not taking anything away from my guys from previous years, but these guys this year, for some reason, it's like everyone is just flying around. Young guys – there are a lot of young guys here flying around and stuff, trying to get better. And our offensive line, they're looking pretty good. But we don't have the pads on right now; they can't really do what they're supposed to right now, so I can't tell you about the offensive line. But they're looking good, so far."
I know it's a small sample size, but WR Rashod Bateman looks smooth; he glides on the field. I'm wondering what you've been able to see out of another first-round draft pick, much like yourself? (Kirk McEwen) "Yes, he looks like you just said. You just said everything about him just now, pretty much. (laughter) He looks smooth, crisp route running, explosive guy. Man, he can catch the ball. We've just got to keep working. I don't want to hype him up too fast. We've just got to, like I said, keep working right now. But he looks pretty good. He looks great right now."
You've talked plenty of times since you've been here about how you want to win a Super Bowl and how that is what drives you. How does that affect everything that you do throughout an offseason and when you leave here? How does that shape all of your preparation going into a season? (Garrett Downing) "Man, because we fell short three years in a row since I've been here. And I'm always seeing teams, when they get there, it's hard work, preparation, stuff like that. We're watching highlights and stuff like that on TV. And it's like, when they win it, it's like your whole life just changed. It's not even a change; it's like the excitement I see. The feeling … Like holding the [Lombardi] Trophy up and stuff like that. So, I chill during the offseason. I'm going to work, but I chill just focusing in on that, if that makes sense. I'm trying to … I don't know; my mind is just different. I've got to get it. I've got to get one – at least one."
How long did it take for you to feel OK from the concussion at the end of the season? When were you able to get to work down in Florida? And who were some of the people you were working with the most regularly down there? (Childs Walker) "I was pretty good after the little concussion. I couldn't leave if I didn't get cleared for the concussion anyways, so I had to be good. (laughter) So, I was good. I don't remember what day we had done it or whatever, but I just started grinding with my teammates. I had 'Quise' [Marquise Brown] and Mark [Andrews] and J.K. [Dobbins] and Sammy [Watkins]; we were in Arizona with Mark, and we were training. Then, I just did stuff on my own, really – trying to work on my footwork, stuff like that."
Is there anything mechanically you've been focusing on this offseason that you think has worked? And then, No. 2, what does [executive vice president & general manager] Eric DeCosta think about his "Every Dollar Counts" nickname? (Jonas Shaffer) (laughter) "Well, first thing, I was working on my footwork. That's a big emphasis for me – just working on my footwork, making sure I stay open so the ball can drive, so I can put a little tight spiral on the ball. (laughter) And 'EDC' [executive vice president & general manager Eric DeCosta], I don't know how he feels about the name. I haven't asked him. I hope he's not mad at it, because that's a good name, I feel. (laughter) 'Every Dollar Counts' – that's hard." (laughter)
How much did it brother you to not be able to finish the game in last season's playoff loss in Buffalo? And you've talked about your deep passing. Is that where you feel like you've made your biggest strides this offseason – that touch on the deep ball? (Ryan Mink) "Yes, I was ticked off about the playoff loss. Everyone hates losing. I feel, if you're cool with losing, then you shouldn't be playing that sport. Or whatever you did, you shouldn't be doing it if you're cool with losing. But I was ticked off. I'm still ticked off. I'm going to always be ticked off losing. I don't care how old the game was – I really don't – I'm going to always remember that loss more than a victory and what you did in a victory. I told them – when they were telling me I had a concussion and stuff – I was like, 'Man, I want to play. Just send me back out there. I remember the plays and stuff like that. I know all this and that. I'm not dizzy or anything.' But I've got to follow the NFL rules.
"And what was your second question? Oh, the deep passes. Yes, I've just got to keep working on that. I feel like that was a big stride. But like I said before, working on my footwork, that's another big stride, too, I've been working on."
Coach Harbaugh mentioned about your legacy. So, what is the legacy you aim to have, and how far along are you on the road to having that legacy? (Gustavo Salazar) "Man, I don't know how close I am to my legacy; I don't know how far I am. Like I said, I'm always going to stress this until I get it – until I get one. I'm trying to win a Super Bowl. MVPs and stuff like that, having winning records and stuff, that's cool, but I want to bring a Lombardi [Trophy] here myself. Everybody else got one. The quarterback before me had one – Joe [Flacco]. He did a great job with the team. He won one. So, I want to come in and win one, so I can feel accomplished and be like, 'OK, we did that! I won one. My teammates, we stepped it up. We did what we were supposed to do.' Then I can sit back when I have grandkids and stuff and be like, 'Yes, we did that,' and talk my trash like 'old heads' do – talk my trash to the young generation [about] what we did. So, that's what I'm trying to do – win a Super Bowl. Then my legacy … Then we can talk about legacy."
I'm curious about how teams are dealing with COVID-19 and the protocols moving forward. So, are you vaccinated? And just how do you foresee or project how this season will go, in terms of the NFL dealing with all the protocols compared to what we all dealt with last year? (Jarrett Bell) "Well, just like everyone in society, it's their decision – keeping that to themselves. But I feel we do a great job here of taking the vaccine and staying away from COVID-19, following the right preparation for that and staying away from the outside – the people that are attracting it – and we've just got to keep it going. I haven't been hearing about any breakouts, like last year – the previous year before this one – with all the stuff that was going on, people catching it left and right. I haven't been hearing about it, so I feel like this year, it's been doing great. Everyone has been doing a great job at it – just keep going."
CB Marlon Humphrey
After last season, is there something in particular that you are focusing on in your game? (Jamison Hensley) "I guess something I'm trying to focus on this year going into the season is really just trying to get the ball more, as far as interceptions, and mainly clean up different things with knowing where my help is [and] using that more, to where I can be a little more aggressive here, a little less aggressive here depending on different things. I've been talking with my DB coach Chris [pass game coordinator/secondary Chris Hewitt] and just trying to figure out what you're going to take into the season to have a couple consistent things that you do, to where it's bookwork, to where you're doing it every time – this is what it is – and it's not … You have those flashes of bad things [when] you're like, 'What technique was that?' And you're just all over the place. So, I'm kind of just trying to tighten up some things technique-wise to where it's … What Coach Chris [Hewitt] keeps telling me is, 'Have a gameplan when you get to the line.' That's something that I think I'm going to take into the season. I think that's the quote that I'm going to use. Every time you line up, you want to have a gameplan; you never just want to line up and kind of just be not in a stance, kind of just all over the place. You want to get the call, know the call. Once you get all that – all the pre-snap stuff – figure out your gameplan, how you're going to do what you need to do and have it to where it's so in-tune that it just comes natural."
When you got drafted, you come to an organization that had Ray Lewis and Ed Reed – defensive cornerstones – and now a lot of people are viewing you as kind of the next in line. What do you sense when you hear that, and what will it take to get to that level? And second, as a guy who just got the huge contract, how important was it for you to be here at OTAs, when a lot of veterans might opt to stay away? (Bo Smolka) "Any time you're compared to the Ray Lewis' and the Ed Reed's, it's definitely always an honor. I can't say I've heard that too many times, but if that's what's being talked about, that's definitely a huge honor. I know those guys got some Defensive Player of the Year [awards], so I probably need to get one of those in order to really try to be one of those cornerstone pieces. But definitely, it's always an honor to be compared to those guys. This organization is defense, defense, defense, and with those defenses, you've got a lot of guys that you think of when you think of those great defenses.
"And then as far as OTAs, some guys come, some guys don't; it's an optional thing. But for me, I just wanted to get back, get some sessions in, get with my coach, work on a couple things. It's a long offseason, and I was ready to get to work – work with some of these guys. And so, I enjoyed it. I feel like I wanted to see how our draft picks looked, how some of the guys have been working in the offseason. I really wanted to see how I was – just with my training, see how it worked up with some of the guys. So, it was a good OTAs and minicamp, and it was really good to see everybody all together the past two days to get some good work in."
Just being out at practice, it's hard to miss you on the field. Have you become, on your own, more vocal? Did somebody tell you to be more vocal? Because it's not exactly you were a "shrinking violet" when you arrived at the Ravens, but now, it seems like you're heard throughout almost every play, especially when they target you. (Jerry Coleman) "I've definitely gotten more comfortable here, so that's just allowed me to be more myself. I think early on, it takes you a while to kind of just feel your way out and feel how things are, and 'Wink' [defensive coordinator Don Martindale] talked about [how] a loud defense is a good defense. The biggest thing [is], when I come out today, I'm like, 'Man, I've got to get myself going today,' and the way I do that is to be vocal. And hopefully, a lot of times, it's kind of a ripple effect; you're yelling, you're getting going – trying to get going – and you don't know what that does for the next man. So, that's the biggest thing. 'Phee' [Pernell McPhee] comes … After we do seven on seven, the whole team gets up, you hear 'Phee,' [and] that gets me going. So, it's kind of like [how] a lot of times, guys do things thinking [they're] getting themselves going, but it affects the whole team. We do that 'two in the flare,' and we all yell, and it gets the juices going, gets the blood-flow going, and it's just good for everybody. It's just kind of the way you want to move. You want to be loud, you want to get going, you want to make sure everybody knows everybody. And so, that's been the biggest thing for me. Just being comfortable, I've been able to be more vocal and knowing the defense and different things, so it kind of all went hand in hand."
You touched on this a little, but with OTAs, having a chance to go up against them these last few weeks, what have been your impressions of WR Sammy Watkins and first-round pick WR Rashod Bateman? (Luke Jones) "Something I definitely have noticed differently with our receiving corps … I actually noticed it when I first got back. I look over during warmups, and I'm seeing our wide receivers coaches doing some different things, and I'm seeing the wide receivers coaches acting like DBs, and I'm like, 'They need to put on some cleats.' So, I noticed the energy. I felt a major energy change with that wide receiver group, not only with the coaching, but just with the wide receivers that are there. Even the ones that were there last year, I feel like everyone [who] has come back, stepped their game up a lot. I thought Jaylon Moore had a really good … I felt like he stepped up a lot – [James] Proche II, 'Duv' [Devin Duvernay]. But with [Rashod] Bateman and Sammy [Watkins], they've been really big as well. Bateman – I couldn't' really tell about him. I'm like, 'Ehh, ehh,' then he hit me with something, caught the ball, ran out of bounds and came up and tapped me on the butt, and was like, 'I've got a little wiggle, too.' So, I was like, 'I like that.' Really good guy right there. And Sammy of course, he's got a pretty good pedigree himself. I just think this year, it's going to be … Whatever group makes it, we'll have a really serious, good passing attack – just with what those guys can do. I think it's been a really good OTAs for all those guys. And I forgot about 'Hollywood' [Marquise Brown]. 'Hollywood' – he does his thing, as well. And I think it'll just be a much different year than what we've seen in the past out of our corps. And the best thing for me is when you've got really good wide receivers that are doing good things in practice, it makes training camp that much more realistic, because that's the work we need. We try to pride ourselves on being the best secondary, and it's hard to be a really great secondary when you've got two or three good wide receivers. You want to have it to where you've got five and six and seven wide receivers, to where it makes it really tough on what wide receivers you pick. It seems like in the past, it was like these three guys, these four guys are for sure going to make it, and then we don't know about this guy. I feel like this year, it'll be a really tough decision to figure out who's going to make it, because we've got some serious stuff. And I think the work ethic that the guys are [showing], I think the coaches over there – the new coaches – are really pushing them to be great."
I'm curious, you just mentioned WR Rashod Bateman has been doing a little trash talk or banter. Is that something you like when you see that from a rookie player to have that confidence to kind of give it to you a little bit as a veteran DB that you're going up against? (Garrett Downing) "Oh, yes – definitely. Yes, that's good stuff, just because it shows that there's major confidence there. It's one thing when you can play … If you get to the NFL, you can play football – that's just that simple. But it's the confidence that will take you to the next level. You see a lot of first-rounders get in the league and never pan out. It has nothing to do with ability; it's more the confidence – that's the biggest thing. Once that confidence goes away, it's something that's very tough to get it back, especially at this level. Every wide receiver, I feel like, what makes a lot of them great is the confidence they have. They might drop a pass here [or] drop a pass there, but the next time they go up, they're thinking, 'This is going to be my catch. This is going to be my ball.' So, to see that out of [Rashod] Bateman, it just showed me the confidence he has. After guarding him throughout OTAs and minicamp the other day, I've seen some serious flashes. I told [executive vice president and general manager Eric] DeCosta, I was like, 'Hey, man. I think we got a pretty good one in Bateman.' So, he's shown some really good things to me. I can't wait to get some more battles with him in training camp and take it into the season."
G/C Bradley Bozeman
For your snaps … And I know with the Pistol [formation] snaps, they have to be a certain way. How much did you practice that this offseason, even before you came into OTAs? (Jamison Hensley) "A ton – we just continued to practice. [Offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris] 'Coach D,' he's kept us … Since I've been here, we've always stayed after and snapped. We've always stayed up on our snaps. We've always just made sure that everyone was ready for that opportunity when it became available. And no matter who it was, whoever went down, whatever person had to step in, those snaps were always ready. So, continued that tread over the offseason. Got back here and continued to do even more snaps and just trying to get that muscle memory and all that good stuff going. We're just working away and trying to get it right."
Just how comfortable do you feel in your move back to center? (Ryan Mink) "I love the transition back to center. I played since high school, really. And I've always felt like that was my strong suit. I've always felt like that's where I kind of dominate – in that tighter area. I'm a very intelligent person, I feel like – especially when it comes to football. But just continue to learn the playbook, progress, learn the protections, learn all the crazy different fronts that our defense gives us and try to block those. If you can block our defense, you can block any defense in the league. So, just excited to have that opportunity to continue to grow every single day, and just work through this minicamp, through OTAs [and] everything, and then when we get back to training camp."
There was kind of a new story this offseason where a former Buffalo Bills general manager said the importance of the center position is kind of overlooked, just because of how important it is for you guys to get the pre-snap issues sorted with the complexity of the modern passing game and everything. With you stepping into that role now at the NFL level, what have you learned about what is required of that job? (Jonas Shaffer) "I feel like it was kind of the same way – at least at Alabama. It was big on the center [position]. The center was responsible for the 'Mike points' [identifying the middle linebacker], declaring the fronts, sliding the protections, re-miking, coming up with solutions on the fly. So, coming here, it's pretty much the same thing. Just the different fronts, the varying defensive looks you get, knowing exactly what [offensive coordinator Greg Roman] 'G-Ro' wants to get to, what we want to pick up, which most dangerous six we want to pick up in certain protections. I feel like it's pretty similar. Just trying to continue to work and make it better and better."
At the end of last season in your exit meeting, did they – at that time – did the coaches say to you that [the] center [position] was going to be a strong possibility going into this year? And if you did have that conversation at that time, what was your immediate reaction? Or was there an immediate excitement? (Childs Walker) "We've always known, pretty much since I came here, we knew there was a possibility of me playing center at some point. So, I always stayed ready. And then we got back and Coach [Harbaugh] said I would be at the starting center [position] for right now. We're continuing to work and try to work out those kinks and just be the best player that I could possibly be and just get ready for the season."
I remember Buccaneers QB Tom Brady earlier in the year mentioned how hard it's going to be with all these [jersey] numbers changing around. ILB Patrick Queen wearing number six; ILB LJ Fort with number three. Does that present a challenge for you looking for a guy to block who's got a single digit on? (Kirk McEwen) "It's just film study. You've got to know your guys; you've got to know who you're going against. That's the biggest thing. I understand that point, but at the end of the day, you've got to study your people, you've got to know who's in the box, you've got to know who you're most dangerous guys are to take care of – and it's kind of that simple."
Good to see you, and certainly a resident nice guy on the offensive side of the ball. There are a lot of nice guys that seem outwardly on the defensive side of the ball as well. DE Calais Campbell, DT Brandon Williams, CB Marlon Humphrey, ILB Patrick Queen: Do they need to be meaner? (Pete Gilbert) "I think they do a pretty good job. They keep it light off the field; they keep it fun during practice. Just kind of light where you're not all tensed up, you're not all just a ball of nerves. You see those guys kind of goofing around, messing around. But when it comes to football, it's time to work. So, that's the biggest thing … When it's time to work, it's time to work. When it's time to play, it's time to play."
Coach John Harbaugh was kind of joking around with us, but kind of not, a little earlier about keeping an eye on you and if the snaps go high or low, kind of telling you about it. Because he said there's been some issues the past couple of years with snaps. He was kind of joking around, but seriously, there has been. How much do you feel, I guess, kind of the eyes on you the last four weeks of OTAs and minicamp? (Shawn Stepner) "It all starts with the center – it all starts there. We've had some issues in the past, but things happen. No one is perfect. But it's just a consistency thing. We've got to continue to be consistent, continue to get your hands on the ball, snapping the ball, doing the right mechanics. Making sure you're doing your job to the best of your ability, and that's the biggest thing right now. That's all that I can control. I can't control the past. I can only control the future from here on out. So, I'm just going to continue to try to stay consistent and just stay in my motor development and mechanics."
Just wondering as you enter the final year of your contract, does an extension enter your mind at all? Have there been any talks about that to your knowledge? How much would like to be that center that stays here for a long time? (Ryan Mink) "I'm here to play good football. Whatever it is, whatever is going on, that's between the front office and my agent. I'm here to play winning football. That's my only priority right now – is to make sure that I'm playing the best that Bradley Bozeman can play and making sure that my team and that position is in [good] hands, and just continue to grow as a player and continue to try to make my name in this league. And whatever happens at the end of the day happens, but we're just going to continue to play winning football and that's the main priority there."
I know the intensity is going to ratchet-up in training camp, but what has impressed you so far about T Alejandro Villanueva making the switch from right tackle to left tackle look pretty seamless? (Jonas Shaffer) "The guy is huge. I was sitting there talking to him and I'm looking up at him. (laughter) But the guy is massive. So, he's just a big body in there, he's an athlete, [he] gets after it, great pass-setter, good run-blocker. We're just really excited to see what happens when the pads go on."