G BEN BREDESON
I understand that you do have a photographic memory; has that helped you? I'm assuming you have a whole playbook. And, what are your thoughts about the possibility of playing center or stepping in at right guard where Marshal Yanda used to play? (David Ginsburg) "I've just always been able to remember things well off pages. I don't know if it's ever been tested as a photographic memory or anything, but I have a great memory with it, so it's always helped with learning plays and learning new schemes. I feel comfortable at all interior spots – left guard, center, right guard. I'm just going to go wherever I'll fit best for the team."
Have you guys received the playbook as of yet, and have you studied it? And, do you feel like you have to learn a lot of positions given the holes that the Ravens have? (David Ginsburg) "Yes, I started last week going over the playbook and learning everything. I have a good grasp of it. I feel like we're getting there. Working with the offensive line, it's always beneficial to know what everybody is doing so you can – like you said – play in multiple spots and know what the guy next to you is doing. I'm just learning the plays completely through, and that will give me the opportunity to play multiple positions on the line."
Going from one [coach] Harbaugh to another, do you sense the similarities, or are you already seeing a lot of differences in just your brief tenure with the older one, John? (Pete Gilbert) "There are a lot of similarities. Each of them has their own tweaks to how they run their own program, but you can definitely see a lot of glaring similarities between the two. The way the playbook is set-up, the way the program is being run, their mannerisms; a lot of them are the same. It's comforting for me knowing that I'm still in the Harbaugh family."
What do you think your biggest adjustment is going to be going from college to pro – from Michigan to the Ravens? (Todd Karpovich) "I think the speed of the game, and I think that's a common answer for most people. Everybody is bigger, faster and stronger at the next level, so the faster I can adjust to that and start playing consistently at that level, the better off I'll be."
Have you spoken to Coach Jim Harbaugh at Michigan since you got drafted, and what's been his advice to you on playing for his brother in Baltimore? (Aaron McMann) "Yes, we spoke right after the pick came in. We talked a little bit that night and he told me to do what I did in Ann Arbor and everything will transfer." … (inaudible) …
We heard the story about your mom and showing dogs, on draft night. So, my question is; is she who you got your competitiveness from, and who is more competitive? (Ryan Mink) "I think it might be [from] part of her, and it could be from growing up with three boys in the house. My older brother is only 18 months older than I am, so obviously, there was a lot of sibling rivalry growing up there. We grew up in a competitive house, and she is big in the field trial world – it's a lot like hunting simulations with dogs and retrieving birds. That's her passion, and she's extremely competitive in that. My dad played college football at Illinois State, so we always grew up in a very competitive and athletically driven house. When you have three boys and none of them want to lose to each other, it's a catalyst. We're all super competitive here, and they're my best friends and my biggest rivals at the same time."
Just wondering your thoughts on the Ravens' offensive line, specifically the interior. Obviously, G Marshal Yanda leaves and C Matt Skura is on the way back from injury, but how much have you studied the offensive line here in Baltimore and your thoughts? (Shawn Stepner) "Obviously, with Marshal Yanda leaving … He's a legend, and I've been watching him for years and years. Being able to play on the same team that he once played on is kind of surreal; it's a very cool feeling. The offensive line for Baltimore was outstanding last year. I think there are a lot of quality guys there – very, very talented players, and I'm just honored to be working with them now."
By all accounts, this year is one of the best draft classes. Do you feel any pressure because this draft class is so good? Have you thought about it? Have you talked to the other members of the class about it? (Kirk McEwen) "No, I don't feel really any pressure. It's just very exciting. Looking down the lineup of all the guys from the draft class that I had the thrill of being a part of, there are a lot of studs up and down the board at many different positions. I'm just going to be really excited to come in with these guys and see what we can do."
You started four years at Michigan. Is it especially important to you to compete for a starting job right away, and why do you think you might be more prepared than maybe some other rookies to do so? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I think it's important for everybody to play. We play this game to win games and get on the field, and I'm going to do whatever I can to help the O-line and to help the team. So, whether that's starting or in a backup role, this team is trying to win a championship, and I'm going to do whatever I can to help push that goal forward."
With social distancing being what it is right now, there's talk about a potentially shortened on-field offseason workout for you guys. How are you going to try to gain an edge in what could be a competition for a starting job? (Matthew Stevens) "We just have to deal with the hand that we're given. These are uncertain times, and everybody is in the same boat – social distancing, staying home, and just trying to find a way to get their work in any way they can. So, it's going to be tough for everybody coming back, but I think we all know what we are supposed to be doing. All we can do is keep going with the plan and wait this thing out."
What do you feel is your greatest strength as a blocker? I know there was some pre-draft chatter about your arm length being on a little bit of the shorter end of a lot of prospects. How do you make up for that, because obviously you were super consistent in college? (Ryan Mink) "I think one of my strengths is my strength, and being able to move people off the line is something I really take pride in. Compared to some other guys, yes, I'm on the shorter end of the spectrum [with arm length] … (inaudible) … and lock them down in closer quarters. I've played with the same arm length my whole career, so I find a way to make it work, and it's never really been an issue for me."
What do you think It's going to be like to get to camp and compete against guys like DL Calais Campbell, DE Derek Wolfe and DT Brandon Williams on the front line? Also, how do you feel about going to a team that runs the ball as much as the Ravens do? (Cliff Brown) "Running the ball is … Every offensive lineman loves running the football. And, coming to a team like Baltimore, where that's such a heavy emphasis, it's really exciting, and I couldn't have picked a better offense to be drafted to. I'm just really excited to get there and start competing. Like you said, these are guys that we all grew up watching, and it's very exciting to have these stars on the defensive line that you get to go up against every single day. It's going to make me better, and hopefully I can make them better. It's great for practice and camp – going into that realm – and as it transitions into the games, it's really nice knowing that you have those guys on your defensive line on your team, who can get those stops and get you the ball back."
Obviously, you haven't had a chance to block for him, but have you asked about what it's like to try and block for QB Lamar Jackson, who is just a singularly unique, special talent back there? There are some challenges that come along with it that you couldn't have prepared for. (Pete Gilbert) "No. He's a remarkable player, and I'm beyond excited to start working with him. It'll be something different for me – having a guy that's so athletic and so skilled back there. It's going to be exciting and I really can't wait to start playing with him."
Have you played any position besides guard? Are you willing to play center if that's called? (Kevin Richardson) "Yes, I played all five spots in practice. In-game, I strictly played left guard at Michigan, but I feel comfortable at really any of those interior three spots. Obviously, center is included with that, so [I] 100 percent would be comfortable playing there."
Another guy you'll be blocking for is RB J.K. Dobbins. I know not all your memories of him are pleasant, but can you talk about what kind of player you saw from the opposite sideline, and what do you think it will be like blocking for him? (Cliff Brown) "Listen, whenever we played them, I just heard the name, 'J.K. Dobbins,' going over the loudspeaker over-and-over again. So, I'm happy that I'll be blocking for him now, because he's done enough damage against me."
WR JAMES PROCHE
I'm just curious as to what you're doing to get used to the playbook, stay in shape, and how much are you looking forward to catching that first pass from QB Lamar [Jackson]? (David Ginsburg) "I'm just studying on my own. My mom is in nursing school right now, so I'm kind of feeding off of her study habits, doing some stuff that she does for memorization. I've just been working – taking a lot of notes, using a lot of notecards, staying on my iPad. I'm excited to get to Baltimore and kind of put my foot on the ground and hit the ground running. I'm just ready to get to work. There's no glitz and glamour about me. [I'm] just ready to get up there and do my job."
Have you been in contact with QB Lamar [Jackson] at all, and how excited are you for that prospect? (David Ginsburg) "No, I haven't been in contact with him yet. But like I said, I'm excited to get to work. I'm not really excited about any individual. I'm excited about what our team as a whole can do. I'm just ready to go in, see where I fit in and do my part to the best of my ability."
I was wondering what's a normal day look like for you and the rest of the rookies here? How much time do you devote to the online, virtual stuff with Coach [John Harbaugh], and [offensive coordinator Greg] Roman, and all that stuff? (Shawn Stepner) "I wake up in the morning – about 6:30 a.m. – 7 a.m – so I can get to my workout on time. Then I'll come back home, eat, and I put in about two to two-and-a-half hours depending on my understanding of what I'm trying to learn that day. I'll spend probably 30-45 minutes with my special teams' assignments, trying to get those down. And then I'll have another workout. Then I come home, eat, and kind of do the same thing – have another hour-and-a-half to two-hour session on my plays – and just rinse and repeat."
One-hundred and eleven balls for 1,225 yards – did you get double-teamed? Did coaches try to take you away? How were you able to get so many balls? Where does that "want-to" come from? (Kirk McEwen) "For sure, I got a lot a double-teams, a lot of triple-teams, even to the boundary, to the field. But we had a lot of weapons on the field: [SMU running back] Xavier Jones in the backfield. We had [SMU wide receivers] Reggie [Roberson, Jr.] on the other side, Myron Gailliard, Judah Bell, Tyler Page, Rashee Rice – the freshman who stepped up for us. We had a lot of guys who kind of took the attention off me. We made plays when we needed to. Also, my OC [Rhett Lashlee] did a good job of moving me around, getting me in good matchups. But what it boils down to is that I'm a competitor. That's what they're going to put on my gravestone. That's something that I've always thrived off of, is competition. The higher the returns, the higher I rise. If it's one-on-one, I'm going to come ready for one-on-one. If it's one-on-two or one-on-three, I'm going to come ready. I'm just going to do my job to the highest level and keep it black and white."
It's an honor and an accomplishment, for anyone, to get drafted. Within the group of guys who get drafted, if you were a lower-round pick, some guys take that as an extra motivation. What's your perspective on where you were picked and whether that matters going forward? (Mark Viviano) "I try to keep a long-term mindset of things, kind of look at the bigger picture. The greatest player to play this game was pick [No.] 199 [QB Tom Brady, 2000 NFL Draft]. So, I try to take that mindset and look at his [Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady] journey and kind of map that out. God has never made any mistakes in my life, even good or bad. I try to keep a good perspective. At the end of the day, I got drafted – that's what I prayed for, that's what I worked for. Now, it's up to me to take care of the rest and make sure that I outplay my draft spot. That's my plan."
I'm curious, when you think of your game being physical, is that something you did much of at SMU, and is that something you feel as if it can be positive in your game? (Pete Gilbert) "For sure, yes, somebody alluded to that 'want-to' earlier and kind of where that comes from. I said I'm a competitor, and I just want to compete. When the ball is thrown my way, I just want to compete. Every play, every down, whether we're 40 yards down field or coming down the slot and putting my body into a linebacker so Mark [Ingram II] and J.K. [Dobbins] can spring. I'm going to come in and do my job, whatever the team needs me to do, at a high level.
"Basically, it just comes down to competitiveness and 'want-to.' I try to compete in every aspect of my game – whether if you want me at pass protection, or punt return, or kick return, slot, outside – whatever you need me to do – I'm going to compete. Blocking is a huge part of the game. I like claiming myself as a complete receiver, and that comes with it. If there's something to be good at in the wide receiver position, I want to do it to a high level."
You're known for not having that many drops throughout your career. Have you always had great hands? Is that something that comes naturally? Or where do you think your consistency catching the ball really comes from? (Jamison Hensley) "Just a combination of a gift from God and work ethic. I had an interview earlier and somebody asked the same question. A pianist only gets great at the piano by playing the piano, and that's kind of how I see me catching the ball. You have to keep catching the ball in any types of ways, in any situations, so that you're prepared. Kobe Bryant always alluded to, 'You can never shoot too many jump shots.' Always keeping your knife sharp, and just make sure you're staying ready and staying consistent. To be good in anything, it takes consistency, and that's something I try to thrive on."
You've talked a lot about your competitiveness and your work ethic. So, you're doing what you can, but obviously, your desire would be to be on the field right now. Do you feel like there's going to be – especially for a rookie receiver – any sort of difficulty, challenge, ground to make up at this position when you're not out there with QB Lamar Jackson and the rest of your guys? (Mark Viviano) "Yes, for sure. You're going into a new situation, new people. It's going to take an acclimation period, but I just control what I can control. That's kind of been my whole life motto. I put in the work where it's needed, study where needed so whenever I can get up to Baltimore and get on the field and get with the guys, I'm not missing a beat. Just kind of fit in wherever they need me to adjust or add to my game, I can do that. But at least I already have the things that I can control: my conditioning, my study habits, all of those things are things that I can control."
I'm just wondering your thoughts on your draft class, and specifically getting drafted with WR Devin Duvernay. If you look at the stats from college football this year, right at the top in receptions are you and Devin. So, your thoughts on Devin and the rest of your class? (Shawn Stepner) "Devin [Duvernay] is a great dude. He handles his business, [he's a] great competitor. Obviously, [he] doesn't drop the ball, which is something I admire. I actually … The last game of the season, one of their bowl games – I forgot who they played – I was tracking every catch he had, every catch, just to make sure I had my receptions record for the year. I'm excited to get with him. It's funny that … I was watching all year, because I knew he was on track to lead the country in receptions, which he did for a little while. But I'm just excited we're teammates now and I'm looking forward to competing and keep getting better."
You mentioned earlier that you're going out to a field to work out. What are you able to do? Are you able to still catch passes with social distancing and stuff? What's that like? Can you take us through an average workout for you? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I'm doing everything I was before. I have my (inaudible) quarterback I get to come throw for me. It's not like he's throwing right by me or I'm right next to him. We're at least six feet away throwing the ball, so we'll be fine. I work out with my little brother. He plays corner at Coffeyville in Kansas, a junior college. We're just kind of getting some live reps with each other, making sure our conditioning is right. Kind of like getting back to the basics, grinding like I was trying to get an offer in college. Just back to the basics, that's really it."
Playing the piano, huh? Do you sing? Is there something else that fans need to know about you? (Ximena Lugo Latorre) "I take pictures, sometimes. Yes, I take pictures. I try to do a lot of film. Something that I'm working on. To be great at anything, it takes, like I said, consistency. That's not really something I can give my all to right now, being newly drafted and trying to get the plays down. But once I get a little free time to kind of do what I want, I'm probably going to put some attention on photography."
Just wondering, part of the reason the Ravens picked you was because of your return ability. How much do you enjoy that aspect of the game? Do you envision yourself competing for punt and kick return duties? (Ryan Mink) "I love punt return. I really just love catching the ball. Anything that involves catching the ball and go make a play, that's more what I do. As far as punt return goes, that's something I feel comfortable [with], kind of being back there alone, having full control, judge the ball and showcase my abilities once I catch the ball. I'm extremely excited about being put in that role with the Ravens organization. Like I said, I'm going to perform it to the best of my ability."
You didn't run the 40-[yard dash] at the Combine. Can you tell us what your 40 time would be? (Ryan Mink) "Yes, I'd probably run in the 4.5 [seconds] range, somewhere around there."
How much did you talk to teams about the kidney issue you had? How did that kind of change the course of your life and your career? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I talked to every team about the issue, just to let them know that it wasn't an issue. I've never missed a practice or a game at SMU for that reason, for any reason. I just wanted to reiterate that to teams. As for as in my life, I try to see things as they are and move on from them and see the lessons that I can learn. And the lesson that I learned from that is I've always tried to put my Superman cape on – whether it was in pads or out of pads – I've never showed any weakness, and that was the moment to where I had to learn to really lean on my family, the people around me that care about me, and just giving all my trust to God. I feel like as football players and athletes, we tend to call on invincibility. God tends to show you and humble you in ways that you didn't even expect. So, I just take it as that."
S GENO STONE
What have you been doing during this virtual offseason? And how do you project your role with the Ravens? Do you think you can get into that backfield rotation immediately, or do you see special teams off the bat? (David Ginsburg) "As of right now, I just try to practice social distancing as much as I can. I'm trying to stay away from as many people as I can, just be around my immediate family. So, I've just been working out in my gym back at home. I found a couple places where I can work out and be by myself and not have too many people around me, so I've been doing all that. As for my role this year, I just hope I can make an impact wherever I can for the team to win no matter where it is – special teams, defensive backfield. My mindset – I want to be in the defensive backfield, but at the same time, I know where I have to start out: special teams. That's where I started out in college, and I made a name for myself. So, I definitely plan on going in, playing special teams in all four phases, wherever they need me at. So, that's probably where I'm definitely going to get ready to go first."
Everybody said you were a steal in the seventh round. How was it sitting there for so long? And is there a little chip on your shoulder to show all the other 31 teams that kept passing you up? (Kirk McEwen) "Yes, sitting there that long was kind of stressful. I'm not going to lie; I didn't even watch the sixth round at all. I was really just sitting in my room waiting for my phone call if I ever got one. That whole sixth round, I didn't watch it at all. Then I decided to watch the seventh round. It definitely puts a chip on my shoulder. I mean, I always had one my whole life. I've always been overlooked and been an underdog. I know what I have to do to be on the field. I just need an opportunity. Getting selected in the NFL Draft is a dream come true. But all I needed was an opportunity to get my foot in the door, and I'm going to show why I should stick and last in the NFL."
How exciting is it to come in and learn from a guy like S Earl Thomas III back there? (Todd Karpovich) "It's crazy. I was sitting with my mentor, Will Allen. I'm pretty sure everyone knows him. But I was sitting with him and I was talking, and I was like, 'I hope I get drafted somewhere with a great mentor. A Will Allen, Tyrann Mathieu or Earl Thomas – someone like that.' It was crazy, because once I got the phone call from the Ravens ... Just to learn from a guy like that who's been playing for so many years, playing at a high level, won a Super Bowl, everything like that … It just checks all the boxes of that's someone you want to learn from. You want to follow in their footsteps."
Another guy on the Ravens who was a late round draft pick and is now a starting safety and, in fact, just got a contract extension is S Chuck Clark. Is that someone you look to and say, 'Alight, he's been where I am. I want to get to where he is.' Have you already called him or talked to him? Do you look at him as like, 'That's the path'? (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, that's someone I definitely want to look up to. No, I haven't been in contact with any of the DBs yet really, but that's someone I definitely want to look up to, someone I want to learn from. That's just an example of no matter where you were drafted or whatever it is, just going to work is really going to show if you play or not. So, that's someone I'm going to look up to, someone I'm going to try to learn from. But at the same time, it's a business. I'm going to have to do it by myself. It's my job now."
Obviously, people are selling you short in some way. You have the numbers, so what do you think the critics see? What are their knocks on you that you think you're going to prove them wrong about? And you've said that you have an instinct for the ball. Where do you think that instinct of being a playmaker comes from? (Cliff Brown) "People are going to look at the measurables. That's what everyone looks at. They say 5'10" and three fourths, whatever it is, my arm length, whatever. But if you see me in person, I definitely don't look 5'10". That's how I feel. But at the same time, I wear my heart on my sleeve, and you can't measure heart. So, every time I'm on the field, that's where all my instinctive things come out, like you said. That's the biggest part of my game – how instinctive I am for the game of football. My football IQ, everything like that, and I go 100 percent every time I'm on the field. You can't really define what a person is or if they're giving 100 percent on the field. And it's hard to take me off the field once you see me doing the things that I'm going to do out there. And I feel like I get all my instinctive things from playing baseball growing up. I played center fielder. So, just me being back there trying to read the ball off the bat, everything like that, that's where I kind of get all my instinctive abilities from."
You mentioned having a chip on your shoulder about getting drafted later. Does that extend back to your high school experience? I know some of those in-state schools [in Pennsylvania] were interested but never offered [a scholarship]. (Aaron Kasinitz) "Yes, definitely. That's definitely something I think about all the time, some of the adversity I had to get through. I've been hit with a lot of adversity throughout my whole life, and I overcame it a lot. So, it's just something that's been put on my plate that I'm going to have to get over again, and I'm ready for it. I'm ready for the whole opportunity for me to play with the Ravens organization. I'm thankful for that, but at the same time, I have to go out there and prove why I should be playing."
You said multiple times during this conversation that you want to be on the field and prove yourself. When that opportunity is now being delayed, how difficult is that for you since you can't be out on the field proving yourself? (Mark Viviano) "Yes, it's hard, but at the same time, this is where the best part of my game, I feel like, comes into effect. Where I can [have an] advantage [over] people is learning the mental part of the game. This is where you really have to study the playbook. Especially me being a rookie coming in, I have to learn a whole new playbook. This is where I should separate myself from the others coming in, trying to learn the playbook, get a head start, everything like that. So, I just have to take full advantage of this opportunity I have right now – learning and communicating with the coaches and everything like that. So, that's probably where I should take my game to the next level right now is the mental part."
Earlier we heard G Ben Bredeson talk about how frustrating it was to deal with RB J.K. Dobbins [in college]. You went against him as well [in college]. What does it mean now to have him on your side? I assume that's somewhat comforting. (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, he's a great running back. The things he's done throughout his whole career – those are things that people in Ohio State history haven't done. His stats and everything speak for itself. I played against him my freshman year. I didn't get that much playing time, but just watching him go out there and perform as a freshman doing it at a high level, it was crazy. It's a great thing to have on my team."
Looking back at your college recruitment, one of the things that stuck out was your hesitation at first to leave your mom there in Pennsylvania. How difficult was that decision even once you got the offer from Iowa? (Jonas Shaffer) "That was a hard thing. Like I said earlier, I grew up in a single-parent household. That's the only person I really had as my support system growing up. I had a bunch more people, but that was who I was closest to. And once I got the, 'OK,' from her to tell me to go chase my dreams, that was something she wanted me to always do. I know it was hard for her to tell me to go, but just seeing her being that strong to let her son go 10 hours away from home, away from her to chase his dreams, it really helped me a lot and I felt way more comfortable to be able to go there."
How did your relationship with your mother change in those four years away at Iowa? (Jonas Shaffer) "I felt like we had a stronger bond. She called me every day. We talked like literally every day. She called me when I didn't want to talk to her, when I was busy doing things. But I love my mom. I know she cares about me that much, and it motivates me a lot more because I know what I want to do to give back to her."
How tough was it to not get the offer from Penn State? And how good did that pick-six feel [at Penn State in 2018]? (Ryan Mink) "It was kind of tough, but at the same time, I feel like everything happens for a reason. Iowa came in at the right moment, and everything just fell into my hands at that time. I fell into a great system, something that fit my play. And then when I went back to Happy Valley, I got the pick-six. Reality hit me all at once, and it was crazy. A bunch of things went through my mind going through the past, walking out, seeing all different people, watching them. It just hit me like I was where I was supposed to be at. God brought me to the right place. So, it was crazy, but at the same time, it was humbling. And I'm blessed to be where I was."
Everybody in your draft class has been affected by the coronavirus. As you're working out staying in shape, how much do you think about, 'When are we going to get to camp? When's the season going to start? Is there going to be a season?' How do you deal with all that? (Cliff Brown) "I feel like I'm training for the offseason no matter what. Like you said, you don't know when things are going to happen, but I just want to stay at the top of my game, make sure I stay in shape and everything like that. You just have to take it like it's the only thing you have. I just try to go out every day, make sure I get my work, don't take any shortcuts. This is a time where if people take a bunch of shortcuts, they could decline in most of the things they do. If you don't make sure your body is in shape, that's when people get hurt and things like that. So, just making sure you take care of your body, put good things in your body as you eat and everything like that."
What is the program like for you guys right now? What's the routine? What are coaches doing with you guys? How are you getting up to speed? (Ryan Mink) "We haven't really started minicamp or anything like that, but I had a couple meetings with my position coach and special teams coordinator so far. So, that's a couple things I had so far, just meeting [coaches] face-to-face, getting a feel for the playbook. That's really the only thing I've done so far. I can't speak on the other things yet, because I really don't know. I'll find out more probably later in the week."