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Transcripts: Ravens Offseason Strength & Conditioning Program (4/17)


Opening Statement: "As you all know, [on] Monday, we started the offseason program. [We] had a great turnout, and it's been awesome. Today is Wednesday, so you have the natural high on Monday, and you're riding that, and emotionally, you get geared back up to finish the week strong and continue Phase One. So, [in] Phase One, we love – I'm talking from a biased point of view – strength and conditioning. That's when we get time on the field with the guys, time in the weight room. On [the] field, we're working everything from max acceleration or max velocity, acceleration, change of direction, [deceleration] and then into tissue prep with conditioning, cardiovascular conditioning that's going to carry us through Phase One into Phase Two, OTAs [organized team activities] and then minicamp. In the weight room, we're working on structural balance, so we're really trying to build a base – so front to back, left to right – [and] something we can lay down as the foundation to go into more of a power phase, take us into minicamp and a successful 2024 season. So, I'm excited. It's been a great turnout. We've had a lot of fun with it. The guys are working their tails off, and [I] can't wait to keep going. [Are] there any questions?"

What is the core philosophy of the program, as you build it out, starting now and throughout the entire season? (Garrett Downing) "So, with the core philosophy, it all comes back to really what you hear Coach [John] Harbaugh say throughout the year: We want to be the strongest team in the NFL, and yes, in Week One, but in December and then even beyond. December football means the most, but that's what carries us into the playoffs. So, that is the baseline for our core philosophy. So, what we're doing now – when I say structural balance – [is] we're really trying to ... I look at these guys as skyscrapers, in the sense of, they're larger than life, so with that – with a skyscraper – you've got to dig down deep, [and] you've got to have a foundation that supports that. So, you can talk injury prevention, you talk performance, [and] you can talk all these things, but what it comes down to is what we do out here, and especially in the weight room, makes them the best version of themselves out on the field. That's what it all comes down to."

Your job – fairly or unfairly – often is judged mostly by injury aversion. What's your philosophy regarding that, and how do you handle that? (Kyle Phoenix) "You can't be the best version of yourself if you're not available to play. So, there's an old saying that the greatest ability in football is availability, and second to that is repeatability; can you do it time and time again? There are a couple [of] things that play into that: Strength through full ranges of motion – I put a high priority on – and then, in a controlled environment, putting them in positions and in places that we can strengthen, so that when they're put in it out in a dynamic environment, they've been there before, because injury can occur when the body is put in places that it hadn't been before, and it's got to react. So, we're trying to kind of train that, to a degree."

How important is it for these guys to arrive already in shape and hit the ground running? (Todd Karpovich) "Oh, it's great. And again, you're talking to a biased opinion here, but 'The Raven Way.' We've got ... The guys have come in in phenomenal shape, so that allows us to kind of start one step ahead of maybe where you'd have to start elsewhere – start more basic. So, it's of huge value, and then it allows us to kind of progress more efficiently, leading into Phase Two and then to Phase Three, when there are OTAs [organized team activities] and then minicamp."

How do you work with guys who have offseason programs or professional trainers? How do you mesh your program with what they're doing? (Kevin Richardson) "Yes, we sit down with the guys as they come back, and we go through an audit [and] what they're looking to gain out of this program – our program, because when we say, 'our program,' it's not the strength staff's program; it's collectively, it's [all of] our program. So, we're looking at what they've done, whether they were away for the last eight weeks or ... Really, a lot of times, we'll be in communication with the trainer that they're working with, so that we know [what they're doing], so that we can either advance what they're doing, we can redirect [or] we can work together on it to kind of help meet the needs of the athlete."

Nobody bats 1.000, but you guys had a pretty good year on the injury front. How do you balance trying to stay cutting edge and push things forward without tinkering with stuff that worked really well last year on that front? (Jeff Zrebiec) "You're always looking to progress, but you also ... Kind of to [senior director of social media] Garrett [Downing]'s point of the core foundation, you want to stay true to ... We had a great year in that regard, [and] we had great preparation. Really, to maybe even be more specific in that answer, my word for them this week was 'intent.' I said, 'Last year was effort and energy. Bring the effort, bring your energy; we match it.' This year was 'intensity,' but we talked about it in the sense of, 'How do you get to intensity? It's not the rah-rah, it's not the one-rep max; it's your level of intent.' So, I think that's how we take it this year. What we were able to kind of accomplish last year, and with a high level of intent or tenacious intent to make intensity, that's where we can be specific. We individualize the programs; we make it customized to them to give them the best opportunity to – again – be the best version of themselves out on the field."

What's the energy like right now amongst the team? What are they building on in this phase? (Valerie Preactor) "Energy is high with an edge would be the simplest way to say it. Obviously, you have the ability to reflect back on last year during the offseason, and guys have come back with high energy, because they know the path that we kind of ventured down as a group. We've got a large portion of the team back, [and] we've got great additions, so there's an edge to it in the sense of taking the next step."

Other than the low injury rate, what do you think are some of the biggest successes you guys had last year that you want to build off of? (Giana Han) "I would say [that] building off the successes last year is the engagement with the weight room, [and] the players understanding that we're here to work for them and with them. But we talk about the customization of the workouts, and then we talk about different recovery modalities that we've implemented with the guys through training camp [and] throughout the year. And then we kind of reworked – we tweaked [it] last year, and we've continued to tweak it this year – how we approach our programming. Our programming is still as consistent as it ever has been over the last handful of years, but we lead into it much more with a [cared] approach with mobility and activation focus, and then we get into our primary movers. And what that's kind of built on or built for us is players having that intent – when we get to the work – of what the work is focused on, so [that] they feel ready, [and] they attack it. That allows for us to grow it."

RB Derrick Henry is a notorious workout legend. What's that process been like with him, and how do you kind of manage him, given his age and workload over the years? (Brian Wacker) "I'd like to take credit for that – I wish." (laughter) "So, Derrick [Henry] was here on Monday, yesterday and today. And when you get past just the awe factor of [him being] 'as advertised' [with] everything you see – and we played him last year, and of course, have seen him over the years ... But to see him in here running [and] lifting ... I go back to the word intent; he attacks everything with such a high level of intent – intent with tenacity. That's why he's Derrick Henry. That's why what we're going to help him do is keep that same trajectory. He's had one heck of a career, [and] our goal is that it gets even better from here. [It's] not [about] age, not years of service – none of that. He keeps getting better and better, and it's his work ethic. I mean, that was evident the last 72 hours – it's immediate. The guy has a high level of focus, he prioritizes his body, he works extremely hard, and that's what going to continue."

QB Lamar Jackson is a guy that people follow and want to be around. How much does his involvement kind of lift the level and the expectations of the room? (Jeff Zrebiec) "[Lamar Jackson] is a magnet; everybody sees it. You see it, kind of, [in] the media, [and] you see Lamar out on the field; he's a magnet. But in the weight room, out here running, [and] how physically gifted he is, is one aspect of it, but his personality that's paired with it, guys are drawn to it. And then there's the competitive nature in all of us. I'd say [that] all of us in the building are drawn to Lamar's personality. So, having him engaged with us and bought in, it's been incredible."

I think people saw QB Lamar Jackson come into the building looking a little bit lean. How much is it even worth reading into someone's physical appearance at this point on the calendar? (Jonas Shaffer) "Lamar [Jackson] coming in on Monday ... Everybody is talking about being lean ... Lamar is in great shape, and what it's allowing us to do – and I just got done with a training session with him before coming out here – is to add lean muscle on top of it. We did shoulder conditioning today to help him be the elite quarterback that he is. So, I would say this: I've never been more excited in April for Lamar Jackson."


On his impressions as the offseason program gets started and he's getting to know his new teammates: "Yes. It's been fun getting to know everybody, putting the work in. It's something that I love to do. Everybody has been putting the work in all week, been working hard, just talking and getting to know each other, so it's fun. I'm the new guy on the block, so it's different, but it's been fun."

On if it was important for him to be here for the voluntary portions of this offseason program and why it was important: "Yes, definitely. I'm the new guy, so I want to make sure that I show up and I show my team and show this organization [that] I'm here, I'm committed, I want to come work and want to put the work in and be around my teammates and develop that relationship with them and really just put the work in and work as hard as I can when I'm in the building."

On if it's strange to be in a new building after being in Tennessee his whole career, or if there's any part of it that feels odd or reinvigorating: "It's different. I was [in Tennessee] for eight years, so it's going to be some adjusting, but I'm excited. It's a new opportunity [and] a great opportunity for me. [I'm] excited to be part of this organization, be around my teammates, come in, put the work in, learn everything, and sometimes change is good sometimes. I'm excited, and it's been fun these last couple of days."

On what's been his impression of WR Zay Flowers as he's starting to get to know Zay and build that relationship: "Zay [Flowers] has kind of like that veteran presence. He has great energy, is always out here flying around [and] working hard. We all got to go to dinner last night [to] get to know them. He's a Florida boy. I'm a Florida boy, so it's kind of easy [when] we have the Florida roots."

On what his interactions with QB Lamar Jackson have been like and how excited he is to keep getting to know him better: "Lamar [Jackson] is a cool guy. You can tell he's a great leader by how everybody flocks to him. He comes out here, he has great energy, as well, [and] he works when he's here. [I've] only been around him for a little bit, but [he] seems like a great guy. His body of work speaks for itself."

On if there is a new level of excitement when he actually gets in the building and around all his teammates or if there is anything that has surprised him as he gets started: "No, not really. I was excited to be here, be around them and get to work and get to know everybody. I'm not getting too caught up on things that are in the future, but just focus on the present right now and just put the work in with them, get to know them, earn my respect from them and then let everything [transpire] as time goes on."

On the process moving from his offseason training to working with strength & conditioning coordinator Scott Elliott the last couple of weeks: "It's been good for me. I love working out, I love training, I love staying in shape, so that comes naturally to me, in terms of doing those things. Then, coming here, getting adjusted and seeing the things that they do, seeing the other guys go through it and me just doing those things. [I'm] just trying to fit in and getting to know them and [have] them getting to know me, but still, work is work at the end of the day."

On how he liked the "King Henroll" at Jimmy's Famous Seafood: "It was fire. It was good. I had to go try that. It was really good, so they did a good job with that one."

On the things that drive and motivate him at this stage in his career: "I just love playing this game, and [I'm] going to continue to play until I feel like my time is up. As long as God allows me to play and play at a high level, and [I get] a new opportunity, like I said, that I'm excited for – [playing for] a great organization ... I'm really wanting to hold that trophy up at the end of the year, but it starts right now, putting the work in and doing all those things that qualify you to be in the position when it's that time. [I] don't want to get too hyped up or too overwhelmed when talking about that, but just putting the work in just so you're prepared and ready to go when the season comes and be able to play at a high level."

On what "free crab cakes for life" at Jimmy's Famous Seafood entails: "I don't know. I went to try them on Monday. They were pretty good, so I hope that's true. I hope I'm able to come and get me some more in the future. Their seafood was pretty good."

On how much he anticipates watching the NFL Draft next week and what he remembers most from his own Draft process: "I love watching the Draft, watching the guys come into the league to finally get an opportunity to see their dreams come true, see their reactions and things like that. I think that's pretty cool, and it's pretty cool for kids who have those same dreams [and] aspirations to see that as well. My Draft night – it was a little different for me. I had a Draft party on the first night, the first round. I didn't end up [getting drafted], so [I] had to go home and watch [the later rounds] from the couch. When I finally got that call [in the second round], it was a surreal moment, a moment I'll never forget, for sure."

On how key leaders like QB Lamar Jackson and ILB Roquan Smith being at these voluntary workouts sets the tone for the entire team: "That just shows the leadership that's here and the type of leaders that Lamar [Jackson] and 'Ro' [Roquan Smith] are. You watch them from afar throughout the league and see their body of work and the consistency that they play with. Then, you see them here, showing up early, putting the work in, and that speaks volumes throughout the team, and [it] shows the type of leadership that they have and the leaders they are for this team."


On an emphasis of getting in shape this offseason: It's been awesome. I think we have a really good strength staff here, pushes guys, tries to get the most out of them. I think they do a good job of working with certain groups on what they specifically need. I think each year that's an emphasis, and trying to improve that, they're asking questions, what we like, what we want to see when we want to do better, and it's been good. We've had a good three days of training under our belts so far and just need to keep building off of that."

On why it's important to be back with the team this early in the offseason: "I think the biggest thing is, well one, you've been away for two months, you want to get around the guys, and then you're building for next season, the 2024-25 season, and it starts now. This is the foundation; this is the next step in where we want to go. I'm glad to see a good amount of guys back, and I know the guys that aren't here, they're working their tail off towards this next upcoming season."

On if having a new-look offensive line will change his leadership role: "Anytime you're going to have experience under your belt, especially Ronnie [Stanley] has been here quite a bit, we've got Pat Mekari, and then I've gotten two years under my belt in the organization. We're going to have guys that are going to have to step up and fill in. I think we have a good group of guys, a good coaching staff to be able to help the younger guys and whoever else we add that's going to step in and play."

On if it's strange feeling to not have familiar faces on the offensive line: "It's definitely different, but that's a part of the business. Other guys get different opportunities elsewhere, and it's just a next guy in mentality. We've got a good group of young guys that are eager to step in and show what they can do, and I'm excited to see how we build off of that."

On if he gives any feedback to offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris and executive vice president & general manager Eric DeCosta about potential offensive line draft candidates: "I couldn't tell you too many offensive linemen coming out, but each year, there's a lot of talented kids. Whether we add guys in the draft or guys in free agency, they handle that upstairs, and it's our job just getting better as a unit. Once guys get here, just building off of that into OTAs [organized team activities] and build that chemistry."

On if he plans to watch the NFL Draft: "It goes pretty late, so I might be in bed, but we'll see. It's a fun thing to watch. I remember back when I got drafted, it was a special moment, and it's going to special for all of those guys to get drafted, and even the guys who don't get drafted, just have the opportunity to make it to the team. It's an exciting time and a new chapter in guys' lives, so it's a pretty special event; I'll probably turn it on."

On what he most remembered about getting drafted: "For me, I think just being around my family. I tried to invite as many people that made an impact on my life to get there and enjoy that special moment. It was really cool to see all of the people that made an impact on me be there to support me."

On if he and QB Lamar Jackson have talked about what changes they want to incorporate into the offense: "No, we haven't talked about that. The biggest thing right now that I'm focused on is how the O-line plays. How we play together, how we work together, and like I said earlier, 'It just starts now.' It starts with getting guys back, working out together. Once football school starts up, OTAs, building that chemistry, and all of the other things will take care of itself. As the O-line, we don't need to really worry about much, we just have to block the guy in front of us and work together. That's kind of what we're focused on."

On if his approach heading into this season is different compared to years prior: "Going into last year, I had a better grasp on the NFL, just [the] rookie season is a long season, [you] kind of don't know what to expect. Last year [I] had a better grip on things, and going into this year, [I] know what I need to work on, know the things I need to get better at, and then just building that chemistry with the unit."

On if he views this year as an opportunity to be more vocal on the offensive line: "I feel like I'm the same since I've came in. I'm going to be the same, it just comes with the position. You're going to have to be vocal, you're going to have to communicate with guys, so in terms of that, things haven't changed. Just be the guy that teammates can look towards, and they can have trust in me to get the job done."

On his first impressions of RB Derrick Henry: "Awesome. The guy is very built, strong and fast. He'll be a good addition for us. We're excited to have him on our team, and we're looking forward to seeing the things he can do for us."

On how much he watched fellow Iowa Hawkeye Caitlin Clark: "These past four years is the most women's basketball I've ever watched, and I watched it more than men's basketball. The thing that she's done for the game of basketball has been fun to watch. Just being from Iowa – she's from Iowa – and just to see the development and the growth that she's done for that program and the sport of women's basketball has been awesome."


On what it is like being back with the guys and kicking off the season: "It's awesome being back here around the guys. [We're] building a good base this week with the guys in the weight room, and so [I'm] happy to be back. We all know what our goal is, but it's very early right now. So, just enjoying the time with the guys [and] seeing everybody around the building, including you guys. It's good to see your faces."

On the energy in the locker room: "Obviously, last season is last season. This season is a totally new year, and I think everyone is very excited about what all we have coming forward and we know the potential we have with this team. We've added pieces, and I'm sure throughout the Draft and throughout the rest of the offseason, we'll add more pieces. I'll leave that to the people upstairs, but I'm definitely excited. I'm ready to get the year going, but there's a process, and I'm very respectful of that."

On how weird it is not to have former Ravens ILB Patrick Queen in the locker room: "It's not weird at all. You know, life happens, and he's somewhere else right now. I've got to tear his picture down in the linebacker room – you know, we have linebackers all over the walls. So, I need to maybe make a video of me punching it or something like that. Or, maybe I'll ask 'C-Hort' [special teams coordinator Chris Horton] to get out there on special teams, maybe a punt play and hopefully to get [on the field] with him. But no, I'm happy for him. I'm wishing him all the best, and it'll be good to see him twice a year. He's still my guy, but war is war. That's what it is."

On playing with Trent*on Simpson this season:* "'Simp' [Trenton Simpson], just talking with him this offseason and even last season, I know the type of respect he has for the game and for himself as well. The way he's been busting his tail all offseason, talking with [strength & conditioning coordinator] Scott [Elliott] and everyone about [how] the guy is busting his tail, wanting to be the best. I know his mindset, so I'm excited. He has all the potential in the world. It's just going to be about putting that on the field week in and week out and just trusting his ability. If he does that, I think he'll be the best second-year linebacker in the league, in my opinion."

On a motivating factor for the defense while losing talented players and defensive coordinator: "I think that comes with time. But, I have the utmost respect for 'Z.O.' [defensive coordinator Zach Orr] and the way he runs things. [He's a] fiery guy, very intense, really matches my personality, but I think it matches the defensive personality as well as the organization, as being a Raven. I think what he embodies is exactly what you want in a coordinator. [I'm] very thankful for Mike [Macdonald] and everything that he had done here. But, the players, life goes on. So, at the end of the day, [I] wish all those guys the best who are going on with their career. But, don't anything change here. We're still the Ravens, and we're still going to get the job done and finish it by any means necessary. So, that's our mindset, and I know each and every guy that is putting in the work this offseason – here or not here – knows exactly what our mindset is and how we're going to get there."

On what it has been like meeting with strength & conditioning coordinator Scott [Elliott] since being back: "With [strength & conditioning coordinator] Scott [Elliott], even when the season ended ... I do a lot of my training on my own, so then getting with Scott and getting a plan together for me throughout the offseason, which I think is huge for me. So, coming in, [there's] little tweaks here and there, but things that I had already been doing pretty much throughout the offseason, running-wise as well as lifting. I think it's great having a guy like him here, who can relate to the players in any way – [he's a] younger guy, [and he] knows what's going on, and knowing how to approach guys and knowing how to push guys as well as getting the best out of each and every guy – I think when you have someone like that, it's always great to have that person in the building and keep a smile on his face and bring smiles [to] others' faces. [I'm] definitely grateful to have him and the entire staff here."

On the addition of RB Derrick Henry: "I think that's huge. I think it's going to make us stick to what we do. Having a guy like [Derrick Henry], any time you need a play with him and Lamar [Jackson] back there, it's going to be crucial. I'm excited. It's going to open up a lot for everyone. Going up against the guy, I know what kind of a threat he poses to other defenses. It's going to be scary. I'm excited to see. As I always say, I'm glad [that] I'm on the defensive side and watching those guys, cheering them on play in and play out. I told a couple of my friends in the offseason, maybe I'll have to get some popcorn on the sideline while I'm watching those guys go to work. So, I'm definitely excited. I think it's a great piece added to us, and it's going to help us get to where we want to be."

On how long it took to get over the ending of last season: "Totally. It was definitely very tough, after all you go through throughout the year – physically, emotionally, all those things play a part. To come up short, it sucks. I always say, at the end of the year, there's only one winner. But, I'd rather have my heart ripped out every time in the big game as opposed to losing when we did. At the end of the day, that's just more fuel to the fire. I'm sure it's going to inspire and fuel each and every guy that was here last year to know that we have to do what it takes to get us over the hump this year. But, there's a process in place and trust in the process, and I know each and every guy here will do the same. And, if we do that, the sky is the limit."

On how much of the Draft he will watch and what he remembers about his draft experience: "I'll probably have some alerts on my phone or something like that, but I'm not too sure if I'll actually be watching it. It's kind of crazy, because when I was a kid and then high school, then my first year or two in the league, I was watching the draft throughout – from the first pick to 'Mr. Irrelevant.' So, I was one of those type [of] guys. Thinking back to my experience at the Draft, it was great, out in Dallas. Funny story, I'd never really done it, [but] I was journaling out in Dallas throughout the Draft because I knew it just was a really special moment and I wanted to definitely cherish and remember every single moment. So, I was writing the things down, but having my name called, walking across the stage, it felt very surreal. Being where I'm from, not anyone there had gone first round from where I'm from, and not many people can say that as well throughout a lot of great legends throughout the game. So, [I] definitely was grateful for that. It was a great experience for me, and I wouldn't change it for anything."

On the last time he pulled out the journal: "The last time I pulled that journal out, it was actually this offseason. This offseason, I think when I got back to Chicago or something, I looked in the closet and was like, 'Oh, here's the journal,' because I was about to write some notes for something else, and I randomly came across the journal. It was pretty sweet, just realizing the thoughts that I was having then as opposed to now, being way more mature and then just seeing how everything unfolds now being an adult. It was pretty sweet though."