Opening Statement:"Good to see everybody; [I] appreciate everybody being here. [It's a] beautiful day, rookie minicamp. Guys are working hard. It's good to be back on the grass and get back at some football. What questions do you have?"
It's the first time you've seen a lot of these rookies out there. Do you have any overall impressions of the past couple days? _(Jamison Hensley) _"They're just what we thought – guys that love football. They're working hard, picking things up quickly. Practice has been pretty darn crisp for coming out here for the first time. These guys have never been in this system, really never practiced in the NFL before. They were excited yesterday; they were a little hyped up, a couple guys. Sometimes you have to just calm down, slow your mind down a little bit. A slower mind means a faster body a lot of times, athletically, so we did that. They did a good job of not being overzealous in terms of banging into each other and all that stuff, understanding it's an orientation period. So, [I'm] happy with how they're doing."
We didn't ask you about the signing of CB Rock Ya-Sin. What does he bring to this defense, and what are you excited about with him? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"He's a young, veteran corner. We've always appreciated the way he plays. He's a very diligent player, he can run, he's a good tackler. He's a tough player, a good man and zone player – both. We were impressed when we talked to him, and [we're] just happy to get it done. So, we're looking forward to seeing how he does."
Would you say that signing closes the door on any other significant additions in the secondary? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"Good question. I would say no. I don't think you can ever really close the door on any personnel move. Whoever it might be, you can probably ask me about Marcus [Peters] and whatever other corners are out there. I would say you don't close the door on good players and good people. We'll see how it goes."
These guys were getting ready for the Draft, and the Combine isn't exactly like football. Are you curious to see what kind of shape guys are in, or do you pretty much think they will be in shape? Is that part of this process, too? _(Cliff Brown) _"Well, you are curious – for sure – to see what kind of shape they're in, but then we found out they're all in good shape. So, our guys did a good job. Our guys had no problem with the practice. [I'm] happy with how they're doing."
What are your early impressions of WR Zay Flowers, and is there anything particular that you've seen out of him that you like? _(Brian Wacker) _"Yes, just if you go through maybe all the Draft guys. Zay [Flowers] looks just as advertised: quick, good hands, very smart. [He is] picking things up really quickly, playing every position right now across the board with what we've installed. It's just the first two install days, but I'd say everything that you expected to see, you saw. [He is] catching the ball well.
"[Trenton] Simpson, same thing. [He] looks fast, [is] picking things up, [he is a] very good communicator. Obviously, there's a lot for these guys on their plate; there's a lot to learn, but he's off to a good start.
"Kyu [Blu Kelly], I would say with him, he looks really good. I would say just for me personally, [he is] even a little more athletic than I thought from the Draft on the tape. He looks really fluid.
"Sala [Aumavae-Laulu] - sixth-round pick – [has] good feet, just like we thought. I'd say just like how we thought. It's harder for the linemen because we're not in pads, but he moves real well. It seems like he's picking things up well."
Was CB Kyu Blu Kelly one of the 30 guys you evaluated at that cornerback position before the Draft? (Jonas Shaffer) "Absolutely, he was definitely in the mix. He was in the first upper half of that group, for sure.
"Tavius [Robinson], he looks good. He looks, [he has] high energy, high energy. His skillset is really going to express itself with the pads on. He's a tall rangy guy with heavy hands and a lot of energy."
Is T Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu going by 'Sala'? Is that what we should use? (Jamison Hensley)"I think 'Sala.' That's how he goes. I just have no chance. You're a media person; you're supposed to pronounce these things. Is that why you're a writer? There you go."
Do you look at T Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu as a tackle? Will you get him reps at both tackle and guard and then make a decision when you have to make a decision? _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"Absolutely. Versatility is good. He's a developmental player at this point – and I think he'll develop quickly – but guard or tackle pretty much on the right side right now; we'll let him focus on that side."
How much was G Andrew Vorhees on your radar? It was interesting to trade back in and get him when you did. (Bo Smolka) "He was on the radar, but it wasn't like a big blip on the radar because he had the dot on there that said he was injured. We had watched him; we had him ranked as a draftable player, third-round-type pick guy maybe – in that range. When we got towards the end, he was still there obviously, and we'd kind of started talking about him compared to the other guys that were available, and it was like, 'This is a real value. Let's try to get back in and see if we can get him.' [Executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] did a great job with that."
Have you ruled out G Andrew Vorhees possibly being available this year? _(Jonas Saffer) _"Probably, I would say yes. I think the plan for him this year is to rehab. Who knows what could happen, but let's give him every opportunity to get as healthy as he can get, and he'll be ready to go next offseason."
Do you see CB Kyu Blu Kelly as a guy capable of playing in the slot and at outside corner, or do you think his strengths are in a certain area?_ (Jeff Zrebiec)_ "He's definitely capable mentally to do it. Physically, we just have to see how he fits. He can do it – he has the skillset – it's really more how do you process in there, having a feel for the routes and stuff like that. He's good enough to play outside anyways, so he's fast enough, and he's really smooth and fluid. [He] opens up his hips. You're going to like his feet when you see him. He's a little taller and rangier than kind of how he looked on tape, to me. So, [he] looks good so far, but hey – it's early. We're just starting."
Is returning on special teams something that WR Zay Flowers is asked to do this year? (Cordell Woodland) "He did; he caught punts yesterday, and he looked really good. So, absolutely. We'll take a look at that."
It's been a while since you've had a Delaware quarterback wearing the No. 5 here. (Jamison Hensley) "Is [Nolan Henderson] wearing No. 5? I didn't notice.(laughter) (Reporter: "I believe he is a Joe Flacco fan.") Yes, he better be."
Have you noticed anything about QB Nolan Henderson the past couple days? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, he looked good. [He is] a real smooth athlete, real smart. Both guys – both the two quarterbacks in here [from] Delaware [Nolan Henderson] and Bowie State [D.J. Golatt] – I thought they were both very confident. [They] ran things well, picked up the offense very quickly. After that, you just don't know until the bullets start to fly a little bit."
As you figure out what this secondary will look like, do you guys have a plan for what you want DB Brandon Stephens to focus on positionally? (Jonas Shaffer) _"That's a great question. We're going to start him off at safety and work as a safety-corner combination. The versatility again, we love it. He's going to focus more on safety; he's gotten a lot of reps at corner so far. [He will] try to really get that down. One of his superpowers is going to be he can play all five spots. _(Reporter: "Is it like a nickelback, Kyle Hamilton-type slot that he could fit in?") I think he could. Those guys become interchangeable if they're playing the nickel spot, too, and we probably more than anybody played a three-safety-type grouping out there in our nickel package. I would think he could do the same type of thing."
T MALAESALA AUMAVAE-LAULU
Is it okay if we call you Sala? Is that the way we usually go with it? (Jamison Hensley)"Yes, sir. Everyone on the West Coast calls me 'Big Sala' though. It's cool."
Early impressions of the first couple of days? _(Brian Walker) _"[It's] most definitely the grind. That's what I love the most with my teammates and taking coaching. I love it. I love the grind."
Any specifics that surprised you? (Brian Walker)"So far, I'm loving everything so far. I'm enjoying everything, day-by-day. [I'm] just working with teammates and learning more of the plays."
Any of the fellow rookies you have a pre-existing relationship with?_ (Kyle Goon) _"All of them so far. Yes, sir. I love them so far, especially the offense. We're always bonding as a team, as a unit, as well as our defense. So, it has to be one."
How much are looking forward to being able work at tackle and also cross training at guard, becoming more versatile as you adjust? _(Luke Jones) _"I would say I like to do both. Being versatile is my thing, and I like to keep grinding, staying humble. [I will] just stay hungry and keep grinding day-by-day with my fellow teammates."
Is that the impression you've gotten, that you're going to have to play both [tackle and guard]? _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"So far, we'll see how it goes to be honest."
How much are you looking forward to when you look at this offensive line – you have RT Morgan Moses at right tackle has been in the league a long time, RG Kevin Zeitler [at] guard, LT Ronnie Stanley over on the other side – you've got some pretty experienced pros to be able to learn from here? (Luke Jones)"Where I look forward to is learning from the vets, the coaches and just keep learning from all of them. Just use those – use what they say to me and put it in my toolbox, and just keep perfecting my game and [I want to] win championships every year with them."
What's it going to be like to be, especially on offense, a teammate of QB Lamar Jackson? You've probably seen him a few times. _(Jamison Hensley) _"[It's going to be] incredible. I would say we live as a team and I look forward to playing with him. So, let's get to it."
I know the Polynesian football community is a big one. Do you have any kind of relationship with LT Ronnie Stanley? (Jonas Shaffer)"Ronnie [Stanley]? Kind of, because I went to Liberty High School in [Las] Vegas my high school year as well. He was [at] our rival school, Bishop Gorman. We kind of have a connection. Yes, sir."
WR ZAY FLOWERS
How did it feel being out there? Was it different being out there for an NFL practice? (Jamison Hensley) "It's not really different. I'll say it's more sped up; it's more urgent. You've got to know what you're doing. You've got to be able to take it from the classroom to the field. So, it's really not different. In college, you just have more time to learn it, and they'll take you through [it] more. In the NFL, you've just got to get it and go."
Is that your way of saying you made a couple mistakes? (Brian Wacker) "I think everybody is going to make a couple mistakes their first time out there. But it's part of the building process."
It's so early, but what are your impressions of offensive coordinator Todd Monken's offense? (Luke Jones) "Oh, I love it. It's kind of like some of the stuff I ran at BC [Boston College]. I love it. I think it fits my style perfectly."
Why do you think offensive coordinator Todd Monken's offense fits your style? (Luke Jones) "Running, getting open, being able to create space, deep balls, short, intermediate – do it all."
Do you see yourself as more of an inside or outside guy in that offense? Do you have a preference? (Kyle Goon) "I feel I can play anywhere."
When we were talking to head coach John Harbaugh before the Draft, he said a shorter receiver has to have other superpowers. So, what are your superpowers? (Bo Smolka) "I feel like I'm a complete receiver. I can do it all. You name it, I'll be able to do it."
When we talked with QB Lamar Jackson this past week, he mentioned you and some of the other receivers and throwing for 6,000 yards. What do you think about that? (Jamison Hensley) "I love that. Let's do it! I'm with it. Whatever he [Lamar Jackson] wants to do, I'm with it."
You mentioned you like to play inside and outside and feel like you can do both. Where do you prefer to be? Where do you feel most comfortable, like to be and feel like you're most dangerous? (Brian Wacker) "I honestly don't have a preference, because I feel like I can run every route on the outside, and I can run every route on the inside. So, I don't really have a preference."
Have you had any conversation with QB Lamar Jackson that's more in depth about how you guys are going to play or what he likes? (Kyle Goon) "Maybe this week when I go home, we'll probably throw a little bit, talk. But it was just about … Last week, we were just talking about throwing and trying to catch up a little bit."
Do you expect to connect and throw with QB Lamar Jackson when you go back to South Florida? (Brian Wacker) "Yes, absolutely. Absolutely."
When that 2020 pandemic season happened, you talked about how important that period was for you and how you were trying to work your hardest and be as good as you could be. Did you go into that stretch knowing that you wanted to work as hard as you did? And where were you before and where were you after that stretch? (Jonas Shaffer) "Before that, that was my freshman year, so I was kind of, probably, like 150 pounds, so I knew I had to gain weight, route run and just try to get better at every aspect of my game. And that's what I was able to do, because we had four months off until we actually went and played a game, and I was able to do that every day and build up to what I wanted."
Do you think that kind of set the standard for how you see yourself as a hard worker and everything like that? (Jonas Shaffer) "It's a part of it, but I was a hard worker before that; I just needed some weight." (laughter)
Is there a play after that period that you look to and see yourself start to establish that physicality that you began pretty well known for at Boston College? (Kyle Goon) "No, I wouldn't say a play in particular, but there were probable a couple plays that added up, probably, to that."
Is there a target weight that coaches want you to play at this year? (Jonas Shaffer) "No, they really haven't given me one yet, but I have my own."
We saw the video of you and your dad. Emotionally, what was it like for you to walk in the studio and see your jersey, with your name on it? (Bo Smolka) "It was a dream come true. At the Draft, there are a lot of emotions, and you don't really get to the team yet, so you don't really feel it. And then when you see the jersey with your name on it, with the NFL logo and all that, then it's like, 'Alright, now we're here.'"
How many No. 4 jerseys do you have to order now for your big family? (Kyle Goon) "Oh, probably, I'll say a good 15, 16.(laughter)Hopefully, I get a deal."(laughter)
Since being drafted, what's the coolest thing that's happened to you, whether it's a phone call you've gotten, a message you've gotten, something you've read, saw? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Carmelo Anthony texted me." (Reporter: "Really?")"He was like 'Welcome to Flock Nation.'"(Reporter: "How did you know it was Carmelo?")"He DM'ed [direct messaged] me. He was in my DMs for like three days, and I was like, 'Carmelo Anthony texted me?' And then I clicked on his page, and there were like 7 million followers; I was like, 'Yeah, that's him.'"(laughter)
LB TRENTON SIMPSON
How did it feel out there? You've had a couple of practices your whole life. Was the past couple of days a little more different than usual? (Jamison Hensley)"I wouldn't say different, it's just the game – the level at the NFL is just a little bit faster, but I'm having fun. [I'm] just playing fast, physical football, trusting that my coaches put me in the best situations. [I'm] just having fun. I'm living the dream, and just to get through my first two NFL practices, I'm blessed, and I've had a great time."
When you got drafted, head coach John Harbaugh said special teams coordinator Chris Horton is going to love you. What's the key to being a key special teams guy at your position? (Bo Smolka)"I would say the key is being relentless, giving it all you've got and taking that special teams rep like you would take the first team defensive rep. That's what I pride myself on, just doing all the small things right and giving it all I have. [I'm] trying to empty the tank each practice so when game day comes, it will be super easy for me."
They said you're a guy who can play inside and outside. Do you think the fact that you did a lot of things in college will help your transition here, and in what ways? (Cliff Brown)"Yes, sir. Yes, definitely. Being able to be versatile at Clemson, I was able to learn a lot of systems. I had two different coaches, so I learned two systems. Just the flexibility I bring to the table and just trusting my coaches and putting in the extra work, I feel like that will translate to the league easily as well."
You talked about how much you're looking forward to working with ILB Roquan Smith. Have you had the chance to talk to him, and if so, what has that been like? (Luke Jones)"Yes, sir. I have. He [Roquan Smith] texted me the night after I got drafted. He was saying he was happy for me, [and] he's ready to get to work. I'm just excited to play with a guy like that. He's a great linebacker, so it's proof in the pudding. He showed it, and he's been a top guy in the NFL. Just to be in the locker room with a veteran like that, I'm going to come in ready to learn and work."
What were the emotions like getting ready to prepare for rookie minicamp, being in the building for the first time? (Cordell Woodland)"I would say I came in eager. I was ready to get to work. I couldn't wait to wake up Thursday morning to fly here and just get started with ball again. All the nerves are down now, and I just feel like I'm playing football and getting into the locker room, meeting new teammates and getting to building the relationship with all my coaches, special teams [coordinator Chris Horton], defensive coordinator [Mike Macdonald], and all my teammates. It's a blessing to be here, for sure."
Looking at some of the pre-Draft coverage, one of the guys said you're most excited to try to tackle or sack QB Lamar Jackson, and now here you are. Is it a better feeling or a worse feeling now that you're going to see him every day in practice and that you can't technically sack him? What do you think of that? (Jonas Shaffer)"Oh, no, it's cool to be able to play with him [Lamar Jackson]. I'm ready to play beside Lamar Jackson and see the magic he does in practice every day and compete, because I know when he goes out there on Sundays, he's going to do his thing. So, I'm blessed to be his teammate and ready to work, and make sure on defense we handle our part so [the] offense can do their thing."
Are you bummed that you can't actually tackle QB Lamar Jackson without probably getting in a little trouble? (Jonas Shaffer)"Oh, no. That's my QB [quarterback] now, so I just tag-off in practice – just tag-off [and] keep him [Lamar Jackson] up. Yes, sir."
I'm sure Draft night and when you got drafted was a whirlwind. We saw the video of you getting your number and what that was like. Is that kind of when it set in for you – all that you've accomplished and that you're here now – when you saw that jersey? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Yes, once I got that call, and my family was there to support me, it was just raw emotion. I've been working my whole life. I've been working at this football thing since I was six years old. So, to get that call from a team that wanted me and was excited about the things that I can bring to the locker room and on the field, it was a blessing. And to have my mom right there – because she's been a part of every step … So, it was just a blessing, and that was just raw emotion. I'm just glad to be a Baltimore Raven."
Is there anything in particular that went into the No. 30 that you chose? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I would say 30 was the best available number, and I'm excited to rep it the best way I can."
I know it's early, but does anything kind of stick out to you about the differences and the similarities between this Ravens defense and what you played at Clemson? (Jonas Shaffer)"I would definitely say the similarities are the way we play on defense, everything is, like they say, 'Play like a Baltimore Raven. Play like a Raven.' I feel like it's a fast, physical defense, and that allows us to fly around and play quick. That's something we definitely did at Clemson, and I'm just excited to come in and hold up to the standard [that] Coach [Harbaugh] shows us every morning. He shows us the Ray Lewis' and those types of guys' film. So, just to come in here and hold up to the standard is what I look forward to doing."
Are there any differences? (Jonas Shaffer)"No. I would say just the speed of it. The NFL is a little bit faster, but I feel like we're all adapting. Every day [I'm] just taking practice reps, so when gameday comes, it'll be just like college again."
You mentioned the film of Hall of Fame Ravens LB Ray Lewis, and the lineage of linebackers here is very long. Does that add to being in Baltimore and playing for this franchise? (Kyle Goon)"Yes, I feel like that's why I was so emotional when I got drafted – because I'm coming to a place where [there have been] linebackers [and] legendary players here. So, just seeing guys like Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Roquan Smith, Patrick Queen – guys like that – and being able to be in the locker room with two of those guys, it's a blessing. So, just getting up under them and working with them so I can live up to the standard is my goal."