Quarterbacks Coach James Urban
With QB Lamar Jackson, everyone keeps talking about his progression and evolution. Is there something specifically you would like to see him take that next step in in his game? (Jamison Hensley) "I would say that we're chasing everything. Especially this time of year, I want growth everywhere. I want growth in terms of footwork. I want growth in terms of throwing mechanics. I want growth in terms of operating some of the at the line [of scrimmage] adjustments – those kinds of things. I think that's the natural progression. A guy who plays at a very high level and then you just continue to grow his game. One thing that he and I have talked about are the great basketball players, Michael Jordan comes to mind. He had to learn jump shots. So, you learn a jump shot, and you just keep expanding your game that way."
As far as having a guy like WR Sammy Watkins as a veteran receiver coming in, what does he do for the quarterbacks? I know it's awfully early, but what have you seen from him and the help that he provides? (Pete Gilbert) "Listen, Sammy [Watkins] … His reputation precedes him arriving here. He's a terrific player who's played at a very high level in this league for a long time. Were it not for some unfortunate injuries, I think his numbers would be way up there. So, any time you can involve a player like that and introduce him to what we're trying to do with our passing game, I think it's a blessing. Right now, we're in the working phase, getting to know Sammy [and] Sammy is getting to know us and our offense. We'll see how it progresses from there, but we're working hard at it."
You don't have a veteran quarterback as a backup option like you've had in the past. How comfortable are you with the development of QB Tyler Huntley and QB Trace McSorley? Is it a problem not to have that veteran backup who's been around? (Jeff Zrebiec) "No, I'm very comfortable with both Trace [McSorley] and Tyler [Huntley]. They both approach it the way you have to as a backup in this league; they approach it like they're starters. That's how they're working, [and] that's how they prepare every day. I'm very comfortable with that. The only thing that is left … And hopefully, time will tell, [but] the one thing they just haven't had is great opportunity. [With] no preseason last year, we didn't get to see much. As things unfolded, Trace gets in and then gets injured, and then because of the COVID stuff. Then all of a sudden, Tyler, who was on the practice squad most of the year, is playing in a [Divisional] Playoff game on the road. So, that's why you have to prepare that way. That's the way we approach it. I'm excited to see where the rest of this offseason goes. I'm excited to see them during the preseason, and I will not be surprised if they are what I think they are."
One thing that Buffalo did in that playoff game was, I think, a lot of quarters coverage and Cover 4. It seems like a lot of teams used that more so against QB Lamar Jackson. Does that require him to develop his game in any particular way? Or is that just something that he's going to maybe deal with more this season? (Jonas Shaffer) "Well, we've seen some of that throughout other teams as well – it wasn't just a one stop thing. The uniqueness of our offense, at times, means that we'll see some different things from teams in order to stop some of the things we do. One of the great things about the way we prepare is we're ready for the unexpected. We expect the unexpected, and we're comfortable with that. So, some of the things that we've seen, obviously, we're working on. Obviously, they're working on it, too. So, it'll just keep moving the shells, but that's part of the way … When you have a dominant run offense and a unique quarterback like we have, sometimes you get things that are a little bit different than what you might have expected."
Just with QB Lamar Jackson, I know that getting him to work on his game 12 months of the year has never been an issue. I'm just wondering about his approach as his career develops. Do you feel like that aspect of his game is going to help him as far as getting him to where he wants to go – the fact that he seems to be a guy that you almost have to drag off the field? (Cliff Brown) "I think regardless of position, but in particular the quarterback position, there's this maturation that happens that goes from learning how to compete in practice when you're not going against, say, the walk-ons. Right? You're going against NFL players. And [learning] how to generate game reps in practice and then learning how to handle an offseason. You don't have a 'GA' [graduate assistant] calling you to make sure you're going to all the workouts. You don't have coaches screaming at you to be at this or be at that. So, there's a maturation that happens as you become a professional athlete, and that includes everything. That includes nutrition, body maintenance, including some preparation in advancement of injury and all those things. [It includes] arm maintenance and all that. So, he's in that process. He's maturing in many ways. He's growing, and he works hard at it. It's important to him, so he wants to go. He wants to get better at everything, and that's what we're doing."
I know you're not in the contract business, but you work with QB Lamar Jackson as well as anybody. Do you concern yourself at all with all the talk about his contract and getting an extension? How much do you kind of have that on your radar? Do you have any concern that that might be a distraction for him at all, knowing him as well as you do? (Jeff Zrebiec) "No, I don't think it'll be a distraction. You're right; I have nothing to do with that [contract extension]. (laughter) And that's what … I tend to mow my own grass there. We have an unbelievable front office. I know that they have plans. They're in great hands, and they'll handle all that business side. We're just trying to get better and continue growing and improving every aspect of our game and his game. So, that's all we're doing. I don't worry about that. I don't think he worries about it. He seems to be the same old guy that he is all the time. So, I don't really have many concerns there."
When you're looking at last year, I know you guys went into the season hoping to stretch the field a little bit more. In looking back at last season, do you feel there were some opportunities that you could've taken advantage of? Or is there something you can kind of build off of heading into this year? (Jamison Hensley) "Obviously, we've analyzed everything – call it the self-scout. We've gone through it all with a fine-tooth comb. We've had lots of discussions and really studying it. There are several different reasons, but everything starts with the quarterback. That's the guy I coach, so that's where we're focused. We're focused on, 'How does his part improve?' Whether it's decision making, or timing, or footwork, how can we improve what his aspect of it is? Everybody is taking care of their areas to get it all going. That's what we're doing out on the grass right now. We're trying to work on that timing, so that you can cut it loose and make some of those plays. That's what we're certainly working on right now."
Wide Receivers Coach Tee Martin
What has been the biggest adjustment from college to pros with you with working with the guys? (Kevin Richardson) "Coaching football is pretty much the same regardless of where you go. Great players just want to get better. So, for me, in terms of my focus and in terms of my relationship with the players and their relationship with me, it's just been all about how I can help them be the best them that they can be. For them, [the focus is] what is that motivation for them? What are we here for? Every day for the last two weeks, I've talked to the receivers about why we're here. This time of the year is to get better. It's to get better at our craft individually and as a unit, and ultimately, as a team. So, the biggest difference, if there is a difference, is that in pro football, there's no class, there's no academic meeting, there's no recruiting, and I've been able to really just focus on my guys and them getting better individually and me getting better as a coach."
I saw you talking for a while with WR Sammy Watkins before the drills really got going. I'm curious, what did you know about him before, maybe, he came here? What is the developing relationship like with him? (Pete Gilbert) "Sammy [Watkins] and my relationship started back during his rookie year right before he was drafted. I was working at USC as the receivers coach/offensive coordinator. He came to 'LA' [Los Angeles] to work out and I was one of the coaches that he chose to train with. So, I had an opportunity to work with him and had the chance to build sort of a relationship with him. Then just being familiar with who he was throughout his career, him being a Clemson grad and my son [Amari Rodgers] going to Clemson, him having played there. So, I've been very familiar with him, and I've really watched his game develop throughout his career at Buffalo and Kansas City. I was really excited to have him join our team. For me to have the opportunity to coach him, having a veteran with his presence, his track record for making plays and being a speed route running-type of receiver and just seeing how he was going to fit in our system … So, what you saw pre-practice was me getting him caught up on the week of what we put in last week. He wasn't available last week, so I was really catching him up on some things that we had put in a week ago to get him up to speed, so that we could go out and execute today at practice."
Now that you're working with this unit after a couple of weeks, how do you see them compared to before working with them? What expectations do you have? How are you evaluating them? (Gustavo Salazar) "In the time that we've been here, we've had rookie minicamp, we've had some football schools, and today was our fourth OTA practice. In my opinion, it's still early to pass judgement. What I can speak to is we've improved on details, fundamentals and techniques of route running all the way down to stance and starts, how we get off the line of scrimmage in terms of releases, top of the routes, being more efficient at the top of the routes, creating more separation, and ultimately, catching the ball and making plays. That's pretty much been the focus as we're installing the bulk of our offense during this time. We haven't gotten to the meat of our offense yet, but we have gotten into some of the basic fundamentals and techniques of how we want to play the position, what we want to look like as the Baltimore Ravens receivers of 2021. So, we're getting there. Hopefully, by the end of minicamp, we can feel really good about what we've done in the offseason in preparation for training camp when we get back together."
I'm just curious, how do you think your background as a great college quarterback helps you as a wide receivers coach? If you had to describe your style of coaching, what would you say? (Cliff Brown) "That's a great question. One, just being a former quarterback, I think I give them the perspective of what the guy in the pocket sees. Sometimes at wide receiver, [you say], 'We're always open. The ball could've come to me.' But there's only one football, right? So, if I can help them understand progressions, if I can help them understand the mind of the quarterback and help them understand protections on a deeper level … Number One, it brings more meaning to how we run our route and the purpose of what we're doing. So, I try to come from that perspective using my quarterback background there, too. Also, if there's a catch or a funny type of throw that our guys are having a tough time with, I can still put the ball in those places to help them develop that skillset as well. Ultimately, I'm the receivers coach and I'm focusing on them improving their skillset. I use that prior experience and kind of put it together to make them feel like, 'OK, at the end of the day, he still is the wide receivers coach.'
"I would say ultimately, my style is one of I'm a teacher first. My background has been with young people, going back to my private training days of working with Nike and coaching high school ball to Morehouse College being my first job. I'm a teacher first and a motivator. I feel like guys play harder when they're motivated about what they're doing. So, [I] get them trained from the neck up. I know how to align and assign and do the things that we're supposed to do, be motivated in doing that and have the skills and techniques to get the job done. So, that's pretty much what I would say my style is."
When head coach John Harbaugh remade the coaching staff this offseason, he talked to us about how it's going to be kind of creative, the arrangement he has with you and with pass game specialist Keith Williams. So far, how has that been working? What is important for a relationship and an arrangement like the one you guys have to be as functional as you want it to be? (Jonas Shaffer) "I give Coach Harbaugh a lot of credit, because he was really thinking outside the box with this idea. [Pass game specialist] Keith [Williams] and I had met years ago when I was at USC and he was at Nebraska. Just having respect for coaches around the country who do a great job coaching the position. We ran against each other recruiting a couple times and kind of developed a relationship there. I kind of kept up with what he was doing along the lines of as the years went on. When Coach Harbaugh asked me about taking the job, he asked me first would I mind working with Keith Williams? I said certainly, but I also told him, 'You're about to get the best of both worlds.' I don't think people have ever seen anything like this before. We complement each other. Keith is very, very passionate on the field. He coaches with a lot of passion, a lot of detail. He's really into the techniques, drill work [and] things of that nature. I come in as the guy who's coaching the wide receivers, doing the installations, and also technique and all those things as well. I think we work together. I'm learning from him. He's learning from me. It's a great working relationship. Really for me, it's a blessing where you can have someone with that caliber of coaching resume and we're both learning from each other and working together for one group of guys. So, I thought Coach Harbaugh was really outside the box and ahead of the game when he came up with this idea."
I'm just curious to get your impressions of rookie first-round pick WR Rashod Bateman and what you've seen from him so far? (Garrett Downing) "He's doing what you want rookies to do – first-round rookies – and that's stay hungry and have a thirst for knowledge, have a thirst for more work, have a thirst for the attention to detail and really start setting the stage for your whole career. That's what I've spoken with him about several times is, 'Yes, you're a rookie. You're a first-round pick, I get that. But what are you doing today that's going to allow you to stay in the league for 10 years or more? That's what you want to start creating right now as a rookie.' That's what we talk about every day, being that guy who's always hungry, being that guy who always wants to get more from a knowledge standpoint [and] play at all the different positions – you don't want to be known as a one-trick-pony-type of guy. We're pushing the envelope with him. I'm not letting him get comfortable, really allowing him to play all the different positions and really pushing the depth of where he can go before we start playing this season. But I really like where he's at mentally, [and] I like where he's at physically. He's a very talented young man, and I look forward to continuing to work with him."
I'm sorry, I have to go back to something you said. You were talking about the wide receivers and when they might struggle with the ball, you said, "I can still put the ball in certain places." So, has there been any competition with QB Lamar Jackson how you can throw the ball? A little more seriously, is QB Lamar Jackson up close any different than he was on TV? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "That's great. You're trying to get something started over here. (laughter) No, I can't touch … He throws the ball from so many different arm angles; I'll be sore after we try to challenge each other. But no, it's just something that being a former quarterback … Whenever you're a quarterback, you have a certain relationship with every receiver individually. Some guys are taller, longer, can change direction. Some guys are shorter, quicker. They do things all differently, and that relationship just comes from you throwing the ball and getting to know them better. So, I bring that to the table with the receiver group when need be. But in terms of seeing Lamar [Jackson] up close in person, it was way better than I thought, and I thought he was really good before I came here. As a matter of fact, I bought my family Lamar Jackson t-shirts for Christmas a couple years ago. My son is a high school quarterback that looks up to him, so I've been watching him over the years. Some things you can't even teach. I tell my son with some of the stuff, 'Don't even look at this, bro. You won't be able to do this.' But all the other stuff, just seeing him operate, seeing him get the play-calls, operate in the huddle … We're a big-time check at the line of scrimmage team. We have certain packages put together. Seeing him be able to operate it, put it all together and then post-snap to do what he does, I have the ultimate respect for his skillset and what he's been able to do in the National Football League. And he's still young, so it's only going to get better."
Outside Linebackers Coach Drew Wilkins
When defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale talked about OLB Odafe Oweh, he talked about how you went to his workout, and you went back to him saying it was like the best workout you've ever seen. Can you talk a little bit about what you did see and what made you be so impressed by it? (Jamison Hensley) "Obviously, the first thing you saw at his workout was just how great of an athlete he is; the measurables are off the charts. But the thing that stood out to me was his competitive spirit and his coachability. The first thing, you saw him at every single drill, he's going up against another great athlete, and second place wasn't an option for him. He wanted to win every single drill, every single time, which you love to see when you drive up there for those workouts. Then the next thing was coachability. From one rep to the next, he just took coaching so well. You'd say, 'OK, why don't you step further with this foot? Why don't you get your hands here?' And the next rep would be even better than the last. So, the thought was, 'OK, if he got that good in 10 minutes, what's he going to do in a training camp?' So, that was pretty exciting."
Obviously, you had some departures at the outside linebacker position in OLB Matthew Judon and DE Yannick Ngakoue leaving, and even DE Jihad Ward. You have some returning guys that you're hoping will step up – OLB Jaylon Ferguson. For him, he's been kind of in and out of the rotation in his first couple years. What's the key for him to really stake out a role in his third year? (Daniel Oyefusi) "Yes, it's a great question. The thing I'm most excited about with Jaylon [Ferguson] is how he's in such great shape right now, and he really has a grasp of the playbook that he hasn't had the last two years. It's just every year, he's getting sharper and sharper with it, to the point now where he really is telling the young guys what to do, which is exciting to see – a guy take that leap to that point. And he's running to the football, he's playing with great effort. He's really checking all the boxes right now for us."
What does OLB Tyus Bowser mean to your group? (Bobby Trosset) "Tyus [Bowser] carries so much value for us because he's so versatile in everything he does. He's become a really dominant edge setter in the run game, which is always step No. 1 for our guys. And then, you guys saw it, he's great in coverage, and it's not just the plays on the ball, because he has tremendous ball skills – he's at an elite level there – but what he does that you may not always see is he takes away the open underneath routes or the guy going to the flat. Now that quarterback has to hold the ball for an extra second, and you see the production that comes with that. He's also a really dynamic and dangerous pass rusher for us that can really move across the front. You think about … It's a great piece for 'Wink' [defensive coordinator Don Martindale] to use on third down, because you know how creative 'Wink' is; he'll put him anywhere. He'll put him at nose tackle, he'll line him up like he's a safety and blitz him. So, it really is a great, versatile weapon for us, and our defense. But then also his leadership ability. It's so good having him back. You guys know him; he's a quiet, cool-demeanor guy, but he's really a strong leader. He's got strong leadership, communication traits with the rest of the guys. The team looks up to him. It's really great that he's back here. We love him."
With OLBs Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes, as rookies coming into this system, what do you think are the biggest challenges for them – even if it's different between the two guys – getting to play meaningful reps this year? I also wanted to know, with Hayes, what do you see in him as far as being the type of guy who can develop into a versatile three-down linebacker? (Cliff Brown) "Yes, that's a great question. I love where those guys are at right now. They hit the ground running from the first Zoom meeting all the way up until they had a great practice today. We put in the majority of our blitz package today, and they executed that at a high level. The thing I love about both of their mentalities and their attitudes, right now, is it's not just, 'Hey, this NFL door is open; I'm happy for the opportunity.' They want to kick the door down and make an impact right away in Year One, and I think both those guys have that personality, they have that desire to do that from the jump. And then as far as Daelin [Hayes], the thing about him is he's another guy who has that versatility. You watch the film at Notre Dame … There was one play in particular against Syracuse where he drops underneath the No. 1 receiver, gets an interception. It really looked a lot like Tyus [Bowser] doing it, and you can see the formula there that that guy is going to have a role here. A guy that can drop into coverage, a guy that can play the run, and a guy that can rush the passer – it's an exciting combination. I think he's going to be a great fit for us."
How beneficial is it to have the mix of experience that you guys have in your room? In particular, you have the two rookies, then you have a guy like OLB Pernell McPhee, who has been around a long time. You have an ascending guy like OLB Jaylon Ferguson, who's kind of still finding his footing. As a coach, how beneficial can that be, in terms of when you're building a roster and all that? (Jeff Zrebiec) "The makeup of our room right now, it's hard not to love it. Myself, [coaching fellow] Matt Robinson – who's with us in the room – we have a great group of players that … Every one of them, despite the difference in age, they all have something to prove right now. They all have that chip on their shoulder, and that leadership ability comes from everywhere, and it starts with [Pernell] McPhee. He's at the top of that. He's been great. He's been in all of our Zoom meetings, great communicating with the young players. Ravens Flock, if you can send your love and prayers to Lela Osborne, his great-grandmother who raised him, she's on hospice care right now in Florida, so he's taking care of her right now down there. But he's still in the Zoom meetings with us; he's still communicating with the guys – a lot of communication on the group chat. But we're thinking of 'Phee' [Pernell McPhee] right now. He's down there taking care of his great-grandmother Lela down there. So, then from there, you have Tyus [Bowser] who's a great communicator, great leader. He's been through every type of challenge with those guys. So, you have him leading the young guys. And then the young players who are coming in, they're excited to learn. We also have two guys [who] not a lot of people might know about – they both played in the Pittsburgh game – Chauncey Rivers and Aaron Adeoye. They've been great contributors, too. Those guys are going to be players in this league, as well. So, [it's a] really great room. [I] love where Jaylon [Ferguson] is at. The leadership role he's taken on is really impressive, as well. He's become a great communicator for us."
We've asked defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale and head coach John Harbaugh versions of the same question about OLB Odafe Oweh and the sack production. Obviously, the pressures and the QB hits were there. What do you make of that lack of production in that one statistic, and what do you expect from him in terms of his development as we get closer to the start of the regular season? (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes, it's a fair question, but I think … When you really evaluated his tape – which we've got just a building full of great scouts who do just that and identify guys that fit us, as Ravens … You really don't worry about that sack production, because look at the type of year it was. [It was] a COVID-year, so they cancelled spring ball for them; shoot, the Big Ten [Conference] cancelled their season in August; then they only got seven games played. So, we understand there was a ton of extenuating circumstances that led to that zero sacks. That was the headline, but really when you put on the tape, he's a productive player. He's a productive pass rusher, he's a dominant run player, and he plays tough, he runs to the football, he plays like a Raven. So, I think you look at the traits more than you look at the stats, and you get excited about where Odafe [Oweh] is at right now and where he's going. Honestly, sacks as a stat – and you heard 'Wink' [defensive coordinator Don Martindale] talk about it – we look past that. We look to the type of player he is with his traits, and really, we value those traits whether the guy … You look at Jaylon Ferguson – he set the college record for sacks – or you look at Odafe, who had zero. Both those guys, we value those guys here because of the production they're going to have here, playing like a Raven, knocking out the run game, being able to drop in coverage, being able to be versatile in our pressure patterns. And then both those guys, you can't bring your college sacks with you. So, these guys are just focused on their next sack, and that's coming. For both those guys, that is coming."
OLB Tyus Bowser
When we spoke to you a couple of months ago after your new contract, you spoke about how much you've learned from the older veterans that you came after. Just knowing that you're one of the more veteran guys, what have you been working on this offseason to take the next step? (Daniel Oyefusi) "Kind of one of my main focuses this offseason, especially this year, is just being more of a vocal leader. I've always been a guy to go out there and put my play on the field, and to just be a leader like that. So, just being a veteran coming into that new role, especially with a lot of young guys and upcoming guys. I just want to be that vocal leader to teach these guys the ropes, teach these guys the playbook, and to just put them in the right position, because we're going to need each and every one of them. So, just as a veteran leader, just leading these guys in the right direction and just putting them in a position to help this team move forward."
You talked about the young guys. What are your early impressions about your new teammate OLB Odafe Oweh? (Childs Walker) "Odafe [Oweh] is pretty good. I like what he has to offer – along with him and Daelin [Hayes]. Daelin kind of gives me an impression of me when I was coming into the league – just [with] how mobile he is, how well he can move, how well he can get the defense down. Just with Odafe – just how strong he is, the motor that he has. He goes out there and plays hard each and every play. What we have here, it's going to be great, and I'm excited to be a part of it and help these guys grow as players. I'm definitely looking forward to both of them and seeing what they can do to help us out this year."
I imagine in a contract season for you, like last year, there's an extra chip on your shoulder, maybe. So, now that it's officially in ink, is there more of a looseness that comes with that? More flexibility? Is it easier getting ready for another year? (Bobby Trosset) "No, it's not, it's not – because I've always had that mindset of going out there and proving myself each and every day. Besides the contract, that's great, I'm thankful for it and I'm glad to be here. But that doesn't mean to relax. Because you've got these young guys – Odafe [Oweh], you've got Daelin [Hayes], you've got [Jaylon Ferguson] 'Ferg' – you've got all these guys in this group that still want to get on the field and make things happen. That's the mindset that I'm going to have too – is to go out there and work hard regardless of if I'm still on a rookie contract or making millions of dollars. I'm going to come with the same mindset to go out there and work hard each and every day."
As a veteran, as you've described, and with your new contract, you don't have to go to voluntary workouts. Some veterans don't. Are you going to go to all of them? And why are you at this one? (Mark Viviano) "It's voluntary – that tells you right there that it's an option to whether you can go or not. But I just know me coming into a new role as a veteran, I just wanted to be here for these guys, to be here for these young cats – Odafe [Oweh], Daelin [Hayes], even [Aaron Adeoye] 'Double A' – all those guys who are working to try to keep a spot. I just want to be here for these guys and be that presence for them to go out there and have a [veteran], have a guy who's played games, that's been around other great players to help lead them and teach them coming into this year what you've got to do to make the team, or to up your game, or to improve, or whatever. [For] me, I just use this year as a development for me to continue to get better. There's no better opportunity than coming out here and working hard and working on your game. And then not only that, but just being here for these young guys to help lead them. So, that's why I'm pretty much here."
It's been said pretty often that the Ravens have a particularly challenging defense to learn for young players. You talked a little bit about those young players. Do you agree with that assessment – that it took you, as a rookie … It wasn't that long ago … That it took you a while? What do you kind of tell guys like OLBs Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes about the keys to learning it and picking it up as quickly as possible? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It's a challenging playbook to learn. [Defensive coordinator Don Martindale] 'Wink' – he has anything and everything in the book. You can play one position, [then] play another one, and you have to learn those spots. And that's the great thing about being a part of this defense, is that you're not just locked in one exact position. You can actually go out there and play a different spot and have a different role in a defense that just makes it fun. So, that's the great part about it. But, of course, with these young cats, it's hard for them to try to learn this all at once – especially now with OTAs and how we're moving along each and every day. But the main thing I just tell them is whatever we're working on, just take it one play at a time, just look into the playbook. Whatever we've got to learn for that day, make sure you're locked into it, and then just look back at what else that we had worked on. Just not to soak it all in at once, because it'll be very overwhelming. Just to take it one bit at a time. It's all about the little details, and the big picture will definitely come up. It's just all about telling them learn one install, look back at the other ones that we've went through, and then when we get out on the field just make sure you're locked into what you've got to do, and go out there and play football."
WR Sammy Watkins
You're going to have a chance now to have played with two of the game's most prolific quarterbacks – Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes and now QB Lamar Jackson. It might be early to ask this question, being that you're just starting to work closely with Lamar, but do you see traits between the two of them – comparison-wise? (Bobby Trosset) "Of course. When you have a guy to win the MVP of the league, he definitely has some special attributes. He's special – just like any other quarterback who's in this league playing. He threw great balls today, some balls that went through a couple hands, and it was very special. He threw one ball that, honestly, dropped. So, he's definitely throwing it around and slinging it pretty fast."
We hear so much about chemistry and trying to develop it with a quarterback. You, as a veteran, and QB Lamar Jackson, he's still a young quarterback, what are the keys to developing that? What are the things that are most important to you in the relationship to make sure you're on the same page? (Pete Gilbert) "For me, it's just really, honestly, being in those right positions. Doing everything in my might to get open and being there at the right time when he's looking to throw me the ball. Everything else is predicated to how Lamar [Jackson] wants it. I think it's good for me just to do my job, and if I'm doing my job, and collectively as an offense [we're doing our job], I think Lamar is going to continue to be the star he is. We've just got to do our job around him."
A lot has been made of this passing attack, which finished last, last year. What have been your first impressions about this scheme, and how much of an improvement do you think this passing attack can take? (Jamison Hensley) "I just go out there every day, trying to be a leader. I think if I can be a leader and try to help the guys and help myself and learn from them, and we all learn from our coaches and just really take it seriously as far as getting open … This offense has been top in the league at running the ball, and if we can correlate both running and passing into the offense, I think this offensive team can be dangerous. But really, just going out there and every day just trying to work and put it together. I think that's the most critical thing – taking coaching and trying to get better."
How did it feel being out there for the first time? And I noticed right after the first ball was thrown to you, all heck seemed to break loose. What went on out there? (Jerry Coleman) "It felt amazing. I'm definitely kind of upset with myself for missing a week, but it's fun. It's a great energy, great vibe and just a winning culture. I'm out there, really, just not thinking and being a kid, and that's the most critical thing for me – is just playing unconscious and catching balls, running around, blocking and really just having fun. That's this offense, and if I can be a part of something like that, I just can't wait to put it all together and learn the plays, learn the small things. I think that's critical to me getting out there and playing fast. (Reporter: "Any idea what caused that uproar afterwards?") "No, I wasn't paying attention; I was on the sideline. I don't know what happened, but I think everything got solved or whatever."
From a leadership standpoint, what's it like to learn a new system, learn QB Lamar Jackson, and then you look around the room and you see all the young receivers that are there, probably wanting to take some things and pick some things off you? How do you balance that – you're trying to learn it and also trying to lead this young group of receivers? (Morgan Adsit) "Honestly, I've played in numerous offenses, but this one is very complex. It's a lot of motion, a lot of moving around. [Offensive coordinator] Greg [Roman] can put you in a lot of different places, and honestly, I'm learning from the young guys right now. They're kind of helping me, putting me in certain spots, and I'm learning certain routes from them, so hats off to those guys. But just really going out there and being able to play fast, and go out there, really, to show my talent. I think that's the most critical thing – to learn the offense to where I can play fast, block and do all the things I can do on the field."
What have your impressions been of WR Rashod Bateman? And as a fellow first-round wide receiver, do you talk with him at all about kind of the expectations and the pressures that come along with that? (Garrett Downing) "Honestly, I've been watching him for the last two weeks, and I think the guy is pretty good. He runs just about every route at a professional level; he's doing just about everything I've seen myself doing as a young receiver, or any top guys. I think he's a very special wide receiver; he just has to put it together, take coaching and be able to maximize opportunities and go out there and play when all 11 are out there on the field. I think if he can do that, he can definitely have a bigger role in this offense, if 'G-Ro' [offensive coordinator Greg Roman] dials him up."
You talked about working with young guys. Put yourself back in your rookie position. Who influenced you, and what difference did that make for you back then? (Mark Viviano) "I had a couple guys. I had Mike Williams, who was at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; I had Robert Woods, who's a great wide receiver right now; Marquise Goodwin. I had young guys, but man, they taught me the game. They taught me how to play fast, play physical and literally just take coaching, and that's what I'm trying to bring to this group. We've got to all want it for each other. We've got to be unselfish, and the more we can go out there and play for each other and do whatever in our might to win and not worry about the yards or stats or how many catches … If we have to run the ball 25 times a game, that's what we have to do. We can't worry about who's getting the ball or how many times 'G-Ro' [offensive coordinator Greg Roman] is running the ball. We've just got to do our jobs."
You've played for several teams. How has the chemistry with two coaches in there with pass game specialist Keith Williams and wide receivers coach Tee Martin been? How has that combination of two coaches for that one position been? (Kevin Richardson) "I think it's one of the best situations that any young wide receiver or any receiver can be in. You have a route guru, then you have a great coach who knows just about any concept [and] how to coach those concepts and different coverages. We haven't really gotten too deeply involved with a lot of stuff, but I just think every guy is in a great situation, where you're doing fundamentals with [pass game specialist] Coach Keith [Williams], and you're getting great coaching from both guys, correlating, piggybacking off each other. And just to have two guys on hand, and two great guys, is definitely what you need to try to be great in this league, and we have that here."
You talked a little bit about chemistry and about playing without having to think out there. In your experiences, now that you've been in some different offenses and played with different quarterbacks, how long does that take? I know you can always build more chemistry, but how long does it take to get to that point where you feel that comfortable? (Luke Jones) "Honestly, I think it takes OTAs; you've got camp coming up. It takes all those times that you go into those meetings and being involved with Lamar [Jackson], and just, really, going out there and practicing, going over those plays and having those hiccups where you might not run the right route. Attention to detail – If I can go out there and all of us can have attention to detail and play fast and play physical, I think we'll be OK."
Would you have any kind of message or reaction to some of your critics out there that maybe have voiced some doubts or written doubts about whether, at this point in your career, you can stay healthy for a full season? (Bobby Trosset) "I really don't focus on that. The NFL [has] a 100% injury rate. You're going to have small injuries, hiccups here and there. I was able to – in the past eight years – be in two Super Bowls, so I don't really worry about the injuries or anything. We've got a lot of wide receivers out there who are going to be great. The only thing I can do is try to maximize and try to stay on the field. We have a good staff here to where we're taking care of our bodies and stuff like that, so I've just got to be in the rooms, get in those ice tubs and working on my body to stay on the field. I think I'm going to be good this year."
How do you compare OTAs here in Baltimore to the other places you have played at? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "It's similar cultures. This is a brotherhood, [and] I think here, it's definitely special. You've got a young group of guys on this team and great coaches and a great vibe. [It's] kind of the same feeling I got from Kansas City, just as far as a winning mentality. So, honestly, it feels like Kansas City to me. It feels like a team that's ready to win the Super Bowl, a team that's ready to win and go out there and have fun, put up points – good defense, good special teams. I'm just happy to be here and be involved with a good organization, and I think that's the most critical thing in my career now. I'm in one of the best spots, I think, that I ever chose, probably in my life – just to be on a good team, on a good staff and with good surrounding people."