Transcripts: Ravens Wednesday Minicamp Transcripts

WEDNESDAY PODIUM TRANSCRIPTS: DAY 2 MINICAMP

Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg

One of the big changes in the NFL this year will be with the kickoff. Reports have been out there that you were one of the coaches consulted with that decision. What are your impressions on what the league has done with that play and how it can be a positive for the game? (Luke Jones) “The time had come where a change was going to be made, and I thought the league and the special teams coaches and the head coaches and the NFL management, the rule-writers, the GMs, all the people that were involved in that whole process did a fabulous job of coming together and finding a reasonable solution to keep the traditional play of kickoff in the game, so we don’t lose an integral part of our beloved game. The play is going to be different, but in many ways, it’s going to be perhaps a little bit more common. By that I mean I think we’re going to see more returns. I think we’re going to see a lot of exciting plays. Teams with returners are going to benefit from having a returner, because they’re going to have more opportunities. You’re not just going to be able to kick the ball into the end zone and take a knee in the end zone, like we’ve seen so many times. The natural reaction to the safety issue was to try to reduce the number of kickoff returns. So we took a number of measures as a league and coaches to try to reduce the number of returns to try to reduce the risk. Well, the steps that we’ve taken reduced the risk, but actually give us more opportunities for exciting plays. So I think it’s a win-win. As I’ve said before, if we’re able to – at the end of this whole process that we’ve been through – to make it a safer game, to take the risk out of the play, and also make for more exciting football, then it’s a grand slam.”

Do you need live game action to properly assess kick returns? (Bo Smolka) “That’s a really good question, because we’ve been trying to figure that out as we’ve gone through this process. Even during football school, and we couldn’t oppose one another, we were timing guys to see what the new start rules would be for the kickoff team. We’re trying to get an idea of how far down the field they would be relative to the previous years. The schemes of kickoff return, we’ve been through a lot of different ideas trying to figure out what’s the best way to run kickoff return schemes, because it’s going to be radically different. The other part of it is the personnel aspect. There’s going to be a need for more smaller players. I mean, Brandon Williams, those type of guys on the field for kickoff returns, we won’t see those guys. Willie [Henry] came up to me and said, ‘I miss those meetings!’ And I said, ‘Sure you do.’ (laughter) As a result of that, the roster that you have on gameday of 46 players, we’re going to need all those guys to contribute on that phase. So you’re going to see more tight ends in that phase, more running backs in that phase, in my opinion, more wide receivers in that phase. The guys that are not in the set-up zone, the three deeper players, are all going to have ball-handling skills. You’re not going to be able to see outside linebackers back there, unless they’re extraordinary at handling a ball, because they’re going to get tested. Teams are going to put the ball in their hand, because there’s so much space back there, whether it be by squibs or sky kicks or various things. We’ve been working on it all along since this whole process started as much as we could with our teams. Today was really the first opportunity we’ve had as a kickoff return team to see full-field, full-speed action. So this is going to be a really interesting tape that we’re about to watch. It is a process; we’re going through it. The NFL has told us that they reserve the right to tweak it during the course of this process, too. So we might see some changes. We’ve had some great interactions with the officials out here. They understand how to officiate the play. Terry McAulay has been here. We’ve had conversations before every practice about this. It’s going to be interesting as we go forward, and the preseason games even, I don’t think are going to be a complete indication of what reality is, because the motivations of the two teams are different in preseason. Some teams are still going to want to kick it out of the end zone, just because the kickoff team is hampered a bit. But teams that don’t have kickers who can do that, it’s going to be interesting. It might put a value on stronger-legged kickers. So, there are a lot of things that can happen. I know all the other coaches around this league are thinking about those things as well – we certainly are. That was a really long answer to a short question, and I apologize.”

So you have an advantage to have a kicker that can kick it out of the end zone every time? (Vinny Cerrato) “We’ve always liked to have a guy that could do that, and Justin [Tucker] has proved that he can. So if we need that to happen, then we think we have the right guy in that position.” (Reporter: “The returner is going to have a lot more space to run than in the past because of the starting point.”) “Right. The starting point and also, yes. It appears to us that that’s the case as well. Again, the real test is going to be in the regular season ballgames when the roster is at 46 and to see who’s out there. In preseason games, you get 90 guys to pick from. In a regular season game, you don’t have that benefit, so it’s going to be different players out there trying to do the same things. So it’ll be an interesting evaluation as we go forward.”

What are your impressions of the players you have competing at punt returner? Is there anybody in the early stages that has an edge? (Garrett Downing) “Well, yes, it’s the NFL. It’s a competition every day they step out here. I’m excited about Tim White, because I saw so many things from him last year, and he’s been looking good in practice. Janarion Grant is a young man that I thought had exceptional college tape. He came in as a tryout player in our rookie minicamp and earned a roster spot because of those things and his skills as a receiver. Jordan Lasley has done some, and he’s looked good back there. The preseason game reps will always tell. The practice reps are practice reps. Because we have an extra preseason game, we’re going to get opportunities, plus more. That’s a good thing.” (Reporter: “Is Willie Snead IV an option back there?”) “Absolutely. Willie is a gifted athlete; I’m impressed by him. I didn’t really know that much about him until he came here. He’s a guy that can help us in a variety of different ways. I watched his tape, of course, and I’ve seen him on the kickoff team for the other team, and I’ve seen his returns, so he has a lot of different … We like those kinds of players. The more you can do!”

How special was it to have LB Albert McClellan back on the field today? (Luke Jones) “Albert is a warrior. Our young players benefit so much from having Albert on the field. He’s a mentor, but he’s a great role model for how to practice and how to play physical, smart football. The other part of it is, he’s really a great coach. If he wants to coach someday, he’s going to be a great coach, because he understands football and is able to communicate to the young guys. He’s all over those young linebackers. He wants those guys to develop fast. It’s great to have him back.”

I know your son plays college hockey and he said his favorite team is the Capitals. Did you get invested in their Stanley Cup run? (Jonas Shaffer) “I enjoy watching hockey as well. We have somewhat of a hockey family, so we were watching it. During the course of the playoffs, they were staying up a lot later than I was – I was going to bed. But I did watch the championship game, the fifth game was awesome.”

What are your thoughts when one of the starting linebackers, who sits a couple yards behind your kicker, yells at him as he’s kicking the ball? (Jamison Hensley) “I love it. Practice is so much more fun when ‘55’ [Terrell Suggs] out there.”

Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale

Opening statement: “First of all, a couple things I want to hit on: Ever since we made this transition, it’s just been a joy to come through those gates every day. We are so excited. When I say, ‘We are so excited,’ I’m talking about the staff, the players, and you can tell when you see them practicing. It’s been that way every day. It’s been phenomenal. Things that jump out to me is stuff that’s been talked about in the past. I know ‘Harbs’ [John Harbaugh] talked about [how] we’re remodeling the package. And what we’ve done is we have remodeled it – it’s still Raven football, it’s still Ravens defense – but I think we streamlined it. I think it’s the elegant, simplicity that you’ve heard ‘Harbs’ talk about before, and guys are playing really fast. I think Ozzie [Newsome] and Eric [DeCosta] have done a great job in bringing more depth, which I think you’re seeing that now too at practice. I think our coaches, Joe [Cullen] and Drew [Wilkins] with the D-line, they’ve done a great job of developing that depth, that younger depth already of where we’re at. The old coach speak thing of, ‘You don’t know how anything is going to be until you get in pads,’ that’s true, OK. With Mike [Macdonald] and Zach [Orr] and Sterling [Lucas] at the linebackers, they’re bringing these young linebackers along. I think we’ve had a rich tradition here of undrafted free agents with … Talk about ‘Peanut’ [Patrick Onwuasor] and really, Zach Orr is coaching ‘Peanut.’ What [is] a better example than that? You can see, not only with our draft choice Kenny Young, but with some other guys that are stepping up as undrafted free agents at the linebacker position. Obviously, having C.J. [Mosley] here, I’m fired up about him every day, because he’s the quarterback of this whole thing. In the secondary with Chris [Hewitt] and Jesse [Minter] and Brian Duker, I think they’ve done a great job. I think we have more depth in the secondary right now than we ever have. So where we’re going with this thing is really exciting to me, and I hope it’s exciting to you as well. I know it’s exciting to the players. Are there going to be bumps in the road? Of course there are going to be bumps in the road – you know that. But the thing that I’m most pleased with in these practices, these OTAs and minicamp, is our situational football. We have been outstanding at it. We’ve said this is going to be where we’re going to attack this thing head-on and be honest with each other in the meeting rooms and everything else. I think we’ve played really well in situational football out here in the spring so far.”

Speaking of situational football, we’ve seen a lot of dime packages with S Chuck Clark with an increased role as a third-string safety. Can you talk about him and S Tony Jefferson and the roles they play? (Ken McKusick) “All those safeties – they’ve had a great spring. Chuck has been one of the standouts of the spring. It’s his second year in the package, he’s rolling with it, and he’s communicating. The game slows down for him [in] that second year, especially. We can play Chuck anywhere. So you’re just going to continue to see his role expand.”

How encouraged are you to see CB Jimmy Smith out there today? (Jamison Hensley) “Oh, love it. Love it. He’s right on schedule, from what I understand. What schedule that is, I don’t know. (laughter) He’s on it. [Terrell Suggs] ‘Sizz,’ I mean, I told him, ‘Where did you do your offseason training? In Wakanda?’ (laughter) It’s unbelievable that it’s the best shape I’ve seen him in, and you can see it when he’s out there. I mean, it’s unbelievable.”

What has it meant to you to shape this defense? You’ve waited a long time for this opportunity. (David Ginsburg) “Oh, I love it! I’m the happiest one coming in. The thing of it is that I want to get across is all we’re doing is forwarding John’s [Harbaugh] plan. This is John’s vision of what he wants to see with the defense, and he’s challenged us as a staff and he’s challenged the whole defense. And he’s really making it easier to fly. So it’s exciting for me. It’s like the next step. I know the coaches have their vacation coming up, [but] I’m ready to roll right now. I just can’t wait to see the next step when we get into training camp, we get in the pads and you get into the preseason games and see the younger guys play and do all that evaluation. That’s just the next step in the whole process, and we’re really excited about it.”

LB C.J. Mosley said you can’t help but go into the linebackers’ room every now and then. Do old habits die hard? (David Ginsburg) “Yeah, I’ve been trying to stay out of there, just for Mike’s [Macdonald] sake and for Zach [Orr] and those guys. But yeah, you can’t help but go in there. That’s home; that’s the comfort area. Joe [Cullen] starts yelling too much, so I get out of Joe’s room. I’ve had a good time in the secondary room as well. But as a defense, when we meet and the interaction of the players and the coaches, it’s just been phenomenal.”

Are you anticipating a bigger role for DT Willie Henry based on the way he played last year? (Luke Jones) “Willie has had a good spring. I’ve talked to him. There have been some really good days that he’s had, then he’ll have a day where he’s not bad, but just average, and I’ve talked to him about that of taking his game to the next level with that. The way he’s progressed – yeah, I think there could be an expanded role. There could be an expanded role with all of them up front – that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to play a lot of guys. I think that’ll help you when you get towards the end of the season. If you play a lot of guys, and you’re confident playing a lot of guys, that’s just going to help us better Game 12 through 16.”

It looks like LB Kamalei Correa moved outside. Do you see him being used possibly everywhere or more of an outside linebacker? (Bo Smolka) “Yeah, I think Kamalei … He and I had a talk at the end of the year, and this is before the whole transition. He came into my room and we had a talk, and that’s where he feels it’s his best shot at playing and where he’s most comfortable at, and you can see his confidence on the edge. He’s had some great speed rushes out here and he’s done a lot of good things. Still, one of his best traits is he can play anywhere. But on the outside, he does look more comfortable. But you talk about the outside, in Raven defense, you have Kamalei, you have Tyus Bowser and you have Matt Judon at SAM linebacker. Those three are good football players. So a lot of these battles, these position battles and the development of depth that I told you I’m all excited about, football is going to take care of that.”

When you talk about those young guys developing, do you feel like you have more depth overall than you did last year? (Ryan Mink) “Without a doubt, without a doubt. We just have to stay healthy – that’s what everybody always talks about. But there is more depth across the board. Like I said earlier, I think that we have more depth in the secondary than we’ve ever had, at safety and at corner, once you get everybody healthy.”

Is it amazing when you see a guy like OLB Terrell Suggs and think about how long he’s been in the league and to see how in shape he is? (Jamison Hensley) “My son asked me that same question about two weeks ago, and I told him, ‘There’s some people that God just looks at; there’s some people that God touches once; and there’s those, like ‘Sizz’ [Suggs], that He’s touched twice.’ I mean, it’s amazing to me. I think he’s going to be one of the greatest of all time when he’s done with his legacy. I’m excited about seeing it this year, too.”

Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg

Opening statement: “I’ll tell you what – what a great offseason! I am so excited. I was just juiced up this morning. We accomplished an awful lot. The players have worked very, very hard – great preparation. We have about … The amount the things we have in equals about seven game plans, and I’m not exaggerating too much. So the fellas have handled that just beautifully, working diligently. And the hard work the fellas put in this offseason, as you know, is very important. We have several new players and quite a few rookies. Now, all of the rookies have done just excellent. That draft that Ozzie [Newsome], Eric [DeCosta] and John [Harbaugh] put on has just been terrific. Now, they’re in the middle of a learning curve here, and typically, as long as a young man is pretty natural, pretty smart, a talented guy and stays reasonably healthy, about middle of training camp it starts to click for them. So that’s usually the timing, from my experience. Now all of them are just a little bit different as far as that goes. So Joe [Flacco] … Hey, [he’s] healthy! Man alive, it’s been a great camp for him, just outstanding! The [offensive] line you have seen. That first week we worked together just beautifully, and then the second week of the OTAs, we made a couple of adjustments, personnel-wise, because we all have to be versatile up there. So we got some good looks at guys inside, at center and at the tackles spot. All of the new receivers we have acquired – just terrific and pretty deep there. So, there’s going to be some great competition at multiple spots, so that’s a good thing. Competition makes everyone better. Let’s open it up to questions real quick.”

What have you seen out of QB Joe Flacco? (Jamison Hensley) “Like I said, man, he’s healthy. So that’s the first thing. Then he got an unbelievable amount of reps this offseason – so that was excellent. Then, the ability to work with the new players – both the men we acquired as free agents and the college fellas that we drafted and acquired as college free agents – it just has been terrific for him.”

What have been your impressions of QB Robert Griffin III? Has it been difficult to get him as many reps as you would like, given the number of quarterbacks you have? (Childs Walker) “Yes. Now you saw that we [did] what we call ‘double down’ or ‘two spot,’ you know, those types of things. We did that quite a little bit in the OTAs, because we have four quarterbacks here, and all four of them are really good. They’re all four very different from each other, but they’re all very, very good. I like all four of them very much. And specifically Robert, Robert can still play at a high level – there’s no question about it. He’s healthy, as well, and certainly skilled, talented, smart. He’s had an excellent camp. I will tell you, he’s done a great job with the reps that he’s had and taking advantage of them. That’s what you expect from all the players. The reps sometimes aren’t quite fair; you know life’s not fair. Take advantage of the reps that you get and make the most of those, and he did that just beautifully.”

How is this receiver group different from the one last year? (Bo Smolka) “Certainly deeper. And I see a couple of things that are important here. We acquired some free agents; they’re skilled, they’re talented, they’re smart and they’re natural players. So that part is good. We also have some young receivers that have been with us that are talented. Some players make a big jump, some players just come in seamlessly and play and sometimes even better than they did in college. Other guys may be the big jump in the first or second year, and then others between the second and third year they make the big jump. But you have to make that big jump. So some of our younger players are in the middle of making that big jump, and I see great signs there. Then the rookies – it’s sort of three-fold there. The rookies are in a big learning curve, and so, some reps just look great and other reps – they’re still learning and you get them some more reps. It’s sort of three-fold there. That was a long answer to a very easy question. I apologize for that.”

How are TE Hayden Hurst and TE Mark Andrews progressing in the context that in the offseason, you wanted to add a few pass-catching tight ends? (Luke Jones) “Yes, well both of them have had an excellent camp. Both of those players are just a little bit different with their skill set. However, both of them needed work in line. So we got as much as we could do in line without pads of course – the alignment, assignment, the communication part and especially the technique part. So they had a lot … Then our pass game, they got thrown right into that, and both of them have done just an excellent job that way.”

What has been your impression of defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale’s defense? (Jordan Schatz) “‘Wink?’ Are you kidding me! They’re fast and furious. Print that one! (laughter) And I heard ‘Wink’ from the cheap seats.”

Wide Receivers Coach Bobby Engram

Bobby, what are your initial impressions of a lot of the new faces in your room? (Jamison Hensley) “Just initially, [they are] football guys who love and embody what they do. Smart football players, and I thought we’ve really had a good offseason, in terms of just grasping the offense, catching the ball and making plays.”

With WR Michael Crabtree, when he signed here, he kind of talked about being the leader of the group as a veteran player. How have you seen him take on that responsibility? (Garrett Downing) “Yeah, ‘Crab,’ he just comes out and he’s going to work. In the classroom, he’s trying to be detailed, and the biggest way I’ve seen is he’s always grabbing a guy, younger guys, talking to them about splits, about technique and just sharing everything that he’s learned over the course of his career.”

Has this been any more of a challenging offseason considering so many new faces? You guys completely turned over your room. (Garrett Downing) “It’s a little challenging, but more exciting, because that’s what we do and that’s what we enjoy as coaches, in terms of teaching and developing – you know, that final product that you want to see out there. So, it’s on me, and it’s on us as a group to make sure we’re seeing on tape what we want to see. To me, that part is exciting and this is just the foundation. We have a lot of work to put in, and the competition has been great. It’s going to continue to be great, because we have so many talented players, and that’s great for the Ravens.”

In the practices we’ve seen, WR Chris Moore has had a lot of really nice plays. What has changed? Or it seems something has really progressed with him since midway through last year? (Bo Smolka) “I think the No. 1 thing is consistency with Chris. Chris has always been talented, but I think the thing that you see now is him consistently getting open and making the plays. And part of that is just the natural development as a receiver. When you’ve got Steve Smith Sr., and you’ve got Mike Wallace, and you’ve got some veteran guys, some of the younger guys may not get as many reps or make as many plays. But now, he’s getting his opportunity, and I thought you were exactly right. Last year, halfway [through] the year, you really saw him take off and make some big plays for us down the stretch, and he got more consistent in his play last year. He’s just carried it over into this offseason, so I’m happy for Chris. He’s been working his butt off.”

Where have you seen progression from the two rookies: Wr Jaleel Scott and WR Jordan Lasley? (Ryan Mink) “No. 1 is playbook. That’s first and foremost. We threw a lot at these guys early on, so heads were spinning a little bit. But once they got comfortable in the playbook, you see their natural abilities take over. Jordan is playing fast, he’s great with the ball in his hands after the catch. Jaleel has really good hands; he’s learning how to continue to refine his route-running. But both of those guys bring a level of play-making to the team that we enjoy.”

Bobby, I know you’re a Penn State guy, but are you going to have to get some Wisconsin gear? (Garrett Downing) “Already got it. (laughter) You know my wife ordered some stuff online already. He’s referring to my son [Dean] that signed with Wisconsin. I’m really happy for him. This is his time; it was his decision. More importantly, it’s a great fit for him.”

Could he cover you? (Stan White) “No way. (laughter) That’s my story, and I’m going to stick to it until he can prove otherwise.” (laughter)

Bobby, how has WR Breshad Perriman responded this offseason after clearly having a disappointing season last year and with the amount of competition there is right now at the position? (Luke Jones) “I feel like Breshad, in terms of just watching him move and run, I think this is the best he’s been since he’s been here. I’m imagining part of that is because he’s really healthy right now. I thought he has caught the ball really well this offseason, so he’s responding in a way we want him to respond. Now we just have to continue that, because the competition is going to play out until the very end.”

We saw WR Willie Snead IV yesterday become a favorite target of QB Joe Flacco. What makes him such a good security blanket out there? (Jonas Shaffer) “I think when you have a veteran guy like that, that’s worked the slot, he understands how to set guys up, he understands the timing of say a ‘choice route.’ He’s seen reading a defense’s leverage, and I think for a quarterback, Willie is easy to read, like his body language. So, I think him and Joe have struck up a good rapport. But Tim White is doing a great job, even our young guy, Janarion [Grant], he’s doing a great job in the slot. So again, that’s the competition that we’re talking about. There are lot of really good football players fighting for some spots, and everybody has responded. Everybody is rallying and everybody is pushing each other to get even better. It’s an exciting thing.”

Linebackers Coach Mike Macdonald

What are your impressions of this linebacker group? (Garrett Downing) “Man, it’s been great. This group every day, I’m just proud of how they’re approaching every day, their effort. We have a really talented group, starting with the SAM [linebacker]. Right now, we’re three-deep at SAM. Any guy could go in there and play tomorrow. Inside guys, shoot, we’re four-deep when everybody comes back healthy. It’s a really deep group, love their approach, very coachable, been doing a great job. [I’m] really happy with them.”

What part of the game have you seen ILB Patrick Onwuasor make strides in? (Ryan Mink) “I’m proud of ‘Peanut’ [Onwuasor]. His confidence is the biggest thing, and that’s just coming from another year and more plays next to C.J. [Mosley]. [He’s] communicating well – we’ve given him a couple snaps at MIKE so you can see his leadership qualities come out a bit. ‘Peanut’ has been doing a great job. He had a great practice today.”

How excited were you this offseason to get promoted to a position coach? (Garrett Downing) “It was awesome. The opportunity is just … I’m very thankful for the opportunity from coach [John] Harbaugh. ‘Wink’ [Don Martindale] has been a huge help with just leading me and leading the group and helping with everything that I can’t. Shoot, I mean, I didn’t know everything when I took over the role. There were a lot of things where I would say, ‘Wink,’ how do you see this one?’ And he would give you the ins and outs of it, then you can give that to the guys. It’s been great.”

How have you seen OLB Tyus Bowser grow, now having a full offseason after his rookie year? (Luke Jones) “Very similar to [Patrick Onwuasor]. Like his confidence is just, I think, is skyrocketing. You can see it in how fast he’s playing. Shoot, he’s got three interceptions out there. He can pluck it for being a guy on the edge. In the meeting room, he really attacks it. His personality is a little more quiet, but it comes out a little bit. He really wants to know it, he wants to master it, and you can see it in the way he practices – every rep is 100 percent. He’s been probably our most productive ’backer, in terms of just sacks and interceptions and that sort of thing. I’m really happy in how he’s coming along.”

S Eric Weddle

On what the difference has been under new defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale: “We love Dean [Pees]. I loved my time with him and the job he did, but now it’s Wink’s job, and he’s just putting his stamp, his personal fix on our defense and expanding it and giving the guys confidence to play fast and to do what is best for the defense – not what’s best for the individual or to do certain things to get this guy on the field to make plays, it’s about what’s best for the defense. And all guys are confident to make changes and to feel it out, see what’s coming, see the formation and decipher what is best for the defense and change accordingly. It’s been … For a guy that’s up there in years, this offseason has been a fun challenge for me to re-commit and to challenge myself, both mentally [and physically]. As you go throughout the years, sometimes you kind of hit a stale point, mentally, and as a player you always want to be challenged. I’ve definitely been challenged this offseason and expect to not only have my best year, but as a defense to really control and to manipulate and to make big plays as a defense, even more so than we have in the past.”

On what his perception has been of QB Joe Flacco this offseason and some of the new receivers as well: “Joe has had an outstanding offseason, and it’s nice just to see him running around, getting drops, planting and throwing the ball with zip, throwing the ball downfield. I mean, a few throws to ‘Smoke’ [John Brown] … He’s running these routes at full speed, and Joe lets it air out, I mean, you could be even with this guy, but he’s just going to run by you. And [Flacco] can throw it 70 yards; you saw it a few weeks ago. So, we’re pumped. We’re excited. He’s obviously been challenged; we all are. As older players, every year is a prove-it year, and if you don’t believe that, you’re fooling yourself. I have to prove that I’m still a starter in this league, that I can compete, that I should be a starter and that I should be on this team, because if you don’t, then you’re going to be out of here. So now, so with drafting Lamar [Jackson] and bringing [Robert] Griffin in, it’s lit a fire under him – you can tell – and he’s shown. He’s worked extremely hard, and our new group of receivers, it’s just nice to see guys competing – to see ‘Crab’ [Michael Crabtree] catching everything. That’s why he’s here, right? He could be completely gloved up, and he’ll snag that ball out of nowhere. So, it’s been a great offseason, just to see how far we’ve come, how far we still have to go. But this group is going to be a special group.”

On if the defense is better now than it was at this point last year, because some of the rookies from last year have another year under their belt: “Oh, definitely. It’s just the continuity itself – another year of experience as a group, and then individually. You know what to expect, you’ve been in situations, you’ve been in experiences, whether good or bad, and you learn from them. Getting Tavon [Young] back is huge. The ability he has to play the nickel and to cover and to blitz and play the run, he just brings an element that we missed last year. And then Tony [Jefferson], another year in the system, he looks amazing, if you guys have watched him out there. It’s fun. We have high expectations for ourselves. It’s built in playing for this organization. If you don’t expect to be one of the best defenses in this league, then you shouldn’t play here. So, we like the pressure of that, but we also know that we’ve been putting in the work and we’re excited to continue to do that and see how far it can take us.”

On if he feels like this defense is flying under the radar a little bit this year: “People who know football, they know the Ravens are going to have a great defense. We’ve just got to shore up late game situations. We’ve got to win those situations with two minutes, continue to turn the ball over, be better in the run game – which we will – and you know, shoot, win. It takes a team, and our offense is going to be better, obviously, with Joe [Flacco] healthy, with our offensive line. I mean, our offensive line, you look at getting our guys back and having the continuity, having the new receivers … Special teams will be the best in the league. So, we’re confident. We obviously have to go show it. It’s a big year for everyone, but expectations are high here, and they should be. This is a championship organization, so anything less is not getting it done.”

On his impressions of QB Lamar Jackson and QB Robert Griffin III: “They both have had their days. I think Joe [Flacco] is obviously a step ahead of those guys, and coming from a new system with Rob, you can tell he’s been in this league; he makes some unbelievable throws. And then Lamar is just a talent. He can do things that not many guys can do, like getting out of the pocket, rolling. When he gets into the openfield, he’s just a special runner. But it’s going to take some time for him in the pocket and throwing and doing the things necessary to be an effective quarterback in this league. That’s just the reality of it. But he’s got a live arm; he can zing it in there. It’s just going to take some time for him. But, it’s exciting to see him.”

On having CB Jimmy Smith back on the field today: “It was awesome, right? I’m sure everyone was surprised. I don’t know if Jimmy is like half-Wolverine, but the dude is like healed up in half the time than normal, regular human beings with an Achilles [injury]. But, he’s worked extremely hard. I mean, I’ve been in here since after the Pro Bowl every week, and he’s been in here rehabbing, and the medical staff has done a great job. So, it was nice to see him out here doing backpedaling and just being a part of the team. As a guy who is injured, you feel kind of segregated when you’re not part of the team and doing all of the team stuff. It definitely put a smile on his face to be out there and to join back up, because once Jimmy gets back, we’re going to have a lot of good players out there.”

On if it was more of a difficult process to re-energize this offseason after the way the last two seasons ended: “I remember when the offseason first started, I told you guys it was a long offseason for me. Just physically, mentally, it took much longer for me to recuperate after the season, and it was hard just to get up every day, honestly, to go out and do the things necessary to try to be at your best. But I hit a moment about two weeks before we came back in April that I got over the hill and was starting to feel great, and I haven’t looked back since. So, it was all worth those hard days to be where I’m at now. I feel amazing out there running around now. They’ve managed my reps, and only practicing twice a week has been amazing for me, because I’ve never missed a practice, never missed a walk-through for my whole career. So, the coaches have done an unbelievable job just trying to save my legs a little bit so I could be lights out in December and January this season.”

On how having fans out at practice and during training camp changes the energy at practice: “It’s nice! You never want to not play good in front of your fans, and not having our fans out here last year was different. It just felt like the same day, over and over again. You don’t really get the energy from the fans, or they chant your name, or screaming when there are touchdowns or picks. Having them back out this training camp is going to be fun, because you always want to show out. You want to play good, but when the fans are out there, it’s like games. You never want to be on the wrong side of a play and getting booed or getting yelled at. So, it’ll be nice to have everyone out here, having the thousands of fans support us. That’s why you play, to make them be proud of what you put out there on the field. We’re excited to go show them what we’re all about.”

On if this is the longest his beard has ever been: “I don’t know, does it look amazing? It’s beautiful. You know, I’m just here to wreck shop this year! Not shaving … I got my Mohawk ready; it’s going the whole year! I’m not showing it right now, because I need a haircut – but it’s up there. (laughter) And the beard is ready. So, anyone in my way, watch out!”

Advertising