Opening statement:"I just want to thank you guys for coming out. I want to thank my family, thank my fiancée [Chanel Daggett], my mom [and] dad, my brothers, my son, close friends – everybody that's supported me throughout my life. I want to thank the organization [and] thank [owner] Mr. [Steve] Bisciotti, [Head] Coach John Harbaugh, [executive vice president & general manager] Eric DeCosta, [president] Sashi Brown – everybody in the organization. [There are] so many people in this wonderful organization who've shown me so much love all throughout the years. [I] just can't thank them enough. [I'm] excited, fired up [and] determined for the opportunity that I have. I'm ready to get to work."
During your playing career, did you ever think about getting into coaching afterwards?*(Jamison Hensley)* "Not while I was playing. My playing [goals were] honestly [to] make it to the National Football League, play 10 to 15 years, go back home [and] coach some high school football, but I never thought I'd be coaching in the National Football League. This is a blessing, and obviously with my situation, when I got the opportunity to start coaching in the National Football League, [becoming a defensive coordinator] was one goal of mine, so it's just crazy to see it all come together. Initially, it definitely was not ... I never thought this would happen."
From when you announced your retirement from playing until now, what has it been like emotionally to get back to this point?*(Pete Gilbert)*"It was tough. It was tough initially when I had to come in and sit with you guys last time [in this auditorium] and hang up the cleats, hang up the pads [and] hang up the helmet, but like I said, I had great support from my family and from the organization. They supported me right away. Talking to the organization, they were like, 'I know you want to get right into coaching. We want you to come right back up here and get to work, and I did that. I learned what it took to be a coach in the National Football League. I learned from a lot of great people, and [I] just continued to work, work, work, work, work. I fell in love with the game as a coach, and now we're here. It definitely was a crazy journey from that moment last time I was here [in 2017 until now. Like I said, I'm excited and it just shows [when] you put in the work [and] you treat people the right way, great things can happen."
When you started to make that transition from playing to coaching, who were the people that leaned on the most to figure out how to do this new job?*(Childs Walker)* "There's so many people. When I first got back up here to coach, [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] was like, 'Alright now. You know these hours are different, so get ready.' He's one of the guys. Obviously, [head] Coach [John] Harbaugh. There's so many guys in the building like [former defensive coordinators] Mike Macdonald [and Don] 'Wink' Martindale [and former defensive assistants] Sterling Lucas [and] Jessie Minter. I could name a list of people. [There were] just so many people helped me out along the way [and] helped me get acclimated to what it takes to be successful in this profession. I can't thank those people enough. I named some people, but I know I missed a lot. I had so many people help me [along] the way."
How quickly did the process of becoming defensive coordinator come together for you? Was there a lengthy interview process for the position here, and what was that process like?*(Brian Wacker)* "So, Monday, it was crazy. I didn't even have a chance to process what happened the day before [in the AFC Championship game]. I had conversations with [Head] Coach [John] Harbaugh starting on Monday, because we knew the possibility of things that could happen with the [coaching] staff. I was talking with him Monday, going through the interview process with him, as well as Tuesday. [I had] two days of really detailed conversations. I talked to [the] Green Bay [Packers] on Monday. I interviewed with them Wednesday. [On] Wednesday, after the interview with Green Bay, I had another conversation with Coach Harbaugh. That's when things really started to pick up steam."
Was there a moment or conversation that sticks out to you where you realized you could be an NFL defensive coordinator?*(Luke Jones)* "I just think [it was] the process. The more I got into it, the more I started to dive more into coaching. My first year [of coaching] was just getting adjusted [and] getting acclimated to the transition, then the second year being full-fledged and so forth and so on. I wouldn't say there was a specific moment. I just know that probably by Year Three or [Year] Four, I was fully entrusted into the coaching things. I'm excited about the process of game-planning, going through the process of studying opponents, offseason studies [and] all the little details that go into it. I was fully entrenched into it just like how I was as a player. I wouldn't say [there was] a specific moment, but [it was] just the whole process. I love what I do. I tell people all the time. I never thought I would say this, 'I have no aspirations of playing at all.' I love this."
What are the similarities that translate over to coaching from being a leader as a player? What are the differences in how you have to lead as a coach?*(Giana Han)* "I think if you're a leader, it really doesn't matter what position you're in, whether you're a coach or player or just in your community, no matter what your occupation is. I think the things that go with being a leader is first: You have to lead by example. You have to do things right and to the best of your ability [and] do things right all the time. Be on time. Be prepared. I think that carries over from being a player to a coach. Be organized. Then, you just have to show the passion [and] show that you really care for the person that you're trying to lead and for the people you're trying to lead. I think when people know that you genuinely care about them, and you care about their well-being, and you care about what's best for them, they'll follow you as long as you're doing what you said you're going to do, and you're leading by example."
What have you done in your other coaching roles to prepare for calling plays as a defensive coordinator? Is that something you do during games to imagine what you would call, or do you do it when you break down film after?*(Kyle Goon)* "I think what we do a great job [of] here is everybody [has] a collaborative effort going into the gameplan. Obviously, the coordinator is going to have the final say so, but we all have game-planned areas [of the game]. We all watch all the film together, and we come with our own ideas. We bring it to the table, and everybody's voice is heard. Ultimately, one person makes the decision, but everybody's voice is heard. I would say probably about three years ago, people were telling me, 'If you have aspirations of being a coordinator, when you're watching the film throughout the week [and] watching the film on your own, you need to start seeing how you would call the game, how you would stop certain gameplans [and] certain schemes and how you attack certain schemes.' [I] always did that. [I] always had the conversations. Being here, it's easy because it's a collaborative effort in the gameplan. You're very into that role. [The] defensive coordinator has the final say so, but here it's a collaborative effort. You see the process and you're very much part of the process, even as an assistant coach."
You talked about Green Bay and that situation. When the AFC Championship ended, and you got over all that, did you have any inclination that you could be named defensive coordinator going forward? Especially knowing former Ravens' defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald's situation because if the Ravens are playing in the Super Bowl, we're not sitting here.* (Jerry Coleman)* "I knew it was a possibility, just because you started seeing guys on our staff, guys were getting interviews. Obviously, you knew Mike [Macdonald] was a hot name in the head-coaching circuit, so you definitely knew it was a possibility. You never know until the thing actually starts happening. So, I knew it was a possibility. I was fully focused on the Kansas City Chiefs, and then when I got the call from Green Bay – my fiancée could tell you – I started preparing just getting stuff together. So, until it really happens, you really don't know, but you knew it was a possibility in the back of your mind."
Where are you going to call the game from? Are you going to call it from the field or from the press box? Which one do you think is better for you?*(Mike Preston)* "I have to be on the field. I have to look players in their eyes and see what's going on and get a feel for how guys are feeling out there. So, people have their different ways, [but] I have to be on the field. I'm more being into it and getting the feel off of motion and how guys are really feeling out there."
You were a player once. What did you look for from the defensive coordinator and how much do you think it helps you that you can still see things from a player's point of view?*(Childs Walker)* "I just looked for a well-detailed, organized gameplan and somebody who can lead with passion and energy – lead us, tell us what we need to do, where we need to be at, why we need to be there and how it's going to work for us to go out there and execute and do what we need to do at a high level. So, I [will] just try to carry that over. As a defensive coordinator, I'm looking at first things first, I have to have my guys prepared from a mental standpoint and a physical standpoint. Then I like giving them answers to potential problems or to potential questions that the offense may present, and I think once you do that, you build that trust, you build that relationship, and guys will do whatever you need them to do for you."
You're taking over one of the best defenses in the league. Obviously, you want to leave your own fingerprint. What type of identity do you want this defense to have?* (Cordell Woodland)* "I want our defense to play together, first and foremost – 11 people playing as one, let's start there. The next thing is, I want it to be violent – very violent [and] physical. That's just the standard here. Everything we're going to do is going to be with physicality and violence. Then, just execution – executing at a high level, executing in certain situations [and] executing all the time. Then the last thing I'll leave you with is I would say, 'Organized chaos.' Present a lot of problems to the offense. Never give the answer to the offense before the snap. But that's what I would say. Identity first things first is, hit everything that moves. We're going to play violent. We're going to play together, and we're going to execute."
You were a great part of this defensive staff last season, but by many metrics, this was a historic defense. How does it feel to take on the challenge of building upon an historic performance of this defense and trying to find ways to grow?* (Kyle Goon)* "It feels great. It feels great. One thing that I've always lived by is, 'You never stay the same. You either get better, or you get worse.' Obviously last year was a great year, and the thing we did last year was go through the process. We started in the offseason around this time of year, [we] self-scouted [and] looked at what we did good, looked at what we can build on. And being led by [head] Coach 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh], the thing that he pushes us to do as coaches is we have to be in front of things. You want to be cutting edge, always want to evolve and always want to be ready for the next thing the offense may present. So, we're going to get in the lab this offseason. We're going to look at ourselves, look at things we did well, look at how can make it even better. [Also], look at things we need to improve on and get better at that and look at some new ideas that we could possibly present and get ready to roll out there by the time we kick off the ball the first week of the season."
What about the offseason for you now that you're taking on these new responsibilities, what are you looking for to kind of refine the details of going into the 2024 season?* (Valerie Preactor)* "I'm looking forward just diving into the tape. During the season, you watch the film that you played on Sunday, right? Now you have to start getting ready for the next opponent. We do self-scout throughout the season, but now we can take a deep dive [and] look at our rules [and] everything that we're going through and how it fits in. And how it fits in with our personnel and what we want to do. I'm excited about just looking in starting from scratch and seeing how we're going to rebuild the defense back up because it's a process that you have to go through each and every offseason if you want to continue to build and continue to be great, and I'm excited about that."
So much has been made about your age and you being one of the younger coaches. Does that mean anything to you being able to do this at such a young age. Has it kind of caught up to you just how fast it's been? I'm sure it hasn't been that fast for you, but just the rise you've had in such a short span.*(Cordell Woodland)* "For me personally, the age thing is not a big deal to me. I just look at it like, I'm the next man for the job; the next man for the mission to do it. But from the outside looking in, I do see how it's inspiring to a lot of people who are young, who are into coaching and just my biggest thing is to let those people know is just, 'You can do great things, and you can get great opportunities if you just continue to work hard, put your head down and do things the right way and continue to lean and evolve.' So, for me personally, I don't really pay attention to the age, I just look at it like I'm the next man for the job, and I have to get ready to do that."
What is or what was at the top of your list when you officially got hired last Thursday? What have you done, or what will you do to complete some of those?*(Jonas Shaffer)*"Organize and we have to get ready to get some more coaches in here. Credit to the coaches that got opportunities at other places. They're heck of coaches, and that's why they got those opportunities, but now we're just going through that process of figuring out who's going to come in and do a heck of a job for us and also get in the self-scout stuff getting ready to go. Then we have the [NFL] Combine coming up, so it's a lot of stuff going on. But at the top of the To Do list, it's obviously filling out the staff with [head] Coach [John Harbaugh] and self-scouting, looking at how we can continue to evolve as a defense."
Have you had the opportunity to talk to players on the team that are under contract next year and reach out and explain the new situation?*(Jonas Shaffer)*"Yes. A lot of people reached out. I've seen people in the building just in passing, and guys are excited. They're just saying, 'I'm going to get everything out of them,' and I told them, 'You're going to get everything out of me.' So, I'm excited. I told them to get ready, get some rest, get your body ready, and when we get back, it's on."
Have you thought about the lineage you're following here of legendary defensive coordinators?*(Jerry Coleman)* "I haven't thought of that specifically. I know what the standard is here as a defense here in Baltimore, and it means a lot to me. I haven't thought about that specifically, but obviously, [there have] been a lot of great coaches [that] come through here [and] a lot of great defensive coordinators [that] have come through here, so yes. I'm next in line. I have a big challenge and a big opportunity, but I'm excited for it."
Two years ago, we asked Mike Macdonald if he wanted to build off of the previous scheme, or if he wanted to create his own. He said he wanted to build off of the previous one. What is your approach from now Macdonald's scheme? What do you want to continue, and what are some things that you might want to change or navigate differently?*(Kyle Phoenix)* "We definitely want to build on that. That's a scheme that we helped build here for years. It's been a scheme in [the] making. Kind of going back to the point I made earlier; all those questions that you just asked, we will find out in the offseason studies – in the self-scout studies of what we want to do and how we're going to build on it and what we'll change up and how we can get better. Like I said, we're always looking to get better. That's why you've seen great defenses here in the past. That's what we have to do to continue. You have to look at yourself and look at how you can improve and how you can make that better, and on top of that, staying in front of what's next. We know it's going to be something that offenses [are] going to get together and try to present to us new this year. We're trying to stay in front of that, but that's part of the process, that's part of what we're excited to go do, and we can't wait to get started on that."
Will you have much input on the hiring process of assistant coaches? Can you restore the closeness that this defense had with those defensive assistants who left?*(Mike Preston)* "Yes. Obviously, the final decision is [head] Coach [John] Harbaugh's and [executive vice president and general manager] Eric DeCosta's, but I'm very much involved with it. They do a great job of letting me be in on the interviews [and letting] me, obviously, run the interviews and communicating back and forth. It's an open line of communication. It's been great. [I'm] very much a part of that. Just going back to your deal about being close as a staff – we had to build it. Every year, when you're building a team, building a staff – staff is a part of a team – every year you do that, you have to build that trust, build that camaraderie [and] build that teamwork. You have to build that every single year. Let's say, for some reason, we had the exact same staff that we had last year this year. Last year, that really wouldn't mean anything. You would have to rebuild that trust, because trust is hard to gain and easy to lose. Every year, you have to build it up, but I'm confident in the people we have. We do a great job of bringing in great people in this organization, so I'm fully confident [that] once we get the staff filed out that we'll be able to build that trust, we'll be able to build that teamwork and be the best staff we can possibly be for our players."
When you met with head coach John Harbaugh last week, what did he want to know from you? You guys have obviously known each other for a long time. What did he ask you?*(Childs Walker)* "He just wanted to know if I was ready and how I see the game and how I would game-plan and all the little details that go into play-calling. [He] kind of picked my brain about that. It was good."
I know you've had several years to adjust to the coaching side, but did it ever hit you – especially this last week – that head coach John Harbaugh was his first head coach in the NFL and executive vice president and general manager Eric DeCosta was one of those guys who helped bring him in personnel-wise. Just kind of working on the other side of the curtain and seeing how teams get built from that side, does it ever strike you hard?*(Kyle Goon)*"Yes. It's crazy. As a player, you really don't see all the behind the scenes [and] all the work that a lot of people in the organization put in to make everything great for you as a player, to go out there and just go play football. Me being on the other side of things, you kind of see all the details, all the day-in and day-out operations of what it takes to help the organization be great and be well-run like the Ravens organization is. Like you said, I've been on the coaching side a lot, so it's not surprising now, but when I first made that transition, I was like, 'OK, now I see why this organization always has a legit chance to compete for championships.'"
Having played linebacker and at a high level, how does that perspective help you? Because it's a unique perspective that you can bring to it, how do you think that helps you as a defensive coordinator?*(Jamison Hensley)* "Obviously, when you play the game, you do have the experience of actually being out there on the field in the cleats. A lot of times, you put stuff up on the board, and it sounds good and everything, but when you're really out there, stuff is moving a lot faster, you have somebody trying to hit you and things of that nature, so that helps. You can kind of be like, 'OK, I understand what you saw in this specific situation.' But, honestly, as a coach, that really doesn't help you from the standpoint of teaching, coaching and getting information to the players, because as a coach, it's really not what you know; it's what your players know and what you can get them to know. That's why you don't see a lot of players really just get into coaching and things of that nature, because coaching and playing are two totally different things. As a player, you just have to understand, 'OK. This is what I do. This is how it fits in to what we're doing.' As a coach, you have to be able to know what's coming next and be able to spit that information out to your players and make sure they're prepared to go."
You come from a deep football family. What were those conversations like when you told your dad and your brothers about what was going on here and the opportunity you may have?*(Jeff Zrebiec)* "They were fired up. They were fired up. More than anything, my family, they get a chance to see the work and stuff that I put in behind the scenes that not necessarily everybody sees – even just in this building. The conversations were great, and they were fired up. They were excited. They've been supportive, and then, they ended the phone [call] like, 'Alright. Get off the phone. Get ready to work. You have a lot of work to do,' so they understand. I'm so happy for them, and they're happy for me, but they understand what's at stake and what's up next. They're going to be there every step of the way with me."
How much have you enjoyed coaching? And when you got back involved, did that help you avoid any kind of lingering disappointment in the way your playing career ended?*(Jeff Zrebiec)*"It did, man. It did. And that's why ... I tell people all the time, 'I bleed purple and black.' This organization, [it] means something to me. This means a little more to me. It's not just me just coaching in the National Football League just for any other organization. No, I'm coaching for the organization that had my back. When I went through what I went through, they didn't allow me to really put my head down. I didn't know what the next step was going to be; boom, [head] Coach [John] Harbaugh, [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome], Mr. [Steve] Bisciotti, they called me, [and] they said, 'Hey, I know you want to get into coaching. You're coming right back up here and getting ready to work with us.' And them doing that for me just shows that they had my back in a tough situation, so they're going to get everything I've got out of me. And like I said, it means something; I bleed purple and black."
How does your comfort level with the organization help with taking on this new challenge as the Ravens defensive coordinator?*(Cordell Woodland)*"Yes, it does help, because I understand the standard and the expectation; I've lived it. And then, what's been so great about me being here [is] ... I feel like God placed me here for a reason, just because all the values and standards that this organization stands for – on and off the field – I stand for. [To list] a couple things off the field, just being a good person, treating people with respect and working hard; I value all that. And then on the football field, from a football standpoint, talk about playing together as a team, playing physical, playing violent and finishing everything you do. And that's what I've believed in as a football player [from] before I even got here, so when I got here, it was just like a match made in heaven. But [it] definitely makes it easier, because I understand the standard and expectation; I've lived it, been part of it, and I'm excited for it. I wouldn't want it any other way."
Can you take us inside that conversation you had with owner Steve Bisciotti when he was welcoming you back to the Ravens? And how long did it take for you to flip your mind from being a player to then being a coach?*(Ryan Mink)*"All right. So, [owner Steve Bisciotti] called me ... I'll tell you ... This is a true story. So, he called me, and I had just gotten my performance player bonus, and that year – it's out there publicly – it was like $407,000. So, first he called me [and] said, 'Hey, I see you've got [yourself] a nice little parting gift.'" (laughter) "So, I was like, 'Yes.' I was like, *'Dang, I didn't know he was checking that. I didn't know he was looking at that.'" (laughter) *"But he called me [and said], 'Man, I understand you wanted to get into coaching. We think highly of you, [and] everybody speaks the world of you. I've seen you work. Everybody says you're a hard worker, and I know you want to get into coaching.' He was like, 'I would love to have you back in the organization, if that's something you want to do.' And he was like, 'We'll get [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] in contact with you.' So, I said, 'Great.' I said, 'Thank you. I'll be right back.' Shoot, the next day, I'm calling [Ozzie and] probably blowing Ozzie's phone up; 'Hey, Ozzie, when are you ready for me to come back up?' He was like, 'I've got you,' and he did, man, and it was great. Just him making the phone call, and the organization doing that for me – like I said – meant the most, because I didn't have time to sit there and hang my head. I got right back to work, and they helped teach me and get me ready for my second career, which is coaching. They've been with me every step of the way and supported me every step of the way."
How did head coach John Harbaugh tell you that you got the job? Did he call you into his office? What was that conversation like?*(Brian Wacker)*"We talked ... Like I said, it was crazy – how everything happened. We talked Monday, went through the interview process [and] talked Tuesday again. [Head coach John Harbaugh] was still asking me questions [and] basically kind of grilling me a little bit. And then Wednesday, he called me into his office, and in my mind, I'm like, 'Man, what do you want to talk about?' I was like, 'I've been talking to this dude [on] Monday, Tuesday. Like, what's up?'" (laughter) "I'm like, 'I thought I answered every question you had.' So, we're still talking [on] Wednesday, and then he asked me again; he said, 'Are you ready to call it?' And I was like, 'Yes, I'm ready.' And he was like, 'All right, well, I'm offering you the position,' and that's how it went. So, it was great. I heard those words, made him smile, [and] I was grinning from ear to ear. I'm just thankful that he has that belief in me. And like I said, I'm going to work my butt off and do everything I can to make it right."
Who are the people that reached out to you after you got the job? I'm sure your phone was blowing up. Have you responded to anyone at this point? Who are the ones that stuck out?*(Valerie Preactor)*"Man, a lot of people [reached out] to me. Let me just say this right now: If I haven't gotten back to you, I promise you [that] I haven't switched up [my phone number]. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, but I've got like 800-something messages. But a lot of people ... Obviously, what sticks out is just family, friends, coaches I've worked with, players I've played with, players that I've coached. I mean, it's been so much love. It's been so much love, man, and I can't thank everybody enough. Just to see all the love that I've been getting has been wonderful, and it just makes me just want to grind even harder. It makes me just want to go even harder, because [when] you've got that many people showing you love, that means they believe in you. When somebody believes in you, you do everything you can to make it right, and that's what I'm focused on, [and] that's what I'm excited about."
You said that calling plays here is a collaborative effort, but you're going to be at the helm. What gives you confidence that you can call a Ravens defense when there are live rounds?*(Kyle Phoenix)*"I've seen it done, I've been a part of it, and what makes me confident is my preparation [that] I'm going to put in. I'm going to prepare my butt off, and that's where your confidence comes in [with] anything you do. When you're not confident that you can do a job, that means you haven't prepared. So, if you prepare the right way, like you're supposed to prepare, you're going to be confident. And I plan on preparing the right way."
RAVENS PLAYER STATEMENTS ON DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ZACH ORR
OLB ODAFE OWEH
"I'm excited to start next season with Zach being our defensive coordinator. He just brings a different type of passion and a different perspective to the game that you have to appreciate. Throughout the season last year, it was a great season. He was just a big catalyst of that with the passion he brought to each meeting, the insight and intelligence that he brought with every slide. He always had a good tell for us. He always had good insight on the personnel that we had. His understanding of the game was just always impressive, and we looked up to him as someone who was dominant on the field and could teach you the Xs and Os and lead a group of men. I'm very excited to be on this journey with Coach Zach in his first year as the defensive coordinator. I really believe there isn't anyone else who deserves this accomplishment more than him. He's very deserving of it, so I look forward to it. His drive and his passion are really second to none. One thing I always notice about Zach is that his voice is always loud. It's always in the highest pitch, and you have to respect it because it never wavers. He's always bringing that action. He's always bringing that energy to just make sure that everyone is on their toes and make sure every guy is at the same level. We play a very violent game, and he brings that passionate mentally; he brings that passion in the Xs and Os. He's just that good of a coach, and I'm excited for his opportunity."
NT MICHAEL PIERCE
"I'm excited to have Zach as a D.C. for many reasons: Firstly, I've been in the organization long enough to have him as a teammate. My rookie year, Zach was an All-Pro. Knowing that he was undrafted two years prior to me arriving definitely gave me something to aspire to. One thing I always noticed and respected about Zach was how hard he worked and the energy he brought to every practice and game. His motor never stopped! To then see his career cut short due to his spinal condition was disheartening. But to see him then pivot to coaching and work his way up the ranks so quickly is truly inspiring. He's a great football mind who brings to work every day that same intensity, passion and knowledge he played with. He challenges guys on a level that only a former player could. He also can see the game and coach the game from a coach's point of view, as well as a player's. Zach knows what it means to be a Raven and carry the shield. He also knows what it takes daily to uphold that tradition. He's been here basically his whole career, and he embodies what we strive to display every Sunday. He is a True Raven."
ILB ROQUAN SMITH
"I have an immense amount of respect for 'ZO' and the way he goes about work, day-in and day-out. While it's unfortunate that his career was cut short due to an injury, I feel like he carries that passion over to the game of football and coaching. You don't know which day will be your last, so you have to give everything you have while you have it; I see he lives by that. Yes, I'm extremely happy for him. He brings passion on the field, off the field and in the meeting room, as well as his football IQ and the ability to relate to players. He's very young and has been in the game recently, so I think overall, it's a really good fit for our defense. Everyone around the building respects him; it's not just because of what he says, but because of his actions and the way he goes about things. I think it's going to be great for our defense, and I'm fired up with him leading the charge. I know his mentality is very similar to mine, so I'm stoked. I just know it's going to be great for us."
DB BRANDON STEPHENS
"I'm very excited for 'ZO.' He's devoted so much to this game, and he is very deserving of the next role he's about to take on. He is a leader at heart and a student of the game. I know he will work tirelessly to uphold the standard that has been built so we are set up for success."