If the Ravens play the way Jefferson hopes, no excuses will be necessary.
“First off, we didn’t get to the playoffs, so that hurt more than anything,” Jefferson said. “We’re worried about getting to the Super Bowl. That’s our goal. And I felt like I didn’t play how I know I can play and I didn’t play how I should have been playing. The good thing about it is, I’m here another year, and I have another opportunity and there are no excuses.”
The Ravens are looking ahead, not dwelling on last season. But Jefferson has not forgotten the pain and has been fueled by it.
“It’s a joy to see, primarily because you’re the older guy so you kind of feel like, ‘Hey, we taught these guys the right way,’” Jefferson said. “We’re excited about the young guys that we have. I can speak for the defensive side of the ball – we have a bunch of depth a bunch of young guys who stepped up and played well in critical situations, and that’s how you build a championship team.”
When Jefferson missed practice and game reps this month, second-year safety Chuck Clark played well, and he has looked ready to handle more playing time this season if asked. The Ravens believe in competition, and Jefferson said the growth of young players will only make the team’s defense better.
“I’m not a guy who’s going to give excuses or [wonder] why things happen, because at the end of the day, this is my job, and you have to get the job done,” Jefferson said. “Obviously it was different from what I was used to, scheme-wise and all of that. But it’s football. I’m a professional. I adapt to anything.”
Jefferson played his first four NFL seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, building a reputation as a sure tackle who was strong defending the run. Those traits came with him to Baltimore last season, where he made 79 tackles and added one interception. However, Jefferson admitted that transitioning to a different defensive scheme was a huge adjustment, and he hoped to play faster and more instinctively this season.
“Light years, man,” said Jefferson, when asked to compare how much his relationship with Weddle has grown since last season. “Last year was our first year together, and we’re just building. I’m learning more and more every day, obviously being with a guy like Weddle with what he’s done, picking his brain. He’s making me a complete football player, and I’ll always appreciate that.”
The Ravens believe the 26-year-old Jefferson and Eric Weddle give them one of the NFL’s strongest safety combinations. Jefferson values Weddle’s experience, and says the communication between them has gone to another level.
For Jefferson, this season is about happier endings. He expects the Ravens to make the playoffs. He expects to be more comfortable with a year in Baltimore under his belt.
This is a pivotal season for Jefferson, the starting strong safety in his second year with the team. Few players were more distraught than Jefferson after the Ravens lost their season finale to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017 and failed to make the playoffs. He had tears in his eyes. It was obvious the disappointment ran deep.
“It was good to get back out there, get my feet wet,” said Jefferson, who is unlikely to see much action Thursday night against the Washington Redskins, with many starters expected to sit out. “I’m ready to go, full-go.”
Jefferson had grown tired of watching after missing the first three preseason games with a hamstring injury. He returned to game action Saturday night against the Miami Dolphins, making four tackles in the Ravens’ 27-10 victory.
Tony Jefferson happily dealt with the heat and humidity at Ravens practice Monday. Sweating beats sitting.