COURTESY OF BALTIMORE RAVENS MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
I saw the video that the Ravens put out – it was wonderful – in response to racism. I was wondering whether the team, as a whole, has discussed a further response [or] whether you've discussed taking a knee during The Star-Spangled Banner once you guys return? (David Ginsburg) "We talked about some stuff internally, and I think we are going to continue to further that conversation. As of right now, I can't give you a response to that question, because I don't think we came to a resolution on what we want to do as a team and as a unit. But we are having very deep conversations about this, because that's real life for all of us. It's very present with all [of] our platforms. We want to get ahead of it. We want to put an end to racism, whether that will be on the football field, or in classrooms, or wherever it may be. There's really no room for it in today's world."
When [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell also came out and made the case, "Black Lives Matter," it felt like a real seat-change moment becoming something that people should be able to say and should say. What did that mean to you when you saw that from him? (Pete Gilbert) "It's something that people shouldn't have to say: Black lives should always matter. I don't think it's something that when one person says it, like, 'Oh, now it makes sense.' It's something that has made sense. My life [has] mattered since Aug. 15, 1992. I feel like everybody else, as a black person, they knew their lives mattered when they were put on this earth. So, it's not when Roger Goodell came out and said, 'Black Lives Matter,' now everybody can say it. I think we should've been questioning why Roger Goodell didn't say, 'Black Lives Matter,' when he was born, or when he became commissioner, or when he was re-elected commissioner. Racism is not a cool thing. It's not a trend, like, 'OK, now let's all get behind [it].' Did you not know what the protests were when Martin Luther King Jr. was leading it, or when the Black Panthers stormed the capital building with AK[-47's]? I feel like everybody should read up on history and educate themselves. It's not cool now that Roger Goodell said it. He should've been saying it, or whoever is now saying it, they should've been saying it. When 'Kap' [Colin Kaepernick] came out and said, 'It's not about The Star-Spangled Banner. It's not about the song. It's not about the troops. It's about how my people are being treated.' There shouldn't have been pushback. It should've been, 'OK, let's help this man and his cause.' That was just his way of expressing it. He did it very peacefully. He didn't make a ruckus about it. He didn't take pictures of himself. He didn't publicize it. When he was asked about it, he explained himself in a manner of which people should've understood. I feel like that's the fight since black people have been in America is, 'Let's be treated equally.' You treat your kids equally, just treat humans equally. I feel like then we can talk about different stuff, but until we are all treated the same and given the same respect and decency as humans, I think stuff needs to be changed. I'm with all the protests that we have to do and all of the progress that we have to make. I'm with all of that, but it's not because Roger Goodell said, 'Black Lives Matter.'"
I haven't spoken to you since the Ravens applied the franchise tag. I'm curious to know your reaction to that move, and any update on the discussions with them in terms of a long-term contract? (Bo Smolka) "I'm pleased to be tagged. I feel like only a few players get to go through this in their lifetime. As much as I want stability in the future, that I'm proud of where I'm at and where I came from … A fifth-round draft pick out of Grand – or how you all pronounced it, 'Garden Valley State' – but out of Grand Valley State. I'm pleased with how my career has been going. As far as the progress, we still have until the [July] 15th. I think we've got 30 more days to work out a long-term contract. We're just going to see how it goes from there. As far as me – I can't speak for the organization – but as far as me, I'm happy to be a Raven. I've got my [Ravens] shorts on right now. I'm happy to be a Raven. I want to stay here for as long as I play, but I understand that it's a business and that they've kind of got a 'bad-good' problem to have. We have a lot of young talent, and unfortunately, we can't all stay on the rookie deal our whole careers. So, they have stuff that they have to address, and obviously, I have needs as well. If we can meet and work on that, I'm 'A-OK' with it. I wouldn't have been mad at being a first-round draft pick and signing a fifth-year option as well."
How do you feel about the possibility of playing without fans? (Ximena Lugo Latorre)"I don't know. I thought about it, and I think it'll be weird. But I came from somewhere where you didn't have that many fans, and we didn't play in front of stadiums like I am right now. So, I think it'll just be different. It'll just be something that we all have to adapt to and come to terms with. But, definitely, having fans there helps. We love when M&T [Bank Stadium] is packed and it's loud, and they've got our backs as we've got their backs, and you can feel the energy in the city. Hopefully, we don't have to play without fans, but I think it'll just be something we have to adapt to. I think it'll be weird."
What was your impression of the young linebackers the Ravens picked up in the draft, LB Patrick Queen and LB Malik Harrison? (Todd Karpovich) "I think they both can play. I think those were good picks. I think they're both solid players, and I think they both can play MIKE and WILL. They both can run, obviously, you look at their tape. They move all around the field. They can do a lot of things, and we just have to get them adapted quick. We need them. We have a good linebacking corps. They're coming into a great position with [defensive coordinator] 'Wink' [Don Martindale] as the DC and Mike [Macdonald] as the linebackers coach. But I feel like they've got to come on strong for us, and we're going to need those young guys to produce and kind of be the middle of the defense. I think they were great picks."
Has there been a discussion amongst you guys about … Because of what's going on in other sports right now, worries about health and safety … Has there been talk about how you guys are going to handle things with the virus? I know the NFL came out with some rules, and Coach [John Harbaugh] was wondering how you guys are going to actually social distance inside that building. (Jerry Coleman) "Yes, they've been talking about doing different stuff. We've just got to see it come to fruition. Kind of just everybody let it play out and see what kind of happens. It's kind of hard to social distance when you've got to have 11-vs-11. You kind of have to touch each other every play, but I think we're going to talk about it and try to do some stuff that it comes to where we're not on top of each other the whole day, and we spread more stuff out throughout the day to where if it's just maybe position groups breaking up, or if it's offense and defense breaking up, or it's where people come in at later times. We're talking about a lot of stuff, but it's kind of hard during camp when you're kind of there the whole day and there's a lot of people that come in and out of the building. We're going to see. It's a different time. It's a different dynamic right now, and we kind of just have to see how it plays out."
Can you talk about the additions of DE Calais Campbell and DE Derek Wolfe? What you thought of those signings and how they can help you as a pass rusher just having more guys put pressure on the quarterback around you as well? (Ryan Mink)"I thought it was huge as a defense. We kind of lost a couple of guys in the middle. Then we went and traded for Calais [Campbell] and then we signed Derek Wolfe in free agency. Both of those players, their resumes speak for themselves. They know how to get to the quarterback; they know how to make plays, and they also know how to make plays in big games. You don't really need to talk about guys like that, because you just turn on the tape and you can see them. We've got guys like that coming in and filling spots, and filling voids that we kind of needed to be filled. I think those are going to be huge additions to our team, and Calais, as a vocal leader – I believe he won the Walter Payton Man of the Year [Award] this year, correct? Yeah, this [past] year, so that's huge. That speaks volumes, because he's respected throughout the league. And Derek Wolfe, you see how physical he plays, and I think they're just going to fit in perfectly."
You mentioned that it's about 30 days out before the deadline hits. By how things have been going, what's kind of your feelings? Are you optimistic something can get done? And if something doesn't get done, and you just play under the [franchise] tag, how would you feel about that? (Jamison Hensley) "Like I said, I'm blessed to have to play under this tag. I get to play this game, and as long as I continue to play this game, I'm going to feel blessed. If I have to play under the tag, that's good for me, because it's another year. After that, it'll be my sixth year playing in the National Football League. But I really don't know, honestly. My agents and [senior vice president of football operations] Pat [Moriarty] and [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta], they go back and forth. They're kind of talking on my behalf, and hopefully we can work something out. I don't think you all understand how it goes. I really didn't know how contracts go, but they don't really, too much, talk to me. People are like, 'Judon asked him for this amount [of] money.' I'll find out when you all find out, because they aren't talking to me that much. It is what it is though. I'm blessed, regardless. If I play under the franchise tag, or if we come to a long-term deal, I'm going to be happy regardless."
I know you've been involved with the NFL Players Coalition and a lot of the social issues in the league. A lot of us saw that video the Ravens put together with owner Steve Bisciotti and a lot of the players. What was your reaction to that video being made, and as you watched it from start to finish, what do you see when you see all your players speak to that? (Bo Smolka) "I see a lot of people wanting change, and that there are a lot of people out here – no matter skin color; no matter relationship status; no matter who their spouse is – we all are here for a common goal. And usually it's to win football games, but right now, it's bigger than football. It's an issue that needs to be addressed, and it has nothing to do with a win or a loss. So, I felt that it was huge that our owner got up there and said what he said, and the players said what they said, and how [the video] was made, because there are guys from a lot of different backgrounds, but we all want the same thing. In that video you have people who went to HBCU's; people from Texas, from Memphis, Michigan, and we all see the same thing. We all see human beings, and it's unfortunate that some people are mistreated and are wrongfully accused, sentenced on the spot and are killed – are murdered – because of their skin color. It's even more wrong that people [are given] longer sentences for the same crime. The movement, and what the video was saying is, 'People of different color don't want to be above the law; we just want the law to work for us.' That's really what it was saying, and I commend every man that got on that video and spoke from their heart, and we all need to listen and educate ourselves more on the topics. I feel like the video speaks for itself, and it was very powerful."
On that topic, you mentioned you are supportive of the protestors. Have you been out at all? Is there anything particularly that you have planned that you would like to share to address some of these issues? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Yes, I've been out, and I've been doing work, but I'm going to continue to let the people who are out there speak and speak for themselves. It's not a me thing, and I don't have the right answers. I think it's a collective group of people who need to come together and talk to people. They might have the right answers, but I don't have the right answers, so I'm not going to thrust myself into the front of this movement acting like I know exactly what to do. I'm not [going to], and that's not for me to do."
Father's Day is right around the corner. You're a dad of two now. How has life changed or been like with two little ones running around, and any advice for new dads out there? (Jordan Giorgio) "I'll start with the advice first; I think the advice is, nobody is ready to be a parent until you become a parent, and you're kind of forced to be a parent, and then you find out – 'OK, I'm a good parent.' And then, it's been good. Leo has been doing straight. BreighAnn has been doing most of the work. [Leo] is still nursing, so BreighAnn has been doing most of the work, but I dive in there and change a couple diapers sometimes – plug him up in his car seat [and] do what I have to do. For real, it's a blessing for me to just see him grow up. When Aniyah was kind of this age, I was doing the draft process and running from Combine training, to Combine, then straight out to Maryland, and they were still in Michigan. I just didn't get to watch day-to-day as I do now, so it's pretty awesome."
The salary cap next year is kind of uncertain around the league because of the unknown on how the business side is going to be affected due to the pandemic and the possibility of no fans. Do you feel that has affected the contract talks – the uncertainty from a business standpoint? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Like I said, I really don't know. I really wish I had more insight into the contract talks, but it's like I get third-hand information from my agents. I don't know if that's how everybody does it – if everybody sits on calls and stuff – but I trust my agents. So, I don't really know. I feel like you would have more insight on that, because you all know stuff before I know stuff – for real. So, Jeff, with us not knowing the salary cap next year, will that have more impact on my contract? (Reporter: "Are you asking me?") Yes, I'm asking you. (Reporter: "Well, I think there have been some predictions that the salary cap might go down next year if teams lose a lot of money this year without fans. So, I think some people feel like that could affect some team's willingness to sign players, in general, to long-term deals. I didn't know if you were getting that sense too, as part of the talks.") No, I haven't been getting that sense until now, so I appreciate it." (laughter)
I just wanted to talk to you more about what you've been trying to do this offseason, just to stay in shape and get ready for, what is ultimately, a huge contract year for you if you play under the tag. (Matthew Stevens) "I've been doing a lot of 'Call of Duty.' That gets the heart rate [going] like you don't even know. It's a lot of couch potato stuff – just hanging out. It's been great. To be honest, it's been great. You all know, I'm a workaholic. I'm running; I'm working out every day – twice, three times a day. I'm a workaholic, and I love to stay fit. So, I've been trying to do that. When you get a break like this, you kind of try to stay away from football, but this is what we do; this is what I love, so it always reels us back in. So, I'm trying to just relax and stay away from it, so that when we do start up, [I'll be] ready to go and ready to give it my all. But, to answer your question, [I'm] just working out and playing 'Call of Duty.'"