COURTESY OF BALTIMORE RAVENS MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
Last time we talked to you, you talked about wanting to be the best tight end in the league. Given that ambition, do you feel like you're being harder on yourself than you ever have been before? (Childs Walker) "I think being in the league for two years now and playing those two seasons, you've got to be able to self-reflect. I know the type of player I can be, and hopefully, I'm going to be. So, just being hard on myself is what you need to do as a player. If you want to reach the goals that you want to reach, you have to have a vision of where you want to go. So, in my mind, I know where I want to go. I know where I want to be as a player, as a teammate. So, it's not a bad thing to be too hard."
Could you just talk about where the passing game is right now in terms of chemistry? I know that was a big talking point coming into camp, because of the lost time. But just where do you feel like the overall passing game is right now? (Garrett Downing) "The passing game is going well. [Offensive coordinator] 'G-Ro' [Greg Roman] has been dialing up some great plays. Obviously, the more we rep and the more plays we get, the better we're getting. So, you can kind of see the progression from where we started to where we're at now, and it's looking good. I'm excited for the season. I'm excited to throw the rock around. All of our receivers are stepping up. Those guys are balling out right now, and tight ends are doing their thing as well. So, it's going to be a fun year, especially in the passing game."
Along those lines, it feels like with the guys on the outside – WR Marquise 'Hollywood' Brown being 100%, WR Miles Boykin [going] into his second year and the rookies that came in and are catching everything … Does is feel that the field is more spread out and there's more room for you, because of what they're able to do? (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, they're definitely making their plays. I think [defensive coordinator] 'Wink' [Don Martindale] is still a little bit worried about the middle with the tight ends in there. So, maybe, in a little bit, he'll start looking the other way." (laughter)
You've got so many distractions leading up to the season. Watching ESPN today, they were running a fantasy football marathon. You're the No. 3 tight end behind TE Travis Kelce and TE George Kittle. Do you pay attention to that? Do people bombard you with that? Do you listen to all of that outside noise when it comes to fantasy? (Kirk McEwen) "No, you can't. That stuff is all opinion. So, obviously, you get tagged in everything like that every day that, 'You're the third best, and you're behind all these guys.' You can't look at that as a player. You've got to stay true and look at your film, look at what you've done, how you're playing each and every day. This is a business of, 'What are you doing for me lately?' So, that's kind of how I approach it – try not to look at all that stuff and just grind, get better as a player each day and perform for your organization."
What can you tell us about your camp so far compared to last year? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "This camp's been great. I think that this schedule and what we've been doing … The Ravens have come up with a great plan. I feel good, body feels good. I'm really in shape, and I'm running better than I ever have. So, I'm very confident going into the season. Everyone is healthy right now. So, just trying to keep that and keep going and keep that positive trend going through the season."
Can you talk about the matchups you've had with CB Jimmy Smith in practice? And also, what you've seen from S DeShon Elliott in your time practicing against him? (Ryan Mink) "Jimmy [Smith] and I have had a really, really kind of fun camp, so far. That safety position and him guarding tight end, he's honestly a natural. I think he's going to, not shock people, but he's been guarding receivers his whole career, so now he's guarding tight ends. He's so long and he's able to get his hands on, he's going to flourish at the position. I don't think that … I've been against a lot of great players, and he's definitely very good at what he does. So, we've been battling it out, and it's been fun to be able to go against him. We're making each other better. Iron sharpens iron, and that's kind of that situation. DeShon's [Elliott] been playing well. I think him flying around, he's a guy that's super eager to get going, and it's kind of his time to step up. He's been waiting for a while. He's had these injuries and whatnot. I know he's ready to go. He's a special player. He's a guy who's going to fly around, he can cover. So, that's a great addition for our defense."
As far as things going with the COVID-19 testing, we just had a bunch of false positives. I don't know if you guys have talked about that collectively, but how do you like the way things have been handled by the National Football League and the Ravens in particular, as someone who does deal with diabetes? (Jerry Coleman) "I think the everyday testing … I know the Ravens, they're obviously a first-class organization. We're doing everything that we can. All the protocols and everything, so we're being super strict on that stuff. So, I don't know too much about the false positives stuff. I know on our end, we're doing everything we can, and the Ravens are top-notch in that area."
I know he's on the other side of the ball, but S Chuck Clark seems to be very well respected in the locker room. Did the team rally around him at all this week? And why do you think he's a guy that's kind of drawn some respect from his teammates in the past year? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I think, like you said, it's been the past year that Chuck's [Clark] been kind of the guy, quietly on the defense, that guys go to. He knows that defense incredibly well, and I'm not in those rooms or in those meetings, but those guys definitely respect him a ton. He's the guy that they go to and look to when there's questions. He's a great player. He's that leader of that defense, and he gets the ball rolling. So, there's really not much else to say. He's just a great player. It's been fun being able to go against him. He's gotten better from the years that I've been here. It's been fun to watch."
I'm not asking about your situation per se, but as one of the top tight ends in the league, how much do you pay attention when a guy like TE George Kittle gets paid and when a guy like TE Travis Kelce gets another contract? Is that something that you take note of at all? Or is it not even something you see or consider? (Jeff Zrebiec) "No, obviously you see it. The tight end position is always pretty tight knit, so you're always rooting for other guys. Obviously, [George] Kittle and [Travis] Kelce are two of the best in the game. So, whenever they do something, whenever something happens, you're going to hear about that. So, it was fun. It's good to see that the position is growing. Obviously, it's been underpaid for a long, long time. If you look at what they're doing – 1,300 yards the last couple years and they're blocking on top of that. So, they're having more yards than receivers and they're blocking, but they're getting paid less than receivers. So, it's good to kind of see that get re-upped. I was very happy for them."
S Chuck Clark was just talking earlier about how the Ravens stand as a family. You guys are together, you're focused on winning a championship. What is your feel for that and the importance of that? Especially when you go through a roster change in a guy like Earl Thomas III having to leave, what does the family mean to you guys? (Mark Viviano) "It's hard to describe. It's the 'Big Truzz.' It's just something that unless you're in the organization, you're in here every day hanging out with the guys, with the coaches and grinding in training camp, it's hard to describe. Everyone in here has each other's backs. The coaches have our best interest. It's something that … We all look out for each other. So, that's really what it means. Just being a tight-knit family, loving on each other and having respect for the other man. We have that here, and I don't think it's like that everywhere else."