It's exciting. You always look for the schedule when it comes out and hope you have a Monday night game, and that if you have one, it's at home. Then, to find out that you get to open up with a division game against the Ravens ... you can't ask for something more to look forward to than opening night, opening weekend on Monday Night Football against them.
Q: Is it hard to wait until Monday, with all the other teams starting on Sunday?CP:
No. It's fun. You have some studying to do Thursday night, and there's a football game on, so you have to cram and get it done before that game starts. The part that's bad for me is Monday. It's such a long day. You get to sit around and watch games that start at one on Sunday, and then the next morning, you wake up, and normally you're ready to play as soon as you get up, and then you have to wait around all day and it just seems like it takes forever. That's the only negative part. It's just a long, boring Monday. Just waiting around for the excitement and the crowd and all the things that come along with Monday Night Football.
Q: Are there keys that you look for on every play that signify what they're going to do, and are you able to share that?CP:
Not really. And I'm not going to go into too much depth into what they do. They're a confusing defense. There are guys all over the place. More importantly, there are guys all over the place that are Pro Bowlers and future Hall of Famers. They have talent as good as you can have on defense, as far as the salary cap will let you go. There are guys all over the place that are big time players. Pro Bowlers. Guys like Bart Scott who are up and coming phenomenal players. It's just a solid defense. It's confusing on top of that, and they're as good as it gets personnel wise. You have to come in and give it your best shot.
We're always confident coming into this game, even though they are the number one defense year in and year out. Just because we, for whatever reason, match up really well with them. You still have to come with your best shot and bring everything you have. Try to surprise them with some things, bring in some new things in, get back to some old things that you do great. You know, find a new wrinkle, find a new advantage just because they're that good.
Q: There's talk in Baltimore that they can't rattle you:CP:
Like I said, we match up really well with them. Pretty much anyone you play against, when you have Willie on one side, and Levi and Andrew Whitworth, those are good matchups because those are just such good tackles. Regardless of who the defensive end is. Whether it's Terrell Suggs, who's one of the better guys in the league, or a rookie. They confuse you and they confuse the quarterback. But our offensive line has played consistently well against them, especially in the past game. I can't think of too many times they have sacked me. Our offensive line always does a really good job and always plays well against them.
Q: Rex Ryan always talks about Reggie Kelly. What makes him so good?CP:
Reggie does whatever you ask Reggie to do. That's why everyone talks about what a great teammate he is. If his job this year is to catch only two passes, and he has to block Terrell Suggs every time, every single week, he'll do that. If his job is to run go routes every single time to clear out the middle of the field so Chad can run a dig, Reggie will do that. If he has to catch 10 balls a game, Reggie will do that. So many tight ends in this league want to catch the ball because that's what gets you to the Pro Bowl, but Reggie wants to do whatever the tight end's job is that week.
Against these guys, sometimes you're going to have to match up and block Ray Lewis, sometimes it will be Terrell Suggs, sometimes it will be Trevor Price. It's all over the place. Reggie can do it all. He can run routes and catch the ball, but if you want him to act like a tackle and block for a seven-step drop, he can do that.
Q: What does it mean to you to be more mature as a team, and how do you think that will affect you this season?CP:
I think we're a year more mature. It's a lot of the same guys offensively. I can't think of any rookies we've got starting other than Daniel (TE Daniel Coats), and he's not really starting, but he's getting some time. It's the same guys who have been here, and the guys are a year older with another year of experience under their belt. Another year of playing Baltimore twice, Pittsburgh twice. Playing these tough, difficult defenses where you have to know your game plan and your assignments. That's just maturity.
A mature player comes into the game plan knowing the game plan and how he needs to execute his job. A lot of times, young guys aren't quite sure on some plays, you're not quite sure about the 2-4 defense, the 4-3, the nickel 3-3 that they sub to. I think we have guys that have played against these guys and have the experience from year after year after year, and we're just more mature. Just a year more mature than last year.
Q: What stands out about Ray Lewis?CP:
It's not one thing. When you think of Ray Lewis, the first thing you think is intensity. He brings intensity every single play. He's the quarterback of that entire defense. He's calling formations, possible plays, calling out, 'Run this way. Run that way.' He sees tendencies, and the thing about Ray is, as he gets older and slows down naturally, he picks up another part of the game. Whether it's mental, coaching, coachability, helping guys around him and making them better. There are guys who lose a step as they get older, and Ray's getting into his thirties, but he's picking up different aspects of his game and making different aspects of his game better.
He really isn't becoming a weaker player. He's a ringleader. He's on all the guys every single play. He's telling guys to hustle, he's on people when they're not in the right place. He's just an intense coach out there on the field that can knock your head off and can run around the tackles and can do everything.
Q: How much has Willie Anderson meant to you and the franchise?CP:
Willie was the first guy that I looked at. When you come in as a rookie and you're young, you look at guys who have played a long time in the league. We had a handful of guys who played for five or six teams, but you look at a guy like Willie who has played for one team, and there is a reason he has played for one team, because that team wouldn't let him go. He was that good of a player and that good of a leader. They never lost him to free agency and he hasn't bounced around. He was the epitome or the role model for what a professional football player is supposed to do.
Whether it's taking care of your body, lifting weights extra, doing extra stretching, sticking around the facility longer, studying tape, helping the young guys out, helping the guys that are his backups, he has been a role model as a professional football player for every guy that has come through the door since I've been here.
Q: What if Levi Jones and/or Willie Anderson can't go? Are you confident in Andrew Whitworth and Scott Kooistra?CP:
Very, very. Whether Willie and Levi are in there, it doesn't really matter. Of course we want our starters in there, but Whitworth has proved himself as a rookie. It doesn't get any tougher than that, playing left tackle as a rookie against Terrell Suggs and the guy in Kansas City (Jared Allen) and Dwight Freeney. It doesn't get any tougher than that, and he's been there and he's done it. He just has another year under his belt. I'm confident in him and Kooistra, who has been here going on five years now. He understands this offense. He's more of a coach on the field for other guys because he knows this offense inside and out. Pete Lougheed was that guy last year. Pete Lougheed was a mechanical engineer or something like that, he was the brain of the group and now that's been Kooistra's role. Whether it's Scott and Whit in there or Levi and Willie, it doesn't matter. Those guys are going to play.
Q: How do you think you've improved this year?CP:
I think I improved a lot this offseason and this camp in my mechanics from last year. I felt I got away from some of the stuff I had been doing well. and I got sloppy with some things. I felt like I cleaned those up, but I think my most drastic improvement has been in just knowledge, whether it's the knowledge of our playbook, the knowledge of a certain defense, whether it's Pittsburgh or Baltimore, and knowledge of different coverages and what guys are doing, where guys are supposed to be, the weaknesses and the voids. I think I've taken a big step in that area.
Q: Marvin says he once thought your down-to-earth nature was an act. Talk about your humble personality:CP:
I've got two great parents. I felt like they raised me right and taught me good from bad and how to act, how to be an adult and how to treat people with respect. Whatever it is, I came from a good family with good brothers and sisters. I just felt like I was blessed to have two great parents. There are a lot of guys that don't have examples growing up, and I had an example of how a dad is supposed to act, how a father is supposed to love his kids, how a husband is supposed to love his wife, so I was very blessed to be in that situation growing up.
Q: Is Baltimore becoming as big of a rivalry as Pittsburgh and Cleveland? CP:
I can't think of which game I look forward to playing more. There is the Cleveland rivalry, and of course the rivalry games are always fun, and there is now a Pittsburgh-Cincinnati and that game is fun, but you look forward to playing all of them the same. You go back to college and at USC you loved playing against UCLA. That's the game you looked forward to because that's the rival game. This isn't really a rival game but I look forward to playing this game just as much as I look forward to playing Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
It's just that with Baltimore you kind of feel that they just won the Super Bowl, even though that was in 2000. I don't know if that's because Marvin came from there and he always talks about Baltimore and his guys and of that and you get sick of hearing about all of that, but it just seems like they just won the Super Bowl. They're ex-Super Bowl champs and you want to knock them off. I don't know what it is. It's not a rivalry game, but we all love playing against these guys.
Q: Does it have anything to do about testing yourself against the best?CP:
That has to be a big deal of it. Year-in and year-out, I can't think of the last time they weren't No. 1 in some of the offensive categories if not all. That's what you want to play against, especially to set the tone for your season. Offensively, you're going out and playing against the best. If we beat them 9-0 or if we go in there and put up 35 points, either way you have to feel great about yourself because the defense is that good. If you only get field goals, like Indy did when they went there in that playoff game, just scoring points on these guys is great because they don't let many people score points on them.
Q: Do you have confidence in the third WR position?CP:
Tab has been doing a great job, and we've been bouncing him all over the place. He's kickoff return, he's playing all of these special teams. He just doesn't quit. He understands that he has so much to learn in such a small amount of time and he doesn't back down from it. He's like a sponge. He wants more and more information. Every time he runs a route he comes back and it's "How did I do?" "What can I do better?" "What did I do wrong?" You want a guy that wants to learn and wants to know how to do his job best. But then when the guy has all of the athletic talent and physical talent in the world, that's a great combination. I couldn't be happier with the speed and athleticism he has out there but he's also a smart kid out there that wants to know it all.
Q: You've seen that development over camp?CP:
He's done a great job. I can't think how many balls he got in preseason in games but he's been a big focus for our offense and done a great job.