ER: They may have slowed down a little bit, but nothing different really. You see guys getting a little more pressure on them, but outside of that I don’t really think they’ve changed much.
Q: Can you touch on your decision to forgo retirement for another season and come back to play for another year?
ER: It was tough in the offseason when you go over things like that and you contemplate retirement. You’re assessing your physical level and ability; you want to make sure that you can still come in and be a factor and do some of the things that you’ve been doing over your career. I mean I wanted to play football, I always said I wanted to play, but at the same time I feel like once you get up in your age, up in your career, you need to start to assess yourself and look at the big picture. There is so much more to me and so much more to football players than football. Football is a short-lived career, so you’ve got to make sure that you prepare for the next step.
Q: Obviously Bill Belichick has a great deal of admiration and respect for you. What is it about the way that Bill Belichick coaches and prepares his team that earns your respect?
ER: I mean he’s a winner for one. I had an opportunity to talk to Coach Belichick a couple times and had him over there at the Pro Bowl. Just watching ‘A Football Life’ with Coach Belichick you can’t do anything but have much respect for Coach Belichick and the way he runs things. His background and the discipline and focus that he asks of guys and what he allows you to do as a football player; he honestly understands your athletic ability. If you look at Coach Belichick and the way he coaches his team and the guys that play for him and the positions that they play, he allows football players to be football players. Coach understands that this is a short-lived career and not everybody is going to have those five and 10 and 15-year careers. A bunch of guys are great athletes and they can come on and make a name on his team and find themselves somewhere else with a starting job. You see a lot of guys playing out of position when you’re watching the Patriots play.
Q: You just said that guys don’t have five, 10 or 15-year careers on defense, but that’s not true on your defense.
ER: Yeah, I mean we have a few guys that have been here. When you get around guys like myself and Ray [Lewis], you understand the work ethic. We talk about it a lot – what guys can do if they take care of themselves and have those long careers; to have a substantial seven year career. So it’s all about taking care of yourself, which we as players need to educate each other and former players need to educate guys. With the rule changes and the CBA and not having those two-a-days and stuff like that, guys can understand that they can get more out of themselves and take care of themselves a little bit better than past times.
Q: You have some guys that have been around awhile, do you get a feeling that there is a clock ticking on this defense?
ER: There’s a clock ticking on all of us. So with that in mind we just enjoy it. We go out there and try to give it our best effort every game and try to win every game. You know that’s not always the case, but if you’re always going out there with the right mindset and giving it your all, that’s all you can do. You can’t do much more than that. I’ve played a lot of football and played a lot of games in my life – not just football – you understand that if you give it your all and you give it your best, you’re going to get the best results out of your teammates and yourself and hopefully you come out on top. It’s not always the case, but you plan to.
Q: How much does last year’s loss and getting a chance now to win a game that could have home field advantage implications down the road motivate you for Sunday night?
ER: None at all. It doesn’t motivate me. I’m trying to prepare this week to win this game. The situation of us playing the Patriots this time around and last year is totally different, being that the implications are different. Win or go home puts a different feeling on you. We still have a game next week, so we have a lot of football to be played and the Patriots do too. Over history if you look at how things play out once you get to playoff time, things tend to pan out different ways. We’ve had the first round bye around here and we’ve had to play the Wild Card game. So I’ve been in both of those situations and haven’t come out on top yet. So honestly I can care less if we have the bye or not. We play wherever; I don’t care where we’re playing so long as we’re winning.
Q: When someone says that this is a really big game because one team is going to be 1-2 after it doesn’t mean anything right now?
ER: No, I don’t think it’s that much of a pressure game for anybody. I know we don’t need to go changing anything major if we don’t win this game. Like I said, it’s still early and there’s still a lot of football to be played. There are a lot of scenarios that could play out. Yes, you want to be on top and kind of control your own destiny. That’s the ultimate goal.
Q: You mentioned ‘A Football Life’ with Bill Belichick earlier. Are you looking forward to seeing Ray Lewis’ piece tonight? Have you gotten a sneak preview of it?
ER: Yeah, yeah. Ray’s great to me. I know a lot about him and how he approaches his family and his work ethic and how much he cares and loves his kids. It’s going to be eye-opening to everybody, especially what Ray has been through over the course of his life and through football. I think it’s going to be a great deal that can open a bunch of eyes. Ray has a lot of talent and not just in football, on the field. He’s a great dad. He’s a Hall of Fame dad. He does a lot of things off the field. There are a lot of the things off the field he aspires to do also.
ER: That’s one less person to throw to but they will send somebody in and get somebody else some more catches. Somebody has to step up. It’s a professional league. Hernandez is probably not playing after that high ankle sprain. And being that it’s so early in the season, you’d much rather have a guy like that going for it and not hurting himself worse. But we’ll prepare for it either way. Like I said, somebody else will get a bunch more balls, I’m sure. There won’t be all this talk about Wes [Welker] and all these other guys who are not getting catches so somebody has to step up right now. Hernandez is a great tight end.
Q: Do you feel like you outplayed the Patriots and really won the AFC Championship last year?
ER: No, we lost, man. We lost by three points. Yes, we had the chance to make some plays but I’m sure [Tom] Brady, who he is, and the other guys over there feel like they left some plays out there. One play that sticks out in my head from that first drive is when Brady overthrew [Rob] Gronkowski. So I’m sure they have some plays that they left out there also. It was a great game and they came out on top.
Q: Does it still bother you today that that game slipped away?
ER: No, not at all. That was last year like I said. They only crowned one champ last year, if I’m not mistaken. It’s behind us, like I said. We’re a totally different team this year. We don’t even have some of the same guys on the team. It’s always a new year the next year. I know I’m not worried about what happened last year. It was over and done with after that game.
Q: One of these teams is going to be 1-2 on Monday. Is there a sense of desperation on Baltimore’s part?
ER: Nope, not at all. It’s a long season like you said, 14 more games. One game at this point won’t change anything for us; we’ll just have to see how it pans out at the end.
Q: Not sure if this was already asked: what differences do you see in the Patriots offense this year compared to seasons past?
ER: Yes, that question was already asked and no, nothing has changed much. I don’t see much has changed; just a couple different numbers on the jerseys.
Q: What is it about these Patriots-Ravens games that makes them so intense?
ER: It’s just two great teams that love to play football; a lot of great competition. We just go at each other. That’s what you want. You want to see the best going against the best – offense, defense and special teams. That’s what you get in these games.
Q: What are your impressions of James Ihedigbo so far?
ER: James is a great competitor. He came in and did a great job. When you come into those situations you’re amped up so you have to make sure you keep your communication and stuff like that. He came in and did a great job. I expected that because you could see him in the meeting room, he’s a professional. He is always asking questions and makes sure he gets the defense down.
ER: Not really. I see Wes catching the ball probably not as much but probably because they are throwing the ball to other guys who are open. It’s a long season and you do things in a certain way preparing for the weeks to come. I wouldn’t read too much into it. Wes Welker’s still a great receiver and I’m sure New England, [Tom] Brady and everybody knows that. It’s just that people probably want to make news of something that’s probably not something big in the organization. If it is, then that’s something they have to deal with.