Each Wednesday we'll bring you a Q&A with a Ravens player to help you learn a little moreabout the team. Today's guest in this series islinebacker Jarret Johnson, who recorded sixtackles (four solo), 11⁄2 sacks, a forced fumbleand a fumble recovery in the Ravens' 36-7 winagainst the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.Johnson discusses his improvement thisseason, his career at the University ofAlabama and his post-football future as acounselor for troubled teens.
Is there any difference in your comfort level this season compared with last year?
Not really. There's a little more stuff, but not much. It's pretty much like last year. In Rex Ryan's defense, the responsibilities are always going to change, but it's pretty much the same stuff with the same coverage stuff. Maybe I'm blitzing from different positions, but it's about the same.
What does it mean to you that those in the media have called you the most improved player among the Ravens?
I don't really look for the media's approval, but I do feel like I have played better this year than I was playing last year. I guess it's good, but I don't read that stuff.
What's your proudest memory since joining the NFL?
Probably being a part of the '06 defense when we were as dominating as we were. If we had kept going on in the playoffs, we potentially could have gone down as one of the greatest defenses ever.
What's your most embarrassing memory?
That same year, dropping a pass for an interception against Tampa Bay. [Cornerback] Corey [Ivy] hit the quarterback, and I was looking out. By the time I got back to looking at the quarterback, the ball was in my face, and I caught it before dropping it.
Would you rather have a Super Bowl ring or a Hall of Fame bust?
Super Bowl definitely. That's ultimately what you're working for. The Hall of Fame stuff comes over a length of time. But this is a team game, and to me, it's about winning a Super Bowl ring.
How meaningful was it to be named one of the first two-time captains for the Crimson Tide?
It's pretty cool. Alabama's got a lot of history and stuff. The captains got to put their handprints and cleat prints around Denny Chimes, which is the bell tower in Tuscaloosa on campus. When you go over there, you see guys like Joe Namath, Kenny Stabler and all of the guys who played there. Then you see your name there and it's pretty cool.
Is it true that Rex Ryan tried to persuade you to commit to Oklahoma instead of Alabama?
Yeah. I had already committed to Alabama. I knew Rex. He and his brother [Rob Ryan, the current defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders] who was at Oklahoma State came to my high school together. If I had known, I definitely would have re-thought about going to Oklahoma. But he was out in one year. We talked about that the day after I got drafted [in 2003]. He called me and said, "Yeah, I couldn't get you in high school, so I had to get you here."
What can you tell me about the Waysider Restaurant in Alabama?
It's next to a railroad track in Tuscaloosa. It serves breakfast and lunch, but I've never actually eaten there for lunch. I've only been there for breakfast. But it's good. It's been there forever. It's small. It's probably about the size of our shower room [at the team's training facility in Owings Mills]. They make good biscuits. They're small, but they're good.
You're stuck on an island with one CD, one DVD and one book. What are they?
A book? A Land Remembered [a novel by Patrick D. Smith that documents one family's determination to build a kingdom in present-day Gainesville, Fla.]. The CD is a blues band called Mofro. A DVD? Shoot, I don't know. Let's say Smokey and the Bandit.
You've spent time at Big Oak Ranch, a sanctuary for troubled children who have been abandoned or mistreated by their parents, and a home run by the father of current Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Brodie Croyle, one of your closest friends at Alabama. How has that experience influenced you?
We just used to go up there all of the time and hang out with the kids and stuff. It's pretty cool to see, especially when you learn about the kids' backgrounds and stuff. I still work with them today, and I love doing it. I'm thinking about starting my own ranch in the future.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun