Each Wednesday we'll bring you a Q&A with a Ravens player to help you learn a little more about the team. Today's guest is linebacker Tavares Gooden, who ranks sixth on the team in tackles with 36. Gooden offers answers about his first season as a full-time starter, tragedy in his family when he was 10 years old and his preferred nickname.
Question: What's your assessment of your play in your first season as a full-time starter at inside linebacker?
Answer: I didn't really know what to expect and how it was going to play out. I was given an opportunity, and I'm just trying to take advantage of every moment. I've been trying to play well after Brendon [Ayanbadejo] went down [with a torn left quadriceps tendon Oct. 4] and trying to get better in every aspect of the game. I'm working hard with my coaches and doing extra film study so that I can become the linebacker I want to be.
Q: When Bart Scott left after last season, you were quickly anointed as his successor. Was that a lot of pressure for you?
A: When Bart was here, he taught me a lot of stuff, so there wasn't really a lot of pressure. I just couldn't wait to get some game time. That's what you look for as a kid. You want to be the guy playing out there with the greats like Ray [Lewis] and playing against guys like Brett Favre and Adrian [Peterson]. That's what you want, just that opportunity to go out and play. It wasn't about pressure, but more about, "Let me see how I do against a different team and different players."
Q: You've had a tumultuous history with injuries, including a groin injury your senior year at Miami, a hip injury that forced you to sit out the Senior Bowl, a hernia that cut short your rookie season with the Ravens and a concussion that sidelined you against New England on Oct. 4. Are you concerned about injuries?
A: What I do is, I go full speed. If that means getting injured, that's what it is. I'm not going to slow down. I don't think about the injuries. ... I just play football full speed, and my body will handle the rest. I know this offseason, we're going to come up with a plan. If I need to be heavier or if I need to be more agile or whatever it is to help prevent injuries, we're going to do that.
Q: With your speed, have you considered playing safety?
A: No, not really. Linebacker is fun. You get to match [up] against guys. I've been blessed with speed, but I've never seen myself playing safety. We have great safeties like Ed [Reed] and [ Dawan] Landry, so I don't know how I would fit in anyway. ... If the coaching staff didn't think I would have prosperity at the position, they would have moved me.
Q: Who is the toughest running back to bring down?
A: Adrian [Peterson] is pretty fast and elusive. ... But there aren't too many guys that I can't bring down. That goes back to coaching and technique and being as fast as I am, the ability to get to them.
Q: Did you have a childhood fear?
A: That I was going to lose my dad [Byron Gooden Sr.]. My mom [Sheila Gooden] passed away when I was so young, and I didn't know what I was going to do. He's been a real man to me and helped me grow up. I wasn't afraid of Freddy Krueger or any of those guys. It was just about losing my father.
Q: Your mother died while waiting for a heart transplant when you were 10. How did that tragedy shape you as a person?
A: I tried out for football when I was 8, and I got hit so hard that I quit after that. I said, "This is not for me." I came back the next year and tried out. One day, my father made me late, and the defensive coach said, "I'm going to run you guys until you puke." I was like, "Run my dad. I don't have a car to get here." So I quit again after that, and I didn't think I was going to play any more football. But I told my mom, "Watch, I'm going to play this year." She told me that I didn't have to play, but I promised her that I would play. She passed away before my first game, so she never saw me play football, and ever since then, I've been keeping that promise to my mom. I've developed a passion for the game and just sticking with it.
Q: Do you still think about your mother a lot?
A: Of course. It's hard not to think about the person who brought you into the world. But you celebrate life. You don't cry about it. So I celebrate my mom's life every time I go out there and play football. I live for her.
Q: How did you get the nickname "The Business"?
A: I would play video games and just work out my boy on "Madden" and college hoops. I think I was a sophomore in high school, and I would just keep saying, "I'm giving you the business!" So everyone started calling me "The Business."
Q: What's a better nickname: "Little Stump" or "The Business"?
A: "The Business," because I developed that myself. It's tough to live in your big brother's shadow [Byron Gooden Jr., who was known as "Stump"] your whole life. So when I got my opportunity to get my own name, I figured "The Business" would be it.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun