New Ravens special teams player Brendon Ayanbadejo addressed the media at his introductory news conference today. The following transcript was provided by the Ravens.
On how it feels to join the Ravens: "It's a big deal. It seems like everywhere I've been, in the last year, all of my coaches have learned something from coach [John] Harbaugh in the way he devises special teams schemes. Now he's the head coach. So, for me to end up here in Baltimore, it's kind of like fate headed that way. So I'm excited to be here."
On if he thought he'd ever end up back with the Ravens, after being cut before training camp in 2001: "I never thought I'd be coming back. But one of the guys, [director of pro personnel] George [Kokinis], told me, 'I learned something from that. You never cut a guy before he gets a chance to step on the field. You never cut anybody before training camp.' I said, 'I'm glad it was at my expense.'"
On how he has developed as a player since then: "Well, I've been cut from three NFL teams, played in NFL Europe, played in the CFL. I basically played football all over the world – had a lot of success in the CFL – and it led to another opportunity in the NFL. Six years later, here I am, where I'm supposed to be with the coach that has a big-time emphasis on special teams, with a monster defense. Just with those two schemes alone and Cam Cameron, offensive coordinator, I think it's a team that's going to contend for a championship this year."
On if brother (and former Ravens fullback) Obafemi Ayanbadejo gave his thoughts: "He did. He didn't have anything bad to say. He said, 'Go play in Baltimore. You'll love to play football there.' I had a handful of teams that I could've went to and played for, but he said, 'You'll really enjoy playing football in Baltimore. The type of team – the personality of the team, you'll fit right in. Guys that just love to play hard, whistle to whistle and you're never going to leave there without a fight, so you kind of just fit right in. You're going to be successful there and you're going to love to play there.' And here I am."
On if his perspective is different, because of the road he took: "Yes, I think it is different. I know what's it like not to make any money. I know what's it's like to make a good amount of money – I don't know what it's like to make Ray Lewis money, but I know what it's like to make decent money. So I just appreciate everything – every day, every play. I'm here in front of you guys – I'm enjoying this because tomorrow it might not be the case. My perspective is that I've experienced everything, the full gamut, I've been all the way around and everything's come full circle. So I think you'll find a guy that's a lot more appreciative. Sometimes, when I was younger and [things] didn't work, maybe it was the personality or attitude stuff. My whole thing is that I was never going to let my personality or my attitude affect my ability ever again. So I think I have a lot better personality having gone through those types of situations."
On how tough was the decision between the New York Jets, Ravens and Chicago Bears: "Well, the Ravens stepped up and basically took out any indecision. They had the best contract, by far. They wanted me the most. The head coach was walking me around the facility, and we played basketball, watched some guys play racquetball. I never did that with any of the other coaches. I never did that with Lovie Smith, and Lovie Smith is a great coach. For me, the coach exceeded what I already had with Lovie, and Lovie had this stature of kind of a hero. Coach Harbaugh exceeded that in my eyes. It's pretty amazing."
On if there were any points where he asked if football was right for him: "Fortunately, my brother played a big role in that. While he was being successful, I can't say that I was underachieving, but I wasn't seeing the same success. He basically said, 'You've got one more shot. I'm paying your bills for one more year, and then you have to make it happen.' That was the year everything worked out."
On if special teams has become more of an emphasis in the league: "I think so, and the person you have to look to credit for that change is coach Harbaugh. For the last two years, the Bears had the No. 1 special teams unit, and the coordinator, coach [Dave] Toub, learned everything he knew from coach Harbaugh. Now, Harbaugh is a head coach, so it shows after the last few years, everything is changing. For the Bears, the [focus for the] last couple of years has been defense, special teams, offense; or even special teams, defense, offense. You can win games with special teams, so why not put an emphasis on it? If it's going to win you one or two games a year; you can potentially go from an 8-8 record to a 10-6 playoff record just by putting an emphasis on special teams."
On if he can turn Yamon Figurs into Devin Hester: "Well, supposedly he beat him in a race in high school, so speed is the equalizer. Speed reigns supreme in the NFL, so now it's about his vision and having confidence in the players around him, that they're going to block the guys. That's something we're going to have to work on. I see potential there. He's lightening fast. We've basically got two special teams coordinators on this team, and if you put those guys together and put the trust in the players, Figurs could be just as good as Devin Hester. Devin's the greatest of all time, so those are some big shoes to fill. I hope so."
On his philosophy of special teams: "Well, that's my bread and butter. That's what I do. We all know that special teams takes special effort. You've got to have a guy out there that will give his maximum. You don't have to be the best player on the field, nor the fastest or strongest. But, you do have to be the guy that is going to play the hardest from whistle to whistle giving his best effort. That's kind of my approach in life. Everything I do I want to be the best at it, and even if I end up not being the best, I'm going to give it my best shot. That's what you want when you've got guys on special teams. They don't have to be your best players, but they have to be the players that will give you the best effort and emotion every time they're on the field."