When you missed six games because of your turf toe injury, the offense averaged 96.5 rushing yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry. In the 10 games you played, those numbers rose to 141.7 per game and 4.6 per carry. You'll take the credit for that, right?
I don't know. Ask the coaches. [Laughs.] I just play. I'm glad I could come back and contribute to this running game and to the wins, but I'm not about to pat myself on the back. We've still got a long way to go, and all that will be for nothing if we don't win this football game.
Looking back at the injury that sidelined you from Week 2 to 7, how concerned were you that your season was over?
I didn't know much about turf toe, but I knew that mine was pretty bad. But I didn't really know because that was the first time I've ever been hurt or seriously injured. With everything happening this year in my last year of the contract, of course all of that was in my mind, but I really just continued to get treatment, take it day-to-day, prayed a whole lot, and asked the good Lord for peace and peace of mind, and that's what He gave me. Everything came around just in time, and it's funny how things worked out. I ended up missing six games, but Andre [Gurode] did a great job filling in for me, and we were still able to win. When I came back, we continued to win and now we're in a good position to win the Super Bowl.
How confident were you that you'd return this season?
I really didn't know. It all happened so fast. After that sixth week when I got my orthotic in, that really changed the game for me. I got fitted by Dr. [Steve] Gersh here in Baltimore, and the orthotic he gave me is just a hard plate that doesn't allow my shoe to bend. That was where my pain was coming from. Every time my shoe would bend, that put a lot of pressure on that trigger point and it was just excruciating pain. So once I got the orthotic, I was able to do more than I did before. That first game back when we played Pittsburgh, I wasn't sure if I was going to play. It was a game-time decision. That was a tough game. I couldn't really push off, but I was able to pass-protect and that ended up winning the game. So after that game, it kind of slowly got better, and I was able to deal with it. It still hurts, but I can tolerate the pain.
Were you specifically targeting that Nov. 6 game at the Steelers for your return?
No, it just happened that way. If I could've come back sooner, I would've been out there.
Was it more rewarding that you made your return in such a significant rivalry game?
Just the way things kind of worked out, it was funny that that was my first game back and only my second game that I had played this year. That was a big part of us winning the AFC North.
How would you describe the chemistry between you and left tackle Bryant McKinnie?
As long as we're on the same page, we have a chance. Bryant coming in as a first-year guy here, that's probably anybody's biggest concern, just knowing the plays. And hopefully, I helped him out with that because the communication starts from [center Matt] Birk, and I just relay the message to him. It's good. I mean, I've been here for five years. So I know the offense. I'm continuing to learn every day, and the knowledge that I have, I just try to pass onto him.
With all of the other responsibilities you have on your plate, is that a lot to add?
But that's how it works though. [Right guard] Marshal [Yanda] does the same thing for [right tackle] Mike [Oher]. So it's nothing special. That's how it should be on the offensive line.
When running back Ray Rice turns in the kind of Pro Bowl-caliber season that he recently completed, is that a sign of pride for the offensive line, too?
Oh, yeah. Having a running back as good as Ray, a lot of times, he makes up for our mistakes, and when we're on the same page, the sky's the limit for this offense. Of course, we like to run the ball because when we run the ball, we're hard to beat. But this year has been probably one of the first years we've been kind of balanced. We can do whatever we want to do on offense, and you take your hat off to the coaches because they put us in the right situations, and we go from there and do the rest. The coaches call the plays on a schematic level, and we make it happen as far as execution.
It seems that offensive linemen get attention from media only when they commit a penalty or make a mistake. Does that bother you?
No, I don't really care. I don't like the publicity. I don't want everybody in my face. I'm a low-key guy, and that's mainly offensive linemen. I don't know if O-linemen were just born to be behind the scenes, but not too many offensive linemen are like [outside linebacker] Terrell Suggs or [inside linebacker] Ray Lewis. We're just blue-collar workers. We do the dirty work, and we just don't want to do anything bad.
Do you remember when the offensive linemen for the Denver Broncos wouldn't talk to media? Do you prefer that kind of relationship?
I don't know what they had going on there, but that is a little extreme because you all can be our best friends or our enemies.
What did it mean to you when Ray gave the offensive linemen those Breitling watches?
Initially, we were kind of being hard on Ray, saying stuff like, "Reggie Bush got his offensive linemen Segways, and this is your second year going to the Pro Bowl." So I guess that kind of weighed on him [Laughs.] So he gave us Breitling watches, and I'm a huge watch collector. For Christmas, I tell everybody, "If you can't think of something to get me, just get me a watch." I love watches. Matt and Marshal, they don't really wear watches, so that was big on their part, too. I mean, we were ecstatic. I mean, a Breitling is a top-of-the-line watch. I know it cost some money for Ray, but hopefully, we made him a lot of money, too.
Since you collect watches, what's the best watch you own?
I have three Breitlings, but they're pretty much different. One of my Breitlings has a diamond bezel. So that would probably be my baby right there. I'm not a flashy guy, but it shows the hard work I put into this game. When I splurge, that's what I splurge on. I don't buy cars or homes. I buy watches. Watches and clothes.
Since this is the final year of the contract you signed as a rookie in 2007, have you thought about your future?
Yeah, I have. But right now, it's not in my control. I don't know anything about anything. So I try not to worry about it. But sooner or later, it will be in my control. That's the good thing about free agency — unlike being drafted when I didn't have a choice. Now I have a choice and hopefully, I'll be in the right situation.
How do you weigh the prospect of a hefty contract versus the comfort that comes from knowing the schemes, the coaches and your teammates?
I guess there's a lot of variables you have to account for, but all I know is Baltimore. I love being here. I mean, this is my home. I guess I'll think about that when I cross that bridge, but right now, I'm a Baltimore Raven, and it's been a good five years.
Do you dream about getting the kind of contract that Marshal got [five years, $32 million] just before training camp?
Of course. I like to think I'm up there with some of the best guards. I've definitely worked hard. But ultimately, that's up to the team to make that decision. That whole money thing is over my head right now. Whatever happens, happens. I just pray for the best.