Ravens coach John Harbaugh challenged Courtney Upshaw to get in much better shape and upgrade his eating habits after a difficult offseason during which the outside linebacker's weight increased to 295 pounds.
Upshaw apparently received the message loud and clear. He has lost about 20 pounds after weeks of workouts at Eldersburg training center TZ Sports, according to head trainer and owner Troy Jones Sr.
"Courtney has been very consistent and has dropped about 20 pounds from 295 pounds and has been fluctuating between 275 pounds to 278 pounds," Jones said. "He's been very dedicated. He has a great work ethic, he works extremely hard. He's a quiet guy. When Courtney makes up his mind, he doesn't hesitate. He'll pass the conditioning test. Courtney is very explosive."
Upshaw was noticeably heavier during the Ravens' spring practices, and he didn't look nearly as mobile as last season when the 2012 second-round draft pick dropped his weight to below 270 pounds after failing the team's conditioning test on the first attempt.
Upshaw said personal issues and not working out at the Ravens' training complex on a regular basis this offseason caused him to gain the weight.
"I've got to drop a couple pounds and get ready for the season," Upshaw said this spring. "My offseason has been kind of hectic. I had a personal issue where I had to handle that. Right now, I'm trying to get back into football shape.
"I was back and forth between Alabama and Baltimore, just real personal issues that I had to handle. Just trying to drop a couple pounds and get ready for the season."
Jones said Upshaw, who started nine games as a rookie and had 55 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and two fumble recoveries, has participated in a series of football movements, sprints and sled work. He said Upshaw often works out twice per day.
"We try to simulate game scenarios and minimize the rest period," Jones said. "We kind of rehearse what they do on the field and load their body with resistance to apply more force to the ground to react and be more explosive. It's a multi-pronged approach. We work on technique, and we burn calories.
"You work on the energy system to drop fat and keep your nutrition pretty clean. We do a lot of speed and power work, sprints, change of directions, linebacker drills, overspeed group. We have them working with tires, sledgehammers and ropes, medicine balls. It's very high-energy."
Harbaugh attributed Upshaw's weight problem to his diet more than his workout regimen this spring.
"Courtney's weight issue — he does need to lose some pounds — is that he doesn't eat right," Harbaugh said last month. "Courtney eats too much, and he doesn't eat all of the right foods. He knows that and that's something he's going to have to get a handle on or he's not going to be the best that he can be. ...
"My first thought is he's playing good. That's the first thing. He understands the defense exceptionally well. He's working really hard, but he's aware of [the need to lose weight]. Everybody in our building is involved with it. He'll be in fighting shape, I promise you that."
When asked if he thought Upshaw would gain weight during the final week before training camp, Jones predicted that wouldn't happen.
"No, absolutely not," Jones said. "Courtney has worked too hard to get where he's at right now. It would be crazy for him to put weight back on and sacrifice what he's accomplished in the past five weeks."
Jones has also been working with Ravens inside linebacker Bryan Hall, a converted defensive tackle who's down to 255 pounds from 300 pounds. This is Hall's second year working out with Jones.
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"Bryan was asked to change positions from defensive line to linebacker, and he had a lot of work ahead of him," Jones said. "He had a lot of footwork to do, changing positions from a three-point stance to a two-point stance where you're on your feet. It's a totally different game. We've been doing a lot of defensive back drills with Bryan, mimicking how the game works.
"Bryan has been changing directions, backpedaling. He's gotten very lean from where he was. We try to train these guys within the same realm of how they play the game and simulate camp. We give a lot of nutrition tips for what works for that person."
Jones has also been training Ravens defensive linemen Arthur Jones and DeAngelo Tyson, whom he says have both dropped about 15 pounds apiece. Jones, no relation to his trainer, is in the final year of his current contract after a breakthrough season during which he became a starter.
"This is a big year for Arthur," Jones said. "We've been getting Arthur more explosive in his first step, getting him more balanced, helping him get leaner with little tricks of the trade.
"DeAngelo is good, he's technically sound. He just wanted to get in better shape. He's looking forward to the season. He got some playing time last year. He's hungry and he wants to show everybody what he can do."