All through training camp and the preseason, the Ravens returning from injury —Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, among others — seemed to draw the most attention.
But what about Brandon Williams, the Ravens’ consistent defensive tackle? He might not have the same name recognition as some of his teammates, but this offseason, one national writer dubbed him the most underrated player in the league.
Columnist Mike Preston sat down with Williams to discuss the upcoming season.
So, what do you think about all these reports and speculation about you being underrated?
What do I think about it? I really don't think much about it because I do what I need to do on the field and that's all I'm concerned about. I just try to work my butt off on and off the field and be the best teammate I can be.
What do you think of your defensive line this season?
I love them. We've got a really good group. We've got a bunch of guys back and some new faces to fill in some holes. I think we've got a real good shot of being a really good defense this year.
Lawrence Guy and Timmy Jernigan are the two guys you're up there with — what do they bring to the table? What do you like about Jernigan's game and what do you like about Guy's game?
I've said this time and time again that Jernigan is just a pit bull. I mean he is going to go hard on every single play, he is going to be in your face, he is gonna do what he has to do. He is quick, strong and powerful. He can get you with the shimmies because he has a lot of finesse. He is kind of like an all-around animal and I love playing next time him. He gets the guys moving to where people start thinking they have to get more people on him because they can't handle him, so it frees up other people for me and Lawrence Guy. Lawrence Guy is a veteran, so he has technique and power. He is one of those guys who he can pretty much play anywhere on the defensive line and succeed. He is great leader, a vocal guy who proves himself on the field with his technique. Both of those guys, hands down, are great guys I love playing with. You know exactly what they're going to do. I can feel Jernigan go up the field and I kind of play off him because when we are in sync it's a beautiful thing and pretty unstoppable.
Can you talk about the extra time you put in training during the off season?
Yeah, I went down to Pensacola, Fla., and trained there for almost three to four months, just getting the body right. I wanted to be in condition so that when I came back here I wasn't going to be behind the eight ball. My weights are good, and I wanted to be at a point that once I got here I could build off that platform.
So what's your playing weight?
My playing weight? I have to be under 341 but right now I'm 336, so I'm good.
What was your weight before training camp started?
I was 343, so I was good there. When I got into training camp, it was more about getting everything else in order, not my weight.
How much has Steve Saunders, the new director of performance and recovery, helped the Ravens as far as conditioning?
He has a good work ethic and he makes sure you get good work in. He has some great routines and the biggest thing is that he lets you know he is here for you any time you need him. So, if you want a little extra, he is there. He isn't trying to track you down to get work in, but he wants you to get better. That door is always open, even if it's about getting a little stretch in or after practice. I like him a lot — he has brought a lot to this team as far as working on football movements, not just conditioning.
Can you feel the difference? Can you tell the difference not just in you, the team?
Yeah, I see, for example, Eric Weddle — he works out with him all the time and Eric is in there grinding, busting his butt. His physique is changing and he looks better out on the field. I mean, he already looked good, but now he is the total package.
Toughest center you've played against in the AFC North?
He's not there anymore, but it's Cleveland's Alex Mack. When I go against him, it's always a real good battle. I'm a power guy who also has quick feet, but he has those old vet moves. Sometimes he'll get me, but I'll get him more times than he gets me. You have to really work to play against him. [Maurkice] Pouncey from the Steelers is a good athlete and a Pro Bowler, but Mack is better because he has quicker hands and more experience.
Who are some defensive linemen that you've tried to emulate?
Well, No. 1 is Warren Sapp, just his high motor and how he didn't take plays off. He just went hard all the time, and pretty much dominated up front. For a big guy, he could move and take on double teams, two guys at a time. It was great seeing him putting his hands on people and demolishing things up front.
Were you surprised at his longevity, playing for 13 years in the league?
Man, that's definitely where I want to be later in my career, just being that guy who still has it because of the time he put. As long as he was going forward, he was unstoppable. Warren Sapp was unashamed of being a big man, and he loved it. He embraced it, and that's what I liked about him. He was big and he knew he could out big you.
Last year in the second half of the season, the defense got a lot better. What do you attribute that to?
We don't quit, and that's it pretty much point blank. We saw how things were going at the end of the season, how things were panning out and we kind of had a come-to-Jesus moment. Guys knew the season had not gone how we wanted it to go, but we weren't going to throw in the towel. We are the Ravens and we are going to be resilient and are going to keep going until we can't anymore. We just don't quit, we don't have the right to quit. There were plenty of guys before us who cleared the way for us to get where we are today, and for them we don't deserve to quit because they never did on us.
Your contract is up after this season, have you given that much thought?
I try not to because we're not at that point, so there is no use thinking about it. If I go out there and worry about that, then it takes me off my actual goal, which is beating Buffalo. You can't worry about things that haven't happened yet. Right now, I'm just trying to do the best that I can for my team and that is to win game one.
Do you want to stay in Baltimore?
Yeah, I'd love to stay in Baltimore.