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Q&A with Ravens middle linebacker C.J. Mosley

When the Ravens made C.J. Mosley the 17th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the initial thought was that the linebacker would learn from middle linebacker Daryl Smith.

But the University of Alabama alumnus made a career-high and team-leading 129 tackles en route to becoming the first rookie in franchise history to earn a Pro Bowl invitation and has since become a defensive leader along with rush linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Brandon Williams.

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Mosley is one of only four current NFL players to produce 300 tackles, five sacks and five interceptions in the past three years. Mosley is back for a fourth season to anchor what might be one of the best defenses in the league.

Owner Steve Bisciotti hasn't given any ultimatums, but change could be near with no playoff berth.

How does it feel to be the eighth player in Ravens history to get invited to two Pro Bowls in the first three years of your career, joining the likes of Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden and Ed Reed?

I think at the end of the day, you're just trying to help the team win and be the best you can be. At the end of the year, it's always good to have those individual accomplishments so that you can take part in the offseason preparation and keep your body right. If you're hurt, get into the weight room and the training room to make sure that you're ready for the season. Obviously, being behind a great defensive line, that always helps. So you've got to give credit to those guys and the coaches. Everybody here puts you in the best position to be successful.

Are there certain numbers — Pro Bowl invitations, tackles, sacks — that stand out to you as a middle linebacker?

For me, it's just being productive all around — having sacks, interceptions, caused fumbles, obviously tackles, being able to cover, run-stopping. It's about just being a complete linebacker. You can look at stats. Let's take [former Ravens linebacker] Zach Orr, for example. He had a lot more tackles than I had last year, but he didn't make the Pro Bowl. So sometimes statistics, they can be up and down [in the eyes of critics]. It's good to brag, 'I had 130 or 140 tackles,' so that you're productive. But it's being a complete linebacker. I feel that's what makes me one of the better linebackers.

How does it feel to continue the tradition at middle linebacker that began with Lewis?

It makes you want to strive for greatness. You always want to be the best that you can be and keep the tradition going as a defensive player on the Ravens and as a middle linebacker, being a part of that great group in the past. Look at a player like Terrell Suggs. He's one of the last ones of that generation of Ravens. That's what you want to think about when it comes to your future. You just want to keep everything going the right way. The NFL is a job and all that, but I plan on being here for a long time. I want to be one of those last Ravens that is giving to the next generation. That's something cool to think about.

Terrell Suggs' leadership is key for young players.

Is there pressure to live up to the standard that Lewis set?

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I've been asked that question since I was a rookie. Nobody's going to be Ray Lewis, and nobody can be Ray Lewis because he's a one-of-a-kind player. So the best thing you can do is try to take what you can from some of the great linebackers and just put it into your style of play.

Did you anticipate having this much success this early in your career?

I guess you go in with expectations with what you want to do each year. At the end of the day, I know what kind of player I am and my playing style. I always say that I came into a perfect scenario being with Alabama and then coming to the Ravens with a similar style of defense. So it was pretty much just learning new vocabulary, and everything checked out. If you put yourself in the right position and study, your play can do all of the talking.

Ryan Anderson, a rookie outside linebacker for the Washington Redskins, said recently that practices at Alabama are tougher than practices in the NFL. Is that true?

The only reason I would say that is because there's a lot more rules in the NFL than in college. They just took away two-a-days in college for this year. There's a lot more stuff that you can do in college that you can't do in the NFL. So for young players coming out of college and coming into a system where there's a whole bunch of rules like the CBA, they will probably think that it's easier. But once the real season comes around, some players will adapt quick, but it shows who's really in the right mindset coming into the regular season.

The Ravens spent heavily on their secondary in the offseason, trying to ensure that the next time they defend their season against a star quarterback, they'll be better armed.

What do you miss the most about Alabama?

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I go back there every year. So obviously, I miss it. Just being around your teammates. I try to watch most of my former teammates' preseason games, and in the regular season, I try to catch guys' [games]. It's always fun to see the players you played with. It's always a cool thing to see and going back and seeing the coaches and the young guys that you played with as they grow up. A lot of the rookies like Ryan Anderson and Tim [Williams], they came in my senior year. So just to see them all here now, you feel like the big brother. So it's cool to see just the process every year that you went through and now you see the guys that played under you go through it, too.

Speaking of former Alabama players, Williams and cornerback Marlon Humphrey are on the roster. Do you feel like a big brother to them?

I would say more like a mentor. Every guy has his own way of dealing with stuff and his body, and we all play different positions. So I'm more of a mentor. Some rookies hit the wall early and some hit them late and some hit them midseason. So you have to make sure you stay on them and help them keep the right mindset and keep their bodies right.

Do you have time to watch every Alabama game during the season?

Oh yeah, every single one. Most of them are Saturday night games. So once we get done with meetings, I'll eat my dinner, go straight to my room and watch the game. I've always got to represent.

Do you watch the games by yourself or with teammates?

I usually watch it in my room. It all depends. If you've got some teammates who played for the other team, there will be a little trash talking, maybe some, 'If Alabama wins, you've got to do some pushups.' I usually get Morgan Cox all of the time. He thinks every year that Tennessee is going to beat us. So he usually has to wear an Alabama shirt. That's what we do. Whichever team loses, he has to wear something from the other team.

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier called you the toughest middle linebacker he has faced. Were you surprised that a Steeler would admit that about you?

We've pretty much been compared ever since college. We came out in the same year, they talked about us at the [NFL scouting] combine, we trained together down at IMG, and then obviously he went to a rival team. It was the perfect setup. He's a great linebacker, has great tempo and intangibles. He's definitely one of the most athletic linebackers I know. I think he ran a 4.3 at the combine or pro day or something like that. The guy can ball out. He's always making plays. There's not a lot of people that can run through guys in the NFL, but he's definitely one of them.

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