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How Orlando Brown Jr.’s work ethic placed him in the upper echelon of tackles in the NFL

How Orlando Brown Jr.’s work ethic placed him in the upper echelon of tackles in the NFL

As a crowd gathered around Marshal Yanda’s locker one day after he’d been named to his eighth Pro Bowl, Orlando Brown Jr. sat at his locker just a few seats to the right and reflected. 

He’d been named a Pro Bowl alternate in just his second year in the NFL and first full year as a starting right tackle. Just a few lockers down, the 35-year-old Yanda was asked about what his eighth Pro Bowl meant to him as he lauded his teammates and the organization. 

Brown sat at his locker and, with two weeks left to play in the season and the Ravens at 12-2, expressed his displeasure with how he’d played of late. 

“Obviously it’s an honor, but I’m not playing my best ball right now,” he explained. “I could work a lot harder in the offseason, and I will. It’s special to be honored by my coaches and peers, but in the long haul, I’m going to just continue to get better and continue to get better as a player.”

But Brown’s journey and work ethic didn’t start with this season, or even his rookie campaign in 2018. It started in Norman, Oklahoma, where the 6-foot-8 tackle joined a Sooners program without much direction.

“When he first got to Oklahoma, he was super overweight,” Mark Andrews, Brown’s former and current teammate, said. “He was soft, honestly, he’ll tell you that himself. He wasn’t very good.”

What Brown did have, however, was a knowledge of where he needed to go, and what he needed to do to get there. 

“But he had a good mindset,” Andrews continued. “For a guy like that, that’s all you need. He’s got a ferocious mindset. When he steps on the field, he’s a completely different person. Throughout the years, that’s grown more and more.”

Brown entered Oklahoma weighing about 400-pounds and without much endurance to play consistently well for long stretches of time. Both Andrews and Brown’s offensive line coach at Oklahoma, Bill Bedenbaugh, recalled, ‘Freshman Friday’s’ where the Sooners would have the young members of the team scrimmage against one another. Brown started fights constantly those days.

“Coach (Bob) Stoops would stop him just because he’d start fights,” Bedenbaugh said. “Which, I loved the mentality, we just kind of had to hone it in.”

The mentality was there, it just took time for Brown to get there. Slowly, he got his weight down and after his first two years at Oklahoma, he became the key fixture at left tackle for one of the nation’s preeminent programs. 

Alongside Ben Powers, also currently on the Ravens, the left-side of Oklahoma’s offensive line caved people in constantly and led the Sooners to the College Football Playoff in the 2017 season.

“We just dominated our opponent to the best of our ability, play in and play out,” Powers said. “We approached it with that same mindset everytime walked to the line that we were going to put someone in the dirt.”

Brown’s physicality and stature on the Oklahoma offensive line led him to be considered by some as a first-round prospect in a loaded 2018 draft class for offensive linemen. It was his mindset that got him there. 

“I think your mentality is the most important thing about being a good player,” Bedenbaugh said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt. When you’re at this level or that level, everybody has a lot of the physical traits that you need. What separates you is the mentality.”

Taking into account Brown’s size, and play, the player that walked onto Oklahoma’s campus as a freshman was totally different than the one that left campus years later. Brown weighed 50 pounds less and the personal foul penalties and fights were out of his system.

“If you would’ve saw him when he got here as opposed to when he left, you wouldn’t have thought it was the same person,” Bedenbaugh said.

After Brown declared for the draft, he had another obstacle to overcome: the NFL Combine. And there, Brown put forth maybe the worst combine performance of all time. His numbers were, objectively, terrible. 

Brown has repeatedly said to watch the film instead, that that gives a better representation of who he was as a player in college. NFL teams sided with what happened in Indianapolis.

“In my mind, there’s no question who should’ve been the first tackle taken,” Andrews said. “It's just who he is as a person, who he is as a football player. How he plays with tenacity, there’s just no one else like it. Despite his combine and all that stuff, and all the people around the NFL want to dock him for that, that’s just a way to give him less money than he deserved.”

Because of his poor combine performance, the player everyone thought could be a first-round pick slid to the third round where he was picked by the Ravens in an increasingly infamous 2018 draft class. He was picked by the same team his late-father, also named Orlando, played for for six seasons. 

Despite his fall, Brown kept working and set out to be one of the best tackles in the NFL.

“It was very important to him, he always had a goal of being the best player here and being one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL,” Bedenbaugh said. “It was really an impressive turnaround that you don’t see in a lot of people.”

Now, he’s one of the bookend tackles on the best team in football, the unit that recently broke the NFL’s record for rushing yards in a season. 

Brown knows, however, there’s still work to do.

“Just a lot of different things, movement skills especially, finishing blocks better and really just being as consistent as possible in my fundamentals,” Brown said. “I’m still growing as a player, I’m not there yet, hopefully the top is a lot closer than I think it is.”

He’s started 16 games this season after having started 10 in his rookie campaign and has been a force on the right side of the offensive line next to Yanda. 

It’s not the end of the line for Brown, undoubtedly, but it’s been an impressive journey from a freshman tackle in college with objectively a lot to work on, to a Pro Bowl alternate who says he’s still got a ways to go. 

“He's a hard-working kid,” Yanda said. “He's a great kid. He loves football. He loves being a part of it, loves the camaraderie of the guys. I'm happy to play next to him. He's really improved in his second year and just taken that next step for sure.”

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Report: Ravens extend defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale to three-year extension

Report: Ravens extend defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale to three-year extension

According to a report from Ian Rapoport, the Ravens have made another move to keep their defense intact long-term. 

Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale has reportedly signed a three-year contract extension that will make Martindale the highest paid defensive coordinator in the NFL. But as for the future, the team expects him to be a head coaching candidate after the 2020 season. 

Martindale, 56, has been in Baltimore since 2012 where he started as the team’s linebackers coach. He held that position through 2017 and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2018. 

In 2018, his first season as coordinator, he led the Ravens defense to a league best 292.9 yards allowed per game and was runner-up for Associated Press Assistant Coach of the Year.

The Ravens lost some significant pieces after 2018 season and were without Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle and Za’Darius Smith in 2019. After struggling in three of the first four weeks of the season, the revamped defense eventually took shape. 

Baltimore allowed just 15.1 points per game after the Week 4 loss to Cleveland, where it allowed 40 points — their most all season. 

Through the whole season, the Ravens allowed 300.2 yards per game, which ranked fourth in the league. They also ranked third in total points with 17.6 points allowed per game. 

The unit took shape with some key mid-season acquisitions — most notably Marcus Peters, Jihad Ward and Josh Bynes — and lifted the unit to one of the best in the league along with its NFL-best offense.

In a season of new contracts for the Ravens defense, they’ve now extended cornerback Tavon Young, linebacker L.J. Fort, defensive lineman and linebacker Patrick Ricard, Peters and, most recently, safety Chuck Clark in the last year.

Now, the man leading the defense will be in the fold for a few more years, too. 

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Ravens' left guard Bradley Bozeman dominates 72-ounce steak challenge

Ravens' left guard Bradley Bozeman dominates 72-ounce steak challenge

Baltimore Ravens’ starting left guard Bradley Bozeman showed off one of his many talents earlier this week as he dominated a 72-ounce steak dinner. 

Bozeman accomplished this feat at The Big Texan Steak Ranch while traveling with his wife. The restaurant is famous for this eating challenge, which involves eating over 4 pounds of steak, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad topped off with a butter roll in under an hour. 

Although Bozeman is an absolute unit of a person, this was still no small feat. Bozeman strategized during the meal in order to ensure success as he switched from steak sauce to honey. Yet, Bozeman still questioned his ability to successfully finish with just 2 ounces of steak left. He even instructed his wife who was filming in the audience to shut the camera off in fear of getting sick on camera.

“I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn’t think it was going to be that tough,” Bozeman told ESPN. “The last bite was rough.”

Bozeman pushed on and not only finished the steak, but even had a little carrot cake for dessert. His prize? Free dinner, a t-shirt, and most likely a massive stomach ache. 

Despite his claim that this was “the toughest food thing” he’s ever done, Bozeman flashed a big smile holding the prized shirt which read “I ate it all!”

Bozeman is now one of only approximately 10,000 people who have successfully finished the meal, with over 110,000 people having tried. 

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