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Ravens' Kenny Young credits 'keep it real' sessions for D's success

NFL Media's Oklahoma Drill series presents exclusive, quick-hitting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches from around the league. No nonsense -- just football experiences directly from the source.

Kenny Young

Linebacker, Baltimore Ravens

Born: Nov. 15, 1994

Experience: First NFL season

Interview by Brooke Cersosimo | November 9, 2018

It started with the meetings in camp. We put some goals together that we set as a defense collectively. Every meeting, whether we lose or win, we always have a "keep it real" session where we always take our egos out of the room. It's not for your feelings to get hurt or get mad if a coach or player is getting on you. It's about addressing the problem and where we need to get better.

Just to have fun. The spirit of the Ravens, not just this year but throughout, is to have fun, especially on the defensive side of the ball. That starts with the character of the men. We've got some great guys in that defensive meeting room that make this journey this season very enjoyable.

It's important that we hit the reset button with this bye week. Before we left, we addressed recent issues. Of course, we would like to go [undefeated] but we're right where we want to be, honestly. We play in a league where any given Sunday you don't know who's going to win. ... We win win out in November and these next few games at home, and God knows what happens with the other teams, we have a great shot at the playoffs.

I think the Ravens have a great eye for guys with great character, even when they are competing for a starting position. There hasn't been any controversy in the locker room because everyone understands what is going on. Joe [Flacco] has the experience and is going to go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks on planet Earth, and he's gonna win another Super Bowl before he hangs it up. Lamar [Jackson] is the next upcoming star for the position. It's been humbling for Lamar because he's had so much success in college, winning the Heisman and he did so many things for his conference and was a first-round draft pick. That was great fuel for Joe to push him and get him back to where he needs to be. For Lamar, he's learning the ropes. Joe's an outstanding guy, outstanding leader to look up to. It's going to be the right time for Lamar whenever he gets his shot.

[John] Harbaugh is one of the greatest coaches I've ever been around. ... He's just a very positive guy. While the world is saying one thing about us right now, we're over here with a whole different lens, saying this is what it can be. That's kudos to a great coach that has a great understanding of how to put the team in a position where we can succeed mentally and emotionally. Right now, we could be feeling sorry for ourselves.

Ozzie [Newsome] just wants us to win. He wants us to be in a winning environment, positive environment. We're doing the best we can for everybody to succeed. This is Ozzie's last run but me, especially as a rookie, I get a greater sense of comfort when the older guys who are toward the end [of their careers] -- Eric Weddle, Terrell Suggs, Jimmy Smith, Marshal Yanda, Joe, Michael Crabtree, all those guys -- do well. I want to do everything I can to help those guys win a Super Bowl.

I wanted to play right off the bat, just like I did in college. I did and I played pretty well. It was the same thing [in the NFL]. I think [the Ravens] knew I could handle it from studying how my college years had been. I think I was mature enough to play [right away]. I think I understood the game enough to go out there, execute, make a rookie mistake here and there, but gradually get way better and catching up where the team needs me to be.

There's a lot of veteran guys, a lot of great coaches that help with that process. I want to be great very early. Some guys wait to blossom, some guys never really hit [full potential], some guys are inconsistent. But I think I have the blueprint from being around a bunch of great coaches and players to understand the complete package. I do think I'm doing exceptionally well, that's just my honest opinion. This is something I really enjoy doing.

The biggest surprise [about the NFL] is that it's a lot more mental. It's like 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. The game is a lot faster with a lot bigger guys -- some guys are twice my size, more athletic than I am -- and there are superstars all over the field. Every Sunday, you're playing with some kind of superstar. That makes it surreal when you pull up on game day knowing you're playing against your role models and guys you looked up to your entire life. It's pretty dope.

My favorite player had to be Ray Lewis. He did his walk on the field for the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, but I never got to meet him yet. [I admire] his approach to the game. He's a natural-born leader. He plays hard, carries the team with him and he's a winner. He's a complete competitor and productive guy. He leads his men in war whenever it's time for them to go in battle.

Just to be you [is what I've learned from C.J. Mosley]. No one is looking for you to be this extraordinary figure. No one needs to make a play you don't need to make or come out of the technique you're supposed to do.

The other thing is let the game come to you. That's the biggest thing. You're in a league where you want to make the big sacks or tackles and be the MVP, but there's a process to that. [Mosley's] biggest thing is just trust the process and be you.

I would love to get to the playoffs and play at another level that's unmatched and greater than the first [half of the season].

Growth. I was looking at film from the preseason, and I noticed how frantic I look on film. I look so nervous. I want to see growth and consistency from myself. Things are slowing down for me and receivers aren't running as fast as they were in the postseason. It's easy for me to diagnose the play before it happens. It looks normal and natural for me now.

I'm nowhere near where I want to be or will be, but the growth I've made makes me smile because it shows I'm getting better.

My long-term goal is to be able to say that I'm the best linebacker to ever play this game, and to win as many Super Bowls and defensive MVPs as possible. Really being that guy for the organization. That's why I play is to be the best to play this sport.

If there's anything in your heart, you're going to do it. [Debate] is something that I enjoy doing and it goes well with my profession. There's always cameras in your face and it gives you a platform to express how you feel. Maybe one day after ball, it'll fit into what I want to do, which is media.

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