As the regular season ended, the Baltimore Ravens certainly didn’t look like the team to pick to come out of the AFC. They had dropped four of their last five games, but that’s all been forgotten with their dramatic run through the playoffs. Stud defensive lineman Paul Kruger attributes that change to multiple factors, including Ray Lewis’ return, and is looking forward to sending him out in style in Super Bowl XLVII.
Paul Kruger joined WFAN in New York with Joe and Evan to discuss the Baltimore Ravens’ success in the playoffs after stumbling to end the regular season, what it’s like playing with a group of standout defensive performers, the impact of the return of Ray Lewis and what the Ravens need to do to stop Colin Kaepernick.
You guys didn’t finish the regular season so hot, but you’ve been great the playoffs. What changed?:
“I think it was a few things. It was just a goal in mind. Everybody knew where we wanted to go. We knew what had to be done. And we knew our game had to significantly change, in a positive way, to get it done. So having gone through the things we did early in the year, having the up and down, roller-coaster type season, we just wanted to finish strong. And then, with Ray’s retirement, we wanted to send him out the right way. So I think it was a number of things that really gave us that motivation.”
What was it like when you first walked into the Ravens’ locker room and saw Lewis and Ed Reed and all those big-name defensive players?:
“I think, over time, for me, it became more clear how special it was. It wasn’t something that I had really understood when I first got here. Over time, I learned about the players and what they had done in the league. And then, to be a part of this, I’ve become friends with these guys and learned about them and their families and their history. For me, it’s more very normal. … These are my brothers I’m hanging out with. But every once in a while, you have the opportunity to kind of sit back and ponder about things and you realize how special it is to be a part of this kind of group.”
How much of a difference has it made to have Ray back?:
“It’s huge. I can’t say enough about it. There’s something special to be said for ending this way, especially for Ray’s circumstance — retiring in this fashion. It’s an incredible ending. And it’s something that I think we all can hold very dear and be proud of because it’s something we’ve all been a part of.”
What’s the key to slowing down Colin Kaepernick?:
“I think the biggest thing for us is just staying disciplined through the game. He’s an explosive athlete, and with guys like that, you’ve just got to stay disciplined throughout the entire course of the game. He’s going to make plays, but that’s just how guys like that are. They have a consistent way of getting things done, so you’ve got to slow him down as much as you can and try to contain him. I think we’ve got a good game plan, but definitely the biggest thing is just being consistently sound within the defensive scheme the entire game.”