It’s all about the team for Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw

0
19

— The Baltimore Ravens used a second round pick to select linebacker Courtney Upshaw in the 2012 NFL Draft. Upshaw came to the Ravens after being named a first team All-American at Alabama. He put up outstanding numbers in college. Things changed once he got to the NFL. Upshaw became a player whose contribution didn’t show in the box score but he earned the utmost respect from his teammates. He put the team first. That’s what he describes as “the Raven way.”

Upshaw has become a run stuffing outside linebacker for the Ravens. He has to give up a large amount of pass rushing opportunities to Elvis Dumervil but has not complained at all. Getting involved in the physical aspect of the game is something that Upshaw relishes.

“I love it— being able to go in and battle tight ends and do stuff like that. I was never a cover guy in college,” Upshaw said. “Being here and being able to drop in coverage— I haven’t gotten an interception or anything like that— but it’s fun for me.”

This year marks the final year of a four-year contract worth $5,296,698 that Upshaw signed in 2012. Many players set personal goals for themselves, especially in a contract year. That’s not the case for Upshaw.

“I want to just go out and produce and do more. I can sit here and say, ‘Oh, I set this goal for myself,” Upshaw said. “Honestly, I just want to get that first sack, and then I’ll get to clicking from there. But right now, it’s all about just doing more – doing more year 1, year 2 to [year] 3. I just want to do more to help this team win.”

The goal for Upshaw was to focus on increasing his opportunities to rush the passer. Upshaw would like to get more sacks, something that he hasn’t been able to do much during his career. He only has three career sacks in three seasons. Upshaw didn’t register a sack during the regular season last year but did get a sack against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional playoff round.

The biggest play of Upshaw’s career didn’t come on a sack however. The Ravens reached the Super Bowl in Upshaw’s rookie season. Upshaw had a key play when he forced running back Lamichael James to fumble the ball during the Ravens victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

Upshaw wants to continue to be a force against the run and be a reliable option to cover tight ends. As he said, “I’m just trying to better myself as a whole.” Improving in all aspects of the game will allow Upshaw to be a contributor to the team.

The expectations for Upshaw have always been there. He initially was a straight-line pass rusher but has evolved into an outside linebacker who can play on almost any down. The primary job that Upshaw has now is a selfless one. He has to aggressively set the edge against the run, funneling runners back into the teeth of the defense.

The Ravens pride themselves on stopping the run. They want to control the line of scrimmage. A player like Upshaw helps them do so. The organization will face a decision at the end of the season. Upshaw is a team first player, but he wants to make it an easy decision fro the team when it comes to whether or not he is signed to a long term contract.