Proud of filling 'huge shoes'

Starting for injured Gregg, he's pleased with season, optimistic about next year

q&a justin bannan

December 26, 2008|By EDWARD LEE

H ow pleased have you been with the season you have put together?

Obviously, I'm very pleased. It's nice to be able to play a nice, full, long season and get the time on the field that I needed to get to put together a season like this. I knew I had to step in for Kelly [Gregg] and fill some huge shoes because Kelly is the best at that position at what he does. I feel like I've held it down. I think Haloti [Ngata] and I have done a pretty good job inside as far as being consistent and have a good, strong season together. It's been good, and it was what I was ready to do if I ever was called upon. It's just working out the way I had hoped it would work out.

With Kelly expected to return for training camp, what's your approach to next season?

Who knows what's going to happen next year? Hopefully, Kelly will come back and be healthy because he's obviously a good friend of mine and a good teammate, and I think if you have Kelly, Haloti and me healthy, we could have a real nice rotation and do all kinds of incredible things.

You've sacked quarterbacks, but you registered your first career interception against the Tennessee Titans' Kerry Collins. What do you remember about that?

I remember turning around and the ball falling into my hands. It all happened really fast. It's a great moment, and it happens hardly at all for a defensive lineman. It's a moment that I will look back to someday and say, "Yeah, that was pretty cool."

Who is the toughest offensive lineman you've faced?

I can't name one specific O-lineman, but I'd say in terms of an O-line as a group, the Giants played really well together. They're a very consistent group. We did make some mistakes, but I thought they came out and played really hard. They're a smart group of guys and they play really well together.

Who is the more demanding coach: defensive line coach Clarence Brooks or assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Rex Ryan?

CB. CB's an animal. I think they're both demanding in their own right. They're the kinds of guys that you don't want to let down. CB, in my personal opinion, is the best D-linemen coach in the NFL, and Rex is the best defensive coordinator in the NFL. I know that we all feel that way as a group. It doesn't matter who is demanding. We're all demanding of ourselves, and what it really comes down to is, we don't want to let them down. The last thing I want is my coach to be disappointed in me after a game, and I know that's the consensus of the D-line.

Why didn't you play football before you began attending Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks, Calif.?

I just think my dad didn't want me to do that. I played soccer growing up and other sports. He just said, "You'll have plenty of time to play as you get older." That's kind of how we approached it.

You kicked a 45-yard field goal and averaged 44 yards on punts in high school. Which one was more difficult?

I'd say the field goal. Punting was easier for me. The field goal was tough. It was against one of our rivals, Del Campo High School. I think it was our homecoming game, and it was on the left hash. Unfortunately, it wasn't a game-winner because we didn't have the best team. I knew I could get the distance. It was just a matter of making it. It went in, and I got lucky.

What do you remember of your basketball-playing days in high school?

We didn't win very many games. Yeah, we weren't the best team, but it was fun. I had a good time. I grew up playing basketball, but I realized once I got to high school that I definitely wasn't going pro.

Considering your size, you must've laid out some pretty wicked screens, right?

Oh, yeah, I could screen and box out with the best of them. That was about it, you know? I definitely was not Larry Bird out there. But no, it was fun. I made some good friends, and we had a great time.

Do you still have the Big 12 Conference championship ring with the 62-36 score against Nebraska in 2001 engraved on it?

I do. And then we [Colorado] beat Texas at Texas Stadium to win the Big 12 championship. I'll have that ring forever. It was a special moment in my life, and I'll always cherish it.

about this series

Each week, we'll bring you a Q&A with a Ravens player to help you learn a little more about the team. Today's guest is defensive tackle Justin Bannan, who ranks seventh on the team in tackles (51) since replacing injured linemate Kelly Gregg. Bannan considers his developing season, demanding coaches and his basketball-playing days.

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