Q&A with Ravens safety Tom Zbikowski

December 16, 2009|By Edward Lee | edward.lee@baltsun.com

Each Wednesday 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 safety Tom Zbikowski, who has intercepted a pass in each of his past two games - which also happen to be the first two starts of his two-year pro career. Zbikowski, who has boxed as an amateur and professional, talked about replacing five-time Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed, studying film in the NFL and remaking Notre Dame.

Question: Has there been an enormous amount of pressure on you to fill in for Ed Reed?

Answer: No, not really. I just came in and just played. They drafted me for a reason and had confidence for me to go in there. I've always had confidence in myself and have never doubted myself or thought that I can't play - no matter what level I'm at.

Q: Has backing up Reed, Dawan Landry and former Raven Jim Leonhard been frustrating for you, a four-year starter at Notre Dame?

A: You always want to be on the field, but I've got two of the best safeties in the league in front of me. So I'm going to pay my dues and learn from them and gain the trust from the coaches so that they can have the confidence in me for me to go in there and perform.

Q: What's the biggest adjustment you had to make from the college ranks to the professional level?

A: Film study. In college, I never watched film. I never really understood offenses. I just kind of went out and played. Now, the more you understand, the better you'll be able to play and the easier it will be to make plays.

Q: How much film study have you done since joining the Ravens?

A: Well, I didn't really do any in college. I'd do it with my coaches and then that was about it. I tried on my own, but I didn't know what I was looking for or what I was doing. I was immature. I didn't want to study. But I should have. I probably could have been a lot better as a player. But you learn from it. I'm still here, and I've still got a chance to learn from my mistakes.

Q: You recorded your first career interception against the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers on Dec. 7. How exciting was that?

A: It felt good. All my family was right in that section right where it happened. It was a good feeling for them. They've been coming to games since last year, but their son was only playing special teams. For them to drive all the way from Chicago just to see me get special teams play and then to find out that I'm starting and then get an interception, I felt good that they were happy that they could come and see me make a play.

Q: The Packers and Detroit Lions sought to challenge you with some deep throws. Did you take that as a challenge?

A: I knew they were going to test me. I'm filling in for one of the best safeties, and these were my first career starts. That's what teams do. Ed and everyone else made sure to tell me that depth is my friend.

Q: Do you think former [Notre Dame] head coach Charlie Weis unfairly absorbed much of the blame for the program's recent downturn?

A: The head coach is always going to get the blame, and at that school, if you're not winning, you're going to get fired. He knows that more than anyone else. Is it unfair? It probably is, but that's how coaches are treated.

Q: What do you want to see new head coach Brian Kelly do with the Fighting Irish?

A: I think there needs to be an emphasis on education, but I think the school can do that with the way it helps athletes. So get the athletes, get the players. Some people don't understand that I was never a good student. But the professors and teaching assistants, if you're not an [expletive] and you show that you're nice and that you're interested, they'll help you as much as they possibly can. You might not get an A and you might not get a B, but you're not going to fail. They're going to help you out, they're going to give you extra work, and they're going to do everything they can to help you.

It's one of the best academic staffs in the country, and it almost seems like they're not taking advantage of it by only taking the kids with the grades on paper. What about the kids who may not have the grades in school but are willing to work at it?

Q: Is there an athlete, entertainer or actor you would pay money out of your pocket to see?

A: I'd pay for the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight [on March 13]. I'd like to see those guys live.

Q: Do you agree that Manny Pacquiao is the best pound-for-pound fighter?

A: Not of all time, but right now, probably. We'll see when he fights Mayweather. You've got a classical boxer against a dude that's going to be bringing it and willing to fight. It's one of those things where styles make the fight, and we're going to see which style is best.

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