The first thing you notice about Ravens nose tackle Terrence Cody compared to a year ago is the loss of weight and the added confidence in his walk.
It's a new season and a new man.
"This was his first real offseason around us and he worked really hard," said Ravens defensive line coach Clarence Brooks of the third-year tackle out of Alabama. "His conditioning is good, he is very, very mature and schematically, he knows what we're doing and how we're trying to get it done. We think he is going to take us where we need to go."
Let's get this straight. Cody is never going to be Mr. Body Beautiful. It ain't happening. At the Senior Bowl during his last season with the Crimson Tide, there were reports his weight ballooned into the high 360s..
After practice yesterday, Cody weighed in at 334, one pound below the team's prescribed weight. His body fat is around 23 percent, which is truly remarkable compared to his rookie season.
"During the offseason , this was the first time I was able to get in, work with the strength coaches and do the things I needed to do," Cody said. "I was able to get stronger, faster and quicker, and do the things I needed to do on the field.
"I learned how to lift weights, not just power through everything, but to take my time and that's how you get stronger."
If there was one area where Cody needed to improve, it was endurance. He played well for most of last season starting all 18 games and produced a career high 34 tackles.
But he seemed to tire late in the season as did several of his defensive line teammates. But neither the Ravens nor Cody think that will happen this season.
When the Ravens rookies started practice nearly a week before the veterans , Cody was on the field with the youngsters.
"He is a front guy and those guys have a long season," Brooks said. "That long season can take something out of you, but he started every game for us and practiced every day. He showed that he was a battler."
Now, he has to prove that he can take the next step. With a year's experience, Cody is expected to start for a second straight season. He is battling veteran Ma'ake Kemoeatu for the starting job, and the Ravens have rotated them on the first team, but also moved Cody to tackle on the second team as a replacement for Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata.
But the starting nose guard position is Cody's job to lose. The Ravens just want to keep him hungry, for lack of a better term. Cody also has a slight hip injury and the Ravens want to give him some rest.
"We've got Kemo and we're battling it out for the starting position," Cody said. "It can go either way because we're both doing good out there and we're both making plays. We're both showing that we can play nose."
The Ravens also want Cody to play outside because he could give Ngata a rest. If Cody plays outside, he'll have to be more agile than just jamming traffic on the inside.
He'll have to be more of an every down player which includes becoming a pass rusher.
"It's something new because last year, I just played one position," Cody said. "But being able to learn the three technique just makes me more of a better player because I can play each position."
"That adds a lot more tools to my toolbox," Cody said. "Just sitting back and watching Haloti pass-rush and Haloti do things at the three technique, I'm trying to learn and ask him things that I can use."
The Ravens have a tradition of having big, tough tackles in the middle. A year after the team moved from Cleveland to Baltimore for the 1996 season, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome promised he was going to find a big, tough tackle in the middle.
He added Tony Siragusa in 1997 and then teamed him with Sam Adams in the Super Bowl winning 2000 season. There was Kelly Gregg in 2002 and he teamed with Kemoeatu in 2005.
Now it can be Cody and Ngata.
"Yeah, Terrence is just more experienced now," said Ngata of Cody. "I think with starting last year, he's looking real comfortable and he's doing a lot of good things. And ... , he has more energy and he's moving around really well."
Cody said: "It [last year] gave me a lot of experience practicing and playing in those games. It also is a long season, and I learned how to take care of myself every game, every week. Now that I've been through this, the game has started to slow down a little bit. I know what to expect."