After the last morning session on Thursday at the Baltimore Ravens Training Camp in Westminster, Maryland, I had a few moments with safety Haruki Nakmura. The team broke camp Friday and heads back to their amazing Owings Mills Training Complex, aka, "The Castle," for the remainder of camp and the regular season. Nakamura is coming off a badly broken ankle suffered on the opeing kickoff of the Monday Night Football game last season in Cleveland.
As Nakamura walked over to me, he was with his woman and little girl. I offered to do the interview if I could ask her some questions about Haruki, but she declined, saying she was on her way to the dentist's office. We spoke about both family and football, the polar opposites they can be, and how they are inexplicably linked together.
Beatdown: "I just wanted to hear her comment on what it's like to have to raise two of you?"
Nakamura: "Raise two of us? That little one right there, she's a little fireball, just like me when I was younger, so it's pretty cool. It's like seeing yourself, obviously she's my little girl, but it's just like seeing what I was like when I was little becauseshe definitely has my personality."
Beatdown: "Do you sometimes think like what am I doing being a parent?"
Nakamura: "You know what, not at all because I've enjoyed every bit of it. I didn't know how I was going to be as a parent, but for some reason that natural instinct kicked in and I've just enjoyed every bit of it, watching her since she was born. Now she's running around, she's climbing steps, doing everything a 17 month old does. It's just been amazing."
Beatdown: "Just the complete opposite of the person you have to be on the field"
Nakamura: "Oh, absolutely. But you know, there's the motivation factor. You think, you know I have a family now, It's not just, 'I'm out here for myself, I'm out here for my family,' and I'm a very family-oriented person. I grew up that way with my family, my brothers pushed me and I have my own family to push for. It's pretty cool."
Beatdown: "You think it's a good healthy balance for life, as opposed to just football all the time?"
Nakamura: "Oh absolutely, when I come home, I'm away from football. That's the best part about it. I come home and my little girl runs up to me, screaming, 'Daddy,' it's just the greatest feeling in the world. I forget all the stress I have at work here and then when I go home, it's just a whole different life."
Beatdown: "So how are you feeing, how's the leg?"
Nkamura: "I feel great. I'm almost past the fatigue part of things. I'll be honest with you, we had almost two total days before the game last week and those two days of rest made a big difference for me. It was the first opportunity I had to just do nothing, give my leg a break and I felt a big difference in it. It's been feeling better and better."
Beatdown: "Any trepidation about taking or giving that first hit?"
Nakamura: "No man, I love it! The first thing I thought was 'go into the game and don't think and just react.' That's what I've been good at and when I was running in there to make a tackle, I didn't even think twice about it. I wasn't worried about getting my leg twisted or anything. I was just worried about doing my job as a football player. That's where I need to be."
Beatdown: "When you have to heal a leg, what can you do to stay in shape?"
Nakamura: "Um, little things. The biggest thing for me is that I had lost so much weight, I lost so much muscle. I was at a point that I was taking three or four different pain killers to deal with the pain my first couple of months. Doing that, I wasn't eating, I was going through a whole bunch of stress, so I lost about 20 pounds. Right about at that two and a half month range, I started getting back on a regular schedule, and the biggest thing was having a mental mindframe, saying 'you're gonna be back, you're gonna be back, just have the confidence.' It's kind of like that Japanese tradition, keep a strong mind, be mentally strong and just fight through everything."
Beatdown: "What's your weight at, you seem more cut than you were last year?"
Nakamura: "Actually, I'm probably two pounds heavier than I was last year. Last year I was playing in the 193-195 range. I'm about 198 now, feeling really good."
Beatdown: "For the first time probably since you've been here, you're practicing against an offense that has a lot more weapons than it ever did. In the past practices, it always seemed that the defense had the hand up on the offense. Now it seems like it's a real challenge for you guys."
Nakamura: "The thing is that in the beginning, especially in any football camp, it could be pee-wee, it could be high school, it could be college, it could be pros. Defense is always going to be ahead of the offense, because offense is timing, it's rhythm, it's this and that. By the end of this camp, it go to the point where every day it seemed like they came up with something new. Every day it seemed like they had a new wrinkle and the thing is, the little wrinkles are what makes a difference because they have guys that they can put in any position. They have three tight ends that can play wide receiver. They have a slot receiver in Anquan Boldin and those guys are just explosive and just more weapons than you could ever imagine."
Beatdown: "I was talking to Clarence Brooks (Defensive Line Coach) earlier, talking about the same topic of practicing against this offense and he says 'it makes us a lot better for when we go out on the field on Sundays.'
Nakamura: "If you think about it, competition in camp is always good. But when you're competing against what we feel is going to be one of the better offenses in the NFL, we already know we have one of the better defenses in the NFL, when you've got two sides of the ball like that in the same camp, you have no choice but to get better and that's why this camp has been real exciting."
Beatdown: "Well, that's good enough for me, so thanks."