Speaking with WNSP-FM radio in Alabama on Friday, Pierce explained that he focused too much on lifting weights and not enough on cardio this offseason, which might be the most relatable thing a professional football player has ever said.
“Throughout the offseason, I tend to lift more than run,” Pierce said, according to ESPN. “Being a noseguard, I want to be strong or whatnot. I, honestly, just mismanaged my running a little bit.”
Pierce, who skipped the voluntary aspects of the Ravens’ offseason, reported to the team for mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, but failed to make it past the stretching portion of practice when coach John Harbaugh stepped in and decided Pierce was “not ready to practice from a safety standpoint and for his own health.” According to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, Pierce appeared to weigh significantly heavier than his listed weight of 340 pounds.
Pierce owned up his mistake on Friday.
“At the end of the day, you expect a team leader to come back in better shape than I did,” Pierce said. “That’s a mistake on my behalf I have to correct. I don’t want to get into much more than that.”
He also didn’t blame Harbaugh for yanking him off the field.
“Out of respect for coach Harbaugh, he’s been nothing but a fair guy, he just wanted me to get in with the strength and conditioning staff and do more running before camp comes,” Pierce said.
While Harbaugh called the situation “a problem” last week, Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale provided a reminder that Pierce will likely remain an important contributor for the team despite the rough start to his summer.
“Let’s don’t forget what a great football player he is,” Martindale said. “He’ll get back there. I can’t tell you when, but he’ll get back there.”
Martindale is right. To this point in his career, Pierce has exceeded all expectations. He entered the league in 2016 as an undrafted free agent. Since then he’s managed to play in 46 of 48 possible games, becoming an important contributor on a talented Ravens defense. According to Pro Football Focus, Pierce rated as the fifth-best interior defensive lineman in the entire league last season.
If he can overcome the rough start, Pierce should sign the first lucrative contract of his career next year, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. After earning a total of only $1.63 million over the first three years of his career, Pierce is scheduled to bring in just shy of $3.1 million during the upcoming season, per Spotrac.
It’s a big year for him, which makes his out-of-shape appearance at minicamp all the more unexpected. But as Martindale alluded to, nobody should panic at this point in the offseason. Pierce still has over a month to get into playing shape before the pivotal portion of the offseason begins — training camp and then the preseason.
By September, this figures to be a non-story.