OWINGS MILLS — Gritty veteran nose guard Kelly Gregg officially left the Ravens after over a decade in Baltimore with no regrets, just rich memories after signing a one-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Ravens tried to hold onto Gregg after cutting him Thursday due to his $3.5 million scheduled salary, offering him $1.5 million to return. However, the 34-year-old received a $1 million signing bonus from the Chiefs in addition to a significantly higher overall financial package than what Baltimore was offering. The Ravens are going with former Alabama consensus All-American Terrence Cody as their new starting nose guard.
In a telephone interview late Saturday night from the Chiefs’ training camp in St. Joseph, Mo., Gregg reflected on his time in Baltimore where he became a popular figure in the locker room and with the fan base.
"The fans were great, I enjoyed every minute of my time there," Gregg said. "Yeah, it was a happy time. They were always great. I’m thankful for the Ravens. They stepped up and gave me a shot. I’m thankful to Ozzie Newsome. I have a lot of great relationships in Baltimore. I wish them the best."
Gregg confirmed that New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, his defensive coordinator and defensive line coach in Baltimore who also coached him at Oklahoma, contacted him once he became a free agent. However, geography played a part in Gregg’s decision due to Kansas City’s proximity to his Oklahoma home.
"Oh yeah, I heard from the Jets, but this is the perfect opportunity," Gregg said. "It’s an hour-flight from my house in Oklahoma and this is an up-and-coming team. I’ll be working with a good rookie in Jerrell Powe and he looks like he’s going to be a player.
"It’s a fresh start. I can get in a groove. It starts all over again. I feel like a rookie again."
Under NFL rules regarding unrestricted free agents, Gregg can’t practice until Aug. 4. However, he can attend meetings and practices.
Gregg was one of the most productive interior defensive linemen in the league over the past decade. He started every game last season, but dropped to 38 tackles and didn’t have a sack for the first time since 2002.
"I did my job, I went about my business with hard work," said Gregg, who had microfracture knee surgery in 2008.
"You bet, we had some good defenses. It was a lot of fun playing. There ain’t nothing to regret. I had a great ride. I’ll never forget when the Ravens cut Rob Burnett.
"This is how the NFL goes. I was in shock when they cut me, but it happens to everybody some day. I was on the other end of it when big Sam Adams left, Michael McCrary, Lional Dalton. I’ve been on both sides of the fence."
How will Cody fare as Gregg’s replacement?
"Terrence is a hell of a player," Gregg said. "I think he’s going to do fine. He got off to a rough start last year, but the sky’s the limit for him. He puts the time in. He’s built for that position. He can be a leader."
Meanwhile, the Ravens are hoping to lock up Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to a long-term contract extension and will begin negotiations soon. Gregg gave Ngata a glowing endorsement.
"Watching Haloti grow up in the NFL, he’s kicking butt," Gregg said. "They should back up the Brinks truck for him. He’s a hard worker, a great player and a great person."
A former prep championship heavyweight wrestler, Gregg overcame his underdog status and doubters to forge a long career in the NFL.
When he was initially signed by the Ravens at Ryan’s suggestion, former Baltimore coach Brian Billick’s first reaction was to joke with Ryan about whether Gregg was related to Ryan out of wedlock. The 6-foot, 320-pounder’s play outspanned his size, recording 19 1/2 sacks.
Signing Gregg worked out, though, as he anchored the middle of the Ravens’ defense for the past 11 years.
"Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do nothing," Gregg said. "If I can make it, then anybody can make it."