Five questions with Tom Zbikowski

WESTMINSTER, Md. -- Safety Tom Zbikowski is coming into his own in his third year with the Baltimore Ravens. He's in the best shape of his career and getting virtually all the snaps in training camp with the first-team defense.

With Ed Reed's (hip) status uncertain, Zbikowski is expected to play a major role early in Baltimore's defense. On Wednesday Zbikowski shared his thoughts with ESPN.com's AFC North blog on this upcoming season.

Tom, this is as lean as I've seen you. Was that by design?

Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, I've been training. I really worked on explosion, getting lean and really not benching or lifting heavy weights. I just feel every time I've done that, I've always bulked up and I'm not as smooth in the hips. So I feel better like this.

How much has the NFL game slowed down for you compared to three years ago as a rookie?

TZ: A lot. The speed is still the same. But now you're seeing things that you've seen before, and things seem to click faster as you're playing. Maybe that first year, you're trying to figure everything out -- you're trying to figure too much out. Now you're back to just playing, and you're reading what you got and reading what you're supposed to see.

I'm told you have an interesting, dry sense of humor in the locker room. Tell me about it.

TZ: (Laughs) I don't know. Honestly, I just find things funny that aren't supposed to be funny. I'm one of the most competitive people you'll ever meet, but I don't take anything too seriously. Life is too short. When it's all said and done, it's football. It's a game, and I think that's the way it should be treated. I try to have fun with everything, and I don't find too many things serious. So I just find things funny that most people don't find funny, I guess.

How has Ed Reed's situation impacted your preparation?

TZ: I think it's helped, because now I have to have the mentality of a starter. You're going in knowing that you're probably going to be playing, so you have to take control of the defense. You got to be sharp and on top of everything. It's big shoes to fill, because Ed knows the game so well that he can control and help out a lot of things in front of him. As a safety, that's why you have to come in everyday learning.

You, Chinedum Ndukwe and Brady Quinn were all stars together at Notre Dame. Are you surprised at this point that all of you are still waiting for opportunities?

TZ: I don't know if it's a surprise. I think it's more that you get a full understanding of how hard it is to make it in the NFL. Those are all guys I've played with and you know they can play. There's a ton of good players -- that's the NFL. There's only so many roster spots and so many positions.