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Head Coach John Harbaugh Monday Press Conference

Posted Sep 30, 2013

Opening statement: “Good to see everybody. I brought some notes here on injuries. I thought that would make everybody here really happy. Going through the game and what happened during the game and stuff like that … Albert [McClellan] had a shoulder sprain. We’ll have to see how he practices this week with it. There’s no major damage in there. Marlon Brown had a hamstring strain. He looked pretty good this morning. ‘Webby’ [Lardarius Webb] had a hamstring strain. That’s why both of those guys came out. He looked good this morning. We’ll have to carry out through the week and see how they look. Deonte Thompson had the concussion. He’ll go through the protocol, but he was good this morning – no headaches, no concussion symptoms. But, he’ll go through the NFL protocol on that. The foot came out of there very well, so that was positive. Jimmy Smith had a glute bruise that he fought through the whole game. You might have seen him limping and getting on the bike during the game. I thought he played through that and played very well with that. Bernard Pierce is doing fine. He’s been working through a calf strain, but he did fine with that. Arthur Brown looks like he will return to practice this week, and we will have to see how he gets through practice and how he does, but that’s a real positive sign. Jacoby Jones will start practicing this week. So, we’ll see how he does this week with that. Chris Canty did really well – played the whole game and didn’t seem to have any issues with it. We should pick up Jeromy Miles this week. We’re really hopeful that will happen. We signed him from Cincinnati. He had a little bit of a hamstring, and we decided to rest him last week, and this week he looks good. So, we’ll have our fingers crossed on that one. Shaun Draughn had a little bit of an ankle sprain that he did get up. We held him out of action; he was kind of in an emergency role for us. He looked good this morning. Ray [Rice] got through just fine, and Brandon Williams got through it fine. So, that’s where we are with the injuries. As far as the game, really nothing different from what we saw, what we talked about after the game yesterday, once we saw the tape. I think what you see is what you get in this one. And after watching the tape, that’s how we feel about it.”

One of the biggest position battles during training camp was for the center spot between Gino Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley.  Now that you’re one quarter through the season, what have you liked and not liked about Gino Gradkowski’s play and, for that matter, the whole offensive line? (Joe Platania) “The whole O-line is disappointing right now. No one is more disappointed than they are right now. We’ve got to run block better, and we’ve got to pass block better. We felt like we were making strides, especially in the pass-blocking area, and then we really didn’t do as good of a job in this game. We had too many mental mistakes – too many things that are basic protection rules that we understand and we should know – that we did not get on the same page with. As far as Gino [Gradkowski] and how he fits into that, [it’s] just what you’d expect from a young center. He’s done a good job physically. It hasn’t been too often where Gino has been pushed around. He’s done a good job of getting on his targets. He’s done a good job of holding the point in there. That can always be better. Some of his footwork things … I talk to him all the time [about how] he can just come off the ball better. Sometimes he’s a little tentative with his footwork, and he wants to stay in front of people. Go ahead and come off the ball and move people a little bit. He’s capable of doing that. But, it’s the difference between Gino and Matt [Birk] with the calls. And, we’re feeling that in there right now. Gino is a really smart guy, but Matt had been at it for a lot of years. So, that’s something that we’re working through. The rest of the offensive line – we’ve just got to get better. We’ve got to run block better. We’ve got to make decisions scheme-wise about what’s best for our guys to do, exactly what schemes those are. We’ve got to come off the ball in the run game a lot better than we’re doing, and we’ve got to be more physical with the inside part of our pass protection and give Joe [Flacco] more depth to the pocket and keep Joe more clean. Joe does not need to be under the pressure he’s under. Actually, our protection index had been pretty good going into this game, but this game, it was not acceptable.”

Did you mention Brandon Stokley in your rundown of injuries? He was on the injury report on Friday. (Luke Jones) “Brandon [Stokley] had a groin strain, and we thought we’d get him to the game and work him out. We thought he’d have a chance to be OK. We thought he’d be OK, but it just tightened up on him in pregame. So, we’ll monitor that again day-to-day this week, and hopefully, we will have him next week.”

Are the injuries among the wide receivers limiting what you are able to do in games as well as practice? (Garrett Downing) “It’s hurt us, there’s no question. We’re down legs. We’re down legs on that side of the ball, and it’s hard to run the way you want and work on the things you want to work on, but you have to do it. Everybody faces that. It will be good to get those guys back. We’ll get Jacoby [Jones] back this week practicing. Deonte [Thompson] is back now. I really feel like Marlon [Brown] and Brandon [Stokley] will have a chance to practice, so that will help us.”

Last week you said running the ball was part of the DNA, yet there were only two rushes in the second half yesterday. Is that because you abandoned the run because you thought it wasn’t working and you needed to try something else? Was that your call or Jim Caldwell’s call? (Mark Zinno) “That’s my call all the way. I just felt like we weren’t running the ball well enough to win the game running the ball. Looking back on it, I feel the same way. After watching the tape, I feel we did exactly the right thing to try to win that game. So, no second-guessing myself on that. That was my decision, and that’s the way we went with it. If you feel like we should have run the ball more in the second half, then I definitely respect that opinion, but it didn’t look that way to me. So, that’s what we did.”

It looks like there are two new major changes when it comes to the offensive line: the change from Gino [Gradkowski] to Matt Birk and the addition of [run game coordinator] Juan Castillo. What do you see as being the issue? (Jerry Coleman) “The issue is what it always is: We’ve just got to get better. We’ve got to go to work and improve the things we can improve, make good decisions on what we choose to do and how we choose to scheme it. Yes, we can game-plan better; we can set formations up better to put our guys in a position. Our running backs can do a better job of running to the right spot and trusting the offensive line. It has nothing to do with style or technique or anything like that. It’s finding what our guys do well with this group and doing it well. I’m very confident in every one of our coaches – we have a great staff. Everybody works together, and we’ll find a way to work it out. It’s a process; it’s going to be a year-long process.”

Was Ray [Rice’s] health in any way a factor yesterday? (Jerry Coleman) “I don’t think so. Ray [Rice] ran pretty well. Ray ran that trap up in there and almost made two guys miss to score that would have won us the game. He looked fine.”

With that being said about the offensive line, Marshal Yanda was asked this week about what [run game coordinator] Juan [Castillo] has been doing with [offensive line coach] Andy [Moeller]. I know they’re still working together. Marshal said there are a few wrinkles … Is there anything different – a different style that you’re trying to do, or is it just a couple of small things? (Jeff Zrebiec) “It’s the same offense. We still run the same plays. We still have the same philosophy; there are always a few wrinkles. That’s why I brought Juan [Castillo] in, because I was excited about things I knew he was going to bring to the table and bring to our program. Those things are a part of what we’re doing. We’re not the same team we were two months ago, and we’re going to be a different team two months from now. I’m most interested what kind of team we are six days from now when we go down to Miami. Look all around the league. There are things that you expect to struggle with and things that crop up on you that you have to deal with. Like we talked about, we have to become a good run-the-ball football team. We need to be physical up front, and that needs to be evident in the way we play. Altogether, we’ve got to work on getting there, and that’s what we’ll do.”

What did you see when you watched the tape in terms of run defense. They seemed to, like you said, run between the tackles quite a bit? That was the emphasis, but they also hit it outside on the edges, too. (Aaron Wilson) “The biggest thing was they hit a certain play – a lead draw, a lead scheme play – and we did not do a good job of defending it, consistently. There were times we stuffed it, but there were times they got us for chunks of yards. They were able to play the kind of game that you need to play to win those games. They got themselves to second-and-5, they got themselves into third-and-3 and even third-and-short. We did a great job on third-and-short and fourth-and-short of stuffing runs. It was just playing that scheme, getting off blocks, [and] getting cut off occasionally. They got up to our linebackers at times when we didn’t need them to. We didn’t play techniques as tight as we needed to on edges, inside and outside. They are things we can do better.”

Penalties can hamstring a team, where you don’t give yourself manageable situations offensively. (Aaron Wilson) “We had some offensive penalties that are just unnecessary. We have a facemask penalty the first play of the game. It’s absolutely unnecessary. Ray [Rice] gets a little jumpy and jumps offside. Now we’re backed up inside or right around our 5-yard line. We’ve got to start faster. How about the first play of the second half? We come out, and we jump offside. So, that’s something we talked about today.”

You mentioned being physical, especially in the run game. Why isn’t Vonta Leach a bigger part of the run game? (Mark Zinno) “I’m not sure how much more he can be a bigger part of the run game. We run the ball most of the time when he’s in there. We’re in regular and I-formation football more than anybody else in the National Football League. So, what more do you want? He’s in there a lot.”

How frustrating is it to have a great week of practice, and then when you get to the game and the game plan, it doesn’t transfer over to the game? (Bill West) “That’s the thing that we have to get to. That’s exactly right. We practiced exceptionally well last week, and our practices have been getting better throughout the course of last month, and it was showing up on the field. Then, all of a sudden, we go out there in this game, and it doesn’t show up. We don’t transfer it. Give Buffalo credit – they played a very good game. They were very physical. They were at home, we were on the road. We haven’t played well on the road, twice now. We’ve got to figure that one out this week. But that’s the thing we have to do – we have to take the practice and transfer it to the game.”

You guys haven’t scored in the first quarter the last three games. How much is trying to establish the running game and not being able to contributing to that? (Clifton Brown) “That’s a big part of it. We aren’t running the ball well anytime during the game. I guess we’ve run the ball well in four-minute situations at the end of the game in the two games that we won. But more than that, we have put ourselves in minus-type situations right out of the gates, mostly with penalties and the fact that we’re running the ball for about a yard a carry on first down. And that’s just got to change.”

Is that kind of mystifying, the whole road play? Because in the playoffs, you’ve got a pretty darn good track record of playing well on the road. (Jerry Coleman) “We hope by the end of the year we have a good track record of playing on the road. That’s going to be the goal, and we’ve got to get past that.”

John, Ed Dickson dropped another pass yesterday that led to an interception. He caught 54 passes just a few years ago. How different does he look out there right now from your football perspective? (Brett Hollander) “That’s a long time ago, so I’m hard-pressed to make that direct comparison. The stats kind of speak for themselves that you’re alluding to. He’s not the same player right now that he was then, obviously. Ed just needs to go catch the ball. He needs to run fast, get open and catch the football, put it away and get up field. That’s all he needs to do. And if he’s thinking about anything besides that, he’s doing himself a disservice. If he’s lacking confidence for some reason, that’s on him. [If] you’ve got that kind of talent and those kinds of gifts – go play ball. Go show everybody what you’re capable of doing. That’s what I expect to see from Ed.”

John, what happened on the touchdown to Robert Woods? It looked like maybe Corey Graham was expecting some help inside and it wasn’t there. (Matt Vensel) “We had a coverage error on that. We busted the coverage on that.”

John, with Joe Flacco’s five interceptions, was part of it because there wasn’t a running game and maybe Buffalo was looking for a pass? And then with the pass he was under pressure? Or all of the above? (David Ginsburg) “Probably all of the above. To me, the first thing was pressure. The first thing was when you’re hurried through your progression, or you can only get through one or two aspects of your progression and you don’t have a chance to let things develop, then you’ve got to push the ball somewhere pretty quickly before the route develops. For instance, if we’re running some kind of a high-low route, if you don’t have time to let the high-route develop, well, they can jump on the low routes pretty quickly, and he’s got to throw it there or he’s going to take a sack. That happened on a couple of them where he didn’t have a chance … One time I remember Kiko Alonso makes it on the left side, Joe is just hurried and never has a chance to see him. He had the one downfield where he was kind of on the run a little bit and threw it up, and Torrey [Smith] slipped and the corner made a great play in the end zone. Two of the plays were tipped balls, where their guys made great catches. Hey, if we catch the ball it’s a completion. We don’t, and they come in and make diving catches. Give them credit for making plays; shame on us for not making the plays. So, as you said, all of the above.”

Is it any consolation that through a quarter of the season, you’re still tied for first place in the AFC North? Obviously, it could be better, but it could be worse. (Mark Zinno) “It’s a consolation, no doubt. It’s week-to-week in the National Football League, just what you’re saying. Here we sit; we’re tied for the lead in our division, with a tiebreaker on Cleveland. And if I’m in Pittsburgh, I’m looking at it like, ‘We’re two games out of the lead in the division.’ They’re right there. Whoever wins the division games is going to win the division. But, we can do our cause a whole lot of good by going down to Miami and playing our best and winning the football game. That’s going to be our objective.”

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