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Head Coach John Harbaugh Monday Press Conference

Posted Nov 4, 2013

Opening statement: “Great to see everybody. Thanks for coming. I appreciate it. Again, congratulations to the Browns. I said that last night, I’ll say it again – I thought they played very well. [They] made plays in critical situations, [and on] fourth downs. They did a great job with their run defense, and they were dedicated to stopping the run, and I thought they had a nice game plan and did a great job. As far as we are concerned, as it stands, we’re in a tough spot. But I believe in our guys – coaches and players. And I know we have what it takes to be a very good football team the second half of the season. So, we are where we stand with the record. What we do in the first half does not determine what we do in the second half. We have opportunities to accomplish everything that we want to accomplish. We understand that. And now our focus becomes one game. What we need to do is win one game. That’s what we have to do. Momentum is a crazy thing. You’ve got to stop theirs and build yours. You’ve got to make a play, you’ve got to win a game, and once you do that, you have a chance to build on that. That was our task last week, that was our task the week before, [and] it will be our task this week. Over the course of the last three weeks, we just haven’t been good enough to get that done. And we acknowledge that. We thought we would be, we hoped we would be, we worked to be good enough, and we weren’t good enough compared to the team that we played that day. And we have to get good enough. We have to get better. And that’s what we’ll go to work doing once again.”

Jimmy Smith has made strides in the first half of the season. With his groin issue, how does Jimmy feel today? (Joe Platania) “Jimmy [Smith] came in feeling better today. He had a little groin strain in there, and we felt like it was better for Chykie [Brown] to play during the game – the trainers did. And he’ll keep working on that throughout the course of the week, and we’ll see how that develops and see how he practices Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.”

Asa Jackson is eligible to return from suspension this week. Have you decided what you will do with him going forward? (Matt Vensel) “We are going to take a good look at him this week and see where he’s at. Asa [Jackson] says he’s been working hard, that he’s in great shape. He was working with trainers in, I believe, Arizona and Los Angeles – some football trainers working on football-related stuff. So, hopefully he’s in that kind of shape where he can slide right in there and help us. We’ll see if he can help us this week. If he can, with our situation at corner, that could be a plus for us. So, I’m not ruling that out as a possibility.”

You addressed Kelechi Osemele’s injury on Friday. Does it look like he is headed to IR, or are there any updates on that situation? (Jamison Hensley) “He’s headed to IR. He’s working right now with the doctors and with his representative to find what type of surgery he wants to do, what doctor is the best person to do it. But, we’re going to go ahead and get that fixed. And he’ll be back, really, in the offseason program. It’s a three-to-four month recovery from what I’ve been told. So, he should be back for the offseason program.”

Your thoughts on how A. Q. Shipley played this week after knowing he would be the starter and having a little additional time to prepare than the Miami game? (Luke Jones) “He played well. He played well against Miami that game. Like all players, there were two or three times where, physically, his opponent got the best of him, but there were a number of times where he got the best of his opponent. And almost every time he was on his assignment and doing a good job in getting after it and playing hard. A.Q. [Shipley] is a pit bull. He’s a fighter in there. He’s smart, he knows what to do, and he plays with good technique. We’re pleased with the way he played.”

Are you moving forward with him at left guard, or will you still consider Jah Reid and Ryan Jensen for that position? (Luke Jones) “Jah [Reid] is in the mix there, for sure, too. So, we’ll just have to see how that plays out every single day. Don’t get too caught up in that. I know the players do; it matters who starts. But we’ll watch them play, and the guy who is playing the best [will start]. Right now, it’s been A.Q. [Shipley], but Jah has got a lot of talent, and he’s been working really hard, and he’s made a lot of progress, and there’s a possibility that you could see him anywhere on the offensive line at some point.”

When it comes to play-calling, how is it structured this year? Joe Flacco has said in the past that he calls the plays he is told to run. Is that something that you collaborate with Juan Castillo or Jim Caldwell and then send in the play in that nature? (Jerry Coleman) “The way we are organized is that we have an offensive coordinator who is our play-caller, and that’s Jim [Caldwell]. The offensive staff is the main focal point of putting together the offensive game plan. They do it together; it’s well organized. They have a system and a process for doing that. My involvement is more general, I would say – setting a direction. I’ll weigh in with some ideas or some questions or some things to be concerned with. [I will] let them know what we want to do philosophically and what type of an offense we want to be. [We] try to merge our players as much as possible with that from a different perspective. But I’m not going to call plays, per se. Now, going forward, I did pick the quarterback sneak there. Joe [Flacco] did a great job with that. He took a beating on that, but he got it for us. There’s going to be times where, as a head coach, you step in and do that if you’re not the main play-caller. But, I have complete confidence in our guys. I think you are seeing a direction offensively. We will still look to have opportunities to get in regular – get in two tight ends, one back, two wide receivers – get in those kinds of personnel groups and get after people. Run and pass with the lead back and those sorts of things. But you saw more three-wide [receiver formations]. You saw it spread out a little more, so more of that offense goes into the quarterback’s hands, obviously. So, run-pass checks, run-run checks, trying to get in the best play for what the defense presents to you – that’s where ultimately you go with a quarterback like Joe. I know Joe wants to do that. Our players want to do that. And that’s the direction we’re heading. But we want to be versatile enough to get in the other personnel groups as well, just like any team that runs that offense wants to do.”

When you analyze the running game why do you think it has been so tough to gain traction? What do you see the problem to be and how do you fix it going forward? (Aaron Wilson) “Just looking at this game, this game and the last couple of weeks, what you would say is that people are playing us a certain way. And they’re playing us with seven people in the box against a spread formation. That is single-high. That’s Cover 3 and Cover 1 – that’s what we’re getting. We’re getting some off, we’re getting some press. That’s a run defense. So, Cleveland played us in a run defense pretty much the whole game. We’ve got to get them out of that run defense. That’s our job. And to do that, we’ve got to be good and precise in the pass game. We’ve got to open up that coverage a little bit and force them to back off. We did that at times and other times we didn’t. We certainly didn’t do it enough because they stayed in single-high pretty much the whole game. When they got in two-high, we hit them deep; we hurt them. So, they got right back in single-high again. I thought the run game, if you watch it play for play, we made a lot of good runs against a lot of tough looks. I feel like our offensive line blocked a lot better than the result might have shown in terms of number of yards. When you watch the tape, there are a lot of really good blocks going on there. There were a couple of plays where at the point of attack we had a look that we really didn’t need to be running against. That’s part of the process as far as [how] we develop this offense. We’ve got to get good enough to try not to run into those. You’re going to have a couple of them, and there are a couple of them that we blocked really well. So, that’s our challenge right now. We all see it, and that’s where we’ve got to get.”

Much has been made about the zone blocking, but you guys have done that a lot for a couple years now. Do you think too much is being made of that? How different is what you’re doing this year from what you’ve done in years past? (Matt Vensel) “I don’t really know what’s being made of it to say too much or not. I don’t know. I just haven’t had time to really monitor all that. We’ve been an inside and outside zone team since we got here. The first year when we had Willie Anderson, we were more of a lead and a gap scheme team out of two-back. That was the way we were set up with a rookie quarterback. We were two-wide receiver, two-back, one-tight end, two-tight end-type of a team. That’s not the type of a team we are now. We don’t have that type of an offensive line, and we’re not built that way at quarterback. So, it’s a different type of run scheme. There are some types of runs that you can run one-back-wise. There are a couple lead schemes that you can run, but you’ve got to get your tight end back in the backfield. He becomes the lead blocker. Or, you run the off-tackle power play, which is a one-back power play, which we run. We also ran some gap schemes yesterday. We ran a counter – we ran two counters for zero yards basically. When you run this offense, the zone plays are the base plays that you run. And most of the teams in the league are running … Every team in the league that’s running this offense is running those same plays, and we’ve just got to get good enough to run them well. We’ve got the guys who can do it. When you look at our offensive line, we can be good at it, and we blocked a lot of things really well yesterday.”

Sam Koch had another short punt, and there have been a few of those this season in addition to some of the protection breakdowns that he’s had that weren’t attributable to him. What are your thoughts on Sam and what’s been happening to him this season? (Aaron Wilson) “Sam [Koch] will be the first to tell you that he’s just got to play more consistently in games with punts, especially in critical situations. Sam has punted really well in practice. He’s punted really well most of the time throughout the course of the season. But one or two not-so-good punts in a game – those are the things that cause you problems.”

A couple of your peers have gone down with very serious maladies. Is it a tough job that you have? And what do the Ravens do to monitor the coaching staff in terms of doctor check-ups and stuff like that? (Dave Ginsburg) “I’m really good friends with John Fox, and I know Gary Kubiak pretty well, obviously, professionally. I go back with John and Robin [Fox] back to Pittsburgh in 1987. He’s doing OK from what I’ve been told. It’s a challenge. I don’t know what to say. Your question, as far as what we do in the building medically, we do a great job. The Ravens spend a great deal of money and resources in everybody here in the building – coaches certainly no less, maybe more. We have yearly physicals in May. Everybody gets a thorough check-up and those kinds of things. It’s a challenge. If you’re asking what it’s like, and I don’t know if anybody out there even really cares, but you’re here all the time as a coach. It’s not something that you spend any time doing anything else. It’s not like you go home at night and have dinner and talk with the wife and kids about the job and how it went. You’re here. And we try to do a great job with our families, where the families can come in and have dinner and stuff on Tuesday night and Monday night and Wednesday night and be a part of it as much as we can. We encourage our guys to exercise as much as possible. We’ve got a pretty good facility here to do that. Sometimes, it’s hard to do it, and I tell them, I say, ‘It’s not that hard. It’s just right down the hallway, go down there and try to get some exercise.’ You try to do the best you can, but we’re trying to win some football games, and it’s competitive. You’ve got a bunch of highly-competitive people clashing every Sunday, and the stakes are high. We’re playing a kid’s game. We’re a bunch of men playing a kid’s game, but the stakes are high. Everybody works really, really hard at it, and there’s a lot of pressure, and that’s the way it should be. And that’s OK, but that doesn’t make it any less demanding. So, our hearts and prayers definitely go out to those two guys. Thanks for asking.”

John, it’s the nature of a quarterback to take hits. Are you concerned at all about how much Joe [Flacco] has been hit, sacked? Is it affecting his play? (Mark Viviano) “You look all around the league … I’m watching situations all around the league. You compare it, and we try to put it in perspective. Quarterbacks are under fire all around the league, and part of that is because the new rules have made it difficult to develop offensive line play. It’s the most complicated part of football; it’s the most challenging part of the game. To organize the pass protection is the most complicated part of it. It’s not just the offensive line; our offensive line blocked well yesterday. When you see it on tape, you’d have to say that. It’s a team effort. It’s running backs, it’s quarterbacks, it’s wide receivers – it’s everybody. Still, quarterbacks are going to come under fire. You’ve got a lot of turnover and you’ve got a lot of young guys in there. We try to maximize every minute with those guys so we can get them as good as they can be. That’s what we’ll keep chasing, and every team around the league has the same challenges. The quarterbacks have got to get the ball out and they’ve got to find ways to protect themselves with ‘hot’ throws and things like that, too. Joe [Flacco] does a good job of that. To get to your question, yes, we need Joe to take fewer hits, and we’re going to continue to chase that. We’ll do that by getting the ball out quickly, continuing to work on our technique in pass protection, and picking up blitzes. The biggest issue that we had yesterday in pass protection was the pressures. I think two of them were attributable to the offensive line, where we just didn’t make the right adjustment, pass it off the right way and get the protection made. Two of the other pressures, one of them should have been thrown and one of them should have been blocked by somebody else. The other one, somebody just got beat one-on-one when it wasn’t a pressure. That’s the nature of it, and we’ve got to continue to get better there.”

John, is it challenging to stay the course as a staff when the same issues keep cropping up? It’s the run game every week. It’s key penalties and a special teams mishap. Does that make it challenging to keep doing what you’re doing and hoping it gets better? (Jeff Zrebiec) “Is that what we’re doing? I don’t see it that way. We’re not just staying the course; we’re staying the course philosophically. We’re staying the course by understanding the fact that we have to continue to improve, but what we’re searching for is the things we can do the best. Special teams-wise, you watched the play. We played well, but you can’t drop a punt and you can’t mishit a punt. Those two plays, you look at special teams and you say … I would also say on the kickoff, that ball was supposed to be driven down the field inside the 20-yard line on that squib kick at the end of the half. Those are things that have to be done better, but that doesn’t reflect the whole thing. We’ll stay the course with what we’re doing and try to execute those things better. The same could be said for every phase. We’ll try to minimize our mistakes and then try to maximize our playmaking ability. You’re always going to make mistakes; you’re not going to be 100 percent out there. It’s just too hard of a game. We have to minimize our shortcomings and overcome them with positive plays. We haven’t done that enough right now to win games, so we’ll keep chasing that. If that’s staying the course, then that’s what we’ll try to do.”

You’ve had two other three-game losing streaks as a head coach in your career and you’ve responded to them very well. Is there anything you can draw personally, whether some of the veteran guys in this locker room can draw off of turning around a three-game losing streak? (Mark Zinno) “I think our guys understand it. We’ve just got to focus on the next game, get the next win to put a stop to it, and all the things that go into that. To me, the biggest thing is, ‘Let’s focus on our job.’ The best players are the best players because they play the best; they do that by dominating their job. If you want to be a really good player or a really good coach, just dominate your job. Focus on that, stop that, and make that part of it as best as it can be. If we all do that and we get a little bit better – all the way across the board – then we’ve got a chance to get over the hump, win the next game, and then build momentum from there. That’s what we’ve got to do. The biggest thing about those kinds of situations – three game losing streaks – is to stay out of them. We’re not looking to be in these kinds of situations. We fought like crazy to not be in them, but we haven’t been good enough the last three weeks to win.”

John, with the play between James Ihedigbo and Greg Little, what did you see from that on the tape? Was it just a normal skirmish? (Aaron Wilson) “Which one are you talking about?”

When Greg Little threw Ihedigbo’s helmet after they tangled in a scrum. What did you see from the play, and did you talk to James about it at all? (Aaron Wilson) “I don’t really have anything to say about that. I thought the officials handled the game really well. I thought the officials did a good job of keeping the game under control. There was a lot of chatter going on out there, and I thought they did a good job with it overall.”

John, you had a fumble recovery yesterday, but do you feel like you have a defense that should be producing more take-aways? And if so, why do you feel it hasn’t happened? (Clifton Brown) “Yes, we should be. We should be getting more turnovers, and I know on our defense, guys feel that way, too. We’ve had a number of fumbles caused that we just haven’t recovered that have been – I don’t want to say bad bounces – but they’ve kind of bounced right in the opponents’ hands [on] special teams and defense. We’ve got to come up with those more. We haven’t been getting interceptions; we need to get interceptions. We need to be ‘ball hawks’ back there, and that starts with being in position and then coming up with the ball. So, it’s not something you chase per se. If you play better across the board, those things should happen for you, and we need to do better with that – absolutely.”

You guys had a handful of plays where you guys used to “pistol” formation, which is something I don’t think you’ve done before. What pushed you to try that out and how do you think it went? (Matt Vensel) “I thought it went pretty well. We ran some of our zone schemes out of that, and there’s going to be more of that. Obviously, there’s a lot of offense that you can run out of that formation, and it’s something that we’ll try to build on, just to cause defenses something else to defend, and [they are] things that aren’t that hard for us to do.”

Did the running backs like it? Because I know as opposed to the shotgun they get more of a head start to go forward with their runs, right? (Matt Vensel) “I think they like it. It’s not all so much about the head start, but the angles are a little bit different on some of those plays, so that gives them a chance to get a little more in sync with the offensive line. That’s why you’re able to do that. If you watch the teams that do that all the time, they run the same basic plays out of the ‘pistol’ that you’d run with the quarterback under center. So, it gives you an opportunity to do that.”

You talked about everything still being out there in front of you, and that starts with Cincinnati this week. The fact that you still have two more games with them, does that put you in the belief that the division is still very much alive and you’re in the hunt for it? (Jerry Coleman) “Absolutely. To me, that’s the point. There’s half the season left to play, and there’s going to be a lot of football played. And there are a lot of games out there for us to win. We need to go stack some wins, and it’s all about this next game, which obviously, Cincinnati is leading the division. So, this is an opportunity for us.”

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