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John Harbaugh Monday Press Conference

Posted Jan 21, 2013




A lot of your guys said today that they were still kind of on that high from the win yesterday. How are you feeling about it? (Rich Hollenberg) “It was a great win, and I’m feeling great about it. First of all, I thought the Patriots had a tremendous season. They are a great football team led by a great coach, a great quarterback and just a really good football team. And to win up there, in that environment, with that tradition and the history they have is a great accomplishment by our guys. Coach [Bill] Belichick, after the game, was just so classy in what he said and in that moment. That’s a tough moment; we’ve all been there. He’s been there as much as anybody, but he’s been on the other side a lot, too. He understands what it’s like to be on the other side moving on, so that was really a meaningful thing for our team and for me. But, congratulations to our players, to our coaches. Our guys have done a tremendous job all year of battling through adversity and overcoming the tough things that really make you into a football team and then becoming a close football team. And that’s what it was – it was a team victory. It wasn’t about one guy, it wasn’t about any group of guys, it wasn’t about one side of the ball. It was about a football team playing really good football in one of the biggest moments that football has to offer, and that’s what I am so proud of as a football coach.”

 

The usual Wednesday-Thursday-Friday practice schedule is not happening this week. What is your toughest job this week? (Joe Platania) “Well, as far as the schedule goes, we will be preparing this week as if we are playing the game this week. So, that’s how you do it. We’ll be going to work right away. The destination is a three-and-a-half to four-hour window two weeks from yesterday evening, but we’ll have to get as far down the road in our preparation this week as we possibly can, and we’ll try to take advantage of every minute we possibly can to get ready to play this team. This team that we are going to play is a great football team. They are extremely well-coached, I’d have to say. They look somewhat familiar in a lot of ways.[49ers head coach] Jim [Harbaugh] has done a great job with the team. I’m proud of him. I’m proud of what he’s accomplished as a coach, but more so as a man – as a family man, as a father, as a husband, as a brother and son. Their football team reflects his personality. They are tough, they’re hard-nosed, they’re physical, they play field-position football. They’ve added the element of big plays this year. They are a big-time, big-play threat, so all of those things. We are just going to have to get prepared for a really great football team, and we’ll go to work on that this week.”

 

Sometimes to achieve greatness you have to do bold things. This year both you and your brother did that with your brother making a quarterback change and you making the change at offensive coordinator. Is that part of this whole process, or do you look back on it now and say that was a bold move? (Mark Zinno) “I don’t know. It was a move that was the best move at the time, we felt. That’s what we said at the time. We said that was the best thing for our football team. All the contributions and all the work that had gone into what we had done before that had gotten us to that point and put us in position to move on from there. So, to me it all goes together in total. It was an important move. But, Joe [Flacco] made some bold throws. Anquan [Boldin] made bold catches. The defense made bold plays. There were bold hits. Look at Bernard Pollard, for instance. There were bold coverage plays on special teams. There were bold kicks. To me, that’s the boldness of football. That’s really what matters, and the credit goes to the players.”

 

What is it about Jim Caldwell’s way with the players that guys talk about and seem to really respond to? (Aaron Wilson) “Like I’ve said before, he’s a really a solid football coach, first of all. He’s been around. He’s coached both sides of the ball. He’s been a head coach. He’s done it all. But, he’s mainly a really good guy. He’s a good person, and he’s genuine. He’s to the point [where] he doesn’t mince words, and he coaches football from the beginning of the day until the end of the day, and the guys appreciate that.”

 

Is your offense right now more confident than it’s ever been since you and Joe Flacco have been here? I think it’s eight-straight trips to the red zone you’ve scored a touchdown. (Stan Charles) “I always believed confidence usually follows success. You can be fake confident. If you haven’t really done anything, you can kind of walk around with a false bravado. Our guys are always … They take humility in first. [They’re] hungry. Humble and hungry – that’s something we hear around here a lot. But, to have success, especially in the last couple of weeks the way we have, is definitely going to generate some confidence.”

 

Has yesterday’s win and the fact that the team is going to the Super Bowl sunk in yet? (Garret Downing) “It’s sunk in. It’s right there. We get it. We won, and we’re going to the Super Bowl. I woke up this morning and read your column, probably, and you said we won. So, we’re good, we’re moving on. (laughter) No, we’re feeling good about it and we’re excited about it. What starts to sink in is the depth of the challenge, and the challenge is a tough one.”

 

I’m sure you have talked with your brother since you found out you guys were going to be meeting in the Super Bowl. Is there anything you can share about that conversation you had with him, and at what point will you stop talking to each other until the game? (Jamison Hensley) “That’s a good question. Actually, we haven’t talked yet. We’ve both been pretty swamped just in the planning. I’m not the kind of guy that plans ahead too much. We had a thought about what we might do for these couple of weeks, but it’s been pretty much a busy day just trying to organize our plan for the next two weeks. I talked to my mom and dad last night – that was a great conversation. And just thanks to my mom and dad and Joani [Harbaugh], over in Indiana. We just couldn’t be more thankful. We could not have been brought up in a better situation. We couldn’t have had more fun, and they’re having fun right now. I can’t wait to see them down there in New Orleans; it’s going to be a great time.”

 

How do you rest and recharge the batteries physically and mentally the next few days as you also work to prepare? (Aaron Wilson) “You go to sleep at night. You sleep, and you get up and you go in to work. Isn’t that what you do? That’s what we’ll do. He doesn’t go to sleep at night? He goes out. See, we don’t do that; that’s the difference. We’ll be going to bed at night. (laughing) It will be work, it really will be work. We’ve got too much work to do. We’re in season. This is the biggest game of the year. This is the best two weeks of the NFL football season. It’s the weeks that you work for. The thing I am so happy about is our guys, we get to be together. It’s such a great moment because we get to be together for two more weeks with this football team. Where you’re sitting right now is where they sit in team meeting, and you look out and you see these guys. This group will never be together again as that group. They will never be the same. That’s the way it is with every team. So, to extend that now for two weeks into the ultimate game is really the ultimate opportunity, and we’re going to do everything we can to make the most of it.”

 

With O.J. Brigance, he was on the field with you yesterday, he has been with you guys all the time over the last few years, what does he mean to this team? What are some of the ways that he gives people that kind of perspective and gives inspiration? (Aaron Wilson) “It’s been said so many times, and O. J. said it after the game – I think it got on TV, I hope, what he said to our team – but that’s who he is. Our strength is made perfect in our greatest weakness. And here O. J. is, visibly in a weakened physical state, yet in an incredibly strong spiritual and intellectual place, and he shows that every day. He’s just a shining light in the building, and we all definitely are energized by that.”

 

How does having been through Super Bowl preparation with the Eagles help you in this situation as a head coach? (Kevin Tresolini) “I have a book. I have a book that we had with the order of the schedules and everything. I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, though. The experience of having been there and understanding kind of how it works, having been down there, gone through the process, understanding the schedule is different, and that you adjust to it and that it will be a Super Bowl week schedule and that’s OK. The length of the game is different – the pregame, halftime and all those things are different than a regular game. Just to try to prepare our guys for that … We’ve had a few guys who have a played in a Super Bowl, so they can share that, as well. We have a few coaches that have won a few Super Bowls along with a couple of players. It’s all good.”

 

After the win over Denver, you shared a text from owner Steve Bisciotti. He was actually there yesterday on the field. Without getting into details, what was the gist of his message to you and the team after the game? (Mark Zinno) “He said, I think the word ‘I love you,’ came out of his mouth to a lot of different people. That’s kind of who he is – the type of leader he is. He’s the kind of guy that he wants you to know that he cares about you. He’s proud of us. Like any boss … You guys have bosses. They put their arm around you and tell you good job. That means a lot. It happens actually. It happens.” (laughing)

 

Does it mean something to you to have guys like Ed Reed and Matt Birk who have been waiting their whole careers, and are, obviously, at the tail end of their careers and going to a Super Bowl as part of this team? (David Ginsburg) “It does mean a lot. It means a lot for all the guys to have an opportunity and be a part of that, be the head coach for that – the players, the coaches, the coaches’ families, the organization, the families in the organization. To be able to be involved with that as a leader is a huge thing. It makes you feel really good and try to go make the most of it.”

 

Having gone through the “Harbowl” last Thanksgiving with your brother Jim [Harbaugh], will that help a little bit dealing with all of the stuff that will focus on you and Jim, when you want the focus on your team? (Gerry Sandusky) “I hope so. I just want everyone to know that was a four-day deal and every story has been told. We aren’t that interesting. There is nothing more to learn. The tape across the middle of the room story, OK … You got it? It’s OK. (laughing) It’s just like any other family, really. I really hope the focus is not so much on that. We get it. It’s really cool, and it’s really exciting and all of that. It’s really about the team. It’s about the players. It’s about the guys that you are talking about. It’s about the players. It’s the guys out there on the field who are actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood. Remember that one? That’s what it’s about. It’s about those guys. The more we focus on those guys, the better it is for everybody.”

 

It’s also about the coaches, too. Your defensive coordinator [Dean Pees] has ushered in a remarkable turnaround in this defense. If you could talk about, I mean they shut out a team like the Patriots for the second half? (Stan Charles) “You’re right, just a tremendous accomplishment by our defense. And you talking about Dean Pees – of course, Dean wouldn’t want that mentioned without the rest of the coaches on the defensive side. Those guys have just done a tremendous job all year along with all of our coaches. We have the best staff in the National Football League. I’ve said that many times. I believe it wholeheartedly. They are great coaches. They are great people. They are great teachers, and they have done a great job. They have done a great job of teaching and developing fundamental football, especially on the side of the ball you are talking about. We weren’t a very fundamentally-sound defense early on, and that’s why we had struggles. That doesn’t happen overnight, and we were moving guys in and out. We had injuries. He’s done a great job of making game-plan choices and decisions that have been really effective strategically against the people we’ve played. You saw that play out last night and more just fundamentally simple stuff. Cary Williams mentioned that it was a pretty straight forward game plan, and it was. The guys executed it really well. To me, that’s what a great coach, great teacher does.”

 

What was your take on the slide from [Tom] Brady? Bernard [Pollard] thinks the NFL should punish him for that. What did you see from it? What is your take on it? (Aaron Wilson) “I saw the same thing you saw. I saw the same thing everybody saw, so that would be in the league’s hands. It’s pretty straight forward what happened. I’m going to leave it up to you guys to make those evaluations and to the league to make that evaluation.”

 

What kind of different challenges when you get into … You haven’t done it at the head coach, but when you get into the week next week and the players have all of their families and the hotel rooms, it’s a totally different atmosphere than you prepare for. Can you still have the same preparation for the game that you had last week? (Peter Schmuck) “That’s a great, great, great point. It kind of goes to the whole point of what [a reporter] was talking about – the preparation is a little bit different. First of all, I want to express appreciation for your powers of prediction – you and Mike Preston – well done, well done. (laughter) That’s stuff that we have to get done quickly this week. Our organization did a great job of organizing that for everybody. That was streamlined today. The guys have now today, tomorrow and Wednesday to get that all straightened out, and by Wednesday we really want to have it all done as much as possible and in the hands of their wives, so they don’t have to think about it. Then they can go to work and think about football as we prepare this week, and especially when we get out there. We don’t want to have to deal with too many of those logistical things. [Vice president of operations] Bob Eller and our whole organization do a great job of being there for the guys whatever needs they have. Guys just have to realize that it’s limited. There are limited resources, and we have to share amongst a lot of people. I think our guys get that, too.”

 

You’ve always voiced your belief in Joe [Flacco], but in the last say month have you seen that you can point to that maybe is difference, growth, advancement for Joe? (Rich Hollenberg) “I couldn’t point to anything different than what you see. What you see is some good output, obviously, in terms of production. That’s really good to see, but Joe has had that before. To string it together like he’s done back-to-back-to-back-to-back in the most critical time of the year is the great thing about it. I really believe that we saw that coming as a football staff and as an organization and as players. That’s just the way he’s been practicing. He’s come a long way, but he’s come the way that you would expect any quarterback to develop. It’s in his fifth year, and to see it happen like this is something that we kind of planned for, but it’s also a great thing to see.”

 

The 12th man started coming down, shaking hands and cheering and yelling the chant. Can you take us through that last two minutes with the fans? (Bill West) “Thanks for pointing that out. Before the interception I was pretty much … We had a couple of guys that were getting a little giddy over there. I just had to remind them that it is Tom Brady, and they have Wes Welker, and they are two scores away. Let’s make sure that we play some defense. Our defensive guys did and they kept playing. I thought they did a great job. We had our full attention on the Patriots at that time. When we got the interception, obviously, it was over. To feel the fans come down … I know one thing, at the end of the game, we might have had 70,000, and we might have had 1/8 of the crowd, which is really a high number for a visiting AFC Championship game. That speaks so much about our fans. For all of those people to make that trip up there at this time of year to support their Ravens is just – it’s not surprising, because we saw it out in Denver, we have seen it in San Diego. We have seen it everywhere. But, it’s pretty impressive. We heard the ‘O’ chant like Joe [Flacco] talked about last night. You could see them in pregame. They were ringing the whole stadium in pregame when we came out. You saw the black and purple jerseys. At the end of the game, it was stacked up 50 feet or so. It was many rows up that the Ravens fans [were] and they were doing the chant as you said, the Ravens chant. All the way around to the side of the tunnel and everything like that, there were a lot more Ravens fans there at that time then there Patriots fans. That’s pretty cool. That’s something that really speaks about our people. Congratulations to our fans. I heard that Baltimore went crazy last night. Is that right? It was a good crazy. Celebration crazy, right? It was positive. It was upbeat. That’s something that means a lot.”

 

John, I saw something last night where they had researched it that brother against brother in a championship game has never happened in a major professional sports league before, so this is history. Talk about the historical part of this, if you would. (Bruce Cunningham) “I can’t say that; I’m not a historian. I’m not a real historian. I like reading a lot of history. I would like to use that standard line that I try to give you guys. I guess it’s pretty neat. Is it really going to be written about? It’s not exactly like [Winston] Churchill and [Franklin] Roosevelt or anything. (laughter) It’s pretty cool. That’s as far as it goes.”

 

Sports are a lot about comebacks and overcoming adversity. This is the first Super Bowl in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. Can you speak to what that community’s comeback has symbolized, and is that important to you and the players? (Stan Charles) “Well, it is. We have two guys right there: Jacoby Jones and Ed Reed from down there in New Orleans. They’ve been affected by that. We had a chance to spend some time down there with Ed Reed’s family a couple years ago in a more tragic-type circumstance and have gotten to know a lot of Ed’s family and friends down there. I can’t wait to see Jacoby’s mom and hang out with her a little bit. That will be fun. To me, that’s what America is about. That’s the human spirit; everybody coming together and rebuilding and making it a better place. The same thing happened up in the Northeast in the New York/New Jersey area. That’s what we’re all about.”

 

You already praised Jim as a coach, but if you had to describe to someone who doesn’t know him what makes him so good at what he does, what would you say? (Childs Walker) “Everybody talks about how competitive he is. He is an incredibly competitive person. He will fight you for anything, whether it’s a game of cards growing up or whatever, he was going to try to find a way to win no matter what. I think that’s what made him a great player. It’s what made him a good student in college. It’s what makes him the man he is. He is also really talented. He was the guy that in hockey would take the puck right down the middle of the rink and everybody would bounce off him, and he would score goals. He got every rebound and scored every point. The gym teacher said in fourth grade he was too competitive, he needed to ease off a little bit. My dad said, ‘No, he doesn’t need to ease off. That’s what he needs to do; he needs to compete.’ But, the thing that people don’t see is how warm of a heart he’s got, his sense of humor and how much fun he has. Maybe it’s in the media. I’ll tell you, I watch his media things, and I just laugh because some people take him seriously. They actually think that some of that stuff is serious. He’s having fun, and he’s just being himself. He’s the same guy. What you see is what you get. That’s who he is, whether it’s on the sideline or wherever, he is real. That’s what I love about him.”

 

The decision to open things up in the second half, at this point in his career, how much input does Joe Flacco have on making that type of decision? (Glenn Clark) “Joe is always going to have input in all of that. It wasn’t something that we had to go ask Joe and say, ‘Joe, what do you want to do?’ We had a pretty good idea of what Joe wanted to do. So, I think it was music to his ears. Joe is involved in what we do. He had a lot of check-with-me’s throughout the course of the game, throughout the first half also. You go with what the defense gives you. If the defense says throw to that side or that side or run it here or this way, that’s what these offenses are built around nowadays.”

 

What are your thoughts on your rookie class and the contributions they have made? A lot of guys, especially here late in the season, have helped you guys get to this point. (Aaron Wilson) “We’ve gotten a lot of contributions. Off the top of my head, I really am not thinking about it right now, because are they rookies right now at this stage? They are kind of veterans now, so we count on them to play like that. ‘K.O.’ [Kelechi Osemele] comes to mind, obviously, and Courtney [Upshaw] and right on down the line. Guys have done a great job.”

 

You spend 16 weeks trying to win as many games as possible to get that coveted No. 1 or No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. Does it seem to you that the first-round bye doesn’t really seem to mean as much anymore more as teams like yours that have lost four of five games down the stretch come in and have a playoff run like this and be playing in a Super Bowl? (Mark Zinno) “It’s different every year. Whatever team plays the best – and I learned this listening to Bill Belichick’s press conferences, in all honesty – whoever plays the best for that three-and-a-half-hour period is the team that is going to win the game. However you get there is however you get there.”

 

Did you get out of the game relatively healthy yesterday? (Jeff Zrebiec) “We did. We did. Thanks for asking. We got through it very healthy. Nothing major. So, that should clear that up for the next two weeks. We’re in good shape.”

 

The adjustments in the second half were clearly shown. Can you just take us through the attitude or is there somebody speaking up at halftime? (Kris Jones) “It was a team thing. There was no major adjustment as far as game plan. We did go in a little different direction, obviously, offensively that you guys are talking about in the second half. We went to mode three-wide [receiver sets], and we leaned more on the passing game a little bit with our checks and things like that. But, that is already built into the game plan. Defensively, we didn’t change much at all. We kept mixing coverages. We kept mixing pressures and fronts. I thought we just played a little tighter. We played a little more sound. We kept our eyes where they were supposed to be a little bit better, and that was the difference.”

 

John, I think your comment after the first Denver game to the press was, ‘Everything that we want as a team is still in front of us.’ But at that point you had lost three in a row. How hard was it to actually have the team believe that at that point? (Mike Lurie) “It was very natural for us to believe it. It was impossible to get you guys to believe it, as evidenced by your question right now. And I think that’s understandable. You’ve got to be on the inside of a team to get a feel for where a team is at and how they’re thinking. We were improving all the way through all of those bouts of adversity that we were facing. Our team was staying together. We’ve got great leadership, we’ve got great young guys who are good people and they were working hard. They were fighting like crazy on Sunday, so I saw it as a coach. I could see that we were moving in the right direction.”

Your players have even said that this is a special group. You’ve been around a lot of teams, and heard the word “fate” used with your team the last couple weeks. Is there something about this group in your opinion that’s special? (Dave Owens) “There’s a lot of [special] things about it. And I’ve said it before: I love this team. I do, I love them. I’ve loved them from the first day we got here. I like their attitude, I love how they are in the meeting rooms, I love their approach, I love their combativeness, their feistiness. I like how much they care about each other, and I love how much they fight through adversity. So, it’s a team in every sense of the word.”

John, were you surprised that home field advantage did not help anybody in these playoffs? (Bill West) “When you look at the numbers, it really … The only number is six-day turnaround home field advantage – that’s the one that’s tough and that’s the one that we’ve overcome twice in the last five years. That’s the toughest one.”

John, you touched upon the adversity you’ve faced, starting with Art Modell’s death, to the death of Torrey Smith’s family member. What the team has gone through? Do you feel it may have magnified the journey a little bit? (Jamison Hensley) “That’s what’s made the journey – the adversity. And I thank you for bringing up Art. I had that right here in my notes. Art Modell is the foundation, the bulwark of this organization. He and Steve [Bisciotti] come from the same place, even though they never knew each other, they come from the same place kind of how they see things. So, this organization has lived on, Art’s vision has lived on from all the way back to the Cleveland days – was it ‘61 when he bought the team originally? And when he brought them here to Baltimore in ‘96, and as Ray [Lewis] said, they didn’t have a name or color. Art Modell passed away this year, earlier in the season, and it had a big impact on our guys. Everybody knew him to some degree. Some guys knew him as a good, close friend. One guy spoke at the funeral. So, that was big. And then Torrey Smith and Pernell McPhee, and all the other things – Chris Johnson’s story – and you can go with so many guys who have so many things going on this year that were personal, and then obviously, the football stuff, too. It’s a professional livelihood and they fight through things – the wins and the losses and all that stuff. And the criticism, and all that, it’s all part of it. We all take it personal. It’s who we are. So, it either tears you apart of pushes you together. And it pushed our team together.”

Coach, the last couple of weeks Pernell McPhee … I know he had a rough time with his knee injury. He had a big play against Peyton Manning and caused a fumble, the interception yesterday on [Tom] Brady. Can you speak on his journey and where he has come from and where he is at right now?  (J. Michael) “Right, that’s a great point. To me, that’s probably a great example of what we’re talking about. He’s had some personal tragedy, family tragedy; he’s lost three people very close to him in the last year. He’s had injuries that have just plagued him, and he continues to just fight through them. This guy plays with a lot of injuries; he’s one of the toughest people that I’ve ever been around in my life. And then now, at the end of the year, he had these two huge plays in these two huge games that really made the difference. It’s just so rewarding. And as a teacher, as a coach, that’s what makes it for you. When you see a student – we’ve all had great teachers, right? And the ones that we appreciate or the ones that cared about us [are very important]. When you see these guys fight through that and have that kind of success, that’s everything.”

When you went into coaching, did you very consciously model yourself after your dad? (Childs Walker) “No, it just came naturally, I guess. I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it. Of course you do, right? You see him every day of your life, and you just … He’s the greatest coach we’ve ever been around. All three of us will tell you that Jack Harbaugh is the greatest coach we have ever been around. He is a tremendous … I’m not talking about Jack being the third guy. I’m talking about Tom Crean being the third guy. (laughing) Jack might tell you that in a lighter moment, and he probably believes it. I’m sure he’s right. No, he’s a persistent, fiery guy. [He is] the greatest motivational speaker you will ever hear, ever, is Jack Harbaugh.”

Where are they going to sit? Have you determined yet your parents? (Ted Paterson) “We don’t know yet. That’s a good question. We are still working that out. We’ll have to see where they sit.”

Closing statement: “I do have one announcement to make – a staff announcement. Jim Caldwell has agreed to go forward as the offensive coordinator next year, and hopefully, for the foreseeable future. Our staff will stay intact next year, unless something changes, but all the guys that want to be here will be here, and to my knowledge, they all want to be back. I think that’s a profound positive for our team with continuity. We will make one addition to our staff, and that will be Juan Castillo, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles. He will come onboard as a consultant for the next two weeks helping prepare for the Super Bowl. He will move on forward as our run game coordinator.”

 

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