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John Harbaugh Press Conference Transcript

Posted Nov 6, 2017

JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE: BYE WEEK

Opening statement: “OK, good to see everybody – appreciate you guys being here. Obviously, we’re getting ready to head into our bye week work and then a little time off. We’re looking forward to getting some players back to practice, actually, this week. We did work today; we met today. We’re going to work, obviously, [on] the game plan for Green Bay and some other games. But, we’ll also be working on trying to improve our football team, doing that, integrating in the guys that are going to be practicing for the first time – guys like Danny Woodhead and other guys who have been injured. Terrance West is another guy, just off the top of my head, another example of those guys. We’re going to practice on Tuesday, practice on Wednesday, along with strength and conditioning work. Players will be out of here after the practice on Wednesday, and they’ll be gone through the weekend. Coaches will get some time off on the weekend. So, that’s the plan.”

I know you’re going to be busy, but a welcome bye for this team? It’s seems like the break is a good time. (David Ginsburg) “Timing is very good. Maybe a week or two earlier even would have been good timing, with the fact that we’ve had some of the injuries. But, the timing is very good. I spoke to the team today about it a little bit, and there’s a little bit of excitement in the sense that we’re going to get some guys back. This is something that will have a chance to be pretty much full-steam-ahead with the guys who are up and active on the 53 now, the guys who aren’t on IR. I’m excited about that; the guys are excited about that. We use these two days, which are non-preparation for gamedays, to get some guys’ timing back, to get them working together, and then also to improve on some things. There are plenty of areas where we can improve on. So, we’ll go to work on those few areas.”

The practice will not be geared at all towards the Packers, basically just all self-absorbing and self-reflection type things? (Jerry Coleman) “Well, yes. The best way to describe it would be: fundamentals, technique, timing, precision – the things that we need to work on. We talked to the guys. There are specific areas, as coaches, that we want to work on, group areas, combination blocks, reacting to certain blocking schemes up front, especially with our younger players, that haven’t played quite as much, but also some guys that have played that are younger. Some of the veteran players won’t get as much of that work. As far as the veteran players, any individual thing they need to work on – everybody has something or a couple things – so, write those one or two or three things down, get with your position coach, and make sure those things are incorporated into the practice. Then, the third thing is areas that we need to work on, in terms of execution – offensively, whether that be pass game, run game, defensively, different areas, special teams. So, they won’t be long practices, but they will be very directed at specific issues.”

You had two touchdowns in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Is it something to at least build on? The offense seemed to click in the fourth quarter, and it’s something maybe you could take with you into this break. (David Ginsburg) “Yes, I think so. There were some successful things out there. I thought the passing game got going a little bit more in the fourth quarter, obviously, and that was good to see. We made some plays downfield, which was positive. We need to get started earlier. The games that we’ve played really well in, the ones that we’ve won, we’ve won pretty much going away, have been because we’ve been able to get going early. We’ve been able to make big plays early, chunk plays, run and pass. We’ve been able to score and get ahead. That’s important for us, and we want to be able to build off that, as you said, and start games like we finished in this last week.”

Is there some reason, some kind of common denominator, in those games where you don’t start fast that you’re not getting over that hump? (Jamison Hensley) “Yes, I think it’s converting – converting, and you convert down the field. We made some big plays in those games, and we’ve moved the chains, gotten first downs and created more opportunities for ourselves so we’ve had more chances. If you don’t convert or you don’t make a big play early, [then] you’re off the field and takes away those opportunities. So, it’s really as simple as that: making plays down the field and converting first downs.”

You’ve changed coordinators in the past with offenses that, statistically, were better than this one. In both cases, you’ve cited wanting to get a spark. What makes you believe that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is still the right guy to lead this offense? (Luke Jones) “I understand – fair question. It was more than that in those instances. I think those kinds of decisions are always fairly complex and cut to the heart of what you’re trying to do; those are tough choices to make. But, I see an identity to this offense. I understand the identity; I understand where we’re going as an offense. I have a good feel for what we’re trying to accomplish, and I can look at it, and I can see where we’re going to build. The things that David [Ginsburg, AP] talked about – what we can build on, what the foundation is – I’m excited about that. So, there’s no doubt in my mind that we can be a very successful offense throughout the rest of the season. We show enough flashes of it based on the tape, based on the way I see guys are playing, and who we’ve had and haven’t had out there, that I feel that we’re going to be able to do that. I have a lot of confidence in the coaching staff, I have a lot of confidence in the players, and I can see the way forward.”

WR Breshad Perriman acknowledged that he should have went up and got the ball, caught it at its highest point. What are some things about the deep passing game that need to get better in that area? (Jeff Zrebiec)To me, that question is really to the heart of what we have to get accomplished. We have to be more precise in those areas. It’s every part of our offense in different ways, but the deep passing game is a part of that. The spacing of the routes, the timing off the routes, making the play on the ball – if you look at some of the downfield passes that have been intercepted, they’ve mostly been contested balls. So, you have to go up and come down with that ball, or the ball comes down with you, the ball doesn’t get tipped in the air. That’s happened three times to us on throws downfield, if I’m right about that. All three of those could have, or should have, been completed, and that’s really the difference.  When you make those plays downfield, good things happen. It’s not just the receivers. They should take responsibility; they do. We all do. There have also been guys … I’m sure Joe [Flacco] will tell you, guys have been open downfield, and he hasn’t gone to them or the protection hasn’t been quite there to be able to get some of those throws off. So, that’s kind of what I’m talking about. Those are all the things that we have to put that stuff together. It’s not just us. If you look around the league, those are the issues for offenses all around the league. If we do those things well, we move the ball, we score points, and really, that’s how it works. When you look at other teams on TV or on tape, the teams that are making the plays downfield are the teams that are scoring the most points.”

When you’re looking at the chunk plays downfield, what is the disconnect that’s causing it to not happen more frequently? (Jamison Hensley) “To me, the disconnect is the little things that don’t click together. We’re in a play-action-type of a route, we’re going to try to draw the linebackers up, draw the safeties’ eyes a little bit, and then run our speed guys right by people.  Maybe a defensive end runs upfield and plays the pass, and we have to react to that and protect it. Then, all of a sudden, Joe [Flacco] is moving in the pocket, and it’s hard for him to get the ball out downfield. That would be one example of different things that can happen in those kinds of plays. It’s just too many times those little kinds of things are interjecting themselves into these plays. I think when you see the plays that are cleaner, that’s when you see the completions. We’ve had clean plays that haven’t been completed, because we haven’t made the play. So, those are the ones that you’re talking about a little bit too. To me, that’s the combination right there. So, we just have to be able to clean that stuff up from a protection standpoint. Even our fakes sometimes need to be better. Those are the types of things we’re going to work on this week and make them as good as we can make them.”

A couple people in the locker room said that they didn’t really think OLB Za’Darius should have gotten called for that [personal foul], but he also should not have put himself in that position. I think this is three for him this year, with unnecessary roughness or a late hit on a quarterback. Are you concerned he is not learning the lesson, or do you not put him at fault? (Jeff Zrebiec) “No, it is your responsibility … You can look at each one of those plays and explain them any way you want, but it wasn’t necessary. I look at the one [against Tennessee] – he and I talked about it on the plane – and he is good about it. He is coachable; he wants to do the right thing. We have a specific way of teaching that, and it goes like this: When a quarterback is running outside of the pocket with the ball, if you are close enough to tackle him, then it is going to be legal. You are going to be within a step-and-a-half, you are going to be about a step away. If you tackle him legally as he is throwing the ball, that is within the rules. That is more than within the rules, and you will not have a problem. That is what Matthew Judon did earlier. Good football play, and I don’t think anyone questioned that one, but their crowd, probably. But everyone knows that was a good football play. When you are not close enough to tackle [the quarterback], you have to reach out and push him or shove him or whatever … [Smith] was not even looking at him [Marcus Mariota], so I do not think he was trying to knock him down, because he [Smith] was looking downfield, and he kind of just bumped into him. But still, it was not a natural football play, and the quarterback went flying in the air. So, if you are not close enough to tackle him, you have to pull off, and that is something that we talk about all the time, and ‘Z’ understands that. ‘Z’ – other than that play – played a really good football game. He played really hard and made a number of plays for us. We do not want to lose that. ‘Z’ just has to clean that up.”

We talked about how you have a lot of running backs, and RB Terrance West looks like he is getting close to coming back. You have RB Danny Woodhead. Are you going to be able to hold on to all of these guys, or are there going to have to be some decisions that have to be made? (Jamison Hensley) “That is a great question, and that is something that we will have to talk about going forward, and it won’t just be based on the running back position. It will be based on how many guys we can carry at other spots and what other injuries we might have. Those are all guys that we want to keep on the team. They are all guys that can contribute, and I am looking forward to that conversation, because it is coming real quick.”

How did you think TE Maxx Williams played, especially with TE Nick Boyle not being on the field and knowing how important he is to your run game? (Luke Jones) “That is a good point. The fact that Nick was kind of the centerpiece of the run game … I think that is what you are saying, right? He was the centerpiece of the run game. He was doing … That position does a lot of things for us. It is a lot of multiple different types of blocks that Nick excels at. Maxx went into that role and did pretty well. He did OK, and he is coming off the ankle [injury], so I do not think he was 100 percent. He was not like Nick, in all honesty. What I am looking forward to is Nick and Maxx out there and the diversity that is going to give to Marty [Mornhinweg] and [senior offensive assistant/tight ends coach] Greg [Roman] in game-planning our run game and our play-action passes off of it. That is what I am thinking about. You talk about being positive going forward – that is the kind of the thing you get excited about. We missed Nick, but we are going to have both of them next game, so that is good.”

You have talked all offseason about how you wanted the run game to improve, and it certainly has. In your mind, what have been the top two things that have changed that now all of a sudden, you have gone on to be one of the top running teams? (Jamison Hensley) “That is kind of a comparison question. But the thing we wanted to do, and I think we have talked about it before … We basically revamped the run game completely, and we went to a whole other philosophy. The philosophy was more along the lines of a multiple run game and a more game-plan-oriented-type of a run game. We are trying to create angles; we are trying to create numbers advantages wherever we can. Joe [Flacco] has a big part of that. Joe is at the line of scrimmage making a lot of decisions in the run game; he has done a really good job of that. That is not easy for a quarterback, but Joe is smart. He does a good job with that stuff. I think we have created … Behind that, basically the endpoint is to create more chunk runs, create more big-play runs, and that is what we have done. Sometimes, there are a few more negative yardage runs in that, because you get some penetration sometimes and that is what we try to fight against. That probably happened a little more than we wanted to this past game. That is the biggest difference in the two styles. Both styles have been very successful. We have run them both here, but that is the package we are in right now.”

Has bringing senior offensive assistant/tight ends coach Greg Roman in [helped]? (Jamison Hensley) “Yes. It definitely [has]. Greg is the primary game-planner with the run game. He and Marty [Mornhinweg] work really well together and tie the run and the pass game together really well. That is not an easy thing to do. But you always have that. Around the league, you are always going to have a primary pass game game-planner and primary run game game-planner, and they have to be able to marry up those things. Those are two of the best in the league at doing that. We have had good results in some ways. In other ways, not good enough. That is where we are at right now.”

A couple of weeks ago, you stood here and said you probably thought it would take 10 wins to get to the playoffs. A lot has changed since then. A lot of injuries and a lot of things … (Jerry Coleman) “Did I say 10? Was that the number?” (Reporter: “I believe that is the number you gave us. Is that still what you think it would take or would it be nine [wins?]” “I don’t know. I am hoping whatever we get is going to be enough. We are in it. We are in it. There is no doubt about it, we are in it. Obviously, going down to Tennessee – we knew this – going down to Tennessee was a big opportunity for us. We had a chance to get out front of the race. We had a chance to stay with the Steelers, and we are not saying we can’t win the division. We can win the division. We just have to get on a roll. You have to win enough games. The Steelers are going to be in some tough games, and they still have to play us. This is a tough league. At no point in time are we going to say we can’t win the division or make the playoffs, but we have to get on a roll. We have to win a game. Then, we have to win another game. We have to win two, three, four games in a row. We may have to win them all. If we have to do it, that is what we have to do. That is how we are looking at it. To get there, we have to become proficient enough at playing the game to win football games. We can’t turn the ball over twice in a game, really. We could overcome it, and maybe we will have to overcome it, but we do not want to have to overcome that. And we don’t want to have to overcome a penalty on a punt that goes from a 60-yard net to a 20-yard net, or whatever it did. Those are not OK. That is just not the way that we are going to play football, so you have to clean that stuff up. In the games that we have won, we have not had those types of issues. We have played clean football. We weren’t by any stretch sloppy in terms of penalties and things like that, but it was not tight enough. We had two penalties in that game that really cost us. I think those are the kind of things that you are talking about.”

There has been a lot of talk about the wide receivers, you have had a lot of them dealing with injuries. WR/RS Michael Campanaro still is. How has WR Quincy Adeboyejo progressed on the practice squad, and could he be an option going forward? (Jeff Zrebiec) “He could be. Quincy has been … He has not been 100-percent yet, since the start of the regular season since he hurt his knee in training camp. He has one of those slow-healing injuries. It is a PCL. That is what it is. He told me two weeks ago that he was about 75 percent and he told me last week that he was about 85 percent. Hopefully, he is getting close to 100 percent. He did look quicker last week and faster. As soon as he gets back to speed, to me, he becomes part of the conversation.”

We know QB Joe Flacco is not going to make excuses, but he missed all of training camp dealing with his back and he had the concussion. How do you think this bye week can help him recharge for the second half of the season? (Luke Jones) “Well, yes. It should be good. Joe, you probably asked him that, and like you said, he is not going to make any kind of excuses, but it is going to help all of our players for sure. The bye is important in this league. You saw it with Tennessee. They got Delanie Walker healthy, and it made a difference in the game. We want to get our players out there, we want to get them freshened up a little bit, play a little faster. I think, usually, coming off the bye you are a little faster. I would expect that from our team going forward, and that is what we will try to do.”

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