Baltimore Ravens Practice Transcripts 8/20


Head Coach John Harbaugh

Opening statement: "Thanks for coming. Good practice. It was reminiscent of a Thursday practice that we would have during the season – little bit longer because we have more guys here, but third down, little bit of red zone, blitz, those kind of things."

Is training camp officially over now, coach? (Jerry Coleman) "No, training camp lasts until the last preseason game is over with. It's the way the CBA [collective bargaining agreement] writes it."

Does that mean nothing will really change in regards to the schedule until that game is over? (Jerry Coleman) "No, we've changed our schedules all around. It's part of training camp, though, the way we do it."

The hours and everything will remain the same? (Jerry Coleman) "The hours have changed. It's a different part of training camp. It's a different schedule, different format."

Is Bryant McKinnie starting to get into a tempo, a rhythm, with a couple of weeks under his belt? (Aaron Wilson) "He's had a tempo and a rhythm. It's just a matter of practicing, and it's like anybody else. He is practicing well. He'd be the first to tell you he's not there yet. Nobody is there yet, but he is practicing well, and he is in the mix. I am looking forward to seeing how it shakes out, but he is doing a good job."

How do you think Paul Kruger is coming along in terms of his progression in being an every-down player? (Garrett Downing) "[He is] coming along really well. Paul has done a nice job. He has proven he can handle our pass-drop stuff. He has done a nice job of setting the edge in the run game. Obviously, he is a pass rusher – that is something he has been doing. He continues to get better there. So, he should be out there for all three downs."

John, you mentioned the red zone briefly. How would you assess how the offense has fared in that area in the two preseason games? (Matt Vensel) "Well, the 'ones' have not fared well. We haven't scored, I don't think, like we want to, obviously. So, we just have to score touchdowns down there. We practice it a lot. We've had good days out here against our defense, and not so good days. But if you take the two preseason games, obviously, it's got to be better than that. We need seven [points]."

John, we saw that back and forth with the kickers a little bit during the early part of practice … (Matt Zenitz) "Oh yeah. That was fun. They each had their set, and they both did very well. Then, we brought them back to kick the long ones. They both made those, and brought them back again to 61 [yards]. Billy [Cundiff] made it. 'Tuck' [Justin Tucker] missed his. He had a little bit of a [bad] snap that threw off his timing a little bit. But, they are both kicking really well. They both continue to kick really well."

Have you been surprised by what Curtis Painter has done in his first two preseason games? How is the competition between him and Tyrod Taylor shaping up? (Ed Lee) "Not surprised at all. Here is a guy that has been around. He has been a quality quarterback. He has started. When you start in this league, you are a pretty accomplished quarterback. He has proven why. What level he can take it to in his career, that is something he is working on, trying to do as well as he can. He has played really well, and we're happy with the way he has played."

John, what happened with Sean Considine? He is wearing a non-contact jersey. (Aaron Wilson) "He says no. The doctors say he got dinged; he says he didn't. So, we're going with the doctors. We're going with the ding, so he has the red jersey."

John, we've seen Albert McClellan really respond to the battle at outside linebacker when a lot of people thought it was Courtney Upshaw's to lose? (Jason Butt) "You've got to earn your stripes. You have to earn your position here no matter what. I don't know why a lot of people would think that. That's pretty presumptuous. The best guys play. The guys who are playing the best are the best."

Throughout his three years, have you seen him [McClellan] take an underdog mentality? (Jason Butt) "He might. You'd have to ask him that. He's a guy that competes every single day. His work ethic is as good as anybody's. He doesn't say much. He just goes out there and does his job, and he is playing at a really high level."

How would you describe what Albert brings to the table? Some outside linebackers are described more as pass rushers, some are better against the run. How would describe Albert? (Matt Zenitz) "You'd probably describe Albert as a guy that is steady in all areas – very consistent player. He is a good pass rusher. He is kind of a leverage rusher. He can really turn, he can bend the edge, and he gets leverage underneath offensive linemen. He is solid against the run. He sets the edge well, does a nice job with his pass traps. He is a guy with no real weakness. I would say pluses all the way across board."

Coach, do you feel like your strength at cornerback is being able to press, go one-on-one with teams, considering you have bigger corners outside with Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams? (Ryan Mink) "It should be. It's something that we think we are going to be able to do really well. I don't read too much into great receivers making plays in the preseason, because we are just playing. We are lining up and matching guys up one-on-one. There is no game plan involved in what we are doing now. We didn't roll over top of [Lions WR] Calvin Johnson. We didn't roll over top in Atlanta of any receiver. We didn't mix our coverages at all. We just put those guys out there and let them play. That's what you want to do in training camp during the preseason. We just want to develop our technique. When there are things that you struggle with, that's what you want to find out. It's only going to make us better."

Joe Flacco has talked about his comfort level improving in each year. Do you see anything in him that leads you to believe that his game is at that point? (Bob Glauber) "Well, you just go by what you see in practice every day. He has stepped it up. He is playing better. Every day in practice shows it. You guys have been out here seeing it. He is doing everything a little bit better than he has. Every single day he continues to improve, so how that shakes out this year, that's what we'll find out."

John, during the game, Kelechi Osemele played both tackle and guard. What have you seen after watching the film again? (Kris Jones) "You see a talented young rookie. He is smart, he is tough, very long. He has a great punch. He probably bends a lot better than people thought who were evaluating him in the draft. He has really good feet, maybe better than people thought. He has a chance to play either one of those spots. He has given us some flexibility in there."

You ran a lot of three-wide receiver sets in the game on Friday. Is there a balancing act to make sure that Vonta Leach is still on the field in some of those situations? (Garrett Downing) "Vonta is going to make sure of that. All I did was hear him for the first two drives in my ear. He was a little testy about not being out there, which is what you want. You want all of your guys to [want] to play. We have a chance to be versatile with our personnel groups. Once we get the tight ends back, we have enough variation in there to mix it up on people."

There is so much talk about parity in the NFL. In the AFC, you guys, Pittsburgh and New England, with Indianapolis over the last seven or eight years, but this has been a really strong stretch for three or four teams in the AFC. What is it like battling every year with those couple of teams to get to the championship game? (Tom Reed) "We've beaten just about all those teams or we've lost to them in the playoffs as well. It can be exhilarating, it can be heartbreaking. I don't know how else to describe it. But, those are teams that we have a lot of respect for. Those are teams that when you build your team, you have to look at those teams and say, 'How are we going to match up against those teams and how are we going to use our personnel, our schemes or whatever against those people?' But that's not just it. Every game we've played against Cleveland has been a challenge. Every game we have played against Cincinnati in the last four years has been a challenge. You can't just say it's these teams. In pro football, it's every team, and I don't think we've had too many games where we haven't played close games. That's what makes it great. That's what makes the NFL so great."

Coach, no team has ever gone four years to the postseason, win a game but not gone to the Super Bowl and then gone on to win a Super Bowl. Why do you think it's so hard to maintain that kind of consistency? (Robert Klemko) "Probably what we just talked about – the league is so good. The margin is real narrow. Winning from week to week is really tight. Sometimes it's the bounce of a ball, it's the call by the official that makes the difference. Being consistent and injuries and all those things make it tough. That's what makes it great, again."

You did something four years ago that Cleveland is trying to do now, as far as starting a rookie quarterback and having a rookie running back. What are the challenges of coaching a rookie quarterback and getting him up to speed where he can win? (Tom Reed) "The thing that [offensive coordinator] Cam [Cameron] and our offensive coaches did a great job of that year was just determining what Joe [Flacco] was going to be able to do well and fit it into the offense. It worked. We disguised a lot of different things. We had a lot of heavy personnel groups, we played with extra offensive linemen, we built around the running game. Joe did a great job with play-action, threw the ball downfield well. You just probably take it for where it's at right there and play to his strengths. I thought Cam did a great job of that that year."

Have you seen a progression in him with each year? (Tom Reed) "Absolutely. All the guys here will probably tell you he has gotten better every year. The numbers sometimes show it, sometimes they don't. But when you watch the tape or when you're in conversation with a guy, there is continual growth. You always hope for that big breakout year, and even when he has that, he is going to have to follow that up the next year. It's like any player. But, he has gotten better every year, and we want to make sure that continues."

John, is there a matter of urgency with the first cuts coming after the third preseason game? With younger guys, do you sense any difference in their approach? (Gerry Sandusky) "The pressure builds for those guys. Everybody is pretty loose. Our guys are pretty comfortable. We try to create that kind of an environment. You can tell guys are starting to get a little … What's the word? It's getting a little tense. Guys want to make this team. They want to be on this team. They want to be a part of this. Everybody can't be. If they can't be part of this, they want to be a part of a team somewhere in this league. So, it's time now, and they want to put good tape out there."

RBs Coach Wilbert Montgomery

Could you talk about who is going to back up Ray [Rice]? (Jerry Coleman) "Oh, who's backing up Ray? Well, I was told I can't. Hey guys, right now it's a huge question mark. I would like to think that I know the answer to that, 'Who's going to back up Ray?' But, that's why we are in training camp to find out who's going to back up Ray. The good thing about it [is] we have four guys who are battling for the No. 2 spot. Of course we drafted [Bernard] Pierce in the third round. We drafted Anthony Allen the year before in the seventh, and then we had Damien Berry as a free agent. And then we have a little guy named Bobby Rainey. All of these guys have redeeming qualities that they bring to our offense. What the Baltimore Ravens and Ozzie Newsome and his group of guys … They always bring in a good group of guys to work with. I don't care what position you are playing, they bring guys in that are going to compete and make the position and make it competitive. What I see in those guys, they all, like I said, have special qualities. I'm going to start with the little guy Bobby Rainey, because I'm stunned that he wasn't drafted, because a guy that has punt return, kick return ability, that can run routes out of the backfield, catch the ball out of the backfield and people say he is a third-down back … We don't look for just specialty guys; we look for a guy that can do it all, and he does have that uncanny ability to run in between the tackles as well as outside. So, he's battling strong to be the No. 2 guy. Then you look at Damien Berry. Damien Berry is a … Man, he is a phenom with his foot speed, his strength, his size. He's very explosive, can hit the holes quick, can probably take it the distance from anywhere on the field. Damien has improved more than any back that I have ever coached since I've been in the league, because he's catching the ball very well, he's blocking now, and he's running his routes better. I'm just pleased with his growth and where he's at with this offense. I'm excited about Damien. Then Anthony Allen can probably draw up any play in the book at any position, because he's very sharp, very bright. He showed us his toughness last year. He's not a very fast guy, but he has the size, he has the strength, and I'd like to see him run the ball a little bit more when he's in the ball game, because he has great hands; he has great route ability. We seem to be throwing it most of the times when he's in the game. Anthony is a guy that is battling; he's battling strong for that No. 2 spot. Then there's Pierce, who I think is learning the game. He's learning what the NFL running back position is all about, but you can see the redeeming qualities that he has is that inside ability to run in between the tackles and then able to bounce plays to the outside to drop his pass and run over people. But, the thing that you are looking for, whoever that No. 2 back is, in this division here when you're playing against Cleveland, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, you have to be physical, which is what we pride ourselves on. You have to be tough, and that's what we are looking for, and we'd like to have a big back if we can get a big back, because in the wintertime you like to give it to that kind of guy. So, all of these guys bring something very special to us."

What do you think is a big reason for the number of touches going down over the years? (Robert Klemko) "It all depends on the team. Ray had more touches in the last two years than anybody in the National Football League. Here, I don't think that's a factor. I'm like this: 'You don't buy a new car and you put it in the driveway and just park it in the garage.' You buy it, you drive it, you drive it, you drive it. If you wear the wheels off, you go out and get another one. So, Ray carrying 300 times, I'm looking for the next Ray Rice right after that. The game today, you can't save guys. You have to play them, and you ask them to give whatever they have to give in return and ask for nothing in return, and if they can do that, we are on the right track."

How nice is it to have Ray in camp where MJD [Maurice Jones-Drew] is holding out? How essential has it been to have Ray here? (Ryan Mink) "Ray is a pleasure to be around because, again, like I said, personally to me, I haven't seen a person that Ray wouldn't enjoy talking to at anytime and to have him here … Ray gets along with everyone. He's talking all the time, but just his energy that he brings to the field and the way that he feels about the game himself, the way he feels about his teammates, and the coaching staff, it's kind of fun to have him around. Ray's going to come out here and he's going to work his tail off. He's going to work harder than anyone else out on that field, and it's good to have Ray here, because Ray set the examples for the running backs, how we are going to go out here and practice each day."

Where have you seen Ray Rice improve specifically in camp? (Ryan Mink) "One is the leadership role. Ray has really stepped up, and that's what you ask for Ray, you ask him to show that leadership quality, and right now Ray is the guy that has taken charge of pretty much of the offense. He stands up in meetings, and talks about when things are going wrong or not going good. Ray is the first one to let everyone know on offense that we need to step it up – we need to show improvement, we need to work hard each day on this practice or whatever. Ray's a big boy now."

What did you see in the game last Friday from Pierce? Did he impress you in that regard? (Jason Butt) "Yes, he did. He had nine plays in the ball game, because we started off in three-wide for most [of] the first half. When he got out there, he showed that reckless abandon that we wanted him to be, what he showed in college. That kind of excited everyone, because up to that point, we hadn't seen it. We knew he had it in him, he had the potential, but he hadn't showed it, but we saw it on game day. That's what you want to see. How do you bring something from the practice field to game day and be a little bit better at doing what we ask you to do? And, he showed it."

How has the fullback position changed and also how fullbacks are used since you've come into the league? (Matt Vensel) "Yes, it's more of a passing league now. Everyone wants to see the ball in the air, and the fullbacks don't get that many reps right now. Fortunately, we have one of the NFL's best fullbacks in Vonta Leach, but we still have these other guys that demand the ball as well. It has changed. When I was in the league, it was always about run, run, run, and you can get the seven, eight guys in the box. Today, with the fullback in the game, pretty much the people that are steady enough, they know the tendencies and what plays you like to run out different sets, so they take that away from you. But to have the receivers on the field, they add another dimension, so therefore, we can do some things that we normally can't do with a fullback in the game."

Do you see any of yourself in Ray being a smallish back? (Bob Glauber) "You know, I think Ray is pretty good at doing a lot of good things. Yes, the years … It's a different kind of game, but I see a lot of things that when I had a guy by the name of Marshall Faulk, coaching Marshall Faulk, there are a lot of similarities. But, with Ray Rice and Marshall are able to do things, catching the ball out of the backfield, running, making people miss in traffic, those guys are good. That's not coaching; that's just a gift, and they are blessed with that. They got that magic eye somewhere in the back of their heads. They aren't interested in where they've been; they are always interested in where they are going."

Marshall is in the Hall of Fame. Do you see Ray as that type of guy? (Bob Glauber) "Well, I don't want to put a jinx on that. I'll just say that as long as Ray keeps working hard and striving to be the best back in the National Football League, he has that potential, and those redeeming qualities to be there."

What about some of the attributes that every guy that is going to get 300 touches has to have in today's league… (Robert Klemko) "I think that one is always having a vision, and the understanding of the play, and what you are trying to do with the play and what the interior line is trying to do. A lot of people like to talk about instincts. You give me a back with instincts, and I'll give you back that doesn't trust what you are asking the interior line to do, because in instincts you always have a fear or someone is about to make a tackle, or I'm not going into that hole. But a guy that has an understanding, truly an understanding of how that whole play is developed, who is going to block what guy, is able to do the things that we like to see in a running back. And Ray has now grown a lot in that direction, because Ray was one of those guys that always thought he had to be 'instincted' to do what we asked him to do."

C Matt Birk

On if there is more the team can do better around the goal line than just improving execution: "I think that when you are down there, obviously, it is more difficult to run the ball. It's not an excuse, but that's the way it is. I think that with the way we are built, that's what we want to do. We want to run first and make teams stop that first, and then do the pass to keep teams honest. I am not the offensive coordinator, but as a lineman, that's what I'd think. When you get down there, things change. Things happen faster, techniques are different. I think the first thing to improving something is identifying it as an area that you want to improve in."

On if that is an area that they want to improve: "I think so. Certainly, with the guys that we've had in the backfield the last few years and the guys that we have this year, I think it would serve us well to be a threat to run the ball."

On what he has seen from T Bryant McKinnie after a few weeks at practice: "Bryant [McKinnie] is doing well. He is moving well. We all get a little bit older, and you learn some things and figure some things out. Bryant has done a good job of being in shape. I think he is moving as I've seen him move in a long time on the back side. He is getting his back-side blocks and back-side cutoffs."

On the challenges when the offensive line is moving and shuffling: "It's a challenge, because everybody is different, and you have to get a different feel for the guys that are next to you. But at the same time, too, you just accept that that's part of the deal. I think that we're fortunate. This is deepest group of offensive linemen that we've had since I've been here. So, you really look at it as good fortune. We've tried a number of different combinations. We don't exactly know how it's going to all shake out – who and where. As a player, it's your job to go out there and do your job. On the offensive line, you work with the guy next to you – on one side or the other – every single play. As players, we just say, 'Today this is the first line; this is the second line,' and that's it. Then we just go out there, and for that day, we work hard and try to get better as a group."

On if he has more pressure to communicate with the group as a center: "Maybe a little bit, but that's good because we always want to communicate and be clear on our communication. That serves us well when we are on the road, obviously, with the non-verbal stuff. It's good for the running backs. That's what training camp is for. You kind of start with a clean slate, and everybody starts on the same page, and you bring everybody along at the same pace. It's actually a good thing having new guys and different guys playing different positions, because then we probably tend to over communicate a little bit, which is never a bad thing."

On how C Gino Gradkowski is coming along: "I think Gino [Gradkowski] has done a great job – a young guy, center, coming in, grasping the offense. He has obviously gotten his share of reps when I wasn't practicing. He has done what a good rookie should do. You come in, you keep your mouth shut and you play hard. I mean that as a compliment. I think he has done extremely well, and he's gotten better. With his attitude and his approach, he'll continue to get better."

On if he is enjoying Gradkowski getting more reps, meaning he gets a couple of more days off: "Sometimes. (laughing) For me personally, it was rough being out there that first week or so. That's the grind. That's training camp, and you do feel bad when you're not out there. But those guys, and especially Gino, just stepped right in and did a great job."

On how important it is for the current group to get back to a Super Bowl: "Obviously, that's our goal, but that's a long way away right now. I think that the older guys, or the guys that have been around here, understand what it takes just to get to that level to have a chance. So, you can talk about climbing the mountain or whatever analogy that you want to use, but that's a long way away. Right now in August, it's just important that we come out here and work as hard as we can every single day physically, but also mentally in the meeting rooms. We talked about up front, progress as a unit, as a group and everybody coming along. You just keep working hard, and then in December and January, you want to be in the position to achieve your goal."

On if no-huddle is an advantage up front: "I think so. No-huddle is great. I think anytime you can change tempo, give defenses other things that they have to worry about, have to try to plan for or deal with, I think that's a good thing. We aren't going to be no-huddle all the time; we haven't been the last three years.  But at times, things are staying are stale. Sometimes you go no-huddle and move the chains a couple of times and get some rhythm. Sometimes, depending on who you are playing, you might want to no-huddle, keep certain guys on the field or whatever. It's just one other thing that we can go to, one other thing we can use."

On the challenges the offensive line might face: "You have to be in shape. Obviously, I'm in shape.* (laughing)* I like you guys; you guys laugh at my jokes. Communication is key. It's up-tempo. You have to get on the ball, and you're making calls, and that's where verbal and nonverbal communication is so important. In pass-protection, the quarterback needs to know where the line is going, the running back needs to know where the line is going, the wide receivers need to know where the line's going. Things obviously just sped up and happened so much quicker. Communication, it has to be clear, and it has to be concise, and you have to be able to go. That's the whole point of no-huddle, is to go and then make the defense uncomfortable."

On if he is impressed with where G/T Kelechi Osemele is as a rookie: "Absolutely. He's come in and done a great job, not just played well and shown his physical abilities and the type of player he is, but he's grown in the offense. He's played a couple of different positions. I can remember my rookie year like yesterday, and I couldn't play one position well. So, when they guys come in and they can play more than one spot, I think that's pretty impressive."

On what he thinks about Flacco making more calls behind him: "Joe gets paid a lot of money to make those calls, so I say, 'Good for Joe.' Joe continues to grow, too, just like all of us. It never becomes old. It's never like, 'Hey, you know what? You got it.' No matter how long you do it, the whole point is to come out here every day and work hard and get better. Obviously, Joe has progressed and everybody knows. It's no secret how much is on the quarterback and how much they have to understand and how much they have to do. As Joe has grown and gained experience, he's doing more and more back there, and I think that just kind of speaks to the control and the command he has of the system and how he has grown as a player."

QB Joe Flacco

On how much he enjoys making calls at the line of scrimmage: "It's not that much more than we usually do. We can make it look a little more dramatic, but it's good because all the stuff we're doing is making sense. We're all getting it, we're all still able to operate at full speed, and like I said, it's making sense to what we're trying to do. And anytime you're doing that and you're trying to get into the best things, you give yourself the best chance to be successful, then it's fun to go out there and do those things."

On whether they're playing it up a little to mess with the defense: "Some of it is, yeah, you have to. If you're going to do some of those things, then you have to have a certain amount of stuff that doesn't mean anything."

On the sugar-huddle, and hearing that term on the game broadcast a lot last Friday night: "Sugar-huddle, all that is, is a quick way to huddle. Rather than everybody coming back, the offensive line just turns around right there, we give them the play [and] everybody tries to stay out as far as they can. We'll do a little bit of that, but mostly we want to be no-huddle. We don't want anybody to come in; we want them all to stay out there, and I'll relay [the play] to them as best as possible."  

On whether he looks at the third preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the regular season: "I guess that's the way we're trained to kind of look at it, just because that is the game [the starters] play the most in. But, we want to go out there and put good work forward and good footage that we can look at and learn from. This week is kind of the same. We want to go out there and we want to play well, but at the same time, we need to clean some things up and see what we're getting better at and see what we still need to work on maybe even a little bit more. So, like I said, I think we're kind of trained to maybe look at it like a dress rehearsal, and we want to go out there and let it all go and be successful."

On how important it is for the home fans to remain quiet while the offense operates in a no-huddle: "I don't know. I mean, some guys get their fans trained to be completely quiet, but it's always nice to have a little bit of crowd noise. It just shows that they're into it and passionate about what you're doing, so I don't mind that. We should be able to do it whether we have noise or whether we don't have noise, because we're going to have to do the same thing in away stadiums and be just as successful at it. So, maybe over time it might work into something like that, but like I said, I'm happy with how our fans react out there, and I don't want to take that away from them."

On if there is anything to gain from playing Jacksonville again after the loss last season: "It hasn't really been brought up that way, and I don't think we're looking at it that way. I think we're looking at it as a good test for us and just another opportunity for us to go out there and work on what we've been working on all training camp and go out there and be successful at it. We've been having a great time out here and working hard, so we want to go out there and put our best foot forward and just have a good outing."

On whether there are specific areas that the offense needs to show improvement: "It's tough to say. I think the biggest thing I can look at in the last couple games, especially last game, is just finishing off drives – getting down in the red zone and putting touchdowns on the board. If you want to score a lot of points in this league and you want to run away with a couple games here and there when you're given a chance – which isn't often – you've got to put the ball in the end zone. So, I think that's one thing that I'd like to see, is when we get down there this week, is stick it in there."

On whether he'll be more aggressive in the red zone, and on the balance between risks versus rewards in that area: "In the end, is it worth it? It probably is worth it. But I don't think we're going to look at it as if we are more aggressive, or whatever you want to say. I don't think you're going to look at it as throwing more interceptions. I think we're going to do it a smart way, and I think it's going to be trusting me and trusting our guys. And if we do that stuff, I think we're upping our chances to score touchdowns; not in any way upping our chances to throw interceptions, even though we might be doing it a little bit more. I think there [are] downs that are advantageous to being aggressive down there, and I don't know how much in the past we've taken full advantage of that. So, I think a lot of times in the past, we've been doing it on the toughest down there is, which is third down. So, I think in some respects, you're kind of upping you're chances to have bad plays when you play it like that. So, may it happen a little differently? Yeah. But, I think we're playing the probabilities and we're bringing it in our favor, because we're going to take advantage of some first- and second-down defenses where things may be a little bit more vanilla."

On whether there are positives to having some different combinations along the offensive line: "Right now a little bit, but you want to get to a point where there's some continuity between those guys, and they can really play together and be in sync, because that is the most important position on the field as a whole, and those guys need to kind of play off each other and get comfortable with each other. So yeah, it's good in respect that you find out who's going to be a player for you, and a lot of guys get quality reps that they wouldn't be getting on the practice field. But there comes a point where you need to get all those guys out there and get them comfortable with each other."

On how much better he's able to see what a defense is looking to do in a no-huddle situation: "The biggest thing is sometimes it gets them in basic calls. You can get into things you like, and that's one thing you look at, is does it do that to them? And then if it doesn't, then you start trying to play with them a little bit and stuff like that. And they can always mess with you, too. You can be out there redirecting and pointing this way, and they can completely change what they're doing on you. So, that's why you have to have a good balance of slowing things down and quick counting them, so that they can't really get a read on you."

On if he feels better in his ability now to read an opposing defense in that situation: "Yeah, I think you get better and better each year. I've always been pretty comfortable with what I'm seeing out there, and going the right place with the ball. But, you always get more and more comfortable each year and things slow down for you even more."

On how much of a challenge it has been not having TEs Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson for the last few weeks: "I haven't even thought about it. I haven't blinked an eye. Those [other] guys have jumped in and done a great job. Obviously, Ed and Dennis give you something that is pretty rare with two guys that are as athletic as they are, but these [other] guys, they haven't missed a beat, and I haven't even thought twice about it."

On whether he feels like Pitta and Dickson will be able to jump back in without missing a beat when they're healthy: "Yeah, I do. I'm not saying that's going to be an easy thing. Anytime you do sit out a little bit, you have to get back out here and feel your way around a little bit. But if anybody can do it, those guys can."

On whether not having WR Torrey Smith in the last game affected the ability to score a touchdown against Detroit: "Once again, Torrey brings something to the game that we might not have when he's not in there, but we've got a bunch of good receivers on this team. It's going to be a fight to see who actually makes the team. So, I thought everybody did a great job, and we could make a play here or there, I could make a play here or there. But like I said, I don't know if we could have necessarily measured that the other night. Torrey definitely brings us something, but the guys that were in there did a great job, and I don't think we were really lacking at all."

On why the AFC North is the toughest division in the NFL: "There are a lot of tough divisions, but obviously, I'm biased towards this being the toughest. It's just the style of football. For the offenses in this division, you're going against physical defenses week-in and week-out, and it's a battle to stay healthy all year. And it's just, hey, when you have two teams – and then Cincinnati jumped in last year and Cincinnati won the division a couple years back – and when you have three teams that are consistently vying for playoff positions and getting pretty far in the playoffs, it's tough to say that we're not one of the best divisions, if not the best division."

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