BALTIMORE RAVENS TRAINING CAMP TRANSCRIPTS
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "Good seeing everybody. [Today was] a really good practice in terms of effort. It was a tough practice, a lot of third downs – as many third-down situations, really, as we could put together in one practice we tried to today. The guys did a good job with it."
It looked like the kickers were in a lot of adverse circumstances trying to test them out. How did that go? (Aaron Wilson) "You saw it. The ones they made went well, and the ones they didn't make didn't go so well. That's how you judge a field goal, basically. (laughing) But we did, you're right. We put them in a lot of game-like situations where they had to run out, make a kick [at] the end of the game, during a game, those kinds of things. They did a good job of that. We try to do that as much as we can, as opposed to just go out and kick five field goals in a row, because you don't do that in a game. A lot of our practices are built that way for the kickers."
John, could you give us a Dennis Pitta update? (Dave Ginsburg) "Just kind of what we thought yesterday, as it turns out. We'll be shooting for the first regular season game. If it's sooner than that, that'd be a bonus. That's what we're shooting for."
Do you expect Bernard Pierce back soon with the baby coming up? (Aaron Wilson) "I really don't have a comment on that right now. He had a little hamstring, but I don't know. I'm not sure about the baby. I haven't heard today, so I don't know."
Coach, any news regarding Bryant McKinnie? (Jerry Coleman) "Same as it was yesterday. No update on Bryant."
The idea with the crowd noise at the end of practice, is there a theme to that? (Jerry Coleman) "Well, you heard them all. You put that together. You have the playlist now; you heard it. Look at some of the lyrics and you decide. You're a connoisseur of rock n' roll music."
Did they take your iPod for the music? (Dave Ginsburg) "I have been involved in that playlist, but so has everybody else. Everybody is welcome to make their contributions, but we do vet all suggestions."
You kind of made it like Heinz Field with "Renegade." (Aaron Wilson) "We had 'Renegade' today, yeah. It's a good song; it's a great song. We love that song. It's one of our favorite songs."
Why did you decide to use music as opposed to white noise? (Ryan Mink) "We got tired of the white noise, I guess."
Did you pick out the Rick Ross and Lil Wayne over the weekend? (Matt Vensel) "Oh, you heard that one? That one has been scratched from the list. Did you notice? (laughing) We haven't heard that one since. And I like some rap music. There are a few of them I like, but that's not one of them. Keep it clean."
How have you seen Paul Kruger develop since you have been here? Is he ready to fill that role as a starter? (Dave Ginsburg) "Well, we'll find out. Yeah, he is, but time will tell. Everybody gets their opportunity in life, and this is his. He's going to do well with it."
Last year, [Kruger] had a career high in sacks. Is he a much better player than when you first saw him? (Dave Ginsburg) "Paul has come a long way. He is a far better player … You know, he had only played defense for two years when he got here, so he had a lot to learn. He's learned a lot – just the pace of play and work ethic and professionalism as a football player. Guys have to learn that over time – most of them – and he has done a great job of that."
John, how is Gino Gradkowski coming along? And are his challenges more mental or physical? (Kevin Tresolini) "They're both. He has both of those issues. He is learning technique. He is a young guy, physically. He is very smart, he is very tough. He is very competitive, kind of a tough, mean, nasty-type of guy. We like his style."
What does a guy like Marshal Yanda bring to the offensive line? (Steve Petrella) "He brings leadership, he brings toughness, he is a really good player. [He can] run block, pass block. He is very consistent. He is one of the best offensive linemen in the league."
With some uncertainty on the offensive line, how important is it to have a staple? (Steve Petrella) "No matter what, you have to have certain players that you can rely on, and he is one of our guys. The more of those guys you have, the better."
It looked like Logan Payne had a good practice. What have you seen from him in limited time? (Ryan Mink) "I've seen all things you've seen. He's made plays and he is a very serious guy. He knows football."
Is everything OK with LaQuan Williams? Is it a minor thing? (Aaron Wilson) "I'm not really sure. I haven't heard really anything on that. He practiced. Didn't he finish? I think he finished toward the end."
Is Matt Birk OK? I know yesterday you said it was a veteran day? (Matt Vensel) "Matt is at the stage of his career where, probably, he is going to practice less than he is not going to practice. I think that would be the best thing for Matt, getting him ready to go."
What does Albert McClellan bring to the table? He can play defensive end and the outside linebacker positions. How valuable is that for your defense, where you show so many different looks? (Luke Jones) "Albert is very versatile. The more you can do in our whole system, the better off you are going to be. Albert can play a lot of positions because he is so smart. He did the same thing in college; I think he played seven or eight positions in college. He is in competition. He is competition with Paul for the starting 'Sam' [linebacker] spot. So, he is a very good football player."
Bobby Rainey had a pretty good run today. Is he opening some eyes out there? (Aaron Wilson) "Bobby has opened eyes. Bobby Rainey is a really good player. It just holds true year-in and year-out, [that] the guys who are most productive in college, often and most times, are the most productive guys in the NFL. And here is guy that people wanted to say didn't have this or that, but he did have about 4,000-plus yards in college. He is putting yards up out here."
It looks like Chavis Williams has had a good camp so far. What strengths does he bring? (Ryan Mink) "Chavis has done a great job. He's very long, strong with his hands, does a great job of extending and staying off of blocks. That's probably his biggest strength."
Asa Jackson had a couple of picks out there today. As a rookie, how is his development on defense and on special teams? (Jason Butt) "'Ace' [Asa] had a good day – made plays. [He is] a real heady player, real smart."
Tyrod Taylor had some nice throws today, looks like he has had a good camp so far. How do you see his development from this point last year? (Matt Zenitz) "Just the progression that you'd expect. He understands the protections better, he understands the progressions better. His fundamentals are better. His feet are better. He has a better awareness of the rush itself. He used to stand in there too much last year. He is a better player – just what you would expect."
Have you seen anything from Nigel Carr out there so far? (Matt Zenitz) "He is playing well. The guy runs around and hits everything he sees. He's got a chance."
Coach, getting so close to the Super Bowl last year, have you seen an extra level of focus coming in this year and extra motivation? (Zac Glover) "As opposed to every other year? I'd say no. We're always as focused and determined as we can be – 100 percent every year. No is the answer."
LBs Coach Ted Monachino
Opening statement: "Hello everyone, doing great. This is my first time up here in Baltimore, so all the hard questions are off limits."
Is it a hard question to talk about OLB Paul Kruger and how he has developed over the course of him being here? (Joe Platania) "Absolutely not, the thing with Paul is what you see with him is that you see his talent right off the bat. Paul is a big man that moves extremely well for a guy of his size. He has a lot of experience in certain parts of the game, and in other parts of the game he has to improve a great deal. And, he's doing everything every day to make those strides every single day in every rep in practice."
Do you think, in terms of getting better, is setting the edge one of the big things for Paul [Kruger] for being a full-time rush linebacker? Is this a challenge for him? (Aaron Wilson) "Well, I think with all of guys, that is our No. 1 priority. When we look at guys all the way from pro free agents, to the draft, to the guys on our current roster, the three things we ask them to do is set the edge, rush the passer and then cover. So, we all have a great deal of improvement to make in that area. But, you see reps in every practice that are really impressive from all five of the guys that are practicing right now, and Paul is no exception, certainly, to that."
[Kruger] looks confident now out there. Is that one of the big things to just some sort of natural like he feels like he belongs out there all the time? (Aaron Wilson) "That's part of Paul's makeup as a person. I don't think he is ever going to panic. I think the thing with Paul is that he trusts his ability; he trusts his technique. Sometimes when it gets dirty or cloudy in his mind or in his eyes, it gets harder for him, but when he can clean things up and really focus in on one or two things, he's pretty darn hard to beat."
How tough is it to give, I mean last year being in a pass-rush situation for Paul [Kruger], to this year being a third-down linebacker? (Ryan Mink) "I think the biggest thing with Paul right now is the expectation that's placed on him. Nobody's a bigger critic on Paul than Paul. Watching practice tape every night at the end of the night, Paul has the coaching point ready to go before I ever say it. It's been an adjustment for him primarily being Terrell's [Suggs] backup, and as you know, the backup 'rush' linebacker in our system doesn't get many reps. Paul has developed primarily as a pass-rusher, now playing more on the 'Sam' side of things and being more involved in our coverage. He's got a little bit of a learning curve, Ryan, but he is getting better every day."
Speaking of Terrell [Suggs], everybody knows about your history with him. Looking back, he won the Defensive Player of the Year, how much pride do you take in the fact that he was able to win that accolade and you were able to help him get there as a pro after your history with him in college? (Matt Vensel) "It's been a lot of fun working with Terrell. Ever since he was a young college sophomore, I've had the chance to know him and build a relationship with him. Everything that Terrell's done has an awful lot to do more with Terrell Suggs than it does with me, but I will tell you, and if you ask anyone in our organization here, relationships are the most important thing we have going. And, the relationship that's built on trust and built on the truth every day with Terrell, I think he has a great deal of respect for the job that I do as much as I have for the job that he does."
Coach, where do you see the most growth in [Sergio] Kindle? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think Sergio has taken, and I'm going to use a phrase here that doesn't get used very often, I think Sergio has taken a quantum leap. He's made a quantum leap in terms of his mental approach to practice and film study and simply to just being a pro. As he gets more and more reps and gets more and more exposure to the different things that come up in each call … There are moving parts in every call we have. The more the opportunities he has to see those and hear the communication behind him, the better he gets. And that's the biggest jump he's made, in just his mental approach pre-snap to know what it is he is supposed to do and how is going to do it."
Was there a point you saw that click late last season or is that more of a thing you are starting to see in training camp? (Jeff Zrebiec) "This is the first offseason that Sergio has really been able to go through. I really saw it midway through the OTA period."
Is Courtney [Upshaw] kind of getting it, feeling the ropes here? He has the hurt shoulder; he's trying to drop a few pounds. How is he coming along this season? When he's out there, he plays well." (Aaron Wilson) "The thing with Courtney is you always look for a dominant trait in our players. The renaissance football player, there aren't many of them left anymore. Courtney certainly has dominant traits as an edge-setter. He is big; he is physical. He's an extremely smart football player. He understands angles and leverages, and he understands his job, just very similar to all of them with Paul, Sergio and even with Courtney. The more experience he has, the better he's going to get. You can already see him doing things that it's hard to predict a young player can do those things, especially in the run game. He's ramped up; it's an unfortunate setback. This is really an opportunity for him to focus mentally and really maybe work on the fitness part of it and work on his diet a little bit more. But, he's going the right direction, and I think we are going to have a lot to be proud of with that pick."
Coach, describe Nigel Carr a little bit in terms of his skill set on the field and then how he's been off the field. (Matt Zenitz) "Nigel is one of those guys that absolutely has a burning passion for this game. He is attentive to detail in everything he does. He's an over communicator, which is huge. At that position to be a mute is a problem as a 'Mike' linebacker. Nigel is an over communicator and that's great. Nigel got a lot of great exposure during the offseason and in the spring being one of our only two 'Mike' linebackers that were here most of the time. I think that Nigel, right now, is feeling training camp just like all the rest of our guys are, and once we start … When we start to shorten it a little bit or take a little bit of the contact out of it, I think he will get better and better every day."
With Ray Lewis and Jameel McLain dropping weight to adapt to the game, have you seen that change pay off for them in practice? (Ryan Mink) "I know one thing: I don't see their style of play changing at all. I don't see either one of them hanging on their shorts. I know they are in tremendous shape, because they are great pros. They love ball. They love to compete, and they're going to compete from snap to whistle from the bottom of their shoes to the top of their headgear every snap."
Do you feel like it's a necessary change? (Ryan Mink) "I think if it makes the player feel better, a lot of us will say it's not really important what you weigh, it's important how you play, and I haven't seen any drop-off in their play. So, I'm not really concerned about their weight."
Coach, what are you early impressions of the new linebackers Ricky Brown and Darryl Blackstock? (Garrett Downing) "Well, it is early. It's very early to really tell, but the one thing that you can tell is that they are both easy learners, they both have a great deal of experience. So, when we present new calls to them each morning, they don't have a hard time picking them up. Now, how we play certain defenses compared to the places that they've been, that may be a little bit of change. So, the little detail things are the things they are having the hardest times grasping right now. But, the overall concept is really good with both of them. I can't wait to see them play in preseason games. Then we will really be able to see more about how they are."
Coach, just getting back to Nigel for a second, if you had to say one critique about him, one thing you'd really like to see him improve on going forward through the rest of training camp, is there anything that immediately comes to mind? (Matt Zenitz) "I think there are a couple of things: No. 1, we would like to see him improve as blitzer in our system. That is an important thing for our inside linebackers to be able to do. We'd also like to see him continue to improve his eyes in coverage – just like all of them. If they've got their eyes in the right spot, they have a chance to play the coverage correctly, and Nigel, because he is a typical 'Mike' linebacker, for him to have a role in our sub defenses, he has to get better on the coverage part of it. So, that's probably where I see his biggest improvement need to come. But, he's a willing learner now, and he's working awfully hard at it."
OLB Paul Kruger
On whether he sees more decisiveness in himself now than he did a few years ago: "Yeah, I think I'm just getting settled into a position, and I've been working hard this offseason to learn everything and to be full-time, that role at the position. So, it feels a lot more comfortable."
On whether he looks at it as him replacing OLB Terrell Suggs or just him stepping up and playing: "Just me stepping up. I've said this many times: You're talking about the best defensive player in the league. It's pretty much impossible to replace a guy like that. We just need to get him healthy and get him back, but for me, it's about just me being me and being the best player that I can be and filling that role. So, I'm pretty excited about it."
On what he thinks his unique skills are that he brings to the field: "I think I can do a lot of things. Last year I felt real comfortable rushing the passer and working with [linebackers coach] Ted Monachino and the other coaches, just holding that edge strong. I feel like I'm coming along there as well, so I've got a few different things I do a lot."
On whether he bulked up and got bigger and stronger to be a full-time player: "Yeah, I'm about 270. Not necessarily [did I bulk up to fill in as a full-time player], you've just got to play with good technique and good leverage, and I'm heavy enough to be effective at it."
On whether he sees this as an opportunity to take the next step in his career: "Yeah, absolutely. It's really important just for this team and for myself, and everybody is out here fighting. We want to be a great team this year, and so I'm busting my tail to be able to make plays and be a guy who everybody can rely on."
On whether he feels pressure when replacing a guy like Suggs: "No, there's no … To me, it just is what it is. And you're playing hard and you're trying to make plays, and you have some really good days and some average days and some bad days. So, every day is just trying to get better and better and be more and more consistent, and I think once I put everything together, I can be really effective."
On whether he is his own toughest critic and is tough on himself: "Yeah, I've always been like that. It's hard for me to disappoint myself and my teammates, so I try to make the least amount of mistakes as possible."
On if he has increased his film study: "Yeah, training camp is one of those times where you see more than enough film and you're watching yourself and past games, so there's a lot you're going through. We're here from 7 in the morning until 9 at night, so we're seeing a lot of film. Trust me."
On what type of advice Suggs has provided him: "He's in all the meetings, and he's there with us every day fighting. He's been a mentor since I got here, so it really hasn't changed. You know, it's just him putting his advice – and everybody's got different abilities and different technique skills that they use for themselves – so he'll throw a lot of things out there that he's learned."
On what the next step for him is: "I think it's just being out there every play and taking that stage from getting a few reps and being productive at those, to being an every-down player that not only [makes] plays once in a while, but being effective at it every down."
On how much easier it is to put in the work when the opportunity is clearly presented to you: "It's a lot more positive when you're out there and it's much more clear. In the past, it's been rough to kind of not be able to see exactly what you're working towards or where you're going or what position. So, it's been a long road, but it's paid off, and I'm still grinding. We're not there yet, but I'm pretty happy about it."
On going against G/T Kelechi Osemele in practice: "He's really good. I like him a lot. He's got great hands, got good speed. It think he is going to be a really good player."
On if he is dissatisfied with what he has done thus far in his career: "Not necessarily. I don't feel disappointed in myself at all. It's just kind of been a long road in the sense that I've moved to different positions. [We've] got a lot of talent and older veterans that have been here for a while in the past. My role just wasn't as clear as every player wants it to be. A lot of guys have to deal with that, so the last three years have been just kind of a grind for me. I am trying to find different ways to be effective and be a part of the team. I made a little bit more of that happen last year. This year, it just seems a lot more clear."
On how it was going into this year knowing he had a set position at outside linebacker: "It's exciting. A lot of the stuff just carried over from last year, but moving from backing up [Terrell] Suggs to now playing that 'Sam' linebacker position was a lot different. I had to learn pretty much everything new. [It was] just a lot of work."
On OLB Sergio Kindle and the strides that he has made: "I think [Kindle] has really become dedicated at what he is doing. He is a really explosive guy, and I think he has come a long way. He is rushing the passer great. I think he is going to be really effective. He is already making a ton of plays in camp. It's pretty exciting for him."