BALTIMORE RAVENS TRAINING CAMP TRANSCRIPTS
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Statement regarding practice being moved indoors today: "We came inside to get out of the heat. We've had outstanding work out in it since the start of camp, and we changed it up today. I'm not sure it was because we came inside, but we had a sharp, crisp, fast practice today. You can see the coaches are very pleased."
Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
Can you just give us an update on the kicking battle, and how do you see that playing out so far? (Ryan Mink) "Well, it's been all that we'd hoped it would be, because both kickers are kicking well, and the exciting part of it is that every day is different. And we put them in different situations, and I love the way we practice – like yesterday was overtime, today was move the ball – and you have so many different scenarios that come up during the course of the season that you can actually practice rather than just lining up and kicking. And both guys have been exposed to that, and we'll continue to do that as we go down the road. Preseason games are coming up, so that's always good to kick in our own stadium and in other places, so you change the environment a little bit. And what's going to be fun also [is] to be in our own stadium this Saturday, because we're going to get a lot of kicks down there."
Was today a day of rest for Justin Tucker? (Kris Jones) "We gave him a rest day, because he would have gone six days in a row. We want to have them both going on the weekend, and Billy [Cundiff] will take tomorrow off, so we didn't go all the way straight through for six days."
Do you have a measuring system for how you gauge the kicks? Is it more important to make them in these drills, or does it count just as equally when they're practicing on their own? (Mark Zinno) "We track both, but I've always said this when I'm looking at kickers: It's very much like quarterbacks, in my view. You really find out about them in games. You find out how they handle the situations, you find out how they handle the weather conditions, you find out a lot about a guy's poise in games. And so, I'm excited to watch these guys compete in games as well."
This is the third time in the last four seasons you guys have had a kicking competition in training camp. Do you use those past experiences to help in your evaluation process? (Luke Jones) "I think we all learn by experience. No matter if you're coaching or you're a cameraman or asking questions, we all learn. I've been through a number of them in the past, too, before I came [to Baltimore], so it's always good to use that experience to try to provide opportunities for your players. I think that's probably the biggest thing I've learned, is put them in situations. Don't just line up and kick, but put them in situations, try to replicate games, try to create some stress during the course of the game where you suddenly change the schedule and you're doing something else. And the other part of it is [to] evaluate everything. Try to put them in all different yardages, all different types of kickoffs, all different types of wind conditions, and that's why we have a great facility here, so we can go out there and kick on one field and the wind is going left to right, and then go the other way and we can have a tailwind, then we can have a headwind. Our fields are positioned that way, so all those things go into the evaluations."
During training camp, do you experiment at all with different strategies for kicking? (Ryan Mink) "Well, the strategy for their field goals is to make it. The technique part of it, each individual is a little bit different, so we work with each individual in that regard, how they're going to kick. Now, a veteran like Billy [Cundiff] pretty much has his way, and so what we're doing with him is making sure that he's kicking the way that he wants to kick. Now for Justin [Tucker], it's a little bit different, because [it's] Justin's first time in the National Football League, and we have some certain things that we think he should be doing, and we've worked with him to try to change some of the ways that he came in [utilizing]. And so, it's different in that regard. One guy knows what he wants to do and is trying to perfect it; the other guy is learning how he wants to kick."
What about kickoffs themselves for these two guys? How is that battle going? (Mark Zinno) "We haven't had a showdown, so to speak, in that regard. We chart all kickoffs of course. We had full-field kickoff today, as you probably saw. We haven't lined them up against each other and done a lot of those kickoffs. Part of the reason is when you're kicking six days, five days, six days a week, you don't want to do a lot of kickoffs in those scenarios, because it's a lot more stressful on the leg. So, we've modified the number of kicks that they're doing. Now, Justin has had a lot more in practice than Billy has, just because we're working with him, we're trying to develop his kickoffs."
What's been your impression of Justin Tucker so far? (Ryan Mink) "He's impressed. He's got a strong leg, he's got a good mind, he's handling the situations and the changes that we've made very well."
Does it seem like you've already had Corey Graham for a while now with his knack for the field already? (Morgan Adsit)"Yeah, that's a very good observation. He's such an experienced veteran, and today is a primary example. The first kickoff repetition that we had during practice was directed at him – I was trying to beat him, because the whole design of the play was to beat him – and he didn't fall for it. And he called me out right afterwards. So yeah, he's very crafty. He's good to have in the room, too, because he can help a lot of the young players."
Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron
Coach, you stuck it to the defense pretty good there in practice. Does the crispness speak to anything in particular? It's only been a week of practice. (Mark Zinno) "It's early. If you look at all of our practices, they've been pretty balanced out. Yesterday it was a little bit different. I think our guys responded. It's been that way almost through the whole training camp – one day offense, one day defense, one 20-minute period offense, another 20-minute period [defense]. That's what I think gives us a great opportunity to keep getting better – the competition we have every day in practice, the way our practices are set up. I always have loved the way [head coach] John [Harbaugh] practices and makes the [practices] game-like. Young players can really develop here because you are playing the game; you're not just doing drills all the time. We do the drills, we do the fundamentals. That's our foundation. But, ultimately, it has to transfer into the game with coaches on the side, players on the side, you're out there on an island and, basically, you get the job done or not. We did some good things, but I'd say it's been pretty balanced throughout the training camp."
Cam, [Cleveland Browns president] Mike Holmgren was talking about the good job you guys have done developing Joe Flacco. What are some of the special challenges of working with a young quarterback going from the beginning to where he is now? (Aaron Wilson)"I just think the league in general makes it tough on young quarterbacks. And, defenses and defensive coordinators [make it tough on young quarterbacks]. I really marveled last year at how some of the young guys came in and did what they did, because I think in a lot of ways, the college game and the pro game are becoming more and more different. I think, first and foremost, credit goes to Joe [Flacco] and the amount of hard work he has put in and always does. He's always wanting to learn. So, you give the credit to him. I think things are just maturing and growing, getting better. He still can keep getting better and better and better, and no one knows it better than him."
Just to follow up on that, was the first time you saw him at Delaware, that workout that you and a bunch of other guys went to? Is that the first time you saw him in person? (Aaron Wilson)"It's really 100 years ago, but yeah."
What jumped out at you from the start? (Aaron Wilson)"In my mind, I was new here, and I had so much respect for this scouting staff. For them to say, 'Let's go look at this guy,' that told me something already. You're not going to work a guy out that isn't pretty good. He's not a fragile guy. Things that affect some guys don't affect him. Like I said, we came out, we ran routes on a – you've heard the story – [field with] no lines, receivers he didn't know, new footballs, all this stuff, and he just never blinks. Things don't affect Joe like they affect some other guys."
Speaking of Joe, it's been said that Ben Grubbs told a radio station yesterday that Flacco wasn't allowed to audible very often. Is that accurate? (*Editor's note: It has been confirmed that Grubbs never made such a statement.) *
Do you expect there to be more leeway with Joe to kind of take more control of the offense? (Matt Vensel) "I didn't hear what Ben [Grubbs] said, but Joe has a lot of flexibility. It varies from game to game. Sometimes it's not always tied into what the quarterback can do. It depends on your offensive line … There are a lot of factors that go into your ability to audible. I guess the best way for me to word it is there is nothing that we wouldn't be able to do with Joe Flacco at quarterback from any aspect of the game."
With some of the guys not being here, Bryant McKinnie hasn't been out at practice, Dennis Pitta is not out there and some receivers are injured, too … At what point do you need to get the core first team set ready to go? When does it become a concern? (Pete Gilbert)"Over time you just realize that you have to focus on the guys that you have at the time. You have to focus on what you can control. People are going to go down. You have to get the next guy ready. That's another thing that Joe is phenomenal at. That stuff doesn't faze him. He treats everybody equally. You can see – we had some guys down today – he comes in and he expects to execute, and he expects other guys to execute. I think that expectation helps us, because we're not real big on excuses or any of that stuff. We just go with the guys we've got. We've got a job to get done, and we'll find a way no matter who is out there. I really believe that, and I think our guys believe that. We didn't have 'Q' [Anquan Boldin] the last two games last year; you can go on and on and on over the last four years, a variety of things. We've got a job to get done, and we've got a quarterback whose mindset understands that, and we just get done what we need to get done."
What have you seen from Kelechi Osemele at right tackle? (Ryan Mink)"Just what we had hoped we would see – a big, athletic, tough, smart football player who will get better every snap he plays. He's going to just keep getting better, better and better for the next three or four years. I would imagine he'll be just like Michael [Oher] – every snap get better, every day get better, every week, every game. It's just a matter of getting his fundamentals down and getting him some game experience. As you guys know, we draft people around here for a reason. We've got us another one."
Coach, LaQuan Williams has looked really good throughout camp. Is there anything you can attribute to him just taking such a major step this year? (Kris Jones) "If you get to know him, it's real obvious. He's a great young man. He works hard, he tough, he's hard-nosed, he's consciences. I said this about the last year's rookie class – and I don't know this rookie class quite as well yet, even though we've had more time with them – but I was amazed at how receptive they were to the veteran leadership. LaQuan came in, and he's like a veteran. Guys that approach the game the way our veterans do around here are going to get better. You're going to get better. The way the practices are set up, the way we are trained to think around here and the way to go about what we do, if you buy in, you put both feet in and you're all in with what we're doing, you're going to get better, and he's one of those guys."
What have you seen from Bobby Rainey so far? (Matt Zenitz)"I've read a little bit about what has been said, and it's pretty accurate. He's smart, which is the first thing you have to find out, because defenses don't make it easy anymore. He's really smart. The athletic ability speaks for itself. He's got great quickness, he's got great strength. I think he and Ray [Rice] are about the same size. He's not small. He may not be as tall as some guys, but he's a good-sized kid. It's probably a little premature, but I think he is going to do really well in the preseason games. I'd be surprised if he doesn't."
Have you been impressed with the timing patterns that seem to be on point between Joe Flacco and the receivers? How much work have you seen Joe and the receivers do this offseason to really be on the same page? (Jason Butt) "The one thing that our guys are doing a great job of is, given the new collective bargaining agreement, is maximizing the time that they do have. Joe was at all the OTAs [Organized Team Activities] and was prepared to be at the [mandatory] minicamp until Dana [Joe's wife] had their son, Stephen. They got a lot of work done this offseason. Joe is as good as I have been around at maximizing every day and every minute of practice. He's not a guy that likes to waste time, and he doesn't like people around him that are wasting time, and that's how you get good."
Once Torrey Smith warmed up last year, he took off from there. What do you see from him now in his second season? (Aaron Wilson) "I don't know that he necessarily 'warmed up.' I bet it looks that way, but that's really just part of the process. Guys don't just spring into this league and go against the best defenses in the world and just catch three touchdowns in a half. That takes some work. He was just getting better – it really was. He's another one of those guys that just gets better. He and LaQuan are very similar. They just come to work and they get better, and they have an ability to learn and put things behind them. Some guys can learn, but they can't put things behind them, and I think the great players can do that because that's what this league is about – putting negatives behind you, moving forward, get better. And, I think you will see him continue to grow."
What might you guys do with Torrey, with the growth? What do you think he can do this year? (Aaron Wilson) "You look at the last game he played [AFC Championship Game at New England], that we saw him play. I guess, to sum it up, we just like to pick up, with him at least, where we left off. So far, he has done that."
Cam, when do you start to get a sense for just how good your offense is going to be? Comparing this year to where it was at last year, where does it compare? Is it further ahead than it was last year at this point? (Ryan Mink) "It still is really early, as you know. First of all, we should be ahead of where we were last year, so that would be the expectation. I'll let everybody else kind of judge that. We have a few new faces, but probably not as many. I would think that if we continue to work the way we are working, have a little luck with injuries, stay healthy, you'll see us get better throughout the course of the season. That's the important thing, because then you have an opportunity then to play your best football in December and January. That's probably the next step for us. We've played well, actually, in January at times, but we need to be playing our best in January and December and November. Add those other two months for you guys that are getting ready to quote me on January. (laughter) That's the goal, and that's obviously what we are trying to get done."
Cam, how would you assess the battle for the backup running back position? And what will go into winning that job? (Evan Washburn) "Well, preseason games, No. 1, because I really like our group. We have to get Bernard [Pierce] healthy, because obviously, he is very talented. You mentioned Bobby. But, Anthony [Allen] and Damien [Berry] are doing a nice job. So, it's nice to have four young backs that you can look at. So, we'll be rolling those guys through in the preseason games, whether we'll play them a quarter each, a half each, however we'll do that. But, it'll be as obvious to you as it is to us. It usually turns out that way. But, obviously, I think, No .1, hanging on to the football when you hand it to them, catch it when you throw it to them, get his man blocked in pass protection and bring the toughness and attitude we are looking for. I think all those guys have it. Now, we just have to see when the lights come on."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Feel a little different being indoors today? (Joe Platania) "Yes, the sun's not beating down and killing us. (laughter) Yes, it was actually kind of good being in here, just from the standpoint of getting out of the sun a little bit. I think John [Harbaugh] made a wise choice just kind of getting out of that, and I'm sure that's what the thought process was."
What's your impression of Pernell McPhee after his second day [practicing]? (Ed Lee) "Well, he's still in kind of an acclamation phase. He has committed to just a couple of days here of kind of getting acclimated before he can really get into the thick of it and that kind of stuff. But, he seems like he's moving around pretty well."
Does it look like the knee is not hampering [McPhee] anymore? (Ed Lee) "I wouldn't say that yet, because … I'll tell you after I watch the film, because I really don't focus just on him. I'm watching the whole defense, so to sit there and tell you whether it did or whether it didn't, I'd have to watch the film. It doesn't sound like it, but I don't know for sure."
How is Jimmy Smith doing? I saw him go off the field. (Aaron Wilson) "I don't know. I'd have to go in and find out afterwards. He just went down. I know he grabbed his back. That's all I saw, so I don't really know the extent of it."
What have you seen so far in the competition between him [Jimmy Smith] and Cary Williams for cornerback? (Matt Vensel)"It's great competition. We are very lucky to have two big guys like that fighting for that position. That's kind of a luxury. That's a very fortunate situation for us, and I think the both of them are handling it very well. They are both doing really well in the classroom – both doing well on the field. So, I think right now it's still a great competition."
Do you think too much is made of that battle because you are going to be using nickel a lot, I'm sure, with that kind of talent? (Matt Vensel)"You guys have watched enough NFL football to know that two corners are not going to get you through a season or even through a game. So, between sub, nickel, dime, all that kind of stuff where you use corners, where you get teams that run three-wide … New England, who knows what the hell personnel they might be in. (laughter) So, you are going to use all those guys. They will probably end up with a lot, probably equal snaps, anyhow. Really, in my eyes, everybody is a starter that plays on any unit because you could start a game … We have a 'Raven' defense, which is four DBs. We have a sub defense, which is five DBs. We might start the game in five DBs, so one of the outside 'backers is out, well, that guy's a starter – that fifth DB is actually a starter. He started the game, but if we started in 'Raven,' that doesn't mean the other guy. So, we think of all those guys … If they are contributing in a package somewhere, they are really a starter on defense. So, all of those guys are or will be a starter at corner, basically."
With Courtney [Upshaw] not being out here for a couple of days, being a rookie and how much it seems like you will have to rely on him, when do you start getting worried that he hasn't been able to be out here? (Pete Gilbert) "The good thing is … I'll start getting worried if it's halfway through the preseason. What we just need to do is get him out there, especially in some preseason games, and have him hit, get hit, and actually play. It's one thing to go out and practice. There's different situations here in practice that are just not the same as game-type tempo and game-type situations, and that's why we need to get him out there. And, I'm not too concerned, yet, until if we get down the road and he's not playing any games. Then I will be concerned."
Coach, I know you were coaching the linebackers before being a defensive coordinator, but what kind of relationship did you have with Ed Reed since you've been here, or is that just something that you are just now establishing with him? (Jason Butt) "No. I think I have always had a great relationship with Ed Reed. I think too much is made sometimes of position coaches of just doing their position. When we meet as a defense, and we have done that ever since I've been here with coach [Greg] Mattison, with coach [Chuck] Pagano; I know they did it with Rex [Ryan] before that, and we do it now. We did it in New England. I think most places do it. We all meet together. So, we have one big room in there that has 40 guys in it with all the coaches. So, everything that we talk out on defense, we talk out. Everybody hears about everybody. If a defensive back is not right, the D-line hears it. If the D-line's not right, the secondary hears it. It's a unit. We may break up after that and go a few minutes to your position meeting. So, when you have a room like that and everybody is together, everybody gets to know everybody pretty well. And, I think everyone has a good working relationship with all positions."
When you go through practice and see the strengths and weaknesses of some of these guys, particularly the younger guys, does it change your philosophy a little bit on how you are going to replace someone like Terrell Suggs in the defense, both schematically and individually? (Mark Zinno) "I think it will eventually. I don't think it does right now in practice. You still have to install your defenses, because you have to find out after you go through everything. You can't just stop and all of a sudden say, 'Well, we can't try that because of this.' You have to try everything. You have to install everything, and see how everything works. Then, I think you analyze as you go through the preseason and play some games. You put guys in tough situations. It may not be something you would normally call during the year, but you call it in preseason, because if you're going to try something and it's going to screw up, that's the time to screw it up. So, you are going to put guys in different positions to find out about them. Then, I think as the preseason wears on, you start making those decisions and tweaking what you need to do to do the best with your personnel that you have."
You talked about versatility, and Albert McClellan came as an outside 'backer, an inside 'backer last year … It seems like he's back to outside 'backer now. Where do you see him fitting in? (Ed Lee) "Both. The same thing, he is one of those guys that we talked to. He knows that when he sits in the classroom, he is primarily an outside 'backer, but knows all the inside stuff, too. Some practices he gets a little bit inside and some practices he doesn't. The other thing of it is that we already kind of know he can do a little bit at inside and some of these other guys, we don't. So, you can't get everybody every rep. You want to try to get guys that you want to be able to evaluate, so that's kind of what we do. He is still a very versatile player."
And how much have injuries hurt his chances or his trying to become a starter on defense? (Ed Lee) "You mean like from past years? Well, right now it's nothing, because last year is last year. Whether it's the season … I don't care what anybody did last year, it means nothing. It means absolutely nothing. Everything is reestablished; that's what I told those guys. Somebody once wrote that we were defending AFC North Champions. No, we are just AFC North Champions. We don't have to defend anything. When you defend something, that means you can lose it. As far as I know, we will always be 2011 AFC North Champions. You are not a defending Super Bowl Champion; you are just the Super Bowl Champion. You don't have to defend. You defend your life, you defend family, and you defend your country. You don't defend stuff from football, so everyone starts new every year."
Has Corey Graham been even better than you expected? (Ryan Mink) "We are really pleased with him. Again, there is a type of guy that is versatile. He has come in and played some corner. We knew he was a real good special teams player. We put him in at nickel. Very smart, very intelligent, love guys like that. Hard worker ... [He] doesn't say, 'Boo.' Just goes to work. [I] told him to learn a little safety; you never know what might happen. We always want to try to have all our bases covered. [Graham] does it. So, [I'm] just really, really pleased with where he is right now."
What have been your early impressions Ryan McBean, and what can he bring to this defensive line rotation? (Luke Jones) "Well, he is still learning the system. I think sometimes certain systems you come from can really be drastically different. I think he is a physical, tough guy – works hard, knows what to do, just still kind of learning the terminology. Some of the new guys that have come in have really … That's one of the things that they have said to me; our terminology may be really different than what somebody else's is, so sometimes they hear it and it takes a while for them to learn it. The guy is working hard, he's tough, he's physical. [He] just kind of has to learn our technique that we want just a little better."
Coach, with the three cornerbacks brings different strengths to the table. How much is that a benefit and how much does that allow you to be creative? (Matt Zenitz) "Well, that will allow you to be very creative. If a guy can blitz, we will get him in the blitz. I hope they can all blitz. I hope they can all cover, but you are going to sit down at the end of the preseason, you are going to sit down and evaluate where everybody is, what is the best fit, how can we utilize the guys in the best position – whether it be a cover corner or whether it be a blitz corner or [if] he's better in zone, whatever it might be. Where can we position him to help us, and what's also best for him? It's a great versatility. They all bring different things to the table, but they all have similar traits, too."