BALTIMORE RAVENS TRAINING CAMP TRANSCRIPTS
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "Thanks for being here. I want to welcome Tyler [Southern, from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center] and his wife Ashley. Thanks for being here. Thanks for what you do. Thank you very much. We appreciate it. Awesome. Also, [we had a] great crowd, a lot of kids here today. Just a real fun atmosphere inside. Obviously, it's a little cooler in here, had them in shells – good, fast, crisp practice. I thought they looked pretty good. As far as the game goes – that's what you're getting ready to ask, right? It will be a standard first preseason game concept, so we'll be looking at anywhere from a certain set number of plays to about a quarter, maybe a quarter-plus for some of the starters. That's kind of what we're targeting, but not everybody is on exactly the same schedule. Some guys won't play at all. Some of the more senior veterans guys won't play at all by design. From an injury standpoint, not really too much has changed. You can ask me individually on different guys, but the status hasn't changed on different guys. Tandon Doss was out there today. The guys who you didn't see out here today won't be playing in the game."
For the guys that just came back, like Courtney Upshaw, that haven't had too many practices, will they play Thursday? (Aaron Wilson) "We'll decide by Thursday, but that would be the thought. They probably need to practice a little more. He's been out for over a week, so we probably want to get him practice before we play him."
You're going to have different refs out there. What do you tell these guys about that situation? (Aaron Wilson) "We don't even think about that. The refs will be fine. They will be what they are. Everybody is going to try to do their best. Our guys have plenty of things to worry about besides the officiating."
Coach, I know you said you are in training camp mode, but there is some value, isn't there, in going down to Atlanta, getting on a plane and simulating yourself to life in the NFL? (Jerry Coleman) "Absolutely. For us, that really is training camp mode. It's part of the training camp process. It's not a regular season game, so we don't treat it like that, but it's a big part of the training camp process. It's' going to be really fun to get down there and see where we're at."
How are the young centers like Gino Gradkowski and Justin Boren progressing? (Ed Lee) "They are progressing very well – probably a little quicker than we expected mentally. Both of those two guys are really sharp guys. We've had some issues with [shotgun] snaps, like you might expect, so they have to smooth those things out. They both are very athletic, have very good feet. The question with those guys, because they are not the biggest guys ever, is how they are going to hold up physically. We have a pretty big front, and they have held up fine."
John, what would go into the decision of whether or not to carry three quarterbacks? And if you carry three, would it allow you to use Tryod Taylor in different ways because you have a third quarterback on the roster? (Steve Davis) "The second, that's probably true. It would give you a little more leeway that way. Although, no matter what, we are going to try to find ways to get him on the field anyway he can because he is such a good athlete. But that's probably true. What we'll go into it [with] is what's best for our team, what gives us the best 53-man roster, and we're probably a long way from knowing that. We have three or even four quarterbacks that we really, really like that are, obviously, good enough to be on our team. It's just going to depend on the other positions and what we decide to do with numbers."
John, it was another somber day for Andy Reid and his family. Did you and Ozzie Newsome both go up there for the funeral? (Aaron Wilson) "I went up with [general manager and executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome]. Sean Considine went up. Heather Matjasic, my assistant, went up. She was in Philly at one time. [Kicking consultant] Randy Brown was up there, too. It was very emotional. It's bittersweet. Like any funeral, it's so great to see so many people that you care so much about. I saw Vicki Johnson, [former Eagles defensive coordinator] Jim Johnson's wife. I hadn't seen her for a couple of years. That was really a great moment. I got to see [Andy Reid's daughter] Crosby sing. [It was] just a sad time for the family, but Andy and Tammy were really strong, really welcoming of everybody. And, it was, as funerals go and difficult situations, I thought they really made it very positive for everybody."
John, for something that hits so close home to you, being a part of the Eagles family, how do you make the transition to get yourself in practice mode for your guys here today? (Mark Zinno) "You know what? That's probably a credit to our guys, to our coaches, our players. Our guys are business-like. We've got a lot of momentum. Our guys know how to conduct themselves. We have great leadership here – player leadership and coach leadership. That's what you lean on. That's what it takes."
Does the restricted contact during practice that the new CBA enforces make the preseason games that much more important? (Pete Gilbert) "You might look at it that way, you might assume that, but, actually, we've done as much contact stuff this camp, pretty much, as we've done in any camp. We never did a lot, but we always tackle to the ground, pretty much every day. We've done that pretty much every day. I'd say we're right on schedule with that. Like always, the preseason games are a full game of live football, so it's the next step, and it's really important."
What do you look for in the offense vs. Atlanta? Is it all about timing? (Kevin Cowherd) "Yes. It's all about timing and execution. How crisp do we play? How do we execute under pressure? How do the guys take that execution from a practice environment and take it to a game environment against another team in a live-type situation? It's all about executing our offense."
Josh Bynes has been out awhile. Is there anything particular about Josh? (Aaron Wilson)"In a goal-line scrimmage a couple of weeks ago, Josh had a back injury that probably sounds worse than it is. On the end of your vertebrate – and I'm not going to get any names right because I haven't thought about it here – but he basically chipped a couple of pieces off of the boney protrusions on the spine. It happens sometimes in car accidents. It was really unusual for a football injury. It's about a four-week injury, maybe a five-week injury. So, that's what he's doing right now, and he's coming along really well."
How do you draw the fine line in the first preseason game, especially with some of the older guys, between aggressiveness and being cautious and not getting hurt? (Mark Zinno) "You can't draw that line. You have to be completely aggressive. You have to be 100 percent aggressive in order to give yourself the 100 percent best chance not to get hurt. As soon as you start thinking about not getting hurt, that's when you get caught up in a bad situation."
Quarterbacks Coach Jim Caldwell
Where have you seen the most improvement in Joe [Flacco] from the start of camp, I guess since the start of spring, until now? (Ryan Mink) "One of the great things about him is he tries to improve in every facet, from his drops, to his reads, to his checks – the whole gamut. Obviously, being familiar with the offense – and this is his fourth, going on his fifth, season within it – he is improving by leaps and bounds in almost every area. He is just becoming a little bit more comfortable with the things that he's doing, and he's throwing the ball well. There are a number of things that I think you see him doing a lot better than he had done previously. He just keeps improving. He's getting rid of the ball quickly, and we are trying to certainly work on all the little things that make you a consistent performer."
Jim, you haven't too often worked with a new starting quarterback for so long in any course you had. Building that relationship, what are some of the things that you look at to make sure we get that foundation right and go forward? (Pete Gilbert) "Well, the big thing is we are big on fundamentals around here, and that's key. I think those are the basic foundations to everything that you do, the basic rudiments of the game, of playing the position from the ground up. We work with footwork, first of all, to make certain that's solid and sound. We work on it every single day, because that's the start of either making a good throw or a poor throw in some situations. Obviously, with the ball handling and things that come along with that, it may seem somewhat simple, center-quarterback exchange, [but] all those things that you all are basically fairly easy can be fairly complex because of the fact that, obviously, the quarterbacks handle the ball more than anybody else. So, we have to spend some time working on that facet. And then, just the normal things that you would ordinarily, [we must] think about in terms of handling the ball, making certain we can place it on the body in proper perspective, where we want it thrown, and then also, with the progression reads and things of that nature. So, we work on that constantly."
Coach, how much do you expect a look at some of the other quarterbacks besides Joe [Flacco] on Thursday? (Jerry Coleman) "I think we will get a pretty good look. Obviously, John [Harbaugh] will set the table for who plays when and how long. But, I think you will get an opportunity to see, obviously, most of the guys we have here on the roster at the position."
Jim, obviously, it is hard to make a straight line comparison between Joe [Flacco] and Peyton [Manning], but now that you have coached him up through training camp, are there any similarities you are seeing between the two? (Mark Zinno) "Well, they are different. Everybody is a little bit different now. Joe has his real strengths, and Peyton has his. I wouldn't make any direct comparison. I can tell you this: Joe is a heck of a football player. He can throw the ball. He plays extremely well. He does what he does extremely well, and that's the key."
What are you looking for in Tyrod Taylor on Thursday night? (Ed Lee) "Improvement. I think, No. 1, that he hasn't had a whole lot of snaps, so I think this preseason he will get quite a few. He also has become a lot more comfortable with the system, and you can just see him growing by leaps and bounds. Today, he had a pretty good day out there throwing the ball, and we've seen that pretty much every day. So, it's a steady climb for him. The more reps he gets, I think the better he will be. [Taylor is] certainly not perfect, but obviously, he has some things you just can't teach in terms of his ability to escape and run and make plays outside of the pocket."
It seems that Curtis [Painter] has fewer reps than Tyrod [Taylor] during camp. What are you looking for from him, just an opportunity for him to take more reps? (Ed Lee)"Obviously, that's the case, because he hasn't [had] a whole lot up to this point, but he's had a fair share. Hopefully, we plan on getting him a few new during the preseason games and see if he can continue to improve."
Jim, in your mind, how important is it for the quarterback to be the leader of the offense or even the team? (Ryan Mink) "I think the position in itself is a leadership position. I don't think there's any question about that. As they go, so goes the team. It's also a position that when things don't go well, they get too much blame, and when things go well, they get too much credit. I do think that everybody sort of marches to his orders for the most part. He's going to generate the speed in which our offense operates. He is certainly going to make a difference in terms of precision, in terms of routes and things of that nature, getting people where he's comfortable with him. His ability to lead from the line of scrimmage, and on and off the field, I think, is very important, and Joe is a very, very fine leader. They always say the mark of a true leader is a man who can lead himself, and he can lead himself."
Jim, how has the transition been for you back to a position coach, and how is your relationship been with Cam Cameron? (Luke Jones) "My transition has been fun, actually. I've had a ball having an opportunity to get down in the trenches again and work and do the things that I love. There are a lot of aspects to coaching, and I really enjoy really just the rudiments of play and the basics and being able to work with the guys one-on-one. Cam and I have always had a great relationship. I knew him before I came here, and he's a very, very good football coach. He does a tremendous job, and I'm happy to be here on the staff with those guys. He does a great job."
Jim, how concerned are you about mistakes, interceptions, this time of year, or now is the time to take risks? (Zach Helfand) "There is a delicate balance in that. I think you have to certainly be conscious of turnovers, but I think you play smart and not scared. And, that's what we try and preach. We don't certainly want anyone playing inhibited, fearful of the fact that they might throw an interception or two. There are good players on the other side of the ball as well. In our league, that much space is open, so a guy has to be willing … He has to be a little bit of a riverboat gambler with a short memory. We kind of preach being aggressive at that position as well."
Jim, can you explain a little bit more about Joe [Flacco] leading himself? (Ryan Mink)"I said he has the ability to lead himself. There's that old saying, it's an adage, 'The mark of a true leader is a man who can lead himself.' So, often times when you look for people who are in leadership positions, you very rarely find guys who don't have their life in order, who don't do the things the right way, aren't on time, [have] great study habits, things of that nature. He has all of those qualities, and obviously, as you see, he just continues to blossom. I think he is probably even more open now than he has ever been. I know you guys have him coming up after me, but he's comfortable where he is, comfortable in his own skin. I think that's a big plus in playing that position. He knows his strengths and weaknesses, and he is trying to improve on his weaknesses and develop his strengths even more."
QB Joe Flacco
On whether he was sending a message with the football that he threw close to the media: "I just wanted to see if I could scare you guys at all. I was a little bit scared about where the ricochet might come off and hit somebody, but I just wanted to send a little scare. I said, 'Hey, you think it'd be funny if I did it?' And everybody was like, 'Yeah, do it. Do it. Do it.'" (laughter)
On if it was a unanimous decision to make the throw: "Yeah, it was unanimous." (laughter)
On how much more comfortable he feels in this camp compared to prior years: "I don't know. I'm somebody that always feels pretty comfortable or is looking to feel comfortable and doing all the things I can to do it. But I would say this camp, it's definitely been a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun; we've got a lot of young guys, so it's very easy to keep your spirits up and stay … It's just a very comfortable environment that we create around here, and I think that's why we've been able to be successful, and I think this year, more so than ever, we have a lot of guys on the team that are easy to be around. And I think that definitely helps your mindset and stuff like that when you're at training camp."
On expectations for himself this Thursday at Atlanta: "I don't know, I haven't even figured out how long I'm playing yet. So, we'll see, but hopefully my expectations will be we get the ball, whether it's to open the game or once they turn the ball over on downs or whatever happens, and we go down and score a touchdown, and then that'll be a good day."
On if he's excited to see where the offense stacks up against another team: "It's whatever. I'm not excited to see where we stack up; I'm excited to get out there and play a football game. But I don't really care to see how we stack up. I feel pretty confident about our group, and like I said, I don't know how much of a test we're going to actually have. We'll find out how many plays we're going to play. Sometimes you only play a handful of plays; it doesn't really give you an accurate reading on what you're going to be like. So, I'm definitely excited to get out there and play a football game. It's been awhile, and it's what we love to do. So, I'm definitely excited about that, but as far as where we stack up, I think we're getting pretty good and making our way, and this game's not going to have anything to do with how we'll play the rest of the season."
On how he would describe his chemistry with G/C Gino Gradkowski and G/C Justin Boren:"Pretty good. I mean, these guys haven't been around for long. [It's] Justin's second year here, Gino's first year here, so I would say it's close to as good as it gets for a short amount of time. Obviously, we're growing and trying to get some shotgun snaps better, and there [are] things that are going to come up during the year that we might not be perfectly synchronized with yet, and that's why we worked a little bit of silent count today and things like that, that we haven't done too much of in the past. So, it's definitely a work in progress. But hey, I can't complain about it."
On whether he would like to play more in the Atlanta game if he had it his way: "I don't know. I don't really know. It's a little boring [being on the sideline], yeah, but that's the way it is. We've got a lot of guys here that have put a lot – and I'm not really talking about myself – but we've got a lot of guys here that have put a ton of reps in during training camp. So, to go out there, get a good warm-up in, play a handful of snaps and get comfortable with themselves, get comfortable with making the routes out there in kind of a primetime situation and just getting used to it again, that kind of works pretty well, especially since these receivers and offensive linemen have put so many miles on during training camp. It's not like we're in our peak physical condition that we would be on a Sunday, so you don't want to go out there and you don't want to get anybody hurt by playing them a million plays. So, that's why I think giving them a nice warm-up is pretty good, because anything more than that, their legs, you don't know how much they're going to hold up."
On how critical it is for young receivers like Tommy Streeter and Deonte Thompson to distinguish themselves in the preseason: "I think the important thing for that is just to give them some confidence, so that when we need to call on them, they can look back at this experience and say, 'You know what? I've been thrown in there and I've made the best with what I have, and I've capitalized on my opportunity.' I think these practices are really important. I think those guys are making huge strides, and like I said, having said that, I think it'll be a big thing for their confidence and our confidence as a unit. Other than that, I think they're going to make a lot of strides here."
On whether he senses that WR Torrey Smith is more driven entering his second year: "I sense that he's just out there having fun and playing football, and he's really dedicated to be a great [player]. And he says he's kind of focused on the plays he missed in the past and stuff like that. You know, they're gone, and he's going to have plenty more opportunities to make plays. And I think the biggest thing for him is to make sure he capitalizes on those as much as he can, and I think that's what he's working towards and I think he's doing a great job."
On what excites him about how much better Smith can become:"He's a young guy, and it's just fun to have a guy like that. Hopefully, we'll both be here for a very long time and just kind of grow up together. And it's just awesome when you have a good kid like that, that wants to do everything right and wants to be the best. It's very easy to work with him."
On if moving the ball on offense is the most important thing in Thursday night's game at Atlanta: "Yeah, obviously. I think when you get in the game, you want to go down there and you want to do well. I don't think it's the end of the world [if you don't], but it's definitely something that we strive to do every time we take the field is go down there and put points on the board."
On if the offense can take positives away from last year or if it has to start over: "I think every year you start over, but we have a lot of confidence. There is no lack of confidence in this group. There is no lack of confidence in this team. We've been there, and we've done most of it. We've got to get a little bit better, just like everybody does. Hopefully, we're putting in the work. We have confidence that we're putting in the work to get that much better than everybody else and really make the strides where we need to."
On how much of a matchup problem the tight end duo of TEs Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta create for defenses: "It's pretty big, because we're able to do multiple things out of it. You have to pick how you're going to defend us. Are you going to keep your regular package in there? Are you going to bring a nickel guy out, a little guy to cover one of those guys? We can kind of play off of that and see where we want to go. But, those guys are great athletes and they can do a lot – they can run block, they can pass catch and they're smart. They get the game of football, so when you have two guys like that, it definitely makes it hard on a defense. We just have to grow and grow in that area and make that package even bigger than what it was last year."
On his relationship with QBs coach Jim Caldwell: "Great so far. Jim is just big on communication, and he wants to get it right. He's in our room to make sure that everything is clear to me. Jim is a great guy; you can tell if you talk to him for two seconds. It's a very easy relationship. It will be a lot of fun this year as we go through the season and win a lot of games and continue to have that communication and just get better."
On if there is any specific area where Caldwell has helped him grow his game: "So far, we're out here just doing our drill work and everything like that, but I think the biggest thing has been the conversations that we've had in the classroom about certain plays and how we can grow this and how we can do this a little bit better, maybe a little bit different way to think about something or go through a progression on one of the plays. But yeah, the conversations, I think, we've had in the classroom have been the biggest thing so far."
On if bouncing ideas off of Caldwell during the season is the biggest reason for him being there:"I think his biggest thing is to make sure that everything is clear in the quarterback's mind and that I know what's going on and I am comfortable with what everybody is doing. He does a great job of that, and we play off of each other very well."
On what he attributes throwing 31 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the red zone over the last two years to: "I don't know. You've got to be smart in the red zone, and you want to score points. You really want to score touchdowns. When you get down there, you have to put the ball in the end zone in this league. In this era of football, you really have to put touchdowns on the board as much as you can. Thirty-one touchdowns, I don't really know where that stacks up. I am sure people are blowing me away in the touchdown category. To have no turnovers, it's definitely a big thing, because it means we're getting points. But, the biggest thing for me [is] I'd like to see that grow and having 60 touchdowns and no picks so that we can put even more points on the board and put more pressure on the other team's offense, get more turnovers and things like that."