RAVENS SEASON-ENDING PRESS CONFERENCE
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti's opening statement:
"Thanks for coming. I'll start out by saying you're used to having three of us up here. Lucky for us this meeting is taking place a few weeks later than it did last year, and that put Ozzie [Newsome] right at the Senior Bowl. So, of course, he's not going to be here today. John [Harbaugh] and I will do our best to answer your questions. We can get started right away."
Despite not making it to the Super Bowl, how dissatisfied are you really this year, or are you dissatisfied at all?
*(BISCIOTTI) *"To say you're not dissatisfied, everybody [knows] that's what the goal is. That's why these guys put in the work that they do. Sure, we're disappointed, but I think that – we talked about it in 2006 when we went 13-3 and the disappointment of losing to the Colts – it's the same thing. I feel it two years later. But, I wouldn't change that terrible feeling of disappointment with the slow burn of disappointment of the other two years -- last year and in 2005 when we went 6-10 and 5-11. There's no one singular event that disappoints or exhilarates like winning or losing a playoff game. I said a couple of years ago, if you're a successful organization you're going to set yourself up for this kind of disappointment. We want to be a player, we want to be an elite team, and hopefully, this is the beginning of that. I don't think many teams experienced the last four years from six wins to 13, down to five and then up to 11. So, we've got to smooth that out and, hopefully, this guy [Harbaugh] is going to help us do that."
What are your thoughts a year after hiring John Harbaugh as head coach on what he did this season?
(BISCIOTTI) *"He's aged a little bit, hasn't he? Look at that. *[Laughing] I think he's done a great job. John is just such a wonderful communicator; he's a very considerate person. I got to know John, but I also got to know his whole family this year, and they are a wonderful group. I'm very lucky. I got to see his dad and his brother within 10 minutes after that game, and I just said I'm very happy to know the Harbaugh family. And it is a family. It's the way he was raised. It's the way he was taught to treat people. And, I think the Ravens are going to benefit from that upbringing."
Have you given thought to what might have happened if Jason Garrett had accepted the head coaching position a year ago?(BISCIOTTI) *"We'd be 5-11. *[Laughing] I'm teasing. No, I really didn't, because that's such speculation. I have no idea how that would have gone. I really don't. It wouldn't be fair [to speculate]."
What do you think the likelihood of Ray Lewis returning is and would the team consider putting a franchise tag on Ray?*(BISCIOTTI) *"That's a question for Ozzie. I don't see the franchise tag. I've been hopeful forever that we're going to work a deal. I said last year to you, in our one year interview – I don't think that other people are going to value Ray Lewis higher than we do. We know what he brings to the table, and he's showing that at 33 he's capable of playing like a 28-year-old. So, I've got my wife on a budget already to try and save some money so we can sign him."
How much will your personal relationship with Ray Lewis affect the negotiations?
*(BISCIOTTI) *"It won't. I can't avoid personal relationships with people that are high-quality people in this organization – you know what I mean – with the fear that that's going to taint the way I view this thing. I have so much respect for Ozzie Newsome. And that's more of a decision between John and Ozzie, and I hope I'm just having a dinner with Ray to celebrate a new contract. But, my friendship can't influence things like that or Ozzie wouldn't want me in this building. There are a lot of guys on this team that I admire, and Ray is really at the top of that list. And, nobody loves and respects Ray more than Ozzie. So, in Ozzie we trust, as they say."
What do you think Ray Lewis has meant to the Ravens organization?
*(BISCIOTTI) *"Wow. John has got a snapshot of it. I got involved in 2000, but I was a fan of Ray Lewis before I bought the team. There are very few people that I know in sports that transcend their statistics. We had the luxury of watching Cal Ripken simultaneously do the same thing to the Orioles. I think they bring a sense of continuity, a sense of leadership that we're all looking for. It's why we're all sports fans – to look up to people. And, I think Ray has given Baltimore that. I certainly don't want to see him in another uniform, but you guys document that well. There are some of the very greats of the game that have had to move on, and we're going to do our best to prevent that."
What other coaches do you expect may leave now that Rex Ryan has officially been named the Jets head coach?*(HARBAUGH) *"We've allowed Mike Pettine to join Rex, obviously, as his defensive coordinator. That was a significant upgrade for Mike and an opportunity for him that we would not want to deny him. We think that's a loss as well. So, we've lost two very good coaches right here in the building. Like we talked with the team about the other day, we need to become stronger – in everything we do – players, coaches, scheme. In everything we do we need to become stronger and that goes for our coaching staff as well. So, we've pretty much decided – I'd say we've decided – to keep that [defensive coordinator] position in-house. We're talking to different guys right now on the staff trying to figure out what makes us best and makes us strongest. We have a number of good candidates here. They are tremendous coaches, and they all want to do what's best for our football team first and what's best for our players first. And, we'll work that out the next few days."
*(BISCIOTTI) *"I hear Buddy Ryan is available."
*(HARBAUGH) *"He'd be a Raven."
What role, if any, will you play with the other NFL owners in the negotiation of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement?*(BISCIOTTI) *"Not much of one. I desired from the day I got in here to get on the broadcast committee, and when Roger [Goodell] took over for Paul [Tagliabue], he got a couple of young guys like me and Mark Richardson on the broadcast committee. He shifted up a lot of the committees. I don't have much experience dealing with labor unions. Those are the two main committees in the NFL, and I'm very happy to be on the broadcast side. I like the idea of negotiating to bring more money in than fighting how much money is going to go out. I'm not geared that way. So, I really am just going to watch and learn and see how it goes. I'm very hopeful that we're going to get this thing worked out and that we'll have continuation of play."
As an owner, how would you like the Ravens to be characterized as a team?
*(BISCIOTTI) *"There are some great images out there. What the Patriots have done… They've continued to lose coaches and lose great players and continued to grow. I think that success breeds success, and I think we're on the way. We've got a group of guys here, and I think that they want to play for John Harbaugh. And, that's a great start for us. And [we have] Ozzie Newsome. The nice thing about Ozzie not being here is that I can compliment him because he wouldn't allow me to do it if he was sitting up here. But, when you look at what John brought and the fresh ideas and the motivation he brought to this team and then you look at what Ozzie did in free agency – you go down the list and you look at the free agents that we got – with one trade in the fourth round of the draft we got Fabian [Washington], and then we signed Frank Walker and Jim Leonhard and [Brendon] Ayanbadejo and Willie Anderson and Lorenzo Neal. For the cost of one high-priced free agent, he brought six guys in that made a major contribution in all three phases of the game. So, I've got the guys. I've got the kind of character in my coach and my GM that [I want]. It's there. I really believe that they'll bring the type of team that [I want]. There was no trouble in this team all year long – not inside the building or outside the building. I'm very proud of that. That's all I can hope for is that I have a team that the fans are proud of. And I think that our fans are proud of this team, and I hope to keep it that way."
Do you expect Chris McAlister to return next season?
*(BISCIOTTI) *"That's Oz. That's Ozzie and John. It's just not my job. It really isn't. I've gotten along very [well] with Chris McAlister over the years. He's a wonderful guy, he's got a great personality, he's always upbeat. If he fits into our plans, he will [be back]. But, with the salary cap, that's what you're looking at constantly."
How do you feel about Chris McAlister returning?
*(HARBAUGH) *"Chris McAlister is a heck of a player. We've said it all along throughout the course of the season. He's a really good person. If he wants to be a Raven, we'll see how it shakes out in the next few months, and we'll have some conversations about that. But, Chris McAlister is a good man and a good player, and we'll see what happens."
Can you talk how you will go about assessing and addressing needs in the offseason through free agency and the draft?*(HARBAUGH) *"We're going to go about it like we do everything else. We're going to go to work, right? We've already started. Ozzie is down at the Senior Bowl, along with all of our scouts, Eric [DeCosta], working that part of it right now. Free agency, throughout the course of free agency from beginning to end, will be a big part of what we're doing, as well as the draft. Also, developing our players [is crucial]. We talked about the coaching staff. We've got to put the coaching staff together and continue to develop that part of it – develop the players throughout the of-season. It will be March 16 before we know it, and they'll be right back in here lifting. So, we've got a lot of plans to make."
Do you anticipate losing any others from your coaching staff or are they all under contract to stay?
*(HARBAUGH) *"All of our coaches are under contract. So, unless one of them has an opportunity to become a head coach somewhere we can control that. But, we're not really about keeping guys from looking at opportunities either. We want them to have opportunities, so we'll see what happens the next few weeks."
Would you like to say a few words about Rex Ryan?
*(BISCIOTTI) *"Probably it's better for John to speak because he knows what he is as a coach. But, I wish John had more time with Rex. It was a very difficult decision for me to pass Rex up as the coach. I know the defensive players wanted him last year. There's not a finer guy in the league. He is just a pleasure to be around. When we sat down after he didn't get the job, there was no sulking. I promised him that I would work with him more than I ever have. I think I spent a lot of time with Rex in teaching him some of the things that he needed to do. And, John then gave him the opportunity. John really gave him the opportunity to step up and learn what it was like to work cohesively with a head coach and an offensive coordinator, and Rex learned an awful lot this year. I think that he is going to be a great coach in the NFL. I don't see any reason why he can't be."
Have you had the time yet to reflect on your first season as a head coach?
*(HARBAUGH) *"I had the feeling you were going to ask that. I would say to some extent. We had a chance with the players to talk about the players. Obviously, Steve and Ozzie and Dick [Cass], we had a meeting on Monday and some of those things came up. You look back with some pride on what was accomplished. And [I have] some good feelings about our players and our coaches and what we've become together. We've become a football team. And that was the goal last January when we sat up here and talked about what we are going to be about. Our guys have established an identity. We're a rough, tough, disciplined, hard-working, blue-collar kind of football team. And that's what we wanted to be. And that's what we build on from here. We're looking forward all the time. Steve had talked about being satisfied. We're content with where we are at this time, but we're not satisfied. We wouldn't have been [if we had gone to the Super Bowl]. If we had been playing next week we wouldn't have been satisfied with that either. So, our guys understand that. We're excited to move forward."
Can you talk about the gratification of seeing the spirits of Baltimore lifted by the Ravens' success and playoff run?*(BISCIOTTI) *"It is very gratifying. It really is. Like I said, I'm playing for pride. I'm in here for pride, that's it. And to make the fans happy and unified, it's very fulfilling to me. It's really [important]. I know it goes with winning. I know that people feel better when their team wins and so we try and win. But the ultimate is to hand the fans a trophy, and I'm not satisfied until we hand the fans a trophy. And that's what they were all excited about. I'm sure the productivity dropped significantly in Baltimore this week compared to what it was a month ago. It's tough when you lose, and I feel it as a fan and I wish we could have gone further. It means everything to me. I love that part of being an owner in the NFL – to see the fans proud of their team. That's what makes it significant for me."
What surprised you most about the season Joe Flacco had, from the time you first met him to the end of the season?
(HARBAUGH) "I wouldn't say anything surprised us. We had high expectations for Joe, and we were hopeful for a lot of reasons. But his ability to come back week after week and maintain a high level of focus and work ethic over the course of a long season – which is tough for any rookie, let alone a rookie quarterback in the NFL – to go as far as he did, I think that's very telling about what he's all about."
Can we assume that Flacco will be the starter next year with no competition?
*(HARBAUGH) *"There's always competition. Joe knows that. But he's our starter. He's our quarterback."
What are your thoughts on Flacco's development?
(BISCIOTTI) "There's just something about him that you just get the feeling that there's no setbacks on the horizon. There are a lot of quarterbacks out there that are called the 'chosen one,' and then three years later they're a backup somewhere else. So I'm not going to say that he's the quarterback of the next 12 years. I think you know that after three years. I don't think you can really say that after one. The thing is, I think Joe feels that way, too. I don't think he feels like he passed the test. I think he felt like he passed *a *test, and it was the first one. I think that in the next couple years, if we can continue to see his development… As it's been reported to me, he works harder than anybody in the building. He comes in on his day off on Tuesdays and works eight hours. I think one of you said – and I've repeated this 30 times – somebody said, 'How come every time I talk to Joe Flacco it seems like he just woke up from a nap?' There's something about him that just seems that he doesn't get too high or too low on anything, and I don't think he's very impressed with himself. I think he's going to go home, and I think he's going to spend the whole offseason thinking about the things he did wrong, not about the things he did right. So, for that, I'm pleased. We also know he's a man of great character. As John pointed out, he's got some growth, but we know what kind of man we have. He's not going to be out late at night. So I think the sky is the limit for him."
Did any owners touch base with you regarding their coaching searches and ask about your experience with Harbaugh?
(BISCIOTTI) "No, but I had the opportunity to talk to the guys in St. Louis and the guys in New York, talked to Woody Johnson, the owner [of the New York Jets], about Rex. So I was on the other side of that now. It's probably another year or so before they start calling me and asking me how I ended up with [Harbaugh]. But I thought that I owed it to Rex to let them know why I felt why he was right and why he was right now and how he had grown into that job. So that was the extent of my work with the other owners, was with [Rams senior advisor/owners' representative] John Shaw, who was heading the search committee for the Rams, and Woody Johnson."
What do you think of this trend of teams hiring younger head coaches?
(BISCIOTTI) "You called it right. It's a trend. There was a trend for college coaches, and then a few of those situations go sour. Now, people are not running around offering college coaches the jobs after a few of those instances recently, and now it's guys without coordinator experience. Then it's going to go back to guys that have Super Bowl rings on, and there's certainly going to be a ton of them out there from the way that we can count them up next year with [Mike] Shanahan and maybe [Mike] Holmgren coming back and [Bill] Cowher and [Brian] Billick. There's an awful lot of guys out there that have that experience. But I think it's just a trend, and I think that it all cycles around."
What were you experiencing and thinking last Sunday with five minutes left against Pittsburgh?
(BISCIOTTI) "That we did it the week before in Tennessee. I mean, honest to God, that was really what it was. I think that you, just for a defense mechanism, you read and you listen and you watch and you figure that you've got a 50-50 chance of winning the game, but everybody's telling you that you're an underdog. You're playing a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in No. 7, and [Ben] Roethlisberger certainly did that. I sat there and watched one of the great quarterback performances that I've ever witnessed, and I think he was the difference in the game. But we had the ball with four minutes left in the Tennessee game and walked out of there with a win, and when we got the ball back I thought, 'Here we go again. We can do it again.' We had that experience a week earlier, so it was easier for me to conjure up an image of what was going to transpire in those last six minutes."
You have one of the top rivalries in the NFL now with the Steelers. Will you push for more primetime appearances next year?
(BISCIOTTI) "We'll get our primetime appearances. The league does what works for them. I'm glad that I get to say that I know there's this word 'hatred' for the Steelers in Baltimore, and you can say what you want, but it is respect. It is the kind of team that we want to be. If they're a notch above us right now – and three out of three contests ended in their favor – I would say that they're a notch above us now. I'm thrilled that arguably the best team, or certainly one of the top three teams, in this league is in our division. It's something for us to shoot for. I am glad that we are not the cream of our division. We didn't win the championship, we didn't win the division, and we're supposed to be pleased with where we are. But our sights are focused on beating Pittsburgh. If you start there and you climb that mountain, then we're probably going to be pretty good."
Do you look at wide receiver as a position where you may try to add some things and bolster the roster?
*(HARBAUGH) *"Well, you know what I'm going to say is we're going to try to get better in every spot. But certainly, receiver is one of them. Derrick Mason is a big part of our plans for the future. Mark Clayton is a big part of our plans going forward, Marcus Smith and all the guys that we have right now on our roster. There's going to be competition for those remaining spots, but we're going to try to upgrade there just like we're going to upgrade a couple different spots."
Can you update us on George Kokinis and whether you know if he'll be here or in Cleveland in the future?
(BISCIOTTI) "He's still going through the interview process. I spoke to him at length yesterday, and I believe he's got another interview scheduled for today."
Are you concerned with the way the economy may affect the Ravens and the NFL?
(BISCIOTTI) "Oh yeah, very concerned. We know what the economy is like. I've said this before: I'm not in this business to make money, but I'm also hoping not to lose money, and we're running on fairly small margins when it comes to cash flow. So all those companies in Baltimore that buy our suites and everything, I need them to keep on going, and I need the people to keep on buying tickets. So we have to be sensitive with increases and everything else, but it is definitely a factor, and it's the first time we're going to go through it. But I've been through economic downturns in my other business, and so I think that we know how to prepare for those kinds of things. But you can't prepare for loss of revenues. You just have to try and manage it the best you can and minimize the losses."
Is there anything you know about being an NFL head coach this January that you couldn't have imagined last January?
*(HARBAUGH) *"Those are the kinds of things that I really don't spend time thinking about, as you know. But I would say I know how important it is to have great people around you, and it starts at the top with Steve, Dick Cass, Ozzie Newsome, Kevin Byrne, a great coaching staff, good men as players. What you were talking about, Steve, is so important. Having character individuals on your football team and throughout your organization, that's more solidified in my mind than anything. There are a lot of good football players out there, and there are a lot of good football players and football coaches who are great people. Those are the guys we want."
A year ago, you were taking over a staff that included Rex Ryan, who was passed over for the job. Ryan is walking into a similar situation with the Jets and Brian Schottenheimer. Does that experience last year give him a unique perspective to explain to Schottenheimer why it's not necessarily the worst thing in the world?
(HARBAUGH) "That's a great perception, and Rex has talked about that a couple of times that we've had conversations about it. I think he feels like he can really help Brian Schottenheimer through that because of his experience last year and because of the help that he got from Steve Bisciotti and the people in this organization. I think he feels like that's a strength for him in dealing with Brian, and it'll be interesting to see how it works out."
Do you think Schottenheimer could be a help to Ryan in providing continuity much like Ryan did here last year?
(HARBAUGH) "It could be. Rex was very unique in that situation because our friendship predated [last year], so we had a relationship going in. I think we knew each other. I knew what he was about, he knew what I was about, and Rex handled it just as well as anybody could possibly handle it. I think we formed a partnership in putting this thing together this year. He has as much to do with whatever success we had this year as anybody in this organization just because of the type of man he is and the way he handled it and the type of leader he is. So, that'll be a big challenge for Brian if he takes on that role."
How impressed were you with how Kyle Boller handled his situation this year with the shoulder injury?
*(HARBAUGH) *"That's a great observation, and that's so true. Kyle Boller, he was on the team plane coming back after the game. He was with us [for] most of the games down the stretch here, especially the ones that meant so much. He was there supporting Joe, supporting Troy [Smith], the rest of our offense. [He was] in the meetings on Saturday night before the games and a big part of everything we were doing down the stretch. You know, it was disappointing for him. He had a chance to work with Cam Cameron and Hue Jackson and grow as quarterback. Then, all of a sudden, that shoulder thing pops up, and he's devastated by it. That's just the kind of person he is, and he was a big plus for our team."
What are your thoughts on O.J. Brigance and the impact he had on the team this year?
(BISCIOTTI) "It's just immeasurable. You know, my dad died when I was eight. He knew he was going to die for two years with leukemia. He didn't want the kids to know it, so we didn't know. We just thought he was going in for tests and stuff like that. The way he handled it and the way my mom handled it made it… My mom continued to call it and the letter that my dad wrote us was [about] what a blessing it was that God chose him. That's the way I was raised. So to be front and center as a grown man and see a guy like O.J. consider this a blessing, it really brings back a lot of memories for how I was raised. You'd have to know the man before the illness struck and see how he dealt with it. It's not about inspiration to this building. It's inspiration to all of us to see a guy handle what he's handled the way he's handled it. I can see if you were a player and you were watching an ex-player that had done so much for you in the past few years in the job that he had and see him struggle, I can imagine that the team concept and why they would rally around him and why they would play harder for him. But get your chance to sit down with O.J. because it's more important than what he did for this team. He's an inspiration to all of us. We can only hope that we can look at struggles the way that he has, as men and women. It's just fabulous."
The offensive line was one of the more underrated parts of this team. How important was Jason Brown to its success and how important is it to bring him back next year?
(HARBAUGH) "Well, it's important. Jason Brown obviously was the anchor of the offensive line in the sense that he's the center, made the calls. He's a big, physical center. He handles nose guards, which is important in this division, and we'll do our best just like we will with the other guys to bring him back. We've talked to him, and he wants to be here. We want him to be here. We'll just have to see how the economics shake out. You just do the best you can with that. If it works out, that'd be a plus for us."
Is Jim Leonhard likely in the same type of situation? What are your thoughts on his impact on this team?
(HARBAUGH) "No question, same answer as far as trying to bring him back. His impact was just dramatic. Dawan Landry is a heck of a safety. And for Jim Leonhard to come in and fill those shoes the way he did, I won't say that it was unexpected or that it was surprising because we all felt like he was a really good football player. He's a little bit undervalued athletically around the league, at least going into the season. He's probably not now. Here's a guy that finds a way to make plays all over the field. We had the turnovers against Tennessee, I think he was involved in all three, wasn't he? Plus the punt return. Then, it shows up again against Pittsburgh. It's really every game he's played, he's had a dramatic impact on. He's a valuable part of our defense."
Have you been getting calls about Hue Jackson, and can you reflect on the job he did with Flacco?
*(HARBAUGH) *"Hue did a tremendous job with Joe. Hue is one of the best offensive coaches in the league. He's recognized around the league as that. Hue is going to have a lot of opportunities to move up. Now, whether Hue chooses to do that or not this year or next year or sometime down the road, we'll just have to see. But Hue Jackson is a shining star, and he's a team guy. He's a humble man. I think he wants what's best for the Ravens right now, but he's going to have plenty of opportunities to go wherever he wants in this profession."
With the way this season started out, having a rookie head coach and quarterback, and then with all of the injuries that came up, did this team overachieve and to what degree?
(BISCIOTTI) "I don't like to say 'overachieve.' We achieved. To overachieve, you've set your bar lower than expected. I've seen this thing go up and down for nine years, and I can't put my finger on it. We talk about winning and chemistry and which one comes first. Winning does. There's no doubt in my mind. You start to win and the chemistry builds, and people get excited, and they believe in each other, and they work a little harder, and they get inspiration from people like O.J. Things snowball, and things work well. Chemistry is a result of winning. I don't think you're going to find many 4-12 teams out there bragging about their chemistry. So, no, I don't think we overachieved. I think that we got things in place. Everything you do, you're trying to build a champion. We didn't get there, so I think we underachieved. I think that's a fair statement. I don't want to say 'tongue-in-cheek,' but it's fair. We want to look at this like we underachieved. We were five minutes away from the Super Bowl, and who knows what would have happened. If we had lost two weeks from now in [Tampa], we would be just a little more disappointed than we are this week. So the higher you go, the farther you fall, but the quicker you regroup because you know that you've got a lot of questions answered. One I've got answered is I've got a quarterback and a coach that, going forward, I think are going to do great things together."
With the Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire in the future, how does it affect teams' philosophy with negotiations and planning this offseason? How much has the NFL talked to teams about it?
(BISCIOTTI) "Well, all I can tell you is that the NFL is building a blueprint and making sure we are all educated on what ramifications are for a potential work stoppage. So it may alter the way that you structure contracts, but that really goes straight to Ozzie. They actually don't call me about that. Ozzie is my designee, and they're the ones that are letting him [know] so he can teach his staff that this is how we're going forward. But it's not really that much different."
You say "work stoppage," and that's going to put a shiver through fans' spines. Is there a big concern that could happen?
(BISCIOTTI) "Yeah. I mean, that's why we opted out of the contract, to try and make things right and get them aligned better for everybody. I think we will. I'm pretty confident we will. But right now, the union doesn't even have a director, so until they get somebody in there, then we can start moving forward with those negotiations. Like I said, I'm just going to be updated at the different meetings. I'm not going to be a participant in those meetings."
We've talked about a number of players, whether they'll be back or not. Is that one of the toughest parts of being a head coach, making those decisions?
(HARBAUGH) "Well, you know we have a process for that, and Ozzie [Newsome] talks about that all the time. I think part of the process is the coaching side of it and evaluating and laying out a plan football-wise. All the guys are important to us. We want to bring them all back if we can, because that gives you a chance to build up some strength. You understand you're not going to be able to do that, so you've got to prioritize to some extent. Then negotiations start, and I think Ozzie tries to put it together the best way that he can to keep us as strong as he possibly can. So, if you lose somebody you feel bad about that, because that's one of our brothers, so to speak, and we don't want to lose any of them. We're going to fight like crazy to try to keep them. We'll see if that can happen or not, but you're right, that's a difficult part of it."
Now that the game is over, can you update us on Samari Rolle? There were rumors he had surgery. What's wrong with him?
(HARBAUGH) "Yeah, he had a hip flexor issue. It was a partial tear of his hip flexor, and there was a chance he could have played in the Super Bowl. So, it wasn't a surgery-type situation. We were rehabbing him like crazy. We'd have been very hopeful to get him back for the Super Bowl, and I think there was a chance to do that. So that was the plan."
With Dawan Landry, is there any chance he might not be able to play next season, or is it your thoughts that you're very confident he'll be able to play?
(HARBAUGH) "We're very confident. Everything I've been told is that he'll be able to play next year. There's nothing that we've heard that he won't be able to."
Same question for guys like Kelly Gregg and Marshal Yanda. What's their progress and how does that impact you moving forward and preparing for next year?
(HARBAUGH) "Right, well the same answer for those guys. We're thinking all those guys will be back for the mini-camps, training camps as well. One of the issues that we look at in terms of improving our football team is bringing guys back that were injured this year. We have a number of guys that have been on IR [Injured Reserve], missed starts and all those different kinds of things. By those guys doing a great job in the offseason of getting healthy, getting themselves back to where they can be durable throughout the course of the season next year, we're going to be a better football team right there. That's before free agency, before the draft even comes around. That's encouraging. That's exciting."
Would you treat Ray Lewis' free agency differently? Often, in the past, it's been to go out and see what your market is and we'll see if we can get a deal. Would you be proactive and try to get him done before he gets out there?
(BISCIOTTI) "Yes. But we typically don't say, 'Go out and find your market value.' It really comes down to Ozzie and his agent being far apart instead of really close. If they're really close, then I think they believe that they're going to bang it out and get it done. If they're really far apart… You know, some guys go out there on the market and find out that their agent isn't able to get him the deal that he's saying they're trying to get. It's just up to Ozzie to find out what he's worth and then find out how big the gap is between he and the agent, and that usually dictates if the guy slides into free agency or not. Ray is not going to settle for something that he thinks is way below. Are we going to get a home town discount? I hope so, I really do. I mean, that means that we can find one more Jimmy Leonhard on the free agent market. And that's when I refer to the Patriots – that's what they do. You know, Tom Brady agreed to a contract that only put him in the top eight quarterbacks, or five quarterbacks, when he did that deal a few years ago. Yeah, that's what I hope my relationship with Ray is. I hope I get a discount so I can find another Jim Leonhard with the money we save. If he wants to go out there and maximize his money, and somebody is desperate for that kind of leadership, then there may be a big gap, and I'm not going to say to Oz, 'Go do it under any circumstance.' That wouldn't be fair to Ozzie. He's got a plan, and it's all pieces of the puzzle, and I could make one demand, and it would domino across the entire roster. And, I can't do that to him."
So you won't get involved, no matter what, at the 11th hour?
(BISCIOTTI) "No. I mean, no. I didn't in the last one. I don't see that happening. Like I said, Ray and I will talk, but Ray and I usually talk in generalities. We don't really talk specifics of contracts."
Three years ago, you said you didn't want your team's fortunes to be dictated by doors that open and close. Do you think you've achieved that?
(BISCIOTTI) "To be determined. I think that we're well on the way. I think that the decision that we made, that, you know… Listen, when this season started, I said to John, if we win six games and we've got our quarterback and coach of the future I'll be happy. He said, 'I won't.' And I said, 'I don't care, I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about me. I want you to know what the owner's expectations are, and I'm not looking at this year. You've got to build yourself up. Let's care about what we're going to look like in 2010, and make some long-term decisions as you go forward.' But as an owner, you want a coach and a quarterback that you feel can be in your organization for 10 years, and I'm very hopeful and very confident that we've got that. That's the extent of my job here."
Have you revised your expectations now, for 2009?
(BISCIOTTI) "Oh yeah, he isn't getting off the hook that easy. No way. [Laughing] No, John is always going to have higher expectations than me, and that's what I want in the leader of 53 men. I want him to be the one that has the high expectations. I'd like mine to be a little more realistic. He knows, let's face it, I want trophies, and I said last year I needed to find a Hall of Fame coach. So if he gets me a couple of them, he's probably on his way to doing that. So we'll see how that fans out."
During your exit interviews with the players, did you lay out to them your expectations for their participation in the offseason and being committed?
(HARBAUGH) "We laid out the whole thing – where we've been, where we're going, how we got to where we're at, what the future holds, and I don't think our guys were surprised by anything we talked about. And obviously, we think the offseason program is really important. It's important for a lot of different reasons, and it's going to be no less important this year. Different guys are at different stages in their career, so there are different expectations for what guys need to be doing in the offseason. But, getting in great condition, world-class condition, and being durable – those are two things that are really important to a successful football team. So, that part of it applies across the board."
You're kicker is 40 years old now, and he's a free agent. Do you have confidence in him? Will you bring Matt Stover back?
(HARBAUGH) "He's 40 years old, he's a free agent, and he's still a really good kicker. We're not really too interested in weakening ourselves if we don't have to, but that remains to be determined as well. If we can bring him back, we will, and if we can't we're going to have to move in another direction. But again, we're hopeful that Matt will be here."
Having a year under your belt now, how does your offseason approach differ this year from last year, being that you know your players, your players know you and so forth?
"That's a great point. We probably have a better feel for each guy individually, so we probably start off further down the road in understanding their needs in the offseason program, and we're further down the road with establishing what we're going to be about in all three phases of the X and O part of it, is further down the road. But we get less work. We have two less mini-camps that you get when you come in with a new staff – two extra mini-camps that Rex will have up in New York we won't have. So that will kind of negate the whole deal. But as far as our philosophy, nothing changed. We believe in working hard, blue collar, and I think our guys will be ready to do that."
This defense has been good for a long time. You talked about an in-house change with your coordinators. Do you suspect it will be the defense that the Ravens have played over the last several years?
(HARBAUGH) "It's certainly going to be the style of defense. We're going to be aggressive, attack-oriented, physical. Eleven guys running to the ball every single play, creating turnovers, those are all things that are so important."
From a scheme standpoint?
(HARBAUGH) "Well, we're going to be sound in everything we do, but whether… If Rex continued on as the defensive coordinator, we would be evolving the package just like you do every single year. I think the fact that you're talking about guys who have been in the room and have been part of the system, that system moves forward. So we'll continue to evolve the system just like you would always try to improve it, keep pace with the NFL, and make it as teachable and likeable, as Rex puts it, as we possibly can. But we've got to improve and we've got to get better in every area, and defense is part of it."
Your thoughts on coaching the Pro Bowl, you and Andy Reid being out there... Is there an opportunity to see a lot of players up close? Do you expect Haloti Ngata to be able to go to the game now?
(HARBAUGH) "As far as Haloti, we don't know yet. I really hope he can. It just depends on how the injury thing works out for the other defensive linemen. As far as coaching the Pro Bowl with Andy Reid, we've done that a few times, so we kind of know how that works. He'll just be on the other side of the fence. But, it's a good honor for our staff, it's a great opportunity for the families, and hopefully the other bowl will be the one that comes up the next time around."
In your everyday balancing act of juggling responsibilities as a team owner, what's your biggest challenge?
(BISCIOTTI) "I don't have any. I've got Dick Cass, and when I brought Dick in it was so he could do all that juggling. I'm just a basket case. I just sit around and worry – worry, hope and pray, and that's what an owner should be, as far as I'm concerned, unless you have an interest to dive in. Dick runs this organization, and he runs it great. And, I really don't have much stress, certainly in the offseason. I get to shut it down. These guys are working, obviously, around the clock, and they get a little break here and there. But it's pretty simple the way I've set myself up. I've carved out a pretty nice little job description."
Would this be a time when you look at the free agents and think maybe you'll take a leap with a guy even if you had to sacrifice the salary cap in the future?
(BISCIOTTI) "I think that we'll refer back to a couple of questions ago: I believe if you have a coach and a quarterback of the future, that that evens it out. If you look at the teams that have been back over and over to the playoffs, just peel them of – the Colts, [Tony] Dungy and [Peyton] Manning, and the Patriots with [Tom] Brady and [Bill] Belichick, the Eagles with Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb – it virtually is the only thing that you can look at and say that's the constant. They've got a long-term coach and a long-term quarterback, and that's why they have a chance to get to the playoffs every year. So yeah, I think that's the position we're going to be in. I remember New England taking a chance on Randy Moss, and people said, 'Oh, it could ruin their organization.' And it certainly didn't; it actually made them stronger. But they were winning Super Bowls without Randy Moss. So, that's where we'll be. That's the hope of an owner, is that you're sitting there wondering if you're one step away, or one player away, or something like that. And I'll be in that mix, and I know that Ozzie is the perfect guy for that. Ozzie is not going to go chasing dreams. He's so methodical in what he does, that if he comes to me like he did with T.O. [Terrell Owens] four years ago, five years ago, or whenever that was and said, 'It's time to take that chance,' I'm going to bet on Ozzie 10 out of 10 times. I just trust his judgment. He's a Hall of Famer. He understands team chemistry. He knows that a couple of wacky guys like Frank Walker make the team better not, you know… You guys, I would think, have enjoyed Frank. He's a funny guy. He's a funny guy to be around, and he has been anything but disruptive. So there are personalities that you can blend in that aren't all the same, that make for just a wonderful organization, and I hope that there are some guys out there, available, that we can nab to get over the top. But like I said, what Ozzie did got us over the top. We went from 5-11, and Ozzie got six guys, one in a trade and five in free agency that I mentioned – I'm sure there's a couple more – but a couple years earlier when he got Justin Bannan and guys like that, that have played significant roles in the team. Yeah, there's going to be one that's an elite player like we did with Steve McNair. You take a chance when it presents itself, and if you think that's the missing piece then… If John and Ozzie agree, then there's a really good chance I'm going to fall in line with that."