HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH: FAN FORUM PHONE CALL
Moderator: Senior Vice President of Public and Community Relations Kevin Byrne
Opening statement:*(BYRNE) *"Welcome to the first town hall meeting with your team. My name is Kevin Byrne, and I'm a senior vice president of the Ravens, and I'll be the moderator tonight. There are over 25,000 Ravens season ticket holders representing over 65,000 seats sold for every home game at M&T Bank Stadium. You are our best fans. You reach in your pocket and give us the financial aid we need to compete with other NFL teams. So, we're going to get a chance to talk to our head coach tonight and to do that, to ask a question, simply hit *3 on your phone, and you'll be connected with a producer. We do expect thousands – that's right, thousands – of season ticket holders on this call, and not everyone will get a chance to ask his question. Again, hit 'star' and then 3 on your phone to ask a question. 'Star' and then 3. Our guest tonight is head coach of the Ravens, John Harbaugh. Coach Harbaugh is historically good. There is just one head coach in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first three seasons as an NFL boss. That's our coach, John Harbaugh. Don Shula, Paul Brown, Bill Walsh, Chuck Noll – all Hall of Famers – did not accomplish this impressive feat. John, who has guided the Ravens to three straight playoff seasons for the first time in team history, is ready to answer the questions – we think – all the questions you have tonight. Coach, you're talking to that 'wall of purple' that you always salute. I'll start with the first questions…"
What are you doing in the middle of March, and what can you tell us that's not secret?"Thanks, Kevin. And first of all, it's great to be with everybody and it should be a great hour, it should be a lot of fun. It's always good to hear from the people that care the most about the Ravens, and as you said, it's that 'wall of purple,' that incredible group of people that we have, that come to Ravens games every Sunday or every Monday or whenever we play, and provide, really, the support that we need to win at home. And we've had a pretty good home record over, really, the whole history of the Ravens, since the Ravens started off, and that has a lot to do with the great fans in Baltimore. But we've been working, Kevin. We've been working on football, we've been working on the Draft, and we've been working on free agency. This morning, offensively, we met for about five hours, working on our run game. Actually, we were working on lead schemes and iso-plays and things like that, and kind of working through the things that we want to do next year and how we want to rule up plays and just the details of football. I spent the afternoon looking at defensive tackles in the Draft, and then tonight we get to talk to the fans."
Is Ray Lewis going to be back next season?"That's a resounding, yes. Oh, yeah, well he's on record… You know, it's funny, right after the season he was asked that question, and I guess there was some speculation – and probably there always would be of a guy who has played 15 years like he has, whether he would be back to play next year – but I guess for whatever reason, it took me by surprise that people even asked. Just being around Ray every day, working with him, going through the things that we go through in football, I knew he was coming back. There was no doubt in my mind that he wants to come back. I know he wants to win another championship before he retires. But he still loves football, he's still fully capable of competing and playing at a high level, and he's definitely going to be back, absolutely."
Are there plans for Joe Flacco to start wearing an armband next season and start calling plays and becoming more audible?"Thanks for that; that's a great question. I think where you're going with that is are we going to expand Joe's role? You know, decision-making in the offense is at the line of scrimmage, right? An armband is a possibility; there are certain things that you put on an armband to consolidate calls. I mean, sometimes the calls are so wordy that you put them on an armband so the coordinator can just send in a number and Joe knows to read it off the armband. We do a little bit of that, but our offense just really doesn't have quite that much verbiage, so we haven't had to do that. But I think you'll see Joe grow and expand into, yeah, a more prominent role in making decisions at the line of scrimmage. He's done a lot of that. He's probably actually done a lot more of that than what a lot of people think. He does quite a bit of that now, but that's some of the stuff we're talking through now, is how much you want to put on a quarterback's plate. It goes back to how you set up the offense from Day One. I think we've got more confidence than ever in Joe's ability to do that, so as we set the offense up this offseason, we're building a lot more of those opportunities into the offense for Joe, and I think you'll see that next year."
*(BYRNE) *"OK, we're going to do a special thing tonight, by the way, everyone. Coach is going to sign a football, and for any one of you, or all of you, who stay on at least 25 minutes of our hour call with coach, you'll be eligible to win the signed football that he will sign right after we finish here this evening. And we'll announce before the show ends at 7:00 [p.m.] who's going to win that football."
Are you looking into getting a big fullback?"Yes. It's a short answer, absolutely. *(laughter) *Absolutely. You know, the type of the running game and the things that we've done here, and the type of an offense and the type of a team we want to be dictates a big, physical fullback. I mean, that's not all we're going to do. You need to do some other things – need to pass protect, need to get out and run routes, need to carry the ball a little bit. But see, I think a big, physical, blocking fullback would help us. You know, even if we're able to keep Le'Ron [McClain]. You know, Le'Ron is probably going to evolve his role more as a runner in the National Football League, and we'll keep our fingers crossed that it can be here with the Ravens. But, we want to put a bruising fullback in front of our running backs if we can."
With some of the availability in free agency and the Draft, what's more of a priority, going after a speed-type, downfield receiver, or another pass rusher?"You know what? That's the million dollar question. I think the fact that you're thinking along those lines just kind of speaks to how knowledgeable you are about the whole thing. And you talk about – all things being equal – which position would you choose? And really, it's a fair conversation. And I've got to be honest with you, we've had the conversation and I do have an answer, [but] I probably don't want to put it out there. But you know the truth is you really don't have that question to answer, because as the Draft shapes itself out – especially in the early rounds – you take the best available player. So, we may take a player in the first round that would not appear to be a position of need, just because he's a far superior player than the other player at a so-called position of need. Now I think as you get later in the Draft – fourth round, fifth round, later than that – you definitely start pinpointing needs, because it's a little more like rolling the dice. The quality of the player kind of evens out, levels out. But the positions you talked about I think are absolutely positions that we're interested in, and that's a good assessment by you."
*(BYRNE) *"Well, we're going to do two polls tonight, Coach, and [the last caller] Steve kind of led us into the first one. So, our first question to the fans – and you'll be able to participate – is which position should the Ravens address first in the Draft or free agency? And here are your opportunities to be involved in the poll: Press 1 if you think it should be cornerback or safety, press 2 for defensive line, press 3 for linebacker – and if Terrell Suggs is out there, 'Sizzle,' you can't vote – press 4 for offensive line, press 5 for wide receiver or press 6 for running back."
What are the Ravens planning to do to improve the offense for next season?"I think you named it, and you hit a couple of them, [but] there are probably about 10 more criticisms at least of different areas that we've had. But you know what? Those are all things that came up at different times during the season. You try to improve in any way that you can. We're going to do everything we can to improve every part of our football team. And I know you hear that, and that's the answer, but it's the truth. And the offense is a big part of that. We've been meeting – I talked about meeting this morning on a specific aspect of our run game – you know we're going down to the 'Nth' detail – just like we do on special teams, just like we do on defense. We're looking at every aspect of our football [team], every aspect of our offense right now to see what we can do schematically to build a system that makes the most sense for our players that give them a chance to play aggressively, to cut it loose, to not have to over think too much on the field, to set it up in such a way that they can be aggressive and get after it and make the most of their talents. As it starts to form who are players are, then we'll start to build the system as best we can for those guys, and I think we'll improve naturally, because guys that have been in the system now – like Anquan [Boldin] – will have been with Joe [Flacco] for another year. We've got Todd [Heap]; we'll be able to incorporate the young tight ends more after a second year. I mean those are all things that hopefully are natural progressions of guys playing together that'll make us better. And we're going to add some players, too. We're not sure who those guys are going to be. Hopefully, we're going to keep some players, and you're not sure who those guys are going to be. So, we're going to do everything we can to put the best offense out there, but I do have a lot of confidence in the players and in the coaches and in the offensive coordinator. I think there's a proven track record with all those elements, and we're going to go out there and put the best offense we can [on the field]. And I think it's going to be… You know, you can't make any predictions, but I'm an optimistic guy, and I think we can put a great offense on the field, and that's the plan."
What are the prospects for retaining some of the wide receivers from last season, specifically guys like Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh?"Really, the answer is that I don't really know. You can't really put a percentage basis on it, because there are so many things that are up in the air at this time. There are obviously a lot of issues that haven't been a part of the equation in the past. It's just a different calendar now with free agency. Those guys are free, they're not under contract necessarily for next year, so I just don't know, and we'll just have to see. I like all those guys. As a coach, you want all the good players you can get, and you like having veteran players, too, [but] it's not always possible to keep all those guys. So, I know it's not an answer, but if I had a better answer I'd give it to you. I just don't know right now."
How does letting go of QBs coach Jim Zorn affect the team for next season?"Well, that's a big one. That's a complex question, and I don't think there's an easy answer. I'm excited about the opportunity going forward to build an offense according to my vision as a head coach and the vision of the offensive coordinator, Cam [Cameron]. You know, I've got a lot of respect for Coach Zorn. I mean, Jim Zorn, I've gotten to know him over the last three years when he was in Washington. We kind of came in together as head coaches and really well the last year, and we became very close. And you know, our wives became very close, families became very close, and Jim not being a part of it next year, it was tough. It was tough for me personally, it was tough for us as a group, [but] sometimes you've just got to make a decision that you think is in the best interest of everybody involved, including Jim. And I really believe this and I've shared this with everybody that's been involved here with the Ravens: I'm very convinced this is the best thing going forward, and I think it's the best thing for Jim. But that remains to be seen, and we'll just have to see how it plays out."
What is going to happen with the left tackle situation next season? Is Jared Gaither going to be back or are there other alternatives?"First of all, I think Michael Oher is a pretty darn good player. And I think I understand where you're coming from, but Michael Oher is our left tackle. He's a young, developing guy, and he's going to be a tremendous offensive lineman in this league. None of us know exactly where he's going to play, but I've got no problem – ultimately over the long haul – but I've got no problem with Michael Oher being our left tackle. Now if Jared Gaither is back, that'd be great. That'd give us one more good player in the mix, and we'd just have to sort that out as we went. But Jared is, I think, a restricted free agent right now, with the potential to be an unrestricted free agent. So, there's just no way to know if we have any control over whether Jared can come back or not. Probably that ball is going to be in his court. So, Michael Oher is our left tackle, and I've got a lot of confidence in Michael."
Where can we acquire more playmakers with the caliber and talent of a guy like Ray Rice?"It's really a good point. I think we have those guys on our roster; we've had those guys before. I'll take responsibility. Maybe we haven't always put them in the best position possible to demonstrate their abilities. But you're right; you've got to have big-play ability. You've got to be able to run after the catch, you've got to be able to strike quickly, you've got to be able to stretch the field vertically, horizontally, every which way, and you do that without playmakers. And Ray has done a great job doing that for the last two years, and probably even a better job the year before than even this year. I think Ray would tell you that. So, that comes down to all of us. It's building those guys in around Joe, building a running game, building a passing game, building the schemes [and] put those guys in position to make those plays. It's the Draft, it's free agency, it's developing our own guys. A young guy like David Reed, I've got high hopes for David Reed, that he can be a guy like that…* ("Yeah, because even I knew when you were going to go to Ray Rice sometimes.") Well, you say that, but I don't believe it for one second. *(laughter) Unless you've been doing breakdowns and scouting our tape, I'm not really buying it. *(laughter) *We've got to do a great job of putting those guys into position to make plays and develop the young guys and find some more guys and do everything that we can to become a more explosive offense. Absolutely, thanks."
Has your brother ever attended a Ravens game and can he bring some of the Ravens gameday experience to the San Francisco 49ers?"You may have to be the spearhead of that; that's on the [49ers] fans a little bit I guess, right? But, Jim played for the Ravens. He played for the Ravens in 1998, so he's got a great feel for the spirit here. One thing about that football out [in San Francisco] I think you'll find, it's going to be competitive, it's going to be exciting. You know, Jim's personality will blend well with the players they have there, and I'll be rooting for him 15 games next year. You know we play them back here; you know that right? *("Yeah, I'll be back there. I don't know what to wear.") *Purple. Purple and black, baby."
What are your thoughts about playing against your brother next season?"Like I've already told a bunch of guys on the team, we've got Pittsburgh; that's a must-win. We've got a bunch of must-wins, but the San Francisco game is going to be a must, must-win. *(laughter) *There's no doubt the motivation for that one is going to be there. We could tee it off at midfield. Maybe Jim and I can go at it just for old time's sake. He was a better football player, but I think I've caught up with him over the years. I'm hoping all this training I've been doing the last 10 years paid off. *(laughter) *It'll be fun though. I'll tell you what, [it's] two really good, physical football teams. We were just watching them on tape today. They've got a physical bunch. It's going to be interesting."
(BYRNE) *"Hey, all you fans, I'd like you to know… I'm looking at some of the numbers that they're showing me on this screen as I try to run this, and Coach, you'll be surprised by this. We have now approximately 5,500 season ticket holders listening to us. So, if the average is three to four tickets per person, that's a lot of tickets that these are representing right now. And everybody, thanks for participating. Let's keep asking the coach the hard questions, because that's why he volunteered to be here tonight." *(laughter)
Why did you give Haloti Ngata the franchise tag?"Well, that's a great question. I think because we had to, because we didn't want to lose him. You know, we didn't have a deal done yet. There are some reasons for that, and I don't think any reasons other than the fact that the way it's set up right now, we really weren't able to. There are certain rules… We couldn't have paid him enough at this time to get a deal done, but we're committed to doing it. I know Haloti is committed to being here. Nothing is ever done until it's done, but one thing, by franchising Haloti, we know he's going to be a Raven next year. Haloti was not opposed to it. That's why he signed it, because he does want to stay here. And it just gives us more time to get a long-term deal done."
Do you see a trend from last year where you might want to think about rushing four guys on defense rather than only three in third-and-long situations?"Yeah, well it's not like we rush three all the time. I think it's a good question, and it becomes a matter of perception how much we do it and what's successful when we do it. We've rushed three and we've gotten pressure. We've rushed six and we've not gotten pressure at times. So, a lot of that is kind of a give-and-take. You could make an argument that we rushed three a little more last year maybe than we have in the past or we will in the future in all honesty. I don't think it's by any stretch going to be a foundation of our defense. It's really not what we're built on; it's really not what we're about. But there is a time to rush three. When you get the quarterback in a rhythm, when he feels like he's got to get the ball out quickly and you drop one more guy into coverage where you anticipate he's going to go with the ball, like in a quick, pressure-type of throw. And I think if they feel… If you get into a habit where they have a sense that you're rushing three, and you get that quarterback in a rhythm where he can really hold the ball, that's a problem. And when that happened last year, that hurt us, and that's not something we want to have. But I won't say that we're going to rush three as much as we did last year. I think we'll do it less. I think you'll see it at times, but more often than not, you're going to see pressure."
*(BYRNE) *"Coach, we have the results of our first poll, where we asked which position the fans believe, our season ticket holders believe, we should draft or sign free agents. What would your guess be? I won't show you the card here. What did they pick?
*(BYRNE) *"Corner was second with 30-percent [of the votes]. Top was offensive line [with] 41 percent."
*(HARBAUGH) *"Wow. How about that? I'll tell you, does that say a little bit about the Baltimore Ravens fans? Now, like those San Francisco fans that [the caller] was talking about earlier, the cheese and wine crowd, they'd have been going 'wide receiver,' some flashy position. *(laughter) *Baltimore fans want an offensive lineman. They realize that the game of football is played in the trenches. That's impressive."
Where do safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura fit in with the secondary this year in a position battle with Dawan Landry, and do you expect a bigger role from either player next season?"Yeah, Zbikowski right now, I'm not sure where he fits in. He fits in with Chad Ochocinco I think in the ring. *(laughter) *Have you been following that at all? Well, you may have to make a robe, a big Zibby robe or something. I want to see Zibby out there in a robe next year. Dick Cass, our team president sitting here, he's responsible for putting this whole thing together. He's the mastermind behind this radio talk show. But no, you know what? Zibby and Haruki, I would say probably based on history right now – and Dawan [Landry] right now is still a Raven – so Dawan, plan on him being back, but he's got a chance to be a free agent, so we all know that. Zibby is going to compete for a starting spot and Haruki wants to be a part of that, too. Zibby played well last year. Zibby started for six games, and he really did, he played well. He was, I'd say, in pass coverage, probably second to Ed Reed as far as you look at the stats and the plays given up and those kinds of things. So, I think Zibby is capable of being a starter. Haruki is capable of being a starter. Haruki plays a real nice role for us in some of the packages we put in where he's an extra linebacker, an extra defensive back, blitzes, covers, great on special teams. Guys have these roles, and these roles are a lot more important sometimes than what people might think. But I love both those guys as players, and I think they're a big part of it."
What do you think about Tiki Barber coming out of retirement and would you consider signing a guy like that?"It's a good [question] – and thanks for what you're doing for the country and what you do with the military. And for everybody out there in the military, it's important to the Ravens, and I know we appreciate that. But yeah, Tiki Barber, that's an interesting question. I have no idea what kind of shape he's in. He must obviously think he can still play. There are some other veteran guys who are free agents – well, may or may not be free agents; again, we're not sure over the course of the next whatever period of time this thing gets worked out, the CBA – but he's a guy that we'll have to take a look at probably. We try to turn over every rock, and you never know where you're going to find a good player. And here's a guy that's had a great career and [is] obviously a quality person. I think probably at some point in time we'll take a look at him, and if he's interested, see where he's at physically and see what he's capable of doing."
How about some of the other deep-threat receivers who may be free agents like Santonio Holmes or others?"Well, one thing you've got to be careful about, you really can't talk about any specific players who are free agents right now on other teams. But those guys you're mentioning are all good players and certainly guys that we're going to be looking at."
How is Sergio Kindle doing and do you think he'll be back next year and can contribute?"Thanks, good question, and thanks for the support. But, there's some hope there. We've been in contact with the doctors, and Sergio has been in contact with them. And I don't know how to describe it exactly in medical terms, but they're very pleased with his progress. And there's a chance that he could be cleared here to compete in football at some point in time. Until he is, we're not going to mess with that at all, but I guess I'm more optimistic now than ever before that he has a chance to come back and play. It'll just be a matter of seeing how well he does. He'll go out there and compete with everybody else. But gosh, if he can regain some of that form that he had at Texas… Here's a guy that's a big, fast, strong, aggressive guy that loves football and can rush the passer. That would be a bonus for us, that's for sure. So, more optimistic probably than previously on that."
As you're drafting players, how do you assess their character and whether that player will mesh with the rest of the team?"Wow, what a great question. And it's not a simple thing, but the Ravens have stood for something for a long time. And I think, obviously, Art Modell and what he did all the way back to the start of this franchise way back, and then bringing it to Baltimore, then Steve Bisciotti taking over and buying the Ravens and working with Art Modell, and now his vision is what we're trying to chase here. He's a Baltimore guy, was a Baltimore kid, has been a Baltimore sports fan, and he's got a very clear vision of what he wants the Ravens to be about and what he wants this organization to stand for – coaches, players, front office, everybody. And he's very clear in letting us know what that is and what his expectations are, and that's something that I appreciate as a coach, and I think we all appreciate here in the organization. That's what we try to do. So, that's a reflection on Steve and what he's trying to accomplish here with this organization and for this city. So, thanks for noticing that, and yeah, that's important. You know, it's not 100 percent. You don't just probably look at every guy and say, 'Hey, if he's ever turned his toe the wrong way, if he's ever made any mistake in life, you cross him off the board.' You know, that's really not fair. It's probably not what America is about. Guys do deserve a second chance and they deserve an opportunity, but there are certain things you've got to look at. And what we try to do is assess as best we can just what type of person this person is. Do they have a good heart? Do they care about other people? Do they respect authority? Will they be a good teammate? Will they put the needs of others above themselves? Do they have kind of a service attitude? You know, that's what being a good teammate is; you put the team in front of your own personal agenda. And if we feel like that's the kind of person we're dealing with, then we're interested. If that's not the kind of person we're dealing with, then we put a black dot on their card and we just won't draft him under any circumstances. So, I guess it just depends on the person we're talking about. We do a lot of research, and Ozzie [Newsome] and his staff, they dig, dig, dig and try to find as much as they can about all the guys in the Draft as well as they can.
"That's something, too, maybe we could take a look at, Kevin [Byrne]. The [community] stories around the stadium, for the website, and those kinds of things, and do some of those stories, because I think people would love to hear about that."
*(BYRNE) *"We're going to do a second poll tonight. We did our first one and all of you suggested that we take an offensive lineman either with our first pick in the Draft or when we sign a free agent who's an offensive lineman. Our second one, we're definitely going to do these town hall meetings again. This is immensely successful; it's beyond what we thought it was going to be. As I mentioned earlier, we're closing in on 6,000 season ticket holders on the phone right now with your head coach. But here we are with another question: Who would you like to have on the next town hall meeting for the Ravens? I'm going to give you seven choices, so be a little patient in listening to this: Press 1 for owner Steve Biscotti – and I think I just saw Coach Harbaugh press 1 – press 2 for team president Dick Cass, press 3 for the 'Wizard of Oz,' Ozzie Newsome, who is at the competition committee meeting that began today, press 4 for our Draft guru, Eric DeCosta, our personnel director, press 5 for the coordinators, Cam Cameron and Chuck Pagano, press 6 for our college and pro scouting directors, Joe Hortiz and Vince Newsome, and then press 7 – and please fans of Pat Moriarty, press 7 – for our salary cap guru, because Pat's going to see the numbers and will be disappointed if he doesn't get any votes."
What is your opinion on an extended regular season and possibly a shorter preseason?"I have some opinions, but that's not something that we really can get into right now. It's not something that we're supposed to talk about. My opinion on it really doesn't matter. Whatever we do, we'll line up and play those games. So, that's all going to get worked out. I'm excited about the people that are working on that right now. We'll just have to see how it goes."
*(BYRNE) *"Hey, everybody, coach is not begging off. Just so you know that the League office, the Commissioner's office, has told all of us basically to 'shut up' when it comes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. It's obviously a very sensitive subject right now, and that's one of the subjects being talked about, and that's why coach can't answer that question with any more specifics."
What can we do to get rid of the "curse" against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs?"That's something I think about every single day in all honesty. I've said it before, and I'm sure some people from Pittsburgh got all upset, but I feel like we gave them the game twice this year. We should have beaten them three times, and that's on us. That's our fault. You're right, and just as sick as it made you, it made me and all of us here, and that's on us. You know, Pittsburgh, the one thing that they've done probably better than the Ravens the last three years – the Ravens teams that I've been coaching the last three years – is they've found ways to win that game. They made the plays they needed to make in the critical moments to win those games, more than we have. *("It always seems to be one play.") *It is, and that's why I think we find a way to get better as coaches, we find a way to get better as players, we get the job done when it counts. All you can do right now is try to make your team as good as it can be, as strong as it can be, and not overreact."
Do you think the issue of re-seeding after the first round of the playoffs will pass, and do the Ravens support that?"I really have no idea if it's going to pass or not. Whether the Ravens support it or not, it's not a conversation that we've really had. At some point in time we might talk about that, [but] that would be up to Steve [Bisciotti] to make that decision, ultimately, where we stand as an organization. Obviously, I would have been for it this year as a coach. It would have certainly helped us, because we would have gotten a home game. So, I'm for it when it helps us. I think it's a good idea; I understand the logic on both sides. Personally, I'm probably for it, but I think that's something for the top-level people to decide."
Do we need to be concerned about the chemistry between Joe Flacco and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron?"No. I think that stuff is all important, and Joe and Cam get along well. I think the relationship is only going to get stronger when they work more closely together on a day-to-day basis. It's football. I think what reflected more than anything was the strong relationship that Jim [Zorn] and Joe had, which is a good thing. Joe really respected Jim. I respected Jim, we all… We had good working relationships in here along those lines, and Joe was disappointed with the way it went. That's a decision that I felt like I had to make as a head coach, what was best for our team, best for our offense going forward. But we'll all go to work. We're all a bunch of men here. Everybody gets it; we'll be fine. And I've got a lot of confidence in Cam as a coach and Joe as a player, and really all of our guys. So, I'm excited about it and I'm looking forward to it, and I'm looking forward to seeing what we put out there on the field on offense."
*(BYRNE) *"One of the things the fans haven't seen – and not to take away from the fans – but, coach, I saw it… You have spent a lot of time with Joe Flacco, especially right after the season."
*(HARBAUGH) *"That's something that's important, and since I'm not a quarterbacks coach or the offensive guy, maybe you don't always get to spend as much day-to-day time with your quarterback as you'd like to. Joe and I have had a chance since the season ended to spend some time together just talking about stuff, and you know, we did, we talked about the coaching situation, we've talked about the offense and what direction we want to go and what I think it should look like and what he thinks it should look like. And Joe's had a lot of input that way in terms of what we're going to try to build next year. So, Joe is a huge part of this thing, and I'm on record over the last couple months talking about how I feel about Joe, and that's not going to change. He's my quarterback; he's our quarterback. I know the organization believes in him… We're going to see great things from Joe Flacco, and I think it was my job to set this up in the best way possible, that I felt as the head coach, to put him in position to be as successful as he can and be as good as he can and develop and grow and all those things that he's going to do. And that's what you've got to do. Maybe everybody doesn't see it from quite the same perspective as I do, but that's OK. And we'll see what happens, and I'm looking forward to it."
With a good chance that the Draft could come before free agency this year, do you think that will change the Ravens' philosophy on how they approach the Draft?"I don't think so. It's a good question; it's some food for thought [and] it's certainly some things that we've talked about or thought about in here, but when you start chasing need in the Draft, what you lose out on is value. And what you need to do over the long haul is you need to put as many good football players and the best possible football players together that you can, and then you work it out and build our team around that. And then maybe you can add players in free agency or different ways, players that get released to fill a need late. Look what we did with Josh Wilson; [Domonique Foxworth] got hurt there at training camp, and we were all concerned about our corner situation, and we were able to bring in Josh Wilson on a pretty favorable trade to the Ravens right before the season started. So, there are always ways to add players if you need them, but the Draft, that's where you go for the best available player, put the best Draft you can together, character guys, guys you like, and really just try to build a football team. And that's how I see it, Ozzie [Newsome] sees it, and I think that's the way the organization has looked at it for many years."
*(BYRNE) *"We're going to do the results of the second poll, and we're going to make coach Harbaugh guess again. Remember the poll was who do you want to hear next on these Ravens town hall, and coach, who did they pick?"
*(HARBAUGH) *"I'm going to say Ozzie [Newsome]."
*(BYRNE) *"Ozzie was second."
(HARBAUGH) (laughter) "How come I get second every time?"
*(BYRNE) *"It's probably the first time in his life Ozzie has been second in anything. He's in every Hall of Fame there is – including the Little League World Series Hall of Fame. But Steve Bisciotti, 42 percent of you want Steve to do the next one. And he will do that after we have a Collective Bargaining Agreement. And then of course, Ozzie, and we hope to have maybe one with Ozzie later in the year, and No. 3, not surprising, Cam [Cameron] and Chuck Pagano, the fans want to hear from them, too, about 20 percent. So, thanks for participating in that."
How is CB Domonique Foxworth's rehab going and do you anticipate that he will be back for the beginning of next season?"Yeah, resounding yes. He will be back. He probably could play right now. He's spending a lot of time on some of the Union stuff, but I know he's also working out, he's training, he's doing great. I don't know if he's ahead of schedule, but the good thing is – if there is a light at the end of the tunnel or a silver lining to that cloud – at least he got hurt as early as possible. I mean it was before he even really started practice, so it gives him the maximum possible time to get that knee right. So, I don't think we're going to see too many side effects of him coming back early on. He should be full speed right out of the gates."
How did it feel when you came out of the tunnel and saw so many Ravens fans in Carolina last season?"Oh, it was unbelievable. It was a sea of purple. Dick [Cass], we talked about it on the field before the game. It was amazing. It was really incredible. It was a great feeling."
*(BYRNE) *"We have just a few minutes left, and our next caller – and we did this randomly, the system we're using selected – this next caller, coach, is the winner of the signed football that you will sign this evening and we will send to this caller. So, Roger from Ellicott City, you are on with the head coach, you are the winner of the John Harbaugh signed football, and I know here that you are a season ticket holder going back to the Baltimore Colts in 1954."
(ROGER COMPLIMENTS COACH HARBAUGH. JOHN RECIPROCATES. HE LEAVES WITHOUT A QUESTION.)
Do you have any ideas of who will succeed veteran guys like Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed?"That's a good question. It's tough, because you've got great players still playing well, but you've always got to be thinking about – in football, as you know – getting younger, and that's just the nature… The way it works. It's the cycle of football. So fortunately, those guys are going to be back, and I think they'll be playing as well as ever next year. Terrell Suggs has got a ways to go; he's still a young guy. I think he's 26, 27 years old, 28 maybe, Dick [Cass] says, and he's got a lot of good football years left. Ed's still got, I think, plenty of good football left. I've talked to Ed a number of times this offseason, and he feels like he can play four or five more years. Ray, probably… It's going to be up to Ray. We'll have to see. He's at that stage where… He's in unchartered territory. There's no middle linebacker that's ever played, really, anywhere close to as long as he's played at the level he's played. So, we do have to think about that, and we have some good, young players, and I think we're going to have to wait and see which of those players becomes [or] develops into that replacement. Or, it might be somebody we draft or it might be a free agent. But yeah, we're thinking about it. It's definitely on our minds, you always have to be thinking that way. Fortunately, those guys will be back next year though."
Do you do anything to support the athletes for any off-field or personal issues that they may need to work through such as a sports psychologist or training sessions?"Yeah, that's a really good question. The Ravens' organization is probably the most forward thinking in the National Football League. It's been going on here for a long time, especially with Steve [Bisciotti] and Dick [Cass]. We do have two team sports psychologists that kind of work in different areas. They do a great job for us, and I also think just the relationships in the building… It's a team atmosphere. It's a team environment. I think the players understand that they're cared about and that they're important, and you try to fight through those things together. We've got a bunch of tough guys, too, so that's another thing. You try to bring people in that are resilient, that do understand that there are ups and downs, but how you deal with them is what counts. But I think the Ravens do a great job with the mental health, the physical health and the well-being. Spiritual well-being as well; we have a team chaplain, Rod Hairston. So, all those things definitely tie together. Thanks for calling; that's a great question."
*(BYRNE) *"Coach, this has been great and we appreciate you spending time with, as you call it, the 'Wall of Purple,' the Ravens season ticket holders. By the way, any of you fans, once we finish this call, you can stay on the line and you can actually leave a comment about this, or how much you want another one, or anything you thought about tonight, how we can do it better. Or if you want to compliment us, that's OK, too. I'm going to end this by asking coach something that one of the fans just asked about 10 minutes ago: When he sees that 'Wall of Purple,' when he sees fans going to Carolina and we have that… Coach, I've seen you a number of times, you race to the stands. I haven't seen a lot of coaches do this. You know some of the media might be a little disappointed because they're waiting to interview you and you're going to the base of the lower decks on these stadiums, ours included, slapping fives [and] talking to them. Just a little bit about why that's important to you?"
(HARBAUGH) "Well, you know, Kevin, I just really hate to keep those media people waiting over there, (laughter) because I really love getting over and talking to those guys and gals. But there's nothing more fun, home or away – and maybe it's even better away because you go into an opponent's stadium – than just running around that stadium and just sharing the moment. Because in football, or in sports, and I think… You know, you're a season ticket holder for a reason, because you get involved in the team and you care about it. I bet most season ticket holders have been involved in a team or in sports sometime in the past. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat – that's real. And there's no greater moment than after a football game, the euphoria of having won a football game, especially on the road. And to be able to share that moment – it's selfish I guess I'd have to say, Kevin – I mean to share that moment with the fans, to go over there and slap hands with everybody or get pulled up into the stands or get a big hug from somebody, there's just nothing like it. So, I'd have to say it's selfish on my part, [but] there's nothing more fun than that. And that's really… To me, that's really what it's all about. I mean, these things don't last forever, and you've got to enjoy those moments when you can."
(BYRNE) "Well, I know the fans enjoy it. I enjoy watching you do it. I want to thank you for spending the time with everyone tonight [and] thank the fans for participating. Again, we had over 5,500 people on the phone tonight, so we obviously couldn't get to everyone's question, but thank you. Thank you for participating tonight, and we'll do this again."
*(HARBAUGH) *"Have we got one more minute here? Are we in a hurry? Fans, I'm going to spring this on Kevin here, because this is something he and I have a lot of fun with, and we've been trying to figure this out. I'm probably way out of line here, Kevin, and Dick [Cass] is sitting right here… I see a nervous look on his face right now. But here's what Kevin and I have been trying to figure out, and Dick's been a big part of this, too: You know, we think we've got a great fan experience at our stadium. We've got a rocking stadium. But is there a way that we can take it to another level with some kind of a theme, and music, and some kind of a song when we really need our fans – on offense maybe, and on defense – to really crank it up to another level? We've kind of been looking for that song and looking for that moment that our fans can really buy into, and I gave Kevin [a song] that I kind of liked last night. I just heard it for the first time – my 9-year-old daughter shared it with me – but maybe we can get with our fans somehow and do a poll on that and then they would know it's coming. Here, it's this time, this is where our defense needs you most, or this is where our offense needs you most, and it's time to get this thing cranking up. Maybe that's something we can look into, Kevin and Dick, if you guys think it's OK."
(BYRNE) *"We can, and we'll start it right now. So, go to our website, and go to 'Contact Us' and just give us your suggestions. And what we'll do sometime this offseason is we'll come back on our website and ask you for suggestions. And like we've done since the beginning of the Ravens, since I've been here since the start, is we want to include you in the decisions we make. And let's make M&T Bank [Stadium] even more rocking. So, we'll get it done. Thanks for bringing it up. You did scare me a little bit, but we're OK. *(laughter) Goodnight, everybody. Thanks for participating."
*(HARBAUGH) *"Thanks, everybody."