Head Coach John Harbaugh Monday Zoom Press Conference Week 16 2021


Opening statement: "OK, it's just good to be with you guys. I appreciate your time. We're onto Cincinnati right now. We're looking forward to this game next week. It's going to be a huge game for us – AFC North. This game is going to go a long way in terms of determining who wins the division. I have a lot of respect for the Bengals, their coaching staff, the players, the season they've had and really everything about that team. So, we're going to have to be at our best on the road [in a] tough environment. So, we're looking forward to it. We're excited about it. We can't wait to play, but before that, we can't wait to get onto the preparation. We're already knee deep into that. So, that's where we're at with that.

"As far as any injuries from this game coming back, I'll kind of go through the list here. The COVID-19/Reserve list, it's really going to be hard to say who is going to be back from that and when. That's protocol related. So, really no comment on that, because there's nothing to comment on, because you don't know. As far as Lamar [Jackson], we'll see how the ankle responds and continues to respond. It is getting better. Calais [Campbell], we'll see how the hamstring responds. Pat Ricard, same thing with the knee, we'll see where he's at. From the game, we had … Tavon Young will be in the concussion protocol. Tyre [Phillips], I'd say later in the week we'll have a better feel on that one, we'll know a little bit more. Devin Duvernay has an ankle [injury], that's kind of day-to-day right now. Those are the ones I have in front of me. If you have any other questions on that, I'm happy to address them if we can. That's where we're at. What questions do you have?"

You mentioned about the AFC North. When you look from top to bottom, I think everyone is separated by a half-game or a game. What do you think it says about this division this year? (Jamison Hensley) "I really don't have any thoughts on it. I guess I could think of something to say. I'd probably say it's very competitive, but I haven't really thought about that at all. It's a tight race, and we're just trying to do our best in it right now."

Just kind of playing off the update you gave on G/T Tyre Phillips … We obviously saw OL Patrick Mekari practicing with a cast on his hand last week. Would he be an option for this week? Where do things stand with G Ben Powers? (Childs Walker) "Ben [Powers], I don't know. He has a toe [injury], so we'll know, I'd say, Wednesday or Thursday. We'll see how he does in practice. I thought the offensive line played really well. The guys went in there … You mentioned Tyre [Phillips] and Pat [Mekari]. Pat had a chance to practice last week, but I thought David Sharpe did a really nice job when he came in. The whole offensive line played a really good football game. I was happy to see it. The young guys stepped up. Ben Cleveland stepped up and had a very good game for his first outing. Of course, [Bradley] Bozeman, he played a good, solid football game. Kevin Zeitler was his usual self. Alejandro [Villanueva] had a lot of good plays out there. So, I was really happy with the way those guys played."

Just going back to the two-point conversion. QB Tyler Huntley had said after the game that you had said a couple drives before that your plan was going to be to score two touchdowns and go for two. With that thought in mind and applying some of the logic from last week in Cleveland, how much do you consider going for two when you score the first touchdown and you're down eight [points]? What led you not to do that? (Luke Jones) "That's a great question. We could have done that, but it just felt like the clock was a little tight. My gut … I talked that over with our coaches even earlier. Really, the decision wasn't made that early. I talked to him [Tyler Huntley] on the bench about probably doing that. I wanted him to be ready for it, but I wasn't sure at that point if we were going to go for two or not. That was more of a decision that was made right there late. So, I really wanted to delay that decision until the end and just kind of see how I felt about where we were at. [With] how much time was left; it would have had to have been a situation where it goes down to the wire. Forty-two seconds was a little bit more time than you really want to go for two there; I would rather have it be around 20 seconds, but decided to do it there at the end. If there would have been any more time than that, we would have certainly kicked it. I think really when you look at it, just having thought about it really hard, it's something you go back … We had a lot of conversation with it on the phones at the time. I've thought about it all night – of course you do. There are two choices, and they're both viable. Either one can turn out right. Either one can turn out wrong. It's basically 50-50. We talked about a lot, [and] we decided to go for it. It didn't work out. I know half the people are going to say we should've kicked it. I get it; they can certainly criticize me for it. I'm OK with that, I criticize myself for it. So, I understand it. That's just the way it goes. You can't dwell on it too much, because we definitely have to move on. We've been preparing already. We're onto Cincinnati, and that's kind of where we're at. But you think hard about those things before and after. I think it's a little bit like decisions in life. Maybe it would have turned out differently, [or] maybe it would've turned out the same. There's no guarantee we would've gone down the field and won in overtime, either. So, that's where we're at. We'll do the best we can going forward with those kinds of decisions."

We've all seen … The last six quarters, the offense has been as sharp as it's been in probably well over a month. How difficult has … I know QB Lamar Jackson is your quarterback, I want to make that clear. But if QB Lamar Jackson is not 100%, how difficult of a decision does that have to be weighing his health with what you've gotten from QB Tyler Huntley the last two weeks? (Jeff Zrebiec) "That's a good question, but it's hard to answer, because there's no definitive formula there. So, we're just going to have to see where we're at with all factors. That's how you do it. You have to take everything into account and see where you feel best about going forward – practice time, health-wise and all those things. That's really all you can do, just go with what you feel like is best and how the guys are doing."

QB Tyler Huntley threw the ball to eight different guys yesterday, including WR Tylan Wallace and WR James Proche II? How key is that getting all those guys involved and keeping defenses off balance by having so many different weapons in there? (Todd Karpovich) "I like that. I don't think it's a must. It's not like you can go into every game and say, 'Hey, the key to the whole thing is spreading the ball around to different targets,' but it does speak to the fact that he was kind of taking what the defense gave him. He was going where the reads took him, most all the time and did a good job of that. I thought Tyler [Huntley] played really a poised game. He got the ball out on time most of the time. He got off and got scrambling most of the time, when he needed to. He saw the field pretty well and just played an all-around good football game. He'll look at it real critically, just like Lamar [Jackson] does. He'll want to play a lot better than he did, and that's what you appreciate, but that's how you improve, too. So, yes; that's a good thing when you have it. We're happy about that."

Yesterday, you mentioned the step up for QB Tyler Huntley, but the Ravens played with a backup secondary, too. What does their performance mean? [It seems that there is] a culture for the Ravens that no matter who plays in this position, they still are able to manage one of the most dominant offenses in the NFL. (David Andrade) "I think kind of what you're going towards is something that we feel really strongly about. We trust our players. We believe in our guys. The guys who are out here practicing hard, who are in the meetings working hard, they're trying to do things the right way and play the way that we like to play, the way that the tradition by many great players before them have established how we play here on all three phases. Those guys deserve an opportunity, and we don't want to shy away from that. That's how you find players. You put them out there when they're ready, when they've practiced well and they've proven to you that they're ready. Or circumstances … Sometimes, the guys seem like they're ready, but the circumstances don't give them an opportunity. So, when those two things merge, you're really excited to see guys go out there and play well. I thought the secondary, the 'O-line' [offensive line], other places, too, but the secondary did a good job. There are lots of things we can coach off there as well, especially going against an offense like that and a quarterback like that. But I was happy with those guys, and your point is well-taken."

I'm sorry if I'm making you repeat yourself, but when WNST reporter Luke Jones asked about the analytics and not going for two after the first touchdown to draw you guys to 31-23, you said the clock was a little tight. Does that mean you're thinking about the possibility of the next touchdown and kind of where that would've left you guys if you had scored a second touchdown late in that comeback? You kind of spent most of the time talking about the second touchdown and the analytics on that, but I'm just wondering about the first touchdown [that brought you within] 31-23. (Jonas Shaffer)"If I'm following the question, you're not sure exactly … I was pretty sure in the Pittsburgh game that we were going to … It's the Pittsburgh game we're talking about, I think here, right? When we went for it too early, was that the Pittsburgh game or the Cleveland game?" (SVP of Communications Chad Steele: "Cleveland.") "The Cleveland game. When we went for it too early, I was pretty sure that it was going to be a two-touchdown situation. I wasn't quite as sure it was going to be a two-touchdown situation in this game. There could have been another score involved, so I just wanted to wait and see how that played out. That's why I didn't go for it on the first score. I wanted to wait for the second score. Plus, you never know how much time you're going to have left. So, if it had been any more time, we would have definitely put it into overtime or attempted to put it into overtime and tried to get the stop. But I thought about putting it into overtime, anyway. That was a consideration, I just decided to go the other way with it. I felt like that was our best chance. You know, it's interesting how close this is [and] how tight these decisions are. I guess that's what makes it so exciting, and when it doesn't work out, so kind of devastating, because if we had hit two of these two-point conversions, we would be No. 1 in the AFC, I think, right now. So, that's the difference. You just have to keep chasing it in the National Football League – any given Sunday. Everything is still in front of us. So, let's keep working hard, and let's see what we can accomplish these next three games, starting with the most important one against Cincinnati."

I just want to ask something, and I'm sorry if I'm not getting this right, but there are new NFL COVID-19 protocols in place. My understanding was if a club is in intensive protocol, the entire team continues to test daily. Is that correct? Would your team be at that status with the number of players that have tested positive? (Bo Smolka)"I don't know the details of what protocol stands for what; I just go by what we're told we have to do. What we're in right now is some sort of an intensive protocol on some level, but we're not testing everybody daily. That's not what we're doing. We have to wear masks. We have to meet virtually for the next two days and wear masks for the next two days, and then I think they're going to see where we're at after that. So, we're happy with that. We don't have any problem doing that at all. We try to stay as safe as we can and see where we go from there."

Just how vital is it for your team and your group to move on after another tough loss like you did? I know you have to do it every week after a loss, and after a win, too. After another heartbreaker like last night and with the game looming this Sunday against the Bengals and its importance on the season, just how vital is it to turn the page now? (Shawn Stepner)"Sure, it's 100% vital. I think it's 100% vital – to your point – in all those situations, which is kind of what I heard you saying there, so it's really no different in that sense. And I'm sure our guys have moved on. We have moved on. You have to. You can talk about second-guessing ourselves on a whole bunch of different things, whether it's plays we call or how we teach a technique, or what choices we made in game-planning, or who played or how they played. The guys look at themselves very hard. But really, it's all with the forward eye towards the next game. That's really what we're looking at – 100%. We've got to get ready for the next game. That's what we're doing. We have moved on to Cincinnati – in [that] famous line from a famous coach. It's so true, and that's what we're doing."

You mentioned all the two-point conversion situations you guys have been in. I think going at least back to the Indianapolis game, you have maybe been in as many as any team in the league. How much time do you have to spend each week adding new wrinkles in case the situation comes up again, because you obviously don't want to be repeating plays, I assume? (Noah Trister)"Yes, that's true. You do. And those are plus-five plays, generally – two-yard line-type plays. [They] could be at the one-[yard line]. But we work on low red zone quite a bit – plus-five and going in quite a bit. Those are the types of plays you're talking about. We have to have a large array of plays in that area. So, I think that's one thing that has changed about football in the last five years or so – those menus are much bigger than they used to be. You spend a lot of time working on and repping those, because you can run out of them pretty quickly. That's a good point."

I just wanted to go back to the decision to go for the two-point conversion. Were you up last night going back and forth? Did you go back and watch the film? And also, in terms of the play itself, how much has QB Tyler Huntley been able to practice that, knowing that he hasn't had the reps as much as QB Lamar Jackson did this year? Do you also look at it differently from the perspective of being home and on the road? Does that ever enter any consideration? (Jerry Coleman)"Yes, I think everything is in consideration, really. Definitely, home and away lends itself to how you feel about the situation. [WJZ reporter] Mark Viviano asked about the analytics and the numbers, and there are certain people out there that make certain assumptions about the numbers and all that, which … I laugh at that constantly, because … Our analytics guys would laugh at it, too. But in the end, you go by what you think gives you the best chance in that moment to win. And it's not a perfect decision ever. So, always, on every situation, coaches … You go back … Any coach will tell you at every level … I can talk about even [my daughter] Alison's [Harbaugh] high school coaches. You go back and you just look at everything, all the time; you ask yourself all those tough questions all the time. You can't just slap your hands and just say, 'Oh, Que Sera, Sera [Whatever Will Be, Will be];' that's not what it's all about. You try to do the best you can, and you try to apply it and learn and get better. But just knowing a lot of times it's a 50-50 gambit – that's what it ends up being – and you've got two viable choices there, and you've got to go with one in the heat of battle, and you make your choice. So, what goes into it – probably a lot of that is stuff that you don't even necessarily calculate consciously. It becomes a subconscious calculation, as well, and you try to do the best you can with it.

"As far as Tyler's [Huntley] reps, he probably had fewer reps than he would've had if he was Lamar [Jackson] all season – with first-team reps – but he's gotten a lot of reps at most all those plays. He'll tell you he can execute that play better, but he did a pretty darn good job with it the whole game. He played really well, and he'll keep chasing perfection and improvement, just like we all will."

For the record, the question that I asked you was for clarity, not out of judgement – just so we're on the same page. (Harbaugh: "I appreciate that.") (laughter) Is it coincidence, or did you guys target QB Tyler Huntley because of a skill set that matched your starting quarterback? And as you see him play in game situations and play well, is it not surprising that he was not drafted? (Mark Viviano)"Very good questions. The first one is yes, we did, because he fit the style of our offense. But not just that; all of his talent and ability – which speaks to the second part of your question – we really respect it. [Quarterbacks coach] James Urban and our scouts had really high regard for Tyler [Huntley] on the tape that they'd watch and to the workouts and everything. So, that kind of all added up.

"Surprised he wasn't drafted? I don't know. I can never be surprised about anything in this league. You just never know who ends up arising and becoming a good player and who doesn't. It's a big challenge to try to predict all that. But we're happy with Tyler, and we're looking forward to his growth and development, and he's going to work really hard to continue to improve."

Just after looking at the tape, can you talk about the way that S Geno Stone played, especially taking over the communication? And it looked like DB Brandon Stephens had maybe his best game yet. What did you see from him? (Ryan Mink)"Right. That's a good question. Thanks for bringing those two names up. I had forgotten just to mention those guys. They both … Brandon [Stephens] did play his best game. He was in good position. He continues to tighten up, in terms of the details, the leverages, eyes, his landmarks, his relationships on the different routes. He was – I'd say- at his best in this game. And then Geno [Stone] – boy, he took that green dot and ran with it. He had great communication back there. We really didn't skip a beat back there between him and Chuck [Clark], which is really what you want to see. I credit Chuck, in terms of training him, of course, [pass game coordinator/secondary] Coach [Chris] Hewitt, and [defensive backs] Coach [D'Anton] Lynn. But yes, I thought those guys played a really solid game back there – both safety spots."

You guys are regarded as an analytical team, because a few of your decisions are influenced by that. How much do you really use analytics in your decisions? How often are you really declining it, I guess, is my question? Are you guys more on the 50-plus side when you do choose to go that route? (Cordell Woodland)"I don't know. It's really … It's not how often you use it or don't use it. It's more to what degree does it factor in? We definitely don't follow the model 100%, by any stretch of the imagination. The model tells you to go for two, [and] it tells you to go for fourth downs a lot more than we do. In terms of those two situations, I'd say that's probably the case. Now, what are some of the other analytics things? There's a lot more to analytics than just those gametime decisions. We take all that information that you get through all the different outlets that you get information [from], and we try to build models and try to gather as much as we can, in terms of our game-planning, too. So, we really apply all that stuff. You apply that to your film study. So, you're note just watching tape and making notes – which is a big part of it, because your eye tells you a lot – but we're also filtering that through the lens of what we know based on qualitative information that comes through off of the film study and the Next Gen Stats and the tracking and all these different things that we're able to assimilate and put into a body of information and then try to analyze it and make sense of it. So, it's a good process. It's just information is way more advanced than it was. There's always been analytics in football – all the way back to my dad's day, when they used to take the cards and put the spikes in them and shake them out, and the ones that fell out you knew weren't third-down plays and all that. So, just a much more advanced version of what's been going on for many years in football."

Yesterday, QB Tyler Huntley was very appreciative of the opportunity of playing with the Ravens, despite the score. WR Tylan Wallace got his first catch in his career. And also, CB Anthony Averett was one of the most targeted players, but he was able to manage the best quarterback and wide receiver duo. What is the mental part of all these new players creating opportunities with the Ravens? (David Andrade)"That's something to think about. We've had an opportunity, for sure, to look at a lot of players this year – that would probably be an understatement – so that's a good thing. And the way they've stepped up and played is something that we're very … We're happy about that. It means you've got some guys that can play, and that's a good thing going forward. But right now, we're just kind of focused on the next game and trying to do the best we can against Cincinnati."

There was a report with QB Lamar Jackson about him having a bone bruise. Would that be accurate – that he's dealing with that? And I know you said you'll have to gauge it as the week goes on, but are you guys optimistic about him being able to practice on Wednesday? (Jamison Hensley)"Yes, I'm hopeful. I'm hopeful. As far as the details of it all, it's not something we really get into – the details – too much, as you know. That's not something we need to share with the whole world. I'm hopeful. We'll see."

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