Opening statement:"Injuries, just the guys we talked about last night are really the only things to speak of, I would say. Chykie [Brown], same as last night. Ray [Rice], same as last night. Chris Canty has an MRI that we're waiting for on a groin strain, and we had the MRI on Art Brown with the [pectoral] strain, but he was out there at the walk-through, so I don't know that there was any issue there, but we'll find out here soon enough. That's what I know at this point."* *
When it comes to young players, they tend to be emotionally a bit more up-and-down than a veteran. But with Marlon Brown's great start, is he taking to things in a more even-keeled way? (Joe Platania)"He seems to be. He seems to be very even-keeled. Marlon has done a nice job. He works hard every day. He's got a really good mentor in Torrey Smith. He can see how Torrey has handled his success and the kind of approach Torrey takes to the job every day, and that probably benefits him."* *
John, with Ray Rice, he still didn't need an MRI? You guys felt good enough about it? (Aaron Wilson)"Right, correct."* *
John, can a guy play with a flexor strain? I honestly don't know. Are you wondering if he can play, or since he hasn't had an MRI it appears that he can? (David Ginsburg)"That's the indication, that it's not anything that's really serious. They would be looking at it if they thought it was. So, we'll just be day-to-day with him. Ray's a guy … I'd probably lean toward resting him this week and then see how he looks this weekend. He's not going to need the practice to play in the game, but if he feels great, we'll put him out there, and if he doesn't, we'll probably rest him and get him ready to go Sunday if possible."
The run game seemed to change things for you in the second half. Can you talk more about the balance in the run/pass game in the second half? (Mark Zinno)"We had more balance in the second half."* *
**How did that have an effect on the team in a positive way? *(Mark Zinno) *"It had a positive effect. I thought it was good. If you have a specific question, I would be happy to answer it."
The defense gave up 49 points the first week. This week you were able to hold the Browns to just two field goals. What is your evaluation after watching the tape of the defense? (Bill West)"We didn't give up the big plays. We tackled far better than we did the week before. The offense we played last week is further along than the offense we played this week. Certainly, we understand that. So you've got to take that into account as well. But, we just improved in some areas that we needed to improve in. Mainly, in the back end, and yet, when you watch the tape, there are a lot of things that we still have to improve in. So, it's a work in progress. I feel like we are under construction, but it's always that way. You just have to keep building on what we've done before and try to improve going forward."* *
How would you evaluate Matt Elam's play after watching the tape? (Ryan Mink)"I thought he played really well. He did what a young safety probably should do: He played to keep everything in front of him. There were some things that he probably could have played a little bit tighter at times, and younger guys probably would have probably made the mistake of playing it too tight sometimes. He played with a lot of maturity in that way, and it was good to see. He played well."
*Did Ray Rice indicate when he got injured in yesterday's game? It seemed like earlier in the game he might have gotten nicked up before the play where he went down. Did he say anything about that? *(Jamison Hensley) "I don't have that information."
On the topic of Ray, the guy from the Browns, Phil Taylor, smacked him upside the head. He seemed to suggest that maybe Ray had spit on him. Did you watch the tape or did you talk to Ray about the incident? (Aaron Wilson)"I've not talked to Ray about it. It was brought to my attention. I watched it; I didn't see that on the tape."
Plus it looked like Ray had a mouth piece in, too. (Aaron Wilson)"I didn't see that on the tape at all."* *
That would make it tough to spit … (Aaron Wilson)"Right. You want me to put a quote out there like that? Really? (laughing) (Reporter: "How about a birthday gift?") "A birthday gift." (laughter)
How big of a lift did Tandon Doss provide the return game with Jacoby Jones being out, and just being able to handle both kickoffs and punt returns? (Luke Jones)"Tandon did a really nice job. At the end of the game, I happened to be walking down the sideline, and somebody said something, and I said, 'Yes, Tandon is playing great.' And there was Tandon right there. It was kind of neat. He really solidified us back there with Jacoby being out – and made the play. He set up the score at the end of the game with the 30-yard punt return or whatever it was. We got the ball down at the 42-yard line, I think, and took it in to score. [That] was just hugely valuable. There was more wind out there than you think, and it was blowing a little funny up there. Their guy had some short punts up into the wind that were hanging a little bit, and Tandon has great hands and handled them very smoothly. So, it was good. It helped us."
It seemed like Jimmy Smith had a strong game yesterday, too. Was that the case when you watched the tape? (Matt Zenitz)"Jimmy Smith had a very strong game. He made two plays back to back there at the end where he got PBUs [pass breakups] and was pretty much one-on-one there against good receivers with good throws that he got the ball out, which was just so big for us in getting that last stop."
How big was Jimmy Smith on special teams, too? I noticed him covering the gunner on punt returns, and it seemed like he played a key role in a couple of the punt returns. (Matt Zenitz) "We are in a situation right now, and you've notice that, on special teams where we are a little bit nicked up in different spots, and a lot of our guys have had to play a lot of special teams as well. Guys who are starting and doing things like that – James [Ihedigbo] is starting on the punt team, [Matt] Elam played in pretty much every phase. Michael Huff is out there in pretty much every phase. Jimmy, all the guys, have done a good job with that. That's a challenge, but they are stepping up and you don't hear a word out there. They love to play, but it's not easy.
Is there any concern about the lack of production from the tight ends in games so far this season? (Mark Zinno)"Sure, absolutely. Those guys need to be a big part of what we are doing. They are fully capable of making catches. Ed [Dickson] should be a big-play guy up the seam, over routes and all those kinds of things. We need to get Ed going. Billy [Bajema] made the catch on top of the linebackers, which was big for us. People consider Billy to be a blocker, which he does a great job of, but for him to able to get downfield and make some plays like that is important. And then Dallas [Clark] had a couple of big plays for us. He had a big third-down conversion. But those guys, you're right, those guys have to be a bigger part of what we're doing."
When you looked at the film and saw what many people considered drops yesterday – the Marlon Brown and also the Torrey Smith ["nine" routes] – do you consider those drops or just tough balls to catch?" (Jerry Coleman)"I don't know. The NFL stats do not consider those drops, but those are balls we'd like to see caught. Those are balls that have been caught. I'll tell you what, those guys expect to make those plays. Torrey has been talking about it all day; he feels like he should have made that catch, and he makes that catch nine out of 10 times. And those are catches we'd like to see Marlon make. He's a big, tall receiver up the sideline. I felt like he slowed down a little bit. I felt like he gauged it a little more than he should have rather than just running to the spot and beating the ball to the spot and going up and getting it. So, that's probably an experience thing for him."
This week you will potentially be facing another former teammate in Ed Reed if he plays. You've seen how teams have game-planned against him for many years. How will it be to be the one game-planning against him this week? (Jamison Hensley)"It's going to be like it was for other teams game planning against us in the past, I suppose. It will be a different feeling. I'll let you know afterwards. It's a little tougher because we haven't seen him on tape, so we really don't know how he fits in their defense. We'll have to assume that he is going to play. We'd be surprised if he didn't play in this game, and we'll have to assume he's going to play the way he's played in the past. We'll have to fit him into their scheme, which in a lot of ways is similar to what we've done here. So, it shouldn't be too hard to figure out where he's going to be and just envision him out there playing the way he played for us all those years."
John, with the play to Chris Ogbonnaya, I don't know if it was a blown coverage or what? Obviously, it would have been a game-changing play had they completed it to him. What was your reaction when you saw that he was standing wide open? (Mark Zinno)"My first thought was … I probably can't say it here with a live microphone, and the second thought was relief. Third thought was let's not call that defense again. *(laughter) *After looking at it on tape, I think it's something that we've got to look at, make sure that scheme-wise we have that thing locked up, and anything like it in the future, because they found us with a nice little scheme there, and we've got to make sure we've got that sewn up next time."
Did you get a chance to talk to Joe Flacco today now that he's gotten a chance to go home and be with his wife and new baby? How is he doing? (Jeff Zrebiec)"We did give Joe some time today to stay up [in New Jersey], because of getting up there so late last night. I just talked to him through texts, and he seems pretty happy."
Brandon Stokley had a couple of nice catches on third down. Is he kind of developing into exactly what you envisioned when you brought him here? (Garrett Downing)"I hope so. It's such a hard question to answer, but we have high hopes for Brandon as a third-down chain mover. He was that yesterday, and that's something … He made some huge plays for us. And the thing I forgot to mention last night in the press conference, probably the key to the whole second half, was the third-down conversions. What were we, 7-of-8? We ended up 50 percent for the day largely on what took place in the second half. So, if we can convert on third down – and even though they weren't all third-and-shorts, because their run defense did a good job even – but as you guys are talking about, we stayed patient with the run game, and then we converted on third down. So, to have that type of a weapon is really important."
It seems like Joe Flacco has played better than the numbers would indicate, especially yesterday. Do you feel the same way? (Matt Zenitz)"The first game, for sure, because he had all the drops. Yesterday, he played well to win the game. He made some throws, as you pointed out, that could have been game-changers in the first half if we come up with those catches on the 'nine' routes. Then, [in] the second half, he converted the third downs – that was big. I don't know if the numbers – as you said, they might not have been that [good], but they were pretty darn good, and they were good enough to win the game. He was about a 95 quarterback rating, which isn't too bad, so we hope it gets better."* *
When you're evaluating the offense at this point, do you look at it as saying that a lot is going right, but they just have to make plays when they have chances? (Ryan Mink)"That's part of it, yes. Making plays is a big part of it. When you look around the league, that's usually the difference if you're doing all the other things to put yourself in position to win games – blocking and picking up blitzes and things like that. We've got to do all those things better. We have playmakers, guys who are capable of doing it, so we just want to see us continue to build on that."* *
Is there a rooting interest in tonight's game for you? (Mark Zinno)"If there was, I'd probably get in big trouble if I said so, right? But there really isn't. Really, there is not. Maybe at the end of the game, I'll get into the game like you guys will, and I'll start to feel a certain way and start pulling for a team. Usually, I'm the kind of guy who pulls for a close game, unless it's really something we need to have happen. I'll be watching the Houston Texans' tape, and I'll have that up in the background probably and probably be distracted more than I should by checking that game out. It'll be a fun thing to watch for all …" (Mark Zinno: "You'll be rooting for a tie, right?") *"That's not a bad idea. Would a tie help us? A tie would help us, wouldn't it? Ok, there you go. *(laughter) *Duffy Daugherty, right, what did he say?" *(Joe Platania: "Kissing your sister.") "Ties are like kissing your sister, Joe Platania, 1966, Notre Dame – very impressive, Joe." (laughter) (Kevin Byrne: "10-10.") "10-10!" [Score of the 1966 Michigan State vs. Notre Dame "Game of the Century."] That's impressive. Jack Harbaugh knew that, right coach Harbaugh? (laughter) *Anything else you want to add to this press conference?" *(laughter)
Is it tough to be patient with the run game when the gains are one and two yards? Is it tough to focus on the fact that you're wearing them down and setting up other things? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Yes, and you're not always wearing them down. Sometimes, they're just getting stronger. You've got to gauge that a little bit. We'd sure like runs to go for more than one or two yards, but I think we understand that sometimes that happens against a good defense. You have to get better at everything. So, we've got to continue to build our pass protection, which did a nice job for the most part yesterday. They had a nice blitz package. I thought our assignments were really good on the blitz package stuff. The run game got better as the game went on. It was at its best at the end, when it was most important. So, the fact that we were able to close the game out with our run game was really big, and that goes to your point. But, we've just got to continue to improve in every area. We're a work in progress – run game, pass protection, making plays downfield, quarterback play, defense, special teams – the whole thing. We've just got to work on everything at once."* *
Unfortunately, it's not like college, where you can have a couple of teams to play to prepare for later. Is this a tough schedule for a team like yours, when you have Denver and Houston in the first two out of three games? (Dave Ginsburg)"I was never in one of those programs as a college coach where we had that. I was always the [underdog] team they [the favorite] were playing, it seemed like, so they were all tough. So maybe that was good training for the NFL, which every team faces that challenge. That's just the way it is. Everybody you play is really good. Everybody you play has really good players. It's not like you're going to have two or three [easy games]. If you're one of those top [college] teams that you're talking about, you're going to have two or three really big games that you better be ready for, and the rest of them you're going to win. It's just not like that, and that's the beauty of the National Football League. I think that's why everybody loves the NFL. It is so much fun to watch. I like coaching here better for that reason, because every week you have a chance, no matter who you're playing. You have a chance to win. Any team in this league can win the championship. The team that plays the best will be the team that wins it in the end, over the course of a long season."* *
Could you talk about the confidence level you have in Bernard Pierce? (Jamison Hensley)"We've had confidence in Bernard [Pierce] since, really, the day he got here and started practicing, because he showed what he's all about. He continues to get better. One thing you may not have noticed was the pass protection. He stepped up on a couple inside pressures there and really did a great job of standing those linebackers up at the line of scrimmage. He's becoming a complete back, and we're just very fortunate to have him on our team."* *
It seems like every week you've had to face athletic tight ends, and now you have Owen Daniels coming up. Do you think the league is evolving to the point where you're going to see one of those guys week-in and week-out? (Matt Vensel)"Yes. It's such a valuable weapon to have. We talked about the question with our team, and it's something we should have as well going forward the rest of the year. We have the guys to do it. But it seems like everybody has a tight end who can make plays. Those guys are big receiving threats, [and] they can run. It's probably the latest evolution in this league. And there have always been great tight ends, but I don't think everybody had one back then. We've got a pretty great one upstairs [in Ozzie Newsome]. He reminds us of that. Well, he reminds us that he was a great tight end as well as the fact that it's important [to have one]." (laughter)
As Matt Elam gets acclimated to being a starter and playing full time, what are some of the challenges for a rookie safety? (Aaron Wilson)"The biggest thing about a safety – one of the biggest things – is you're in the middle of it. You've got to tackle well. If you're not tackling well inside, people are going to run the ball on you. You're the last stop, so you've got to stay on top of different kind of passes, play-action passes and things like that. I think it's a discipline-oriented-type of position, and that's a little tougher for a younger guy who hasn't seen everything. They'll be going after him with double-moves and play-action passes and things like that. He's going to see a lot of challenging looks."* *
Do you see a lot of upside with the way [Matt Elam has] played so far? (Aaron Wilson)"Oh, yes. We have a three-safety rotation now that we feel very confident in. We've got some flexibility in Michael [Huff], because Michael Huff can play the nickel, and he can play corner as well. And Matt [Elam] can play the nickel. [Secondary coach] Teryl [Austin] has done a great job of moving those guys around and getting them ready in different spots, and we've got to build on that."
Pernell [McPhee] was somebody that [Terrell] Suggs brought up yesterday during his meeting with the media. I know Pernell has switched positions – he's in a reserve-type role – but what kind of contributions has he made through the first two games?* (Matt Zenitz) "If you noticed, we didn't have to keep our outside linebackers on the field the whole time. We were rotating Terrell [Suggs] in and out of the game. [Elvis] Dumervil rotated with Courtney [Upshaw]. Pernell [McPhee] was in the game for Terrell [and] played a lot on the run downs and did a real good job. The more guys you can play, the better off you're going to be at every position. I think a couple of guys played the whole game, but Daryl Smith was maybe one of the few guys that played every snap."* **
If you get to the end of the week and you think you're going to have to rest Ray Rice, are you comfortable using a [Kyle] Juszczyk or Shaun Draughn? Do you change personnel or your approach out of the backfield? (Gerry Sandusky)"To be determined. We'll see. Thanks for asking, though."
Is that a good indicator for Arthur [Brown] that he's able to do the walk-through? He wanted to go back in the game yesterday. He must have been feeling decent during the game after suffering the injury? (Aaron Wilson) "I don't want to draw any conclusion, because I really don't know."* *
Arian Foster is a different type of runner than Trent Richardson. Talk about the challenges he presents and what kind of test he'll be for your run defense again. (Clifton Brown)"This team, we've played them a lot. We got drubbed down there last year. They present so many challenges; they've got so many good players. They do a good job with their schemes – all three phases. They always play hard, they play very physical, [and] they've got a lot of speed. They've got weapons everywhere. It's just going to be a big challenge for us. Whether it's Arian Foster, Matt Schaub, or Andre Johnson … They've got receivers everywhere. This kid from Clemson – [DeAndre] Hopkins – we loved him coming out [of college]. Their offensive line is always good and very well-coached. Flip it over to defense, it's the same thing. We understand the challenge, we understand who is coming in here, and we'll be ready."* *
Is there anything you can take from the Denver Broncos game in Week 1, with all the weapons they had, and extrapolate that to the Texans, the weapons you just spoke about? (Mark Zinno) "The best teams in this league – the most explosive offensive teams – have that in common. We've played against these kinds of teams, and New England has been like that in the past, too. It'll be very similar in that way."* *
Another emotional week coming up, [with] Ray Lewis coming back and being honored in the Ring of Honor. [It's] emotional for the players and for the fans. Can you talk a little bit about that? (Bill West) "It'll be great to see Ray. I don't know how emotional we'll be about that. We'll be emotional about … It's always there. We'll be emotional about the game, and we'll feel great about Ray [Lewis] being here for that. It's a great honor. It's something that we'll all take pride in. Maybe Ray will be ready to give us a little fire-up talk? We'll be looking for that as well. You could feel [emotion] at the beginning of the [Cleveland] game. When we came out before the introductions – the coaches sneak up on the sideline [through] that back door – we were out before the players were out. [The Super Bowl video tribute] was just wrapping up – the festivities with the banner and everything. I'll admit, it was a little emotional – it really was. It just kind of grabs you a little bit. You could just feel the energy in the building; it was amazing. It means something, it really does. You can't let it distract you, but at the same time it's a pretty powerful thing."