BALTIMORE RAVENS Head Coach John Harbaugh
On if TE Todd Heap is OK:"He's OK. It's just bumps and bruises. It's early. It's a quick turnaround from Sunday, so we decided to keep him in the training room."
On why S Ed Reed is such a special player:"Well, probably talent first of all. Tremendous feel for the game. Very, very intelligent player. Studies it as well or better than anybody. And he's a highly-disciplined player. He plays his position as well as anybody I've ever seen."
On if he would consider using Reed as a receiver:"Sure. We have. Absolutely. It's a possibility this week. You could see it."
On how the veteran players who are limited in practice play at such a high level on Sunday:"In this league, it's a long season and injures happen. Guys prepare. We have walk-throughs, we have practices. Whatever guys can do, they do. I think our guys practice through a lot more stuff sometimes than a lot of people do. I think our guys just do a great job of preparing and getting ready to play. Of course, our training room, [head trainer] Bill T [Tessendorf] and the doctors, Dr. [Leigh Ann] Curl, do a great job of getting guys back, rehabbing."
On if they prepare for Titans QB Kerry Collins in a similar way to how they prepared for Dolphins QB Chad Pennington:"Well yeah. We respect the fact that he takes care of the football very well. It's been a big part of their success, and it's going to be a challenge for us."
On if he can size up the coaching matchup between him and Jeff Fisher:"First of all, my first thought is that you're not standing in the right spot. I can't even hear your question. Secondly, no I haven't given that any thought whatsoever."
On what about Reed's film study sets him apart:"I mean, what is it? It's a hundred things. It's a thousand things. I think he's training our young guys to study tape. And our coaches do a great job. Mark Carrier does a great job. Mark played for a long time. Of course, Chuck Pagano, Rex [Ryan]. It's just like any preparation – it's a group effort, and he's prepared to play on Sunday, and he understands the game."
On if he has any Reed stories that haven't been told:"No, I don't."
On what the supporting players like S Jim Leonhard and T Willie Anderson have meant to the team:"That's what a team does. We've got 53 guys on this roster that are very, very valuable to our football team. And so many times, from a media perspective or whatever, you look at the so-called stars, and we don't believe in that. In the locker room, on the field, everybody is a star or nobody's a star. Our team is the shining star. That's what our guys have been talking about all year. Different guys rise up at different times. All the people you mentioned have risen up at one time or another, and plenty of others. That's what it takes to be successful, in really, any sport, but football for sure."
On how he's working the players this week, given that it's short:"We've got a plan for that, and it's not really important exactly what that plan is. But, we have a plan for that. And we'll have our tempo periods just like we always do, and we'll account for the fact that we have a short week this week just like we always do. We're not real concerned about it. We'll be ready to play."
On what he likes about S Tom Zbikowski on kickoff returns:"Tom, he's secured the football, he's taken it north and south. He's got a record in college for being a good returner, and we're hopeful that we can make some plays in the kick return."
On if there is a fine line between getting the players to take something from the old Tennessee game tape without thinking they're replaying that old game:"No, our guys understand, replaying the game, you can't replay the game. When you watch the tape you're not replaying it. You're studying it. And, we research everything. We research the last games to see where we can get better, where we can improve. It's very important to do that."
On how the Titans have developed or changed from the first game:"They haven't changed, per se, because I think the personality of their team is still the same. They're still a physical football team; they play really hard. The schemes are basically the same. But, they've gotten better. They get better every single week. That's what good football teams do, and they're a much better team than they were when we played them last time."
On what sets Rex Ryan apart as a defensive coordinator:"Rex is a great coach. Rex is a great coach across the board. He's a tremendous motivator. I think he does a great job of including every single player in the defensive room in the game plan. That's a gift. Plus, he's got a great mind for football, and he's a fundamentally sound coach. So across the board, he just does a great job."
On how difficult it is to contain the Titans' running game on the perimeter:"It's difficult to contain them on the perimeter. He [Chris Johnson] can run outside, but he can run inside, too. [LenDale] White can run outside, but he can run inside, too. They've got their strengths – one guy is more of a power back inside, the other guy is more of an outside speed guy. But they've made a bunch of plays on the perimeter with him [Johnson]. Obviously, he was a candidate for Rookie of the Year, and he's a big challenge. He's a big-play threat every time he touches the ball."
On how the Ravens' O-line matches up with the Titans' D-line and what Anderson has brought to the line:"We like our offensive line. We think their defensive line is maybe the strength of their team. They've got a great defensive line, so we've got our hands full. Willie Anderson has just been tremendous for us. We talked about it Monday. Ozzie [Newsome] did a tremendous job of brining him in in August, and not only is he a leader and a teacher, but he's a really good player. And, he's played well."
On what he sees in Titans DE Jevon Kearse:"Jevon Kearse is a great leader. Being around him [in Philadelphia] – great competitor. I think he's healthy. You see a guy that's really healthy. They've got him on the edge. He's playing outside, coming off the edge, which is probably his strength. And he looks like he did way back when. He's playing at a really high level."
On if it's fair to categorize FB Le'Ron McClain's play as a pleasant surprise:"We don't categorize stuff. We just try to play. He's done a nice job of working hard, and Cam [Cameron] did a really nice job with Wilbert Montgomery of not just recognizing his talents, but utilizing them. And we're just happy with the way he's played so far, but we know he can be a lot better."
On what McClain's strengths are:"He's physical. He's runs north/south. He's got a lot of strengths. Watch the tape, you'll see it."
On what he remembers from the first game against Tennessee:"It was a tough game. I turned the ball over more than what I would've wanted to. It was a tough, hard game. I think both teams are a lot better at this point. We're ready to get out there. It's the playoffs now, so it's going to be a little bit different kind of atmosphere. It was a tough game, the first one. It came down to the last drive, and we're going to be ready. We're going to go out and play our game. We're going to try to win by as many points as possible, but we're going to be prepared if it comes down to the end like that."
On if he feels like he can try to make amends for a game that was a minor hiccup in his progression: "No, not really. That's behind us. It doesn't matter how we got here. We're here now, and we're just ready to go out there and play. It doesn't matter what happened the first time we played."
On whether his confidence goes up another level having gone and won a road playoff game:"We don't question that we can do it on the road. It's no big deal to us to go on the road and play a football game. We know that we have to do it for the rest of the season anyway. We all understand that it's about going out there and executing the plays that are called, and that's what we're going to do this week. I think we're playing with a lot of confidence. We have been for a while now. I don't know if it's going up at all. We'll go in there and have the same confidence that we've had the last handful of weeks."
On if it was different for him personally playing in a playoff game, more butterflies or anything like that:"No. We were just playing the Miami Dolphins all over again. It's not like their guys grew a foot taller and got a half second faster. It's still a football game. It just means that you've got to win or you go home, and we all understand that. But at the same time, we've been playing as hard as we could all season long. What would we be able to say about ourselves if we weren't going out and playing every game like a professional? This is what we do. This is our job. We go out there, and we play football for a living. We're professionals at it, so what would we be saying about ourselves if we didn't go out there and play all 16 regular season games as hard as we could? We'd be putting ourselves down pretty badly. So, we went out and played this game just like any other game, and we played it pretty good."
On whether he understands why people ask about the pressure, because guys historically have not been able to come in and succeed like he has:"Yeah, but it's not about me as much as it's about our team. It's about how confident we're playing as a team right now. As long as we go out there and we do what we're supposed to do, then we feel like we have a good enough team to win the games. That's all we've got to think about."
On how much he learned from his interceptions in the first Titans game, if a certain throw is harder to make than he thought or if there's something he wouldn't try anymore: "Yeah, a couple of those [throws] in that game, I don't even know what I was thinking – kind of just bonehead throws. [I] kind of gave them one real easy, but you definitely learn from it. There are times where you've just got to throw the ball out of bounds and live for the next down. That's what I took out of those."
On how much a team would change schematically from the first time they played:"I think they're pretty similar. They're a tough defense. They're feeling confident about how they're playing, and I think that's the most important thing. Anytime you run into a team that's feeling confident about the way they are, you've got to make sure that you're going in with the same mind frame. We believe that we're ready to go. We feel good about how we're playing, but we realize that we're going to get better throughout this week. And that's what we're trying to do – get better so that we can come into this game. Tennessee can't prepare for us getting better; it's all up to us. That's what we're going to focus on."
On how impressed he was with the offensive line giving up no sacks against Tennessee:"Our offensive line has been doing a great job all year, and they were doing a great job leading into that game. I wasn't really surprised by it. We've been impressed by these guys all year – a young group of guys that have gone in there and just fought and came out on top week in and week out."
On if Titans DT Albert Haynesworth is a guy that has to be accounted for on every play:"There are a lot of guys, all throughout the year and all throughout the Tennessee Titans team, that we're going to have to account for. But we say it all the time – it's up to how we play. It's up to us. It's up to how we prepare and go out there and how hard we're going to play on Sunday. Believe me, I have all the trust in the world in the guys up front, our running backs and our receivers, that they're going to prepare during the week, and they're going to go out there and fight. That's why we have the confidence that we have."
On Titans QB Kerry Collins being a survivor:"Yeah, he's a… Of course he's a guy that has a lot of physical abilities from the quarterback position. He's been in this game a long time. He's been around, he's been around. If you watch him play, he's a game manager. That's why Tennessee is having the success they have. If you go back, he's not really getting sacked that much, and not turning the ball over and things like that. He has that type of mindset."
On if too much is being made of the 2000 playoff matchup between the two teams:"Totally different, totally different. I don't know who's stuck back there. I can't be, definitely this team can't be stuck back there. We have to really prepare this week. We know this team is playing at a very, very high level. They were undefeated for however long and came in here and beat us. So, the bottom line is we've got to do the things we've been doing all week, just take our time. Practice what we've been practicing and go up there ready."
On his impression of Titans RBs Chris Johnson and LenDale White:"They're totally two different… Chris Johnson, of course, is the speedy guy. LenDale White is the guy that likes to run inside. Both of them have their own little flavor, things they like to do, like that. All the credit really, a lot of it, goes to the offensive line – Kevin Mawae playing the center position, Pro Bowl left tackle [Michael Roos], and things like that. They have a nice core, which is one of the reasons why they can run the ball so well. We're going to have our hands full."
On that the Ravens shut down the Titans' running game the first time, yet the Titans still won the game:"Absolutely. It just comes down to whatever, you know… It came down to one play. I always say one play doesn't lose the game, so the bottom line is they won the game at the end. So, we have to make sure, hopefully, that that result doesn't end up being the same."
On if the teams meeting after a bye week for the Titans and a short week for the Ravens is a big factor:"Honestly, I've dealt with both, and if I had my choice I think a lot of times you say you'd want that week off. But realistically, I would like to just keep rolling. Rolling just keeps you on a certain mindset, keeps you totally locked in, totally tuned in to what's at hand. So for us, of course we have a short week, but it's the same. It's the same, next week up, next opponent up, and here we go."
On if not having a bye week actually helped them in some ways:"Yeah, I don't know if we ever broke it down to think of it like that, if the [not having a] bye week [this season] helped or hurt. Bottom line is you have it in there for a reason, but, when we didn't have it we just kept rolling. And just like to this point, we're still rolling. The bye week took care of itself, so when we look back, obviously it didn't hurt us. We never paid any special attention about it, I know that much."
On the Ravens' offense giving the defense extra rest during games by having the ball:"I just feel, as a total team, I think Joe [Flacco] spoke about it earlier… It's never about really who we play; it's just about us. We know the type of team that we have, and if we do the things that we're supposed to do on offense, it just helps us out on defense. And if we do the types of things on defense that we're supposed to do, it helps out our offense. So for us, not turning the ball over and creating turnovers, that's just the way we play football. That's just the way… That's our mode, and if we stick to that, most of the time we're going to come out successful. These next 60 minutes... I've been saying that all year. It's just the next 60 minutes. It's not about who we're playing. Just see if we can go put a 60-minute Raven game plan together, and let's see what we have at the end of the day."
On what makes Rex Ryan such a special defensive coordinator:"I just think his relationship with his players, the flexibility that he has with his players. Not just being cool with him, but it's more understanding the game plan and really taking it up under for yourself. That's why Rex is so highly respected from us, because he understands who, when they step out on the field, who can control it out there. He holds you accountable to that. That's the kind of thing you appreciate. Coaching-wise, Rex is one thing, but as a man when you try to talk to him, he's just like a father. You can get anything from him. Just being around Rex, being around his knowledge, being around his passion for the game, is kind of special to have him as a 'D' coordinator."
On if the mentality of this defense is similar to the one of 2000:"Honestly, I just think mentally, not just defensively, I just think as a team overall, we're mentally tough just to go play anywhere. As long as we've got each other everything else takes care of itself. And for us right now, our thing is just to come out and play the best special teams, the best offense, the best defense for 60 minutes, the Raven way, and then at the end, whenever you see the triple zeros, let's find out where we are. So yeah, we're going into a hostile environment and all that good stuff, but the bottom line is if we go in there with each other, we're going to be OK."
On if he ever talks to WR Derrick Mason, who used to play for the Titans, about the 2000 playoff game:"No, not really."
On if the team has talked about individual season awards not mattering because the Ravens are still playing for the Vince Lombardi trophy:"Yeah. I mean, a lot of guys, even the guys who were up for them, they've gotten individual awards before. People are going to pick who they want to pick. Let them pick who they want to pick. The bottom line is everybody plays this game for one reason, and that's to one day touch that Lombardi trophy. And, no matter who got snubbed, if you're still playing in the playoffs, every person who has an MVP honor would definitely trade that in just to be in the position to win right now. So if there's anything to emphasize, it's nobody plays the game for those types of awards. You play the game for that trophy."
On his reaction to QB Kerry Collins saying the 2000 Ravens defense was the best he's faced and FB Lorenzo Neal saying that the right team won when the Ravens and Titans met in the 2000 playoffs:"I don't know. The only thing I can react about is what we're trying to go do this week. Like I said, for me to go back there, that's too far. That's too far. That would really take away what we're trying to do this week. And this week is… We're trying to go play a complete football game. This defense is totally different. We've got a totally different mindset. We're a totally different team than we were in 2000, and [there are] totally different people on their side, as well. Our job is to stay focused on the now. Yesterday is gone. Let's leave it there."
On how the contrast of the Ravens' short week and the Titans' bye week will play out on Sunday:"It's going to play out how it usually plays out: Both teams understand what's at stake, whether you have a day of rest or a week of rest. You understand what's at stake, and you've got to be able to get those bumps and bruises healed and get your body as fresh as possible to play a football game five days later, six days later. What is it? Five days later. But, you've got to be able to do that as a professional."
On if it makes him push harder to be a pro now that he's in the postseason:"I think this team has pushed hard, regardless. We've done a tremendous job at getting better each game, whether it be regular season or playoffs. Of course, we understand the magnitude that if you lose you go home. There's not another game. But, we thrive on getting better each and every game. This is just an extension of the regular season. We haven't had a bye week, so it's just an extension for us from the regular season to the playoffs. Our main goal is to win another so we can get better."
On if he's ever faced a challenge like this, injury-wise, before:"No, never. Usually, typically, at least for me, the pain might last through the week, and by game time I'm fine. But this has been an injury that is going to continue to hinder me in some ways, meaning that it's going always to hurt until we're done playing in February. I'll deal with that then."
On how important mental strength is to combat the pain:"You have to have it, you do. Because if you don't, easily after a play or two, you could easily to go to the sideline and say, 'I can't do this anymore. I'll save myself for the next game,' or 'I'll save myself for next year.' But, for this team, you're not thinking about next year, you're thinking about the next play. I'd better be able to put the pain aside for five minutes and finish out the game."
On if rest will heal his injury or if he will have to have surgery:"Hopefully, I won't have to have surgery, God willing. I think I'm truly blessed that it hasn't gotten any worse than it has. It's not the shoulder now, it's more so the muscles. The shoulder is fine. Actually, the shoulder is fine. I'm not having any trouble with the shoulder. Hopefully, if that continues, after the season [I can] rest it for a while and re-evaluate."
On if QB Joe Flacco has had to adjust the way he throws to accommodate the injury:"No. I just tell Joe to throw it, man. He's comfortable. I think we've got that rapport, him and I, to just throw the ball. I'll find a way to get it, and if I don't it's my fault. I'm not going to use my shoulder as an excuse. If I'm out there playing then I can catch the ball. So, Joe hasn't altered his throwing style because of my shoulder."
On what in his experience has allowed him to get through this and still be a productive Sunday player:"I think it's years of running. What I do in the offseason to condition my body to withstand a 20-plus game season, knowing that there will be some injuries here and there, but being able to fight through it. And, I think a big part was being here for the two-a-days, being here during the mini-camps and really learning the offense, really paying attention and understand what Cam [Cameron] wants from each player. You can't take a day off or two days off and come back into the offense and still run it as if you were practicing every day. And then, Joe and I, we have that rapport with one another, that we don't need to, every second, every minute, throw a pass. You don't need to throw a pass to me every second, every minute. I can take a couple days off and then go into the game and still have that connection."
On if he can give an idea of how many reps he's actually taking in practice:"I can't tell you that. I can't. I get my reps."
On if playing against his former team, the Titans, adds something special to the week:"No, it's not about me. It's not about Tennessee. It's about this Baltimore Ravens football team. I am what, four years removed from that situation? It's gone. I had my fun times there. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed that coaching staff. I still love those guys. But, it's about the Baltimore Ravens now, and that's all I really care about."
On the challenge of Tennessee's defensive front with guys like DT Albert Haynesworth and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch:"They've got a good defensive line. The point is we've got to get by them. We've got to work this week. They're Pro Bowlers. The big guys, both of them are having a good year, so we've got our work cut out for us."
On if they are looking forward to a rematch with Tennessee because of the way the game ended earlier this year:"Yeah, it left a sour taste in our mouths, so we're looking forward to it. We're going to go out there and play Raven football from the beginning. That's all we can do."
On how having several capable backs has helped the offense:"It's good to have each one of us because all of us have different styles of running. Le'Ron McClain is a pounder. Ray [Rice] is a slasher. I can just go in there and try to do both. So it's nice because it throws the defense off balance with our running attack."
On whether it is by design that they wear teams down throughout the game and then hit a big play: "We're pounding away at the beginning of the game. Sooner or later, the defenses have to break, regardless. They're going to give up that big run sooner or later. One of us is bound to get it – me, Le'Ron or Ray."* *
On the importance of having several backs in the team's success on the ground:"It's been good, the versatility of our offense. We're showing a lot. Everybody is doing good and having a great time."
On how his running style compares with RB Willis McGahee's:"You can see that our running styles are different. Once I'm running, just – bang – I want to hit the guy. Willis slashes and uses his speed to get to the edge and get up the field."
On wearing teams down in order to break big runs late in the game:"That's good. It's just something we've been working on. Coach [Cam] Cameron has been telling us we're going to be running the ball since he got in here, and it's been paying off."
On if there is disappointment in not winning the Defensive Player of the Year award:"I still haven't even seen that it came out. No, there's no disappointment. There are a lot of great players in this league. It's so politicked now to where you just [have to] play the game. You have fun. You enjoy playing it. You can't worry about the accolades and the trophies. If you want a trophy, there's a trophy store down the street. You can go buy one."
On whether it is his preparation or what the secret is that allows him to be where the ball is thrown:"That's why it's a secret. If I tell you, I've got to kill you, man. [Laughter] But, no, it's just doing my job. My teammates are amazing, man. My teammates are the ones that you have to worry about. It's not just me out there on the field by myself. You've got guys doing some amazing things. The coaches are in the lab always drawing up great things for us to execute. So as long as we execute, a lot of us are going to have chances to make plays."
On dealing with the bumps and bruises in a short week while preparing for a team coming off a bye:"To us, as a team, we've been dealing with it all year, and we know it's our strength. We know why we do this. We know what we're destined to do. We're just going to continue to work through it. That's the best thing about these guys around here. We're not complacent about where we're at because of what we've been through and what we're going through physically. So, we just focus on the training room and just try to get better."
On if he had real doubts early in the season and before the season that he'd be healthy enough to have the kind of season that he's ended up having:"My brother always talks to me when I'm hurt. He'll be like, 'If we can walk, talk and run, we're going to play.' The Ravens know that. When Ozzie [Newsome] drafted me, he knew that. When we did some contractual things, he knew that. I still deal with it on a daily basis, still think about my livelihood after football. But right now, I'm not focused on that. I've got other injuries that came up after the last game, but there isn't much you can do about it. It is what it is right now."
On what he took away from the first Titans game that makes him feel more comfortable or confident to play them this time:"That we played them before. We played them before. We know them, they know us, and it's going to be a good game."
On what he would like to do besides playing football:"I'd like to give baseball a try, and coaching, doing some things in the neighborhoods, helping kids out across the world. There's really no limit, so hopefully in the future sometime I'll be doing that."
On what position he would play in baseball:"Outfield. I would be lucky to get third base, but outfield."
On if he would be like Michael Jordan and go play in the minors:"Hopefully, not the minors, man. I'm a professional player right now. I feel like – not that I would be better than Mike – but with a little practice, I definitely could be effective in the outfield, stealing some bases, pinch-hitting."
On whether he still wishes he were a quarterback at times:"No. I threw more interceptions than I've caught, and you all think that's a lot catching them. I had like four interceptions one game in high school, and that definitely let me know to go on the other side."
On if it's easier to be on the defensive side looking to intercept a pass rather than complete one:"In my shoes, yeah. If you're Peyton Manning or somebody, I'm sure you'd be like, 'No, no, give me the ball.' But definitely, I'd rather be the defense than the offense."
On whether the way the first Titans game ended made them want to see Tennessee again: "Oh yeah, of course. And I'm sure it's the other way around for them. But like I said earlier, it is what it is right now. We play Tennessee. They play us. We're looking forward to it this Saturday."
On playing like an offensive player on returns, if a switch is flipped once he picks the ball off:"It's just natural. It really is just natural at this point. [Whether it's] blocked punts, returned punts – [I've] played offense before – you want to score. We talk about it on defense, and we do it at practice."
On his favorite player in the league to watch play:"My favorite player to watch is Troy Polamalu because we play the same position. I know Troy personally. We've talked about it. I know that he's working hard to do what he's doing on Sundays."
On if there is a part of him that wants to be the best safety that ever played:"No. It's really just me being the best that I can be right now. Like I told Rodney Harrison Sunday, every safety has something different that they bring to the table. This is the ultimate team sport. Football is the ultimate team sport, so I'm nothing without the other 10 guys on the field."
On whether this has been his most satisfying season:"No, no, not yet."
On if it still could become that:"It's still pending right now."
On if he can play cornerback a little differently with S Ed Reed behind him and what does he feel makes Reed so good:"Yes, you can, as long as you communicate with him. I think Ed's biggest strength is his instinct, and he believes what he sees. When he sees something on film and then it comes in the game, he remembers it and goes and makes the play."
On how Reed makes his job as a cornerback easier:"We all study and watch film together, and we all are on the same page. Whenever we communicate, we make plays. He does the best job of communicating, which is why he's always around the ball."
On if he feels the Titans are as diverse as the Ravens' defense:"Chris Johnson is special. He's very fast. As far as LenDale [White], he's a [pure] running back."
On how Johnson's speed on the outside will effect how he will play on the outside:"We've just got to keep him boxed in and try to keep his explosiveness contained. He's a better outside runner than inside. But, he's a great player and deserves to get the football."
On if he will have mixed feelings if Rex Ryan is selected for a head-coaching job and leaves as defensive coordinator:"We can't concentrate on that now. Obviously, we hope he does get a head coaching job because he deserves it, but our goal this week is Tennessee. We're not thinking about that. He doesn't talk about that stuff. But obviously, if he left, it would be hurtful in this building."
On if he is surprised that Ryan has not been tapped for a head-coaching role yet:"Yes I am, because he's put the work in and everybody that's been a D-coordinator here has gone on to be a head coach. So, he's next in line, I believe."
On memories of losing to the Ravens in the 2000 playoff game while he was in Tennessee:"It hurt more than losing the Super Bowl the year before that, just because we knew whoever won that game would probably win the Super Bowl. But they deserved it. That's the best defense in NFL history, and they outplayed us that day, so they deserved to win. I'm glad I'm on this side now."
On if he feels the Ravens' defense this season is as good as the 2000 defense:"I wasn't on that team, so I don't know. But I'll take this defense any day."
On the depth the Ravens have had this season in the secondary:"Last year, when Chris [McAlister] and I went down we really didn't have anybody. It was all young guys. I think Ozzie [Newsome] and Rex did a great job of going to find players that could play in this system. Dawan [Landry] has been out, Chris has been out, and Jim [Leonhard], Fabian [Washington] and Frank have all done a great job of stepping up."
On if it means anything to him to return to Tennessee where he once played:"If this was, maybe, two or three years go, I'd say yes – just because I'd just left that back. It's four years later, and I'm happy where I am. We've had success here and they've had success there. It's not that big of a deal; it's just another playoff game."
On the irony that the Ravens now have more players on their team who played for the Titans in 2000 than the Titans have remaining:"It's interesting. We were division rivals and we had some great battles. So, it is a little surprising. But that's a totally different team. I think I might have played with four of those guys, three of those guys, so it's totally different now."
On if he finds it appropriate that his team needs to go through Tennessee to get to the Super Bowl:"Destiny, I believe."**
On if he sensed the Ravens would have another opportunity to face Tennessee in the postseason after their loss to the Titans in October:"Well, a lot of those guys said that, that after the game they'd see us again. I was just a fan that day watching, but it felt like I played when we lost because we put a lot into that and we knew they were a good team and that was a chance for us to prove that we were a good team. But, it didn't work out that way."
On what he thinks about QB Kerry Collins' style:"He's taken a team to the Super Bowl before, and he does a great job controlling the game. Coach [Jeff] Fisher believes in shortening the game and playing physically and sound defense, and he does a great job of that. He doesn't make many mistakes and keeps their defense fresh."
On if he's surprised that Coach Fisher is still coaching in Tennessee and is now the longest-tenured coach in the NFL:"No. Coach Fisher is a good coach. He's a good person, and everybody in Nashville respects him. They love him in that city. He's done nothing to lose his job there."
On his rivalry and history with Tennessee: "My rivalry with Tennessee goes back to 1997 when they moved from Houston to Tennessee. We actually played in Memphis at the Liberty Bowl that first year. It then continued with guys like Steve McNair, Eddie George, Frank Wycheck and all those great players. They were just tremendous athletes who built a great legacy for that city and that team. The history is definitely there.
"When we went on our Super Bowl run, they were a part of that. We played them in the regular season and then again in the playoffs. You want to talk about a great game? They started out that playoff game with a touchdown, driving the entire length of the field. We just looked at each other and said, 'Ok, we've spotted them seven. Let's go.' We had enough resolve about our team to know they were a good team but also that we could deal with the ups and downs of the game and handle them maturely. I think it's going to come down to that this week, as in which team is going to rise to the occasion on a level beyond maturity."
On one of his most memorable moments from that divisional playoff game: "That drive they scored on us… That just lit a fire underneath our defense's tail. Nothing happened after that. Very little happened on the Tennessee side after that."
On his thoughts on playing Tennessee again after the way the first meeting ended:"I've really just been looking forward to getting my first playoff win. I got that. Now, I'm just trying to get the thing to snowball and trying to see how far we can go in the playoffs because it isn't over. You can't base your season on, 'Oh, I hope I get another shot at Tennessee.' That's definitely not the case. Everybody talks about the play [where Suggs was called for a controversial roughing the passer]. We didn't particularly lose the game on that one play. It could have ended the game, yeah, but they still sustained a drive. We could've gotten off the field, and we didn't. It's going to be a fun game, another playoff game, another opportunity to keep the season going."
On if he likes shutting up opposing fans:"I love fans. Who wants to play in an empty stadium? You love loud and rowdy fans, so I hope they'll be there in full effect, loud as can be. We're just happy we get to line up against them. We're looking forward to it."
On how much he appreciates Ravens fans:"I really appreciate Ravens fans. It seems, for some strange reason, every time we go to the Dolphins' stadium we take it over, and it becomes a home game. But, I love our fans. They're the most dedicated fans I've ever seen in my life. Hopefully, they'll drive to Tennessee. I think it's closer in distance. Hopefully, they'll drive to Tennessee, and we'll have another good group of fans there."
On whether he would still come hard at Titans QB Kerry Collins:"Why not?"
On getting an unnecessary roughness penalty called last game against Tennessee:"That was a fluke play. It was a fluke play. I'm going to do whatever it takes to try to help get my team to win. If our front four is having a good game or a good series, we do well. So, like I said, it's going to be a fun game. It's going to be a playoff game. I'm sure this is what everybody has been wanting to see. No disrespect to Miami, but who really wanted to see Miami play Tennessee or Pittsburgh? Nobody would really get hyped up for that. Everybody wanted the best teams in the AFC to play each other, just like everybody wants the best teams in the NFC to play each other."
On if there's something to be said for not having a playoff bye when you have momentum going:"Well, it all depends on how we play. You never know if a team is rolling until they compound their wins. If we can keep our wins [going], then you can say we're rolling. But until then, Miami is in the past. We have a bigger opponent this week. We're playing a better team, probably the best team in the playoffs, and they're clicking. They're a dangerous team when the team is playing like that."
On whether the bye can negatively affect a team:"I don't know. I guess it depends all on our leadership. It seems like they have a great, experienced leader over there. We've got a new young guy [who is] hungry, and he's a very energetic leader over here. The football gods have blessed us, and you all get to see another great game."
TENNESSEE TITANSHead Coach Jeff Fisher
On if he sees playing the Ravens a second time this season to be an advantage or disadvantage:"Clearly there's going to be some familiarity, but I wouldn't say it's an advantage for either team. I think both teams are different than they were back in early October. I think both teams have improved. I've seen pretty good improvement in the Ravens in all areas. So, I don't think there's an advantage or disadvantage just because we played earlier in the season."
On how DE Kyle Vanden Bosch and DT Albert Haynesworth are doing at this point of the week:"We're probably about an hour-and-a-half away from practice, and we're hoping that they'll be able to do some things on the practice field today."
On if he finds it ironic or even eerie that the playoffs are a similar scenario to 2000 when the Ravens played the Titans:"I think it's something that's fun to talk about, and I think it makes for a good story. But, it certainly doesn't have any impact on this weekend."
On the Ravens coming away from the first game of the season against the Titans feeling they were shortchanged by the referees and what his team feels they took away from that game:"We found a way to win the ball game at the end. It was a tough ball game and a tough place to play, and we were without a couple of receivers and a couple of defensive lineman, and we didn't play particularly well ourselves. We just felt lucky to get away with the win. That's how games are during the regular season. Sometimes you don't play well and you still win; sometimes you play very well and you don't. But, again, I think as coaches we look at not necessarily the outcome but what took place between the opening kickoff and the end of the game and what the schematic approaches were and what to anticipate next time around."
On if he feels the Ravens' defense is playing better or any differently than they did the first time the two teams played:"I think Samari [Rolle] coming back has really helped them because, as we all know, Samari is a very good player. The longer they play together the more familiar they are. They're not making mistakes --not that they made mistakes earlier in the year – but they're doing a great job with pressure and they're stopping the run and creating third-down and long situations and getting off the field. The team is well-built and equipped because the other side of the ball can hang on to it and run it. And, they're patient, and that's clearly the reason they've won a number of games here down the stretch."
On if he thinks Saturday's game will be a similar low-scoring game as the first meeting of these two teams in October:"I think you have to assume that, but stranger things have happened. We're doing the same thing the Ravens are doing right now: We're game-planning, we're trying to get our players prepared to play the best game of the year thus far. I think if you look at the numbers and the matchups, one could assume it might be a low-scoring game. But, like I said, anything can happen once you get to the playoffs."
On what he's seen from QB Joe Flacco since the time the Titans and Ravens played in October and how he is playing now:"I think it's just experience. Each week with a young quarterback is valuable experience. So, he's got a lot more experience now than he did when we saw him. But we were very impressed prior to the game [in October] with his decision-making, with his poise, with his ability. Joe is special because Joe can keep his eyes downfield, feel the rush and escape. That's something you just can't teach, and he's instinctive there. If he is flushed or pressured, he'll move around in the pocket, but he's always got his eyes downfield and he knows where his check downs are and he's making good decisions with the ball."
On if he ever thought rookie RB Chris Johnson would be contributing so quickly to the Titans' running game and how he has used Johnson and LenDale White together this season:"They're both unselfish; they complement each other. They like to practice, they like to prepare and accept challenges. They know this is going to be probably their biggest challenge of the year. But, C.J., in particular, he's a very smart young man with great acceleration. If you can give him the football in the right place at the right time, he can go the distance. I think the fact and the way we split the carries, we did that with the intention of keeping them both fresh down the stretch. So, they're both fresh, they're healthy and they're looking forward to their week in practice. And hopefully, they can carry over some of the things from the practice field over to the game."
On what types of things he did during the bye week to keep his team fresh as well as prepare for this week's game:"You have to look at each individual player, and that's what we did. That was the reason for the decisions we made going into Week 17. Of course, the overall goal and philosophy of the team and objective of the bye week was to practice and practice hard and practice full speed, and we did so. We didn't necessarily work on an opponent. We worked on things that we felt we needed to improve upon. We put pads on and we got physical. We played 'ones' against 'ones' and we were very competitive, and I thought it was beneficial for us."
On how much an advantage he feels playing at home is for his team:"I think there's a slight advantage, but it's hard to say. There are really good road teams in the playoffs. We feel like we're a good road team. Your goal is to win as many games as you can to secure home-field advantage. We did. It doesn't guarantee anything. It gives you an opportunity to play in front of your fans, which some people [say] gives you a slight advantage or a slight edge. But, that remains to be seen. We experienced that before back in 2000. We're a healthy football team right now, and we're taking the same approach we've taken week after week after week. I think when you get to the playoffs you do the things that got you there. And, that includes respect your opponent and do the best you can to prepare yourself for a physical ball game."
On what he has seen in Ravens WR Derrick Mason both when he was coaching him and this year when he has played through tough injuries:"It doesn't surprise me that Derrick plays hurt. He's a tough guy. He's just a great competitor. I guess the best way to describe it [is that] Derrick will shake your hand before the game and he'll do everything possible to beat you during the game, and then he'll shake your hand after and wish you good luck. He's a great competitor. I think he's a great example to most of the younger receivers."
On if he finds it incredible that so many players who faced each other in the Ravens-Titans matchup in 2000 are still playing for these two teams:"When you say so many, I think I've got two or three. You've got four – three of them were mine."
On it being funny that Titans players from 2000 ended up in Baltimore:"It's not funny. I didn't think it was funny at all. You'd have to ask them. If you guys want to find out about 2000, ask your guys. They were on the other side. They'll tell you how it felt in the locker room."
On what he sees from Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and what he's brought to the Baltimore organization:"You could see early on just the element of discipline. When a new coach comes into a program and you're able to keep your defense intact and your defensive staff together, that helps as far as continuity is concerned and stability is concerned. And then you put your stamp on the offense and Cam [Cameron] is doing a great job with the offense. He understands the strengths and weaknesses of his team, and he puts game plans together and directs his team accordingly."
On FR/RB Le'Ron McClain and what makes him so unique when game-planning against him:"There's not a lot [of backs like McClain]. He's a downhill runner that's going to push the pile and create third-and-ones and twos. That's what makes their offense so effective. Everybody is going to have difficulty at third-and-seven longs, there and plus. But when you've got third-and-ones and twos and you've got a back and a good offensive line that's working that well together, you're going to stay on the field and sustain drives. And he's been such a huge part of that."
On what Titans QB Kerry Collins has meant to his team and what it means to have a veteran quarterback who has battled through the playoffs before:"When you have a veteran quarterback that understands the players around him, he'll take advantage of his teammates – the receivers, the tight ends, the backs. He has a good understanding. He's got a short memory. His experience has served him very, very well. It's certainly helped him this year in a lot of unusual situations that we faced throughout the season. He's poised and calm and doesn't get rattled. And he believes it's OK to throw the ball away and come back and fight again. He's not trying to force things, he's not trying to make plays, and he's made very few mistakes this year."
On if he takes anything away from the Dolphins game where the Ravens' defense found a way to force take-aways with Chad Pennington that helps him with his game-planning this week:"Of course. We've looked at it very close. I'm sure Kerry watched it live. Kerry is familiar with this defense. He understands he's got a huge challenge, and he just has to be decisive and make the right decisions and not throw the ball up where Ed or anybody else can make a play on him."
On if he feels he needs to do anything differently when facing Cam Cameron's offense vs. other offenses:"Yeah. He's unique in that he does a great job of packing his protections and giving an ever-changing look in passing situations. They're very disciplined in the run game. It's unique, but it's not a secret. Your game plan starts with your ability or your hope and your intention that you can protect the quarterback."
On if he sees any similarities in the defenses of Rex Ryan and his father, Buddy Ryan:"The schemes aren't necessarily similar, but the philosophy is. It's a sound philosophy. It's the way you play defense in this league. You stop the run, you get after the passer, you force turnovers and get off the field."
On what he does as a coach to game-plan and what he tells Collins to try to nullify Ed Reed:"There's not a whole lot you need to say to Kerry Collins, other than don't throw it to Ed Reed. Ed is a great player. He takes advantage of situations. He takes advantage of pressure and heat and film study and recognition and jumps routes. There are a lot of other good players on the field, aside from Ed Reed. When you put an offensive game plan together your intention is to try to make plays against the defense, not necessarily avoid plays as far as one particular player is concerned."
On if he feels the Ravens and Titans are close to mirror images with their ball control offenses with multiple running backs and aggressive defensives that play great against the run:"There are a lot of similarities. The philosophies are similar, and the outcome, the numbers, are similar in a lot of areas. It's going to be a real good ball game. We faced the Steelers a couple of weeks ago and we thought the same about Pittsburgh. Their defensive philosophy is sound and they're aggressive. The right teams are in the playoffs right now. This should be a great ball game."
On his impression of LB Ray Lewis and how he is playing at such a high level at this point in his career:"Not only is he enthusiastic and passionate and emotional, he's a very smart, instinctive player. He's always been that way. He understands; he's not fooled. He's very physical, he runs, he hits, and he looks for that big hit. He's still a presence on the field."
On what defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has meant to his staff and his thoughts on the possibility of Schwartz being a head coach in the NFL:"Jimmy has done a great job. He has grown each year. He understands. He gets it. He gets it from top to bottom. He has a great feel for his group, for the defense, and he has a great respect for the offensive game and the league, and he understands it. He's a good teacher, a good communicator, and he's very, very prepared."
On if he can believe that he has outlasted the tenure of all other coaches in the NFL today and if he is still energized as a coach:"I don't pay much attention to that other than when it's brought up and I'm asked. But yeah, I'm having a blast right now. I am really enjoying this team. I look forward to coming to work and I approach this each week like it's my first week. And each week is a challenge, and the staff approaches it the same way. We constantly try to get better and just enjoy what we're doing and be very thankful to be in the position that we're in."
On if he feels he is too young to be the NFL's senior coach:"Oh yeah, way too young for that."
On how good he feels DT Albert Haynesworth has been and what it would mean if he is not 100 percent or able to play:"When Albert was healthy and playing well, he's very, very disruptive. He can dictate and dominate and affect protections and crowds the pockets. Pass rush is a function of two things – inside push and outside speed. And when Albert is healthy and getting the push and Kyle is bringing on the corner, the pocket collapses very quickly. In addition to that, he's a very good player against the run. So, the two of them are very, very determined to get back to as close to 100 percent as they possibly can be for this game."
On if he thinks Haynesworth would have been a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year or MVP if he had not been injured:"I think had he not gotten hurt, I think he would have gotten a mention. But there are a lot of really good players in the league that could have been candidates. I think Ed [Reed] was definitely a candidate, except he made his run just a little bit too late. People don't realize what he was dealing with with the shoulder early in the season. Ray [Lewis] is always a candidate. So, there are a lot of worthy mentions around the league, and obviously, the rusher [James Harrison] at Pittsburgh was deserving of it. When we faced them, we saw how capable he is."
Of if he feels the Ravens' and Titans' defenses are as good as the defenses that met in the playoffs in 2000:"I think there are some similarities, but I think you'll have to wait a couple of weeks to see what happens."
QB Kerry Collins
On how well he feels the Ravens' defense is playing right now:"They're playing very well. Obviously, [they're] getting the turnovers that they've been getting and making it difficult for people to put drives together. So, they're playing very well."
On what he feels makes the defense unique compared to other defenses around the NFL:"I think, schematically, they're unique. Obviously, in third-down situations, they bring blitzes from a lot of different places. I'm not sure we see any more exotic blitzes from anybody else."
On how S Ed Reed has been playing, especially over the last few games of this season:"The guy is doing what he's done his whole career – find the ball. He's extremely smart. He studies, you can tell. He knows your tendencies and plays to them. I think that's what puts him in a lot of positions to make plays. He's a guy who you've just always got to know where he is."
On if the Ravens and the Titans seem like mirror images, other than the Ravens' rookie coach and rookie quarterback:"I think so. I think the philosophies are generally the same – a good defense, run the ball, try to be efficient at the passing game. That's a formula that both us believe in."
On how this playoff push feels to him compared to his previous runs earlier in his career with the Panthers and Giants:"Obviously, I've got a lot more experience. I think I appreciate it more knowing that I am in my 14th year. I know opportunities don't come along like this all the time and this may be my last best opportunity. So, I'm trying to take advantage of it the best I can."
On if he is surprised by the way the Titans' season has progressed and how he ended up in this position:"It certainly isn't what I expected when I started the season, but I'm not surprised that we've been successful and that we've had a good year. I never want to be surprised when I'm successful or the team I'm on is successful."
On if the Ravens' defense appears similar to him to the defense he faced as Giants QB in the Super Bowl XXXV:"They're similar, yes. It's hard to say that any defense is better than the one I played in the Super Bowl in 2000. They were phenomenal. This defense is certainly very good in their own right, but that defense I think will be the best I've ever played."
On if he tells the younger players on his team not to take playoff opportunities for granted:"Yeah, that's definitely a message. I remember my second year I went to the NFC championship game and I thought, 'This is going to happen every year.' And, it doesn't happen that way. So, the veterans definitely try to convey that message around here."
On if he sees an irony in the connections between the 2000 Super Bowl year when the Ravens beat Tennessee, then played him as QB of the Giants and now when he is facing the Ravens again:"It was a long time ago, but obviously there are some connections there. It is what it is. But, regardless of what happened in the past, I think everybody is focused on what we're trying to accomplish this weekend."
On what he sees from the Ravens' defense since the Titans played them in October and the game against the Dolphins:"They're not too much different. I think they believe in what they do. I think they played very well. I don't see anything that's just completely different. They do what they do and they do it real well."
On the strengths of RBs LenDale White and Chris Johnson and the success of the Titans' running game:"Obviously, [they are] two different kinds of backs. Chris is more of a slasher/speed guy and LenDale is more of a grind-it-out kind of guy. But, they have obviously been a big part of our success this year, and they have a big challenge this weekend running against a good run defense."
On if he thinks the Titans' offensive line has not gotten enough credit this season:"I don't think so. They've done a phenomenal job this year, both in the run and the passing game. I think around here they certainly are well-appreciated."
On why he thinks the offensive line has worked so well together this year:"I think they play well together. I think they're smart guys. I think they're very well-coached. I think Mike Munchak is one of the best position coaches I've ever been around. I think they're a cohesive unit and they've played very well, very consistently this year."
On what impresses him about LB Ray Lewis' career and how he is playing at this time:"The guy just still makes plays – makes big plays – runs sideline to sideline. I think that's what we were most impressed about when we played them the first time is just his ability to still go sideline to sideline and make all the plays."
On what he remembers most about the 2000 Super Bowl:"I didn't play very well. Obviously, it was a tough day. We played a good defense and it was their year. Hats off to them."
On what the bye week has meant to the Titans in helping their injured players and preparing for this week:"I think it's allowed some guys to get healthy, allowed some guys to rest up. I think we got a lot of work done last week, and I think it can benefit us this week."
On if the Titans' run game and offensive line have made his job easier than he might have expected at the start of the season:"Yeah. A running game is always a good friend to the quarterback. It creates that balance and has allowed us to do some things from a play-action standpoint. It's all about that balance, and I think we've been fairly balanced all year."
On how helpful it has been to have a veteran player like C Kevin Mawae to help the Titans' young offensive line:"He's done a tremendous job. His leadership is great. Obviously, he's seen everything. He plays very smart. I wish he was out there with us this weekend, but I think Leroy Harris is stepping in and will do a good job."
On how his success this season has affected the way he reassess his career future in the NFL and how long would he like to keep playing:"The way I'm feeling now, I still feel like I've got a lot of good football in me. I'm focused right now on what we're doing, but whatever happens in the offseason will take care of itself. But, I know I can still play and still play at a high level."
On what it is about Titans head coach Jeff Fisher and what has he built in Tennessee:"I think guys like playing for him. He's very player-friendly. He gives the opportunity to be professionals and to do your job, and he takes care of us – I think more so than any coach in the league. He's aware of the longevity of the season and what it takes to play at your best week in and week out and gives us the opportunity to do that."
On whether the job-sharing with the Titans' running backs just happened or was it how the coaches planned:"It was a plan going in. I think anymore today you need two backs. If you look at a lot of good running teams in the league they have two backs that contribute."
On if he knows when which guy will be in the backfield:"No, not really."
On what the presence of DT Albert Haynesworth has meant to the team:"He's just a huge, disruptive force. He is so big and athletic and penetrating and likes attacks. Obviously, he's one of the biggest forces in the NFL right now."
On how much Haynesworth has matured and evolved over the last few seasons:"I think he is much more understanding of himself, of his role, how good he can be. I think so much of this league is personal maturity, and he's just coming into his own because he understands how good he is and how good he can be. It shows in the way he prepares and the way he plays."
On if he's talked with White about taking a No. 2 role because of his career experiences:"No. I haven't seen that be a problem with him. I never got any indication that it was really upsetting to him. He's still getting his carries. Obviously, we use him in short-yardage and goal-line situations, and he's been a big factor for us there. So, I haven't seen any reason why he needed to be talked to."