BALTIMORE RAVENS TRANSCRIPTS: TEXANS WEDNESDAY
Head Coach John Harbaugh
On how the team is preparing T Jared Gaither for his matchup with Texans DE Mario Williams:"We let him know that he's going to be playing Mario and Mario will be lined up over him, and [he'll] just study the tape. And, we've got a game plan and we're going forward with it. He's excited. I know they played each other in college, and I think that's where you're going with it, basically. That's going to be an interesting matchup – two young, upcoming players. Mario, obviously, is ahead of Jared in terms of experience and stuff, so it will be a good challenge for Jared."
On his impression of Williams being bigger and stronger than everybody:"That's a great way of saying it. He's got long arms, he's got heavy hands and he's very athletic. He kind of reminds you of Trevor [Pryce] in some ways. [He] is just a tremendous football player."
On the Ravens' contingency plan to deal with the possibility of Hurricane Ike:"Those are possibilities that Dick Cass and Bob Eller, and really, the NFL – along with the Texans – are working on. So whatever those plans are, they'll let us know when it's time, and our job is to get ready for the Texans."
On if he has a policy that players have to practice in order to play in the game:"We had that question already on Monday, right? So you can go back and look at the transcripts on that. But, we have a plan and a policy."
On having RB Willis McGahee back in practice and ready to play:"Well, we haven't practiced yet. We walked through, and he looked fine in the walk-through. We're excited to have Willis back. Absolutely."
On whether he feels the running success against Cincinnati inspired McGahee to get back to the team:"I think Willis was inspired by the effort of our football team, sure, and he was definitely part of it, as far as his preparation during the week."
On whether they expect the Texans to switch Williams from left to right:"We expect and we're going to prepare for that. We don't know if they're going to do it or not, but we're going to prepare for that. He can play on both sides."
On the challenge of a first road game for rookie QB Joe Flacco:"It will be a new challenge, no doubt. There will be the crowd noise issue. They won't be chanting, 'Let's go Flacco,' I don't think. It will be interesting to see how he manages it, and we'll have to help prepare him to do that."
On whether he sees parallels with the Ravens' and Pittsburgh's running plans:"Everybody in this league runs basically the same plays. It's the way you set them up, it's the way you get into them formationally, personnel-wise. We've got our wrinkles for the game, just like Pittsburgh had their wrinkles for the game. Houston can play really good run defense. They've proven that. That's an aggressive run defense that flat-out flies around. The linebackers get after it. They've got two good, young tackles that can run sideline to sideline, and those safeties get involved a lot in the run game. So it's going to be a challenge for us to run the ball against this defense."
On having CBs Fabian Washington and Derrick Martin back in the lineup this week:"It solidifies the corner spot, obviously. We're carrying a lot of corners right now and a lot of defensive guys, which we need to do. Those guys have still got some injury issues. Derrick's got the shoulder and Fabian's got a little bit of a neck issue he's still dealing with. We expect those guys to play, but we've got enough corners now that I think we'll be in good shape no matter what happens."
On QB Troy Smith's condition:"We're going to know more Friday. That's kind of a day, that we talked about, where he's going to have some tests and things done. But, he looks better. He's getting around and he's been involved in the meetings, and he looks a lot better."
On how Smith's mentality throughout his illness:"I don't think he's dwelled on it from that standpoint. He was just so sick that he's happy to be feeling better. I don't think it's realistic for him to dwell on that because it was so out of his control. He seems like he understands that in conversations that I've had [with him]. Now, when he's by himself thinking about it, maybe there [are] some thoughts about it. But every time I've seen him he's been upbeat and happy to be back around the building."
On whether players understand that circumstances like injury and illness are often out of their control:"I think they do. It's a great point, really, because it's kind of the nature of the business. [Players] realize that there's nothing they can do about it other than do everything they can to get back and get ready to play. They would never admit this – they're might men, their strong men, they want to be bullet proof – but there's got to be some frustration, disappointment and those kinds of things that naturally they are going to feel it. But, maybe that fuels the fire and motivates them to get back and play well when we [Smith] gets back in there."
On the reaction of the fans and people of Baltimore to the successful start of the season:"I've done a radio show; I haven't really been around town to be honest with you. I've been around the building a lot – the one football side of the building to be specific. I hope they're excited, but we realize it's just one game. It doesn't make a season; it doesn't make a football team. It just makes a beginning. And, our guys realize that and they're pushing forward today to try to get better."
DE Trevor Pryce
On whether he senses that the Ravens will be a different team on the road this season:"Not yet, but we haven't played on the road yet. You sense a lot of things. I sense we're going to the Super Bowl, too, but that doesn't make it true. You sense a lot of things. We'll see what happens after the game."
On his assessment of the Texans and QB Matt Schaub after watching film of their game vs. Pittsburgh:"I think I saw a team that looked more like they showed their age a little bit. But, what happens is you improve from Week 1 to Week 2 so much. I've played [Gary] Kubiak and I know a lot of those guys, so that's a good football team. Don't let one victory fool you. They're deserving of all the press they've gotten and things said about them. You watch the film [and] you see an ultra-talented football team. Once they get everything fine and all settled, they'll be tough to beat."
On what it felt to be like to be back on the field on Sunday with the team at full strength:"It was exciting for me. I haven't played a whole football game since last… I don't know, when I got hurt. But, when you play a half in the preseason, that's when you go, 'OK, I'm good.' But then it's, 'No, you've got another half to go.' That took a little getting used to, and I had a good time. I know we won, but again, I always try to say it's one game and you keep even about it – never too high, never too low, that type of thing. We had fun, and we'll see what happens this week."
On how fired up Houston will be for their home opener, coming off the loss to the Steelers:"They're going to be cranked up. We know their crowd is going to be cranked up. I've been there and practiced against them. I know what that stadium's like. I've played there and it's loud and it's a tough place to play. Those people from Houston, they love their football. That's a good thing, so we'll see what happens."
On whether it would be good if the Ravens could play with the stadium roof open:"If it's raining, they won't."
On the enjoyment the defense had when the offense piled up 13 minutes time of possession in the fourth quarter against Cincinnati:"It was fun. It happens, but it's different. Thank God we didn't have to go back in because all of our backs were stiff. I've seen that before, and if you play in this league long enough, you'll play with an offense like that. It's great. The thing is about defense, if you're not playing and your team loses, everybody wants to play and all that stuff. But, inherently, the way football works is you don't want your defense to play. When you don't play, you're winning. That's the nature of the beast."
On whether he has given any thought to the potential of a hurricane hitting Houston this weekend:"They told us this morning it was coming in; I thought it was going to Florida. You know how out of it I am. I don't know what's going on, but I guess it's going to pass or they're coming here. I have no idea, but I just don't want to fly in it. That's my only concern. Flying in it is pretty [scary]."
On his impression of Texans DE Mario Williams: "[I see] a young me (laughing). I see someone a lot bigger and stronger than anybody else. I don't know if he necessarily is faster than everybody else, but he is way bigger than everybody on the football field. It's almost unfair when you put a guy that size playing defensive end and not inside where you can control him. Now, he's outside and he can do whatever he wants. I'm gland I ain't got to block him; I'm telling you that."
On how he felt rookie QB Joe Flacco handled his first game and the Ravens' offense against the Bengals:"The big thing is he stayed calm. No matter what happened, it's [important] as long as you can stay calm and put [things] in perspective. That's what he does. There is something about him that the game is not too big for him, even though he went to a small school and now he's in the NFL, a starting quarterback Week 1. I think the offensive coaches took care of him. They didn't try to make him run the Run and Shoot [offense] and throw 50 times in the game. I can turn around and hand the ball off. I don't know if I could hit a seam route, but I could [say], "Here you go, go get it." As long as they don't make it too complicated for him, I think he'll be fine – like a lot of rookie quarterbacks."
On what pleased him the most with the way the defense played against Cincinnati:"I think it had to be how many times we hit Carson Palmer. It's something [special] when you hit a guy like that. Make no mistake about it, he is one of the top two quarterbacks in the NFL, no matter what you all might have seen, but he really is. The guy can make any throw he wants. [He can] put it on a dime. But when you don't give him time, he becomes like every other quarterback – frustrated and your ribs go to hurting and things like that. That was the best part of it, but we're not playing Carson Palmer this week, so I really don't care."
On what his outlook is for the rest of the season and if he thinks it will get tougher:"It's going to get tougher regardless of what happened. The second week, not everybody's in their groove. Whatever your groove is, it's like you're starting to get there. By the time Week 6-7 rolls around, everybody's on their path and you kind of know where everybody's going in the NFL. But, it's going to get tough regardless of who we're playing, and that's just the way the NFL works."
QB Joe Flacco
On playing his first NFL regular season road game:"Obviously, we're going to have to deal with crowd noise and things like that. But we're here, and we're going to approach this week just like we did last week and try to go out there and execute the game plan."
On a lot of people calling him these days:"It hasn't been too bad. Right after the game, I looked at my phone, and there were a bunch of text messages and everything. My battery was all run down, so I just turned the phone off and didn't pay attention to anybody."
On the largest crowd he played in front of in college:"I think 35,000."
On if this week presents a different challenge:"I don't really plan on it being one. It'll be a little bit different dealing with crowd noise, but at some point we've all dealt with crowd noise throughout our career. It might not be the level we're going to see on Sunday, but we've dealt with it before. We'll have a way to deal with it, so I plan on going in there just as confident as we did this past week and executing the game plan."
On whether Cam Cameron is drawing up another long TD run for him:"No, I don't know if I'll ever have [another] one of those in my career. But, at least I got one."
On assessing his performance:"There are always things we need to improve on, but overall I felt pretty good. I felt like I was comfortable out there. I feel like we did a pretty good job on the offensive side of the ball, as a whole. We did well on third downs, and that's a pretty important part of winning. There are things that you go back and you look at and can obviously always work on. We're planning on improving a lot this week, from Week 1 to Week 2. If we do that, we should be in good shape."
On if he expects any more "Let's go, Flacco!" chants this week:"No. First of all, we're in Houston. Second of all, I can't believe that our fans even did that."
On Texans DE Mario Williams:"We're going to do things to take care of him. We realize he's a good player. Their defense plays hard, and they'll try to get after us. But we're going to have things to answer that, and I'm going to stand back there like normal and get the ball out of my hands when it needs to be."
On whether his parents will attend the game and get as many TV shots as last Sunday:"Yeah, they were embarrassed about that. They weren't quite sure how the cameras found them. I was like, 'Come on, they know where the tickets I got for you are, so it's not that hard.' But I think they're going to be staying at home this week."
On taking time to appreciate winning his first NFL start:"You enjoy the game. I enjoyed the game afterwards. I went out and spent a little bit of time with whoever was in town for the game and got some rest that night. I was pretty drained. I don't know, it was probably because I burned off so much energy before the game even started. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it, but now it's time to move on."
On staying as calm on the inside as he appears on the outside:"I'm pretty calm. There's no use in trying to get yourself all excited out there. It's not worth it. You go out there and focus on your job, and that's what I try to do. I've realized that that's the only way I'm going to play good and play the way I want to play. I need to do that just for myself."
On if he has always been that way:"I've always been that way as far as I can remember. There are times where you feel like that might get away from you, but I usually do a pretty good job of being able to stay that way."
On if he has at least 50 percent of the offense down:"I think you're always growing, you're always learning more about it, but I hope I have 50 percent of it. I can't really give you a percentage, but I feel pretty comfortable with what we're doing."
On whether he noticed that the intensity and speed of the game increased from preseason to regular season:"It definitely stepped up a little bit. Everybody was getting after it, but we stepped up, too. Anytime you're out there competing and it counts, you're out there giving it your all. We were doing that since the very beginning of preseason, and we went out there and pretty much have been doing what we've done in practice all throughout training camp. We practice with a high tempo, and that's why we do it, so that the game is not a surprise to us."
On what it means to him to have command of the huddle:"Just make sure everybody's paying attention to you, knows what they're doing, and when we break the huddle everybody can go out there with confidence and run the play. Everybody knows where to be. For the most part, we do that. Even when we go no huddle, it takes a little bit of communication, but we got it done."
On if he was comfortable making adjustments at the line of scrimmage:"Yeah, I felt like I saw things really well based on what we went over during the week. I went out there on Sunday, and everything went pretty well. I felt comfortable with making all the checks, and I anticipate the same thing this week."
RB Willis McGahee
On how his knee is feeling:"I'm feeling pretty good. You guys ask me this question every week, every time you get to see me, but I'm feeling better. Like I said, it gets better every day, so I can't complain."
On if it was worthwhile to rest his knee last Sunday:"Yeah, I think it was worthwhile not playing last week. That was the smart thing to do, just go out there and rest, because I really wanted to get out on the field. I was dressed out, sitting there waiting. I was anxious. I saw Le'Ron [McClain] and Ray [Rice] getting nice runs at the end, and I had the itch. But you know they did a smart thing as far as resting me. I'm pleased with the situation that they did for me."
On if not playing was frustrating:"Actually, I didn't think it was going to be as frustrating as it was at first. But you know, once the game started and the offense was looking good – we scored one touchdown and were moving the ball on the defense – and I was feeding off the defense alone. It was tough that I had to go sit down on the bench and not look at the game. You've got to keep it calm, keep it calm."
On if he was trying to attract a coach's attention to ask to be put in the game: "I tried once, but he was like, 'We're only going to use you if something happens.' I was like, 'Oh man.' So, I just had to sit back and pace the sideline."
On if watching the other backs play motivates him to get in the lineup: "Oh yeah, no doubt about it. But it was a good thing for Ray and Le'Ron. Ray worked his butt off at training camp. I just wanted to see him start his first game, and he did. He seized the moment, and it looked like he did. And Le'Ron did a great job. He finally showed off that he can run that ball."
On him being a mentor to the rookie Rice, particularly after Rice's fumble: "I didn't really take a leadership role with him. Ray is a good kid. Ray knows what to do and what not to do. It's just a matter of giving Ray good habits. I just told him, 'It happens.' I fumbled plenty of times before. Just get up there and don't throw a move. He tried to throw one too many moves in. I guess the defender made a good play on it, and he coughed it up. But, it's behind you. You can't worry about it."
On how many carries he expects to have in Houston:"I want a full workload, but that's something the coaches will have to go through upstairs to figure out what they want to do."
On if it was fun watching McClain play:"Yeah, it was fun. I'm sitting there watching Le'Ron like, 'OK, Le'Ron's doing a great job. If Le'Ron gets his 100 yards, he's going to come into meetings the next day with his head high, talking crap.' He usually talks crap regardless, though *(laughing). *I was just happy for him, to tell you the truth."
On how dynamic the Ravens' backfield is:"I look at it as, we're going to be the workhorse of the offense, take some of the pressure off of [Joe] Flacco. He's doing a great job. He's another one that showed good character and good poise in that game. When plays didn't go right, he turned nothing into something."
On what he thinks of Texans LB DeMeco Ryans:"Great player, good guy. That's all I know about him."
On working with RBs coach Wilbert Montgomery:"He's done a great job. He's probably the, well he is the only running backs coach, no, he's not the only one – I had coach [Tony] Nathan – who actually played the position and coaches the position. But he's doing a really great job. He's giving us insight into how things are going to be. He's giving us his knowledge on what he did and what to expect. And not only that, the guy's a world-class sprinter. So you can't help but listen to him."
On his mindset if the team is behind in the score:"Hopefully we will not be behind. But if we get behind, I kind of look at it as either I've got to make a play, or I talk to Derrick Mason to make a play. Somebody's got to make a play to change the game. That's the kind of mindset I get in when we're behind, but other than that, I go out there and do my job."
OLB Terrell Suggs
On the importance of pressuring Texans QB Matt Schaub:"It's very important that we do the same thing that we kind of did last week with Carson Palmer. You don't want to give any quarterback in this league an ample amount of time to find his receivers, especially when you've got Andre Johnson. They call him the man-child. He is a man. Sometimes, he can be a man amongst boys, so he's definitely something we're going to have to deal with. We're going go out there, and we're going to have to play some defense."
On whether he thinks the Texans' offense will try to make a statement against the Ravens' defense:"Oh yeah. I think they're definitely hungry. I think they're definitely trying to get their season to go the way they want it to go. They're excited. They're going out there in front of their home crowd. This is the NFL, and a lot of times you play 10 times better when you're at home. So they're going to be excited. They're going to be ready to go. We're just looking forward to the challenge."
On everyone receiving a game ball after Sunday's win:"I think that was cool. We got our first win under coach [John] Harbaugh out of the way. It was good that he got his early. Now, the pressure's off, and we can just try to get this thing rolling in the right direction."
On if the Texans could be a trap game:"No. We know the past is the past, and we look at every opponent as if this is our Super Bowl. You see what I'm saying? We played us a couple years ago, and they gave us problems then. I think we walked away from that game 15-13 or 15-12 or something like that, so it's not a trap game. We know that they're very talented on both sides of the ball. It's going to be a football game. You're all going to see somebody play some football, and we're going to show up there."
(The Ravens defeated the Texans 16-15 on 12/4/05 in the teams' last meeting.)
On whether Sunday's performance validated the Ravens' defense to skeptics:"Not yet. It didn't validate it yet. I think as the season goes on, you've got to be consistent. You have to go out there and play like that every week. You can't just play good this week and then play good that week. To validate it, ask me the same question in Week 15 or Week 16 after we've played the Pittsburghs and the Clevelands twice. Then we'll talk about validation. But right now we're just trying to be consistent. We'll go out there, and we've got to line up and play Ravens defense."
On playing road games:"You're the bad guy. You know, in the movies the bad guy always loses at the end. That's a challenge to us, especially on our defense, to just try to change the outcome a little bit. We like the road. The pressure's off. Your wife or brothers and sisters aren't in the stands. You don't have to do anything special. You get to have fun, play some football and don't worry about the pressure."
On what he knows about Texans rookie LT Duane Brown:"I haven't seen much on him. I got the film today, so maybe I can get in it and come back and be able to help you tomorrow."
On having three sacks the last time the Ravens played the Texans:"In this league, everybody gets better. If you had a good game against them last time, they'll do everything in their power to make sure you're not trying to have one [again]. I'm just kind of anxious to see how they're going to block it up this week, especially with the game [the Steelers'] James Harrison had [against Houston Sunday]. It's going to be interesting. But [when] it's tough on everybody else, [it's] just right for us."
On if he expects running backs and tight ends to help chip block:"I expect that. Whenever you rush the passer, they're going to give the tackle some help the best way they can. The offensive line and the back is a unit, especially when it comes to protection, so I'm expecting a little bit of everything."
On having the defense mostly healthy last Sunday:"Once you've played with a group of guys for so long, you get your trust in each other. You know where everybody's going to be. By us having everybody out there, with the exception of Kelly Gregg, we just knew where we were supposed to be on certain plays. We know what it's supposed to feel and look like. So, we were able to execute a lot of our pressure package. We really got after them, and I think we did a really good job as a defense."
WR Derrick Mason
On how much he looks forward to Sunday considering how the team played against Cincinnati:"We're looking forward to it. We get an opportunity to go down to Houston and play a very good Houston team. They're going to be amped up and ready to play, considering what happened to them last week and they're at home. They have a great stadium and great fans down there. I've played down there a few times, so I know how that environment is. Those guys are going to be ready to go."
On what he noticed about the Texans' defense on film of their game with Pittsburgh:"They played hard and they played well, but they just got themselves in some positions that as a team you don't want to be in. But they still fought and they played hard. The offense only scored a few points, but that's football. Some weeks you're going to come in and play great as a defense; some weeks you're not going to play as good, and last week was a week that they didn't play as good as they probably wanted to. I guarantee you this week, they're going to get everything that they messed up on corrected. They're going to come in here, they're going to pin their ears back and they're going to come after us."
On what he feels rookie QB Joe Flacco needs to do this week to take his game to the next level:"Well, it is going to be loud. You do have to continue to make progress each and every game. He has to be a little bit better than he was last [week]. We have to be a little bit better than we were last [week] as a team, because obviously, there are some things that we left out there on the field against Cincinnati, points-wise. This week, we can't allow that to happen because we're going into their place, with their fans and their atmosphere. And, they're going to be ready to play because this is their first home game. So, we have to make sure that we pay attention to detail and go down there and make this a business trip."
On how he expects Flacco to handle the challenge of playing in Houston:"I think Joe will be OK. Our place was rocking and Cincinnati was throwing all types of stuff at him and he handled it well. Like I said, he's just got to continue to make progress each and every week. Don't let the game get too big for him. I think he's done a good job at that, but he has to realize that one time is totally different from the next, and Houston has a lot of good players on that defensive side of the ball. Mario Williams is probably one of the best in the business at rushing the passer. Our offensive line has to help him again like they did last week, and we as skill guys have got to make the job easier."
On looking forward to having Willis McGahee back on the offense:"It's going to be good to have Willis in the backfield. We have all of our weapons healthy and ready to go, and the only person we were missing was Willis. Now to put Willis back in the backfield with Ray [Rice] and Le'Ron [McClain] at times – and even Lo [Lorenzo] Neal running the ball, you never know what you're going to get because we've got four guys that are capable of running the ball. Fullbacks can play tailback, tailbacks can play fullback. But, to have Willis back – our main back – is good for our offense."
On if he takes offense to the lack of respect from national media regarding the Ravens' play last Sunday:"We go into every game with a chip on our shoulders, regardless. But we want to prove to each guy in the huddle that we're going to go out there and we're going to play for each man, regardless of what the media says. I guarantee you Houston is not saying that. It is what it is. Coming off a season like we [had] last year, of course they're going to be critics. People will say [that] Cincinnati's defense is not that good. I guarantee you had it have been on the flip side and [Cincinnati] would have won, [the press] would have been [saying], "The Ravens are horrible. Cincinnati has a good defense." Each and every week poses a different opportunity for our offense. So, this defense is going to pose a different challenge for us, and they're a very good defense."
On how much better he feels the Ravens' offense can get:"As good as it we want it to be. Honestly. But that's any offense or any defense. You're only as good as you think you are or you're capable of being. I think we have the skill guys that can make plays. We have the offensive line – and those young group of guys are really blocking well – and Joe is playing well. So, we're as good as we want to be. We've got to limit our mistakes and turnovers. We did leave some points out there, but we're going to go as far as we want to go, I think."
On what impressed about Flacco's transition from practice to a real game:"There were a couple of plays here and there. Obviously, the reverse, the not so reverse, that Joe took up the sideline. [There] were a few plays in there where Cincinnati was bringing blitzes and he hung in there. He trusted his guys that they were going to do what they needed to do. [The offensive line] did not let him get hit and he hung in there as a quarterback. Not too many young quarterbacks do that. You'll see a young quarterback take a dive or turn around and then try to throw the ball. Joe hung in there and he completed some tough passes. That's what I mean. He matured throughout the game, and that's what you want to see."
On the job T Jared Gaither has in going against Mario Williams:"Gaither has a huge job, man, but he's up for it. Gaither played well last week, and he's one of these guys that we're counting on this year on our offensive line. We're counting on all of them. But as we all know in this business, those tackles pretty much dictate what the quarterback can do back there [and] how much time he has. In this league, you have good end rushers, so we've got to have good right and left tackles. Gaither has a big job on his hands this week, but it's just like every week. He's going to accept the challenge, and I think he's going to do pretty good."
LB Ray Lewis
On what they are doing to prepare for the next game:"It's always the next step. It's always putting this game behind you. In the NFL, whether you win or lose, there's the 24-hour rule and you keep on moving. You could kind of see the way guys prepared, even in walk-through today. You see the attention to detail has picked up quickly. We're just hungry to get back to practice today and get better at practice. We're excited to go down there and knock out our game two."
On what they can build on from last Sunday:"I think everything. It was a total team effort. Even though the game was kind of lopsided from a defensive standpoint, they were still in the game. So there are a lot of corrections we still have to do."
On having a significant advantage in time of possession against Cincinnati:"I think it's great. I've seen it. I saw it the year we went 13-3. You start the season with Steve McNair going into Tampa, and they hold the ball nine straight minutes – things like that. We've kind of got a taste of what it's like. But to see a young rookie come do that with our line, that was impressive from the standpoint that he controlled the clock, controlled this offense and really had a tempo that kept the Bengals off guard. I think we kind of controlled the tempo and what we wanted to do offensively, which is a great upside."
On whether he would give rookie QB Joe Flacco any advice for his first road start:"Something I already told him [is], "Football doesn't change whether you're home or away. The only difference is you've got fans there that don't like you, and you've got fans here who like you." That's the only difference in the National Football League. For him, all he has to do is run his offense, just run his offense and know that we're there to make sure everything goes smooth. Just have fun with it. That's the thing I keep telling Joe: 'Don't let any game become bigger than the next one. Don't let whatever stadium become bigger than the next stadium. Football is going to be football. Do what Joe Flacco does.' The team is going to rally around him."
On Texans DE Mario Williams:"I haven't really watched that much of him, outside of seeing his highlights. I just think he's a physical specimen playing that defensive end position who can really cause havoc coming off that edge. If you don't get a block on him to slow him down, your offense is going to have a rough day. I think, offensively, Cam [Cameron] is going to come up with a great game plan just to try to slow him down. He is their key over there on that defense. It's going to be a great test for us, so we're looking forward to it."
On watching the Ravens' offense:"I think it's fun because you just never know what's coming. Cam's mind… He just draws it [up well]. I would say he thinks a lot like Rex [Ryan] – very unconventional when he comes to drawing plays or drawing this and that. When you sit back [when we're] on offense and you watch it, you sit there and say, 'Wow – that play. We saw that play all camp.' Now, you get into the regular season, and those plays work against other teams. I just think it's exciting. It's refreshing. It's a lot of excitement for our offensive guys to always keep learning."
HOUSTON TEXANS CONFERENCE CALL
Head Coach Gary Kubiak
On the matchup between Texans DE Mario Williams and Ravens T Jared Gaither:"Mario, for us, has had a really good preseason. He's a kid that we've got big expectations for. He played really well at the end of last year and he's one of the few bright spots we had last week down in Pittsburgh. We've got great expectations for him, and his play is very important to the success of our football team."
On what impresses him about Gaither:"I think he just works extremely hard. I think he's coached extremely well. When you sit there and watch the film last week, I was just so impressed with the way Baltimore controlled the line of scrimmage in both phases, on offense and defense. He's a heck of a player, and they've got many of them."
On the pressures on Williams coming into the league with such high expectations:"It was very difficult. First off, he's come into a situation where the football team is not in very good shape. He's not only the first pick in the draft, which was controversial to some people and he has to deal with that, but he's coming to a football team that needs a lot of help, not just one player. So, [there are] expectations, a lot of pressure, a lot of being followed very closely week in and week out. I think it was very difficult for him, but players like that are the ones that become great players. I was fortunate enough to be in Denver when John Elway came in under the same situation, and I watched how hard it was for him as a rookie and what he went through. But, I really think he set the stage for the rest of his career. I kind of feel the same way about Mario. The growing pains he's had to go through, the things he's had to endure, are what have made him better, not only as a player but as a person. And, I think you'll see him play a long, long time and be very effective."
On managing emotion early in the year, especially after losing the first game:"First off, [Baltimore] should be very excited because they were very impressive against Cincinnati. They were a dominant football team that day and in all three phases. John [Harbaugh] has done a tremendous job. They are a very, very talented football team; they're a very physical football team. They should be very excited about their start last week. For us, we got man-handled pretty good down in Pittsburgh. We worked as hard as anybody in training camp and we felt good coming out, and we had a good week of preparation last week and we went down there and couldn't get anything right. It's disappointing, but the one thing about this league [is that] you turn around and play seven days later whether it is good or bad. We've got to get over it and try to fix the mistakes that we made, which were many, and we'll have to be very, very good this week to have an opportunity against this football team."
On adjustments that may have to be made due to Hurricane Ike:"It's something that we go through a few times [a year], unfortunately. It's just part of being down here on the coast. Our organization does a great job. They monitor those situations on a daily basis and we've got a plan in place always for our families and for the City of Houston. As of right now, we continue to monitor this situation, and right now we still feel very good that everything should be OK. We've got a tremendous facility here – we can close our roof – which everyone knows. Hopefully things go as scheduled, and hopefully, everything's OK."
On what was the most surprising aspect of the Steelers' domination over the Texans:"I wish I could tell you there was one. There were many. We came out early in the game, moved the ball early and went to their side of the field very quickly and gambled on fourth down and came up with nothing. They went down and scored, and we went right back down the field and we're in their territory three or four plays later after the kickoff and then we went backwards for 23 yards. It seemed like once it started snowballing, we couldn't stop it. You've got to give them credit. They are a dang good football team. You guys know that; you all play them twice a year. If you go down to their place and turn it over a couple of times or start to lose the field position battle, you're in deep, deep trouble."
On the strengths of QB Matt Schaub and what he looks for in terms of growth from him:"We put a lot on his shoulders, too. We stepped up and went and got him last year, and we were very pleased with the way he played last year. Unfortunately, he did miss, I think, seven games or eight games last year due to a shoulder issue. What you'd like to have when you have a young quarterback is you want to get all these starts under his belt so that he can go through the growing pains and grow up as quick as possible. Unfortunately, Matt's working on start 13 or 14, which is not many in this league, but the expectations are high for him. He's very smart, handles the game plan very well, knows what he is doing and handles the team very well. The thing he's got to improve on is to continue to protect the ball better, keeping this football team in good situations. We've been pleased with Matt, but we also know that he's got to go above and beyond the call from a play standpoint for our football team to be successful."
On the challenges for a young quarterback when facing the Ravens' defense:"They are as good [a defense] as you'll play. They do a lot of things and do them very sound. They're disruptive. To me, they played against one of the better quarterbacks last week, and you see what happened last week. That lets you know how difficult it is. Matt understands that and we understand. He's got to settle down and just play a good, solid football game for his team. He can't try to do too much. He's just got to do his job and understand that this is a dangerous defensive football team. They're going to make some plays, and we, just hopefully, don't help them any more."
On whether he is more willing to blitz to try to rattle rookie QB Joe Flacco vs. a veteran quarterback:"I think you've got to worry about stopping the offense. When you look at [the Ravens] last week, the bottom line is they were dominant on the line of scrimmage. I'm not sure I'm right, but I think the quarterback only threw the ball 17-18 times last week. If you're in this league and the quarterback is only having to throw the ball that many times, then that means your football team's got total control of the game on the ground. I think our tremendous challenge is figuring out a way to stop their run. If they can hold the ball longer, just like Pittsburgh did – I think Ben [Roethlisberger] threw it 16 times or 15 times, I'm not sure; it wasn't many – you're in trouble as a football team. We've got to stop their offense, and when you look at last week they're very physical and do a great job in the running game."
On if he feels Flacco played like a rookie quarterback against Cincinnati:"No, I thought he played extremely well and I thought that the Cam [Cameron] had him in a tremendous position. As a play-caller, I thought he did a great job – how he called the game, and had the kid in good spots throwing the ball and those types of things. That's a challenge as a coordinator, to make sure you've got your quarterback in the best position. You look at our situation last week, our guy throwing it 33 times in Pittsburgh with that crowd and that defense. That's putting him in a tough position. I give Cam a lot of credit. I'm very impressed with Flacco coming out. He's got as good an arm as I've ever seen, really. Just watching him throw in Indianapolis, [I saw] an exceptional thrower [who is] very, very smart. He's a great fit for their football team, and I think he's got great things ahead for him."
On what rookie RB Steve Slaton brings to the Texans' team:"He's a young man who we're asking a lot of very quickly. He had a good preseason with us, battled a little turf toe late in the preseason and missed the last preseason game. He did a few good things last week. We're asking him to grow up very, very quick. He brings some big-play capability to the football team, but for us to be successful and continue to improve rapidly, young players like that are going to have to step up for us."
On his impression of Harbaugh as a coach:"I have tremendous respect for him. I wasn't surprised at all by him getting the opportunity. Of course, I knew him as a special teams guy and the job that he did. Around the league he is known as a tireless worker, great with players, getting players to play above and beyond the call of duty. Getting a chance to spend a little time with him at the Owners' Meeting, [he is] a real class act. I know his brother probably better than I know him, but I'm not surprised at all with the job he's done with this football team up to this point."
On the home field advantage the Texans have at their stadium:"Our stadium has definitely gotten better over the course of the last two years. It's a very young organization. We do have great fans here in the State of Texas, but we're going to have to play better football to get them excited also. It doesn't matter where you play in the National Football League. You're going to have to play well to win. And especially at home, every football team wants to be a danger-at-home football team. But the bottom line is you're going to have to play extremely well, and we'll have to do that."
DE Mario Williams
On the college game he played against Ravens T Jared Gaither:"That game was the game that took us to a bowl game that year. We came out of a tight game, a very physical game, and luckily we came out on top."
On if he remembers the matchup with Gaither:"No, not really. I really don't remember a lot of individual stuff that happened with anyone, actually. I try to forget about old stuff like that."
On how he and Gaither, both being large players, will fare against each other:"In any situation, it doesn't really matter about how big somebody is. It's just all about going out there and playing ball."
On how tough it was to come into the league as a No. 1 pick:"I think that was tough. For me, it was pretty much just coming in and trying to fit into the scheme of things and into the organization, and know my role, pretty much, and get comfortable with it. That was the only thing that was tough for me. The more and more I played, the more and more I practiced, the more that I felt comfortable. I think the biggest thing for me was really trying to come in and fit right into the scheme of things here."
On how important it is for him to target rookie Ravens QB Joe Flacco early:"We've got to start out fast. Last week, that's behind us. This week, we know what we need to do as a defense. We've got to start out fast, we've got to get back there and stop the running game. We've got to get to the quarterback and disrupt him a little bit. Yeah, he is a young guy, but it's just one of those things that we've got to get back there, knock him off his mark and just try to get things going."
On how the impending hurricane affects their preparation:"To me, being that, especially since we play inside, I'm really not worried about it. Thank goodness. It'd be a different story if we were playing in an open stadium. But we're playing inside, so I'm not even thinking about it. The last thing I heard, the other day, I think it was turned on us and went away. I don't know. But I'm really not worried about."