BALTIMORE RAVENS TRANSCRIPTS: SEPT. 3
Head Coach John Harbaugh
On adding a new quarterback:"We added Todd Bouman today. He will be the backup quarterback against Cincinnati. We thought he was the best fit for us. He's been in the offense before. He had a very good workout. The other guys had good workouts as well, but we thought that he was the best fit for us at this time."
On what the team is concerned with at this point:"We want to win, but the way you win is to play a certain way. We want to play like Ravens. We have a vision, and our guys understand what that means, and that's how we want to play. So we're concerned with how we play. We're concerned today with how we're practicing. Tomorrow we're concerned with how we practice. And then Sunday, we're concerned with how we play."
On the status of NT Kelly Gregg's knee:"I think Kelly Gregg is day-to-day. So he wasn't practicing today."
On if he's changed the game plan since naming rookie QB Joe Flacco the starter:"The number of calls looks like the same number of calls that we have had in the past. So, I'd say no."
On if S Ed Reed would be able to practice with contact this week:"I wouldn't even speculate on it. As Ed said, it is day-to-day. It's just that it's got to be worked out on its own time frame. I wouldn't be surprised if he did."
On if Reed would have to have some contact this week before he could play:"I don't want to speculate."
On the status of RB Willis McGahee's knee:"Willis is practicing."
On S Jim Leonhard:"Jim is a good football player. The interesting thing about Jim is that sometimes guys get stereotyped. He's a solid football player. You say, 'Well, he can't make plays.' Well, all he's been doing all preseason is making plays. He makes plays all over the field. He's been a pleasant surprise. We thought he was going to be a good player, but he's probably been better than we anticipated."
On seeing players touted as the 'future of the team' play on Sunday:"No matter what, we would be looking at Sunday as the future – as a coaching staff, as players. That's the future. Whether [rookies] were playing or not, that's the focus. It might be exciting for fans to come see the long-term plan and what they think is the long-term plan, but it doesn't go past Sunday for us right now."
On how much he is looking forward to his first regular season game as a head coach:"It's amazing how many more people want tickets for this one than they do for the preseason games. Friends (laughter). You know, I don't know. I think it will be interesting and fun to experience. I'm looking forward to it. My guess is it won't be a lot different than the preseason or being on the sideline as an assistant. One thing as an assistant coach – there's a lot of pressure. Whether it's special teams or the secondary, maybe those two spots more than any other position on the field. I may tell you after the game that it wasn't even close. But I'm looking forward to seeing it."
On whether he and Flacco will be considered 'linked' after both making their debuts Sunday:"Wow, that's a great question. You guys will have to answer that one."
On whether getting another QB is a possibility:"Yeah, it would be a possibility. We've got to see where Troy [Smith] is at and how fast he recovers. The nice thing is we have our guy [Casey Bramlet] from last week who came up and operated the offense very well on the practice roster. So he would be an option as the season goes along, as well. Plus, we have Mark Clayton (laughter)."
On QB Kyle Boller:"We know Kyle's situation now. Kyle's situation is that he has one of two things. He's either got the torn labrum, but we don't know for sure, or he's got – I don't know the medical term but there's a connection of the bicep and the shoulder. It might be that. Either one of those two problems, the torn labrum has not responded to medication, and the other injury is a season-ender, so it looks like he's probably going to miss the season."
On how McGahee will fit back into the offense:"The interesting thing about coaching is you don't go from February to July to the season. You plan from February or March, but it really is day-to-day. So we've been kind of living this thing every day through the offseason and through training camp. So when you've got Ray Rice out there practicing and you don't have Willis McGahee, that's what you do. That's what you become. So, Willis is a bonus in my mind, because he hasn't been practicing anyway. If he gets out there, it's going to be great to have him out there. We've got to go play on Sunday with the guys we've got, and we plan on playing very well."
On Boller's status:"He's going to go on IR [Injured Reserve]. Kyle's going to go on IR and Todd [Bouman] will replace him on the roster tomorrow."
On Bengals WR Chad Johnson:"Great receiver. Great competitor. Great guy."
On what concerns him about the Bengals:"I think the way they play is a concern. They play really, really hard. They're very physical. They fly around on defense. They're physical on offense. They've got a lot of speed and a great quarterback who can throw just about any pass you want to think of."
On what matchups he may see on the lines:"Yes, we see matchups both ways. But we don't want to discuss them on Wednesday."
On what he thinks about trash-talking leading into a game:"Talk never won a football game. We have to go play well. I'm sure there are going to be conversations out there. That's the nature of any competitive event. But our guys need to think about play and they need to focus on playing well."
On issues regarding the defensive radios:"I think the helmet thing is a work in progress right now. Hopefully, it will be cleared by the time the game comes around."
On the status of QB Troy Smith:"We don't really know. It could be weeks and it could be next week. He is not really able to work out right now. He's getting his strength back. He's about 15 pounds lighter."
WR Derrick Mason
On finally getting the season underway:"Finally? Shoot, we started this thing a long time ago, honestly. But of course you've got to go through the formalities and go through the two-a-days and the four preseason games, and then finally, you get to play a real game. But yeah, I think everybody's really ready to get out there and play."
On the Bengals' defense:"They've changed a little of what they do. I considered them always to be a physical team. I don't think there's any team in this league that isn't physical. Of course they have a new defensive scheme over there. We just have to prepare for it, and that means watching some games from the Atlanta Falcons and watching some preseason games. That's what we need to do. But, personnel doesn't change. They've got a very good set of corners. The linebackers are very good and the defensive front is very good also."
On how rookie QB Joe Flacco is handling his status as the Opening Day starter:"Have you all seen Joe? I mean, the dude is cool, man. What more can you ask of him? He was cool in the two games he started in the preseason. He did some good things out there. We just expect to go out there and win this ballgame and to do the things necessary to make this offense a very good offense. But everyone's got to help. He's up for the challenge. You're going to see a very good quarterback out there this weekend. I believe he's taken the necessary steps to make himself a very good quarterback in this league. So it's going to be fun playing with Joe."
On starting a new chapter for the Ravens:"It was a new chapter when the new coaching staff went in. All things that were old were gone – the majority of them anyway, except for the players and the front office. Of course they were going to bring a new attitude coupled with the attitude that we already had as players. We want to win. They want to win as coaches. When you combine them both, it's something very special. Like coach said, does what we do as far as things around the building change? No. Subtle things, yeah, but as far as playing football, our main focus is football and playing hard, and that's what we're used to doing."
On whether they feel a need to impress on Opening Day:"It's very critical for us, but we're not trying to impress anybody. There's nobody in this league that we're trying to impress. What we're trying to do is go out there and play Raven football. That's what we want to play. So are we out there to impress anybody? No. We want to make sure we do what is necessary to win a ballgame, and the fans are going to enjoy it. So are we trying to impress the Cincinnati Bengals? No. Are we trying to impress you guys? No. Because you guys are going to write what you're going to write regardless. What we're trying to do is win a football game."
On whether this game is bigger because it is within the division:"We take it week by week, and this game is the most important game for us right now. Next week will deal with itself, but right now this game is the most important game for us – because yes, it is a division rival. But also, we open up at M&T Bank Stadium and we want to give the fans a treat. So what better way to win a football game?"
On how the Bengals were able to win both matchups last season:"I don't know. They executed a little bit better than we did. They had less turnovers. The first game when we played them down there, we really turned the ball over, and we still almost came back and won the game at the end. Came up here and turned the ball over a bunch of times. I think that's what separates a bunch of teams in this league – turnovers. They're a very good team. Of course, you know about their offense – very explosive, and their defense is good. They're always around the ball. It's a new era now. We're not dwelling on what happened last year, and I guarantee you they aren't either. Yeah, they did some things against us last year, but the season before that we did some things to them and they didn't worry about it last year. So, we are going to take the same approach. We're not going to worry about that."
On whether RB Willis McGahee will be ready:"You'd have to ask Willis about that, whether he's going to be ready or not. We're expecting Willis to be Willis and go out there and run the ball hard. I think he's very capable of what we want to do offensively because he's one of the better backs in the league and he makes defenses account for what he's doing and where he's at on the field, whether it be spreading him out and pass to him – because he's proven he can catch the ball – or running the ball straight up the middle. So, they've got to account for him, because he's very critical to what we do on offense."
On whether he would consider a name change like fellow No. 85 Chad Johnson:"I don't have time for all that, man (laughter). I'm a football player. I don't have time for all that. My mother named me Mason for a reason. First name Derrick, middle name James, for a reason. I have no time to change my name right now (laughter). You kind of pull yourself away from football that way. But Chad is a hell of a player. And if anybody can do it, he can do it. But that's not me. I'm sticking with what's on the back of my jersey, and that's Mason."
QB Joe Flacco
On whether this week is different than previous weeks:"I keep the same approach, but obviously, we have a little more time to prepare for these guys and create a real game plan for them. So, it should be a lot of fun, and so far it is. We've already had a couple practices and we're getting used to the game plan."
On his excitement level:"I'm definitely excited. I'm ready to go, ready to get out there on Sunday. But, it takes some time. We've got to get ready this week during practice, and we've got to go out there and execute our game plan the best we can, and we'll be ready to go on Sunday."
On how he has progressed since his first appearance at New England:"That was the first preseason game, and now it's going to be the first regular season game. I'm a lot more prepared now than I was then. I've had a lot more experience and worked with the guys a lot more, so it should be a lot of fun. We can't wait to get out there on Sunday and go show what our offense is all about."
On what he is seeing from the scout team in practice:"They're doing all the stuff that Cincinnati is going to do. Obviously, we've talked about what they're going to do to us and we want to do against it, so that's what practice is for. We're going to get all the looks that we can and get as many reps as we can, and try to get out there and make the right calls. Once you make the right calls, it's just about going out there and executing."
On what people have been saying to him leading up to his first start:"Everybody adds a little bit of what they think it's going to be like for me. It's going to be my experience. It's going to be up to me to go out there and play football the way I want to, and it's going to be up to our team to go out there and execute the way we want to and put points on the board the way we want to."
On how the preparation differs from college:"It's a little different. You don't have to worry about class (laughter). So, you can be over here early in the morning. It's a little bit different in that respect, but it's football, and it's all about getting the reps and going home at night and coming here as often as I can and just trying to get it down the best I can. Colleges these days are pretty advanced, and they have technology to do all those types of things. I'd say here you have a little bit better of a facility to do it and a little bit more resources, but colleges do a good job these days, too."
On being prepared for Cincinnati's defense:"I think defenses are trying to confuse everybody. That's what they're trying to do. I'm sure a big part of their game plan is to try to get to the quarterback and make him feel as uncomfortable as possible. I'm sure they'll do that, but we're going to be ready for them. That's what this week is all about. We're trying to prepare for all their stuff and go out there the best we can and execute."
LB Ray Lewis
On the advice WR Chad Johnson got from him in the offseason:"I talked to Chad, amongst many other players. The thing I just briefly told Chad, a lot of things we talk about personally, but briefly what I told him is just whatever you have going on, think of God. Let your God deal with that. Just understand that you're a role model for so many people. So many young kids want to be in the position you're in. They want to follow Chad Johnson. He's a passionate guy. Anything you have – the combination of losing with his injuries, with him not having with his deal – then he's a passionate person to bring it out. But, most of the times you don't need to bring all that out. A lot of people don't need to know what you're thinking. You know what I'm saying? That's the background of what I kind of gave him. I just want to be there for him. I got tired of seeing all of the negative things that were being said, and a lot of people didn't know what was going on in the total situation. So, I told him just remove yourself from it, give it to God and just go out have fun playing the game that we've been blessed to play, pretty much."
On whether it would be have been better for the Ravens if he had told Chad to take a year off and think about it: "No, not really, because he's a friend. You don't care about wins and losses when it comes down to brotherhood and competition. Competition is competition. That's why I love when we play against Chad Johnson and play against those guys like that, because you're going to get their best. And that's why you play the game. You play the game for the respect of your peers and players that you play with. Never [hoping a good player doesn't play]. I know we're joking, but never that. You want him to line up, you want him to be out there being Chad, being who he is, because that's the best. That's one of the best and you want to see yourself going against the best."
On what he tells rookie QB Joe Flacco about the Bengals defense's plans to confuse him:"Football doesn't change. That's kind of [it]. Really, it never changes. The game of football never changes, and as soon as you understand that and address that [and say], 'All right, if I can just do what I normally always do,' then you understand that. [You] understand that it's a 60-minute ball game and not a one-play ball game. So, if you make a mistake, move on. If you make a big play, move on. Because when the scoreboard says triple-zero, that's all that matters at the end of the day. For a young rookie quarterback, if you look at his situation, it reminds you of a Ben Roethlisberger. [It's the] same thing. You know what I'm saying? Great defense, good running game – same thing. So, he just has to understand that concept. You don't have to go win the game. All you've got to do is be Flacco. If you watch him in practice and you just watch his confidence and things, he understands the game of football. And, that alone, I think will carry us over with him."
On what has impressed him so far about Joe Flacco:"Just his leadership, just how he really controls the offense going down the field. We've given him liberty now to make checks himself and things, and you see how he runs our offense. [You see] how quickly he moves our offense in and out of the huddle. Just things like that. That's when you pick up that he's now getting more comfortable to say, 'OK, whether I got a different color jersey or not, I'm still the quarterback, I'm still in the same position and my job is to get these guys ready.' That's probably the most exciting thing [that] you do see from him, that he's really growing up very, very fast."
On how much S Ed Reed's absence will hurt the Ravens and his impression of the guys who will play in his place: "I just think every guy – whoever it is – has just answered the call. Every guy, from [Tom] Zbikowski to Jim Leonhard, all of these guys answered the call and everybody's stepping in to do it. Even when you go around the total league, you realize that everybody is dealing with something. So the question is, how do you deal with it? How we deal with it is easy – next man up. Know your responsibility, know what you've got to do and just know that if anything else fails, make sure you get to the football. I think for us, life takes care of itself, if we can get somebody just to do that."
On whether he's motivated to prove to others he can still play at his best level at this point in his career:"You don't try to prove nothing to nobody. You come play the game for competition. That's why I play the game and that's why I train the way I do. If at any time somebody wants to challenge me, challenge me. But the bottom line is that at the end of the day, that's where my respect comes from, that's where the respect of this league comes from. John Harbaugh's father was just speaking about that. Why do you play the game? If you play the game to please everybody else who speaks about you, then you've missed it, then you would never work that hard. I work that hard because I know there are challenges out there and I accept those challenges every time they come to my doorstep."
On what it is about Cincinnati's offense that causes him to study film more than anything else:"They have one of the most dominant passing games in the game of football. You have probably one of the best receivers in the game in Chad Johnson. [T.J.] Houshmandzadeh is probably one of the best third-down [receivers] and Carson Palmer is probably one of the best quarterbacks that you can see throw the ball. That alone. If you don't study that, then they have a field day doing what they do. You don't want them to play 'skelly' on you all day, where Carson is getting ahead and Chad is just running free and Houshy's just having fun. That's why you have to study all things like that. You have to really understand what they do, and once you get a beat on what they do, then football becomes football."
On the Bengals' strengths being the reason the pass rush is crucial to the Ravens up front:"The one thing about our defense, there is no one back or no one side that's accountable for anything. So, our DBs, we know they've got a big task this week dealing with some of the best receivers in this game. Our job is to make sure we push the pocket on Carson, make sure he doesn't sit back there and have all the time of day to throw and things like that. That's what we understand as each other. When we go out to practice, we're saying you've got to get to the quarterback because we don't need to leave our corners out there that long. Any corner in any business doesn't need to be out there that long, nevertheless dealing with great receivers like this. I just think it's another opportunity for us, as a defense, to put something together and play against one of the best offenses in the game right now. So, it's going to be exciting."
On if it is a difficult adjustment to hear the calls coming in his ear from the radio: "It's always hard because you're thinking to yourself, and then the coach comes in [and you hear his voice]. I'm like, 'I can't deal with this, I can't deal with this.' My issue is that I can't be dealing with all of that. I'll be thinking about it too much."
S Ed Reed
On how he feels and whether he's likely to play on Sunday: "I'm day-to-day, one day at a time. It's pretty much still feeling the same. The doctor gave me leeway to do more stuff. I'll work into it lightly, do some stuff, and see how it feels."
On whether he expects to be able to participate in contact drills:"I've been messing with Haloti [Ngata] – hitting up on him, letting him hit up on me. He kind of pushed me on the ground today, and that was kind of tough. Pushing up against him lets you know if you can play or not."
On whether sitting out has been frustrating for him: "It's very frustrating because you can't really do anything. If you get out there, you are really at risk. You've got to do what you've got to do. If I feel like I can get out there and be effective and help the guys, then that's what I'm going to do. At the same time, I want to be smart and try to strengthen it as much as possible before I do go out there."
On how difficult the decision was to take his time coming back:"You have to be smart about it, especially when you get to a certain point in your career. You've got to be smart about what you are doing."
On what the younger DBs have shown by stepping up in his absence: "That they are more than capable of doing the job, of making sure that we are a successful defense at any point of the season. Like we always tell them, everybody is a starter. So, prepare accordingly."
On what symptoms he's feeling as a result of his injury: "[It's] more or less discomfort, to describe it. It's kind of like if you were turning your neck and someone was kind of holding you back from going all the way. In your shoulder, you kind of feel a little tug. There's not really any pain, too much anymore, unless it's aggravated. That's what we are trying to figure out right now."
On whether it would be especially difficult to sit out vs. Cincinnati: "It's no different if we were playing against anybody [else]. If I could play, no matter what part of the season it is – first game, last game – I want to be out there."
On what the deciding factor is for when he can play: "It's just listening to the doctor and trying to be smart about it as much as you can. I mean, it's listening to the doctors. If they tell you it's going to be a couple of weeks, then you've got to take a couple weeks. That's what they have been telling me right now. But you want to evaluate it and see how you feel. If I can get out there, I'm going to try to be out there."
LB Terrell Suggs
On the absence of S Ed Reed: "Pass rush is always crucial, especially against Carson Palmer. Not having Ed back there, that doesn't feel so good for me. When you look at the years past, Ed has probably made the most plays against Cincinnati. It's definitely going to hurt not having one of our captains back there, but we've got to move on. We've got to get the job done by any means necessary."
On whether he feels like he is where he needs to be mentally and physically for the opening game of the season:"You mean myself? Definitely. That's why I work hard in the offseason. That's why I train so hard the way I do because I just don't prepare for 50 minutes. I prepare for a season. I'm definitely ready to go. I'm fresh. I think I'm a lot fresher than all the other guys. Hopefully, that will work to my advantage. So, we just have to go out there and we'll see. I think I feel good, though. I feel marvelous."
On how he feels about the media labeling the Ravens as being in a rebuilding phase:"It is rebuilding. I'm just kidding. I guess if the shoe fits, wear it. We're just going to have to prove that we're not a rebuilding team. We are a young team, but as in years past, some young teams have had some success. We can't let anything that doesn't pertain to football affect us. If we go out there and execute our assignments and play to the best of our ability, I think we'll be all right."
On WR Chad Johnson's name change: "What did he change his name to? Wow. It just doesn't go like Chad Ocho Cinco. I love it. I think it's good for the game. What would this game be like without Chad doing his antics? We love it, and it's firing us up. He just better perform like Ocho Cinco, or they're going to be in a lot of trouble."
On whether it's a special challenge to play a team like Cincinnati with its high-power offense:"Definitely. It's definitely a challenge to our defense. We like playing against them because we're familiar with them. We've been playing them for so long, and just the history between the guys on the team – a lot of college teammates – a lot of people played in the same conference with a lot of guys over there. So, it's a real rivalry game. It should be a fun game, and it should be a way to challenge a good defense."
On if how rookie QB Joe Flacco has handled himself is impressive:"Yeah, it has. Outside of football, he's a little shy. So, we've got to break him out of that shell. Who better to do it than us? He's good. For the situation that he's been put in, I think he's handled it well thus far. All he has to do is go out there, and if he performs well and takes his time and plays what he sees, he should be fine."
On if he feels the AFC North is the toughest division in the NFL:"I would say so, because I play in the AFC. Of course, I'm biased. I don't know. There are a lot of tough divisions out there. There are a lot of teams that just go out there, and it's a battle every week. Then, there are some conferences and some divisions that are not so tough. I guess you have to weigh it. I guess it depends on how good a season the teams are having that year."
On the importance of getting off to a good start this season:"It's very important, because you [saw] that we went down there last year on Monday night and those guys kicked our [butts]. If we don't come and show up to play this time, it's probably going to set the tone for our whole season. This is why this game is that important. This is our Super Bowl right now. This game is the most important game of the year right now."
LB Bart Scott
On Cincinnati's recent success against the Ravens:"Serious? I don't keep counting them, seriously. I know they beat us last time. They beat us twice last year. The first one was a tough game. The second one was a little closer. We just want to get a win to start off the season classy."
On starting the season with an AFC North opponent:"Of course it means more in your division because it counts for a game and a half, basically. Potentially, if things come down to [records] within your division, you want to be able to have the tiebreakers against teams. So it's always important to make sure you try and sweep the division."
On the difference without S Ed Reed on the field:"That's a tremendous playmaker taken off the field. I'm sure they'll be delighted and try to exploit the middle of the field, because usually, he locks that down. He always has to be accounted for, so that's one less thing for that other team."
On what moniker he'll use for WR Chad Johnson:"I'm going to call the man whatever he wants to be called. If he changed his name to Ocho Cinco, I'll call him 'Ocho Cinco' just like I'll call Adam Jones 'Adam Jones.' I respect a man's right to be called whatever he wants to be called."
On Johnson saying he doesn't like Scott:"That's fine. I gave him a ride one time, so maybe I should've kicked him out of the car."
On where the ride was:"To his team bus."
On how QB Carson Palmer's release compares to other quarterbacks:"I don't know how he compares to other quarterbacks. I can't say that. I do think he's a top-three quarterback in the league, easy. You can make an argument for him at any time."
On WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh:"He's like the Patriots' version of Wes Welker. He's a good man-beater, option routes, read routes. Chad's just a vertical threat [and] can run other parts of the routes, but Houshmandzadeh is more of the route-runner."
On whether he has a ton of respect for Houshmandzadeh:"Not really. I didn't say all that. I can't respect a man with a pony tail (laughing). I'm just playing. He's a tough player. He's a tough guy. You can respect a receiver that's willing to get in there and mix it up. It's always a battle. We know each other so well. We've been doing this for a long time now, and I'm just excited to get back out there. But we know if we're able to get the upper hand, we're able to limit big plays, we're able to be physical with them. That's what he wants to try to establish."
On what defenses do to confuse a rookie quarterback:"Mixing coverages up – inverting the safety, then taking him out late, running Cover 2, running Cover 1 and sneaking down an eighth man in the box to blitz late, fire zones and things like that. [Joe Flacco] just has to be decisive, make a decision and pull the trigger. And when it's time to eat the ball, just eat the ball."
CB Chris McAlister
On the possibility of S Ed Reed not playing:"It definitely changes a lot. I've been playing with Ed now for a couple of years, and we've developed a good chemistry back there. If Ed's not ready to go, we're definitely going to miss him. But at the same time, we've got a lot of young guys who have stepped up during the preseason and have made strides to fill his shoes."
On whether there is added pressure to play without CBs Fabian Washington and Derrick Martin available:"Not really. I can't sit here just because guys are playing or not playing; I can't use that as a reason to come out early. Ultimately, at the end of the day, there's no pressure on me to do it because the defense is good, so we're just taking it day by day."
On whether he plans to play Sunday:"I definitely plan on playing."
On Bengals WR Chad Johnson:"Everybody says this guy talks a lot, and honestly, he doesn't. He really doesn't talk that much. Yeah, he struts and does his thing, but that's all part of playing the game. I don't worry about it. Chad is definitely one of the best receivers in the league, hands down, and if you're worried about him talking and not worried about what their offense is trying to do with him to put him in a position to make plays, that's when you lose him."
On whether the knee injury will linger all season:"Like I said earlier, so far so good. The knee is feeling good and we're just taking it day by day."
On what the absence of Reed does to the defensive communication:"It doesn't change much. All offseason, guys have done a great job of picking up on the signals and knowing the defense. The communication is sound. Definitely, you're going to miss a guy like Ed Reed, but everybody is still on the same page. It's sometimes to the point where me and Ed don't even have to talk. We just look at each other and we get things done. But definitely, everybody knows the signals and everybody is still on the same page when it comes to communication."
On whether he gets up for playing a strong QB like Carson Palmer:"It's not personal. I get fired up every week. It just happens to be the first game that we're playing. They're Week 1. I don't even know who we play in Week 2. That's the way we approach things here."
On coming off last season's losses to Cincinnati:"It's a new season. It is what it is. If you look at the history of the entire series, I believe that we are on top. This is a new year."
On whether S Tom Zbikowski has shown unusual maturity for a rookie:"I didn't even know that 'Zibby' was a rookie, to tell you the truth. I thought he'd played a couple of years. Definitely, with that being said, he's shown maturity since I've been around here that he can play at this level and that he deserves to be here."
On the differences under a new coaching staff:"We're still playing football here. It is what it is, and it's going to be what it's going to be. So, we've got somebody coming to check our beds [at training camp], and that's the only difference. Other than that, we're still playing football the way we always have."
On Johnson's name change:"He changed his name? I didn't even know until right now. He's still the same person."
TE Todd Heap
On QB Kyle Boller's injury:"Everybody goes through injuries. He's going to have to battle back from this one. It's going to be a little while before he can get into the rehab and get back to being healthy."
On whether the injury is a disappointment to Boller:"No question. But like I said, injuries are part of the game. Everybody goes through them. It's frustrating, knowing how much time he put in this offseason, knowing how much time he's put in up to this point. That's the most frustrating part, getting to see him and talk to him about it and know his feelings about it. That's the frustrating part."
On his feelings about rookie QB Joe Flacco starting Sunday's game:"Very confident. Joe's been in there. He's gotten a ton of reps, as well, with the other two guys. Joe's gotten just as many reps as either of those two. He's confident. You can tell he's not fazed by anything. He's just kind of level-headed. He's going to get in there, and we'll see how he does. Obviously, there are going to be some things that he might not have seen. But going against our defense every day, we've seen almost anything that can be thrown at us. Hopefully, he'll be prepared. I'm sure he'll put the work in. I'm excited to see how he does."
On how he's feeling:"I'm feeling good. I'll be ready to go."
On whether he's at 100-percent:"Everybody's at 100-percent."
On his mindset during the preseason:"My mindset was I was trying to get healthy. If I was healthy for preseason, I would've played. When I wasn't, I was like, 'I've got to get healthy.' So that's what I've done up to this point. Now that I'm healthy, I'm ready to go."
On the quarterback situation through the preseason:"The carousel? It's been different just because so many different guys have been thrown in the mix, and we haven't known who was going to be the guy. There hasn't been one guy that we've known from the beginning or at any point in time until this week. We didn't know who it was going to be. That was the part about it that was different. At the same time, we know who's starting now, and we're all behind him. He's got to prepare himself, and we've all got to prepare ourselves for that."
On having a week to prepare knowing who the quarterback will be:"It's a test, but whoever your quarterback is, every game is a test. We've been through different quarterbacks getting in there, at least I have in the last seven years, all the time. So you just adjust and – I know he'll be prepared – but you hope the guy coming in is prepared. You have to prepare yourself."
QB Todd Bouman
On being a backup quarterback:"I've been in this situation a lot of years. You're one play away. You have to prepare like you're going to be the starter because you're one play away, and you've got to go in and be ready. If you're not, you're going to look foolish."
On the offense run by the Ravens:"A lot of similarities [to offenses] that I've had in the past – [like] when I was in Minnesota for six years. Some things are different formation-wise, but a lot of it is similar."
On whether he thinks he can help mentor rookie QB Joe Flacco:"Yeah, anything he asks, just give him pointers regardless of what it might be – certain looks, when you're watching film. Whatever he asks or whatever I can help him with, just help him along."
On his experience working with younger quarterbacks:"Not so much a rookie, but a younger guy. It's something I've been through before. You just accept your role, whatever it might be. Whatever they ask me to do, just be ready to go and help anybody at any given time."
On which quarterbacks he helped mentor:"That was in New Orleans with Aaron Brooks and then in Minnesota with Daunte Culpepper."
On what his week has been like:"Came in for the workout, had a physical and just kind of waited to see how things were going to go from there and just be ready to go. That's kind of how the week has been. Yesterday was a long day over here spent just going through things, looking through the playbook, getting ready for this week."
On the Ravens signing him over other free agents:"It's my 12th year, so you just come out and do what you can do. Throw the ball and be ready to go with whatever they decide. You can only control what you can control. Go out and do the best job you can. Whatever happens, happens."
On when he signed his contract:"Yesterday."
On whether it was early afternoon:"Yeah, I think so."
On if he expects to be here for the entire season:"I have no idea. Right now, I'm just taking it day by day, week by week and being prepared and being ready to go."
On having been in similar situations before:"I don't know if it makes it easy. It's just more comfortable because you've been through it a couple times. The first couple times you do it, it's a little different. The hardest part right now is getting used to how the day goes – meetings, when you get a little time off, when practice starts, when walk-through is – just getting accustomed to everyday routines. Once you get used to that, things start flowing a lot easier."
CINCINNATI BENGALS CONFERENCE CALL
Head Coach Marvin Lewis
On his reflections on his first season and first game as a head coach:"It's a whirlwind. There's no question that you're dealing with the roster, you're dealing with injuries and things come very, very fast. I think the start of every year is that way, but obviously, the first time you go through it you may think there's no ending point to it."
On navigating the waters with regard to the team's issues in the offseason:"Actually, the offseason, internally, has been fairly quiet. I think outside people make a lot bigger deal about things, but internally, I think it's been very good. Our guys have had a great offseason. They've worked extremely hard. We are, hopefully, going to enter this season a little healthier than we have in the past, and I think that's exciting. Obviously, we're making the transition to a much younger football team, which was what one of my goals was to do, and be more physical and be faster, and [have] guys that we know each and every day what we're going to get out there on the practice field and, hopefully, can carry over to the games on Sundays."
On the health of his team, especially WR Chad Johnson and QB Carson Palmer:"The guys are fine. They're 100 percent, ready to go."
On the state of the Bengals' running game with cutting RB Rudy Johnson:"We feel good about it. We felt like we had a chance for some bigger games and maybe to stretch the field a little better than we've been able to do in the past. We've got to know what we have. So, obviously, the move to let Rudy go was based on that – to really know where we are. We really were unsure of his health, and so we needed to move forward and move on."
On dealing with the antics of RB Rudy Johnson and WR Chad Johnson:"I don't know if Rudy's ever said anything. So, I don't know. I don't think Rudy's ever said anything that really comes to [mind]. In fact, he has a very quiet demeanor and comes to work every day. He really worked his butt off this offseason to rehab from his hamstring that hampered him most of last season. But, we were unable to see him actually play in a preseason game. It was a tough evaluation to make."
On if RB Chris Perry will step into the same kind of role as Johnson:"No, I think that Chris has always been a guy that we've used on all three downs, and we feel like he has that versatility. We've used Chris as a wide receiver and lined him up as a wide receiver against opponents when Chris has been healthy. Chris has just had a career thus far when he hasn't been able to play for 16 games. So, hopefully, this will be his breakwater point, his breakthrough point, where now he can do that. He's worked real hard to come back from his injury that he had two years ago when he was coming off his knee. Then, he hurt his ankle. He's worked very, very hard to come back from these things."
On what other running backs will play a role this season:"Kenny Watson, who carried the load last year for us, and DeDe Dorsey, who we had here two years ago and acquired again last season. As soon as he got his chance to go and start a ball game, he got hurt on the first play and had to have surgery after the season last year, as well. But, [they are] guys we obviously feel good about because we were counting on them, and the one thing you can't foresee in football is injury."
On what he has seen during this preseason that makes him think offseason distractions are behind them:"Again, you would have nothing to talk about. It really doesn't affect us as much as it affects you, because it helps you do your job, and it's not as big of a deal [for us]. From the time we had our mandatory camp – which I scheduled for the middle of June so that everything would be done and out of the way at that point – it's been nothing but football. I guess you guys will make news of Chad changing his name, from what I understand, which I have known about since March. It's not really a big deal. You just move forward and move on. I realize you have a job to do as well, but I can't let that get in the way of what my job is."
On whether the players have put off-the-field distractions behind them as well:"The players are less [affected]. Unless somebody asks them a question about it, they really don't know half the time. The players are the same. You ask them the questions, and they go forward."
On building a younger team through the draft since coming to the Bengals:"I think we've actually been fortunate with the guys we've picked, and we have a lot of them that still play for us. The guys who have left here as free agents are productive players elsewhere, which I think is a reflection of the quality of the guys. Unfortunately, we've had one guy who ran afoul and one who got injured, but other than that I think they're all moving forward and going on, and that's all you can hope to do."
On what players who were drafted this year will need to make an impact for the Bengals this year:"Well, we're looking forward to actually three or four of them doing well, staring with Keith Rivers who will start at linebacker, Jerome Simpson who will get significant snaps at wide receiver. Those guys, particularly. [WR] Andre Caldwell is a little slowed right now, but [DT] Pat Sims, who we expect to have back in a week or so, and Corey Lynch, our free safety, have had as productive a preseason as most rookie players I've seen. We're pretty happy with the class right now. Our tight end pick [Matt Sherry] has had shoulder surgery and will be out. But, pretty much we've been very happy with our class and just looking forward to them getting a chance to get their feet wet in a real NFL game. So far, it hasn't been too big for them."
On what the AFC North Division looks like to him this year:"Well, last year Pittsburgh won the division and they've got to come back in as defending champs. Obviously, Cleveland had a fine season last year and they've added some guys in the offseason, veteran players, and chose to continue to build their football team that way to add a couple of pieces that they felt like they were missing. The Ravens football team, under a new coach and a young quarterback, are going to play whether it's [Joe] Flacco down the line or if [Troy] Smith plays. But either way they are still a football team that has very talented backs and an aggressive play-making defense. We've got our work cut out for us. It's a physical division, and we've got a lot of football ahead of us."
On facing rookie QB Joe Flacco this Sunday:"I've been impressed with what he's done thus far in the preseason. He's played a lot of snaps, and their most significant snaps of any of their guys, so it's no surprise that he's going to be the starting guy. But, he doesn't seem like he's got that deer-in-the-headlights look that some of the young quarterbacks I've seen have gotten and not been able to recover from."
On the difficulty of being a first-time NFL coach and changing the culture of a team and organization:"I don't know how much [you change a culture]. Sometimes, I think that's overstated. That team won  games a year ago, two years ago I should say, so, again, there are a lot of the players there who were there when they won  games. You've got to have some luck, you've got to stay healthy, you've got to put your stamp on it, whatever it may be, and you [do what you] feel is important to change one way or another. Obviously, there's a change in offensive terminology and so forth. But defensively, they will stay pretty much the same and will transition special teams, I'm sure, with Jerry [Rosburg]. I think, again, that sometimes gets overstated and there are a lot of components of that team that you have to be careful with. You do it your way, but there were good coaches there before John [Harbaugh], just like there were here before me."
On the benefit to the Bengals' defense in the Ravens rebuilding their offensive line and starting a rookie quarterback:"That's something I'm sure they're looking at on their side of the ball as well. Unfortunately, their guys were injured a little bit, so they didn't get as much time in the preseason, I'm sure, in the games as they would have liked. But, so were our guys. We missed ours a little bit, too. So, we've got a couple of first-time guys who will go out there against each other."
On what effect the injuries in the Ravens' secondary may have on the Bengals' passing game:"They are like a mirror image of each other. Our guys just got on the practice field, too, together. So we're going to see who can coach them up, as quickly as we can get them coached up this week."
On how much the absence of S Ed Reed will change the Bengals' game plan:"Well, I don't know that. Again, that's an unknown. Ed's a fine, fine player and I'm sure they will put in the next guy who has been getting a lot of snaps. It's not like the guy just got hurt. They've been playing this preseason and they've been playing without Ed, so I'm sure they've made the adjustments they're going to make. Whether it's [Jim] Leonhard, who's played most of the times, who goes in there… He's going to be ready to go."
WR Chad Johnson
On why he looks forward to playing the Ravens:"It's still the same. It will probably never change, with them being probably the best defense, what, for the past eight, nine, 10 years – however long they've been that way. I respect every player on that defense to the utmost. It's probably the only team where we game plan, and usually when you game-plan for an NFL team you game-plan for two solid players on the defense and you key everything off of those two. But, playing Baltimore, it is very difficult when you have to key and really game-plan for all 11. So, it's one of the games that I really get up for, man, because it's where I have to be at my best at all times."
On how much the absence of S Ed Reed this week would change the Ravens' secondary:"It changes it a lot. Ed is the best free safety in the game. Period. Hands down. With him being able to do everything – from being able to play in the box, being able to cover, being able to disguise everything – Ed really plays the game in his own way and that's what makes it so difficult. It's really a bore when Ed's not playing. Without him out there, of course, it'd be different."
On whether he has settled his differences with LB Bart Scott since last season:"No, we haven't, we haven't. The last time we played against Bart he cussed me out and told me to stay out of the huddle, and I took offense to that. So, this Sunday I'm going to hit him in the mouth."
On how Scott was mean to him:"Yeah, man, the dude is not nice at all – at all. I try to be nice out there on the field. I talk to everybody, ask them how the offseason went, stuff of that nature, and he just always cusses me out. He's very rude."
On whether Scott is the only player on the Ravens' defense that he has a problem with:"He's the only one, the only one. No, I've got a problem with Dawan Landry, too. He's always trying to be like f—ing He-Man every time it's a running play."
On if it will be different for him not having Brian Billick on the Ravens' sideline: "Not really. I really don't look on the sideline that much."
On starting the season against a division rival in the tough AFC North: "We have the best division in the NFL, period. We have the most physical division in the NFL. For us, for one, this is a division game and it's very important. Two, from an offensive standpoint, playing against the best defense in the NFL – hands down – it lets us know where we are as an offense. It lets us know where we are and what we need to work on. If you're able to move the ball, especially run, if you're able to run on a defense like this, it really lets us know where we are in the running game, which is really our focus this year. [Our focus] is, one, establish the run and the pass second."
On what stands out to him about the Ravens' defense: "I don't know what the [heck] it is. I don't know who does the drafting, but it seems like they never miss a beat – year-in and year-out. It's always just difficult; it's always difficult. What can I say? [Nos.] 52, 57, 20, 26, Samari [Rolle] and [Chris] McAlister, down to Corey Ivy and the free agents you got this year. What's the guy's name from Chicago? [Brendon Ayanbadejo]. He's the real deal. So, if Bart's not playing, the role is being filled in to where you don't lose a step. It's the way, I guess, the organization has always drafted defensively."
On what RB Chris Perry brings to the Bengals' offense:"Chris is nice. Chris is nice. With the Ravens being as good as they are defensively, I can say this based off of what I know and what I see: If Chris Perry makes it to the second level – which would be if he gets past the linebackers – it's lights out. And, it's going to be that way the entire season. If Chris Perry gets past any second level, no matter who we're playing, it's lights out."
On his feelings on the Bengals' defense and the team's chances in the division:"I feel really confident. I'm really confident in what coach 'Fitz' [Jeff FitzGerald] and coach [Mike] Zimmer have really done with the defense. Me coming in the mini-camp, I was frustrated with the changes they had made defensively. I struggled with it when I first got back. They are very physical – very, very physical. Against the run, they've been solid. Against the pass, they've been solid. We've got a lot of faith in our free safety starting this year in Marvin White. We've got two of the best corners in the NFL, two first-round picks, and Dexter Jackson, Super Bowl MVP. So, we're solid across the board."
On his relationship with LB Ray Lewis: "Ray and I go back, I think, to 2000 [or] 2001. He's somebody I confided in – him and Deion [Sanders] – all my problems. Ray is no different. It's funny, he's similar to a father figure; he's my spiritual father when I'm having problems. Ray has been there for me through everything. Ray is really the only reason I've somewhat shut up and calmed down and came back and refocused my energy on helping my team get to the playoffs and all my energy being positive. So, Ray is really the reason I'm back here happy, smiling and ready to go again."
On the advice Ray Lewis gave him about his career with Cincinnati:"He put it in more of a perspective of it's a business. We all know that. But, then he had me thinking about how I got to where I'm at. The things I went through to get to where I'm at. Understanding the blessing it is to be where I am. There are millions of people that wish they were in my shoes, doing what I do. And, not to lose focus and lose sight of the work you put in to get to this point and not really lose it based off the things I really can't control. I was really fussing about stuff I can't control. So, he told me to get back out here and get back to work, [and to] smile – always. That's his favorite thing, smile all the time. And I always say [smile]. I tell coach Lewis when things aren't going right in practice, if you're ever feeling bad, just smile. Just keep on smiling. It's worked for me and I'm using it. And, when I get out there this Sunday I'm going to be smiling. If I get hit, I'm going to be smiling. When I'm talking trash I'm going to be smiling."
On his relationship with coach Lewis and how has it changed:"It never has changed. It has always been good; it always will be. In the offseason, coach Lewis had to do what he had to do because I was like a child. I ran away from home and I was out of line. And when I'm out of line he's going to discipline me. He's going to stand up for this team and this organization and do what's right by them. That's what it is and that's the way it was. I understood why he said what he said and why he had to do what he did. I didn't leave him any choice."
On the Ravens' player who is the best at giving back trash talk: "Bart. Bart is the best guy. Dawan, too. Dawan and Bart. They are going to hear it [from me] in pre-game. Matter of fact, I'm thinking about once I get there of actually walking into their locker room and just taking it up a notch and just starting something in there."
On whether there's one incident he remembers with Bart and Dawan more than any other: "No. All of them. It's always fun. It's always fun just playing with 26 and 57. I'm just going to have them going all day and I'm going to keep on talking. I'm going to hit them late. I'm going to do everything I can just to piss them off."
On if he has changed his ways or not: "It depends on what you mean. My football ways will never change. Now, my off-the-field issues, yeah they have. I don't have a choice but to put that stuff behind me and get ready to help my team get to where we need to get to. That's my focus. My focus is putting everybody before me and going out here and doing what I do, year-in and year-out, at another level. I'm going to raise the bar another level."
On whether it is more different than he has acted before:"No, it's really never been any different. It's never been any different at all. I've been trying to raise the bar. Year-in and year-out I'm trying to raise the bar."
On the way WR Chris Henry has been received since returning to the team: "We love him. He's one of the best. That's why he's back. He's not allowed to be here right now, but we'll see him Week 5 against Dallas."
On the statement in the Bengals' press notes that Chad Johnson will not reach the 10,000-yard receiving mark this year:"Who said I won't make it? Who wrote that? How many yards do I need to reach that 10,000 mark? Just curious. [Johnson needs 1,635.] And they said I wouldn't make it? My own press said I wouldn't make it. Am I correct? OK, you know what, there it is. That just lights fuel under the fire. You see how they do me?"
On what name will be on the back of his jersey on Sunday:"I don't want to talk about any names. Any football questions, we can talk about it. Matter of fact, I need you all to tell [Ravens QBs coach and former Bengals WRs coach] Hue [Jackson] I love him. If you all get a chance, let Hue Jackson [know]. Tell him I said I love you, man, and thank you for all you've done. What he's helped me do, I'm going to actually release it out on the Ravens Sunday. Tell him I said thank you."