Opening statement: "We've been meeting a lot the last few weeks, haven't we? There has been a lot to talk about. Speaking of that, just congratulations to our team. I am really proud of our coaches and our players for what they accomplished in the last 18 days. Football is tough. Marshal Yanda talked to our guys during training camp, and his message was a [former All-American wrestler] Dan Gable message – best wrestler ever, and maybe the best wrestling coach ever – one of the great motivators. His thing was, 'Embrace the grind.' Marshal, being an Iowa guy, and Dan Gable, being an Iowa guy, that was a big part of the Iowa culture there, and he gave that to our team. Of course, you know we had the T-shirts made up for training camp. To me, what we did in training camp, and what we've done through the first four weeks of the season, it was a grind. Football is a grind a little bit anyway. This was a real grind, and it was three prime-time games. So, you have to play in prime time, which are high-intensity games. You don't get much rest, and you have to bounce back. We had short weeks twice coming off those games, and then to maintain that intensity in the building in terms of rehab, in terms of just getting your rest, in terms of getting in the weight room and taking care of business, in terms of the preparation that it takes, both on the field and in the classroom, our guys deserve a lot of credit for it. We weren't perfect by any stretch. There are plenty of blemishes that we need to work on [in] all three phases – lots of stuff that our guys, our coaches and our players will be the first to say that we need to go to school on, which we will. They are up for a well-deserved rest right now, and we'll start building again on Monday."
The coverage was a big issue last year. There was one long return given up last night, but still. How would you say they have fared at the quarter pole? (Joe Platania) "Our coverage teams have played well. But then again, you go back to the blemishes, that's the one that you look at hardest as a coach. We wanted to punt the ball over out of bounds, but they put a little pressure on us over there, and Sam [Koch] ended up hitting a real good punt that should have been covered, and we lost contain on the left side to a real fast guy. We have to put an edge on that coverage. So absolutely, that was a big part of the game. There were a lot of little things in the game last night that didn't give us an opportunity to separate ourselves, in each phase. There were probably one or two or three things in each phase – that was one of them on special teams – that if we'd have been able to separate ourselves, wouldn't have come down to the last play of the game. By the same token, it came down to the last play of the game, and the difference was two or three plays in the game that were made by our players that made the difference."
You talk about things that you weren't able to separate, were penalties part of that on offense? (Garrett Downing) "Absolutely. We had a couple of pre-snap [penalties]. We had a couple of holding penalties. We had one run called back that would have sealed the game that was a tough call, but it was reasonable. That's a big part of it."
Coach, do you think fatigue, with that short week, did a lot of that factor into the blemishes? (Bill West) "I didn't see that. I didn't see the fact that we were slower or anything like that. Both teams had the short week and had to deal with it. Both teams were probably pretty fatigued at the end of the game. It's how you fight through the fatigue mentally. We had some mental [mistakes] at the end of the game that probably are things that we don't normally make those kinds of mistakes. That's something that we'll work through. Just base coverages, things like that. So, we just have to keep working on that stuff."
Looking back on this stretch, how much did the amount of games you guys played affect the preparation for everything? And was there a conscious effort by you in practice to avoid doing certain things or going easy and letting guys out early certain days? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I wouldn't use those terms that you used. We never use the term 'easy,' but we had to modify it, absolutely. Practice was modified, especially on the short weeks. We talked about needing to go full speed mentally, especially this week. We weren't going to be able to go full speed physically. The players ramped the tempo up on Tuesday a little bit more than probably I anticipated, because they wanted to get some work done. So, that's a credit to our guys. We have really, really strong leadership here. We've got really good people – our young guys, guys who love football – but we have strong leadership."
Are there any updates on Terrell Suggs? I know we are a few games in and a month away from his target date he set to return. (Matt Vensel) "He has his target date. He is doing well. The main thing we want to do now is make sure there is no setback, and he continues to get in shape and continues to get stronger. He has been in every meeting. He is up to date with the football. Football shape will be a factor. As soon as he gets on the field, it's not like he is going to be back to Defensive Player of the Year form. We need to all understand that. Just give him a little space and let him grow into this thing. He is going to be back."
We didn't see these five starting offensive linemen play together in the preseason. How do you think they have fared overall? (Luke Jones) "The offensive line has done amazingly well. Two rookies in there, a somewhat older guy, Michael [Oher] is a younger guy, and Marshal [Yanda] is kind of in the middle. [Offensive line coach] Andy Moeller has done a great job with those guys. Andy is a really excellent teacher. He is a drill sergeant kind of a guy in a sense, but they love him. He has managed those guys, as far as their legs, really well, too, and is making sure that they are ready to go physically. But, there are lots of things. Cleveland threw a few things at us last night. They did some movement stuff up front, both run and pass, that young guys just haven't seen before. If you are a rookie, everything is new – you haven't seen anything before at this level. So, that's part of the learning experience."
On Joe Flacco's interception, was that just a product of the linebacker dropping back to the right and him never recognizing it? (Jason Butt) "Well, actually it was the corner. There were in a Cover 2, a red zone Cover 2 coverage, and we ran a corner route away from the safety. It looked like it opened up, and I thought their corner over there did a great job of pushing back underneath that, and the linebacker did a great job of pushing from the inside. So, both those two guys came out of nowhere on Joe, and the linebacker obviously made the play. I don't think he saw that. It was kind of hidden from his view."
He thought he had man coverage over there? (Jason Butt) "He knew he had zone [coverage], but he thought he had a bigger hole than he thought he had. You'd have to ask him. Maybe he did think it was man. I haven't talked to him, but that's what I saw."
Speaking of interceptions, [Cary] Williams' interception last night was a game-changing play and kind of turned him around a little. (Rich Sayers) "That was a play that, in my mind, is well deserved. Cary Williams has really been working hard. The last three years since he's been here … But even through the adversity, guys make some great plays, and he just happened to be the guy there. Even last night, they made a nice throw and a nice catch, and he bounced back from that and kept playing. [He] didn't let it frustrate him, and that's what happens when you do that. [I'm] real proud of him for that, and it was a difference in the game."
He said he took a chance when he saw the route opening up. What do you feel when a corner is able to use his instincts to make a play like that? (Jason Butt) "You have to. If you are going to make plays, you can't just … You can sit back there like I used to do when I played and not taking any chances, and you don't make any plays. (laughter) He had a real nice break on the ball. It was a good, sharp transition from back pedal – break and drive, we call it. It was quick route, it was a quick out, and he got both hands on the ball and did just a great job with it. He told me he was running down there, and he wanted to make sure he held on to it all the way down. I thought that was a good thing to be thinking about."
Just to clarify, when you say, "He's going to be back," on [Terrell] Suggs, you mean the expectation is still this season, right? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Right. Right. Yeah, I don't have a time table, unfortunately."
With Joe's [Flacco] progression and then all weapons you've surrounded him with, do you just kind of think everything is coming together for you guys to really fully take advantage of his big arm down the field with some big plays? (Matt Vensel) "I hope so. How do you categorize that? To me, it's always a work in progress. There's always a give and a take there. It's never just a line of ascension, because you're going against an opponent. So, you get some things worked out, then they take some other things away. Then you have to adjust and find other ways to do things. You can't just stay on the same track all the time, because defenses don't allow you to do that. There's going to be bumps in the road; we are going to take a left down a road, and it's going to be blocked up. We're going to have to back up and go down another road during the course of the season and even in a game. You find ways to win games, and that's what they did last night."
You talked a little bit about the offensive line, but specifically with Michael Oher, how do you think he's done with moving back to the left side this year? (Garrett Downing) "I think Michael has played very well. He's an excellent player. He played well last night. He's done well. [I'm] happy with him."
Slightly off topic, but Buck Showalter and the Orioles were there last night, and I know that's not something you are thinking about during the game, but the fans chanting during the middle of the pennant race … How special was it for you, with the other team in town, given they're in the final week, out there supporting you guys? (Luke Jones) "That was big, that was big. I didn't think about it until I saw those guys up there; I saw 'Buck' up there. I think the world of that team. Love 'Buck,' I call him Coach. What do they call managers? Skip? I call him Coach. I like their Coach. I think he does a great job. They play fundamentally sound baseball. My dad is a big baseball guy, so we grew up watching Indians games, actually, on WWWE. Pete Franklin, I think, [or maybe] that was basketball. This is a special team. How many close games have they won this year? I think they set a record, right? One-run games, extra-inning games, finding a way to win? It's something that we can look at as a team, too, and say, 'That's what we did a little bit last night. You find a way to win games.' They are welcome anytime. They can come out to practice anytime. They are a little busy right now. They need to focus on what they are doing, but the Ravens are big fans of the Orioles. We're cheering them on in this pennant race. The Yankee score came up last night; I did happen to see that, I have to admit."
Your thoughts on the crowd last night, especially even in the rain? (Ryan Mink) "I don't know how to describe our crowd. I've never seen anything like it. We had the three prime-time games in a row here at home. I don't know if anyone sat down at all the whole game. Maybe you guys would know, but it seemed to me that they were standing up cheering the whole time. Our crowd comes in, we come out of the tunnel, and they are all on their feet. I've seen introductions around the league; there's nothing like ours. Every guy gets a roaring ovation – some even louder than that, as you know, and then they just stay on their feet the whole game. It's just really great for our football team. It is our 12th man, and hopefully, we keep building on that, because it's one of the things that makes us really tough at home. The other thing is, just so you know – I'm going to get this out there for the public – we have a Ravens Leadership Summit here. Some of the great leaders around the country – business leaders – are here meeting with [team president] Dick Cass, our staff and each other. If you see some people walking around, you know what they are here for. It's a pretty neat deal."
With Torrey [Smith], we've seen a progression. Do you just chalk that up to his hard work that he's able to be so productive in the first four weeks of the season with his three touchdowns and making big plays down the field? (Matt Vensel) "Sure, yeah, hard work and, obviously, ability and talent. But also, to me, Torrey is a guy that is very – to put a word out there … He does what he's asked to do. He trusts coaching – maybe that's the best way to put it. He believes in coaching. He's getting great coaching from Jim Hostler. Torrey is the kind of guy that [says], 'Tell me what to do. Tell me how to do it, and I'm going to come out here and do my best to try to do that.' He's not a guy that says, 'Maybe we should do it this other way. Maybe there's a different way to do it.' He believes in what he's being coached, and he goes 100 percent to be as good as he can be at it that day, and to me, that's a great mindset. To me, that's why he's made so much progress so fast."
We saw Torrey [Smith] limp off towards the end there. Any concern there, or is that from the long weekend? (Luke Jones) "I have injury [information]: Torrey has a right ankle sprain. I think he'll be OK. We have nothing serious. Joe [Flacco] got a little ankle sprain. 'Webby' [Lardarius Webb], 'Webby' is OK. He's always got his issue; you know he had an ACL [three] years ago, so that's always part of the deal with him. And Ed Reed has done a great job with his hamstring, rehabbing-wise, but he'll fight through that. So, all of those guys should be fine for next week. We've done a great job with injuries. I'll say this, too: Our guys in the weight room, [strength and conditioning coach] Bob Rogucki and [head certified athletic trainer] Mark Smith in the training room and their staff, we've been healthy for a reason. Sometimes you get the big ones, the bone breaks and stuff like that, but the little ones, the tweaks and strains, our guys … We've been pretty strong through that stuff."
So much has been made about how much yards the defense gives up week to week. Is it simply a matter of allowing touchdowns or holding another team to field goals and having game-changing plays like Cary's [Williams] interception last night that kind of mitigates that? Is that the bottom-line yardage concern? (J. Michael) "I guess, yes, but also we aren't happy about that. We don't want to give up those yards, you're right. The bottom line is finding a way to win the game. Red zone defense is big. Not giving up touchdown plays as big plays is really important. Turnovers are really big, especially if you score like we did. We are giving up too many yards right now on basically chunk plays. It's been that way all year. We've had three, four, five chunk plays every game that have accounted for probably between 100 or 200 yards, I would say. And that's the stuff we really keep working on to clean up. We don't want that to happen. It just puts too much pressure on everybody on our defense, especially. It's all stuff that we can … We are a young defense in a lot of ways, and we are growing through some of those things, and we just have to keep working on that stuff."