Opening statement:"Good to see everybody – appreciate you guys being here. This week we have the bye week. We had a special teams meeting [and] team meeting [Monday]. [Director of player engagement] Harry [Swayne] had a NFL career development symposium in the morning. We have a lot of treatment going on and training going on. [We will] continue with the football work on Tuesday and Wednesday. We'll practice Tuesday and Wednesday, and then the guys will be away on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and back on Monday. That's our plan."
**You are known for being relentlessly optimistic no matter how well or poor things are going. This is a bit of unchartered territory here with losing four in a row and there being no game this week to immediately do something about it. Is it tougher to be optimistic today? *(Joe Platania) *"I'm excited about the opportunity to get to work. To me, as a coach, that's what you're fired up about. We have two practices. We had a two-hour-and-20-minute team meeting in here, where we went through every play. [It was] just an opportunity to be very honest with one another, which we always are, and work on the things we need to do to get better. That's what's we have. We have a bunch of accountable guys. We just need to find a way to become the football team that we are capable of becoming. That's always a process and always a journey, so yes, I'm excited about that."
Is that longer than the usual team meeting? (Jamison Hensley) "We do it different ways. There's always different ways of doing things."
When you say you reviewed every play, do you mean from yesterday or the entire season?* (Jerry Coleman)*"From yesterday."
John, can you provide any clarity for T Ronnie Stanley's situation? When he practiced in full, most expected he would play. You haven't viewed him as being ready yet, or did he have a setback? (Jeff Zrebiec) "The latter. I haven't viewed him as anything. I just do what the trainers and doctors tell me."
Is this a good time for a bye week in that your injured guys can get healthy and you can step back and see what has happened? (David Ginsburg) "Both of those things, absolutely. That's exactly … I think that nails it. We have a chance to, hopefully, put the finishing touches on a number of these recoveries and hopefully be as close to or at full strength coming back – that would be my hope – and then go to work, continue to go to work. Our guys – coaches, players – we work. We'll find our way. There's no question about it. That's what we do. It's always different. There's always a different way to do it. Precedents and all that, there are no precedents in life. Everything is a one-timer. That's how life works. Everything's a first-timer. You can't predict anything in this world for sure. Our job is to go live our life. I say that in a football sense. Let's go attack our football life with great enthusiasm and see what we can do with it."
John, with S Lardarius Webb getting hurt yesterday and S Kendrick Lewis going on IR, is depth at safety a concern at this point? (Cliff Brown) "It's always a concern. Depth is always a concern at every position, but certainly at safety, too."
Having looked at the tape, is there anything from a coverage standpoint to explain why the passing game was so good in the first half and bogged down in the second half? (Luke Jones) "They played a lot of man coverage. We got some pressures. We picked them up for the most part. We had some opportunities to hit some throws that would have really hurt them, but when we had opportunities to do it, we didn't hold up quite in protection, and we didn't always get open when we needed to. That's on us."
Coach, how much are you going to be looking at that running game and improving that over these next couple of weeks? (Shawn Stepner) "We're going to be looking at it a lot. The next two days we have some ideas we've been working on. This will be an opportunity to try some things. We're not going to have some big, monstrous change in what we're doing. We believe in the things we're doing. We just want to do them better, game-plan them better, scheme them better, block them better and all of those sorts of things. If it becomes some other thing we can add to the mix, some things we take out, that's what you do in the bye week. But we have to get it going. There's no question about it. That's not even close. That's not even where we're going to be. It's the National Football League. There are tough games, and that second half was about as tough as it gets for our offense. You just try to find a way to win the game with where you're at. We just have to be much better than that, and that's what we're going to work to do."
John, what has happened with QB Joe Flacco's fundamentals? Is there anything you can pinpoint in terms of his mechanics? He seems back to old habits of throwing off the back foot. (Jerry Coleman) "A lot of that is the fact that he's getting hit too much. He has to focus on his fundamentals and all of those kinds of things. He's making good throws, and we have to keep him clean."
You don't like to use injuries as an excuse at all, but how much has the fact that your offensive line has been so shuffled contributed to the state of the running game and QB Joe Flacco under duress in the pocket? (David Ginsburg) "It's always way better to be healthy, there's no question about that – and have your best players on the field. But we always have confidence in the guys we're putting out there that they'll get the job done. They played well the week before, but we have to play with the guys we've got. It doesn't even matter to look at that. I'm excited to get some guys back, though, I can tell you that. That's going to help us a lot."
Are there certain guys that will definitely be back after the bye week? (Jerry Coleman)"I don't know for sure. We'll see. As you can tell, I'm pretty hopeful on some guys."
Coach, can you give a short "state of the team" as we hit the bye week? (Shawn Stepner) "I'm not really into that right now. I haven't really given it any thought. State of the team? That would probably take some time to think about. I appreciate the question. What I have thought about is the fact that we're – where we're at with our football – I can tell you that [we have] looked at that, studied that, every player, every scheme, everything that we do. That's one thing. The other thing is where we're at in the big-picture race. What can we accomplish? We can accomplish everything we want to accomplish. That's the thing that's exciting. That's all you should ever focus on. I don't know what else you would look at besides, 'OK, it's a football season, we're seven games in, we're one game out of first in the division, and we're playing the team that's first in the division, which is our archrival.' What more could you ask for than that? I'd love to be 7-0 and have them chasing us, but we're a game behind them. We're chasing them. We've been there before. I can't wait. I can't wait for tomorrow's practice. I can't wait for scheming up the Steelers. I can't wait to find a way to get our offense clicking and going along with Marty [Mornhinweg] and the coaches and the players."
Is there still a lack of communication on the offense with some guys off and not running their routes? Is there communication in there with Marty Mornhinweg now that's not working? (Bill West)"It's a really broad question – good question. There's not too much of that. We had some depth – one depth problem – but there wasn't a lot of bust or anything like that."
*With WR/RS Devin Hester Sr., he really hasn't had a problem with ball security in his career. This year he has been putting some balls on the ground? Is there a decision still to be made at returner, or will you continue to go with Devin? (Jamison Hensley) *"You know I'm not going to comment on anything like that, but I appreciate you asking. I'm still very confident Devin can secure the football. I like the fact the Devin can still break a big return. He has been battling some injuries. It's my hope that it's not because he's gotten older and that's going to continue all year, but I don't know. That would be a good question to ask him when you see him. I think when he's healthy, he'll secure the football even better than he has, and he'll make some big returns for us."
With the back-to-back weeks of long runs after catches for touchdowns, are there similarities in what went wrong for you guys, or are they two completely different plays? (Cliff Brown)"Two completely different plays. One was man coverage. One was zone coverage. One was more the coverage aspect of it that freed up the player, and the other one was angles to the football. We took horrendously bad angles to the football, pretty much in the whole back end, including the linebackers. That's about as bad as you're ever going to see, as far as angles and tackling and that kind of thing. That's not what we've really been known for. We've done that really well all year. I was a little bit surprised by that, to say the least. Our guys, they certainly understand it. Really, one of the things that was mentioned, even in the meeting, was trying to do too much. You have a responsibility. You have a leverage on the football. That's yours. Everybody is counting on you to be in that leverage and somebody else be in the other leverage. Don't try to be in somebody else's leverage. Do your thing and go cuff the ball and tackle it."
What are you seeing from WR Breshad Perriman at this point? He is getting targeted quite a bit, and he is playing quite a bit. Maybe not the production … I know it is his first year playing, but what are your thoughts on that? (Luke Jones)"I'm seeing that – that it is his first year playing. He is very determined; he really wants to be good. He and I talk a lot; we talked today. [He is] working hard on the field. He had a really tremendous block coming down and getting the safety on a run. I don't know if you guys saw that or not, but it was a really physical block. That is the kind of thing you respect from a young guy, especially a receiver. We just have to keep working on him so he can … I told him, 'I just am impatient. You have all this talent, and there is a lot to learn, but I just want to speed the curve up.' Obviously, he said that he could not agree more. We just have to keep chasing it. It is going to happen, and let's try to make it happen sooner rather than later."
A lot of time there is an imbalance in the running game because of the score of the game. Do you think you got away from the run earlier than need be in that game yesterday? (Stan Charles) "I think what really hurt us … I want to run the ball more than 10 times, certainly. In the second half, when you watch the way it played out, I don't see how you could. If you were the play-caller, I don't know how you could have called runs. I went back through the play calls on the train ride home, and I even did it with Marty [Mornhinweg]. Each one of those first and second downs, he called a run. Either the first down or the second down, he called a run. They both got stuffed. As I go back, in hindsight, as I sit in the second-guesser's chair – which I frequently do – run, run, run and punt, and we probably win the game. Fair enough. That is a little bit harder to do when you are calling the plays in a tight game. He tried to call runs. In the first half, what really hurt us was that holding penalty. Now we are down to the 10-yard line. We are not backed up. We did a good job of actually getting ourselves in position. We came up a yard short. It was a yard short, then it got to be two-and-a-half yards short after the spot – which you can't challenge – and it took us out of more runs. Yes, we need to run the ball more. Yes, you are right, it has to do with the situation in the game. It also has to do with running the ball well. Those are all things that we have to do. When we are running the ball more, we will be a winning football team. There is no doubt about it."
Do you agree that [running the football] is a mentality? (Stan Charles)"Absolutely."
I know RB Terrance West has been running really well, and RB Lorenzo Taliaferro is back. Is RB Kenneth Dixon a guy you would like to see get more involved, and is this just part of that he has missed a lot of time? (Jeff Zrebiec)"You will get a chance to talk to the assistants later in the week, and they can kind of detail all that out for you. I would like to see Kenneth Dixon play more. He is young, in terms of pass protection stuff, for sure. So sometimes it is a little harder to get him out the field when you are going no-huddle. That probably is part of it. [Running backs coach] Thomas [Hammock] really tries to get that right. There are some other factors that get involved in that. It kind of goes back to your point a little bit, too. (points to Stan Charles) I would love to see Kenneth Dixon on the field more."
After watching the tape yesterday, how encouraged were you by the young pass rushers, OLB Matthew Judon and OLB Kamalei Correa? What did you see from them? (Ryan Mink) "Exactly. They played well. I think they each had one play that I kind of [didn't like] – well, two plays for Za'Darius [Smith]. Other than that, they played really good football. To see Matt [Judon] get the sacks … [He] played the run well, ran to the ball, smart football. Nobody jumped into the neutral zone. With all of the problems that we have been having with that, you put those two young defensive ends out there and then to think that wouldn't happen … I was really proud of that. Yes, they played well."
Can any sense be made or can you make anything out of the fact that this team, traditionally in September, their win percentage is over .600, but in October, it is down near .400. (Joe Platania) "No. I do not have that answer. I do not study that stuff. But I would be interested. I would be interested in any theories."
You have said many times how self-motivated the team is. That is one of your constant themes, and we see it. But with four losses in a row, the motivation has to be helped. What is your role right now, as far as that goes? (Bruce Cunningham)"That is a great question. It would probably be a great question over a beer and pizza sometime. We have a bye week, maybe we could do something. *(laughter) *I would say this: It is a big part of it. We have great guys. It starts with relationships; we have great relationships. I do like and love our guys. I told one of the guys in the meeting today, 'I love you, but I despise you right now on that play.' The guys get it; they are OK. It is all about just pushing them and coaching them and trying to teach better football. That, really, is where we are at. We are not going to have a problem for one second of our guys doing everything possible to play the kind of football we need to play. What we do need to do, is get it there. Really, we do not need to wait. I have been impatient for quite a long time, and they know it. They have been impatient for quite a long time. But you know what? We do not get to control everything in life. So, we just have to keep digging. That is what we will do."
How would you assess how G/T Alex Lewis has played this far at left tackle? (Ed Lee)"I think he has played OK. Look at Alex Lewis' situation. I'm going to say 'OK' in the big picture of a left tackle in the National Football League. He has played 'OK.' Now for a rookie, who we drafted to play at guard, who is playing pretty good darn good at guard, just to bump out there and play left tackle – the toughest spot – and do 'OK,' I think, is a tremendous credit to him. That guy is smart, he is tough, he studies. I really like Alex Lewis and believe he is going to be a really good player for us."
All things being equal though, would you like to have T Ronnie Stanley come back and move G/T Alex Lewis back to his usual spot (Ed Lee) "Yes, absolutely."
On DT Timmy Jernigan's play [where he fumbled], he knows better than that. Do you have to go over that with the team, or is that one where you just say, "You guys know better."? (Dave Ginsburg)"We are going to do a drill just to make it miserable for everybody. We will do a drill. First of all, he carried the ball into the end zone, which he knows he should not have done. He just got a little too full of himself in a sense. He was excited. The thing about Timmy Jernigan … I made it tough on him in here, but he knows how I feel about him. He knows how much I love him. What makes Timmy great is that enthusiasm. What makes Timmy make some mistakes sometimes is that enthusiasm. Let's just keep disciplining out those kinds of things, and we are going to have a great football player. He is going to have a great career. You do not really expect it to be carrying the ball into the end zone and then out of an end zone on a fumble that is going to get him stopped and then getting stripped. I can't say that it has been on my mind that I needed to work on that with him. But we do work on ball security drills for our defensive players, every day up until the season started and regularly since the season started. You guys know that; you have been at practice. We do it all the time. We will just continue to do it. Now, we will do it in and out of the end zone just to make sure that we make the point."