Transcripts: John Harbaugh Press Conference

JOHN HARBAUGH – HEAD COACH

Opening statement: "So, I just wanted to kind of take you through the day. We had a good day today, and guys were in great spirits. We had a great day yesterday, and I think that's kind of part of why the guys are in such good spirits. We had a special teams meeting early. We had a team meeting where we went through tape from the padded practice yesterday morning, then we had position meetings until about 11:15 [a.m.]. In other words, we had an in-season day today, as far as our schedule goes. We had a walk-through practice starting at 1 [p.m.] that we just got off the field from. Guys were very sharp and into it, and then they finished up their weightlifting now. So, the guys have put in a full day today, [a] workday. Tomorrow, we have a scrimmage. So, we're looking forward to that. It'll be in the stadium, hopefully - weather permitting. I know the young guys especially – I mean, everybody is fired up – but the young guys especially. It's been an interesting camp and Matt Judon kind of pointed this out yesterday in one of our conversations; normally, as a rookie in training camp, you really get an opportunity to let some steam out when you're playing the games. There's a lot of pressure. There's a lot of … I don't know if it's uncertainty, but just opportunity to prove yourself. You don't know, you want to get out there on the field and do what you do and play and establish yourself. [Say], 'OK. I played in an NFL game, and I can …' So many times, after the first preseason game, you hug those guys in the locker room – it's such a relief. You played your first NFL game, you made some tackles, you made some catches, you blocked some people. You're like, 'I can do this. I can play. I can play in the National Football League.' Those guys haven't had that. They've had practice. They haven't had a game, and they're not going to get a game. I think there's a certain amount of stress that builds up for those guys in this instance. I feel for them a little bit, especially because I can understand. This is the 2020 class. The 2020 class – high school and college – they're all facing this very strange time. I commend them for the way they've handled it, not just our players but all those in the 2020 classes all across the country who've handled it the right way. That's where we're at. I'm sure you have plenty of questions about what we've been doing, so go ahead and ask away."

Yesterday, the team issued a very comprehensive statement about social justice. Can you just take us a little bit what went through that? What was the process yesterday to complete that statement? (Jamison Hensley) "Sure. I can take you through how we decided to have the meeting, I guess briefly, and then talk about it a little bit. I might be a little lengthy, but I do have a few notes that I could share with you, because I want to say it correctly and be right. I'm usually not at a shortage for words on things like this. Things move fast, guys think about things, you try to communicate. By yesterday morning, one of the players came up – Anthony Levine Sr. – and we had a really long, heart-to-heart, great talk. We're close. We've been close for a long time, and it was just a really good conversation. Then I walked down through the training room and guys were talking and huddled up. I had a chance to slip into the conversation and start talking about things. They were very thoughtful and had a range of emotions and feelings about what had taken place and what's been going on in our country and all the different things, because they're thoughtful guys and they care. We decided, they all were in an agreement, 'Let's go practice. We're ready to practice. We're dressed. We want to practice. Let's go.' But they said, 'Soon, we should have a meeting. Maybe tomorrow, we get together, we talk through this and begin to forge a plan – an action plan.' And I said, 'Why wait until tomorrow? Let's do it this afternoon. Let's get at it.' And we did it. We were in there for a long time – I don't know, maybe two, two and a half hours we were in there. It was really great. We came up with three bullet points that we want to move forward with after hearing many guys talk – coaches and players. Then we had another meeting that players who wanted to be in and assistant coaches who chose to be in, to draw up the statement, which was the first phase of the action plan – to put together a kind of statement that resonated for the whole team. And that's what they did. So, it was players and coaches, and we had some very knowledgeable people in there doing it, and I commend them for what they came up with. I'll just say this; in all absolute frankness, I really wish that everybody could be part of a football team, or something like a football team in their lifetime, because being a part of a football team is a unique thing. A football team comes from a lot of different places and races and spaces and religions, just many different perspectives. They have to come together and stand together, even given their differences, to work together to find mutual understanding and to create a brotherhood, really, like a family does. I think there are a lot of places in society where you gain something like that. The place I know is a football team, because I'm a football coach. By the end of the day, I was surprised by how emotionally spent I was, and I think everybody was, because we care about one another. We had some really interesting, deep, thoughtful, challenging things were said back and forth, but in love – they were spoken in love. We learned a lot. It's just powerful. I'm proud of our players. I'm proud of our coaches. I'm proud of the organization and the opportunity to, really, be at the forefront, in some way, of change. We do the best we can. We know we're not going to change the whole world over night, but we can change our world, our family, our cul-de-sac, whatever place we're at, to just try to create that type of an atmosphere in our individual worlds. That's what our guys are trying to do."

What are you doing specifically to fight against discrimination? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "That's a good question. I think the statement was really great, because it was very specific, and it outlined the things that we're going to do in terms of initiatives and in terms of legislation that we want to support. There's a bill that we're supporting, that we think is a positive bill that many police officers support and police departments, and police unions around also support many of these different initiatives. The bill is in Congress; It's got bipartisan support in many aspects of it. I actually read it last night, because I signed it along with many coaches and players. Personally, it's not everything I would write. What piece of legislation is 100%, 1000% what you actually want? That's how legislation gets passed – through compromise and understanding and give and take. But so many good things in there that I think would help, that have been thought through by very smart people. We're hoping that … It has bipartisan support, and we want to get behind it. So, that's a big one. Then there are other initiatives that we are looking at funding. We've already funded so many local things; Grassroots, neighborhood pieces to reach people specifically, especially in Baltimore and in our region, but also worldwide. [Ravens owner] Steve [Bisciotti] has led that, and he's given Torrey Smith and some players charge over that. And there are other things we're looking at doing. I'll give you an idea; we haven't decided yet, but maybe funding cameras for police in police departments that can't afford them. Those types of things that can be valuable and directly helpful. I'll say this, also; we're passionate about what we're talking about, but I also want to say [that] we have tremendous respect for our police, for what they do, the work they put in, the sacrifices they make. That was stated in our team meeting numerous times by our players and by our coaches. We understand the sacrifices the families make to protect us, the great men and women who are in our police force, the challenging job. It's hard for me to say that that would be something I would have the courage to do. And I see the courage. I know many police officers in Baltimore Country and Baltimore City, I know their families. My daughter's friend whose mom and dad are law enforcement, and they're great people and they do a great job. We understand that as a group they're under fire for reasons that the police that I know want to improve upon and get better at. I heard it's said that nobody is more disappointed or more down on – quote, unquote – a bad cop than the good cops. The high 90%, 99% of police officers are great and they make a huge difference, and we're very thankful for that. So, bottom line – let's come together, take care of one another, understand one another, and just remember we're all created under and in the image of God. That's what gives us our value and we all have that same value. That's why I love the football team. We're forced to understand that to build a team. Those are the types of things that our team talked about, and I really appreciated it."

We've seen in some other leagues players choosing not to play games as we go through this situation. Was that something that was discussed at all yesterday? Players talking about that possibility if they don't see the change that they want to see? (Childs Walker) "That didn't come up specifically. We did talk about symbolic things as a team and as a league that might be done or not done or whatever. The thing that I stand on – and if those things happen, that's good – I do believe we'll play. Guys want to play, but I don't know for sure. I'd be surprised. It's not something we talked about. But I can tell you this; the guys want to be able to make a statement, and you can talk to Jimmy Smith about this, they want to do something that lets people know in a symbolic way how we're feeling and how we stand together. And sometimes, the greatest form of unity is the fact that we respect one another's opinions. We respect one another's perspective and background. And the ability to demonstrate that is difficult, other than, basically, treating one another with respect. So, however we can symbolically express that, that may be something we try to do. We'll just have to see."

The way that you just described all of that, it sounds as if you really empower your players and allow them to take a lead in how to do this. That's sort of how you've been coaching on the field, as well. Is this something that is an evolution of how you have been a coach? Do you let your players have more of a voice – more of a say – now, than maybe 10 years ago? The second part is, you indeed were far more specific than anybody else in the sports world. And some of your colleagues have talked about sort of a fear of such a position being weaponized. Was there any anxiety – any nervousness – to taking such a strong, specific stand? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "I think those two questions do tie together. So, I'm glad you were able to ask them both, because this is the players' statements and the assistant coaches that were involved in it. And you can't control somebody else's thoughts and beliefs. The players felt strongly that they wanted to do something together, and we had multiple assistant coaches who were involved in that. I started the meeting – that part of it – then I stepped away from it and trusted them. When you empower somebody, it's because you trust them, and you believe in them. And what they came up with … Not everybody is going to agree with every point in that statement. Not everybody on our team, probably, is going to agree with every aspect of it. But, the ability to respect one-another's opinion and come up with something together that's workable – that we could go forward with – is kind of a good example of how you work every problem. And I'm proud of the guys for doing that, and I thought it took a lot of courage, a lot of intelligence and thought. Experience was brought to the table, and I'm proud of them for doing that. From the empowering statement, we all grow. As a football coach, you love football players, and you love what the sport brings to people – the impact that the locker room and the brotherhood … The demand of the game. It's hard to go out there. It's not like any other sport. And all teams do have this value, but football is a little bit unique. It's hot out there; and you have to go out there, and you have to practice football, which is demanding. It's a contact sport. It's a grind. It forces people to stand together, to work together and to go through tough times together. It forges a bond that often lasts a lifetime. That's true of many sports and many endeavors, but I see it in football as a football coach."

Today's cancelled practice this morning; was that part of what came out of yesterday's meeting, or was that strictly just a football decision? (Gerry Sandusky) "I think there are a lot of variables to it. All of that's part of it. We didn't really cancel practice; we did change the schedule around. Just to tell you the way it was organized: I set up the most practices I could for training camp, because we had so few because of the way practice was pushed back. And it was certainly understood that we would have to get a feel for the rhythm along the way. We've got a scrimmage tomorrow. So, as we sat in there as a Leadership Council, we think of the events, certainly. The conversations – the emotions of it – was something that the players talked about. The fact that we're going to scrimmage tomorrow; some of it's going to be live. The fact that we were in padded practices a couple days in a row, and the guys, they're a little bit fatigued. All those things went into play. So, for me, it was probably … And I told them this; I said, 'For me, it's more football.' And for those guys, it might have been more emotional. But it was obvious … You make every decision about what's best for team. It was clearly best for the team to go into an in-season schedule and do the walk-through in the afternoon, and the walk-through was our practice for today."

Are you pretty pleased with what you've been able to accomplish in such a short, condensed period, and everything else going on outside football? Are you where you need to be right now – as far as how you planned it out? (Todd Karpovich) "I think so. I think. Without the preseason games and any kind of 'measuring stick,' I think the coaches would tell you – and I think the players would tell you the same way – we feel really good about where we're at. We feel we're as far along – from a football standpoint – that we could be. We've had no drag. We've overcome whatever adversity that's been presented. There's always adversity presented, and that's what makes you stronger. Our guys have just worked extremely hard, and they've been locked in in meetings, in walk-throughs and in practice. So, I 100% trust them and empower them – to use Aditi's [Kinkhabwala] word – when you give them the power to build a team, and that's what they've done. So, we'll find out soon enough – in September – to see where we're at, but I do feel really good about where we're at."

You've been around football your whole life, and your father was a coach. How have you seen the voice of athletes change throughout the decades, and where do you think we're going from here? (Aaron Kasinitz) "That's such a great question, and I appreciate it, and I wish I was more prepared to answer it – other than to share just growing up as a kid, because you brought my father into it. I can remember conversations … My dad coached the defensive backs at the University of Michigan. In our earliest memories, really Iowa and then Michigan. When we went to Michigan, there were so many things going on in the country then. And there's a great book called The Ten Year War about looking at the two campuses – Michigan and Ohio State – during that time when Bo [Schembechler] and Woody [Hayes] were coaching. It gets into the politics of the time and the era and the cultural changes. And as a football coach, the coaches were in the middle of that, just like we are now with the players. It was no different then, in the players' feelings, emotions, [and] how strongly they felt about those things. And I can remember dad talking then – and now looking back, maybe even more so – and understanding more what he's talking about. The conversations that were had, just around things in the team, political positions, how guys were going to wear their hair, how they were going to dress on the road, [and] how that impacted the changes that were going on in America. It's eerie, in a good way. It's just good to see that young people today feel strongly about their world as they did then. And to be a part of it in sports, you usually have people that have a platform and are a lot more thoughtful sometimes than they get credit for. I see a lot of similarities to when my dad was coaching at Michigan back in the [19]70's, to what we're going through now – my brother and I with our players today."

You've been clear with us that the injuries have been minor. Is there anybody on that list of players who have not been practicing that has become – at some point – a long-term concern? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I'm going to say no, off the top of my head. If you throw some names at me, I can confirm that, but we don't have any long-term issues right now. I think a number of those guys – the younger guys – might scrimmage tomorrow. You should see everybody practicing next week. Now, throw a name at me, and if I'm forgetting somebody for some reason, that's certainly possible, because I don't have a list here. But I think I'd remember a long-term issue." (Reporter: "G D.J. Fluker, CB Marcus Peters, CB Anthony Averett?")"No, on all three of those guys. They should all be practicing next week." (Reporter: "Thank you.")

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