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John Harbaugh Press Conference (12/1)

Opening statement:

"It's good to see everybody. Thanks for coming over. After watching the tape, we had the similar feeling that we had last night. It was a good, methodical victory in really all three phases. I thought all three phases complemented each other really well. We stayed patient in all three phases and we were able to pull off a victory. There were some interesting plays in the game – before we get into questions that bear worth noting – things you don't notice in the game that kind of come up: Troy Smith is playing quarterback. Ray Rice takes an inside handoff and bounces it back out to the left side, Troy gets out in front of him and delivers a knockout block. [That is] just something that's unsung, but for a quarterback to do that [is worth noting]. Terrell Suggs, on the interception that Jimmy Leonhard had, peels back, he's rushing the quarterback, sees the ball thrown, peels back to chase the throw and just gets a knockout shot on the block and then picks up another block. Someone falls over him on the way, so he gets two guys knocked down to give Jimmy a chance to get the interception return. It was just a tremendous job. Then, Trevor Pryce throughout the course of the game just played great. It was something we had a feel for probably right after the game, but when you go back and watch the tape, Trevor Pryce was dominant – pass rush, pressure he put on the quarterback, batted down some balls. In the run game [he] was really dominant inside. So Trevor just had a tremendous game – among others. But those are three things that stand out as being things that aren't always noticed right after the game."

What specifically can you point to that didn't go right, if anything, in yesterday's game?

"There are plenty of things when you look at the tape. What you do is you take it play by play, and you take it player by player, and you look at footwork, you look at targets, technique, the way we handled coverage in the back end, the way we passed some things off, stunts, pass rush. We lost containing one time, for instance, on the scramble in the two-minute drive. Special teams-wise, just a lot of little technique stuff you can always get better at. It's easy to look at the big picture and say, 'Well, it was a dominant performance,' which it was, but within that we can get much better. And we need to get much better in the next month."

Is T Jared Gaither feeling OK today?

"He's OK. It's nothing serious. I'm not sure if it was the ankle or the foot or the knee, or whatever, but it wasn't a serious thing. Obviously, he has the shoulder soreness coming out of the game and he's going to be dealing with that for a while."

Is LB Jarret Johnson OK?

"Jarret Johnson, he's OK. I saw him this morning; he's fine."

Can you talk about the humility of your team despite their success this season?

"All you really have to do in this league, if you're honest, is look at the tape of your upcoming opponent and it's pretty hard to get too carried away with yourself. We've got the Washington Redskins coming in and they've had a tremendous season. [They are] a very talented football team – extremely well coached. [They are] right down the road and we hear a lot about them. So our guys understand to be successful in football or anything in life, you stay hungry, you stay humble, you go to work the next day and then you have a chance. Our guys have done a good job of that, but it's just who they are as people. That's who they are, that's what they're about, and that's what they believe in. I don't think it's real hard for them to do that."

What have you heard and what do you know about the Baltimore/Washington rivalry?

"Right up the road [in Philadelphia] we heard a little bit about it. Being from this part of the country [you hear about it]. I don't know too much about the sociology of it, I guess, but [Ravens senior VP of public and community relations] Kevin Byrne has updated me on a little bit of that stuff, and I think it's real. But it's football. It's sports. It's going to be a rivalry. We're not too far apart. We hear about them, they hear about us. Our guys know their players. I'm sure they've been around their players at different times, and we've got a lot of respect for them. So it's kind of a natural backyard rivalry. We're looking forward to playing in it."

Is it difficult waiting on Sunday to play the prime time game at night and do you do anything special to prepare?"The biggest dynamic for us, as far as the prime time part of it, basically is adjusting our schedule. We've got a schedule for that. We did it against Pittsburgh. We get into our night game format. We did it throughout the preseason for four games, so our guys have been through the schedule and our routine with meetings and meals and the different things we do. But what it is really is just waiting. If you play at 1 o'clock, you can get up, you get your breakfast and you go play the football game. Now we've got to work through some other games and not play the game before 8:15. That's the main thing. The game is not going to be played until prime time, as you say, and we've got to make sure we play it then and not before."

Is there any difference when a team plays a prime time game versus a day game?

"The difference is that you play at night and the schedule is different. [With] the fans, there's an electricity at night which is neat. But there's an electricity in our stadium at 1 o'clock, too. Other than that, it's a football game and it really doesn't matter. The main thing is that we need to know what time the game starts so we can be there. They told us it's going to be at 8:15. You laugh about it, but they told us it's going to be at 8:15 and we'll be there right on time ready to go. That's our plan."

Just how creative is offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's playbook?

"Cam does a great job. It's not just Cam; it's the rest of our offensive coaches. Our players are throwing suggestions out there, as you know. They've got some ideas about plays they want to run, ones they ran in high school, and Cam listens to all that stuff. The real, I guess, trick in the whole thing is to build a foundation first and then within that to be creative. You talk about Coach Cameron and what he's done with our offense – we're a fundamentally sound offense. We're built on a foundation that is fundamentally rock solid, and that's what we believe in. But then, within that, you build some creativity in and guys understand that's what your offense is about."

Do you worry that the offense may run out of surprises in their bag of tricks?

"There's always a creative mind, right? There are always things you can go to."

How much did WR Mark Clayton's reverse run in the first game against the Bengals factor in to calling the reverse pass in yesterday's game, and did you think they might be looking for that play again?

"That may have factored into Cam's thinking, but it's not something we talked about dramatically. I'm sure in the back of [the Bengals'] minds it might have been there, but that's a long time ago. They were just trying to defend a play. Derrick Mason did a great job of selling the stock block. He didn't just give it a perfunctory stutter-and-go. He got in there and dug and he blocked their corner for a good period of time and made it seem like a run, and then he took off. That's what really sells a play like that. It's really the execution of it more than anything."

For those who haven't been around the team, what clicked after losing three straight games early this season?

"Well, you're right. You haven't been here, so you don't know the story. Nothing clicked. We just kept doing what we do. We've talked about it before. There were two games we felt like we should've won. Then, all of a sudden, we lost a third game to the Colts in a pretty convincing fashion, and now we're on a three-game losing streak. Our guys never bought in to that. We weren't on a three-game losing streak. We were playing week-to-week to try to find a way to win a football game, and that's what they came out and did against the Dolphins – very methodically took care of business. That's what we've been about since Day One, so our guys didn't get mired up or bogged down in any kind of three-game stretch. I'm not even sure which one you're talking about, to be honest with you. I don't even remember it, it's so long ago."

Did you know the team would be this good at this point in the season when you took over?

"We don't even talk about that. It doesn't even matter. Those comparisons, or things like that, are not on our radar. It doesn't even matter. It's irrelevant. We're just where we're at now, and we've got a game to play Sunday. That's how we look at it, and really, that's how our guys look at it."

Do you think, where this team stands now, it is in prime condition to go into a very tough December schedule?

"[We] don't look at it that way. A prime condition or any other kind of condition, we are where we're at. We think we're a good football team. I'm very proud of our guys. Our guys have worked really hard, and they've earned the right to be in this spot. So to look back and say we're surprised or we thought we'd be here or wouldn't be here, we don't care about any of that. Our guys have earned the right to be playing meaningful football games in December. That's all we care about. We don't care about playing on prime time. We don't care if the rest of the country knows about us or not. We're not interested in any of that. We're not trying to impress anybody. We're getting ready to play a football game on Sunday, and I think our guys understand how to win a tough football game when it counts. They've proven that, and we're looking forward to the chance to be in that situation on Sunday and for the rest of December."

Could you explain your philosophy for how you use your running backs?

"Really, we think we've got three good players. If you've got three good players, why would you want to put two of them on the bench? So we use them where we can, when we can, according to health, according to who's most effective, according to the game plan. We want to give all our guys… We have 53 guys on our roster. We can put 45 guys up. We want to use all 45, if we can. That makes us stronger as a group, as a team. That's really the whole idea."

With a lot of talk this morning about RB Willis McGahee, how do you view him?

"Well, I don't know what everybody is talking about. We really like Willis McGahee. We think he's a really good player, and we plan on Willis being a huge part of what we're doing in December. He's been practicing very well. He's getting stronger and stronger throughout the course of the season, and there's no question in my mind that Willis McGahee, a very talented back, is going to be a huge part of what we're doing here down the stretch."

What about yesterday? Is there any particular reason why he didn't play?

"No, nothing that we'd want to talk about or that's really of interest outside of our building. What we're trying to do is win football games."

We're interested.

"Yeah. *(Laughing) *You're interested. You know, we felt like it was best to go the way we went against Cincinnati. It has to do with the Cincinnati game. It has to do with future games. It's all what we think gives us the best chance to win games as we go, and Willis understands that. Willis has been tremendous. He's a competitor. Willis wants to play, and he wants the ball. When you're a coach, that's what you want from your running back. You want your receiver to want throws. You want your quarterback to want to throw it. You want your defensive players to want to blitz, or whatever the case may be. Willis wants the ball, and that's what makes him a good back."

What is your philosophy on keeping the starters in even with a large lead?

"I don't think we have a philosophy about it. We talked about it, and I think it would've been good to get Troy into the game for some more meaningful snaps. We would've liked to have done that. The way it shook out, time-wise, we didn't do it. But that's a fair question, and it's something that we definitely want to do."

When Smith first came in the game, you had to burn another timeout. How come that hasn't been ironed out?

"Well, it's easy to say it's time management. To me, a situation where you're substituting personnel, it has nothing to do with time management. That's an easy place to go, but that's not really what it is. It's a substitution issue. When you're substituting a quarterback into the game, that's not one of your normal substitution patterns. We've got Mark Clayton down there, I think it was, at the 5-yard line trying to get back, and it's hard for him to know exactly what the substitution pattern is within that 40-second clock. That's what happened in that situation. Unfortunately, I think we've had two situations where we tried to put Troy in the game, and we've had some snafus with that. So we want to get that ironed out, but it's not something that we don't work on. We can do better with that."

Do you think that you've improved in terms of your challenges?

"No, I think we've done well with our challenges. You guys say [things] like we haven't done great with our challenges. I think every one of our challenges has been correct. When we didn't challenge, and it turned out to be the case that we look back and say maybe we should have, there was no evidence at the time to say we should have challenged it. It would have just been taking a shot at the wind. And, as a matter of fact, to the naked eye, there's not a person in here that could say that they thought that play was in bounds. Other times, I think, we challenged and we didn't win it, we were taking a shot knowing that the consequence was we might lose it. So we think we're 100-percent on challenges right now. (Laughing) That's the one area we don't need to get better at."

With QB Joe Flacco, what are you seeing in him now that you didn't see earlier in the year?

"I just think Joe is getting better. There's no specific thing where we're seeing anything different."

You're about to face another successful rookie head coach in Jim Zorn, and then there's Mike Smith in Atlanta. Do you think it's unique that three rookie coaches are doing so well in their first year?

"I don't know. You're going to have to look back at the records and determine that. But these are three great guys [Zorn, Smith and Sparano]. Jim Zorn had a chance – I've known Jim for a long time, but passingly – and then this spring we had a chance to spend a lot of time with them, he and his wife. Tremendous people, great coach. I can see why the players enjoy playing for him. And then Mike Smith, who's been here, everybody here knows Mike Smith. And there's not a more down-to-earth, real personality than Mike Smith in the league. So you can see why he's impacted his players the way he has."

And then there's you…

"Well, I just think it's pretty neat that maybe three owners took a little bit of a chance – or four owners took a little bit of a chance – on four guys, and it's paid off. It's a little different, so it's neat to see."

Do you think you have a specific link with Zorn, since you two weren't coordinators?

"I hadn't thought about that one, but you do feel a link. And we came in at the same time. We were the guys at the NFL meetings trying to find our way around. We didn't know where to go, didn't know who to talk to, didn't know where to sit. So we had that in common. We felt like the other guys were looking at us like, 'Who are these guys?' You feel that link a little bit, that bond."

Has DT Haloti Ngata lobbied for the ball more? And how big was he on the touchdown pass to Todd Heap?

"Actually, Haloti, as you probably saw, drew the coverage on the touchdown pass, right? They jumped Haloti, and Todd Heap ran a great route. He pushed up on the corner that was covering him and broke away and got some separation. And Haloti was our, what would you call it? Decoy. Haloti was our decoy, very good."

Do you feel that sooner or later RS Yamon Figurs will bust one?

"We sure hope so. We want to bust one, and he's been running the ball up in there pretty well the last couple of weeks. So we've just got to keep blocking better, and he's got to keep running better, and try to get some returnable kicks and try to break one."

Are you surprised that your players haven't hit a wall after playing for so many consecutive weeks because of the hurricane debacle?

"We laugh about that, you know. Kevin [Byrne] and I laugh about that all the time. Where's the wall? I don't even know what the wall means. What you're talking about is a psychological thing, and our guys take care of themselves, they work hard. There is no wall. They know they've got a game on Sunday, and I think they do a great job of taking care of themselves throughout the week and getting ready to play a game. We don't see any walls."

Not to dwell on Willis McGahee, but do you expect him to contribute more on Sunday?

"We'll see."

How do you feel about the way this offense is set up, in being able to grind out the yards that you're going to need in the nasty conditions in Baltimore in December?

"That's the thing. You want to be a physical football team in the AFC North, and really in the NFL, but especially when you play in these kinds of conditions in December and January in these kinds of stadiums. We want to be built to be successful in December and January and on through. Going back to Willis, that's the kind of back he is, and really, all three of our backs are those kinds of backs. So we would expect them to be a big part of that."

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