Head Coach JOHN HARBAUGH: Monday Transcript
"Good to see everybody. I'm glad that Dr. [Andrew] Tucker had a chance to explain the Troy Smith situation. You guys have been asking for weeks, and obviously we were not able to answer quite as adequately as our doctor could. I'm sure he did a great job of putting you up to speed with Troy's situation.
"As far as the game this weekend, our thoughts and prayers have been with the people of that region, obviously. We've been following it pretty closely on the Weather Channel throughout the weekend. That's been tough. With our colleagues and friends with the Texans, we've been in contact with those people and our players with players that they know and friends in the organization there. It's been tough for them. We're very understanding of the situation. We certainly wanted to play. We're disappointed that we didn't get a chance to play, but we understand the decision that the league made. We support it fully, and we're looking forward to playing them down the road."
Did the unusual circumstances knock you or the players for a loop?
"I think the fact that they put so much work and effort into it, that's where the disappointment comes in. We understand priorities are for life and for property and for well-being down there. At the same time, our guys worked hard this week, and they were excited to play a football game. That's what they do, and that's their job as they see it. They wanted to play. Our focus now goes to the Browns, obviously. The thing we needed to do because the bye week is not going to be there down the road, we wanted to give our guys some time. So as soon as we found out that the game was going to be postponed until a later date, we immediately decided to give our guys three and a half days off, which is all we could – from that moment until Wednesday morning. Guys are getting away and getting with their families for at least this short period of time."
How is the morale of the players?
"I think their morale is good. They play football. In some ways, football players, football coaches, we've got the same kind of mindset: 'Tell us when to play. Tell us where to play. We'll be there, and we'll be excited to play.' They had a chance to watch the Browns and the Steelers last night, a big rival game in our division. I think that got them fired up, and now we play those two teams in the next two weeks. So they're fired up to play those two teams. The Texans are behind us and in front of us way down the road. Our immediate [focus], what's important now, obviously is going to be the Cleveland Browns, and that's where we're going. That's all we can do, and that's what we need to do right now."
How is your preparation altered without a November bye week?
"That's a good point. I don't think it changes anything right now, but when those weeks come up we'll come up with a plan to account for the fact that we don't have a bye week – practices being altered in some fashion, players' reps being altered in some fashion. We're going to do what's right for our guys to make sure that they're ready to play on Sunday, yet prepared to play and compete on Sunday. That's something that, as a staff, we'll have to figure out as we go, along with our conditioning staff, along with our training staff. That'll be very important in the middle of our season when that bye week doesn't happen. We're going to have to be sharp on that. That's a good question."
Will the extra rest help players like DT Kelly Gregg, who are fighting injuries, get back on the field sooner?
"There's no way to know that, but it's an opportunity for guys to get three days of rest and get more treatment. The guys you're talking about – the guys who are working through some of those injuries, working hard to get back and get a chance to play – are going to do everything they can to get back for Sunday. It's not going to be something that's not going to help them. We'll see how much it helps them as we go."
What will be the plan when Troy Smith is healthy enough to play again?
"I think that's something we'll have to see, in all reality. We don't know what our situation is going to be when he comes back. We think he's a heck of a quarterback, and he's going to make our team stronger when he comes back. There's no question about it. It's going to be partly medical. How strong is he? Conditioning-wise, when's he at full strength? Partly football strategy, what role can he play to help us win? Where Joe [Flacco] is at, where the offense is at, where our team is at at that time. I know one thing: When he comes back, it's going to be a big plus for us. When he can compete at full strength, it's going to make us a stronger team. To what extent, we'll just have to see when the time comes."
When would placing Smith on Injured Reserve become a consideration?
"I think that's going to be down the road pretty far because we're pretty certain he's going to be back playing for the bulk of the season. If some other complication arises that we haven't foreseen and Dr. Tucker hasn't foreseen and the other doctors obviously haven't foreseen, that would be the time to probably consider that. But right now, that's not even in our thoughts. We've got Casey Bramlet sitting on the practice roster. He knows that he's our third quarterback, essentially. If we need to bring him up at some point in time, we can."
How much preparation has the coaching staff been able to do on the Browns?
"What we did was, when we thought we were going to play on Monday night, our preparations started as a staff. We started breaking the Browns down and doing all the leg work that you would do previous to getting ready for them. This morning, we came in, and we all went to work on them. We're about nine hours into them right now, and that'll continue throughout the week."
What do you think about now having five road games in six weeks later this season?
"To be honest with you, we're looking forward to it. It's going to be an opportunity. It's going to be a challenge. It's the one that's been presented to us. You talk about football players and football coaches and their mindset, that'll be something we'll take on with relish and attack it with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind."
What do you know about the Browns this season?
"They're good. It's interesting because we've got a lot of ties to the Browns here in this building. From a scouting perspective, a lot of the players they bring in are the same type of guys, Ozzie Newsome-type of guys. There are scouts who were trained here in this program, and you can see what they're trying to do with their personnel. Of course, Romeo Crennel, coming from the Bill Belichick mold and the type of player that he likes, that's evident. [They are] a very talented football team. Their offensive coordinator [Rob Chudzinski] has a lot of ties to Cam Cameron, so we see a lot of similarities in their offense. Their special teams coordinator [Ted Daisher] has ties to us, so we see similarities in the special teams. Defensively, they've got an Ohio State guy [Mel Tucker] in there running their defense, so they're trying to play physical, fundamental defense similar to what the Ravens do. That's a very good football team [that is] off to a rough start. I'm sure they're looking forward to coming in here and playing a football game next Sunday."
Is there any psychological advantage to playing on the road?
"Playing on the road, coming together as a team, you have to. You're all you've got. Then again, all you've got to go against is the other 11 guys on the other sideline. You're not playing against the crowd. You're not playing against the fans. You've got to deal with the noise, but you're playing your opponent. You've got to be together to do that."
Was there a silver lining to the team's situation of not playing this week?
"Well, we're not even looking at any of the negatives to not playing yesterday. We're looking at the 'silver linings' as you put it, and there's a lot of them. And it's going to be an opportunity to play, and you can kind of add those things up for yourself and see what those positives are. That's how we see it. And we know we're going to play at 4:15 Sunday against the Browns here in Baltimore, unless anyone has news of a hurricane rolling in to the Northeast."
When Joe [Flacco] looks over his shoulder and sees that he's it [the only quarterback], does that help his confidence?
"I don't think Joe would ever look over his shoulder. Even when Troy [Smith] and Kyle [Boller] were here, they were shoulder to shoulder, and they were helping each other and working with each other, and that hasn't changed with Todd [Bouman] and Casey [Bramlet] and Joe. Those quarterbacks kind of work as a team, and that's how they look at it every day. They're all trying to get better, and that's really the reality of it. To make more of it, and to look at it that other way is not realistic. That's not the way, I don't think, players look at it. Joe wants to compete, he wants to be the guy, he's fighting hard to be the guy over the long term, and we'll see what happens."
What I meant to ask was: Joe's it, and you don't really have other options right now. Does that help his confidence?
"I don't know. I think he knows that if he's not ready to go, he has two guys behind him that are ready to go, so he's secure with those guys in behind him. And those guys are ready to go if something happens to him."
Coach [Jim] Zorn [of the Washington Redskins] mentioned you called to congratulate him on his first win.
"Yeah, Coach Zorn, and getting his first win and calling him this morning, that was something I couldn't wait to do after I saw their victory yesterday. I didn't have the number at home last night, so I had to come in and get the number from Megan [McLaughlin], our assistant here. Mike Smith had called me last week, first call I got was from Mike Smith, and he'd won also. So we had a chance to kind of congratulate one another. That was an honor to be able to do that. [Zorn] is a good person, and we've got a lot of respect for the program."
Can you talk about what Lorenzo Neal means to this team?
"Lorenzo, he was kind of targeted. And we started to get a feel for our personnel through the mini-camps and into training camp, and we had a pretty good idea of where he would fit, and how he would also expand the roles of the other guys, as you've seen happen. So he brings a physical presence, obviously, and he brings a leadership presence, without a doubt. But the biggest thing to me is that he expands the roles of those other running backs, and even the tight ends, which makes him more valuable than just filling one spot would make him."
What have you learned through all the adversity that's happened in your first few weeks of being a head coach?
"I never thought all this would happen in this short of a time. I mean, that's fair. It's a chance to experience some things that not too many programs have had a chance to experience. But our guys have done a great job. I mean, our guys don't flinch – our coaches don't flinch, our players don't flinch. 'Next man up,' it's been said in the league for so many years and our guys believe in it. It's been fun, I think more than anything. It's been encouraging to watch our coaches and our players work with some unexpected circumstances and be even more sure of what kind of people they are and what kind of men they are through this deal."
Have you dealt with the issues personally, or have you shared experiences with other coaches to make decisions?
"The neat thing is, we've never had anybody that's been through this particular set of circumstances before, but they've all been through something. It's our coaches – it starts with Rex [Ryan], and Cam [Cameron] of course, and Jerry [Rosburg], but all the coaches, we've had conversations about the details and working guys into situations like you talked about. But also, Mr. [Steve] Bisciotti has been involved in it, Ozzie [Newsome] of course, Dick Cass, Kevin Byrne, all the upper management people have been fantastic. I think we've had a chance, and what we're tying to do here is apply everybody's experience to whatever decision-making we make, and go with it. You've got a good chance to make some good decision if you do that."
Were you involved in any of the discussions about the Hurricane from Friday to Sunday?
"Well, we had a chance to be involved in the conference calls with the league, with the Texans, as the storm was moving and everybody was trying to track it and the contingency plans were being made. I was able to put my two cents worth in, and our two cents was really on the behalf of our players. The Texans spoke for their people, the league spoke on behalf of, I think, everybody, but it was our job to speak on behalf of our players, and our players wanted to play, and we wanted to play. But we also understood that if we were unable to play, we'd understand that and move on."
Did you get a sense of if the Texans' players wanted to play?
"I never had any conversation with their players or with Gary [Kubiak] directly about that, so I can't speak to it. I'm sure that if they were able to play they would've wanted to play in a general sense. But from a detail standpoint, I don't know an answer to that."
How is Willie Anderson coming along?
"Willie Anderson is doing a nice job. He looked good in practice, he looks better every day, and you can see why he's got the reputation as a football player that he's had. What I've been impressed with, he's really gone out of his way to become a Raven and become part of this program, and to mentor a couple of those young tackles and those young linemen. And he's been good for our football team from that standpoint – kind of in the Lorenzo Neal mold."
Do you think he'll start this week?
"I don't know. He's in the mix. I'm sure he'll play."
What is his demeanor? Is he a quiet leader or a real mauler?
"He plays as a real mauler, no doubt about it, but his personality is kind of quiet and cerebral – a student of the game. He's been great with our guys as far as some of those fine points that only a player of his caliber could really give to the younger players."
What do you think of the rivalry between the Browns and the Ravens?
"Art Modell has become a mentor, and we've had a chance to spend some time with he and his wife Pat. So we've had a chance to go through some of the history, and I grew up with the history just like you did. What he's done for Baltimore, and the way that whole thing played out, I think it's played out in a real positive way, in a way that nobody could have anticipated. It's been so great for this city and for this region. And I think he's a hero in so many ways. He did everything he could to keep the franchise in Cleveland, and providence didn't make that happen. And so, he made the best of it, came here and made a bunch of people really happy. I'm proud to be a part of this organization now and be in Baltimore. He's a hero in my mind."