*JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE: WEEK 9
Opening statement:"It is good to see everybody here; I appreciate you guys coming. It has been a while. It seems like a long time, doesn't it? Three days is a lifetime in an NFL season, I guess. It is good to see everybody, and we are well on the way to preparing for Tennessee. We started that on Friday, and we have gone to work. We will start practicing tomorrow and on through the normal work week on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday."
It is obviously the big question – the concussion and the hit. How is TE Vince Mayle doing?* (Jerry Coleman) (laughter) *"Both of those guys [Joe Flacco and Vince Mayle] are doing well. Both the two guys are doing well. The symptoms are zero right now for both of those guys, so that is good news."
The evaluation process [for a concussion], it is a five-step evaluation? (Jerry Coleman)"Correct, exactly."
Have you looked at the film of the hit on QB Joe Flacco and the slide? There are some who believe that the slide and the technique of the slide brought on the hit. Your response to something like that?* (Jerry Coleman)*"I've been in those meetings a lot, and that is just not the case. Joe slid; he is protected. We have a technique to teach those guys coming in there, and we teach our guys that. They try to do their best with it, but the responsibility is on the defender, clearly. That is not even part of the conversation at the NFL meetings when we have the official meetings. We understand how that rule works."
Are you still waiting to hear from the NFL [regarding Dolphins LB Kiko Alonso]? (Jerry Coleman)"Yes, we have heard nothing. I'm sure we will hear when you guys hear. It really is not a concern of ours right now, in all frankness. It is not going to impact our game against the Titans."
Is there an inclination to rest QB Joe Flacco because you have the bye in two weeks, or is it, "If he is ready, he is playing"? (David Ginsburg)"If he is ready, he is playing, right."
Does it matter how much practice QB Joe Flacco gets this week? (David Ginsburg)"No. He will play if he is ready."
Do you think there is a chance of QB Joe Flacco playing based on the progress he has made so far? (Jamison Hensley)"Sure, absolutely. I think there is a good chance he will play. As I have said before, I am not a doctor, but I play one in press conferences. *(laughter) *That is my diagnosis."
Sorry to prolong this, but does QB Joe Flacco stay at home? Does he come by here? Have you seen him or talked to him? (David Ginsburg)"He comes by here. There is a routine he does. There is a process, as Jerry [Coleman] alluded to, for that. I don't really know the details of what the rehab process is. We are working on the football. The trainers and doctors work on that part of it. He has been here every day doing what he is supposed to do."
Does that include meetings, in terms of getting QB Joe Flacco ready for Tennessee? (David Ginsburg)"It will. We haven't had those meetings yet, but it will include meetings starting tomorrow."
It was kind of a scary hit seeing how dazed he was and the blood coming down. Is it a relief to see QB Joe Flacco now compared to what you saw Thursday as he walked off the field? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I guess you kind of learn not to make any kind of assumptions with injuries. There have been plenty of times where you think a player is fine, it doesn't look like much, and it turns out to be a season-ender – some kind of a tear. Other times, what looks to be a very serious injury, isn't. Joe's … I don't want to minimize what went down with Joe. I thought that was a very vicious type of a hit. He was definitely defenseless and couldn't protect himself. Therefore, he got his ear sliced open and he got hit in the head. You never minimize that. He is an extremely tough person. We missed him for the rest of the game. He missed over a half of football. We are very hopeful for this week, and it will be in the hands of Joe and the doctors to decide what we can do. We will get him ready to play if he can play, and that is all you really can do."
Talking about the win, do you feel it can really turn into something, momentum-wise? It wasn't just a squeaker, it was a dominant performance. Obviously, you hope to build on that going into a bye. (David Ginsburg)"We just have to play this game. All of that stuff is good to look at, and I'm sure it is possible and it is true in the big picture. But our focus needs to be on one thing – one three-and-a-half hour block of time on Sunday afternoon down in Nashville. That is what we have to focus on. We have to get ready for that. All other considerations or conversations are really irrelevant to what we are trying to accomplish. It is fun and good to talk about that stuff, and I hope it turns out to be the case, but it will only be the case if we play well enough on Sunday to win the game, and that is what we have to focus on."
RB Alex Collins is ninth in rushing in the NFL. He has 30 fewer carries than some of the guys in front of him. Are you getting confident where you can lean on him to help carry the offense to be an every-down back? (Todd Karpovich)"He is doing a great job. Alex is doing a great job, and he has been very productive. Guys who are productive, they always get more opportunities. That is what he is doing, and he has made the most of his opportunities. He is going to continue to get more and more opportunities. [Javorius] 'Buck' [Allen] has done a really good job as well. We are going to try and run our offense. It is never based on one person, although, when guys are making plays and they are doing well, that is really the key. You need players to make plays. You need guys to break tackles and make people miss. You need guys to catch passes. You need guys to go over the top of somebody and make a contested catch. You need quarterbacks to make throws. You need linemen to make blocks. Really, in the end, that is what the game boils down to. We tell our guys all the time, 'Sunday afternoon is players' time.' The preparation is done. Coaches do everything they can to call a good game, but the players are the ones who are playing the game, and that is what the fans pay to see. That is what the game is all about – it is about the players. So to see a player like that come from where he has come – which is kind of what you are talking about – to have the success he has had is really an awesome thing. It is what it is all about. We are excited about it. His focus is like the rest of us – it is on Sunday afternoon for a block of time."
**What are you seeing from RB Alex Collins in other aspects of the game and his development as a pass protector? *(Luke Jones) *"He's done a good job with that. His pass protection is something he's working really hard on. I see him at practice every day; he's picking up the right guys, his technique gets better and better every day. He's attacking pass protection. He didn't miss any pass protections this last week – neither he nor 'Buck' [Javorius Allen] did – which is never easy for a back. Those guys were spot-on in what they were doing Thursday night. That's very important, and they both made the catches – at least [Alex Collins] did. Did 'Buck' have catches? I forget. I haven't thought about the game since Friday morning. But, both of those guys are doing a good job in the passing game."
How do you handle the situation of having five running backs on your roster? (Ed Lee) "It will have to be addressed whether we can hold on to five running backs or not – assuming Danny [Woodhead] is healthy soon and he's out there playing for us. That'll be a decision that will have to be made. That'll be a roster-wide-type of decision. We'll have to compare all of our options and try to keep the players that give us the best chance or make us the strongest team."
Is that a good dilemma to be in, to have that much depth in one position? (Ed Lee)"Sure – it's good to have players. All of those guys are reliable players. So, it's a good problem to have. I agree with that."
Is RB Danny Woodhead eligible to start practicing this week? (Jamison Hensley) "There is [eligibility]. You have to practice for two weeks before you can play, and you have up to three weeks to make the decision. This would be the week that he'd be eligible to practice. We're talking about it now. I think there's a chance he'll practice this week, to some degree. We'll see."
How instrumental were the tight ends on Thursday in maintaining the running game? (Jeff Zrebiec)"You're right – that's a really good observation on your part. The tight ends have been a big part of what we've been doing. We had a lot of those schemes in there, where we were trapping and whamming, creating angles for our backs against the type of front that they were playing. Nick [Boyle] was a big part of that, and the other tight ends were, as well. I think that's something that our offensive coaches have been very creative with. They've done a really nice job of putting that together, and the results were about as good as they can be Thursday night. We've never had bad results; our running game has been pretty solid throughout the course of the year. But, we've had some games that have been better than others, and we keep chasing that. We keep trying to find ways to pop our guys into the secondary and create chunk runs. So, the backs making tacklers miss is part of it, but the guys blocking … And then coming up with good, creative schemes is a big part of it, too. The tight ends have been a big part of that."
**Are you thankful that your backup QB Ryan Mallett is a similar playing style to QB Joe Flacco? It seems like it would be an easy transition should he be forced to play. *(David Ginsburg) *"Yes, they are the same style, I guess you could say. Ryan is definitely a dropback thrower-type of a guy, student of the game, always prepared, always studies, knows the game plan inside and out. He's always ready to go. He was ready to go Thursday night – didn't skip a beat, as far as operational things he had to do [like] run checks, pass checks, the protections. He did a good job with all that; that's very important. He made some throws that he needed to make. I thought the touchdown pass was really a great throw. So, that was good to see. Yes, that's a plus for us."
**It was DT Brandon Williams' second game back. Were his legs under him more? The run defense was much improved. *(Todd Karpovich) *"That's a good question for Brandon. I felt that he played pretty well at Minnesota, for not playing for a month before that. But, he was better in this game, there's no doubt. The run defense as a whole was much better – fundamentally more sound, stronger at the point of attack – just better in all the basic things that you do to stop the run. So, that was a big key to the game."
*How critical was it to have neither QB Joe Flacco or QB Ryan Mallett sacked? (Ed Lee) *"The pass protection was very good in the game. Joe made a couple good decisions; he helped himself there a few times. He scrambled once to the right and threw the ball away – underhanded, if I remember right. That was a really smart play on his part to avoid loss yardage and a sack. But, it's a team effort. It's the offensive line; they did a good job. [Miami] has a good front. Cameron Wake and [Ndamukong] Suh are very good pass rushers – and not just those guys. They have a good front, nice scheme. They were blitzing us regularly throughout the game. It was a blitz fest, pretty much. I thought our guys did a good job with it."
How much of a benefit is a Thursday night game, to have those extra few days, to recover from injuries? (Jamison Hensley) **"It's a plus. The downside and the upside of Thursday night games, is as you said, [the downside is] the quick turnaround, and the upside is that you have 10 days to get ready for the next game and heal up a little bit. For our team, this is good, this is positive. We want to take advantage of it."
**What are your impressions of Tennessee QB Marcus Mariota? *(Jamison Hensley) *"Heck of a player. [He's] getting healthy. I think he had a hamstring [injury] that he seems to be back from now. Of course, that's great timing for them – not for us. He's a very talented quarterback, playing well. He's a must-defend player."