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John Harbaugh's Monday (10/27) Press Conference Transcript

Head Coach John HarbaughOpening statement: "It's good to see everybody. After we watched the tape, it was very similar to what we thought last night. Generally speaking, we're proud of the team that we were on Sunday. We were a tough, physical team playing a tough, physical team. Our guys answered the bell in that sense. At the same time, there are a lot of things we need to get better at if we're going to achieve the things we want to achieve going forward. We talked about a lot of those things last night, and I'm sure you'll ask about them again right now. But, I'm excited about the way we played and looking forward to this next challenge."

When it comes to an imaginative and creative offense, what is the feedback you are getting today from the team?"Nothing really. It's funny, I haven't heard anybody being all excited about it or saying that's something that's new to us. The guys have seen it, really, from the first mini-camp on. They saw the package in there and they saw us practicing it all week, so I don't think they are surprised in any way. The fact that Troy [Smith] was out there on the field is something we've been trying to do for a few weeks. And now he was ready to do it, and I guess the time was right. There are a lot of things we're practicing that we are going to show as times goes on. We think we're creative. We think we have a chance to be an exciting offense, and we think we've been that. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. It seems like the creativity meter is high when it works and low when it doesn't work. It might be the same plays. We ran a reverse out there and it went for three yards, and I didn't hear anybody talking about how creative the reverse was, but if it would have broke it would have been this dynamic play, right? A lot of it has to do with execution, and the good thing was our guys executed some of those plays. We ran our second option of the year. Troy Smith flipped it out there. Joe Flacco ran an option two weeks ago for a third-down conversion against Miami. So those are the kind of things we want to do. It starts with blocking, it starts with running the ball north and south, it starts with executing whatever the play is that you've got up."

What do you tell your team to prepare them to play three road games in a row?

"We don't have any message about the road. We don't have anything to say about the fact that we have three road games in a row because you're going to have to play eight at home and you're going to have to play eight on the road. So what difference does it make if you play them all in a row on the road or at home? That's how we're looking at it. We've got a great travel setup. We take a plane, we've got a nice hotel, and busses will be waiting for us. We're looking forward to the big challenge. And it's exciting to go play in Cleveland. There's a lot of history there. The Cleveland fans, as we talked to our guys, are going to be juiced up for the Ravens to be in town, and we're going to be excited to be there. We wont' let them down; we're showing up."

Can you envision using a creative package like the Troy Smith to Joe Flacco play you used yesterday in every game?"[It is] tactical. Sure, we could see using that package every game. The people who are preparing to play against us are going to have to be prepared for it every week, and we're just scratching the surface of the things we have in. That's going to be a viable part of our offense all the way through."

Is it a worry that T Jared Gaither had the penalties yesterday and do you believe that he draws penalties because he is so easy for the officials to see on the offensive line?

"It is. They found guards two weeks ago. Those pre-snap penalties are really things that we don't want to have. I mean, there's no reason for a pre-snap penalty. We challenge our guys with a lot of shifts, a lot of motions, a lot of different cadences. We want to do that because we want to slow down the defense as far as getting off the ball, and we want to create as much confusion [as possible]. We want to attack people with our formations. That's something we have to get better at [doing]. We're not willing to give that stuff up as an attack method, so we've just got to get better and we've got to eliminate that stuff. I guess they didn't want to go 97 [yards] in that drive. I guess we wanted to go 99 in that drive, so we had to jump twice. Maybe that was our thinking on it."

Do you worry that drawing penalties could cause a setback in Gaither's development as an offensive lineman?

"It's something that [with] all of our offensive linemen, definitely we have to work out. It's not just the offensive linemen. We had a back flinch as well. We lined up wrong outside the perimeter on the left side one time. Those are all critical things that if we want to become what we want to become as a football team, we have to definitely clean that stuff up."

Is there a good possibility that CB Samari Rolle and/or S Dawan Landry will be back to play this week?

"We feel like Samari is a little ahead of Dawan. I don't think it's ruled out for Dawan for this week, but it probably is pessimistic. For Samari, I don't know if it's optimistic, but there's a chance that he's going to be able to play. We're going to get him out at practice and see how he does and we're going to push hard to see if we can get him in this game."

What are your thoughts on S Jim Leonhard's play in the return game, and what is RS Yamon Figurs' status?

"Yamon is iffy. He's got a chance to be back there. If Yamon is healthy, he's going to be returning for us in some form or fashion. We're kind of excited about Ray [Rice], and we're kind of excited about Jim. This is a team that's more blessed with return guys than any team that I've been associated with in the NFL. We've got a lot of guys, also, that you haven't seen. Ed Reed's been catching punts, [Derrick] Mason, [Mark] Clayton. We've got a lot of guys that can contribute in the return game, and, once they see that blocking get going, I think they're going to want to be back there. So it's going to be a little bit competitive, and I think we go with the guys that are most healthy and give us the hot hand a little bit."

Is there more risk to Flacco getting injured running a route than dropping back in the pocket?

"I don't know. We'd have to do a study to determine if there's more risk of a quarterback getting hurt when he's running routes versus him getting hurt when he's dropping back and throwing."

But in your viewpoint, is it a higher risk?

"I think it's worth it. I mean, yeah, there's a risk. When Chad Pennington was out there at wide receiver, our goal with him was to throw him in the Gatorade, and Frank [Walker] did it one time. Joe's got to understand than when you line up as a wide receiver, you're fair game, and you're going to have to protect yourself out there and be a football player."

What are your thoughts on Walker's play, and where do things sit with CB Chris McAlister?

"That's a good question. I think Frank has played well. He can play better, but he made the interception. [There were] a couple plays he'd like to have back, but a lot good plays playing a lot of snaps out there. But Chris is a huge part of what we're doing, and I think it's really important that everybody understands that. There whole terming of him being 'benched,' we never used that term. All of a sudden, he was 'benched.' I don't know where that term came from. We've been trying to manage Chris' situation all season, and I think he's been fighting through it. The thing that you understand a little bit is, here's a competitive guy. He's a world-class athlete who has been one of the best corners, if not maybe the best corner, in the game for the last 10 years, and he's been fighting through a knee issue. Sometimes, when you're that kind of an athlete, man, you don't want to admit that, and I don't think you want to give your opponent that kind of an advantage in terms of knowing, 'Hey, I'm fighting through a knee.' But it's out there now. He's fighting through it, and I think it's been a valiant effort. We want him on the field playing as much as possible, and we want to manage the reps and put him in the best situation to get through the whole season. He's going to be playing a lot of football for us. Unless something turns with the knee, he's going to be playing a ton of football for us and is going to be a huge part of what we're doing."

Will you be facing a much different Cleveland team than earlier in the year in terms of their attitude and confidence?

"Well, they've had a lot of success lately. They've beaten a couple good football teams, but they had a lot of confidence going into our game early on. It was early in the season, and we think they were a heck of a football team in that game. So in our minds, it's not a different football team. They're five or six weeks better, certainly, than they were [in] Week 2, and we're going to their place. It's a big rivalry, so there's no downplaying this football game."

How different is it to be playing a team for the second time?

"Well, it makes it a little easier with our breakdowns. We've got a lot of information on them, already [having played them] once. It's a division game, obviously. Our players know these guys. But I think you need to work even harder, not take for granted the fact that you played them and you think you know all about them because everybody evolves as a football team. They're changing. We're changing. We've got to make sure we understand what they're bringing to the table."

Did LB Brendon Ayanbadejo's ankle swell up overnight or is he getting around enough where he might play Sunday?

"Brendon practiced this afternoon, and it's a walk-through practice. He looked OK. He's definitely going to be getting treatment again tonight, and he'll be working throughout tomorrow doing the different things to get it back. So we'll have to see on Wednesday how it responds. I don't think it's a given [that he will play], but he should be OK."

Did you start tinkering with the idea of playing two quarterbacks at once back in mini-camps?

"Well, it wasn't so much the idea of the two quarterbacks concept, though that was part of it, and we worked on that in the mini-camps a lot. It was just part of our offense. So Joe's been running the same plays that you saw Troy run, so I think it's part of our offense. We don't have an offense for Troy, an offense for Joe, a two-quarterback offense, or anything like that. It's not really a package in that sense. We can run those same plays out of our normal personnel group with Troy as the quarterback or Joe as the quarterback. So it's probably pretty important to emphasize the fact that Troy Smith in an NFL quarterback. You guys have seen that before. He proved that last year, and he's going to run our full gamut of offense if he's out there playing quarterback, which he's going to be doing. So it just creates matchup problems for [opponents] with both quarterbacks in the game, in terms of what they have to defend."

Do you remember who brought up the idea of putting two quarterbacks in the game at the same time?

"No, I don't. Maybe it was kind of self-evident, the fact that Troy was coming back. We've said all along [that] we believe in Troy as a quarterback, and we want to play both those guys. So why not play them both at the same time? Do you want me to give [Terrell] Suggs credit? Is that where you're going with this thing (laughing)? It was Suggs; it was Suggs' idea."

Talk about trying to utilize personnel that you have in different ways, maybe "out of position" so to speak:

"I think it's two-fold. First of all, that's always been the philosophy of all the coaches we have here. You want to create an offense and defense and a special teams that is best suited for the personnel you have at hand. We talked about that really, if you remember, at the first, when I first got hired. And then you've got Cam Cameron, who probably, and Rex [Ryan] also, and Jerry [Rosburg] too, but Cam takes that to a new level on offense of anybody I've ever seen. He's one of the most creative guys you're ever going to see at really studying his personnel and play-calling to his players. And not just play-calling to them, but creating the offense around them, to create things where they can do the things that they do well. He's scouring our whole football team. We've had, you haven't seen it yet, but we've had all of our defensive guys on offense lining up at wide receiver before. So I guess the cat is out of the bag for our opponents, but we've got a package. We've had those defensive players over there working on offense. So there's more where this comes from, and it comes from Cam. Maybe they'll see it, maybe they won't, but he's amazingly creative in terms of matching personnel to scheme."

Does this type of thing make it more fun for the players? Is that part of the design to help make practice fun?

"That's a great point. That kind of stuff makes it more fun for the players. It gets them more involved. I mean, all of a sudden it's an offensive period, and the defensive guys are in the period running the plays, and they're kind of showing off for their buddies. Or offensive guys on the defensive side, we've done the same things. Ben Grubbs has been on our goal-line defense already this year. Nobody noticed that, I don't think. He played defensive tackle for us on the goal line a couple of weeks ago, three weeks ago. So it is fun for those guys. It keeps them interested."

Does this go back to some of the things Cam used to do at Indiana with Antwaan Randle El?

"Yeah, I think a lot of these are the same plays he ran with Antwaan in Indiana. You'd have to go back and check the film record, I guess. But, I'm sure he's matching up some of that stuff with Antwaan with what he's doing now. That's a good observation."

Talk about the way RB Ray Rice has been running the ball, especially after he makes a catch:

"What a weapon a back is, or any offensive player, who can make a guy miss or run a guy over, right? How many plays did Ray make? Was it three long third-down conversions where he made a guy miss, or ran by somebody, or ran through an arm tackle and got us a big third-down conversion on long yardage? I mean, that's just invaluable. That's what good backs do: They leave, Woody Hayes used to say, 'a trail of pearls,' guys who've missed tackles. That's what you look for in a good back."

From Day One we've heard the term "new offense." Do you think your players have grasped it yet, or is it still one of those ever-evolving things where as you go the knowledge expands?

"Yeah, I think probably the latter. That's a good point, 'as you go,' it expands and it evolves. They've grasped the system, they understand the terminology, and I think they understand the formations. But yet, every week, we're coming up with a very specific way to attack our opponent, even before the ball is snapped. Then after the ball snaps, it should be something that's evolving. You want to try to stay one step ahead of your opponent if you can."

Have you noticed the guys in the first row of the stands that paint themselves and wear the crazy costumes?

"I have."

What do you think of those guys?

"[I have] great respect for those guys. You know, there were a bunch of Raiders fans right behind our bench all painted up like that. Did you notice? That's pretty impressive. That's a long trip. I hope they're not locals. But we've got our fair share [of dedicated fans]. I've seen a lot of Ravens guys and gals painted up with the different color hair and stuff. It's almost Halloween right? Bring it on."

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