John Harbaugh's Monday (9/8) Press Conference Transcript

Head Coach JOHN HARBAUGH: Monday Transcript

Opening statement:

"I want to thank everybody for coming. It's a good day around the building and I'm proud of our guys. I told the players today that I was proud to be a Raven, based on what they did yesterday. It was a team effort, and all the credit goes to our players. Our players played a physical, poised football game and in the tough division that we play in, the AFC North, that's how you've got to play. These games are going to be like this. They're going to be hard-fought and they're going to be close against good football teams. Our guys found a way to do the things that they need to do in the end to win football games. It doesn't have to be pretty, but you've got to do the things at the end of the game that it takes to win a game. And, our guys did that – same with our coaches. Rex Ryan [did] just a phenomenal job putting together a defensive scheme that would cause any opponent trouble. Cam Cameron [did] the same thing on offense, especially with the running game, but also with the big plays and some of the trick stuff that got some good yards for us when we needed it. And Jerry Rosburg, with the coverage schemes on both sides and also with the big return that we almost got a touchdown out of. So, all three phases really complemented each other and played well together."

Did you take a little time last evening to reflect on your first NFL victory as a head coach?

"It's a nice question; thanks for asking it. It's good to be 1-0. I'm sure it will be the same way next year and hopefully for many years after that. A win in this league means so much, but the first one is probably a little bit special. [Ravens senior VP of PR and CR] Kevin Byrne and I were just talking about this: At the end of the game when we got the double dose of the Gatorade shower – two shots… I want to tell you, that's cold now. It's a lot colder than it looks, because that was the first [time I've been doused]. For those guys to be around and do that and kind of accept me as a Raven [meant a lot]. That's how I felt, [that] the players were accepting their coach as a Raven and the coaching staff as a whole. That was very meaningful."

How much confidence did Joe Flacco earn with his teammates and the coaching staff in yesterday's game?

"He'd already earned a lot of confidence because of the way he had conducted himself and the way he prepared. Our guys were not surprised by the way that he handled himself, but certainly by winning the football game and being out there and doing it in real life, the players were excited for him. But, in true NFL and Ravens fashion, he was brought down to earth by the players on a regular basis today. That's what football players do."

In what ways did the players bring Flacco down to earth today?

"I don't' want to divulge anything, I guess, particular. They were letting him know that it's a team game. He's receptive to that because that's the kind of guy he is, and he had a lot of fun with it."

Do you dwell on the missed opportunities in the game, despite the win?

"We don't really talk about [what] could have been or should have been. There are always going to be games that you're going to look at and say, 'Hey we could have scored three more times or they could have scored, or we could have held them to a shutout.' You're going to look at every single game and you're going to say we could have scored X-amount of points and they shouldn't have scored any. What you do do, is you look at [the entire game]. That's what we did here today in practice. We brought [the team] in, we watched the tape, we studied the tape, we went out and we walked through and did some correction stuff. What you really are doing is preparing for next week. You're taking the last game and whatever lessons you can learn from the last game to apply them to the next game. And that's how you get better. What we really need to do every day is to get better today. If we do that, we have a chance to be a good football team."

Have you thought about the possibility that Hurricane Ike will hit Houston this weekend?

"I haven't even thought about it. The hurricane? We will travel in there, and I'm sure we'll be under cover in a hotel somewhere. The game's inside, right? So, we'll be good to go. We'll play."

Can you talk about the change in momentum with Chris McAlister's pick in the first quarter yesterday?

"That was our defense stepping up and taking care of our offense. It was a great example of where our defense had our offense's back. When those defensive players went on the field, there wasn't one guy moaning or griping that they were put on the field in that situation. Their thought was to get out [onto] the field. And that should always be the case [if] we get a sudden change in situation or when they get backed up. Sometimes it's their own fault, sometimes the ball gets moved all the way down there and they find a way to get it stopped and get off the field. That's what they did. That's what makes you proud of a group of guys like that. You know what? We'll have to do it again throughout the season."

What will Willis McGahee have to do to get on the field for Sunday's game against Houston?

"We don't have any rules like that. He needs to be ready to go. I'm very confident that he will be ready to go this week. Last week – we talked out it – it was going to be a little bit iffy last week, whether he would be ready to go. Two things you really keep in mind; A, is he going to be able to protect himself and be safe out there 100%? And, B, is he going to be able to contribute to victory? We expect him to be able to do that this week. We felt like in an emergency situation, with a limited number of reps, that would be the standard last week. Unfortunately, we were unable to get him out there. But, if he can do the job, then he'll be out there."

Is there any way that Joe Flacco will not be the starting quarterback this weekend?

"No. Flacco will be the starter this week. I think the question was, as we go forward or down the line, or something like that. None of us have a crystal ball, but he'll be the starter against Houston."

Was there anything that Joe Flacco did well as a rookie quarterback in yesterday's game that surprised you?

"I would say there were a lot of things that he did well, but nothing that surprised us. [If] you watched him in practice and in the preseason games, we expected him to do those things well that he did. Probably limiting the mistakes [surprised us]. All have had the question mark: 'Would the game be too fast for him the first game?' And it wasn't, and that was a good thing to see."

Do you attribute Todd Heap's missed catches to him being rusty?

"The thing about Todd Heap is that he is his own harshest critic. He did a lot of good things that you didn't see out there. His blocking was superb. That's hard to do when you're coming off a no preseason, basically a no contact-type of situation in games. He came out there and he did a great job blocking. The pass-catching stuff? That's something you have to do, you get hit and he'll do that. He's obviously done that throughout his career, and I have no doubt he's going to continue to do it."

Was there anything you noticed as a head coach about the intensity between preseason and regular season games?"Every year in this league, the difference between the first regular season game and the four preseason games is noticeable. The new coaches come in to this league, even on our staff, and commented on that. Wow! You think the preseason games are NFL, and they are. But the starters are playing and the intensity of the crowd and the intensity of the players is definitely notched up [in the regular season]. I thought our crowd was out of sight. You all have been around this stadium for a long time, maybe you expected, and I had heard so much about it. But our crowd was just fantastic throughout the whole game. They were loud. We had a tough time hearing each other talk on the sidelines. Our defense had somewhat of a tough time communicating, so I know the Bengals' offense had a tough time communicating."

How impressed were you with what you saw from the offensive line yesterday?

"The offensive line was physical. They came off the ball, they were physical, and they were physical for four quarters. And they can be more physical. There was a period of time in there, where they were battling the heat a little bit, but they fought through it and they finished strong."

Can Willie Anderson make the offensive line more physical?

"Sure. Willie can make any offensive line more physical."

How about this week?

"Willie should be playing this week."

Did the unbalanced line confuse Cincinnati?

"I don't know if it confused them. It looked like they lined up OK, but I think we executed it very well. One time especially, Ray [Rice] picked up some yards right before halftime and got down inside the 5 [-yard line]. But we were [in] that [formation] a lot."

How important were the two early sacks on Carson Palmer?

"Our defensive line, not just the d-line, really the coverage part, contributes to that. Because on both of those sacks, the defensive line was relentless. They kept coming, they kept working, they didn't come free right away. But the coverage part – if you cover people for one count, take it through the first progression, put them on the second or third progression – now the relentlessness kind of takes over. And it wasn't just the sacks. The sacks really are huge, but the fact that we were able to get to him later and hit him as he was throwing is a big part of the story. You've got to give credit to the front end, but also the back end."

What can you tell us about the Texans?

"Well, we're going to look at those guys in the next few days and going to find out. But I think they're an up-and-coming team in the NFL, a very competitive group of guys – young, aggressive defense for sure. We have a lot to prove, so it's a good football team."

Is Ed Reed good to go now, or do you have to play that day by day?

"I think nothing's changed in that sense. It's one of those injuries; it's a nerve issue, so it's going to be day-by-day."

You always stress fundamentals, and Chad Johnson said after the game they got beat by fundamentals. Is that satisfying?

"Coming from a player like Chad, for him to say that, that's a great compliment to our players. Our guys really respect Chad Johnson. They think he's a heck of a football player, and all the players really on their football team; they're a very talented football team. They're going to have a great season. It will be a big challenge to go back there. For him to say that reflects well on the football team."

Were any of Rex Ryan's schemes experimental?

"I don't know if any of it was new to mankind. But I know what you're saying. It was stuff he hasn't been doing in the preseason for sure, and stuff they haven't seen. He was very creative."

Is there any chance Kelly Gregg can come back this week? Or do you think it might still be a week-to-week thing?

"I think there's a chance Kelly could come back this week. We're hoping. He's working hard to do that."

Do you put much time into thinking why winning on the road is harder, or what you need to do differently to win?

"You know, it is a little tougher to win on the road, if you look at the numbers. I think the issue is, obviously, the crowd. You've got communication problems, and that's a distraction that you've got to overcome. We've started practicing with noise in the background, and I don't know what else you can do besides that. The field that you play on is 100 yards long and 52-and-one-third, I think, or 53-and-one-third [yards wide]? Somebody tell me. Fifty-three. All right, that's how wide the field is, right? We'll play football."

How did the defensive radio helmet communication go?

"It seemed like it worked out. I don't think we had any problems."

Can Brendon Ayanbadejo play on Sunday?

"We don't know."

Is Corey Ivy's ankle injury as serious as it looked at first?

"I'll tell you what, we'll know more about the injuries on Wednesday after we see them practice. That was pretty slick. You guys almost got me there, almost got me."

You used Yamon Figurs as a gunner. Was that always the plan?

"We planned on using Yamon as a gunner from Day One. He can run, he's a good-sized guy, he's strong, and he's been working on it from the first day and has just gotten stronger."

What's your toughest responsibility during game time?

"Toughest responsibility during game time? Probably the fact that you've got to be involved in all parts of it. You don't drill deep in any one area. You go off across the board. It's fun to be involved in every part of the game, game management and clock stuff, that's what's biggest for me anyway."

Will you rotate Willie Anderson in this week?

"You know, I can't answer that."

But you have a plan for playing him?

"We have a plan. We have a plan, yes. And hopefully it's a good one."

Will Le'Ron McClain play more this week or will he remain situational?

"With all the backs I think it's always going to be a situational ballgame. Each of [the running backs] has a certain skill set that you try to put in that situation where that skill set can thrive based on the game plan and game situation."

What do you tell Ray Rice, when he fumbles, and then you go right back to him on the next play?

"It's like any play. That play's gone. You put it away and make the next play like it's going to be the difference in the game. That's what he did."

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