**Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement:"Thanks for coming out. It was [our] first mandatory minicamp practice. It went exceptionally well. All of us – coaches and players – are really pleased with it, and guys worked really hard. It was really fast. It's right where we need to be at this time."
**I know you would rather talk about guys who were here rather than guys who weren't, but some of Vonta's [Leach] contributions the last couple of years … *(Joe Platania) *"Vonta [Leach] has been as much of the heart and soul of this team as anybody since he's been here. He's been a great leader. He's been a tremendous performer. I've never had more fun with a player since he's been here, personally as a coach, than I have had with Vonta. He's just a great guy. He established us in a lot of ways. He established the personality of our offense as a physical, hard-nosed unit over the last couple of years. [We] wish him nothing but the best. I'm sure he'll do very well, and I'm sorry to see him go."
**With Marshal Yanda not being able to practice, what is the nature of it, and do you expect him back by camp? *(Aaron Wilson) *"We expect him back by camp to some degree. He's done a great job. Marshal Yanda has done a great job with the rehab. He's right on schedule, probably ahead of schedule. He's doing really well."
**What's the nature of what he is coming back from? *(Aaron Wilson) *"I don't know if I want to get into that right now."
**What have you seen from Kyle Juszczyk so far through OTAs and today? *(Ryan Mink) *"He's exactly where we expected him to be. He's smart, of course. He has picked it up very quickly, which you would expect. You've seen him practice. He has skills. He has ball skills – good football player."
What did you see from Terrell Suggs today, and how has he really rehabbed over the offseason? (Kris Jones) "I saw him. He's healthy, and he's in great shape. He looked tremendous out there. We dove right into a very fast practice. It's his first football practice in his offseason program, and he didn't seem to have any problem at all. He looked good."
It seems like you know when he is out there, just from his presence and the enthusiasm that he brings. Can you just talk about that a little bit? (Garrett Downing) "You know that he's out there just from his enthusiasm and the presence that he brings."
Coach, how would you assess Haloti's [Ngata] condition? (Jerry Coleman)"I probably need some clarification on that question."
**Is he in season shape? *(Jerry Coleman) *"He's in good shape. He's fine. He's right where he needs to be at this time. He's doing well."
What did you think of Daryl Smith, just your impressions? I know you guys played against him. Just your thoughts of him out here … (Aaron Wilson)"Daryl Smith looked good. It's his first day. Obviously, he is packing a lot of learning into one practice here. But, he was calling the defenses. He was setting the defense, and he didn't seem to have any issues at all. [He] moves around well. [He] looked good."
*Are the new shirts your creation or is that someone else's? *(Ryan Mink) *"It's always our creation around here. We are a team. We come up with these things together. Thank you for asking. *(Reporter: "What does it mean?") What does it mean? (laughing) What does it mean? It's pretty self-explanatory. That's a little embarrassing, but a good message, though." (Message on Harbaugh's shirt reads: "Ability is God-given, prowess is earned.")
**How about the decision to bring Billy Bajema back? *(Jerry Coleman) *"We have been in contact with Billy [Bajema] throughout the offseason about the possibility of him coming back. We have some good, young tight ends in the mix. Those guys have done very well. He adds some competition into that. So, Billy's a guy that we know, we trust, we like, and I'm happy to have him back."
Haloti never complains about anything. How much do you think physical issues the last couple of years have been tough for him to overcome? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think Haloti [Ngata] has done well. Haloti's one of the premier players in the National Football League. He did a great job last year taking a lot of reps – took a lot of reps. He played very well, and when he was out there, he made his impact felt. Sure, he fought through a couple of bumps and bruises and more. I thought he did real well with that. The healthier he is, the better he is going to be. But it looks to me like he's had a good offseason, and he's right on schedule."
Sort of about Haloti [Ngata], [Chris] Canty and [Marcus] Spears bringing in more linemen – do you think that could help all of these guys? Is that kind of your thinking with that? (Clifton Brown) "That's exactly it. What we tried to do is build around Haloti [Ngata] upfront. In the front seven, we made a little bit of an overhaul with our front seven. Bringing in Chris Canty and Marcus Spears has been big for us. We drafted Brandon Williams. We will have a healthy Terrence Cody. Terrence had hip surgery in the offseason. He played with that for about maybe a third of the season to half of the season with that progressively getting worse, so that should factor in. DeAngelo Tyson is going to be a year older and a year better. I feel like we have a lot of really good depth up front, which is going to make Haloti better and in turn make our defense better."
Run Game Coordinator Juan Castillo
With Vonta [Leach] now out of the picture and Kyle Juszczyk at the top of the list at fullback, how does that change what you do? (Joe Platania) "It doesn't. I think [running backs coach] Wilbert [Montgomery] is working with Kyle [Juszczyk] to get him so he can learn our schemes. He's a rookie. He's been working hard to learn our schemes. He should be able to do a good job once he gets some experience. That's what we have training camp for."
Juan, talk a little bit about your role and what you do as the run game coordinator, kind of how you see yourself helping [offensive coordinator] coach [Jim] Caldwell with the offensive line? (Aaron Wilson) "Really, that's what the offensive line coaches really do. Really throughout the league, as you put the run game together, you look at the fronts, and then really the protection part of it, too. You look at the blitzes. You put them together, and then you present them to the staff – present them to coach [Jim] Caldwell. Basically, that's what I'm going to do."
How does your role differ from [offensive line coach] Andy's [Moeller]? (Kevin Richardson) "What we will do is we will work together with that part. [Offensive line coach] Andy [Moeller] will be helping me, too, with the run game and the protections."
**What is it like to be back on a staff with not only coach [John] Harbaugh, but [senior defensive assistant] 'Spags' [Steve Spagnuolo] as well? Does this feel like old times? *(Aaron Wilson) *"I told them when we were walking out when they were first together and I saw them walking together, I thought I was back in Philly. It's nice. John [Harbaugh] and I worked together for 10 years, and Steve [Spagnuolo] and I, also. It's nice to be around people that you know are quality people that work hard and are good people."
What do you feel 'Spags' [Steve Spagnuolo] will add to the staff with his defensive background? (Aaron Wilson) "I think experience. I think both of us, we have both … I've been in the league 18 years, and there's nothing … I don't know if I want to say that, but it kind of adds in your years. But, it's experience. I think the same thing with Steve [Spagnuolo]. He's been in the league for a while. I just think we add experience or whatever they want us to do for them. They have a great staff here."
You have a lot of young offensive linemen that you get to work with. Can you just talk about the excitement with working with some of those guys like Ryan Jensen, some small school guys? (Garrett Downing) "I'm from … I played at Texas A&I University, and I coached at Texas A&I, which is a Division II school. And really, I never coached at a big school. I went from Division II to the NFL, kind of like Ryan [Jensen]. We have something in common. I think throughout my years, the biggest thing that I enjoyed is coming from a Division II school is that at our place what we learned is that it didn't matter who you got; you developed whatever you got, because you didn't have that many players. I really enjoyed developing players, and I think that's something that throughout my career at Philadelphia is something that I've done, especially college [free] agents."
QB Joe Flacco
On if he will miss FB Vonta Leach: "Definitely. We're going to miss him on the football field, but I think the tough thing is you lose out on a friend and you lose out on a great teammate. I was great friends with him, and I'm just going to miss him being around the locker room, and obviously, we're going to miss him on the football field in some way. He was a great football player, and I wish him the best going forward."
On the pace of the offense at this point: "It's going well. I think we got a couple new guys out there, and I think it's the best I've seen us look in terms of guys knowing where to line up and knowing what they're doing and being able to process all of that very quickly. A lot of our young receivers have really taken a step forward in this offseason and took it upon themselves to make sure that they were able to get lined up quickly and know exactly what they were doing, so that way we didn't have to worry about all that. So I'm happy with where we are, and we've just got a lot of progress to make, and I think we've got the guys that are willing to do it."
On practicing with WR/RS Jacoby Jones after he was on Dancing with the Stars: "He's been out here for a couple weeks now. I think he missed the first week. It's Jacoby [Jones], man. He's a different dude, and it's always fun to be around him, and for that reason, it wasn't a distraction at all. I think we all had fun watching him out there and realize what he was going through, and he's been the same old guy ever since he's been back, and he's looked good."
On his impressions of rookie FB Kyle Juszczyk: "Kyle's good. I know he's a very versatile guy and a great athlete, so obviously we're going to have to wait to see when we put on the pads in training camp to get a good sense for what he does with that kind of stuff. But he looks pretty good, so I'm sure he's pretty good at that stuff."
On if he does anything special to work on his arm strength: "I don't think so. You throw the football a little bit and get your core [strengthened] a little bit, but I don't think there's really doing too much to my arm strength at this point. It is what it is, and hopefully it will stay like that for the next 12 years and I won't have to worry about it."
On if he had to say anything to Juszczyk to put him at ease after the release of Leach: "No. No, I didn't think about that. I hope I didn't have to say anything. He's great. He's come in really quickly and picked up the offense like that, and I don't think he's the type of guy who needs any of that stuff. He's mainly ready to go."
On what stands out about Juszczyk: "Like I said, I would just say his athleticism and the ways you can use him – catching the football, blocking, running the football, lining him up in diesel formations and having him run routes. So we'll see."
On having OLB Terrell Suggs back: "It's always fun to have him out here. He's one of the guys that likes to talk a little bit at practice and make things a little bit more interesting, so it's fun to have him out there."
On seeing so many new faces on the team: "It's kind of my own fault … I don't know if I necessarily make the effort, but I probably don't know 90 percent of the guys' names on this team right now. (laughter) Whatever number they are, I kind of recognize them by that. But over the next week or so, I'll start to figure out who some of these guys are, but they look pretty good. And it's exciting to see those new faces and just see that fresh [approach] and the enthusiasm they have, and the way they come out here to practice is just exciting."
On how he feels at this point this season as compared to this point last season: "I don't think I probably feel any different. We come in here, and this is our job, and it's what we love to do and we have fun doing it. No matter what the talk is – because we lost last year, because we won this year – at the end of the day, you still come in here, you go through meetings and you go have fun on the practice field. There's times where you're probably sitting at home and you might feel a little bit different, but when you're here, you're going through your normal routine as you always are and you feel pretty good about it and you have a lot of fun."
On the transition from Matt Birk to Gino Gradkowski at center: "It's been good. Matt was a great center, and I think Gino has done a great job last year of picking the offense up and being able to kind of get in there right away and do pretty good. And sometimes it can be a little bit different taking snaps from [different] centers. I know I loved taking the snap from Matt because I could basically stand straight up because he was so high. I was a little bit worried about Gino at first, because I didn't think he was going to be like that, but he's been great. I've been comfortable underneath of him, and like I said, he's a bright guy. He's picked the offense up quickly and he's making all of his calls quickly and getting our offense going and allowing us to set that tempo."
DT Haloti Ngata
On how his offseason conditioning went:"I probably started running about two weeks ago just because of the knee. And it's just been that, basically just two or three weeks of really running, other than biking or doing the elliptical or something. But running really just about two or three weeks."
On if he's been working on the knee issue from last season:"Exactly. I had knees and shoulders, but yeah, just from last season."
On how he's feeling right now:"I don't know, I probably feel like 80-85 percent right now, if I were to put a [percentage on it]. About 80 percent, but hopefully I'll be pretty close when training camp comes."
On how challenging it has been to deal with injuries:"It's been real tough. Especially towards the end of the season, it just limited me to … Really, what I wanted to do was be an explosive player, and not being able to really come off or getting off blocks as well … It definitely was tough towards the end of the season, but you just fight through it, and we got a Super Bowl out of it."
On the additions of DL Chris Canty and DT Marcus Spears:"That's huge. That is huge – just to have Marcus and Chris join the team and be on the D-line, and Arthur [Jones] having another year underneath his belt, and just having our younger guys grow. But, it's huge to have those two guys come in, and it will definitely help me out just to get more rest throughout a game."
On if adding those Canty and Spears changes his approach or preparation:"Well, I know I'm not going to be playing defensive end as much. I'll stay inside where I like it a lot more and play nose tackle and D-tackle and just be in there. So, there are only a certain number of guys that can rotate between nose and D-tackle, so it's going to be great to have those guys that can rotate at defensive end."
On wanting to be bigger at this time last year and if his philosophy has changed at all this season:"I don't know, we'll see what it is. I definitely just want to come in in great shape. After this minicamp, these next five weeks are going to be really important for me to make sure I'm in really good shape to come in and participate in camp."
On if he has a target weight in mind:"No, I'm just going to go with whatever I feel good within five weeks."
On if he had surgery on his knee or just rehabbed it:"No, no just rehabbing."
On if he's excited with all the new faces on the defense:"Really excited. Especially having Elvis [Dumervil] on the other side of Terrell [Suggs], and having Michael Huff in the back, it's just going to be pretty cool. We'll see what Daryl Smith can do for us, so it's really exciting to have a lot of these new faces in, and a lot of names that you've heard around the league are on our team now. So, it's going to be pretty cool to see what we can do."
On the run defense last year not being where he'd wanted it:"We were way out of our element being that low [ranked] of a run-stopping defense. Hopefully, we can get back to what we like to do, which is stopping the run defense first and then getting to the passer. We would definitely like to make that a lot better this year."
On what his thoughts are on some of the younger guys: "Brandon Williams is a real strong dude – heavy hands, [I noticed that] doing some individual [drills] with him. He's a strong guy. He just has to learn how to use his strength. Right now, he's just everywhere with the playbook, technique, but that's how it is as a rookie. You are just trying to learn the system, learn the guys around you. Then you have some of the free agent guys that are doing well, too, with Will [Pericak] and Cody [Larsen]. They are doing really good and working real hard. It's going to be exciting to see them in camp."
On head coach John Harbaugh saying they're building the defense around Ngata: "They should leave me in one spot instead of moving me around, basically. *(laughing) *Just leave me in the middle, and I'll be fine."
On if there is a natural feeling to take a leadership role with OLB Terrell Suggs: "I think it is. I think just because we are the longest-[tenured] players that have been here. With Terrell Suggs, I think he's more of an outspoken guy than I am. I just go as he goes. Whatever he needs me to do, I'll just do it. I'll just go by example for the younger guys, and he'll be the voice, I guess. I don't know if we really want that to be the voice of the defense, but … (laughter) No, but he's great. He's a great leader. He looks amazing right now. I don't know if you all saw him, but he looks really good. I think he's just fighting to get back into that Defensive Player of the Year kind of Suggs. It's exciting to see what he is going to do."
On being himself in a leadership role: "It's real important. You don't just want to be somebody else or try to be someone else. You just are never going to be the player you are going to be. It's real important. Suggs is definitely one of those players that is his own player, is his own character and is fun. It's fun to play with him. He makes a lot of people better."
On if he feels OLB Terrell Suggs is motivated this year: "Definitely, definitely motivated. The way he has come back and seeing the way he moved today, he looked real fast – faster than I [saw] him last season. He's looking really good. I told him we are going to have to race for that Defensive Player of the Year thing. (laughter) I feel like it will be a great year for both of us because of what we have up front."
On how healthy he has been the last couple of years: "The beginning of the year I've always been healthy. There is always something in the middle that's always kind of dinged me up where I get hit, sprain an MCL or an ankle or a shoulder. I think a lot of it is playing so many reps throughout a game. That's why I'm so excited I have these new guys [to] come in and help me out where I can make more plays with less amount of snaps."
On FB Vonta Leach being released: "That was weird. That was weird when I heard about it. He's a monster. He's a great blocker, and it's just going to be weird without him. He was definitely character on our team. He was a good teammate, and I just wish him the best of luck wherever he goes."
On why playing inside is ideal to him: "Just because of my body type, the way I play. I'm explosive, quick inside. Outside, D-tackles are vacating the line of scrimmage. I'm not fast enough to catch up. Inside, I'm just able to get my hands on guards and centers and do what I want with them pretty much if I can get to where I need to be."
On if he is playing a three-technique or nose tackle inside: "No, it's both. It's pretty much the same. Playing defensive end, it's too much space for me. I like the guys around me."