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Michael Oher Selection Press Conference Transcript




General manager/executive vice president Ozzie Newsome’s opening statement:

"As you have seen, we made the trade up with New England. I think this is probably the fourth or fifth time over the last 12 years that I've made a trade with Bill [Belichick], and we moved up and we saw an opportunity to get Michael [Oher]. As we stated earlier on in the offseason, that protecting our quarterback is going to be a big priority for us, and to get a talent like Michael, everybody knows his story, and the thing that Michael gives us – not only can he come in and compete at right tackle, but if something was to happen to Jared [Gaither], he could jump over to the left. So that has added value to us. So, we're proud. You saw the interview, you saw the determination that the kid has, and now if you look at our offensive line with the youth that we have on it and the leadership that we have with Matt Birk, we feel very good as we go into 2009, 2010, 2011 with those young guys."

Director of player personnel Eric DeCosta’s opening statement:

"Michael was clearly, I think, the best player available. We're in a very physical division, we're a very physical team, and offensive line-wise we feel like he's a huge upgrade for us as a player. Great kid – we spent a lot of time with him. He visited us up in Baltimore a couple of weeks ago. We got a chance to spend the day with him. He's a special kid with a great story. A great player. We had a chance to study him at the Senior Bowl where we studied him in a lot of plays down there. We're very, very excited to get him. We think he helps us big time."

Head coach John Harbaugh’s opening statement:

"Just from the perspective of our team, obviously, he's a guy that we were extremely excited when we had the opportunity to bring him on into our football team. We have two coaches, two offensive line coaches, John Matsko and Andy Moeller, who couldn't be more fired up to work with a guy. They burst into the room, as Kevin [Byrne] pointed out, and they were high-fiving and jumping around. They want to start walk-throughs tomorrow when Michael comes in. And then we have a player like Willie Anderson who will have an opportunity to work with Michael right off the bat and train him, and bring him along. And Matt Birk, another offensive lineman to work with another young player on the offensive line. So it just couldn't work out any better for us on offense with Michael Oher."

How important is a versatile offensive line?

(HARBAUGH) "Football is won in the trenches. I've seen you guys write it and say it. That's where football is played and that's where it's won. If you can dominate up front on both sides of the ball, you're going to have a chance in just about every game. Our guys are going to have to make plays outside, too, but when you're strong and you have depth on the offensive line, you've got a chance to be a pretty good football team."

In an earlier interview we heard you saying the team wouldn't trade up for a player. What changed your willingness to trade?

*(NEWSOME) "Maybe I misspoke, but I said that we'd have to wait until we got to the 20th pick before we could make a determination if a guy was going to slide down. But also, during that [pre-draft] interview, you guys were talking about wide receiver and I was talking about offensive tackle as a need. It was so stated in the [Baltimore Sun*] paper with Jameson [Hensley] that once we got to 20, things would start to happen. We started to make calls. We called some teams ahead of New England, but those teams wanted the pick."

Did you anticipate that the first round would move this fast?

*(NEWSOME) *"My peers around the league do a good job. The preparation is done, so when they walk in the room, they're ready to pick. Moving this to 10 minutes is more fan-friendly right now. Things happen faster and it makes things more entertaining, but when my peers walk in the room – even my man George [Kokinis] was ready to pick at some point. He kept going back and back. And I even talked to him and he said 'No, I'm picking this time.' But my peers come ready and prepared. That makes for an exciting day."

Were there any surprises in the first round that really threw you for a loop?

*(DECOSTA) *"No, not really. We saw it come off the way we expected it. Quite honestly, we didn't expect Michael Oher to fall down that low. It was one of those situations where all of a sudden you see his name. None of us like to give picks away, but when the player is that good and it's such a need and it's a perfect DNA match, you do it. It fell that way, and we were ecstatic to get him."

*Is Oher a player who can get better with you guys? And did you expect TE Brandon Pettigrew to go so high?(DECOSTA) *"We liked [Brandon] Pettigrew. He was a player we liked, but we love Michael, too. I think Michael is a guy that started a lot of games at Ole Miss. We love the way he plays. He's played some guard. He could probably play guard in a pinch for us. Right tackle, left tackle, he's a big strong kid. Quite honestly, we never thought he'd be there where we'd have a chance to select him, other than giving up our whole draft to go get him. So it's a good feeling."

Being two short now, are you any more likely to move down to try to acquire additional picks?

(NEWSOME) "I don't know. We'll see how the second round starts. If there is another player that we think could come in and impact our football team, then we'll move up and go and get that player. We feel strongly… I think, when we met with Steve [Bisciotti] yesterday, I think Eric made the point that this is a draft where we were going to target players. Last year we were trying to upgrade our football team, and we had multiple picks. But I think in this draft we're just going to target Raven players, and we're going to go get them. I think that's going to make our team better. And as we so stated, if we get better with our 53rd player, Joe Flacco gets better. Michael Oher makes us better, makes Joe Flacco better."

Do you think Oher is a guy who can come in and compete, maybe even start, in his first year?

(*HARBAUGH) *"Sure. He's going to go compete for the starting job, and I don't think that's any major statement because that's what all our guys are going to do. And it's going to be tough. We have a really good right tackle right now in Willie Anderson, and I think in some ways this pick takes pressure off of Willie, too. Because now you've got another viable option at tackle, along with Adam Terry. It's a pick that makes everybody better, but he'll be competing for a job just like everybody else."

Does this pick feel at all like when you got Todd Heap [at 31] that late in the first round?

(NEWSOME) "Yes, somewhat it feels like that… Getting Mark Clayton [at 22], when we got him. It does feel like that, that we were able to get a quality player like that picking as low as we were picking. But, we did have to sacrifice something to go and get him."

Would there be a conversation to trade with another team about getting a wide receiver?

*(NEWSOME) *"I don't know if any are available right now. I really don't know. Do you know something that I don't know?"

Like an Anquan Boldin or a Braylon Edwards?

(NEWSOME) "I don't know if those guys are available. I would have to wait until either George called me or Rod [Graves] called me."

You mentioned earlier that you wanted to move up even higher than 23. What happened with those teams?

(NEWSOME) "They wanted to pick. A lot of times when you're set, you've got your guy, and it's not worth moving back. So, there were at least two teams that we talked to that said, 'We're happy. We're picking, unless you're going to really blow us out of the water.' And we weren't blowing them out of the water."

When you were trying to trade up, was Oher still the guy that you were trying to get up there?

(NEWSOME) "Yeah, it was Michael Oher that we had targeted to go up and get."

Was the reason you tried to trade up because you were worried that teams between you could possible take him?

(NEWSOME) "Teams behind us, that's what you get concerned with, is teams behind you that can move up, because we felt like there were some teams with multiple picks in the second and third round that could use that ammunition to get ahead of us. So that's why we were protecting our territory a little bit."

Michael Oher seems like the ultimate character guy for a first-year player. Have you thought about the kind of impact he can make on the morale of the team?

(HARBAUGH) "We can't wait to talk to him again. We spent a lot of time studying him. He was here, we saw him at the Combine, our scouts, especially in that part of the country, were really excited about him. I can't wait to meet the family that he grew up with. He's a Raven. And what does that exactly mean? I think he's the kind of guy that our defensive line is going to look across, and they're going to respect. And that's the kind of offensive line we've built here over the course of the years that you guys have been putting that offensive line together, and that's what it's become. And our offensive line is just as Raven-like as our defensive line, and that's something that we targeted when we first got back here in January and February, and you can kind of see it coming together right now with a guy like Michael Oher."

Is Michael Oher's background what shaped him as a player?

*(DeCOSTA) *"I think a lot of the great players have a chip on their shoulder. They've overcome a lot, particularly Michael Oher. He's had a lot of adversity. He's tough-minded. He comes from a tough background, and he's overcome a lot – a lot more than most of us. He's determined, he's tough, and I think he's going to be a great Raven."

Did you see Michael's interview with ESPN where he said that the Ravens just got themselves a great player?

(NEWSOME) "Yeah we heard it, and we're excited about Michael. He'll come in and he's going to fit in as John so stated. We think this kid is a Raven, and with the structure we have in place here with the coaching, with O.J. [Brigance] and Harry [Swayne], we're going to help this kid to be as good a football player as he can be. And, he wants to be a good football player."

Did the level of competition Oher played against in college help make this pick?

(NEWSOME) "When you're watching guys who play in the Southeastern Conference, you're seeing guys who are playing against guys who are going to be in the National Football League. You're watching good versus good. So that makes it better at watching tape and grading the tape when you sit there watching him play against a Robert Ayers [from Tennessee] or some of the other great players who play in the SEC."

**Now that Joe Flacco is in place, how important is it to add pieces around him?

*(NEWSOME) *"It starts with protection. If we protect Joe, we know he's accurate. We know he can make all the throws. We can keep him protected. And obviously, we play against Pittsburgh, and they have [LaMarr] Woodley and [James] Harrison and people like that. If we can take care of Joe, Joe will take care of us."

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