JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "Thanks for coming out. Obviously, a great win in a lot of ways, and we'll get a chance to talk about it. But congratulations, players, coaches, [the] organization, and not least of all, fans. Our fans had a lot to do with the accomplishment.
"Injury-wise, I'm just going to go through the injuries a little bit: [Bernard] Pollard has got some hand/wrist sprain-type things – should be fine, got an elbow contusion. [Dannell] Ellerbe was better with his concussion. [His] symptoms are going away, so we'll know more throughout the week here, but he seems like he's improving. He didn't improve as much last week. [Marshal] Yanda, sore, but came through well. [Billy] Cundiff, a lot better. Haloti [Ngata] had a little elbow laceration that he took care of. Jameel McClain has an MCL sprain, not considered serious, but [it] will be something he's got to deal with through the course of this week. We'll probably hold him out of practice. 'Zibby' [Tom Zbikowski] and Jimmy Smith, with the concussions during the game, it knocked them out of the game, but they have no symptoms today. So, that's really good news. We'll just have to see, once they do the concussion testing, but that doesn't appear to be a problem. [Terrence] Cody, he came out of the game with a left hip sprain but came back in and played the rest of the way. [Anquan] Boldin will return to practice. And, that's really all we had that I have on my list here, unless you guys have something that we're missing."
Players often talk about how special it is to have the opportunity to go the playoffs and the Super Bowl. You've been to the playoffs many times between your time in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Is it the kind of thing you can begin to take for granted or is every year special? (Joe Platania) "Every year has its own character. Every year it's really hard to do. I'm not sure exactly how many it's been over the course of the years with Philly and here just having experienced it personally. But, every year is special. This year takes on a different character for the Ravens than the last three years. But right now, this is the most special – this is the one we're in. This is the one we had the high hopes for.
"Just as far as our schedule and stuff this week going forward and what we're doing, I just want to make a note of this: We will be excited about this win, but most of our guys [will be looking forward to the playoffs]. I came in the building this morning and half our team was here, already in the training room, in the weight room, getting a little breakfast, just being around watching the tape. Most of our team watched the game on the way back, which is really interesting that after a game like that they were in there watching the tape. I think their whole mindset – and it was expressed to me by Jarret Johnson on the plane, along with a couple of other guys – they're whole mindset right now is to be the best football team we can be a week from Sunday at 1 o'clock. That's what our team is thinking about right now. So, that's where we are. Our guys are looking forward, and it probably takes form in many, four or five different areas. The No. 1 thing we need to do is we need to get healthy. And that's going to be something guys are going to work real hard at with [head certified athletic trainer] Mark [Smith] and his staff in [the training room] – to do everything we can do to be as healthy as we can be coming out of this week. Strength and conditioning is going to be No. 2. We're going to be spending time in the weight room, we're going to be spending time conditioning. No. 3 is going to be a self-study. We're going to take time and look at ourselves a little bit and then try to apply those things – areas where we think we can improve the most, apply those things in practice on Wednesday and Thursday. The other thing we are going to try to do is continue to develop our players—especially our young guys. We have an opportunity for two practices to develop our guys on Wednesday and Thursday. We're going to try to take advantage of doing that. So, that's where we are. And then the last thing I did want to mention is just the fans in Baltimore. The fans deserve this. What was interesting is that when we came up before the game in the locker room, Ed [Reed] broke the huddle. And Ed rallied us up and his – we usually have something we say [like] 'Ravens!' or we'll say 'team!' or whatever … Ed said what we need to say is 'Baltimore!' because we're doing it for all the people in Baltimore. As we go back home, we're going to go back home with a win. So, he rallied us up, and it was, 'One, two, three, "Baltimore."' And then at the end of the game – maybe some of you guys heard this when you were outside the locker room – when Ray [Lewis] did the break at the end of the game, he said the same thing. It was 'Baltimore!' So, on behalf of the players, and just so the fans know how much our players really appreciate our fans and wanted to bring this championship home to them, as we said, it's one down and two to go in terms of championships, and our fans are a huge part of that."
Is there anything different you are going to do this year than you've done in previous playoff years, in terms of One, Two, Three, Four? Or, is that the advantage of having a bye? (Stan Charles) "It's probably different, and it's the advantage you have having the bye, correct. We have an opportunity to take advantage of the week that we haven't had in the past to try to improve ourselves. And that's the plus of having a bye. That's where you have a little bit of a leg up, plus you get a home game. So, we'll try to use that to our advantage. It's interesting, when you look at the history of playing in the Divisional games as a home team, or even playing the Wild Card game as a home team, it's really not that big of an advantage. It's pretty much split over the years. So, there will be no taking anything for granted, that's for sure."
In terms of studying your potential opponents, how much do you divide up the preparation? (Aaron Wilson) "Some of these teams we already started on last week – as far as the possibility that we would have to play them this week. So, we'll continue on that. We'll be breaking down the three teams that we have the potential to play a week from Sunday, and then we'll start in earnest as soon as we know, in terms of developing the actual game plan. That will start on Sunday."
To clarify the schedule for this week, the players will be off on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and then back to work on Monday? (Jerry Coleman) "Right, that's what we are going to do."
On a different topic, today is the dreaded "Black Monday," a tough day for a lot of coaches in this business. Just your thoughts on [Rams head] coach [Steve] Spagnuolo, who was one of the guys that lost his job today. (Aaron Wilson) "It's a tough league. I think that guys do a great job, win or lose. It's really competitive, and sometimes circumstances can catch up with a program and overwhelm it. Not to say that it couldn't be overcome, but sometimes decisions are made for whatever reasons. Whoever those guys are this week, and you mentioned Steve specifically … Obviously, I think Steve Spagnuolo is a great coach. He will be heard from in this league often. It will be all, I guarantee you, with great success. He'll be doing just fine."
John, you said late in the game yesterday that the thought crossed your mind, when you barely had enough guys, with so many guys dropping, "Boy, we really need a bye." Can you just put in context how much, just health-wise, you guys needed this and how difficult it would have been to have a game this week with all those guys banged up? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I really would rather not. It's pretty obvious. It's going to help us to have a chance to get healthy. If we had had to play this week, we would have gotten after it, just like we have in past years. We've been in the same kind of situation in the other three years injury-wise going into the Wild Card game. So, we would have dealt with it, but it's a bonus – it's earned. Our players earned it, and they appreciate it, and they'll take the best advantage of it."
John, Ray Rice has always been a great open-field runner, but it seems like this year, in terms of finishing off long runs, that he has improved even more in that category. Have you seen something from him, in terms of improvement of vision, or just maybe the closing speed, that he has to finish the runs? (Aaron Wilson) "His vision and his courses and his aiming points and all those things continue to get better all the time. He is still young, he is still growing. His best football is still in front of him, but that's a very good observation about the finishing speed. To me, I credit it to his training. This guy, Ray Rice, works really hard, not just in the offseason, but during the season. You see him in the weight room, what he does as far as training his legs and his whole body, what he does with his conditioning. He gets stronger as the year goes on, and that's really shown up in the last few weeks. It's a credit to Ray."
Coach, consistency is the mark of a winner, and you have a quarterback [Joe Flacco] who just completed his fourth complete year not missing a game. There are not too many teams in this league that can say that. What advantage is that to you and knowing that every game you know you are going to have the same guy out there? (Bruce Raffel) "Thanks for pointing that out, because that is something that often times gets overlooked about Joe Flacco. Not only is he a winner – and his performance in this last game, though maybe some wouldn't consider it flashy, was extremely effective – he is durable. Joe is tough. And we knock on wood a little bit, obviously. He is really a guy that game-in and game-out, play-in and play-out, hops back up, never complains about getting hit, never looks at the official [and says], 'Where's my call?' [He] just gets back in the huddle and plays the next play. That's kind of Baltimore, isn't it? A little bit? I would think that this town, I know they do, appreciates that about him. That's one of his greatest strengths."
Talking about Joe's toughness, and I know you talked about it last night after the game, but Marshal Yanda getting in there, battling through that rib issue … He said he was having trouble breathing and just to go out there and play through the way that he did, how important is that for you, and what does that say about Marshal? (Dan Kolko) "It says just what we said about him last night. There is no one tougher than Marshal. That is a reflection of our whole team. He optimizes that, certainly. He explains it better than anybody. He won't tell you too much about it, but for him to say he could barely breathe and play the way he did, obviously it was huge for us. He is an anchor on our offensive line, and when he is in there, we're a lot better."
John, obviously the goal is the Super Bowl, but for you, how satisfying has this season been? Have you had a chance to think about it in the last 24 hours? (Kevin Cowherd) "Not really. The plane ride home, I have to admit, was pretty cool. The locker room was really cool. Those are the moments that … [assistant head coach/special teams coordinator] Jerry [Rosburg] and [offensive coordinator] Cam [Cameron], we happened to be up in the one corner [of the plane], [defensive coordinator] Chuck [Pagano], some of the veteran players are up in that area, too, and you get around through the plane. Those are the moments that you really just never are going to forget. Those are the ones that you just say, 'Wow. This thing that we accomplished together …' There are no words for it. I think you just remember it. You can't put a price tag on it. Priceless, is there a commercial like that? It's priceless. You wake up the next morning, and there is a good feeling driving in, you might even tune into a talk radio or two. Then you hear something, and you turn it off real fast. (laughter) You know what I'm talking about. (laughing) Then you move on, you look forward. Those are the things. You start making a plan for this week and what we're going to try to accomplish going forward."
Coach, regarding Ed Reed, it just doesn't seem like he has been the same the last couple of weeks in terms of his tackling technique. Is it due to injury? (Jerry Coleman) "That's a better question for Ed. I've got a lot of confidence in Ed Reed, and I'm sure everybody else does. I guarantee that the people who are playing against him, they know where he is at back there. Our coverage in our secondary yesterday was excellent. That starts with Ed Reed. Ed covered up a couple of things that happened on some of those play-action downfield routes and covered some of those guys downfield one-on-one. [It's] a pretty tough task for a safety to do that. So, believe me, Ed Reed is carrying more than his weight. As far as what you're talking about, he'll address that. He's been around. He knows how to play, and he'll take care of that."
You've been in a season where – I know you'll probably say you don't circle games before the season starts – but, you've won every single game against the good teams. Yet, the ones you might have circled early in the year you didn't. (Stan Charles) "We don't do that, you're right. We don't put W's and L's next to any games before the season starts. That's been proven futile over the years and proven once again this year if you were to do that. The point of the whole thing is … Certainly, we're disappointed in some of the games we didn't win, but it's because of how we played more than who it was against. The upside is our team has proven they will rise to the occasion. They will rise to the occasion in those games against those really good teams. That record against playoff teams bears that out. Also the division record bears that out. That's a good sign for us going into the playoffs."
Is there any one thing you've picked up between the difference between 8-0 at home and 4-4 on the road? Is there anything different that you did or one area that was glaring to you that you need to work on? (Drew Forrester) "Turnovers probably, more than anything. On the road we had turnovers. We didn't always move the chains, as well as we would like to, in some of those games. We didn't always stop them, as well as we'd like to, in some of those games. That's how you win and lose football games. To me, that's the biggest difference. It's not so much where we played, but how we played."
Ricky Williams reached 10,000 rushing yards and it kind of got overshadowed with how big of a day Ray Rice had. How much does that resonate with you? What did you say to him? Did you talk to him about it? (Ryan Mink) "In the locker room after the game, we talked about some of the accomplishments. That was one that hadn't been brought to my attention until Ray Rice brought it up there with the whole team around. He said, 'Ricky just rushed for over 10,000 career yards.' So, of course, Ricky got called up into the middle of the circle there. He was kind of in the back; he's a quiet guy. The team started chanting, 'Ricky, Ricky, Ricky.' It was really a neat moment. It was just a team moment, and we caught each other's eye there for a minute. That's, like we said, it's hard to explain how valuable those things are. (Reporter: "Did he give a speech?") They asked for one, but he did not provide one." (laughter)
Not to put the cart before the horse, but the fact that you went through a playoff situation in New England a couple years back, and you've got that tucked back into the memory bank, is that a comforting feeling? (Stan Charles) "That's the cart before the horse, though. So no, I haven't thought about that, at all."
In terms of where you guys got to this year, being a 12-4 team, how much is that a testament to the style of play that you have on both offense and defense, in terms of being a physical team that runs the ball and stops the run? (Aaron Wilson) "That, to me, is proven. It's tried and true. It's our … It's Raven football. Terrell Suggs mentioned that last night in one of his quotes. His focus is on playing Raven football, and he's one of the guys who establishes what Raven football is. That won't change. It's consistent with the personality of this city. This city, the history and the tradition of what I would call 'Raven football,' goes back in this city many, many years – all the way back. So, we're not going to change that. That's going to be our style."
To get back on Ray Rice, he said that Ricky Williams and Vonta Leach were the two best things that had ever happened to him. That being said, how much do you think all your guys pride themselves on helping each other? Whether it's Ray Lewis helping the young guys or the veteran secondary helping Jimmy Smith, how much do you pride yourself on that? (Jen Royle) "That's probably our biggest strength as a team. That's probably the No. 1 reason the Ravens are who they are, because our guys help make everybody around them better. That's what the consummate team player does. We've got a lot of consummate team players on our team. There's not a better team out there, in that sense, than the Ravens. I really appreciate that in our guys."
Cary Williams came back from injury. Can you talk a little bit about how effective the secondary was? What do you think he and Lardarius [Webb] on the other side did to kind of shut down some pretty good receivers? (Garrett Downing) "They were very patient. Their eyes were in the right spot. They played square. They played with their hands at their feet. They played very good assignment football 99-percent of the time. When they didn't, Ed [Reed] bailed them out. They were very disciplined, very detailed in what they had to do, and that's what you have to do out there on that island."
Did Cincinnati do anything different with their punt block attempts? They seemed to get some pretty decent pressure at times. (Aaron Wilson) "I don't think so, on a consistent basis. They got two; they got one real close, and they hit us with one rush where we had a basic rush that they run a lot, that we see a lot, that they caught us in when we had the protection going the wrong way. We didn't redirect after the snap as well as we'd like to, so it's a technique thing that way. But, no, that was a heck of … I'm glad Sam [Koch] did a great job of getting that off. He saved us on that particular punt. So, they caught us. They did a good job with that one."
John, the top seeds in each conference have some crazy offensive numbers this year, and there is some talk about how it is such an offensive league now. Your team is highly-ranked on defense, with balance. I'm wondering, if you think, can you still win it all with primarily defense? (John Eisenberg)"Last year's team was the No. 1 defense, weren't they? That won it all? I think they were. And if you look back at Pittsburgh, they won it, what, two years ago, wasn't it? Weren't they the No. 1-ranked defense? The top four defenses in the league are in the tournament right now, and 38 of the 45 Super Bowl champions were in the Top 10 in defense. So, 'yes' is the answer to that, directly." (laughter)
What was that? (Drew Forrester) "It wasn't planned." (laughter)
Have you talked to your brother, Jim, to congratulate him on making the playoffs and achieving the bye in his first year as compared to your fourth? (Bruce Raffel) "No, not compared to anything, absolutely not. (laughter) Is there a better way you want to put that question, or leave it at that? (laughter) No, we talked twice. We talked last night and we talked again this morning. We talked more about the bye week plans than anything."
Have you made a decision with Billy [Cundiff] and Shayne [Graham] about how you will be moving forward? (Matt Vensel) "Yeah, as long as Billy is healthy, he'll be our kicker. We were really fortunate that Shayne was available, and if anything happens in the future, if he's still available, I wouldn't be surprised if someone has an issue, they'll pick Shayne up right away. But, we'll hold on to Shayne as long as we can now, but if we have to make a roster move, obviously, that's a direction we would go. But he did a great job. Why he's not holding on to a job right now, I'm not sure, but we were very fortunate for him to be able to come in and fill that gap for us."
John, the benefit of getting the AFC North title is getting the bye and the home game. Do you cherish one more than the other, or do you just look at them as being grouped together? (Dave Ginsburg) "To me, the bye goes with the home game. So, you'd rather have that than just having the home game, because that means we'd be playing this week. So yeah, the fact that we get the week off is probably specifically the more valuable thing for us, because it counts as a win. This win was kind of a one-for-two. We won one game, we got two wins. So, that's big."
John, you mentioned Anquan Boldin being set to return. How much of a spark can he provide coming off a two-week layoff? (Ed Lee) "He'll provide a spark, certainly. We'll be looking to have him be a big part of our offense."