JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement:"OK, good to see everybody. We're back! And it's good to see you guys back, too. So, is everybody well-rested from the bye week? (Reporter: "All of our injuries are healed up.") Injuries are healed up? Good. Emotional scars as well as physical scars? OK."
How did you kill your time? (Jerry Coleman)"Well, we worked for a few days as coaches, obviously. And then we had the weekend, so I spent my time at lacrosse, softball and field hockey over the weekend [with his daughter] and watched a little NFL football on Sunday."
Are you closer to determining whether you're getting all of those injured guys back after the bye week? (Joe Platania)"Yeah, we must be. We must be closer to determining those guys, but I haven't really gotten anything definitive. And kind of, as a coach, you hope for something on Monday that would be somewhat definitive, and there's nothing there. So, we're in a wait-and-see mode. Probably won't give away much anyway as the week goes on, but as of right now, I don't know who's going to be back. A couple of guys practiced, a couple of guys didn't. We'll just have to see where we're at."
With Jimmy Smith, how far specifically, how far along in his rehabilitation has he gotten to this point? (Dan Kolko)"I don't know the percentage on it. He's not there yet, that's for sure. So, we'll just have to see throughout the course of the week. I've got my fingers crossed – this was the target week – and we'll just have to see how it goes."
Houston is sort of in the same boat; they lost Mario Williams this past weekend, they may have lost the fullback [James] Casey, and they don't know if [Andre] Johnson is going to go. I guess next man up? (Jim Forner) "Yeah, it's kind of that way around the League when you look around the League. We had seven guys out last week with injuries; you just have to put the next best guys in there and they've got to go play and do well. That's why guys are on these rosters. You see all around the League people moving from practice rosters to active rosters in the last week or two. Really, on Saturday I was stunned. I opened up the e-mail we get, and there was a number of guys signing from practice squads onto the 53-man [roster] just for that reason. So, I'll be interested to see at some point if there are more injuries this year compared to other years, you know, with the lockout and stuff like that. Because maybe it's our imagination, but it sure seems that way."
John, how would you assess Joe's [Flacco] performance four games in? Lots of bye week talk from the fans centered on his play over the four games. How would you assess it? (Drew Forrester)"The only real way, in broad terms, to assess it probably, is he's 3-1. To me, he's a 3-1 quarterback right now, which is pretty darn good. Can he be better, just like every guy on our team? I think we all look at… I'll give you the note… The standard thing is always what we talk about, because we can all get better in everything we do. And Joe, just like everybody else, is going to tell you, 'Hey, I can get better.' We were watching tape this morning, and he's pointing out all the things that he thinks he can do better and all the things he was going to try to get accomplished today. So, that's real. It's not really exciting, but it's really the fact of it. I think he's got to get better, just like our whole team has to continue to get better. But I think he's played well."
Is there one thing, though, that someone maybe without a discerning eye wouldn't pick up that you all have picked up that you can share that he is doing well? (Drew Forrester)"Oh, well yeah. Yeah, he's doing a great job handling the protections, he's making plays on the run, he's making big plays at a record clip – especially for us, since we've been here [and] probably historically if you look at the Ravens, I would guess. That's real. I mean, the big play part of it is big for us. Little areas, like coming out… Just little specific situation things we're doing well, other things we're not doing so well. So, we just try to break all that stuff down and see where we can get better. But I think he's playing well enough to be 3-1, and I think our offense is more explosive than it has been in the past thanks to Joe and the other guys. I think we can attack you in more ways than we have been able to recently. But, we've got to keep building on that; we've got to become more consistent. Obviously, the completion percentage, that's going to have to come up; we've got to all work on that together. Those are all the things that we're looking at, just like you guys are looking at."
How important was that drive in the Jets game where you ran 10 or 11 straight times, in terms of being able to show that as part of your identity? (Stan Charles)"Well, no doubt, that's really important. And that's something that we take pride in – running the football, generally, but especially being able to run the football when they know you've got to run it and you want to keep your defense off the field. And that doesn't mean you necessarily can run it 12 times in a row, or 24 out of 28 like we did. You've got to be able to convert some third downs to keep those drives alive, which we did at times. I think we did [it] twice during that timeframe, about middle of the third quarter until the end of the game. That's going to be critically important. We also want to be able to run the ball early in the game, and I think we've been able to do that in certain games. So, we're going to be… We talked about it with our team today, you know, what's our identity? Well, our identity is a lot of things, but I think first and foremost, we're going to attack people. And what does that mean? It means you attack people running the ball, you attack people throwing short, intermediate and deep. You attack people in pass protection, you attack people by putting everybody out. You've got to be able to do everything in the National Football League, so that you don't become one-dimensional and they can't take away something and leave you with nothing. And that's what we're searching for."
Under unusual circumstances with the Texans game last year, including the Monday night and the overtime and all that, how much can you take away from that game leading into this one? (Jeff Zrebiec)"You could probably take a few things away. The fact that it's the same basic schemes on both sides of the ball… You know, we watched that tape real closely; it's part of our breakdown format, and I thought… Statistically, on defense last year, they weren't as good going into the game. They turned out to be really formidable, and they played good defense the rest of the way. This year, they're very good statistically, defensively, especially in certain areas. When you watch them on tape, you're very impressed with especially their front seven. And we couldn't move the ball at all in the second half; we couldn't get a first down, and in overtime. So, that's something that we've got to look at real hard."
John, going back to Andre Johnson, they've got a strong wide receiving corps overall, but there are very few playmakers like him throughout the League. If he's unable to go for them, how does that adjust what you guys are able to do defensively? (Dan Kolko)"It adjusts it in the fact that you don't have to tilt your defense quite as strongly to one guy. They've still got Jacoby Jones, who can go deep – you have got to account for that. They still have Kevin Walter. They've got two tight ends that are incredible, they've got a great running back, and I think they've got the offensive line that's playing the best in football right now. And [they have] a veteran quarterback, which always causes any defense problems, because he's going to understand where to go with the ball. So, they still pose you tons of problems, but the fact that he's not out there, I mean let's not kid ourselves, that's huge. And if he's out there, you've got to tilt the whole defense basically over top of him, or he'll catch every pass. He can't really be covered one-on-one on a consistent basis. So, I'm hopeful he's not going to play. I'm not going to kid you; if he doesn't play I'll be smiling. (laughter) But, we'll just have to see. We'll be preparing as if he's going to play, but we'll also have a plan as if he's not going to."
That said, do you feel like you're catching a break here coming off the bye, they're not going to have Mario Williams, maybe not Johnson. Does it feel like things are maybe starting to flow your way? (Jerry Coleman)"I don't know. All those things [are], I guess, just for you guys to write about. It just doesn't really matter to us. We've got to get ready to play. That team is a really good team. I told our team before we left on the bye week that we'd be playing the best team in the AFC next week – the team that was playing the best. And if you look at the game against Oakland even, statistically, they dominated the game in a lot of ways. I mean, they had over 400 yards passing. Defensively, they were getting after it pretty good. Oakland didn't do anything until toward the end of the game. So, that's the team we're going to play. I think they're a contender for the conference championship. This is going to be a heavyweight match, and it's going to be a tough ballgame for us. I'm sure glad it's here. You know, we've gotten them twice there, so it'll be fun to have them at our place."
What do you see with Wade Phillips and their defense? What does he bring to the table or bring to them? (Stan Charles)"Well, one thing, when you watch Wade, you know he knows exactly what he wants to accomplish on defense. Everything he does [is] for a purpose. So, he plays his basic structure, he's got really good players – especially up front – but really… Safeties, he's got a new corner [Jonathan Joseph] out there – we're very familiar with him, we've had to deal with him in Cincinnati – even Jason Allen is playing well on the other side. But their front seven is really a dominant group. And just like he had in Dallas, he's molded them into that kind of a format; same thing he did in San Diego. And then he builds his pressure into that, so the pressures are very specific. One builds off the other. There is a rhyme or reason to everything they do, and every one of them causes your protections or your run game specific problems. So, that's just a veteran coordinator, and you can tell he's got a plan for what he's doing."
John, now that you've had this early bye in Week 5, any differences between having it early or late? You like one or the other? You going to campaign for a Week 5? (Drew Forrester)"I don't think they'd listen to our campaigns; they don't give you too much choice. You'd probably always rather have it right in the middle, I guess. But, I think it was good for us to have it at this point, just because we were 'nicked' up a little bit, and I think our job was to make the most of it. Wherever you get it, you just try to make the most of it."
How significant is it that Vonta Leach is no longer with Houston, instead he is now blocking for you? (Bruce Raffel)"It makes me happy. I'd rather see him in our colors, but they have got a young guy that is doing a nice job for them. Losing [Texans FB James] Casey, possibly, takes away a little bit of their flexibility because he is a fullback, plus he is a guy that was in all their two-tight end packages. You didn't exactly know what kind of formation they were going to get into as much, so we'll see how that goes. But, they still have another young fullback who is a physical guy. I like Vonta [Leach] on our side. We're glad he is a Raven."
How much do you rely on having Vonta Leach and Bernard Pollard, two guys who were on different sides of the ball in Houston that… Not to overstate that significance, but how much of an advantage is that they are familiar with that personnel and that scheme? (Luke Jones)"There is probably something to it. We have talked about that whole team, with those guys and schemes and personnel, but I don't think it is a significant thing. Guys move around the League all the time. You take from it what you can. Bottom line is execution. It is who plays the best on Sunday. Those two guys are going to be emotionally excited to play the game, and I think our guys will be mostly ready to play for them. That's always the case when you go back and play your old team. They have spoken in real positive terms about the Texans – about their personnel, about their scheme, about their coaches – and we have always had a lot of respect for them anyway."
Do you find yourself talking to your brother more often during this football season than before? Did you talk to him today? (Stan Charles)"Yeah. We talk to Jim [Harbaugh] probably more when we win – when we both win. We had a bye, so we talked. There is a little more to talk about. We are kind of in the common ground with the NFL and who we are playing and things like that, so we probably talk a little more."
Did you talk about the fact that he also didn't pull his quarterback until late, late, late in the game with a big lead? (Jerry Coleman)"Yeah, we both said, 'Was there any other way to do it?' Is there another case that can be made with any kind of… Oh, boy I don't want to hit you guys too hard and make a big story. Is there a better response I can give you than no response?" (laughter)
I was just wondering when he was going to go to his backup. (Jerry Coleman)"He did. He went to his backup."
Did that bother you? (Drew Forrester)"Did that bother me? No. Maybe it vindicated me. It made me feel proud. Who else didn't go to their backup around the League? *(laughter) *Look around the League, and you know what you're going to find out? Everybody… Nobody went to their backup. Is there a question in there?"
Does that irk you, as a coach, just to hear that and read it? (Drew Forrester)"It doesn't irk me, but I think it's real easy to say, 'You should have done this, you should have done that.' What happens is, inevitably, the other argument is made. Like in Jim's situation, you get a wide receiver hurt. OK, there is four-and-a-half minutes left in the game, they have timeouts, he wants to get the first down. Yeah, you can take a knee or you can slam it up in there and hope you get it and basically kick the field goal or punt and put your defense back out there. So, now your defense is at risk. Nobody wants to play special teams plays. That is when most of the injuries happen anyway. What you really want to do is you want to keep your offense on the field, you want to get first downs, and you want to take a knee as soon as you can – as soon as they'll let you. They complete a pass, and they let them run it down to the 1-yard-line, which is almost the worst thing that can happen, and then on top of that a guy gets hurt. So, now he is going to be under criticism for that. I see people write, 'I just don't see it.' OK, what would you have done? And, how would that have mitigated any injury risk? You can't take a knee with four-and-a-half minutes left. I think that it's a fair conversation, and those are the things that go through a coach's mind, but every coach is definitely trying to do what is best to win the game, No. 1, and to keep his players healthy, No. 2. That's what you're thinking about."
With the three-plus seasons that you have been here, do you think your offense is now less predictable than it has ever been – in terms of what they have to game-plan? (Stan Charles)"Yeah, I do think that. It's an interesting point. It's more subtle, but we are less predictable in a lot of different ways, some that are obvious – run, pass – and others that are less obvious – formation, motion, personnel group, splits, alignments, where guys eyes are at, all of the things that we self-scout and study ourselves on. I think we are better than ever at that, but you are always chasing that. This League is advanced. People chase what you do, and they are always looking for an edge. I think we are doing a better job than ever at that."
The team signed Bryan McCann during the bye week. Can you talk about the importance of that signing and where you see him fitting in? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Bryan [McCann], he is obviously a corner who we have had interest in. We had him here last year early on, and he left and went back to Dallas. Then, whatever situation happened there, and they let him go, so we felt like it was an opportunity for us to bring him in. He brings us a developing young corner who has a lot of ability. He is another year experienced than he was a year ago. He is a return guy also and a good special teams player. He is a little more of an experienced guy than Chykie [Brown], I guess you would say, and gives us some return help."
Even though you are playing a non-divisional opponent, I couldn't help but notice that yours is the only division with four teams with two or more wins, three teams with winning records. Are you part of the best division in football right now? (Joe Platania)"I don't know. Are we? You tell me. It's a good question. I have always thought it is the best division. Even when these teams, at times when certain teams don't have great records, and we have to play them, and everybody thinks it is going to be some kind of an easy game. Last year the Bengals, at the end of the year, it was just a backyard brawl from beginning to end. That's what you get in this division. I have always thought it is the best division. To make your point there as far as the records and where the defenses are ranked and all that kind of stuff, it's a strong argument."
Did I hear you right that you said you talked with the team earlier today, talking about what our identity is going to be? (John Eisenberg) "Just trying to make it clear. I think our guys understand, and I don't think there is anything said that they couldn't have all gotten up and said themselves. You hope so as a leader, and you want that to be the case. We talked a little bit about Proverbs. 'Where there is no vision, the people perish.' That is something that I think our guys, it resonates with them. Who are the Ravens? What are we going to be about? What do we stand for? How are we going to play? What can the people and the fans in Baltimore and across the country expect from us and be proud of? That's important. It's a good time to kind of talk about that."
Talking about being attacking, do you emphasize it? This has always been an aggressive, hard-hitting team, but have you emphasized it more this year, and do you think the players respond to it? Do you think they like it? (John Eisenberg)"Oh, yeah. I think they love it. I think that's who they are, and that's who they want to be. A lot of it is the type of people we bring in here, right? We are looking for that kind of personality. When we say, 'Play like a Raven,' some people get it, and some people don't. For us, it is real. People who love football… Terrell Suggs is out there, and he loves practice. People like being around each other – all the things. I can get into it at some point in time, but we like to get after people. We like players that like to get after it, who love football and like to play the game. We want to attack people in every way we can – offense, defense, special teams, down the field, at the point of attack, in all three phases. That's what we're about. That's the way we're going to try to play every week."
Is Tom Zbikowski making good progress since the Jets game? (Jeff Zrebiec)"He is a concussion situation, so you know what? I would like to be able to have an answer for you, not that I would necessarily tell you *(laughing), *but with concussions, I have no idea. Until the doctor says he is cleared, you just go, 'OK, see you when you are cleared.' He has not been cleared yet."