JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "Good to see everybody. Thanks for coming. [There is] really nothing new from last night. [We are] very proud of the effort that the guys played with, the intensity. We took care of business. I thought we played a very solid football game against a very dangerous football team, and we are happy to come away with a victory. I also want to welcome the Crusaders, [from] St.Paul's [School], are here. Good to have you guys here. Journalism class, right? I'm sure you'll learn a lot. You've got the masters right here. Take notes."
Following the game, you said you hadn't had time to think about how well Terrell Suggs has been playing the last few weeks. After 24 hours, have you had time to think about it? (Joe Platania) "Well, no, the question was, is he playing the best of his whole career? I haven't been really ready to make that kind of a statement. That would be a great question for him, I think. He's probably thought about that. But, he's playing great. I don't think there's a defensive player in the League who is playing better than Terrell Suggs right now. He seems like he gets better every week. The work ethic is really unparalleled."
There are four 10-3 teams in the AFC right now. Do you look at the possible scenarios or just focus on the objective of winning out and see how the chips fall? (Dave Ginsburg) "That's the object – just to win the next game more than anything, probably. If that happens, we pretty much know where the chips are going to fall. So, we try to control what we can control, and obviously, we've got a big challenge this week."
Are you optimistic that Ray Lewis may be ready to return to play this week? (Aaron Wilson) "Is there a scale you want me to work off of? The Harbaugh scale? The Harbaugh scale would be very hopeful – very hopeful for his return. He's doing a good job. As far as injuries go, to answer your question, just like last night, there's nothing serious coming out of that game. We've got bumps and bruises. There may be some guys that we rest throughout the course of the week, practice-wise, but we anticipate everybody that was playing last week, health-wise, to be healthy this week, and we're hoping to add some guys. We'll see. We've got guys like Ray, Chris Carr, off the top of my head … You can help me with anybody else." [Reporter asks, "How about Lardarius?"] "Lardarius played last week. So, we have that answer. But those other two guys will have a chance for this week. We'll just have to see."
With all the milestones that Ray Rice has been getting and the accolades, those speak about the kind of player he is. But how valuable is he, not only to the offense, but to the whole organization, as a young leader and young face of the franchise? (Matt Vensel) "He comes into his own every week more and more that way. He started off the season as a leader, and he's grown in that role. I think he also has grown with guys – you know, the other guys on the offense like Joe [Flacco], like the veteran guys like Matt [Birk], like Vonta [Leach] and Anquan [Boldin]. Ray is one of our leaders, and he's getting better every week."
The offense had a lot of success yesterday including in the red zone. Looking at the tape, what do you think were some of the keys to that, especially as you got close down to the goal line? (Garrett Downing) "Well, the biggest thing probably was Joe [Flacco]. Joe really made some plays down there; he was able to create some plays. Those are the kinds of things that we've seen him do more and more throughout the course of the season, even more than any other year. So, I think that's something he's building on. It wasn't just in the red zone either. He made a couple plays outside the pocket, out in the regular part of the field, too. Give him the credit for that."
Sergio Kindle played yesterday. How did he do? Did he grade out well? Did he have a good game? (Aaron Wilson) "He did have a good game. Sergio did a nice job on special teams. He was very solid. He got all of his blocks. He covered kickoffs very solidly. In the pass-rush stuff, he didn't really get on track. He was in that last drive. I think he was playing a little more solid, conservatively. He can definitely crank up that pass rush a little more."
What type of a progression have you seen from Kindle in practice that led you to activate him and get him in there? (Dan Kolko) "Well, he just has a better understanding now. I think in some ways, he started over from a football standpoint. He had been out for so long, and then the injury maybe had some kind of an effect. But he's been working very hard and he's been studying very hard. I credit [outside linebackers coach] Ted Monachino; he's done a great job with him – just some learning technique things he's done with him, kind of one-on-one type stuff. Also [assistant head coach/special teams coordinator] Jerry Rosburg has him out at practice, after practice, every day doing extra stuff. He's made a lot of progress, and we think he's ready to play more and more."
What's the latest on Billy Cundiff? We saw Sam Koch had one kickoff yesterday. Is there any major concern moving forward? (Mark Suchy) "Not a major concern. It's good that he'll have some more rest. I think he tweaked it on Thursday, so he got through the game OK, but it started tightening up on him during the game on the kickoffs. So, we should get him seven more days of rest and some kicking. We probably won't kick him a lot. He should be fine for the game."
Is there a yard line that you would not have used Sam Koch on? (Bruce Raffel) "Are you talking about field goals? We were OK with Billy [Cundiff] on field goals. We had never thought about Sam yet. But if Billy were to go down? Sam can get out there further than people probably would think. We've had him in practice … I probably wouldn't want to say exactly [how far], but it depends on the conditions. You never know. He's capable of getting out there and hitting a field goal, not just an extra point."
Are you surprised how much the Colts have missed Peyton Manning, that a team could go from where they were to 0-13? (Drew Forrester) "I wouldn't be interested in even talking about it. It's not something I really care about, to be honest with you."
I know you're a week-to-week guy, but you've won four straight, six out of seven. Is it possible to gain some momentum, not necessarily for the playoffs, but for these last three games or even the next game coming up? (Dave Ginsburg) "Well yes, you're always trying to gain momentum. You're always trying to be as good as you can be and improve. That's really what we're trying to do."
Getting back to Terrell Suggs, what do you feel like has made him stand out and be one of the top defensive players in the League, besides the sack numbers that everyone sees? (Ryan Mink) "What he's always done is he's just a complete player. He plays every phase of the game at the highest level. He's not a stat guy, so to speak. He's not one-dimensional that way. He plays every facet of defense as well as I think you can play at his position, or as well as anyone is. [He's] better than everybody across the board."
After the game, Suggs gave credit to Chuck Pagano and continues to. From your perspective, what has Chuck's role in this defense been? Obviously, as a coordinator, but what really stands out to Suggs? (Mark Viviano) "I think all of our players feel that way about all of our coaches. Chuck, as a coordinator, has just done a great job. He's a guy these guys know. He's been a part of this … This is his fourth year here. He's done a tremendous job. To me, it's great when the players recognize that. I love it when the players recognize the job the coaches are doing. Ted Monachino, obviously, is his position coach as well. Ted's done a great job."
Where have you seen the most improvement from Jimmy Smith as he starts to get more game reps? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Just learning the game, probably. He's a young guy, and he's learning football at a whole another level than what he's used to in college."
This game coming up, there was the talk of flexing it or not flexing it, but it's still the night time game. What are some of the challenges presented by going on the road, for a primetime game? Does that present a different set of challenges? (Garrett Downing) "Not really. I mean, it's unique – different than a one o'clock game – but we've been in those environments a lot. Our guys are very comfortable playing in that type of environment. And we'll be excited to go out there and play at night. We're looking forward to it."
Did you watch the tape, where it seemed like Chykie Brown got yanked from behind on the play where he fell down in the end zone? (Aaron Wilson) "You couldn't see that on the coaches' tape. I've heard some people say so on the TV copy, but I haven't seen that."
Considering how well Anquan [Boldin] and Torrey [Smith] are playing, is it difficult to carve out playing time for Lee Evans and sort of get him in the rhythm of the offense? (Ed Lee) "Not really. I think Lee was out there and made a great catch on the sideline that kept a scoring drive alive, so he had a contribution that way. Obviously, he's a threat out there. Certainly, we want to see all of our guys catch as many balls and carry as many balls as possible. So, all those guys should get their opportunities going forward."
John, it's a unique setup that your brother is playing the Steelers this weekend. Is there added conversation between the two of you as it pertains to what could go down in that game? (Mark Viviano) "Is there any NFL regulation on that [senior vice president of public and community relations] Kevin [Byrne] that you're aware of? (Kevin: "I think it's fine for brothers to talk and exchange information.") (laughter) I'm sure there will be some of that. You know, coaches, really, the truth is, coaches do that around the League based on best interest and things like that. I know for a fact a lot of coaches have spent a lot of time talking about us before they play us, so I'm sure we'll try to help him in some way if we can. But, it's not really our game; it's not really our concern. The truth of the matter is – because to me, that should not be a story, it really shouldn't – the story is us going out and playing San Diego. That's the story, and that's what we're going to be concerned with."
Talk about the challenge of the big wide receivers that San Diego presents to your secondary? (Bruce Raffel) "Well, just look at their offense, you're right. And that's the big wide receivers, obviously, the quarterback, the big offensive line, the big tight ends, two of them that play really well [and] a game-breaking running back. This is one of the top offenses in football, leading offense on third-down conversions, scoring a bunch of points. [They are] as advertised. It's going to be a big challenge for us."