JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "Thanks for coming. Obviously, we're through with the Browns now. We've had a chance to review the tape, as coaches and with the players, and we've made the corrections. We are going to try to build off good things, like we always do. There are plenty of things to correct, lots of things we need to get better at, lots of areas to address, and our guys are tuned in to that. And our focus goes to the Colts now."
When you consider the type of team you want to be and the way it manifested itself yesterday as a run-first outfit, how do you feel when you hear writers and commentators say this is a passing league? (Joe Platania) "It is a passing league. If you look at the rules, the way they're built, the yards are piled up in the passing offense as compared to the running offense and the way you score points. I think you'd have to agree with that. Just look around the league. The teams that are scoring the most points are the teams that are throwing the ball the most. But our objective here is not to score the most points, per se. It is to score more points than our opponent on any given Sunday. And the idea is to be the winningest offense, defense and special teams. That's why we're really not willing to sit here and say, as you said, that we are a run-first outfit. I think we're a win-first outfit. We believe in running the football – absolutely. And you have to run the football and stop the run to be the kind of physical football team that we want to be. But, you've got to be able to pass the ball and stop the pass, too. And, in any given game, you just can't predict exactly what you're going to need to do for sure. You can look at a defense and say, 'OK, we're going to attack them this way,' but a defense is capable of taking something away from you. And you've got to be able to move on to the next thing. So, we want to be able to do everything on offense, run and pass, in that sense. And, we want to be able to play and function in all-weather-type conditions against any type of a defense. And that's what we're trying to build throughout the course of the season."
As you go into December, because of weather conditions and other circumstances, do you make any adjustments? (Brent Harris) "Yeah, it's different playing in a dome. It's different playing in the South. We're going to play a December football game in San Diego. So, those conditions are going to be different than what we saw in Cleveland and what we might see in Baltimore, what we might see in Pittsburgh or Cincinnati. So, that's the point. Every game presents a different set of challenges, and you've got to be capable of dealing with those challenges."
How much of a boost is it for the Ravens to have young players on the defense, like Jimmy Smith, make key plays late in the season? (Aaron Wilson) "That's a good point. Every guy is different. Jimmy Smith is the guy you mention. He's starting to get some interceptions, obviously. He's tackling really well. But, we've got a lot of young players. Cary Williams is a young player, not a rookie. Lardarius Webb is a young player. If you're going to be successful, for sure, in football, the way it's set up and even more so now with the new salary cap structure, you've got to have contributions from young players and really from rookies, also."
Resting Ben Grubbs with his toe injury turned about to be the best thing for him being able to return to play. How much is that influencing how you are dealing with Ray Lewis' turf toe situation in trying to rest him and get him back? (Aaron Wilson) "They have two different injuries. So, it really doesn't apply."
How is Ray doing? Is he progressing? (Aaron Wilson) "He's doing quite well. He's resting. He was bouncing around the field yesterday before the game, did you notice? So, you saw what I saw. We are hopeful. I would love to give you a definitive answer, and I understand what you're saying, all the arguments. We are going to try to win the game against the Colts. That's going to be our challenge. We want to go in there full strength. Obviously, a healthy Ray Lewis, playing at the caliber he's capable of playing at, helps us beat the Colts. Is he going to be ready to do that? We don't know. He says he's going to be ready to do it. He's got some orthotics that may give him a chance to be able to do that. So, we'll just have to see how that goes this week, and we've been trying the last couple of weeks. We have, probably, been somewhat cautious. We want to make sure that he doesn't re-injure it. So, we'll just have to see how it goes again this week."
Can you talk about the grind of you and Pittsburgh and even you and New England, everybody? You guys are 9-3, and three other teams [are as well]. Every week you have to win because you know one of those teams are going to win, and just how you are handling that. Are you doing anything different down the stretch maybe to ease the tension a little? (Drew Forrester) "We're pretty good at easing the tension. You've been around, so you know our guys are pretty loose. We have fun. But it's very businesslike. Our guys understand the importance of where we're at, because if you're going to be at this level, you are not just competing against the team you have to play on Sunday. All you have to do is win the game on Sunday – find a way to win the game on Sunday. That's easier said than done, but that's the challenge. We aren't playing those other three teams this Sunday, but we're playing a team that is very capable of beating us, that we are very capable of beating. But the pressure is to stack those wins over the course of the whole month because, what you are saying, you are going for that No. 1 spot. Ultimately, you are playing for a division championship against two teams that are right there with you. So, there is pressure to win every week."
Kind of building off Aaron [Wilson]'s question, though not about Ray Lewis specifically, but I know you guys are so focused in the moment and the task at hand, but when you see like [Dannell] Ellerbe make a play like he did when he snuffed out that screen pass, or Pernell McPhee getting two sacks, how excited does that make you just about… I know how much they are contributing in the present, but how excited does that make you for the future of this defense? (Jeff Zrebiec) "You're right – you are focused on the task at hand – but I am always excited about the future of our football team. I think we do a great job of drafting and acquiring free agents, all the ways we have acquired players this year. [We do a] great job of developing players – our coaches do a great job of that. And we do a great job in the weight room with guys. So yeah, I am excited about the long term for the Ravens, no doubt. But, [I am] more excited for Sunday."
Are you pleased with the contributions from Ricky Williams both yesterday and this season coming in as a change-of-pace [back] for Ray [Rice]? (Matt Vensel) "Yeah, I am very pleased with Ricky [Williams]. He has done a great job. Ricky is as advertised. He is a pro. He is a very physical downhill back. He runs those tackle-to-tackle plays as well as anybody in football. [He is] very good in pass protection, he can catch the ball. He is a complete back, and he is a vet. [He is a] very hardworking guy who knows the game."
Now that you have had a chance to look at the tape, what have you seen from Vonta Leach, in terms of clearing out holes? And how important has he been for the running game? (Garrett Downing) "He has been very important. And it was a big challenge, because those linebackers were playing downhill into those holes. There were some major collisions with Vonta [Leach] and their three linebackers. He neutralized those guys to some extent and gave Ray a chance. We ran a lot of lead plays, and Vonta was at the head of those lead plays."
Playing without Ray [Lewis] the last three games, how has it gone from your perspective? You are missing a great player there, but yet the last two games have gone pretty well. (John Eisenberg) "Yeah, I think those guys have really stepped up, so it's been really encouraging in that sense. The young linebackers – all the way to Albert McClellan, and you are talking, obviously, about Jameel [McClain] and then about Dannell [Ellerbe] this week – they have played at a really high level. So, that's really encouraging. I think it's a tribute to them, to the coaches and to Ray [Lewis], as far as bringing those young guys along. So, that's a positive for us."
What do you contribute the success you guys have had in December, as you start making playoff pushes over the last three years, now into this fourth, that you guys have done so well? (Brent Harris) "You know, that's a big question. I think we have always just had good teams. We play good defense. We have been able to run the ball. I think that some years we have been better at running the ball, some years we have been better in different areas, I guess you'd say. But, we'd like to believe that everything we do is built for December. We are trying to be our best in December and January. The whole program is organized that way. I think our players understand that, and they begin to think that way. So, we try to improve throughout the course of the season in every area and be at our best this time of year."
Can you go back a few days and, sort of, talk about the training camp decision and what your insight or your role was? Steve Bisciotti and Ozzie Newsome both talked about the feeling that the team would be better prepared staying here. (Drew Forrester)"Obviously, I was involved in the conversations, and I appreciated being involved. My opinion was asked. The decision was made by Dick [Cass] and Ozzie [Newsome] and Steve [Bisciotti], ultimately. I agree with it, I support it. Whatever would have been decided, we would have been OK with, we would have been good with. On the one hand, it's going to be hard to leave Westminster, because I think the fans brought a lot to us and to our football team. Being in front of the crowd every day was good for our development, especially for the young guys, because you've got those eyes watching you. They're cheering, they're booing, they're talking to people back and forth. I think players also get a real sense of how important this football team is to the whole state, to the whole region – how much Ravens fans really care. That's going to be tough. We're going to miss that. I think from a football preparation standpoint, that's real. On the other hand, there are a lot of specific reasons, in 2011, to get away from that format. There's technology reasons. There's scheduling reasons, with the new CBA, that make it really tough just to work the schedule out with all the players being there and the demands on their time, as far as being up there the whole time in that situation. I think we'd be more effective down here. I made it very clear that no matter where we go, we can prepare our team. Whatever is best for the organization, we can prepare our team to get ready to play well. I think we all agreed that we can prepare our team better here in the long run. That's why we did it. What we need to do is find a way to hold the connection together with the fans as much as we can. So, we've got to be real creative and figure out how we're going to go about doing this. I'm sure we're going to have days we're going to be out in different places and interact with the fans and have as much as we can a training camp-type environment. The thing I like about training camp the most is that if you're a family and you've got kids, you can get in the car – it'll cost you five bucks of gas money, maybe, for you to drive over to Westminster from somewhere in the region – and you can turn your kids loose and let them go crazy, let them run around, jump on the trampoline, slide down the slides and get autographs from the players. You're a dad or mom and you want to watch the Ravens, and they're having a good time, too. I think it's a good family-type of event. That's the thing that we've got to figure out a way to keep that going somehow."
When you went into yesterday's game, did you want to establish the run because of Cleveland's defense, or did the conditions or the way the game went dictate the 55 carries? (Dave Ginsburg) "I think it was a little bit of both, probably. We felt like we could run the ball, possibly. We were hoping that we could. We wanted to be able to do that. On the same token, it was rainy and it was windy and the field was really sloppy. The conditions for throwing the ball weren't really that ideal. The thing we do have in our favor is we have Joe [Flacco]. Joe can throw in any condition. I think he made some really good throws out there. Some of those deep crossing routes were excellent throws. The throw he made to Lee [Evans] on the sideline that Lee almost got his foot down in, that was a great throw. We kind of think we're built for all weather conditions. But the way the game played out… The type of game it was, it just became the best approach to run the ball and keep running the ball, because we were having some success doing it."
Did it look like to you that Lee Evans, this may be the closest he's gotten to his old form? He just seemed to have that extra step and stride. (Aaron Wilson) "We don't think… It's just a matter of getting healthy. He's going to be there. He's going to make some plays. He had a couple opportunities that didn't quite work out, but he's going to make plays for us."
What did you see from the reversed fumble that Jordan Norwood had that the Browns ended up reversing on the catch? It looked like a fumble and ended up getting reversed. What did you see from your perspective? Did you think it was going to hold up? (Ryan Mink) "We thought it was going to be… We thought it was going to hold up as a fumble, just because he took, you could say, three steps, but at least two steps if there was a bobble and a football act. But [referee] Ed [Hochuli] disagreed with that, and he overturned it. He explained why, and he was great. He explained exactly why, and he's one of the better communicators, I think, so we understood his reasoning on it."
You're facing a team that has been playing without their starting quarterback all year. About a third of the teams in the League this year have lost starting quarterbacks to injury. I know it sounds hypothetical, but it's a reality, what would be the effect if you lost Joe Flacco and how prepared would you be in that eventuality? (Mark Viviano) "Well, we'd probably have the same effect other teams have had. We'd probably be as prepared as everybody else has been. We'd like to think the guy we have is capable of winning games for us – no doubt about it. We're very confident in Tyrod [Taylor]. We think he's really good. But he's a rookie, and he hasn't been in that situation before. His style of play would be different than Joe's. So, I think that would be something that we would have to cross that bridge when we get there. But we are preparing for it. He's taking reps in practice. He had his first play this last week. We may see more and more of that as we go forward. That's something we'd like to do. We'll just have to see what happens with that. It's a legitimate concern though."
After having 24 hours to look at and think about it, your assessment of Billy Cundiff's misses yesterday, does that ring the same? (Brett Hollander) "I think the assessment, really, was that it was a tough situation to put him in. By the same token, Billy expects to make all those kicks. He's telling me on the plane he needs to make those kicks. Of course, we all agree with that. But, it's tougher sometimes than I think we all realize. We understood putting him out there on the right hash – on that field – was going to be a difficult kick. That was the worst kick… Phil Dawson at half time tried five kicks between 30 and 40 yards at that end and didn't make any of them. It was just a tough… The way the wind was blowing, the way the footing was, it was a tough place to kick the ball. Not an excuse, just the reality. But he knows. Billy will always tell you he's got to make every kick."
When you look in the stands at the game in Cleveland, you see stands that are half empty. How appreciative does that make you when you look at the stands in Baltimore? (Bruce Raffel) "See, now that would be a comparison, wouldn't it? (laughter) But I love Baltimore. I love our stadium. Our fans – we've said it many times – our fans are the best in the league. And so far they've been the loudest of anywhere we've played so far this year. We've got a big game on Sunday, and I'm sure we'll see the same thing. But, I'm really proud of our stadium and our fans. It's a great environment; by far the best fan experience – from my perspective sitting down there – of any stadium we've been in. But you know, we're probably biased a little bit, too."
What makes Pernell McPhee so tough to block? He's played against some pretty good tackles, but he always seems to find a way to get pressure. (Aaron Wilson) "Pernell is just a football player. He's got [a] really explosive punch. He's very strong, [and] he's only going to get stronger, too, as he gets a little bit bigger and he's in that weight room even more. But, he's got a real knack for pushing guys around and he's an explosive player."
Ray Rice, last week he talked about the fact that you guys have had so many opportunities to run the ball in recent weeks and talked about the challenge with the limited contact in practice, as far as being able to practice run blocking. The fact that you guys have run the ball roughly 120 times in the last three games, do you think even from a preparation standpoint, how helpful is that moving forward into the final stretch of the season? (Luke Jones) "Well, yeah, obviously you're right. The game reps are the best reps, as far as improving. That's where you can really study the tape and you can build on that stuff. But, we try to practice as close as we can to game reality without… You can't really bang too much at this time of the year. But, it helps. You're right."
Do you have a take on Joe's [Flacco] new facial look and how he's starting to recruit some of the other guys on the team? 2-0 with the Fu Manchu... (Brent Harris) "I'm superstitious about not being superstitious. (laughter) It's really important to not be superstitious. I think it looks good. I think it's very becoming. (laughter) I went to high school in the '70s, so that was in style back then. (Reporter: "Did you have one?") I did not have a Fu Manchu, no. I couldn't grow one in high school; it was strictly peach fuzz back then."