JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "First of all, congratulations to our team, again, and our coaches. This will be the last time we look back. We had corrections practice here at 3 o'clock, and we'll watch the tape, and that will be it. We will move on from there and, hopefully, we can improve from what we saw and build on all the different things that we saw. But one thing I did want to comment on was the officiating crew in this game. Tony Corrente and that crew is an excellent crew. It's one of the best crews in the National Football League, and that was a tough game to officiate. Those guys did a fantastic job controlling that game. I think the penalties were well done. You can quibble here and there as a coach, and you always will, but keeping that game under control [was difficult]. I know Tony had a finger that was gashed pretty good and was bleeding. It was a tough game to officiate. It was a physical game for the officials. They kept control of the game really well, kept their poise, and I want to compliment them on a job well done. And for the Baltimore fans… It's good for the fans. The crowd was into it. They were in their seats 20 minutes before the game started. They were into the 9/11 ceremony. They were chanting throughout the game. They didn't leave. Even for a game like that, they were there pretty much [involved] until the end it seemed like. I'm proud of our fans and happy for the city and for all the Ravens fans around town."
Did the new rule that allows you to activate 46 players on game day give you an advantage yesterday?"It gave us an extra lineman yesterday. We'll decide how we do it from one week to the next, but we felt we had some guys who had some nicks and things like that, and our line situation was a little bit up in the air with new guys and Andre [Gurode] being here. So, we were able to activate one extra guy, which was a good thing for us."
Is there any update on rookie CB Jimmy Smith's injury?"As far as the injuries, Jimmy is the one guy that had an injury that was something that was a little more serious. He's in a boot. He's on crutches. He had an MRI. He does have a high-ankle sprain, so that's going to be a few weeks. And we'll just have to see how it plays out. Hopefully he's a quick healer, but that was a tough one. The first kickoff, he runs down there, is fighting like crazy and gets caught up in a pile."
What impact do you feel WR Lee Evans had on the game yesterday in terms of stretching the field and opening up other receivers?"It's a good point. Lee opened up a couple of crossing routes for us. He takes the top off the coverage, and if they don't run with him, Joe [Flacco] is going to throw it to him. He cleared out some of the deep crossing routes that you saw. Dennis Pitta's [play] is one that comes to mind right away – going down into the red zone. So, he had that kind of impact. Also, and people don't think this is a big deal, but we do, he had some big blocks for us down field on some of those runs. He played well. He was a factor, no doubt."
Although OLB Sergio Kindle was inactive yesterday, do you expect him to be up and ready to go at some point in the near future?"He will be ready to go, I know that. I expect him to be ready to go. He prepared well last week. You get 46 [players] and you start doing the math, and Sergio Kindle is a very good player... He can help us; there's no doubt about it. We'd like to have him up, but right now we just don't have the spot. He's just got to continue to improve and grow as a player. I'm certain he'll have an impact before long."
Do you expect Kindle to make a contribution on special teams as well?"Yeah, and he's done a good job on special teams as well. So, that's a big part of it. You guys know that. He can do a good job on special teams. He is an excellent punt rusher. We saw it in the preseason. He'll be up there. We want to stay healthy, but we want to keep developing all our players. We need them all."
What did you think about rookie DE Pernell McPhee's play yesterday?"We saw the same thing we saw in the preseason. He's a factor on pass rush. The play that comes to mind more than anything was the fumble recovery. They got the screen, and the walls broke out and it looked like he was really running. And Ray [Lewis] ran him down and knocked the ball loose and Pernell was just running like crazy – the whole defense was pursuing Pernell – [and] the ball was right at his feet. And you preach that all time. [When] you run to the ball and you play hard and you play with recklessness like that, good things happen. That was a play for him that was big for us."
With all of the recent personnel changes you've made, are you a little surprised at how well everyone meshed together so early in the season?"Like I said before, we expect to get better. That's the plan. We're only going to get better, and we've got the kind of guys in the room that are going to do nothing but get better. That's what we have to do. If I was going to be surprised, then I would have had to have an expectation or said, 'Hey, this is what I think we're going to be,' and I didn't know. I don't think you ever know how you're going to go out and play in the first game, especially with all of the things that you're talking about. We talked to our guys. We expected to win the game. We felt we had a chance to play really well, but you never know until you go do it. So, that's what you're proud of as a coach. When they prepare the way they prepare and then go out and take it to the field on Sunday in that kind of a setting, that's a very rewarding thing for coaches and for players. But the challenge now is to build on it and improve. And that's what you have to do, because everybody else is going to improve. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a very good football team, right? We all agree with that. They're going to be there at the end when it counts. They're going to get better every week, and we've got to make sure we do our part. And that goes for every other team on our schedule, too. We have to continue to get better."
When you watched the game film, were you more impressed with what you saw as far as blocking and ability to run the ball on a tough Pittsburgh rush defense?"I think it's a credit to the offensive line and Ray [Rice]. It's a credit to the scheme that we put in. We've got to keep building on that scheme, [because] people start defending what you do. But, it was well blocked, and you're talking about a great front – our front that's going to stop the run all year. So, that's a credit, but when you look at the tape and you go back and you see it, and you see all those different things that you can do better, all the technique issues, where the run is going. Sometimes we can take it in the other direction and we didn't do that. Those are things [where] you realize you have a long way to go."
Was it important to, as some have put it, "Get the monkey off the back," with regards to beating Pittsburgh:"Joe [Flacco] said it best: He didn't feel a monkey. It's funny… Let's be honest, we need to beat Pittsburgh. We all know that. We need to beat Cleveland and we need to beat Cincinnati; they're in our division. So, those 'monkeys,' so to speak, are always going to be there. And if you want to do anything, you've got to win in your division to win your division. So yeah, it's important, but it wasn't like weighing us down. It wasn't weighing on our mind or anything like that. I don't believe that. I don't think you go out and play the way you did… Our guys played loose. They played confident, they played loose, they played focused. That's not a team that was weighed down by any burdens at all."
What did S Bernard Pollard add as far as a physical presence to the lineup?"You're right, he added a physical presence. No doubt. That's well said. (laughter) He did. And he's more than that. He's a very good football player. He's very smart, he's talented in coverage. He was in man coverage a number of times and some of their faster guys did a nice job. He's a complete football player and he's a big addition for us."
How did the in-game injuries to CBs Jimmy Smith and Chris Carr impact the depth that had been built at the position?"Well, it did. It was during the game, and at one point in time we only had two [corners because] Cary [Williams] cramped up, so we had to run Haruki [Nakamura] in, and he jumped into the nickel there while the other two guys played outside. So, having that kind of versatility… I think that's really a credit to our players and to our coaches. Most of those guys on the back end can play every position. The younger guys are still learning how to do that, but when you've got guys who can play inside and outside, high or low as safeties, that kind of versatility is huge in a game like that when you start losing guys. It seems like you lose guys at the same position at times in games, and for those guys to step up and do what they did, it was pretty important."
Was the media overrating the fact that the O-line didn't have much time to work together before the Pittsburgh game and had no game reps?"Well, you'd rather have the reps. You can't deny that, but they had the reps in practice, and they are veteran guys, and they have blocked these plays before. So, in that sense, they're more ready than a young guy would be. You know, the young guys probably need the reps more, but that's the idea. We're going to get more and more reps as we go. I think this game – playing together in this game – is more valuable than the reps they got in practice though, so we should learn more from the game as a group than we did from practice."
What was the explanation the officiating crew gave you on the unsportsmanlike call on DE Cory Redding?"I think they just interpreted that it was a slamming-down kind of a thing, and they felt like they blew their whistle. Like I said, you can look at those things different ways. That's how they looked at it – that's OK. It was no harm. It was 15 yards, but I thought they did a good job."
Have there been any discussions on shutting CB Chris Carr down for extended time to get the hamstring right?"How much more can you shut him down, like four weeks? That's what we did, and it wasn't a tear. The good news is that it is not a tear. It is grabbing on him at times. One of these times he is going to get through and it is not going to grab on him. The thing that we do want to avoid – and I think your point is well taken – we don't it to tear. We don't want a hamstring tear in there. That's why we have shut him down pretty quick whenever he starts to have an issue with it."
How hard is it when talking with your general manager to make that leap of faith with a younger player and moving on from a veteran player?"I think it depends on your philosophy, first of all, and your willingness to take risk. I think we have that as an organization, and it starts at the very top. Also, [it's about] how well you feel like you are drafting, because as a coach, when you feel like you have got younger players in place that can do the job, you are more willing to go with those guys. If you don't feel like you have someone in place that can do it, then obviously, you want to hold onto your veteran guys. As a coach, you are always greedy. I want them all. As a coach, you want the older guys and you want the younger guys. You want to build as much depth into the whole thing as you can, and the financial reality is that it just can't work that way. Then you have to take a step back, become a business man, look at the bottom line, look at the spreadsheet and say, 'OK, what combination of players and dollars and cents gives you a chance to put the best football team out there.' I think that is a collaborative effort with [general manager and executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] and with [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] and with [vice president of football administration] Pat [Moriarty] and with [director of player personnel] Eric [DeCosta] and [director of pro personnel] Vince [Newsome] and everybody that is involved in that."
How did C Matt Birk play?"Matt played really well. He did. He held up against one of the best nose guards [Casey Hampton] in football, and we are running the stretch-zone scheme, and Matt is – for the most part – neutralizing Casey. Casey made a couple of really nice plays in there, too. That was a real battle inside. We talk about the yards, and we did gain some yards, but that was a real battle inside. It was really physical. They are very physical up front. We were watching a few clips in here today with the team, and some of the [defensive backs] don't usually get a chance to watch what goes on inside there. They were just like, 'Oh my gosh. Is that allowed, what goes on in there?' It's trench warfare, so to speak, in football terms, and it's a tough battle."
What was your philosophy on going for the two-point conversion and going for it on fourth down in Steelers territory?"Sometimes you go with your head, sometimes you go with your heart. The second decision was probably going with my heart. I felt like we were going to get it. I felt like we could get it, and I thought we could really put the nail in the coffin. Twenty-five is better than 22. What would it have been then? Twenty-nine is better than 25. Sometimes a little more… How much is enough? Just a little bit more."
Were you doubting yourself at all when the Steelers were driving and got inside the red zone?"Yeah, I doubted myself as soon as we didn't get it. As soon as we didn't get it, I felt like that was the wrong decision, you know? I also think that there have been a lot of studies in this league, when you look at it in terms of going for it on fourth down, and they basically say that most coaches don't go for it enough. We do want to be aggressive, and I do have a lot of confidence in our guys. Probably when in doubt, we are probably going to go for it more often than not. But, the math what you are talking about is right. You can definitely make a case for the math, and it would be a good case. As far as going for the extra point, to me that was easy. Their linemen dictated that we do it. When they put eight guys on one side of the formation and they pressure your protection that way… First of all, I have to protect our guys. We are not going to put them in that situation [to get hurt]. They are basically asking you to challenge that, and we did. If they're going to line up like that, then I think you have to run it, and it's an extra point."
Did you see anything in the game different from Joe [Flacco] than in any other previous games?"Sure. There's differences in probably every other game, for the good and for the not good. Joe [Flacco] is his own biggest critic, and he and I will come in and watch the tape tomorrow together. All the things he will be talking about are the things he thinks he should do better. If you compare the other Pittsburgh games, I think we can all agree the protection was different. Joe had more time. He could sit in there and he could go through his read progression. When you go through your read progression all the way across from one to five, and you find five, and five makes a little move and runs away, and you hit him for a touchdown pass, that's a credit to the offensive line. Joe had an opportunity to do that in this game. I thought our two tackles played really well. We did a good job – better than we have ever done – of picking up the cross dogs [blitzes] inside, and Joe did a nice job of getting the protection moved to where the blitzes were coming from. That's something we need to continue to do. The next time we play Pittsburgh, they are going to have a bunch of new wrinkles in there that are going to challenge us because that is how they do it. They have some great players, some great rushers and they have a great defensive coordinator that comes up with some of the most creative schemes in football. To me, the biggest thing was probably the protection, and then guys made plays for Joe. Guys came up big making plays. That probably gives the quarterback a little confidence, too."
Can you talk about the aggressive nature of the team? You had seven turnovers and you put points on the board right after those turnovers. Cam [Cameron] really jumped on their throats."He did. He came back – even on the one we had the penalty toward the end with Anquan [Boldin]. I like Cam's personality on that one, too – going right for the score right there, too. That's what you need to be able to do. You want to make it pay off for you. We call those hidden points. Hidden points come off turnovers, they come off big plays in special teams, things like that. That's how you stack points in a football game."
After watching the tape, how dominant was DT Haloti Ngata and does it make a coach go to Ozzie Newsome and say, "Hey, give this guy a contract?" "No, I stay out of that. Hey, I'm on record, I've already done as much as I can do. The pressure is on. I said we wanted Haloti way back when. I happen to be good friends with Haloti's agent and, of course, very good friends with Ozzie and Steve. So, I'm pulling for both sides." *(laughter) *
Have you decided, with WR/RS David Reed returning, if OLB Michael McAdoo will be put on the practice squad to clear a roster spot? "Well yeah, we'll make a roster move, and I think it will involve Michael. That will be the plan. We'll have to see; there are some issues going on that I'm not at liberty to divulge. But, there will be some sort of a move. (Reporter interjects: 'Not at liberty…') Not at liberty to divulge as this time. Gets you kind of interested. My guess is it will be a little anticlimactic when you hear about it." (laughter)
Did you get to watch any of your brother's (49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh) game? "Yeah, I did. The Red Zone… We didn't have it here, so I had to watch The Red Zone. I was mad when they switched to another game. But, I did see the two kick returns; very proud of the kick returns. I bet 'T' [Tavares] Gooden was out there blocking on those, too. So, that was a great win for Jim. And to be 2-0 as a family is pretty cool. And our nephew, Riley Crean, won his first game as a quarterback; he's in Bloomington, Indiana. So, I guess we're 3-0."
Did you sneak a peek at the Jets last night? "Yes, yes I did. Heck of a football game. Congrats to the Jets. One thing that team does is they find a way to win games. They do a great job of that."
Does WR/RS David Reed come back today or is that Tuesday or Wednesday? "He comes back today. He was in preparation today."
In three years, I've never seen you get your hands up and try to get the crowd in it. It was almost like a college atmosphere. What motivated you to do that? "Well, Kevin [Byrne, senior vice president of public/community relations] can tell you, I've got lots of ideas along these lines. We've had the conversations. We did the whole thing with the fans, and the song and the vote. That was their song. It's been done in soccer games, and I happened to see it in the Michigan game [on Saturday] with the 114,000 [fans], so of course I want those shakers out next time – you know, purple or black or white or something. That's my next suggestions. But to me, it's a fun stadium, you know? I guess, you want the fans to continue to grow that way. We're here to have a great time, man. So, if we get some good music and we get some good football and the fans get into it, [then] the players and coaches love that. So whatever they can do to have a good time and get the crowd going… We're trying that with these new songs, and we've got a great band. They're fun, too. Let's do that. Let's decide to make this far and away the best stadium in the National Football League. That's, to me… I'm inviting the fans to do that, so that's what it was all about. They were pretty willing; we have great fans. It was awesome."
Did FB Vonta Leach's blocking stand out to you the way you envisioned it would when you brought him here? "Back to business, back to football. Vonta's blocking did stand out. He did what he does. We threw him a couple balls in there. The one he batted down on purpose, just for the record. He and I agreed that would be our story. (laughter) He did make a nice catch on the goal line; he just came up a little short. But yeah, he's an all-around player."
Were you surprised that Pittsburgh deferred at the opening coin toss? "No, not at all. With that defense… Not at all. That's strategy. Sometimes you put your defense out there at the beginning of the game, and the thinking is, you put your offense out there at the beginning of the half, on the road, when the crowd might not be quite as loud as they would be at the beginning of the game. With all the emotion of the 9/11 thing and being in our stadium and a home opener… I mean, that's something we're going to have to deal with next week at Tennessee. Nashville is a really tough place to play – one of the toughest in the League. It's going to be their home opener. They've got a young football team. That crowd is going to be really crazy, and we're going to have to deal with the same thing Pittsburgh did in that way."