As much as NFL coaches like to downplay victories and remain fairly vanilla throughout the football season, head coach John Harbaugh admitted that Sunday's victory over the Cincinnati Bengals was special.
He realized it after a double Gatorade bath in the locker room after the final whistle.
"I want to tell you, that's cold now," he joked in his Monday press conference. "It's a lot colder than it looks, because that was the first.
"For those guys to be around and do that and kind of accept me as a Raven [meant a lot]. That's how I felt, [that] the players were accepting their coach as a Raven and the coaching staff as a whole. That was very meaningful."
But after processing the successful season opener and going through a walk-through, Harbaugh is ready to put the warm-and-fuzzies behind him. It didn't take long before Harbaugh's focus, and that of the entire team, was squared solely on the Houston Texans.
"We brought [the team] in, we watched the tape, we studied the tape, we went out and we walked through and did some correction stuff," the coach noted. "What you really are doing is preparing for next week. You're taking the last game and whatever lessons you can learn from the last game to apply them to the next game."
That also means putting the mistakes of the Cincinnati win in the rearview mirror. There were several things the Ravens need to improve upon heading to Houston, and coaches will work this week to correct them, including nine penalties for 64 yards, or Todd Heap's dropped touchdown pass.
Harbaugh is also hoping for some personal accountability from the players.
"The thing about Todd Heap is that he is his own harshest critic," Harbaugh said of his tight end, who was limited throughout the preseason with a calf injury. "He did a lot of good things that you didn't see out there. His blocking was superb. That's hard to do when you're coming off a no preseason, basically a no contact-type of situation in games.
"He came out there and he did a great job blocking. The pass-catching stuff? That's something you have to do, you get hit and he'll do that."
Moving forward, the Ravens will again start rookie Joe Flacco, who was solid against the Bengals after going 15-of-29 for 129 yards and no interceptions. Flacco also ran for a 38-yard touchdown.
"Our guys were not surprised by the way that [Flacco] handled himself, but certainly by winning the football game and being out there and doing it in real life, the players were excited for him," he stated.
Harbaugh is looking for a marked improvement from the young signal-caller, from the veteran tight end and even from an offensive line that held Cincinnati to no sacks and helped the Ravens rush for 229 total yards.
"The offensive line was physical," he explained. "They came off the ball, they were physical, and they were physical for four quarters. And they can be more physical. There was a period of time in there where they were battling the heat a little bit, but they fought through it and they finished strong."
Even though Harbaugh has only one regular-season game under his belt as a head coach, he already has his eyes set on the future like a veteran leader.
Gregg Getting Ready
Harbaugh said he was hopeful that defensive tackle Kelly Gregg could return to a full workload on the practice field this week.
Gregg, who missed most of the preseason with an injured left knee, participated briefly in practice last Friday, but that was without pads.
"We'll put some pads on this week and see how she feels, and hopefully, I'll get out there," he said after Monday's walk-through. "I thought there might be a chance [to play in Sunday's season opener], but I didn't get out there with pads last week. There's no reason to risk it with the way the guys played."
Cornerback Corey Ivy, who left the game with an ankle sprain, called his injury "moderate," and was looking to practice all week. Meanwhile, Harbaugh told media that a more detailed update on the Ravens' injury situation, which includes linebacker/special teamer Brendon Ayanbadejo (ankle) and Heap (back) will be provided later in the week.
The Ravens' next practice is Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.
Hurricane Ike is headed toward the Gulf Coast, and many weather analysts are predicting it to make landfall in Houston by the time Baltimore arrives for the Texans matchup. But, the retractable roof at Reliant Stadium would be enough for Harbaugh to be OK with the Ravens continuing their trip. "We will travel in there, and I'm sure we'll be under cover in a hotel somewhere," he said. "The game's inside, right? So, we'll be good to go. We'll play."…The hardest part about being a first-time head coach? "Probably the fact that you've got to be involved in all parts of it," explained Harbaugh. "You don't drill deep in any one area. You go off across the board. It's fun to be involved in every part of the game, game management and clock stuff, that's what's biggest for me anyway."