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Post-Practice Transcripts: August 20th

Head Coach John Harbaugh

Opening statement: "I want to make an announcement. For this game, Troy Smith will be the starter and he will play as much as we need to have him play to see what we need to see. And our thinking on the thing basically is this: Kyle [Boller] has had 42 starts. We have a good idea of who he is and what he's been. He's done a good job at camp. We need to find out more about Troy Smith. He needs those reps with the 'ones,' he needs them against a defense in a third preseason game with a game plan where they're game-planning him a little bit. We want them to know that he's going to be the guy so they will game-plan him a little bit, and we'll see how he does."

On if Smith starting means they will pass more:"I couldn't divulge that information."

On if the plan to start Smith is still a part of the evaluation process to find a regular season starter:"Yes. Absolutely."

On if he would consider taking veteran players' opinions about the QBs into account:"Sure. It depends who the guys are, obviously. You put a little more weight in certain guys over other guys, who have been around and watch the quarterback situation and who've had some experience in the NFL. But we'll listen to everybody. The door's open, and if they have a thought or insight or idea, we'd love to hear it."

On Edgar Jones' move to TE:"We want to give it a little more of a full-blown experiment. We want to give him a week or two in there to see how he does. And he's played well at linebacker; he knows the linebacker position. We feel like we can move him back there at any time and he'll do just fine for us. That's why he's in [No.] 46, because it allows him to play both spots. But we want to see if he can help us at tight end."

On what makes Jones attractive at TE:"Well, he's got those kinds of skills. He's a rangy athlete that can run. From the blocking perspective, we suspect he can do it because he comes off the ball so well on defense, uses his hat and hands, and can push a tight end around. So, we figured we'd maybe flip that around and see how it goes."

On if Jones being able to play both TE and LB would save a roster spot:"The thing about a guy like that, the value you'd have, is a guy who could play, you could say, both ways. But he could be an emergency linebacker and then give you a lot of value on special teams, as well."

On if QB Kyle Boller will play against St. Louis:"We don't know. Right now, I would suspect that Troy would get every opportunity to play a lot. So, as long as those 'ones' are in there, I would suspect Troy would be in there. But, if we're getting a feel for something and feel at some point in time that we want to try something else or go a different direction, then we always have the option to do that in a preseason game. But our plan is for Troy to play with the 'ones,' and then we'll decide if we want to do anything. We may bring Joe [Flacco] in at the end."

On what Smith needs to do to separate himself:"The main thing a quarterback does is he moves the ball and puts points on the board. That's what we'd like to see. There's a lot that goes into that. That can happen, guys can make plays, or guys won't make plays around him, but of course you'd love to see that part of it, as well as running the offense well, which he's done a good job at to this point."

On if players are feeling more pressure to impress as the first round of cuts (Aug. 26) comes closer:"Absolutely. There's a lot at stake for a lot of guys. You all know who they are, and you know where the battles will be. Those guys, this is everything to these guys. And it's really important that all our guys respect that, and help those guys get ready to go. And that will be the case, also, in the Atlanta game for certain guys, so there's a lot at stake for the guys individually."

On how much of the playbook has been grasped by the offense and Smith:"You'd like to put a percentage on it, but it's not defined like that. I could bore you with a story that I was told one time about Joe Montana. When Montana was, toward the end of his career, in San Francisco, Bill Walsh had left the 49ers and Paul Hackett took over as the offensive coordinator and installed the classic West Coast offense play, which is called 22-z-n. Joe Montana probably knew that play better than anybody on Earth besides Bill Walsh, certainly better than Paul Hackett – and Paul Hackett's the guy who tells the story. When he installed that the very first day of install at training camp, Montana took seven pages of notes on 22-z-n the Paul Hackett way. So have you ever mastered it? I think Troy would be the first to tell you, he's a long way away from knowing any play better than anybody else on Earth, but you're working on football throughout the career, and I hope that's the mindset he takes."

On injuries holding up the implementation of the offense:"I think the issue is the tackles. The tackles missing reps. You install the offense, and then it's incumbent on them to keep up. So mentally, they need to keep up. But, if you're not out there getting the reps – I think Dan Wilcox mentioned this yesterday – where you know it intellectually, but you don't know it from being in the middle of it, [that can be difficult]. And that's what those guys lose, and that makes a difference."

On WR Demetrius Williams:"He's expected to play in the opener, but you know, until we see him out there doing it we won't know for sure."

On if the quarterbacks will still be learning the offense as the regular season goes on:"Yeah, guys are going to be learning the offense for years to come. In reality, from a teaching perspective, that's how you have to look at it. I'm sure that we'll game-plan the stuff they know the best – that puts them in the best position to be successful – and try to run the stuff that we master the most. They're not going to be there with this offense the way we want them to be there for awhile."

On balancing the time it takes to learn the plays:"That's a big part of it. I think that shows up in the way they play – how well they've mastered the offense."

On if he expected the quarterback competition to go this long when he began the head coaching job:"I don't think I really had any expectation. I hate to say it is what it is, because that's cliché. But it kind of is. We think we have three really good quarterbacks who can play quarterback in this league; we really do. And people can debate that all they want, but we've conference-called three of these guys, and I'm excited to see somebody take it over. And they're both trying to do that, and Joe's trying to do that, too. He's pushing the envelope, too. It's going to play out over a long period of time; it's not going to be something that's going to happen tomorrow. It's going to happen up until the opener, and then the truth of the matter is, as we all know, it's going to carry out through the season. And that's great, because competition makes everybody better."

On setting a date for the offense to settle in:"In my mind, that would be an artificial time table. You'd love to put it on there and say, 'Hey, it's going to click for somebody at this date,' but it's going to click when it's going to click. I think we'll all be excited when it happens."

On Flacco's play now that it is known that the starting battle is between Boller and Smith:"I wouldn't say [he is] relaxed. I would say that Joe is more determined than ever. We saw it in him yesterday. He's nursing a little throwing issue here in his side, and he goes out and throws the extra 7-on-7, throws extra balls with Demetrius after. He just goes harder. And, that's what we thought we saw when we drafted him."

On Smith's improvement:"I think it's steady across the board. He's throwing more accurately, there's no question about it. He's handling the offense. He's making the calls in the huddle. As a matter of fact, he's pretty much nailing all the calls right now. That's a part of it. If you see these play calls – there's none of us that could step into that huddle right now and make those calls. We'd freak out, because we've never done it before as quarterbacks, and that's an important thing. The ball handling stuff, the stuff we're putting in with the boots and the waggles and all the stuff he does well. I think you see that stuff inch by inch get better all the time."

On not relying on one unit to carry the team:"You know to me that's a really easy place to go, but I think everybody carries each other. We're expecting the offense to carry the defense. We're expecting the defense to carry the offense. We're expecting special teams to carry both teams, and we're not willing to say that one side is going to carry the other side. Our expectation is way higher than that."

QB Troy Smith

On if the coaching staff has had confidence in him:"I hope so. They definitely showed that they have confidence in everybody. Kyle Boller has come out and done incredible things. So has Joe Flacco, stepping into the situation and trying to get a win. Every player has confidence in themselves, and I just want to continue to work."

On if he was surprised to be named the starter this weekend:"No, and I say that because I am confident in what I can do and what I will do. Offensively, we've set some goals, and hopefully we can achieve them. A lot of times in football, the game can go either way, so you've got to give the other team credit. But we set out offensively to do some things. We want to win this game."

On what he wants to show the coaching staff:"I can't try to pinpoint just one or two things. Obviously, being a young player, I haven't had that much time on the field. That has come into play, but I'm very thankful for the situation and the opportunity, and grateful for everything that is to come."

On getting more opportunities to pass:"The funny thing about it is that Cam Cameron sat us all down and he put a couple numbers on the chalkboard. It was two identical numbers – 51. He talked about a guy that he had coached in the past that had 51 times where he threw the ball in one game and 51 times that he handed it off. So whichever comes up in a game that we have to do, whether it be a ton of passes or not that many passes, that's what it's going to take to win the game. We want to perfect the game plan as much as possible."

On making the most of his opportunities when they arise:"It will come. Anytime you step into a situation where passes are going to be in the game plan, you want to hit them all, but this is not a perfect game. Nothing is perfect when you get out there on the football field. It's not the chalkboard. I can draw things up in different ways and show you how to beat defenses, but once you get out there on the field, the guys are not going to be in the same places. Timing comes in there, knowing your guys, all of the above. But this is the preseason. We still have a long way to go – a long way."

On whether this is his best chance to earn the starting role:"It's been written a couple times that last week was my best chance, so obviously you guys have better insight than I do. Chances are going to come. Opportunities are going to come. I have to make the best of them."

On if he likes the pressure of competing for the job:"I can't say that it's pressure. My whole career, whether it was in high school or in college, has been pretty much a situation to where it's been myself and somebody else competing for a job as teammates. It's definitely not a situation where we're trying to separate one another that way. I have two incredible teammates in Kyle Boller and Joe Flacco. We're going to help each other through this process."

On his biggest strength as a QB:"I'm kind of hard on myself. There's no doubt in my mind that as a quarterback decision-making is everything. Because as a quarterback, you put yourself and you put your team into situations where the crucial decisions that you make shape the game. So definitely with me, the biggest part is my decision-making."

On his positive attributes that could make him the regular-season starter:"I've talked about it time and time again. I always try to give back to my teammates. I don't believe that it is just any one thing that I do. There are 10 other guys on the field when it comes to offense, and special teams is incredible, the defense is incredible, and everybody collectively is going to have to win. It doesn't just have anything to do with me."

On how he can improve:"Probably just paying a little more attention to detail. As a youngster, you step into this incredible facility, this incredible city, and you are, at times, in awe. Hopefully, that is out of my system, and now it's time to become an incredible professional quarterback. When you label yourself as a professional, so many other things come along with it, and I understand that and I have to embody myself to be that – a professional."

On if he can relate winning a Heisman Trophy to his current experiences:"I can't. That is a totally different situation. I think the people in Ohio and at the Ohio State University in Columbus are incredible, but this is an incredible situation too. There's no way that you can try to put that on the same playing field, because it's not the same. Once I step foot into this building, that Heisman Trophy is out the door, and that's the way I treat it."

On the meaning of "commanding the huddle":"It means a lot. You step into a game, and I'd be a liar if I told you that everybody agrees with every play call, but as a quarterback you have to have an understanding that every play call could be that play that breaks the game open. Whether it be an inside-zone running play or a deep-down-the-field throw, every play, to me, has the same kind of significance and importance."

On how he will be a successful at what he's trying to accomplish:"I was talking with Le'Ron McClain the other day, and we talked about the importance of this offense, the importance of this team and the importance of the city. And I told him it's just like where he was at Alabama, and he was fighting for the [starting fullback] position, and then he became the guy. He had to take that dead serious, and so do we. So when you talk about the Heisman Trophy, I had to take that serious back then. But I set foot on that campus not thinking that I was going to win a Heisman Trophy, not thinking that I was one day, eventually, going to have a chance to get my number retired. None of that came about [early on]. Being humble, staying the course and working hard got me to where I was at Ohio State."

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