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Pre-Practice Interview Transcripts: September 4th



Defensive Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach Rex Ryan

On whether the defense is carrying the team: "I don't think that carrying the team is probably the right thing [to say]. This is a football team. We are just one phase of it. We expect to play well this year. We got some nicks here and there, but when we get them all back, this will probably be about as deep of a football team we've had."

On whether NT Kelly Gregg will be ready to play in the season opener: "I'm hoping. You're always hopeful that Kelly [Gregg] can play. It's important now. People don't really notice him until he's not in there, and then you're definitely going to notice him. But we have some outstanding players behind Kelly, Justin Bannan, and then we picked up Marques Douglas. We're hoping that those guys can fill the void if Kelly's not ready to play."

On the differences between Bengals RB Chris Perry and former Bengals RB Rudi Johnson: "Chris Perry, I think, is probably a better receiver than Rudi was. I liked Rudi Johnson. I thought he ran hard and was a good back. I think that Chris Perry is the same kind guy. He just talks a little more. He's a better receiver."

On whether Perry will be difficult to scout since he hasn't played a game since 2006: "No, not really. We saw him during the preseason. He ran hard and ran a couple guys over. So, we'll see what he's got."

On how convenient it is to have former Ravens DE Marques Douglas and CB Evan Oglesby back on defense:"It's good. I think when everything else is equal, you always take a guy that you're familiar with. Those guys are hard-playing guys. Those guys are Ravens. We're loyal to Ravens."

On how big of an impact Bengals FB Jeremi Johnson's absence will have for Sunday: "Not quite as big. I think 300 pounds less. That's an unfortunate thing, as a young man, with his leg injury and things. I liked him. I think he's a good player. He's definitely a presence back there. So, they will put the [Daniel] Coats kid in and whoever back there. It's going to be Bengals versus Ravens. Bring it on, whoever it is."

On Bengals' new TE Ben Utecht: "He's been featured quite a bit. We're familiar with him, having played for the Colts for awhile. He's a good receiver. He runs good routes, has great hands and is big target at 6-foot-6. He's definitely a guy we have to account for."

On if he takes offense to predictions that the team will end the season below .500: "Proof is going to be in the pudding. People can predict us at six wins. Last year they had us going 13 or 14 wins. So, hopefully, we can flip it. This is a prideful group of guys. I'm not going to sit here and lie to you and say it doesn't bother us. Sure it does. We mark them down and know who makes what predictions. We will hold you accountable, as well."

On how difficult it is to play against WR Chad Johnson: "Chad is a great player. He's a great vertical receiver. They have a combination of one of the premier vertical receivers right there – [like the Patriots'] Randy Moss – in Chad Johnson. They've got a great slot receiver in [T.J.] Houshmandzadeh. Those are two outstanding receivers. We want to be physical with anybody we play, but especially those two."

On how much injuries in the secondary will affect the game plan:"Just look at last year, when we weren't healthy. Absolutely, you're not going to just go out there and commit suicide. You've got to change it up a little bit. But we'll be back to playing Raven football."

On how game-ready CB Chris McAlister looks:"We hope Chris is going to be great. Just play like Chris McAlister can play, and we'll take that. If he's healthy, and ready to roll, then I'm sure he'll make a good account of himself."

On what stands out about LB Brendon Ayanbadejo's play:"He flies around and makes plays. Like I told him, I said, 'Shoot, you're going to make us play on defense.' We love the way he runs around and hits people. That's a good combination. I don't know if I'd say he's been a pleasant surprise, but I was surprised a little bit by how effective he was out there."

On whether John Harbaugh was influenced by Bo Schembechler:"You guys see it every day. It's funny. You're going to model yourself after what you're familiar with. His dad, obviously, Jack Harbaugh, is probably the biggest influence on John. He's very similar to what you read in the book about Schembechler, as well. He's just a great coach. He's himself, but he's influenced by who he's been around. You can definitely see Bo there in him."

On S Jim Leonhard:"I'm confident in him. He's a guy that's played some with the Bills. We liked him when he came out of college, where I think he led the nation in punt returns and interceptions. He's a great athlete, won the slam dunk contest [in college] and all that. He just doesn't look the part. He looks like your neighbor, but he can play."

Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron

On the health of the offense:"We're the most healthy that we've been, other than Troy [Smith] being out and Kyle [Boller] being put on Injured Reserve. Our tackles are back. Willis [McGahee] is getting a little bit better every day. That could be, I think, a game-time decision. But we're getting healthier. We're getting better. Obviously, we've got three more days of practice. We've got to get through three days of practice healthy, but we're hopefully putting ourselves in a position where we can just continue to grow and continue to get better."

On whether they game-plan differently for different quarterbacks:"Troy was having a great training camp. Obviously, we didn't show a lot in the games compared to what we would do in practice with Troy. Troy brought a lot to the table, and we're looking forward to getting him back. We do certain things with Troy that he does well and that he's done well for a long time. From this standpoint, now it's all about what Joe [Flacco] does, what Joe does well, in conjunction with the other guys. I've got a good feel now for Ray Rice, Le'Ron [McClain], what they can do. Todd [Heap], boy, it's been nice having Todd back for the last 10 days or so, getting a feel for Todd. I'm getting a little more of a feel for some of these guys. Having Dan Wilcox back has been tremendous for us because he's a football player. We do certain things with each guy. We want every guy involved. It's an offense where we want every guy involved in the game plan, and it's still evolving. Again, there's a big Thursday practice and a Friday staring at us. This game plan is going to continue to evolve."

On if McGahee is moving better:"No doubt. He hasn't practiced a lot. I don't know if it's as much that the knee isn't full strength or maybe he just hasn't practiced a lot. It's probably a combination of the two, but he's getting better every practice. You can see that he's getting close. Whether that'll mean this week or not, I don't know. Obviously, we'll be ready to play without him. We have to be. At the same time, we've all seen him play when he's healthy, and we know he's special."

On whether missing practices hurts a player's execution:"I think in some cases, [it can be] a stumbling block, concern or whatever. I don't have that concern or look at it as a stumbling block because he's so bright. He's an extremely bright football player, and he picks things up quickly. My experience with him has been that once he gets it, he's got it. He doesn't need [instruction] twice. If anything, he comes in with questions. To me, that means he's into it mentally. I don't think we'll have any of those issues. We've just got to get him back healthy [and] get him out here practicing, which now he's starting to do. Once he gets more practices under his belt, there's no doubt in my mind he's going to play well."

On QB Kyle Boller's offseason preparations:"I've been fortunate to be around a lot of quality guys that were also quality workers, and I haven't been around any quarterback that worked harder than Kyle did this offseason. It is unfortunate. You feel for Kyle. He'll have the surgery tomorrow. It's kind of emotional for me because you see the sacrifices he made for all of us. But he'll get through it. We all wanted him to do well, and he was doing well. There's no one that worked harder in this organization getting ready to help this team win than Kyle Boller. I think you could get every guy in the building to back that up."

On whether RB Ray Rice will be used differently based on McGahee's availability:"No, Willis would be a plus, the way I look at it. We're prepared to go in and play well with Ray, given what he's done. With the combination of the line and Lorenzo [Neal], we've got a group that's prepared to go in and play well."

On which downs he plans to feature Rice:"You've worked for the Bengals how long (laughter)? We could just throw it all right out there for you. The thing I would share with you is he's really come around in pass protection in the passing game faster than I ever would've dreamed. Is it game-tested yet? Probably not, but you talk about a three-down back. I feel very comfortable watching and putting Ray in position not only in this game, but throughout the course of the year where he can help us on three downs. Those guys are harder to find than people think."

On how Flacco has absorbed the game plan:"I guess you never really know, but we'll call the plays in this game that he has absorbed. I'm going to continually challenge his mind, try to expand his mind. I continually remind these guys, 'When you come into this league, you're not going to get any taller. In most cases, you don't get any bigger. In most cases, you don't get a lot faster. But your mind can grow at such a rapid rate.' His mind has developed, again, because of all the reps he's getting. He went there 10 days and took every rep the whole day. You could just see him grow. Now, [with] those game reps, he's going to continue to grow, but the game plan will come from what he does know. You don't really finalize that until usually Saturday morning."

On calling the game to help make Flacco comfortable:"Getting a quarterback comfortable is hard. Really, it's almost your ability to function when you aren't comfortable, especially as a young quarterback. Every snap is going to be a growing experience going into this game, especially [against] a defense with a new coordinator [Mike Zimmer] who obviously wants to energize that defense, help energize that team. He's been a guy that's pressured in the past. I think we just take this thing one play at a time and see where Joe's at and where it takes us."

On Cincinnati's defense:"The one thing that was obvious right away is they've made some changes and added some youth. Obviously, in free agency, we'll see how healthy [Antwan] Odom is in this game. But they are young. Like most good, young, up-and-coming defenses, they're going to play hard. They don't stay blocked; they get guys to the football. Those are the things, from an offensive perspective. Schemes, you'd like to think that you're familiar with most of the schemes you're going to see. The thing that's hard to prepare for, it's like going against our guys. You can block them, but they don't stay blocked. That's the thing that I've been impressed with. They play hard. They get guys to the football. They may be blocked, but then they don't stay blocked. You see tremendous effort, and we're going to have to match that effort initially and then see where the game unfolds."

On having QB Casey Bramlet on the practice squad:"I think it's a plus. Again, our philosophy here in all phases is we want guys that know and understand football. Here's a guy who flew in on a red-eye, had a 30-minute walk through, went out on the field, got every quarterback-center exchange and did a relatively good job. [He] played three quarters of a football game and had never practiced with us one down. I think that's what pros do. It can be done. A lot of guys sometimes complicate this thing, but in games you're going to have to make adjustments. The quarterback position is no different. We bring you in, here's the package. Learn it. Know it. It'll be nice to have him, if we have him up in this game as our third."

On the Bengals' defense under Zimmer:"Mike, having known him since he was in Dallas and then watching what he did in Atlanta, I thought he had that defense going in the right direction in Atlanta. Again, I think to me, schemes are schemes. But the special coordinators in this league, as you guys well know, get their guys to play at a higher level, just physically. They take the scheme and make it special through effort and ability to get off blocks. He's doing a good job there. Again, that's what we're going to have to be ready for. The good news for us? We see that kind of effort every day in practice."

Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg

On how the Ravens' special teams have progressed:"I think the guys have been working hard ever since we got here. It's been a long process. We started with our meetings and OTAs (organized team activities) and mini-camps, and so forth, all the way through training camp. I think we've made progress. The real thing starts on Sunday. The day I took this job, I sat with Cam Cameron – and many of you were assembled at that point in time – and we thought we had put a pretty good staff together. Really, the telling point will be Sunday."

On the Bengals' special teams:"I know this team quite well, having been in Cleveland for those years competing against this club and their coach. They have an excellent special teams coach in Darrin Simmons. The basis of their units has been extremely good coverage. They are very sound, and they're tough. They tackle well. It's going to be difficult to have a lot of space to run because they do a real good job of that. Their specialists are also very sound. They're very good. They kick the ball off well. They punt the ball well, get hang time and try to put it in the corner. It's going to be our task to try to find a crease there somewhere."

On giving the offense a short field with rookie QB Joe Flacco starting:"That's really our full-time job. I don't know if it enters into our players' minds [about] who the quarterback is. They're largely thinking that that's what they need to do on a regular basis."

On whether rookie K Steve Hauschka will be active Sunday:"That's still yet to be determined. We're practicing today, and we're going to see how it goes today. We're practicing again tomorrow, and we'll see how it goes tomorrow. That determination will be made by the head coach and Ozzie [Newsome] to find out what the best roster can be for us to win on Sunday."

On LB Brendon Ayanbadejo's special teams performance:"When I coached against him just a few times and watched him on film, I always noticed that he's such an explosive player. He has explosive speed bursts, and he's able to close and make tackles in space. The game that we play, the special teams game, is a game of space. What I've learned since I've had the opportunity to work with Brendon is he's all of that, plus he's very much a leader. He's a very cerebral player. He understands schemes. He understands fits. He understands technique, and he really works at his craft. He studies it and tries to do the little things at a very high level, as well."

On where he's seen the biggest improvement from WR/RS Yamon Figurs:"The biggest change that I've seen in Yamon since my arrival here from what I saw on last year's tape was really the way he approaches the game in general. Without specifics to a return or a particular scheme, I think that he's playing the game with a great deal of toughness. I've seen him playing gunner. I've seen him playing kickoff coverage. I think those things have helped him in the return game. He's now a guy that's going to pour it up in there and not stop his feet before he gets to the crease. He's a guy that is able to change direction at a high speed and not slow down before he changes direction. I think those are the things that I've seen the biggest improvement from Yamon."

On whether any returner has separated himself:"Yamon pretty much separated himself, and you'll see him back there. I can safely say that."

On the team's decision to cut LB Gary Stills:"I think it was tough for everybody in the building. That's the harsh part of this business. Gary Stills leaves us with profound respect. The players that know him and care about that man, we all understand the business we're in, both coaches and players, that those things do happen. Gary can still play, and I was real happy to see that St. Louis picked him up because I know he's going to be a real positive addition to their special teams. Gary knows how to play special teams, and he's such a great teammate. Our young players learned a lot from Gary, both in the classroom and on the field while we were here together. I wish Gary all the best."

On head coach John Harbaugh's leadership style:"Coach Harbaugh is his own man, I would say that. But Coach Harbaugh has drawn from a lot of different people and a lot of different sources to develop his own style. I think the most important thing about Coach Harbaugh is that he's John Harbaugh. He's an everyman, but at the same time he's a leader. He's a very down-to-earth and – I say this complimentary – common, easy-to-relate-to leader. Sometimes, that's difficult for people to do both. In my view, John has mastered the ability to communicate with everybody in the building and everybody on the team, and at the same time stand in front and tell everybody exactly what they need to do. It's a special talent that he has."

RB Ray Rice

On the chance to contribute as a rookie, like QB Joe Flacco:"It's nothing but opportunity. I just came in wanting to contribute. I'm sure they have big plans for Joe [Flacco], and he's going to be the starter right now. But as rookies, we try and embrace opportunity. We just want to embrace what we've been doing. Joe played in a few preseason games. I played in a few, and if we're out there this week, we're just looking forward to getting going."

On performing in his first game:"I can't call it my first game because I played in a few preseason ones. I just want to go out there and put some points up and try to be the best that I can be. If I rush for over 100 yards, it's just one of those things. Anything that happens in that game would be big for me as a rookie."

On how he has developed since the beginning of training camp:"I can feel it. I'm not just out there running plays anymore. I know the schemes of plays. I know where certain plays are supposed to go, and it's not just out there with Xs and Os. I read defenses and everything now. Through more time, I'll get better at all of that stuff."

On the return of RB Willis McGahee:"If Willis is ready to go, he's ready to go. That's one thing I can't control. If he's back and healthy, I think our offense will be a lot better because of what he can contribute to this offense. When he's back, he's back. But if not, when I'm in there, I'm the starter whether I started the game or when I come in the game. I have to take that approach every rep that I get."

On whether his mother will be at Sunday's game:"She'll be there. Most likely, I'm going to try to get my mom to every home game."

RB Willis McGahee

On his knee:"It's pretty good. They're working me in pretty slowly and are making sure everything goes well, making sure I don't aggravate the knee."

On whether he will be playing this week:"That's the plan, but it all depends on how the knee feels on Saturday. If it's not reacting good, then it doesn't make any sense to go out there. But if it's good, then it's a go. So I'd say it's like 50-50."

On whether he will play next week if not this week:"Yes. But I'm looking forward to this week. I'm looking forward to being with my teammates at 1:00 [on Sunday]. That's the whole thing."

On whether he needs more practice time to be prepared:"You've got to be out on the field with the guys to get all the timing right and get the blocking schemes. But you know, that's when you come in and you've got to be a professional. You've got to go out there and adjust to whatever type of environment there is. That's something you have to go out there and do."

On what the issue is with his knee:"Just keeping the swelling down. That's the issue right now. If it keeps swelling up, then we're going to have a problem. But if it doesn't, then we know we're good."

On his running ability right now:"I've been running and doing all that since last week. I could do it today, but you don't want to maybe do it every day. If something is wrong, you aggravate it more."

On the limitations due to the injury:"The injury is not like my first injury where I had to worry about doing this and that. This is just the fact that I had to get back with the team. There was nothing major to it where it was going to stop me from going out and running 100 yards. It was just the swelling and trying to keep that down as much as possible."

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