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Pre-Practice Transcripts: August 25th

Head Coach John Harbaugh

On the quarterback situation:"We would like to define it. It would be great to define it. But, right now, Kyle [Boller] has got the shoulder issue that he had two days before the game. And we thought he'd be able to throw in the game, but got out in the pre-game and he couldn't really throw. He's going to throw lightly today – all passes under 20 yards – to see how it feels. And we'll know more after that. Of course, Troy [Smith] is still sick, so he won't be here today. He's on some sort of antibiotics, I guess. I don't know exactly what it is. But, we expect him to be ready to play in the game, but it's not certain."

On if rookie QB Joe Flacco is back in the starting quarterback competition:"He's in the mix because we have two quarterbacks right now, who aren't able to practice today. So, Joe's going to take all the reps. I don't think it's changed. The big picture hasn't changed dramatically in the sense that he's still a rookie, and we've got two guys who were ahead of him going into the situation that came up right before the game. That's kind of where we're at."

On if Flacco would start against Atlanta if QB Troy Smith was unable to:"If Troy's not well enough, and Kyle isn't well enough to throw, then of course Joe is going to go. But we would like for those two guys to get in the game."* *

On when a decision about a starting quarterback for Thursday's game would be made:"We'd be open until right up until game time with those guys. They've practiced all through camp, so we need to look at Troy. I don't think that's changed from what we talked about last week. We need to find out more about Troy, so if Troy can go he's going to play a lot in the game. Kyle is still very viable in the mix. He's had really good practices all through training camp, and we'd like to play him also in the game. Joe got the whole game, so he got the kind of reps we were hoping to get him through training camp. But if it works out where one or both of those guys can't go, it's going to add reps onto Joe."

On if Smith is being evaluated and how much other offensive starters will play:"We're in a unique situation because our starting offensive line is so young, and you have two tackles that haven't played. Those two tackles, they need to play anyway, so they're going to play a significant amount of time in this game. And we want our whole offensive line together, even though those [veteran] guys have played a lot. I don't think it makes a lot of sense to break up an offensive line when you've got a quarterback in there who's fighting for a job. So we'll probably play the offensive line as much as we play at least one of the quarterbacks and just take it from there. We haven't worked out exactly what reps or what quarters guys will play until we see who's going to be able to play."

On if the short week factors into a decision of which starters play:"No, it can't. We'd like for it to happen, but it can't."

On what he can evaluate from Flacco's play against St. Louis:"The curve for Joe has been pretty dramatic. The positive thing about Joe, when you look at it, I guess you go back to the very first practice, and then you go to the New England game, and you just kind of compare them to last week. He's operating the offense pretty effectively, and the offense is operating pretty effectively. Now, making plays, getting first downs, scoring points, doing all the things that you have to do to win games on offense in the NFL, that's something that still has to be accomplished. That's the final product. But, being in position to do that, he's done a really good job of that, so I think he's progressing really well."

On how long Smith would play against Atlanta, if he plays:"I think that remains to be seen. I hate to put a number on it, but I'd say at least a quarter and a half, and we'll take it from there."

On Smith's illness:"They described it to me as a tonsil issue. They say it's tonsillitis. I don't know. But it's some issue with the tonsil, and that's as far as I know. [Senior VP of PR Kevin Byrne: "Tests call it a viral illness."]

On whether he can confirm if Smith still has his tonsils: "He has his tonsils. I can say that I am 90 percent sure because one is swollen."

On whether the quarterback situation has been a hindrance to the team: "I don't want to say it's been hindering us moving forward because you just move forward. You take the situation as it is and you attack it every single day. As coaches, what we tend to do is take for granted how far we've come and we say that we need to get this next thing accomplished. That's where we are at. Where we're at is where we're at, and we just have to get the next thing accomplished. To say that we had a schedule or had a pace, I don't know that we did. I think we are just trying to get better every day."

On if he is pleased with special teams: "No. We can play better in that area. I'm really pleased with how they are playing. I'm not any more pleased with the special teams, honestly, not any more pleased with the special teams than the offense or the defense. Now the results on the special teams have been better. Maybe we've come further as far as doing the kinds of things that you do to win games at that stage. There are a hundred little things that we have to get better on at special teams, too, and these guys know that."

On whether other players are concerned about the quarterback situation: "I hope not. I would hope that they are focused on being the very best that they can be and let the quarterback thing take care of itself. There's nothing they can do about it anyway, other than support whoever is out there and play well for them."

On how the cornerbacks and CB Chris McAlister are doing: "Chris practiced on the walk-through here this morning, and he's going to work to some extent today in practice. So, he's working to get back, and we will just have to see how his knee responds to it. Samari Rolle looks good. Fabian Washington has a hamstring tweak, so we are going to give him a rest for a couple of days here and see how that progresses."

On whether CB Derrick Martin will play the last preseason game: "Derrick Martin will not play."

On TEs Edgar Jones and Daniel Wilcox's play against St. Louis: "Edgar made a couple catches. He did some good things as a tight end. He's probably ahead of schedule. Dan Wilcox was a bright light. To see him go out there and push people was great. The thing about that injury, from what I understand, is what he is working with is very painful. Some things you just have to push through. He did a great job of fighting through that and played pretty well."

On how much playing time the defensive starters will see against Atlanta: "Well, I think that the defense, as far as repetition and playing time, is pretty much on schedule. Now there are a couple guys that haven't been out there that might play a little bit. Haloti [Ngata] might play a little bit. But those guys are probably on a more normal preseason schedule."

On how close T Jared Gaither is to coming back: "Jared is going to practice today. So, it will be interesting to see how he does and how he feels after practice."

On what areas he hopes the team improves the most during the Atlanta game: "That's a really big question. We want to get better. It's a bunch of individual, little snapshots. Jared Gaither just got brought up.* *We want Jared to play a certain number of game reps and develop as an offensive lineman, but also see how the ankle holds up and make the ankle stronger. So, I think that if you take every player individually, that's what we are trying to get done."

On if he thinks Gaither will be ready for the season opener:"Yeah, if there's no setback then he should be ready for opening day."

On how difficult the process is to narrow the roster to 53: "We talk about it every day, the coaches and I do. It's going to be hard because we have a bunch of guys that really worked hard and can play in the NFL. But there are going to be some guys who are going to be here. It's not going to be hard in the sense that we are going to pick the guys that give us the best chance at being successful, our strongest 53-man roster, and it won't be over that. We are going to keep working to get better throughout the season and on into the draft, and free agency and everything else. It's an ongoing process."

On if it's been tough to handle a difficult quarterback situation as a rookie head coach: "Is it ever smooth? I mean, that's one thing that nobody ever promised with coaching football and being in the NFL. I would say it's probably the same with your jobs. It's never smooth, it's never easy. It is exciting, it is challenging, and we can't wait for practice today."

On FB Le'Ron McClain's game on Saturday:"Le'Ron was excited. Le'Ron didn't want to come out of the game. That happens for a running back when he's getting the ball. He was excited, and it looked good."

On rookie RB Ray Rice:"We were hopeful that Ray would be a viable complement to Willis [McGahee], and now that Willis hasn't been able to go, Ray has probably proven, at least in the preseason, that he can be the guy. So, that's a huge upside for us going into the season."

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