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Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 28

"OK, good seeing everybody. We had a chance, obviously, to study the game thoroughly, a chance to have the players in here, met with the players – special teams, team and offense and defense. And, it's just been thoroughly evaluated, up and down, sideways, and at the same time, it's time to move on for us. As a football team, we've got to move on. We've got to take the good and build on it, take the things that are causing us problems and eliminate them, or improve them, or whatever the case may be in every situation, and become a better football team for next week, which is what we intend to do. The thing that was encouraging, I think the thing that you kind of work through as a coach, and as a player, when we watch that tape, there are so many really good things that our football team is doing. And just man for man, matchup for matchup, guy on guy, unit on unit – that's what we'll be able to build on. And you look at the stats, and the numbers pretty much tell that story, too. So, we'll build on those things, and the things that are the obvious issues are the things that we're going to have to get corrected. We acknowledge what they are; we know what they are. They're pretty straight forward, and we need to get them straightened out."

Did this loss irritate you more than others, given all of the positive things done in the game?

"You know, it's a good question. You hate to put a measuring stick on irritation, but it was irritating, and I think all of us felt that. You know, I think you guys felt it. I felt that you guys felt it in the press conference last night. We played so well, we played too well, in so many ways for the outcome to be what it was. Why was the outcome what it was? Well, it was our doing. It was penalties, and basically, as you put it, missed opportunities. But those are things that we can fix. But we need to make a determination to change them. As a football team, coaches and players, recognize what they are. So many of those things we felt we had a handle on, and so many penalty issues that have come up throughout the course of the year, we have gotten a handle on. But a couple ones came up yesterday that just shouldn't happen, and if we acknowledge them as a football team and work to get better at it, we can get that stuff fixed. That should not even be a close game, but we allowed it to be a close game, and we lost it at the end."

Is it lack of vigilance with some of the mental mistakes and penalties, or are guys just not being smart as Tony Dungy has recently commented?

"How do you define smart? Is it IQ [Dungy is] talking about? Is it making a good decision, a choice, in a critical situation? I think that's what he's saying. To me there are two penalties that come up that are the avoidable penalties, the penalties that should not happen. There are going to be penalties when you play aggressive. You play a game like this, they're going to call a hold here, they're going to call something there. But, the penalties that are technique related... In other words, when not good technique leads to being not in great position, and therefore you hold a guy, or something along those lines. And that's bad. That's our responsibility, and that came up in the game. And the second one is when you make a choice in a critical situation – a late hit, a block in the back. Those are black and white. It's tough because it's moving fast, but it's a choice that you have to make, and I think that's what Tony is talking to. Those have got to be eliminated. That decision making has got to be better, and it has been for a number of games. It wasn't this game, and we need to get it corrected."

Is it too late to change team discipline regarding penalties in Week 17, and have you thought about how you will address it in the offseason?

"I think it's a great question, but we're not at the end of the road with that. To me, it's all part of that process of becoming the team you're going to become, and it's back and forth and it's up and down. It's not like a linear deal. So, we work in all the different areas that go into being a good football team across the board – playing disciplined pass defense or getting on the right guys in the run blocking game, whatever those things are. And the penalty issues, we had pass interference penalties for a couple weeks there that really hurt us, and we've worked through those things from a technique perspective. I think our secondary is playing tremendously well, and the pass defense has reflected that. We haven't had pass interference penalties, so to me, you work on everything you can as much as you can. You push everything up as often as you can, and an area that needs to be pushed up are specific penalties that you're talking about. I think in a high-pressure game, like the Steelers game, this is great for us going into this next game that we're going to play, because it's going to be another high-pressure game. In their stadium, with all the history of this rivalry, I think that kind of put us in a position where we made some decisions that we shouldn't make. So, that's something that we've got to focus on. We've got to focus on that, learn from it, and get better from it. So, we take that area and push it up and become the team we're going to be. But you build on all those things we're doing well, and you build on those things you aren't doing well and become the team you can be. To me, it's an ongoing process."

How do you work this week to make sure the team is really ready to play Sunday against a team that has played well against East Coast teams this year?

"I don't think our team… I'm not going to say it's not something that we don't worry about, because you have to be vigilant to those kinds of things. I would be disappointed, I would be surprised, if our team wasn't ready to play. It's just going to be a matter of how well we play, how well we address the things we've got to get better at going into next week, how well we maintain the things we're doing well and improve on them. But our guys know they're going to play a football team that's very dangerous, a football team that has proven they can beat anybody in this league. We're going to their place, and this is their last game of the season. They're going to put their best effort out there, but we've got more at stake. We've got an opportunity to make the playoffs; we've got an opportunity to get in the tournament. To me, that's motivation enough, and I'm sure our guys will be ready."

Have you addressed QB Troy Smith's apparent trade request with Cam Cameron or Ozzie Newsome?

"Right, the report that his agent put out is the one you're referring to? Yeah, Ozzie has informed me of that. I know this: Troy and Ozzie have an unbelievably good relationship, and they talk every single day. I know from a coach's perspective, I want Troy Smith here as long as we can keep Troy Smith here. Troy Smith is a heck of a quarterback, and I know at some point in time, I'm sure he wants to be a starter. But Troy Smith is a Raven, and we're going to try to keep him a Raven as long as we can."

Does review of the game tape support your initial thought that QB Ben Roethlisberger was out of the pocket when CB Frank Walker was called for the illegal conduct penalty?

"No. I would say it was the right call. The call was made earlier than when I thought it was made. I thought it was made later into the play, once he had started to scramble. It was made on the initial release. Frank had position in a two-deep coverage, and the receiver ran into him, and then Frank hooked him. That's what the call was."

Is there anything that really stands out specifically after watching the tape that you feel you can really improve on this week?

"I think it's specific penalties. It's specific penalties that are hurting us. We do a great job as a receiving corps, if you watch our tape, of blocking downfield and springing Ray [Rice] and our other backs for big runs. And, we don't normally hold downfield. So that penalty on Kelley [Washington] was a technique issue. Kelley knows it, and he's got to get that corrected. But all of our receivers have got to work through the technique aspect of downfield blocking so we're not grabbing people outside the pads because we're too high and we're not in a good football position. The decision making in terms of the late hits… We're an aggressive football team like any winning football team is. You're going to have some penalties, but to hit a guy when the play is over is just not smart, as Tony said. We call them foolish penalties. That's a decision. That's a choice. You fix that just like that. You make a decision that it's not going to happen, and we hold our players accountable for it. They hold themselves accountable for it, and we make sure it doesn't happen anymore – as best we can. That's the kind of football team that we want to be and that we need to be if we're going to achieve the things we want to achieve."

When the game ended yesterday, were you aware of the playoff scenario that would put the Ravens in the playoffs with a win next week in Oakland?

"I knew that if Denver lost and whoever else lost that we had to win, and I guess I took a shot that those teams were going to lose and just felt like they would or one of them was going to lose. It turned out that way."

As a coach, is there anything else you can do other than talking to players about aggressive penalties?

"Well, yeah, you can always sit a guy down. It depends on what's best for your team, and it depends on the nature of where the guy is coming from. So, certain players in those situations – when that's their major role and they [commit penalties]… For instance, a special teams guy who is blocking people in the back, that's his major role; he's going to sit. Someone's going to play in front of him. If you take your starting defensive lineman who's in there on a punt return doing a little extra duty, and [he] makes a bad decision, you talk to him about it. And then you're talking about a guy who plays his heart out the whole game and plays extremely well – dominates their front – and makes a bad decision on a punt return play. So, nobody feels worse about it than he does. I know there's been some stuff about he was smiling after the [penalty]. I'm going to tell you what: He was hurting after that deal, and someone comes up and pats him on the back and says, 'You know what, we've got to move on to the next play. It's going to be OK. We'll find a way to win the game.' That's what a guy needs to hear at that moment, and he smiles and he says OK. But, I guarantee you one thing: That guy involved with that play played his heart out but didn't make a smart decision in that moment, and he's got to learn from it. And he will. But we've all got to learn from that mistake, too, as players and coaches."

What was your impression of the pressure you were getting from the defensive line yesterday?

"Talking about some of the things we did well... I thought the defensive line [played well]. We got four sacks; we hurried Ben maybe more than we ever have before, and he had to throw some balls away. He threw a couple of balls in the seats, and he threw a couple of balls into the dirt. We got him on the ground, really, every chance we had to get him on the ground, which was huge. I think the one [time] he was going down and he made the throw over there on the sideline, which was a classic Ben Roethlisberger play. But those are going to happen. That, and I thought the coverage in the secondary was tremendous. They made two plays on us, I guess three plays if you talk about the one that we were offsides on and got back. See, that's an example there of where we can get better. We covered really well. They had a couple of zero cover on the back side of blitzes where they caught Santonio Holmes, and he made some yards and he had the touchdown – that hurt us. But, that can happen when you're a pressure defense. So, we can live with those if we can come back and make the next play. But to jump offsides and put your secondary in jeopardy on a third-and-12? We're better than that. We've got to hold our water, not move until the ball moves, and that scenario, to me, we can easily get better at if we focus on it. And we've got to do that."

Can you think of a better matchup than TE Todd Heap against the Steelers two 5-10 cornerbacks in the red zone?

"Cam [Cameron] and the offensive staff did a great job of game-planning the Steelers' defense. We do more stuff, formationally, than anybody you're going to see in the league, and you guys know that. We're so creative with our unbalance and our motions, and we create matchups that a lot of people aren't able to create. I thought Cam and our offensive coaches did a great job of that, and then Todd went up and made those plays. To see him go up and get those balls is encouraging. He's becoming a playmaker in the red zone again."

Can you talk about the Ravens' offense bouncing back from the midseason slump and being very tough to defend against now?

"In midseason, basically when you look at it, we had slow starts – as you guys pointed out correctly – and we turned the ball over. We turned the ball over, especially in the red zone. So, that's the example of things [that we have changed]. You're not going to go back and say, 'OK, we've got to revamp our whole red zone thinking after the season.' We've got to find a way to get that fixed right now. That's a good example. We've been better in that area. We've started faster, for the most part, but that doesn't guarantee anything next week. So, we've got to keep working."

Did you talk to QB Joe Flacco about what happened with the two timeouts he used in the fourth quarter when he didn't get to the line of scrimmage in time and after the penalty by G Marshal Yanda?

"It goes back to the fact that we do a lot of stuff on offense, and we're going to be in different formations, different personnel groups. There are going to be times that we're not going to be lined up right, and that's the envelope that you push. With a young offense – we've got a bunch of young guys out there – we've got to kind of gauge how we want to do that in terms of how much we want to push the envelope. But, you've got to do that. Against a defense like that you've got to find a way to get matchups and get people open, and you've got to create advantages in the run game against those kind of outside 'backers to create some yards. And I think we're pushing the envelope a little bit. We weren't lined up right, and rather than take a negative play, we took a timeout. One time we didn't take the time out, we ate the penalty because we didn't want to burn the timeout. That's a balancing act, but it's a part of getting better, too. As our guys get better at lining up in these multiple formations, all these unbalanced sets, those things will happen less and less. But they're probably going to happen from time to time. After the one penalty, we scored a touchdown on the next play throwing to Todd. So, I think we got set up, and you have to say it was worth it."

What was your thought process on not calling a timeout at the end of the first half when Pittsburgh had the ball on 3rd down?

"The idea was to save the timeout and make sure that we got them stopped on the next play before I called the timeout. That was my choice, because there was a chance with Ben Roethlisberger that they were going to complete a pass, and all you've done is give them 30 more seconds to go down the field on you, which they ended up doing. So the idea was: 'Let's hold the timeout, make sure we get the ball back, and we can use it on offense if we need to, and we still would have had enough time.' Because they were backed up, the punt would have gone to the 50 [-yard line]."

How impressed were you with RB Jalen Parmele returning kicks?

"Jalen, on the kick returns, was very good. He's a north/south [runner]. He's physical, as you saw. He's got a little bit of speed. So, it's good to see a guy step up. Lardarius [Webb] was doing well with that, but Jalen has been working hard all year. I think he's a threat. He's going to do a good job for us."

How much tougher is this weekend going to be with traveling to the West Coast?

"Well, it's an issue. A West Coast trip is definitely an issue. We've got a West Coast way of doing things. We did it in San Diego, and it will be the same format as San Diego. It worked pretty well out there, but it's kind of a tried and true formula that people have used for years, and that's what we'll do."

Are you going to leave on Friday?


Is it tougher for T Jared Gaither to come back from his foot injury because of his size?

"That's a good question – probably more so for the doctors. I guess I would assume, as you would, that there is because there is more weight on the foot. But he's been in a boot to take the load off the foot. He looks good. He was probably close [to playing] on Sunday, but he wasn't 100 percent by any stretch, and he hasn't practiced. So, we thought it was better to bring Tony Moll up and have him be the backup for us."

Did you override S Ed Reed's decision to play on Sunday?

"No. Ed and I had a conversation. He tried to go. He didn't feel like he could go, and I didn't feel like he could go based on what he said about the workout he had. So no, that's not true."

Is Reed's injury hip-related or groin-related?

"It's a groin."

What was your reaction when Indianapolis pulled its starters from the game against the Jets early on?

"Well, I didn't see it because I was on the plane. When then they pulled their guys… I guess I saw it when I get home after the fact, so I didn't have any reaction. Our situation is what it is. We have to take care of what we're doing, and the Colts have to do what they have to do to take care of what they were doing. So, it's understandable."

Are there any positives coming out of having all the young guys play in these close games that have a lot of meaning?

"Oh, yeah. I guess that's kind of a multi-question there, but with all the young guys, it's great to get these guys playing. They're going to get a lot of experience, but the positive is this year. Here we are sitting with a chance to earn our way in the playoffs with a victory. It's going to be a West Coast trip. It's going to be against a very physical Oakland Raider team. It's going to be a lot of challenges for us, but we can do it, and then we're in the tournament. Then when you're in the tournament, anything is possible. I happen to think, and I tried to say this last night – I probably didn't say it very well – but I happen to think that we have the makings of a very good football team. We do a lot of things really well. And that's where you stand on the podium and when you're proud of so many things, but it's hard to express because we just lost. That's the thing you get excited about because that's where we're going to go. The other things, the things that you guys were talking about that are so disappointing that kind of stick in our gut too and our craw – we acknowledge. Let's get those thing worked out, let's go to work, and let's get better in those areas. Let's make better decisions in critical situations. Let's get those penalties down where they belong, which are at three or four a game at the most, and see what kind of team we can be. That's what we've got to get done as a team."

Can you compare your personal mindset and your excitement for the team this year to your mindset last year as a rookie head coach?

"That's an interesting question. I would say [I'm] every bit as excited about the team – more excited about the team and our chances. Last year, we were all going through it for the first time. Every day was a new day. This year, I think we're creating the vision among our team of what kind of team we want to become. Everybody in this room right now has a clear picture of what kind of team that we are going to become and are in the process of becoming. That makes everybody a little more efficient in getting there. Let's get there now. So, I'm excited about our chances. We take care of business at Oakland, get ourselves in the playoffs, and we can win the National Championship. That's our goal, and we're capable of doing it. But it's up to us to get it done."

How do you prepare for the two possible teams [Cincinnati and New England] that you could play in the playoffs while being ready to go against Oakland?

"Well, that's what we do every week, except this week is double duty. So instead of working the advance on our next opponent, we'll be working our advance on our potential next two opponents. Obviously, we have a good handle on both of those teams because we've played them already this year, but there are new things that they're doing, too. So, our advance group of coaches who do that work are working on that right now."

How comfortable are you playing guys that you're just not sure about, since you haven't seen them in practice?

"I think that's a great point about a guy playing with an injury or playing without practice and all that. It's case by case. In certain situations, guys weren't able to practice during the week, but they've been playing, and you're comfortable that they can go out there and play well and not hurt themselves any more. Other guys who haven't practiced for three or four weeks and haven't played for three or four weeks and are getting to the cusp of being back from injury, there's a chance of another injury. If you haven't seen them at practice, and they haven't burst or run, you put them out there, and all of a sudden they burst and run to go make a play because they're not thinking at that point, they're reacting, and reinjure it. Then you've done more damage than you've done good. And the question of how well they're going to play… But certain guys, you talk about a guy like Ed Reed, he can go play. He can go play well without practice. He's had all this experience, all these reps. He capable. He doesn't need the practice to play well. But, you worry about the re-injury part of it, and he worries about that. So, you want to test it a little bit before he goes back and plays. We'll just have to see how that works out this week. Other guys… Jarret Johnson hasn't practiced a lot, but he's been in games every week, so you feel good about him."

Can you go back to the leaving on Friday? You talked about there being a tried and true formula. What are some of the specifics about leaving a day earlier than normal, the good and the bad?

"The bad is guys aren't home. Guys kind of get out of their routine. They don't have a chance to go home to their families on Friday night, coaches and players. They're not here on Saturday. They don't get Saturday afternoon time at home, and then are back at the hotel on Sunday. But the positive is you get a little bit accustomed to the time, and you don't travel the day before. The travel for the athlete, that six-hour flight, it takes a little bit out of you as an athlete. The chance to recover from that flight is important. If you get out there a day early, you get a chance to do that. You get somewhat accustomed to the time, but I think the good thing is for the East Coast teams going to the West Coast is it's not an issue where you're playing earlier than your mental clock says you should play. We're playing a 1 o'clock game out there, which is like a 4 o'clock game for us, which we play all the time. What we'll do, we'll leave on Friday evening, we'll get out there, they'll have dinner on their own, they'll have a curfew. We'll get up Saturday morning, we'll have our normal Saturday routine. It'll be on West Coast time, so they'll get a chance, basically, to sleep in from the flight, but it will be a morning and early afternoon work day. We'll have our normal practice that we have. We'll find a spot out there to practice. They'll have the afternoon at the hotel, we'll have our normal Saturday night meetings, and then our Sunday schedule will be our normal game day schedule. You try to get them the basic routine that you have at home or anywhere else."

What has CB Domonique Foxworth specifically improved on, and how big is that considering the injuries in the secondary?

"Domonique, I think, he would tell you this: He's a better technician than he was at any time in his career, and that's a credit to Domonique's work and a credit to Chuck Pagano's coaching. He's a student of the game. He takes those guys and works with them all the time, but his technique is really good. He's always been a good athlete. He's got good feet. He's got good ball skills. I think that's the biggest difference."

What does RB Ray Rice's tape tell you about his progress, and can you put that in perspective going against the Raiders?

"Ray gets better all the time. I think he's strong because he's had a whole offseason in the program where he's lifted and trained here. He's had a whole training camp with us. He's taken a lot of reps throughout the course of the season, so to me, Ray's just getting stronger as the season goes on."

The cameras caught you giving Rice a hug and saying something to him in the second half of the Steelers game. Do you remember what you said or your thoughts after he was piling up all those yards against the NFL's top rushing defense?

"I don't. I remember the hug, but I love the guy. And we've got a lot of guys like Ray Rice. I think our team is moving in the direction of having those kinds of people. Ray's a competitor, and in a game like that, he's a guy that you kind of feel good about having the ball in his hands."

After being with the Ravens for almost two seasons now, you have yet to lose to a team with a losing record. What's your mentality going into those games?

"That's a tough one. I don't know. I think what we do is the same thing we always do, which is try to get ourselves as ready as we [can to] play the next game. The Raiders certainly have a losing record, but the Raiders are a very good football team, as evidenced by who they've beaten and where they've beaten them. And they're one of the most physical teams in the National Football League. Just watch them play. They've got big, fast, hardnosed guys, and our guys will watch the tape, and they'll be ready to play. There's so much at stake. I don't know the ramifications of what the records are against different teams with different records. We try to do the best we can every week. Sometimes we do better than other times, but we've got to win this game. Then we can talk about playing teams with winning records. That will be our next challenge." (laughter)

You don't get asked too many questions about the kicking game now. Could you just talk about how K Billy Cundiff has come in and silenced all that?

"That's great. Thank you for asking that question. It's amazing all the kicking game questions that the ol' special teams coach gets when things aren't going too well."

I could talk about the long snaps right now…

"Yeah, you could. I think Billy, obviously, solidified us. Even on the kicks he's missed, the short kicks he's missed, there has been a snap issue, and we understand that. We've got a little injury thing going on with Matt [Katula], and he's working through that. But Billy's kicking off very well, and he's kicking field goals really well. Billy's a mature… Billy's been around. Billy's been on the street. Billy's had great success early in his career. He was one of these guys that was going to be a star when he was in Dallas early on. [He] ad some injuries, got bumped around, got beat up a little bit, and now he's back. I think Jerry [Rosburg] and Randy Brown have done a good job with some of his technique things, and he's kicking well. We'll see, long-term-wise, but I've got high hopes for Billy. I think the special teams are playing… We're one of the top-ranked special teams in the league right now, if you look at all of the stat categories. There are areas we can get better at, but our guys are playing well. We've got our hands full, though, because of the injuries. Some guys who haven't been playing now are playing on special teams, and now they've got to come in and play well. I think that happened a little bit on the kick return that got out. Guys were learning on the run. All in all, they've played well, very well."

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