"Good to see everybody. Congratulations to our Pro Bowl winners. It's well-earned, and it's really, the way we look at it, a team accomplishment. I think all the guys would tell you that when they make any kind of individual achievement like that, the guys around them had so much to do with it. So, in our opinion, it's a team achievement. We're proud of those guys, and we're very happy for them."
On if there are other players he wished would have made the Pro Bowl:"Well, there are always guys. I could name guys. I think you guys have probably already done that. But, we have a lot of good football players, a lot of guys who would be deserving of that."
On if he will give the team the "just win, baby" speech this week with a chance at the playoffs on the line:"Well, it is what you play for. It's a great opportunity, and our guys understand the opportunity and what's at stake, and we've been focused, and we're going to work hard this week to get it done."
On if it's even necessary to remind the team of the importance of winning against Oakland:"You mean as far as that we have to win? No. What we have to talk about are the things that we have to do to become a better team. To me, this is a very consistent thing. It starts the first day of the offseason program, it carries through the OTAs, it carries through training camp, it carries through the season. You do everything you can do on any given day to be the very best player, coach [and] team that you can be. And through the course of that – the ups and downs – the challenges of that, things come up, things that you're proud of and things that you're not proud of. And you keep attacking those things and chasing them and trying to get better at it. The things that we came out of the last week – and really throughout the course of the season, some of the challenges we've had – the things that cost us victories are the things that we need to keep chasing to turn around. And the things that we have done well that have created victories for us and put us in the position to have a chance to play for the playoffs Sunday afternoon are the things we have to keep building on. So, you hear the same thing all the time. But, that's how it is. That's the reality of it, and that's what we're doing."
On FB Le'Ron McClain's new role on the team this year and the fact that he made the Pro Bowl in a new role:"Le'Ron's a fullback. Last year we had another fullback on the roster, which put him in a two-back situation more often carrying the ball, but he still carried the ball quite a bit. But he's demonstrated that he can be a real blocker, too, in this league. He's had games that he's been better than other games, but he's had some really good games – blocking – and he carries the ball well. So, he's a complete fullback, and that's probably what they recognized."
On what he feels makes the Raiders a dangerous football team:"The first thing is their talent. They're very big, very fast, very talented across the board. I love the way they're playing defense. Their secondary is as good as any in the league. Their front seven – they have three top-10 picks in the front four defensive linemen, and their linebackers are very fast and fly around. So, they're dangerous on defense. They've shut people out in the fourth quarter of the games they've won. Offensively, they've got a big, physical offensive line. Their receivers are as big and fast as any in the league. They're a deep threat at all times, and the tight end, Zach Miller, is a Pro Bowl-caliber player. I think he's an alternate. He's kind of their go-to guy. He's a quality football player in every respect, and they have three legitimate running backs – I mean three guys that can bring it and all bring something different to the table as far as their ability. And, they want to run the ball. So, this is a very talented football [team]. Special teams, they've proven they're dangerous there, too, and the punt returner [Johnnie Lee Higgins] had three touchdowns last year. So, that's what we're going against."
On what's most difficult for teams when they have to travel across the country and prepare for a game:"It's just longer travel time. So, we're going to have to go out an extra day early. But we have a routine for that; we understand what that is. I think as much as you can keep guys in a routine, a preparation-type of routine, for football players we prepare better that way. So, that's what we'll do."
On what the Ravens learned about eliminating costly penalties from the game on Sunday in Pittsburgh and how does the team get past that point:"Well, we have to get past it. We've had games where we haven't had those penalties, so we understand how to play that way. And then we've had games that have reared up where we've had those penalties. Sometimes, what's interesting, is that those games have been the most pressure-packed games. Sometimes, maybe in this case, it's the rivalry-type game, and all the things that go into beating a team of that caliber – playing physical, playing hard, good tough football – are the things that sometimes lead to those kinds of penalties. So, we've got to learn to do that. The way we do it is the way we've been talking about: pay attention to detail in terms of technique and you make good decisions in critical, high-pressure situations. And that's our task."
On if he will treat and coach the game on Sunday like it is a playoff game:"Sure, absolutely. It is a playoff game Sunday. We've been in playoff games, I would say, for the last few weeks now, and circumstances have dictated that maybe it didn't turn out to be that way. But going into the game, we've had to win every game for the last four weeks. We didn't win every game, but other people didn't win every game either. It's tough to make the playoffs in the National Football League. It's not like some of these other leagues where most of the teams make the playoffs. So, it's an accomplishment to do it. It's competitive as heck. Teams are going to battle every single week to try to accomplish that. It has come down to this game. So, yeah, it's a playoff game."
On how concerned he is about the penalties and if he's stressed it as a priority this week:"It's been a huge priority, and we're all very concerned about it. We're not happy about it. It's something that I think we all acknowledge has got to be corrected. Our players are determined to do it. They're accountable; they're accountable to do it. We can be the kind of team that we're going to be. We are going to be a certain kind of team. Everybody in this organization understands what we're building here – the type of football team we're becoming. We've seen glimpses of it as we have gone through this process over the last two years. But there's no doubt that the players who are here and who are going to remain here are going to play that kind of football. And our guys are committed to doing that, and the coaches are committed to doing it and all the way through the organization."
On if the coaches review each penalty with the team:"Yeah, we go through every single play all the time. So, each one of those penalties is a specific conversation. Then you categorize them, like we've done with a lot of these answers, and then we have a plan of attack to get them corrected. There are going to be penalties. We're not going to play penalty-free, and some teams are more highly penalized than others, and a lot of those teams are winning football teams. But you can't have penalties that cost you games. You can't have penalties that cost you chunks of yards, that cost you first downs or that cost you points. You just can't do it, and we're not going to do it. We're going to get that corrected."
On if he's seen QB Joe Flacco step up in pressure-filled games in the last part of the season:"Joe's playing well. But we're going to chase better with Joe – and with all of our guys. Joe is a weapon and he's a threat, but he's going to have to play his best football this week."
On whether the struggles this season can be seen as positives that can make the team more focused towards the end:"We look at everything as an opportunity. Everything's an opportunity to improve and become as good as we can be. We're doing so many good things. Always the basic focus when you're not successful is going to be on the things that cost you the last game. So, yeah, we've got to chase those things, but we want to build on all those good things, too. We don't want to lose sight of the things we're doing well. So, you can look at the numbers, you can look at the tape. The number of good things that we did well we're going to build on, and that's who we are as a football team. You knock those other things out, then you can become, maybe, a dominant football team."
On if he feels that he and TE Todd Heap are getting on the same page right now:"Yeah, I think so. I think Todd's a great receiver, and when you get him matched up on guys that give us favorable matchups, then I'm ready to throw him the ball and give him a shot. I think that's what he does a great job of doing. He's done a great job of going up and getting the ball. When he can get his back turned and be in a situation where he's big on little, he does a great job of making a play for us." "Yeah, I think so. I think Todd's a great receiver, and when you get him matched up on guys that give us favorable matchups, then I'm ready to throw him the ball and give him a shot. I think that's what he does a great job of doing. He's done a great job of going up and getting the ball. When he can get his back turned and be in a situation where he's big on little, he does a great job of making a play for us."
On why Heap has only become a target recently:"I don't know. I guess it's just turned out that way. He kind of started off hot with us getting him some touchdowns, and he's had some big games lately, so I think it looks that way. But, I think Todd's played well all season, and it just looks that way because of the touchdowns he's had of late."
On how important it is to get RB Ray Rice the ball as much as possible:"Ray's obviously one of the best players we have, so in order to be successful, it's important to give him the ball. He makes plays, he scores touchdowns, and when you've got a guy that's like that, you've got to makes sure you do all the things you can to give him a chance of getting the ball."
On why Rice fits in so well with the Ravens:"I think all the good players fit in wherever they go. He's a good player, and it's pretty easy to fit in when you're a good player."
On FB Le'Ron McClain and his role as being more of a blocker this season:"He's done a great job. He's a fullback, and he does a great job of blocking and running the ball. He still carries the ball a little bit, and when he's asked to do that, he does a great job of doing it. But more importantly, he pass protects well, and he leads up in the hole for Ray."
On how important it is to get an early lead against Oakland:"It's going to be important to jump up early for us and get off to a quick start, but it's going to be more important to finish the game and make sure we finish these guys off so we can get ourselves a playoff shot. I think starting quickly will be part of that, but these guys have played well down the stretch late in games, and that's why I say we have to make sure we finish."
On what makes Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha so good:"He's big, he's long, he can run. He can't be beaten. He can be beaten, but teams stay away from him a little bit, so I think that's part of why he doesn't really have many interceptions or things like that. We'll attack him smartly, but like I said, I think what makes him good is he reads routes well. But he's long, he's big, he's physical, he's fast. He's got a lot of good attributes."
On if he senses a difference in the players in practice or the locker room because of how important this game is:"No. I think we approach every game the same, and this is just another one of them. The last handful of weeks, we've had a lot of what we looked at as 'must-win' games. This one is just another one of those, so I think we'll approach it the same way and just take the mindset that, like I said, we have to finish off the game and go into the playoffs."
On how much he can use his postseason experience from last year as a building block for this year:"Last year was the same situation [against Jacksonville]. We had to win, and if we won, we were in. We did a good job of going out there and playing fast and finishing good, so I think if we take that same mindset this year, then it should do a good job. I think we've all had the experience. We've all been in playoff games, and we'll definitely carry that into this game."
On if he's thought about his opportunity to break Ravens quarterback records this season:"Not really. I don't even know about those things, really. Probably at the end of the season, I'll look back and maybe be able to take a look at those things, but the most important thing is just going out there and winning football games. You can look at that stuff all you want, but if we go out and win this football game then we'll be in the playoffs for the second-straight year and give ourselves a shot to win the Super Bowl. That's kind of the thing I'm more focusing on right now."
On how he mentally deals with the pressure of playoff games:"I don't think we feel any added pressure because of that. This is just stuff that… We want to play for this. We want games like this. They're a lot of fun to play in. Like I said, we approach it like any other game. It's just as important as any other game on the schedule was this season. We've just got to go out there and have a confident mindset and go out there and play a physical football game."
On if the team's struggles early in the year can be an advantage at the end of the season:"I think that's what you say when you're a team that's not had a great record and still has a shot. But, there is some truth to the fact that we've had a tough road. We've played some tough teams, so we have experience in those types of games. We haven't always come out on the better side of those, but we'll look at those, and we use that as fuel to make sure we do come on the right side in this game and in the upcoming games."
On the most dangerous part of playing a team with nothing to lose:"That is the most dangerous part. But, at the same time, I think we're playing with the same thing. We have nothing to lose, as well. We're just trying to go win another football game to get in the playoffs. The beautiful part about it is we control our own destiny. We're not worrying about this or worrying about that. So, the importance of this game, I think, is very simple for us. Bottom line, we win, we're in. We understand that. We also understand that you never look past [anybody] in this league, and no matter what record they have, this team is very capable of beating a lot of people, as you've seen through the course of this season. For them, I just think it's a couple of consistency [things] here and there, but the bottom line, they have talent everywhere around the board. So for us, our job is just to go do what we do best, and that's just win another football game."
On if Oakland's consistency is the biggest problem:"Yeah, and if you go back, and me just watching film for the last couple of days, the thing you see is, even playing Cleveland this past week – you throw an early interception, you're down 10-zip real quick. So, they get away from their identity, what they start doing, and the game just kind of gets away from them. That's when they're playing really not their style. But, the games that they did win, they played their type of football. They ran the football very well. They had a very minimum turnover ratio and things like that. I just think our job is not to let them get into their rhythm that they're always trying to get into, and that's establishing those three running backs they have because they're different in their own ways, all of them."
On if the message this week is that playoffs are starting early:"I don't think [that] starts this week. I think it's been started. We've been talking about this for a long time, saying, 'Bottom line, you've got to win all the way out.' We knew that. Understanding that is just understanding that this one is the next one that gets everybody back to 0-0. A lot of people are already sitting where they want to be, but we're just trying to get in. Once we get in, it takes care of itself. We've been on that process now for about five or six weeks."
On the mentality of establishing yourself early when facing teams with a losing record and to not let them in the end zone:"That's just a mentality, I think, for every game. Bottom line is you always say if they get in the red zone, if you can give up three instead of seven, that's always the key. Even, like I said… Again, they have so much talent surrounding them. You look at [Sebastian] Janikowski hitting 61-yard field goals. They have the ability to get in the red zone to do some things, so I just think our job is not to let them get momentum. They're going to be playing, and I'm sure their coaches are telling them, 'Why not play spoiler?' you know? Our mentality is the same way: If they're going to go play spoiler, why not take care of our business?"
On how concerned he is with the penalties and if he's talked to the team about them:"Coach [Harbaugh] addressed it. Bottom line is some of them can be corrected, some of them, just keep playing football. Don't even get caught up in it. I kind of spoke about it Sunday. Sometimes you get frustrated and you want to let certain things out, but sometimes just let it go and keep playing football because that's what it's going to boil down to no matter what you do. No matter what you do, you can never play in this game passive. You can never play passive. If it's an aggression penalty, so be it, so be it. But if it's a decision penalty, I just think we have to make smarter decisions on when we make a block, when we don't make a block."
On if it is more important to take a lead on a non-playoff team early before they can feel like they're playing spoiler:"At the same time, I think you just go into it with the mentality to play the full 60 minutes because the bottom line, when you look at the games that they did come back and win, they were down. They were down, and I think that's the more dangerous team, when you have them down and think the game is already won, and then they come back with a couple of big plays here or there. I just think you stay on them for 60 minutes, make it a personal game for 60 minutes. At the end of 60 minutes, then you look up and see where you are. Worrying about jumping out, doing this, doing that… I think just [you] worry about playing a consistent 60 minutes and let the game take care of itself."
On if the Ravens' defense has an advantage in that the Raiders are a one-dimensional offense without Bruce Gradkowski at quarterback:"Yeah, I just think when you look at them, I don't know if it gives us an advantage here or there. But like I said, I think the thing that gives them a disadvantage is how early they make the crucial mistakes – the turnovers and things. Like I said, I just think they love to keep their offense surrounded around their run game. Our job, once again, is just to not let them get their run game started because they're very effective in their run. It's going to be a great challenge for us."
On another trip to the Pro Bowl and if it ever gets old:"It never gets old, it never gets old. It never gets old, because you're respected from a certain level of fans and coaches and players. You have to take that as probably one of the highest honors outside of making it to a Super Bowl, because that's what it's all about. It's about having the respect for your peers in this game. It boils down to, bottom line, is I'm always thankful. God is amazing to keep me healthy. And congratulations to all the Pro Bowlers, definitely, on my team and across this row. But at the same time, the Pro Bowl is good, but there are some bigger things out there that you're looking for as well."
On if there is any way the team overlooks Oakland: "Nope. Even if we were not in this circumstance we wouldn't overlook the Raiders. They're a very good team. Obviously, they're very good on defense. On offense, they've been through their quarterback shuffle. I think they're on their third quarterback now, but they're still playing good. They've beaten some very good teams. So, whether we were in this situation or not, we would not overlook a very good Oakland team, because they've beaten some pretty good teams."
On if there is any way the team overlooks Oakland: "Nope. Even if we were not in this circumstance we wouldn't overlook the Raiders. They're a very good team. Obviously, they're very good on defense. On offense, they've been through their quarterback shuffle. I think they're on their third quarterback now, but they're still playing good. They've beaten some very good teams. So, whether we were in this situation or not, we would not overlook a very good Oakland team, because they've beaten some pretty good teams." "Nope. Even if we were not in this circumstance we wouldn't overlook the Raiders. They're a very good team. Obviously, they're very good on defense. On offense, they've been through their quarterback shuffle. I think they're on their third quarterback now, but they're still playing good. They've beaten some very good teams. So, whether we were in this situation or not, we would not overlook a very good Oakland team, because they've beaten some pretty good teams."
On if he can talk to the fans who are disappointed that he dropped that TD pass:"I don't care. I really don't care. That's over with, man. That's over with. I don't care about a drop. Move on. That's the game of football. I'm going to laugh, I'm going to laugh, and I'm going to laugh. If I drop one, if I drop two, I'm going to laugh. I've done it for 13 years, so I don't give a hell about what other people say. That's basically the way it is. I've had my share of drops, but I've also had my share of big catches. I smile on the big catches; I smile on the drops. That's the way it is. I'm not going to change."
On if there is a reason for the Ravens consistently beating teams with losing records: "No. We prepare each week as if it's a big game regardless of who we're playing or the opponent's record. We prepare the same. So, I think that's why our mentality, or what we've been able to do against teams that don't have winning records – I'm not going to say bad teams because, obviously, every team in this league, in this sport, is good – but you run a team, with losing and all that other stuff – that kind of makes your record what it is. We approach every game as if it's a big game, a must-win game. Fortunately for us, we've been able to take care of business when we needed to, and this week is no different. We've got to go down to Oakland and take care of business. I don't think their record indicates how good they are. Like I said, their defense is one of the top in the NFL, and their offense, they'll play good at times. So we're not going to overlook them. I'm very pleased that we've been able to beat the so-called teams that are not making the playoffs and taking care of business. But Oakland's a very physical team, a very good team. So hopefully, we can go down there and take care of business and come back here and prepare ourselves for, hopefully another week."
On where he ranks Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha among defensive backs:"He must be good, because the guy has one interception and he's making the Pro Bowl. That's a testament to how good he is, because nobody throws to his side. That speaks volumes for one person's ability to cover a wideout. He's good, make no qualms about it. But you have to go in with a game plan, and stick to what you're able to do and be aggressive with that. You have to challenge him, either way it goes, because he's going to challenge you every play. So you can't just let him sit out there and not have to work. You have to be able to take your shots, if there are shots to be taken at him. You've got to take them, and hopefully you make the best of it."
On if there is any advantage to being on a team that has to fight and struggle to make it into the playoffs:"No. I think it's just a mentality. The teams that I've been on that supposedly cruised into the playoffs, we still had the mentality of going out there and dominating teams regardless of what the situation was, and this team is no different. A few years ago when we were 13-3, we did not cruise into the playoffs. We went out there, and we dominated teams toward the end. It's no different this time. Obviously, we win, we're in, and we lose, we're not. But the mentality has to stay the same when you're 13-3 or in our situation, 8-7. You've got to go in there, and you've got to want to dominate the team you're playing."
On if he's talked about avoiding penalties with his teammates: "Definitely. You just try to stay away from penalties. We know, as a team, that it's something that's been hurting us a couple of times in a couple of games. This last game it definitely hurt us, and we've just got to work and try to stay away from getting penalties."
On if it's a technique thing: "Depending on what kind of penalty. With mine, it was just a stupid penalty. I could have just let up, but with me, I'm not really in punt return too often, so I just didn't really see where Chris Carr was and I just kept on going. Depending on what penalty it is… If it's a holding penalty, [that's] definitely a technique thing, and you've just got to work on that. But you've just got to work your technique, keep your mind clear and move on."
On if it feels good to be elected to his first Pro Bowl: "It definitely feels good. It's something I've dreamed of for a long time. Like I said yesterday, it's kind of like a group reward because the guys I've worked – the D-line coach [Clarence Brooks] and D-line guys – it's great that one of us gets to get recognized. We'll have fun, but hopefully I don't get to play in it."
On he knows that the Ravens have a really good record against teams with a losing record: "I had no idea. We just work hard every week and try to get a win. I think our coaches do a great job of preparing us and making sure that we win the games that we're supposed to win. We're just going to work hard this week, and hopefully we can go out there and get a win."
On what concerns him the most about Oakland: "They're a fast team. If you watch them on film, offense and defensively, they're a really fast team. Watching other teams that we played and watching their defense, seeing how fast they run to the ball and how athletic their defensive line is, and their DBs are really good. Watching film today and yesterday on their offense, they have really fast running backs and big O-linemen that can push you around. So, we've definitely have got to do a great job of stopping the run, because that's what they like to do, and then try to make them a one-dimensional team."
On if the struggles at the beginning of the season help as the season goes on: "We just try to win every week. That's what it is. We, as a team, now we know what we're up against and what we have to do to get to the playoffs. We've got to go all-out and get this win, and hopefully we do. Oakland, last year, beat Tampa Bay to get them out of the playoffs, so we've got to make sure that doesn't happen."
On if good teams learn from the small things: "I think you definitely do. Teams, good teams, definitely learn from their past mistakes and work on it, improve and get better and better as the season goes on."
On how much of a challenge it is to go across the country and play: "Myself, I feel fine with it. It seems to hurt some teams sometimes, but I think we do pretty good going cross-country. We'll see how it goes this weekend."
On what's it like sitting on a plane for six hours:"I've got, pretty much, three seats to myself, so it doesn't really matter. Either somebody's going to come take [the seat], or I'll lay my leg on it unless somebody wants to move me." (laughter)
On if he appreciates the fact that his head coach said they can win the Super Bowl: "It's great that your leader is basically saying that we can make it to the top. When you hear everybody around you saying that, you definitely get a vibe and keep going, and we get that feeling that we can make it to the top. It's a great feeling that our coach can feel that and believe that, and that just goes throughout the whole organization."
On how it feels to make the Pro Bowl in his second season: "Well, I always dreamed of playing in the NFL, but this Pro Bowl thing has been quite surreal for me. It's a pleasure, but I've got to give thanks to God, my teammates, coaches and everybody that helped me along the way throughout this whole thing. I never believed that one man's success is achieved alone. Obviously, the help of my teammates and everybody else along the way – even you guys [fans] voting for me – everything else counted. So, we all played a part in it, but on that note, I'm definitely looking forward to Oakland this weekend. We have a task at hand. The Pro Bowl is nice, but if we win, we're in the playoffs."
On how ILB Ray Lewis has helped him this year: "Ray Lewis has been a mentor, a brother to me, and more than anything, a leader. He's a vocal leader, but there's not much he has to say for me to get inspired to do what he has to do. He's a guy that I watch the way he prepares. I watch the way he studies film. You watch the guy, the way he plays the game. If you just take, and I'm on the offensive side, but if you take a little bit of what he does and the way he does it, how can you not be successful? Some guys, they say, 'It's good to be a follower.' But you've got to choose the right people to follow, and eventually you'll become a leader."
On if he has learned anything about himself this year: "This year, what I did learn about myself was I learned that when you put your mind toward something and setting goals, you really can go out there and achieve them. I was a big goal-setter, but this year, when I set them, they were more personal in the sense where I didn't set a goal to interfere with any team goal. The Pro Bowl was not one of my goals. It was more going out there and setting goals that I could look at them each day if I ever felt myself getting off-track and knew that I had a goal. That's what I learned about myself, and it's something I'll use for the rest of my career. When something works, you tweak it a little bit, but you stick to it. You set goals for each season, set goals every day, and as you start checking them off, you start checking them off to new ones after that."
On if any of his offensive linemen have asked for a trip to the Pro Bowl in Miami: "No, they haven't bugged me yet. But without those guys, none of this could be done. I'm sure me and Le'Ron [McClain] are going to have to do something for those guys very soon. I offered to take them out to dinner after I hit 1,000 yards, but I left that at Matt Birk's hand, and he has not got the guys together. So, he can't say that's on me. (laughter) Those guys don't want cheeseburgers. They want steaks. I told them whenever they're ready, we'll put something together."
On if he's sure he's ready for that bill: "For the amount of yards I've got, that bill really doesn't mean anything. It will be all right. It's a good treat."
On if it's tough for players not to overlook teams that are playing at a lower level:"When you play against teams like that, you've got to… Their record really doesn't mean anything in the sense that they might not be going anywhere as a team, but as a player, knowing that these guys have jobs on the line and that they're going to come out and fight like no other – the moral of the story is no matter what their team record is, they're putting out film for 32 teams out there to see. That's when their record really doesn't matter. Schematically, things might be screwed up, but when you look at a team like that, you can't look at their record. You've got to understand that this is a players' business, and these guys are going to come out there and fight. Obviously, when you get a bunch of guys to go out there and fight, good and bad things happen."
On if he has thought about not wanting to play in the Pro Bowl game because of wanting to be in the Super Bowl:"Yeah, that's the No. 1 goal. What's got me to where I'm at is taking day by day, each day. We know we have Oakland next, and obviously, Oakland is the task at hand. The Super Bowl is the ultimate goal. That [picture of the Lombardi] trophy has been sitting in there [on the wall in the practice facility] for a reason. You've got to visualize that. Everything that we've been through, I just feel like we're still it. We've been given a chance each time after time. The Pro Bowl is great, but who wouldn't want to play in the other bowl? That, to me, is one of the best honors in the world. Not too many people can say they have a Super Bowl ring. It's good to win the Pro Bowl and be in involved in it. It's a high honor to be respected by the league, your peers, your fans, but the big goal is the Super Bowl."