Opening statement: "Good to see everybody. I just want to start off by congratulating the Bengals. It was a great win for them. They earned it. Obviously, a disappointing loss for us and our challenge is on to Minnesota. Obviously, they're 5-0, they're a very good team, very well-coached, talented everywhere, and that's where our focus goes."
What characterizes a Brad Childress-coached team and do you feel he gets enough credit for the success they've had?"I don't know how much credit he does or doesn't get, but I know Brad. I've known him for a long time. He's a great coach. What characterizes a Brad Childress-coached team? It's probably the fact that they are always going to be physical, they are always going to be sound. They play with a very mean streak. They're a mean, nasty team. That's the way they play both sides of the ball. And it's obviously shown up in the results."
After watching the film of yesterday's game, do you feel you could have changed your approach offensively or was your offensive scheme dictated by what the Bengals' defense was able to do?"I'm not even going there. To me, that question, answering that question, would have no value for us. We ran the ball, passed the ball as much as we thought we needed to. We called the defenses that we thought we needed to call [and] the special teams plays we thought we needed to call to win the game, and to look back at it from that perspective publicly has no value for our football team."
Did anything you did in your offensive protection scheme have to do with the absence of T Jared Gaither:"No. We did the same stuff we would do whether he was in there or not."
How do you think rookie T Michael Oher played yesterday?"I thought Michael Oher played well. [There are] a couple of plays he'd like to have back and play better. He'd be the first to tell you that. [There were] plenty of plays he played well."
How does a coach put a 3-2 record in perspective in the long NFL season:"You just put it in perspective. We're 3-2, and it's a long season. The bottom line is this: We make a couple of plays we didn't make, we're 5-0. We don't make a couple of plays in one other game, we're 2-3. That's the nature of the NFL. You have to win games as you go. If you want to be in the hunt, you've got to win games like this, and our guys know that. But no matter what happened in the last couple of weeks, we're still the same team we would have been and everybody would be singing our praises. We're no different. So, all the things that we're trying to become as a football team, those things are intact. We're just as good a team and in some areas we are not as good as we would be either way, and it's our job to become the best team we can be in the next six days, really, because we've got a huge challenge in front of us."
From your coaches' perspective, has the very good Bengals defense gotten significantly better?"It doesn't matter to us. That's all for you guys to look at. How much better the Bengals are, what do we care? The Bengals were good enough to beat us on Sunday. And we weren't good enough to find a way to score enough points to beat them. We'll play them again in three weeks, and we're going to have to find a way to overcome that, that difference, that we found Sunday. And they're going to be getting better between now and the next time we play them. But in the meantime, we've got three or four really important games between us to make sure that we make that game important. And it's going to be our responsibility to do that. So, that's what we look at."
Was it apparent to you on review of the game film that DB Chris Carr's face mask was grabbed, as he claimed after the game?"You can probably see it on TV, all those kinds of plays that came up. We look at all that stuff, and there were plenty of things we saw without in all those situations. Does it matter right now? Does it matter whether Chris Carr was grabbed? It doesn't matter."
How do you get more out of the pass rush going forward?"We pass rush better. Everybody does a better job. We do a better job of coaching, we do a better job of teaching technique, we do a better job of attacking the weaknesses of a protection or an individual pass protection guy, we do a better job of getting to the runners on pressures. All the things that go into pass rush. Those are the things that you try to do to get better, and to me, that's what's relevant. As we go forward here, that's what's relevant to us becoming the kind of football team that we're capable of being on a Sunday afternoon."
WR Derrick Mason stated after the game that he was frustrated that he did not get as involved as he would like to have yesterday or over the past few games and he didn't seem to know why. Is there a reason why he hasn't been getting as many catches lately?"No, no. We're just trying to win a football game. That's what we're trying to do."
Do you see the Bengals focusing on Mason a little bit and trying to take him out of the game?"I'm sure the Bengals focused on Derrick Mason. I'm sure the Vikings will be focusing on Derrick Mason, too. Derrick Mason's a really good player. It's important for us to get all of our guys involved. If one guy's not involved, someone else has got to be involved. You try to attack them where they're not defending. That's the challenge that we have, and as coaches and players, we try to do that. Hey, let me tell you something: If you're a really good player and you're not frustrated, then I'd be wondering what's going on. That's what good players do; that's how they feel after a loss. They want to do everything they can do to help their team win, and that's the way it's supposed to be. So, I kind of expect that from our guys."
RB Willis McGahee is another player who contributed a lot the first few games but hasn't seen as much action the last few weeks. Is there a reason why he has not played as much?"I think Ray [Rice] was playing well. The thing that was interesting about that whole situation, I was down on the sideline with Le'Ron [McClain] and Willis [McGahee], and Ray was playing well, and they were both into it – every play. And when Ray taps, when he gasses, we're ready to go. But Ray is playing well. [Willis and Le'Ron] were supportive of Ray, but those guys want to play, too. We've got three guys. It's hard to get them all in there at the same time. We could run the wishbone, I guess. They're going to be in there and we're going to use all those guys. If we're not successful in one week, it's always going to be [about] who didn't play or who didn't get the ball. And if we are successful, then it's going to be [about] who didn't play and who didn't get the ball. It's always going to be a conversation that we're going to have, and it's fair. But you're going to see plenty of Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McLain and Derrick Mason and all of our guys as weeks go on."
Did you decide to use Chris Carr for the return of the last kickoff because he had more experience after using rookie Lardarius Webb for kickoffs earlier in the game?"We have confidence in both those two guys. Obviously, Lardarius did well, which is good to see. He had a couple up in there really well. But that last one was a situation where we were kind of expecting the squib kick more than we were expecting a deep kick. I think there were about 21, 22 seconds left, and that's often times a squib-kick situation. So we had those two guys positioned for the type of kick we expected, and then they kicked it the other way. The way they kick it to us [determines] who's going to catch it, but they were both back there."
During your time coaching in Philadelphia with Brad Childress, was there anything you learned from him or anything that you taught him?"Yes. The question is was there anything I was able to teach Brad in Philadelphia or was there anything he was able to teach me, right? Yeah, I taught him everything he knows. Just not everything I know. OK, so you're mad at me now, you're mad at me. (laughing) No, hey, I learned a lot from Brad. He's a heck of a coach, and he's got a nice beard. I want to have a beard like that. I'm not striving for the hair. He's a fundamental football coach. He believes in good, sound fundamental football. You watch his team play, and for the last three years, four years that he has been there, that's what he's all about. We kind of come from the Big Ten, both of us, and I'd say we've shared a lot of the same kind of ideas about football over the years. I also can tell you on distance running – we used to go out and run at noon sometimes – he ran me into the ground on a regular basis."
What is the difference in the mindset from when you were 3-0 two weeks ago and now are 3-2? What are the challenges and is it easier to coach at 3-0 or 3-2?"With our guys, I don't think easy and hard is really a good definer of it. I think each of them have their challenges. If we were sitting here at 5-0, there'd be challenges getting their attention in some certain areas. Like we said, we're the same team, basically, at 3-0, or 3-2 and 5-0. Essentially, we've got the same issues and we've got the same things we're doing well. So, because we're 3-0 doesn't mean all those things aren't good about us, but we've still got those things we've got to correct. Maybe they're a little more magnified [or] we have more attention on them. But if we're 5-0, we've got a two-game cushion. We get all that. We understand all that, and we can lament it one way or we can rejoice in the other way, but it really doesn't matter. We have got to win enough football games to win our division and get in the playoffs – whatever those things are – by the end of the season. And that makes Sunday pretty darn important. Last Sunday was really important, too. We wanted to win that game. We didn't get it done. So, whether we had won or lost, our approach would have been the same. All the things we need to get better at, we're going to work really hard to get better at and try to come up with all the things we can to find a way to attack the upcoming opponent – which is very challenging because there are not a lot of holes in this team. But it wouldn't have been any different, no matter what our record is. To me, that's the realistic way you have to look at it. Any other way, it's just distracting."
How would you characterize what LB Jarret Johnson has brought to the defense?"Jarret Johnson? It's great that you brought that up, because he's played great. He's been one of our most steady players. He plays hard. He's always getting pressure on the quarterback. He's tremendous against the run, whether he's over a tight end or off the ball, and he's really solid in pass coverage. He's just a well-rounded player. I can throw some names out there. I think it'd probably be good to do that. You want to talk about guys who are playing well – Ed Reed. Obviously, he had the big play, [but] Ed Reed is playing as good at safety in the last couple of weeks as you can play in terms of leading defense in the back end, playing good, sound fundamental football. I'm just proud of the way he's playing. I'm going to leave guys out, so I hate to start naming guys because guys get left out. Ray Lewis is controlling the middle of the defense as well as it can be controlled. I think our coverage, overall, even though we've had some plays against us, our coverage overall has been really good, it's been really aggressive. There's been a penalty here, they make a play there, all that stuff happens, but we're not changing the way we're playing. We're very aggressive on the coverage part of it. From a coaches' and players' perspective, we're good with that. We're running to the ball, we're playing physical up front. Are there things we want to do better? Sure. We want to cover better. We want to get better pressure on the quarterback. We want to stop the ball better. We want to do all that stuff better, and we work hard to do that. Flip over to the offensive side, I guess I can do the same thing, if you'd be interested. All those things are important."
On the play that was reviewed for a WR Mark Clayton fumble, it appeared that the officials moved the ball back. Did you get an explanation as to why that was?"That's something that, unfortunately, in the chaos of all the stuff, we didn't see it. There were some people in the box who saw it but got it to us before we could do anything about it. We were excited to get our offense back out there and run the next play and stuff like that. The play, we started at the 21 [-yard line], the play went to the 25. That's where the ruling was made. Then we got the ball back at the 20, OK? Then I think we had a penalty, and then they had a penalty. It would have ended up being third-and-five instead of being third-and-10. That will be something that we send in. I'm sure they'll say they messed up on it, and it was unfortunate, I guess, in all the chaos that nobody caught it."
Are you allowed to challenge the spot after the Bengals had just challenged the fumble?"Yeah, we could have challenged that. I'm not sure exactly whether it would have needed to be an official challenge or something we could have just pointed out for them to go take a look at to make sure they had it right. Usually, they have a record of that, and it's up in the press box. If we had asked them to get that right, I'm sure we could have gotten that right in time, but we didn't have any time."
I'm not one to blame the officials, but the play on the punt coverage yesterday looked like the most blatant call of the last couple of weeks. Did you get an explanation that satisfied you on that?"The explanation was that he didn't actually touch him. It's inconclusive on tape, so that's where we're at with that."
The past couple of years the league has really tried to crack down on the helmet-to-helmet hits. Have they talked to you about Ray Lewis' hit on Chad Ochocinco?"The league has done a great job of making it really clear what's legal and not legal for the unprotected player as far as in the discussions with us. There's a strike zone, so to speak. It's basically below the neck and above the knees. I don't expect there to be any repercussions from that. Watching it on TV, I think it was in the strike zone, but I think that's something that I'm sure they'll take a look at, and we'll find out and see. As far as the game and all that kind of stuff, that's a tough call to make either way. That goes to the upper league office on that. We'll see."
Do you have any update on the availability of Gaither for practice this week or the game on Sunday?"We think he's got a real good chance [to play]. We'll see. He's a lot better now than he was going into the game on Sunday. He's been getting rehab pretty much 24-7, so we'll be pushing hard to get him out there."
Have you ever seen the call that was made on DE Trevor Pryce about lining up over the long snapper's helmet?"Well, we know it's a rule. Haven't seen it called, no. And we're very vigilant about the way we line up over the center."
Has it been good for G/T Marshal Yanda to get in to a couple of games?"Yeah, that's the thing. I think we have good depth in our offensive line, and Marshal's obviously been a starter here for most of his career. We look at our offensive line right now like we have six starters. That proved out. Marshal played even better than he did the week before. In that sense, you build depth, and we'd like to build Tony Moll in there. He's done a great job. He's getting better every week, learning what we're doing. He's learned how to play different positions. Oniel Cousins continues to develop, David Hale continues to develop. We think we've got some really good depth on the offensive line. You can't have enough in there, that's for sure."
What is DE Dwan Edwards' story? Is he starting to meet his potential? "Dwan Edwards has played really well. There are some plays, again, that he can play better, but he's playing very well – really good against the run, gets pretty good pressure against the pass. We'll probably need to get him out there more in some of those situations, so we're happy with how he's coming along."
You went with rookie Lardarius Webb for kickoffs for most of the game. The last one you had Chris Carr return it. What was the decision there?"Well, it had to do with the squib. We've had that question already, but I'll be happy to answer it again. (laughing) You were thinking about your next question. The bottom line was we had them both back there, and we kind of expected a squib there. We had them positioned a certain way, and they kicked it deep to Chris."
Do you have any updates on CB Samari Rolle? It's getting close to the time when he can re-join the team."I saw him in the building today, and that will be a report from the doctors we're looking forward to [getting]. We'll see how he's doing."
How much does Minnesota DE Jared Allen impress you?"He's a pretty good player. Without having a scouting report on all their players yet – we're just starting to dig into those guys – I've seen him on TV, I've read the report on him so far that our pro personnel department had. He's one of the all-time pass rushers in the league, plays with a huge motor, loves the game. Their defense is just tremendous, and their defensive coordinator is one of the best in the league, Leslie Frazier. I think their defense has been leading the league in run defense the last three years running. We've got our work cut out for us. This is a really impressive group, well-coached group."
You're getting ready to face RB Adrian Peterson. How much do you think your group will be up for facing him?"I think they'll be up for every aspect of the game. Adrian Peterson is a great player. He can hit a home run from anywhere on the field. It's going to take great team defense to control Adrian Peterson. Are you going to shut a guy like that down? We're going to sure try. We'll see. It's going to take great team defense to control a player like that. And it's not just him. Their offensive line is really physical. They're very technique-sound, and they get after you pretty good. We've got our hands full. Pretty good quarterback, too."
When you say "great team defense," what exactly do you mean?"I think we all have to run to the ball. You can't assume that Adrian Peterson's tackled. You can't assume that someone, because they've wrapped him up, he's down. You have to get multiple helmets on him and wrap him up at all times. That's the challenge, too, because they've got receivers, and they've got a really good quarterback. We're going to have to play our best defense to control this offense."
Did the Bengals' long snapper situation make you appreciate what you've got here with Matt Katula?"Well we appreciate Matt Katula. He's done well. Yeah, we're happy to have Matt Katula as our long snapper."
Can you draw back on your experiences at a smaller school, playing bigger schools, and incorporate that into playing an undefeated Vikings team this weekend?"It's definitely an opportunity. The game – you realize – in the NFL is this close from winning or losing. So, to face them at 5-0 – which I think will be a great opportunity for our team – definitely to overcome what we've been having to face [will be crucial]. But everybody is in good spirits. We're a hard-working team, and we're just going to go out there and be ready to play."
Has there been something in the game plan that has forced you to run less against New England and Cincinnati?"It had absolutely nothing to do with what they've done, or what either team has done. It just has everything… You know, when we look at the film, it's one or two plays when you say, 'That was our game.' It doesn't matter if it's run or pass. That's not necessary to the outcome. It's execution, whether what happens when you run or pass the ball. That's something that comes along for our young offense, and we're just still growing. We're still scratching the surface."
Could you have made that touchdown run as a rookie last season or did a lot of offseason work help your on-field capabilities? "I would have to say it definitely had a lot to do with my endurance and training. I'm scratching the surface – little drills and stuff, learning how to use your hand when you're going down. But it definitely felt good to know that when you're working hard and it feels like it pays off when you get in the end zone. So, when you work hard and things start to happen for you, you realize that your offseason does matter. The NFL Combine is a different thing, but an NFL season is definitely a different toll. You've got to train for the long [haul], and this is only the early part of the year. So, right now I can say I still feel pretty fresh, even though [I'm] playing long games and everything. So, I'm sure our team can say the same thing."
Would the running backs as a group like to have a bigger workload going forward?"We all have our time. I think going down the line, we definitely have to run the ball. What's great though is we'll all still be pretty fresh. Coming into the early part of the year, we passed the ball. We've been fairly good at it. So, we're a team, we like to stick with what's working. Last year, when the run was working, we pounded the run. But I think we have a more diverse offense now to where we can mix the run and pass and be great, because all of us are healthy. And that's the biggest thing, we're all healthy. And either one of us can get the job done."
How about when the weather and other conditions start to change?"Definitely for the longer part of the year, you know, the end part of the year when it gets cold and rainy conditions. We have that in our arsenal. We have that run game. We have it, and it's never going to go anywhere with us. That's who we are."
Has the rotation of backs been based on who has the hot hand? "I think it's the coach's decision. I think we've both been playing good. I offset Willis [McGahee], [and] Willis offsets me. It's not the same play-calling when I'm in the game, it's not the same calling when Willis is in the game. We're two different backs, and I think that we're both playing well. We'll definitely see the further outcome of the year. But I'm sure he's a guy that we're going to need in the longer part of the year."
From your standpoint, is there a difference on the offensive line with the personnel change, with rookie Michael Oher to the left and Marshal Yanda on the right? "You know what? Yanda has been. Yanda is one of the guys that can play every position on the line, quite honestly. I've seen him at center a few times, right guard and at tackle. But that's what's great about our offensive line. We can move Michael Oher from right to left, and it really wasn't a difference. And that's no knock on Jared Gaither. You know, when he gets back, that just makes our line even stronger than we've been. But, I don't think we've missed anything with putting Yanda out there at tackle. There are little things we can do as backs to slow the rush down, but those guys do a pretty good job of handling their own. But this week, we have Jared Allen out there, so I'm sure there will be some things that we'll do to try to slow down the pass rush."
How would you describe the mood of the team today with two close losses and the Vikings coming up? "You know, one thing about this game is it goes by fast. So, we've got to film correct it, and we came here in good spirits. One thing that we thought – and what was said – was if we were 5-0 right now, we'll still have things we need to work on. That's the thing that's going to stick with this team. We're 3-2, and games were that close. We still have things we need to work on. If we were 5-0, we'd be riding the high horse right now. But I think this is right where we need to be, because we still have things to work on. And that's the thing about what's great, you know, coming in on Mondays after a win or a loss. It's not like we got blown out of the stadium at any game. These are games where, in the fourth quarter, these are one or two plays that if we make the play, we win the game. And that's the difference between us being 3-2 and 5-0. We watch the film, and those get corrected. It's not a lack of effort, it's not a lack of intensity, it's not a lack of physical nature. I wouldn't say the better team won that day. I wouldn't say they were the better team, but they won that day. That's the spirit of the team. Everybody came in, in good spirits. We'll get our bodies right, have today, watch the film tomorrow, get the body right and get back to work on Wednesday."
How important are the wins now with the AFC North so competitive? "Every game is important. You've got to take every game as if it was the last game. Every game is important, but obviously, you go out there to win games. That's the thing, we don't ever want to be in a situation and say, 'We could've, should've, would've.' We're not in that situation now. We got stuff corrected. We know what we did. These are not games that we're not fighting or we're not playing good football. Good football is being played out there. These are games where we've just got to close them out. That's the thing we'll get better at. Our main mission is to finish games. We'll play a good three quarters. We just have to finish games out when we're out there. That's a team thing. That's not necessarily a coach's call. That's us pulling together as players saying, 'We're going to finish this game.' That's where we're going to grow as a team. That's great that we have a young team right now that realizes that coach can make a call that might not necessarily be the best call, but you've got players to bail a guy out. That's what this game does. It doesn't feel good to lose, but at the same time, to get it corrected and know that you could go out there and fight another day, it definitely drives me, and I'm sure it's going to drive this team."
How have you been able to make the adjustment to being used in the passing game so quickly? "This offseason was really great. That's what I can say. I was out there catching balls with Joe [Flacco]. I was actually lining up out wide a few times in minicamp and OTAs. Doing that stuff – catching on the Jugs [machine] and using your natural hands – that's one of the things that… You say you can work on your 40 [-yard dash time] and all that stuff, but you're not necessarily going to get faster. Catching the ball is a thing that you focus on, and you get your hands placed in the right direction, [practice] catching it from different angles. Just sitting in front of the Jugs machine is not always going to get it done. Learning how to catch routes, snap [the ball] down, embrace for contact and all that stuff, comes with time. So, I would just say that this offseason helped me out – continuing on to training camp. Now, it's just showing out on the field."
What do you think about the chop block that was called on you? "I actually did look at it. I definitely would appeal it. I was releasing for a pass on that [play]. It was a protection where everyone on the line was in 'cut protection,' so at the same time, he embraced me, hit me over the head and went down. That's a judgmental call. Obviously, nobody wants to get chop-blocked. It wasn't intended to be a chop block. I'm sure whatever fine will be assessed, it will definitely be handled in a correct matter."
What's the book on Minnesota? "They're tough. We watched them, and they are tough. They have a great leader on their offense. You can't not know Brett Favre. You've got to respect the man for what he's done. To have Adrian Peterson… You could go down the list of guys, but from a defensive standpoint, they're doing a great job of stuffing the run and keeping everything in front of them, preventing big plays. We have our hands full this week. They're playing good football, but at the same time, I think we're playing good football. They're winning the games they're supposed to win. It's one of those games where you just get excited to play. I watched Brett Favre growing up, and now I get to go on the same field as him. I watched Adrian Peterson do those things, running all over people, and now we're playing on the same field together. It's one of those games where you've got to be jacked up for it. Every game is like that, but this one, going in to the bye week, it would give us great confidence going in there and getting a win and leave us healthy."
How has Le'Ron McClain been at fullback? How important is the fullback in this offense? "We actually consider him just a back because he can do it all. He can catch, he can run, and he can block. He's pretty nifty for a guy his size. He has deceptive foot speed – a guy that can make people miss in the open field. He's been one of the guys, since I became a Raven, a guy that I've looked up to. Not only as a teammate, but like a brother. He's a guy that when I was in training camp, when it was only me and him taking all the reps, we could have easily tapped out. We were the only guys taking reps at one point in training camp. We would push each other each day. We'll look at each other, dead tired, right in the eye and say, 'Come on man, we've got to fight.' That same fight is on the field. I know when he's blocking for me he's not only blocking for me, he's blocking for a brother. It's special, and he's a special player. He's a guy that went to the Pro Bowl, ran the ball great last year, gave up running the ball and said, 'I'm going to out here and block for my brother.' That's the kind of guy he is."