Opening statement: "First of all, on behalf of the Ravens organization and on behalf of our football team, we want to express our heartfelt condolences to Tim Wheatley, the former sports editor of The [Baltimore] Sun. We had a chance to meet him last spring when Kevin [Byrne] and I did a tour [of The Sun's offices], and we're just very sorry for what happened this morning to him. His family has our prayers, and our thoughts are with them.
"As far as the game, first of all I want to congratulate New England, their coaches and their players, on a well-earned victory. [They had] a very good game plan. [It was] a very well-played and hard-played game by their players. I want to commend our players and our coaches and the effort they put forth. As coaches, we're very proud of the way our guys played. We don't really have any problems with the way we played. We're just going to try to take the lessons that we learned in that game and collectively and individually improve in every way we can and take the opportunity and grow from this experience that we had."
While you cannot make any specific comments, in your opinion do you feel the NFL rule book should be written differently to let guys play?"That's a good question. What specific area are you talking about? ("The roughing the passer rule.") They write the rule book in such a way as to make the game safe and make the game fair. That's the goal when they write the rule book, and the rule book is pretty well-written. So, that's probably about all I'd say on that."
What is the prognosis for T Jared Gaither? Is LB Brendon Ayanbadejo out for the remainder of the season, and have you re-signed anyone?"We have not re-signed anybody. It looks like Brendon will be out for the year, but we'll know more by the end of the day, if that's a possibility. We don't know as much on Jared because we still have to get the MRI. He's doing that this afternoon, so we'll know more about that this evening."
Was the loss on Sunday harder for you as a coach since it was such a close game down to the wire?"As opposed to what? The championship game loss or the one to Tennessee last year early? They're all tough. So, that's a good question. We put all our effort into it. The fans put a lot of effort into it, but nobody more than the players and the coaches. We thought like we had a chance to go in there and win that football game right down to the end. Our guys fought like crazy to do it, and you walk off the field and you're disappointed. Anybody who has ever played any kind of sport understands that. That's what it's about. If it wasn't hard for you, you probably should find another line of work. Yeah, we're disappointed in the loss, no doubt about it."
Have you heard from the league or Mike Pereira regarding the game?"No, I haven't had a conversation with Mike Pereira or anybody in the league so far today."
Will you submit any plays or questionable calls from yesterday's game to the league?"Yes. We'll be submitting plays and questionable calls to the league. I think I understand where you guys are going. I think I understand where you're going. The bottom line is this: As a coach in this league or a player in this league or a fan of the league, all you look for – the expectation of officiating in this league – is that it's fair and it's consistent. That's what you want. You want it to be fair and you want it to be consistent. And to me, that's a reasonable expectation. Every coach in the league would agree with that, every fan in the league would agree with that. And I know the league agrees with that, because the league chases that. Mike Pereira chases that, he works hard to get that. It goes to the credibility of the game. That's what it's all about; it goes to the credibility of the game. And that's our expectation for officiating, and we hold on to that."
Do you think the Ravens' reputation of having a very aggressive defense plays a role in the team having probably the most roughing the passer calls in the league?"That's an interesting question. I sure hope not, because that goes back to the credibility of the league and the credibility of the game. I know Joe [Flacco] got hit five different times during the game – hard. And there was one call. Five that weren't called and the one that was called was the sixth one. Tom [Brady] didn't get hit five times. He wanted to be hit more than he was hit. But when he did sort of get hit, he was called. That goes to the credibility of the whole thing."
Do you think the officials are inclined to protect Tom Brady, where it's ingrained in them, "Don't let Brady get hurt?""I sure hope not. I would like to think it's not ingrained in their subconscious in some way. And if it is, I'd like to think they're professional enough to not take it that way. That would be very important, that it's not the case."
Have you ever received or seen a sideline penalty before?"No. I've never received a penalty like that and have never seen a penalty [like that]. The thing I want to emphasize is that the penalty was on me strictly. Our bench was great. Our guys have done a good job. We talk to our guys all the time [and tell them], 'You let the head coach communicate with the officials.' As a head coach, it's my responsibility to communicate with [the officials] in any way necessary to defend our guys, in some cases, or to find out what's going on – whatever the communication might be. In that case I felt like I was defending our team. Our guys did a great job allowing me to do that and going out and playing football. I was proud of that. I thought they kept their head in the game through some very difficult circumstances relating to that and played ball. And, they left that to me. That's just the way it went down. It was a little surprising, but it was what it was. It was OK, and our guys overcame it. That's the best part of it. They had my back."
Was it a certain word or something in particular that set off the official and caused him to make the unsportsmanlike conduct call?"He said something. We're still waiting to hear back from the league about exactly the specifics of that. If there is a certain word that sets him off, I'll be looking forward to seeing that [and knowing] what that word is. So, I'm looking forward to seeing what the explanation is on that."
How is WR Mark Clayton doing today, mentally?"Mark seems good. Mark played well."
You had some success running the ball, but were the 47 passes the product of two-minute drills and trying to get the ball down the field?"There were two two-minute drills that I thought we executed great. [There are] a lot of passes, obviously, in the two-minute drill, a lot of great catches. You go back to Mark, and I know what you're talking about, but Mark made some tremendous catches. Those are the kinds of situations I think that forge a football team. They forge a player, and they forge a football team going forward. That's what we're excited about – the opportunity to see what we can become through this fire. That's part of the process, whether it's life or whether it's football. But yeah, we threw the ball a lot in the two-minute. [We] would have loved to see both of those drives finished off with touchdowns. What a difference that would have made. That's part of the process of getting better. We ran the ball, we ran the ball well. That's kind of the way the game played out."
With the run, was it something with the Patriots' scheme or the ebb and flow of the game that kept you from having as many runs as normal?"Well, both and probably more. The way they line up certainly makes it profitable to throw the ball. We ran the ball well, and I think every game's going to be different. We've said many times before: We can come out and throw the ball 50 times a game, 60 times a game. We may run it 50, 60 times a game. Every game, you can't be exactly sure exactly which way it's going to go. In the end, it'll balance out to some extent. But, I think the play-calling has been tremendous, and the results have obviously borne that out."
What does it say about a guy like rookie T Michael Oher, when in the middle of the game he went from one side of the offensive line to the other?"Michael Oher going from one side to the other… How many guys can do that in their fourth game in the NFL? That shows you how special he is. We have two really good tackles, and we have some good backup tackles, I guess, if you want to call them that. Marshal Yanda went in there and played awful well. We've got some depth there, and that's a big plus for us."
One of your players was quoted as saying that the most important thing in the NFL is how you respond to a loss. Do you agree or disagree with that?"I don't know if we put values on it to say it's *the *most important, or the second-most important, or the third-most important. But how you respond to a loss is critically important. You know what? How you respond to a victory is really important to. You go out and win a big game, and everybody starts talking about how great you are, how do you respond to that? Success can be adversity. But we're facing adversity right now. We don't have that issue, and we're pretty good at handling that. I expect our guys, just like they did today, [to] get back to work and begin to forge what we're going to become."
The Bengals are coming in here on a roll. They're one fluke play away from being undefeated. You've got to be aware of that."I'm aware of that, yeah. I see the highlights just like you guys. They're good."
Can you tell me more about them?"Well, we're in the process of looking at them right now. I've seen what you've seen so far. And you follow them a little bit because they're in the division, but we fully expected the Bengals to be really good this year. When they entered the preseason, you saw what they did in the offseason, you saw the draft, the type of players they were drafting. There's no question in our mind that this was going to be formidable team. And here they are at 3-1, as you said, with a fluke loss in Week 1. They're playing very good defense from what I've seen, and obviously they're getting the job done in the fourth quarter. They're finding a way to win games with Carson Palmer & Co. It's going to be a huge challenge. It's going to be a big game, like they all are in our stadium. It's a division game. It's for the division lead. It's a challenge."
A couple of young guys got their first playing time, rookie LBs Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe. Do you think they did well after you watched the film?"Yeah. Ellerbe played a little more than Paul just because of the nature of the packages we were in, and he played well. The first opportunity he had to make a tackle, I think he got too excited. He played too fast, and he got in there and overshot a veteran back, got juked a little bit. But after that he made every tackle, and he tackled one of the toughest guys to tackle in football, Wes Welker, a couple of times. So he played well, but it's just a start. There are plenty of things and a long way for him to go. Kruger got in there and played hard for five or six plays, and it was a good start for him, too."
Tom Brady put up some yards through the air, but the secondary, overall, held tough against a good receiving corps. The play of CBs Domonique Foxworth and Fabian Washington, it looked like they played pretty strong."Right. I thought our secondary played exceptionally well. They'll be pointing at the three of four plays that they got down field. I think they got a tight end once or twice on seam routes, and of course [Randy] Moss had the one little throw by fade where he made the play. Those are the things that our guys are going to be focusing on getting better at. But what I saw was tight, aggressive coverage, and that was very encouraging. We've seen that all through training camp and all through the offseason. That's who these guys are, but it played out on Sunday."
Did you say anything to Mark Clayton after the game?"No. I walked through the plane, and I might have asked him how he was doing and stuff, just like I do with all the guys. But Mark's resilient, Mark's tough, Mark's confident. He's made so many plays here in the past. He wants that one back, but that wasn't the play of the game. It's easy to look at one play. You can look at 10 plays during that game and say that was the play that made the difference. All the guys involved in those plays feel the same way Mark does. I just think it's so impressive the way our guys are accountable. Every single guy in our program, player or coach, is so accountable for getting the job done. Beyond that, you go out there and let the chips fall. I feel good about that with our team."
It looked like CB/RS Chris Carr played a lot in the nickel, and maybe that was a product of seeing rookie CB/RS Lardarius Webb return kicks. Will we see more of Webb as the returner?"That would be tactical, but we're not disappointed with Chris Carr. Chris played very well in nickel, as you say. He covered Wes Welker extremely well throughout. That was good to see. He does a nice job, and he does a nice job in some other special teams phases. On the kickoff return, that fumble was hurtful. He jumped right out and said it, and that's something that can't happen. It was good to see Lardarius get out there and get the big return. And that was a critical play in the game that set up the drive in the two-minute drive. We've got some good young players, and we'll just try to balance it out as much as we can, and get as many guys out there and give them a chance to make plays as we can."
Are you hopeful that Gaither won't be out an extended period of time because of his injury?"We're real hopeful it's not extended. It could be he could play this week, because it's not a serious injury, as far as we know right now. It could be a couple of weeks, it could be longer. It's wait and see. We're real hopeful that he plays this week."
How big of a loss will it be if Ayanbadejo is unable to return to play this season?"It's a big loss. It's something we're going to have to fill, obviously, someone else is going to have to step up. The fact that he's made himself into such [a valuable player], being a Pro Bowl special teams player, is pretty impressive. And being a multiple-Pro Bowl special teams player [is really impressive], right? Now he's that and he's a starter in a basic sub package, which is on the field for 20 to 30 plays a game, and in this game more. So, that's a big loss for us. I'm very impressed with what he did. How he's blossomed as a football player has just been neat to see. It's disappointing to lose him, but he'll be back next year ready to go."
How does it feel a day later when you played well against a good team? "Well, we didn't play good enough. We didn't win the game. Certainly, when you watch the film you look at, obviously, the things you could do better individually, the things you could do better as a team. You see those things – had you done things a little bit better – sometimes it's just the little things that could have made a big difference and changed the outcome of the game, but that's the way it is. They won. We lost. I'm not real happy about it, obviously, but I've looked at the film, and after today we move on to Cincinnati. That's life in the NFL."
Are there any surprises that you didn't expect after eight games working with a sophomore QB? "I didn't really know what to expect. I heard a lot of great things about him. I think that he's as good as advertised and better. The poise that he shows and the way he carries himself is way beyond a second year player. Obviously, he's really talented from what I've seen. I'm no quarterback guru, but he's made a lot of great throws and has done a great job. It's always fun to work with guys like that, especially when they're your quarterback – guys that can make plays and do things – really have a good command of the offense and what we're trying to do."
What does it say about this team that even when everything went wrong, you still had a chance to win? "We did. I guess you look at that as a positive because we did have a chance to win, but as a negative too because we didn't get it done. That's the bottom line. There's really no… I don't think we're looking for moral victories at this point. Like I said, they won, we lost. Sometimes the only good thing that comes out of losing is maybe scrutinizing yourself a little bit more – your play, your game – and you work a little bit harder. That's just human nature after you fail. So, that was my focus. I think that's a lot of guys' focus – look at what you can do better – but sometimes it's big things. A lot of times it's little things that can make a big difference."
What goes through your mind when a teammate goes down? Is it hard to get back in to the game after an extended wait? "It's tough. There are a lot of emotions going on, especially with something like [Jared Gaither's injury]. The thing was, where I was standing, Jared looked conscious the whole time. It looked like he had movement in all of his extremities. It's not something super serious, at least you hope not. Those were good signs. Unfortunately, it's a part of the game. If you play this game a while, I don't mean a while in the NFL, but you play a while growing up – high school, college… I don't want to sound cold, obviously we're concerned for Jared but the game doesn't stop. You have to, especially at this level, maintain your focus. Once we heard that he was ok, like I said, you've got to get your focus right back on [the game]. That's just how it is."
What is the continuity like with the offensive line after people shift positions? "I thought those guys did a great job. Michael Oher… People probably don't appreciate or understand, but [the coaches] have been grooming him to be a right tackle for months, and then in one play have to switch over to the left side, it's like everything is backwards. For Marshal [Yanda] to step in… I thought those guys did a great job. They were ready to go from the first play. It didn't take them a series or anything to get warmed up. Again, that's part of the game, too. Guys are going to go down, and you need guys to step up. It's always good when guys do that, especially younger guys. I think that's a credit to them and to the coaching staff for having those guys ready to go."
Were the Patriots bringing eight or nine guys in the box to stop the run? Is that why QB Joe Flacco threw 47 passes? "Eight or nine? That might be a little bit of an exaggeration. That's ESPN talk. *(laughter) *They're certainly very good against the run. They do things that take away the [run] game and us being a running team. Teams want to stop that first. That's just the way it played out. The good thing for us is, we've shown that we are balanced. We are run. We are pass. Every good offense that I've been a part of has that balance. It's hard to be one-dimensional. The last drive, in two-minute situation, you're going to throw the ball just about every down. But that's just the way it worked out. That's all right."
After coming from a great football town in Minneapolis, is playing in Baltimore everything you expected?"First of all, to clarify, I'm from St. Paul. Not from Minneapolis. That's like saying I went to Yale. *(laughter) *You know what it is – and I guess that was the one thing that surprised me – just not being real familiar with the area, but people love the team everywhere I go. And as I kind of get out there a little bit more in the community, people tell me about what they do on game day, where their seats are, where they tailgate, as kids going to watch the Colts and all those things. The stadium – the atmosphere for those games that we've had – has just been electric. It's been cool for me to play home games outside. But, even today, I was dropping my kids off at school, and this one lady looked at me and kind of passed me in the hall and kind of gave me a [look] like she was sad, like she was sad for me. I mean, that's great. The passion is awesome, and it certainly makes it enjoyable. It's always fun when you know that the city is into it, that the city is behind you."
Do younger guys have a tougher time letting go of a difficult loss like Sunday's:"Well, it's never easy. Sunday nights are always bad after a loss. Monday's are always tough when you have to watch the film. I mean, I don't think it ever gets easy. But, you just realize you can't let those emotions linger. It'll be tough, but when you show up Wednesday – I mean, this game is already in the past – but when you show up Wednesday, it's a whole new thing. That's when we start the work week, and you can't afford to do anything else but move on and be in tune to the next one. Otherwise, it can snowball on you."
Do you ever think about how close you were to being the next guy to snap the ball to QB Brett Favre? "Brett who? I thought that'd get more laughs.* (laughter) *No, you know what? I don't. I guess just, I don't know, I don't. And that's not the first time I've been asked that question. But I'm a big believer in that everything happens for a reason. And when my wife and I made the decision to come here, we knew that this is where we were supposed to be and really don't look back. I kind of just look at where I'm at, and I'm very happy and feel very blessed to be here with this team and with these guys. I guess I don't know. Maybe the whole 'what if' thing doesn't really… I don't know if it's football… I don't really do that. And that's the truth. You can believe it or not, but that's the truth. So, that's kind of like where I'm at."
What does it say about Coach Harbaugh and the players' respect for him to handle issues with the officials? "You know, he's the head coach and he's kind of the representative for the players on a lot of fronts. Obviously with the officials, he is. As a player, our job is not to judge officiating or get caught up in it. That's not our role; it's not healthy to worry about that kind of stuff. [As a] player, you just play. You just play, and play your butt off and during the course of the game, whether you perceive it to be officiating or a bad bounce, or the other team makes a play… I mean, there are going to be ebbs and flows, up and down. There are how many momentum swings during the course of the game, probably 100? You have to learn to deal with that. There are a lot of them. I guess by removing officiating from the equation – at least from your responsibilities – it's one less thing to worry about. I think that's the healthiest approach to take to it, kind of to worry about your job and your role and your side of the ball and what you're doing during the game."
Is the center position the same as it used to be, or does it evolve like everything else in the game?"Yeah, I think the whole game does. You look every couple years – or maybe every five or 10 years – there would be some great innovation. It seems like now, every year there is something that has a lot of success, and then everyone tries to copy it or put their own stamp on it, certainly. Every year is different. I don't know about the old, old days, but I've been around a little while. It seems like now a lot more teams are going back to a 3-4 defense, or a lot more than used to. When I was in Minnesota – especially a few years ago – I'd see one or two 3-4 teams a year. I'm starting to see a lot more now, [because] more and more teams are going to it. That's just kind of the trend."