On how to replace a guy like LB Brendon Ayanbadejo:"You don't replace him because there's no one person that can go in there and do what he has done on special teams. I think Brendon has put himself in a position where he was a very unique player in this league. There are not many guys that are an impact special teams player – repeatedly a Pro Bowl player – that can go in and play defense that many snaps during a game and not miss a rep on special teams. He's doing something that I really think is quite unique in this league. We're all real proud of him around here. We're all supporting him. He's fired up about getting better and getting back here because he wants to pick up where he left off."
On what he still wants to improve on for special teams: "We've got a lot of things we're working on real frankly. We want to be a dominant coverage team. Last week, I thought that we showed signs of getting better in that regard. We didn't have many holes for the returners to go through and managed to keep the edges. I thought we improved in that regard. As we all know, when you're in coverage that's a matter of being consistent. That's something that we need to do rep after rep after rep, game after game after game. We haven't shown that yet this year. We hope to continue in the path that we started. In the return game, we've shown flashes of some explosiveness, but the same thing, we need to be more consistent in that regard. The other thing we need to do is hang on to the football. Ball security is a big issue in this whole club, not just our special teams. So, that's something we'll continue to improve on as well."
On if he expects CB/RS Lardarius Webb to contribute more in returns: "Again, that's an ongoing process. As you know, we have a number of returners in our system. Chris Carr is going to continue to have a very significant role on this team. It will include kickoff returns, punt returns and being our nickel. We don't see that changing down the road. Just like all other rookies, Lardarius gets more opportunities, and we find out more things that he can do. We expect his role to expand."
On if he looks to guys like LBs Prescott Burgess, Jameel McClain and Antwan Barnes to fill the void that Ayanbadejo left: "What we talked about the very first meeting on Wednesday about Brendon's situation, when we told the team what was going to happen – the special teams in particular – we talked about him not being a guy that we can just insert one man to replace, just like I said earlier. We really put it on all of us to pick up the slack. Some guys' roles will change, perhaps. Some guys' positions will perhaps change. Some guys will get more reps in one phase than they previously had. I think the responsibility falls across the board, the whole roster really. Some guys that weren't getting as many reps on special teams will now have more reps."
On if it's disappointing for S Ed Reed to get in the game to return a punt and the ball not get to him: "Well, I'd like to have the ball in his hands however he gets it. So, it would be nice for them to punt it to him or throw it to him. We're always looking forward to that."
On if Ayanbadejo was on every single special teams play: "The only one he wasn't on was field goal protection, for obvious reasons. His role on special teams didn't change one bit when he started playing defense. I think that's really a tribute to not only his skills, but his conditioning level, that he can go in there and… You watch him run down on a kickoff coverage, [and] the guy never slowed down."
On how you replace Ayanbadejo's mentality of being a coach on the field: "We really can't replace him. That's an accurate statement. But I will say this: When I spoke with him yesterday, he was anxious to get back here as soon as he can to go out on the practice field with us, and go in to the meetings with us. So, Brendon Ayanbadejo, the assistant coach, will be returning real soon."
On if Ayanbadejo's surgery went well: "That's my understanding. You'll have to talk to the medial people about that."
On what kind of an influence Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has and whether it's still Marvin Lewis' defense:"No, I think there's definitely an influence. But I think it's – what you're also alluding to – it's a group effort. You know, the head coach's philosophy is all over that defense, and he was one of the great coordinators in this league. So, I guess I'm agreeing with you both ways."
On whether he felt like he approached the short-yardage situations last weekend the right way: "It's a good question. We're very fortunate [that] our defense put us back out there. Sometimes things just don't work out the way you plan. But, we got an opportunity after that, we were able to get the same opportunity to win the game, and obviously didn't get the job done. But there are some things that we just need to improve on, and short yardage is one of those."
On what ways Cincinnati's defense is better this year than last year: "Well, I think just the second year in any system, [and] they're healthy. There aren't many teams that are going to do well if they don't stay healthy. They brought in some new guys, some veteran guys, and I think it's a collective effort. I don't think you can really pinpoint one guy, but I think their record speaks for itself. And obviously, this is a division game."
On whether DE Antwan Odom has made the biggest difference on their defense: "He's got great explosion, he's got strength. There aren't a ton of pass rushers that are just getting sacks right and left by themselves. There are a couple, but for the most part, it's a part of someone else doing something well, creating single matchups and maybe some quarterbacks hanging onto the ball too long. But obviously, people are going to watch the tape against these guys, and they're going to figure it out. You know, you hang onto the ball and they're going to sack you. [If] you hang onto the ball too long at least, they're going to sack you. So, you've got to be careful – especially when they're in a four-man-rush – how long you hang onto the football."
On the importance of running the ball, especially in the AFC North: "Football has changed for the better. Just look at last year's Super Bowl. People have got to move beyond the notion that running the football leads to the championships. It doesn't. If you just look over the last 10 years, it doesn't. There are times – we all want to run the football – but you don't have to run the football to win as much as people think. The rules have changed, the game has changed and statistics… The way statistics are measured doesn't reflect the running game. If I take the ball, for example, and you run a little swing pattern and I throw you the ball, and you run for 60 yards, that's a 60-yard pass. If we throw Ray Rice a screen and he runs for 50, that's a 50-yard pass. But really, it's not. All it is, is a run where we've taken the ball and flipped it from here to [there]. So it's statistics. You've got to be careful when you look at statistics and how it relates to running and passing and winning. The bottom line is, you're trying to take care of the football, move the football, score points, win, and you've got to be careful [with] what stats relate to winning. I think touches are important. I will tell you that. Getting guys touches – whether it's run or pass – is critical."
On whether TE L.J. Smith is working himself into the offense or is it a case where there just aren't opportunities: "No, it's a case where Todd Heap was just playing outstanding. And one thing you learn over the years about veteran players [is] they aren't coming out. I learned it from Doug Flutie. Doug Flutie always told me, 'Don't let the backup get in there.' 'What do you mean?' He goes, 'I learned.' That was his philosophy in college. Once you get in there, don't come out. And obviously, there were great stories over time when the backup got in there, but Todd is just playing lights out and continuing to get better. But L.J. is going to need to play a role somewhere down the road, I'm sure, and we're glad we have him."
On whether he expects T Jared Gaither to play Sunday: "Well, you go into every game, and at least if you look over the last year or so, we're expecting Jared to play. However, we have plan B in case he can't play, and that's Michael Oher. Michael did an outstanding job – which didn't surprise any of us – moving over to left tackle. So, we'll go as if he's ready to play, and if some point in time he gets ruled out, he gets ruled out. But we've got great depth on the offensive line. Marshal Yanda played phenomenal in the game the other day at right tackle. He hasn't played right tackle in a while. So, we've got answers. We've got some depth with [Oniel] Cousins and [Tony] Moll and [David] Hale, and John Matsko and Andy [Moeller] just do a tremendous job with that offensive line. "
On teams known for good play on one side of the ball, and if sometimes the other side tries to step up to match that reputation:"You would like to think that. I think this is a very prideful league. There are a lot of prideful coaches, a lot of prideful players, and everybody wants to do their part. I know that motivates us offensively here. We want to make our contribution to winning. That's all we're trying to do, and pull our share of the load. Maybe that's what's going on there. I don't know. You'd have to ask those guys. But I think most guys in the league want to do their part, and when we don't do our part we feel like we've let people down. I know offensively how we feel this week based on what just happened recently."
On what his game-day communication with the coaches in the booth is like:"I'm communicating with Hue Jackson, pretty much solely with Hue Jackson."
On Al Saunders being in the coaching booth and how much he is involved in game-time communication:"No, no, no. That's not a game-day role of his. It's Hue Jackson, and obviously Andy [Moeller] is up there. Hue Jackson is the guy I'm laying it on during the game, and he's one of the best I've ever been around."
On if he looks back on the Patriots game and thinks that the Ravens should have run the ball more:"You're always looking to get better. I think that's the important thing. You look at the opportunities [that] were there, and you learn and you grow and you move forward. I think we had a heck of a game plan. We made some subtle adjustments as we went along, but we always want to get better, there's no doubt about it. Like I say, 'Look in the rearview mirror too long and second-guess, that doesn't really…' We have high expectations for this team and this offense. We didn't get the job done, and now the great news is we've got an opportunity this week."
On what, if anything, he said to WR Mark Clayton during the week to remind him that he's still trusted:"I think, and I think you guys know this – I'm not telling you anything you don't know – you really don't wait until there's any kind of adversity, and I'm not saying that's major adversity, but you don't wait until adversity hits before you develop a relationship with somebody. I think relationships, everybody here knows how… And I think I said it the other day with Larry [Rosen] on the show: Mark Clayton is a Raven, and I think that says it all. I think everybody knows that. We're all chasing perfection. Does it always work? Absolutely not. That's the same guy that had the critical play in the Tennessee game, and I'll guarantee you we're going to go back to that guy in a clutch."
On if he's noticed Cincinnati's offense taking more big strikes or making big plays:"They have that potential to be a big-strike offense because they have their great wide receivers, and obviously Carson's [Palmer] got a very good arm. In their wins, they really have tried to establish the run. They've stuck with it, and they've become a zone scheme, kind of like Denver used to be, where their offensive line is running off the football and [Cedric] Benson is coming downhill and looking for his cracks. They've been very patient trying to get whatever yardage they get, and all of a sudden they break one that's a little bigger. And they have, you're right. They've tried to establish the run game."
On if Bengals WR Chris Henry is a tough matchup:"You can go right down the line on them. [Chad] Ochocinco is a tremendous wide receiver, obviously. Henry is, too. The guy that's really made a difference in them, and probably helped them win that Pittsburgh game more than anybody, is [Andre] Caldwell. They add him into the mix, so you've got a third wide receiver that is a very good receiver."
On NFL VP of officiating Mike Pereira's defense of the personal foul calls, and what he says to his defenders on how to play in light of that:"We just tell our guys to go by the rule, continue to play hard. If you have the opportunity to tackle to quarterback and to hit the quarterback, continue to do that. It's a human deal. It's not replays, that kind of thing, on that. A guy's got to make a judgment, and our defensive linemen know that their job and what they want to do is hit the quarterback. So, they want to do it to the letter of the law and keep being as aggressive as they can. That's all you tell them."
On if Palmer is one of the more poised quarterbacks in the NFL:"The thing about the NFL, there's a lot of really good quarterbacks, and I think he's just another one of them. He's got a lot of experience. He's big. He'll throw it. I just think he's a very good quarterback."
On if Palmer stands up to pressure with the top quarterbacks:"We'll see. We'll see. That's the thing that each game shows. We'll see on that."
On if the defense blitzed a lot against the Patriots:"I didn't count them, but I believe we pressured when we felt there was a time to pressure. Our guys did a good job of it. We don't go into the game, I don't think, saying we want to make sure we run this many pressures. I think we ran a number of pressures."
On the role that the fans play in the game:"Huge. Huge. Riding back on that plane and you get done, feeling miserable after that game, the first thought that came to my mind honestly was, 'Boy, it's going to be great to get to back to that stadium and get back to our fans.' You appreciate them more than you ever do when you go play away, and you see the difference between our fans and the fans you just played in front of. It's a tremendous positive for us. We just can't wait to get back home and play."
On how much having the home fans impacts the game:"I think it's a huge part. I know our players love the fans, and I know our players get even more excited when they hear our fans do what they do in response to them. I think playing in front of the Baltimore fans is bigger than for maybe somebody else because of what our fans have been doing and what they do do."
On if he expects to plug LB Tavares Gooden back into the defense now that he's cleared:"Tavares Gooden and D. [Dannell] Ellerbe and [Jameel] McClain, all those guys will play. He's back fine. It gives us the same luxury I talked about before: We want to have the ability to be able to have a number of linebackers because of just what happened to 'T.' It's a physical league, and we've got to have guys that step up. I think Ellerbe did a great job coming in. [It was] his first start, his first playing experience, and he did an outstanding job for us."
On if he's seeing that it's the big play and the long run that is really hurting this defense:"Bigger plays than what we want to give up. When you look at a big play, that to me is a plus-25-yard pass, plus-15-yard run. I don't know that we've given that up in the last couple of weeks, but we have… You get 18, 19, those kind of things. That's what we'd love to close down on more. It's when it happens. The biggest thing of all is third downs. Third downs. Last week we were, they were four out of 10, which a lot of people would be really happy with, but our bar is a little higher. We would have rather been three or two. I think a couple of those came after a penalty, which again, you mentioned that: We want to be aggressive and we will be aggressive. We aren't going to change one bit. Obviously, we don't ever try to do anything that's illegal, and we're going to continue to go after people like we've always done here."
On what the significant difference in the Bengals' offense is, besides a healthy Palmer:"I think it's because they have established the run on people. I think that sometimes people say they're going to run the football, and then if they can't run it a couple of times, they get out of it. They have really tried to establish that and say this is going to be an equal part of their offense, and they've done that each week."