Opening Statement:"Thanks for coming. I'm excited to talk about our guys and our coaches and our season a little bit and field your questions about where we've been and where we are going. I want to thank you guys first. If you don't mind, I'd like to go through a couple things: I want to thank you all who cover our team. I just look at all the faces, all you great ladies and gentlemen, what you do all year and all your professionalism and enthusiasm [for] the job you do. I know it's tough. Sometimes it's tough prying information out of us, but we appreciate it, and we even appreciate all of the opinions. It all goes together – the fans and the media, and really, the players and people in the organization, to helping us build what we're trying to build here. We listen and we read, and I think it's just a good dialogue, so we appreciate that.
"I want to thank our fans. We have great fans at home and away. When you hear the 'Ooooooo' [from the National Anthem] in Indianapolis as loud we heard it, I got fired up. And then New England and even in Oakland, we had a bunch of fans. And here – we talk about the purple wall on all four sides – I just think it's a fabulous sports city, it's a fabulous fan base. We want to keep growing it as much as we can, and we want to put a football team and organization out there that the fans are proud of and they want to be associated with. We have got a great bunch of fans.
"I really like the makeup of our team. If you look at where we're at going forward – we talked to our team a lot about this on Monday – but I like the makeup of our team. I like the foundation we have on our football team. I like the kind of guys we have – our organization, our front office, our personnel department, our coaching staff, our ownership. You just can't find a better group in the National Football League. That's cause for tremendous optimism going forward. We've said before that it's our goal to build something here that will be remembered for a long time to come, and that means winning championships, wining multiple championships. To do that, you've got to make the playoffs to have a chance to win championships. I'm proud of what our team and our coaches have accomplished in the last two years in terms of making the playoffs and giving ourselves a chance to win championships. That's big, and that's something we intend to do. We want to build the kind of team where we do that for a long time going forward. And it's one year, it's two years, it's building from there, three years and on out. [When] you put yourself in the playoffs, you always have a shot. I think that's something you start with, and that's something we have been able to do the last two years, and I'm really proud our players got that done. We had an elimination game out in Oakland, and we won it. We had a playoff game on the road in New England against the team of the decade, and we won it. And we went to Indianapolis, and our guys fought from beginning to end, and we didn't win it. We had three turnovers, obviously, on the road against the No. 1 seed, and that makes it tough. But our guys executed, they played hard, and they played well, and that game was a very close, hard-fought game, probably more so than the score indicated. I'm excited about our guys and what they accomplished this year.
"I think we have to develop. When you look at our team, we have to develop our current players. There are two ways to get better: You develop the players you have, and from a personnel standpoint, you always seek to bring in guys that can add to what you're doing. That's the draft, that's free agency, that's from guys who get let go by other teams. It's guys like Kelley Washington, who you bring in and look at, and they turn out to have a great season for you. I think our coaches and personnel staff do a great job of scouring every opportunity to bring in players who can help us be better. And we've had good drafts. If you can bring in two, three or four guys from every draft that are the kind of players we've brought in the last couple years, you're going to continue to get better as a football team.
"Just [to go over] the three phases real quick: Offensively, we've built a real good foundation. We talked Day One here, way back when, about building a football team from the inside out. We start in the trenches. Remember that? I see we're in the process of doing that. I like where we stand in the trenches, without question, and we're going to continue to build that and develop those young players. And when you work your way out, we've got a lot of good players in all spots. We've got a good mix of young players, a good mix of veteran players, and we're going to keep adding players into that mix. But offensively, I think we've done that. We've got a young quarterback, we've got a young offensive line, we've got some guys back outside that are some restricted guys that we have a chance to bring back. We have a tremendous group of running backs. I think we have a foundation for the kind of offense we want to build here.
"Defensively, the defense has been good here for a long period of time. I think it was exceptional again this year. I think the transition between changing coordinators to Greg Mattison that we had to do this year, as the year went on, went really well. I'm excited about what our defense did this year – the kind of defense we put on the field. I love our defensive mentality.
"And then special teams, we brought in Brendon Ayanbadejo [in 2008], and that was it. We took a lot of young players and developed them from two years ago until now. I think you saw that process unfold. We've got a heck of a special teams unit, and it's only going to get better because all those young guys are going to be back. So, that's kind of where we're at in all three phases. We'll continue to be the kind of football team that we want to be. We're going to be a rough, tough, disciplined, hardnosed, clean-playing football team. That's what we're all about from beginning to end. And I think we keep chasing those goals, and you see those things express themselves on the field."
How impatient is everyone getting with trying to win a championship?"I think patience is important. It's tough to win in this league. That's the beautiful thing about the National Football League: When you go into the season, there are 32 teams that expect to win the championship, and that's our goal, no less. But at the same time, you've got to understand it's a process. It's a challenging thing, and when it happens, it's going to be something we're all going to celebrate and be excited about. But there's no timeframe on any of that. I think we've all got a great vision. I think our players and our coaches and our organization… It starts with Steve Bisciotti and it goes right through the organization. I mean, he establishes the vision for this organization. He establishes the kind of football team that he wants to see on the field and the kind of organization he wants built. I think all of us, that's kind of our job and our responsibility to do everything we can to make that happen. And we're in the process of doing that, and I think it expresses itself every day in so many ways. You talk to our players, you talk to our coaches, you see what kind of people they are and you see how they compete. We know what that championship team is going to look like, and when it happens, we're going to be excited about it. And it's going to happen, but there's no way we can say when."
What progress did you see QB Joe Flacco make this year and were there any areas you thought he should have made more progress?"Again, I think the idea of putting expectations… When you say we're going to be at this point, at this time, it's impossible to do that. And it's fruitless, and really it's a mistake. Joe got better in so many ways, and there are so many ways he can get better. And there are so many ways we can help him be better from a coaching standpoint, from a personnel standpoint and from a developmental standpoint. So, we're going to go to work on March 15. Joe is going to come back here. He's going to work on getting stronger, quicker, more explosive. Fundamentally, he's going to work on throwing to receivers every single day and develop the kind of chemistry you want to have with those guys, and he's going to continue to grow. Second year to third year, I expect him to make some more progress, but I would say he's on schedule."
Do you understand the fans feeling like there was a "disconnect" amongst the offense around Week 5 and what remained throughout the season? "No, but you can explain it to me. What does that mean, disconnect?"
A disconnect, meaning how the offense was much more aggressive for about the first quarter of the season:"Well, it's funny, because you get the same criticism that we've got to run the ball more, we've got to throw the ball more… I think that criticism – so to speak – comes from every direction. And I think as a coach, or as a player or as an organization, you listen to advisors and advice. Critics – it doesn't mean much, because that comes from every single direction."
Not to use it as criticism, but speaking in terms of a "disconnect" from what people saw in the first quarter of the season and then what they saw for the rest of the year: "I think that we, offensively, are trying to develop the kind of offense that can win in any environment, in any circumstance, against any defense. And that's a challenge. And you do that by, you kind of mesh the players that you have at this time to the opponent you're facing in that particular week, and you do the best job you can to score points. And that's a challenge every single week. Sometimes you get it done, and sometimes you don't. That's part of the process, but we need to be able to run the ball, we need to be able to throw the ball, we need to be aggressive across the board. We need to be able to spread the ball around, get the ball to all of our receivers in different situations, run the ball inside and outside, throw the ball down the field, and from sideline to sideline and over the middle. And that takes time to develop that. It has to do with the quarterback, it has to do with the offensive line, it has to do with the guys you put out there outside. It has to do with teaching the system over time and adding to it. So, I think that's a work in progress, and that's something that we're developing."
Are there any moments that leave a lasting impression in your memory about the 2009 season? "The moments that I would have that leave an impression about 2009 are moments with guys. Standing in front of this room when the team is sitting in here, and some of the most difficult times – maybe when we're .500 – and some of the talk is raging, and our guys, shoulder to shoulder, have each other's back saying the right things about one another, taking responsibility for trying to improve and become a better football team. I think that's what we're founded on. You talk about a culture, you talk about a way of doing things, a team mindset. That's what I'm most proud of, and I think our fans can see that. I think our fans can see the kind of a group of men and an organization and a team that we're building and what we're going to be founded on. And that's what I take the most pride in."
What is your level of optimism with S Ed Reed and WR Derrick Mason coming back for another year?"Well, as far as Ed and Derrick, I can't speak for those two guys. They're capable, and they have to speak for themselves along those lines. I read what they said, but I know those two guys love football. And I've had a chance to talk to both of those guys since, and I got the impression that they love football and that they want to play. So, we'll see how that shakes out, but Derrick is a different situation. He's an unrestricted free agent. We have to see how that plays out over the next couple of months. We've told Derrick that we want him back, we want him on this football team, and we're going to do everything we can to keep him on this football team for next year. Ed Reed, obviously, is a different situation contractually, but Ed knows that we want him back, and that I want him back. He's a huge part of our defense. He's a very important player – not just from a football ability standpoint, but from a leadership standpoint – on this team. He's a premier player in the National Football League, and we want him back. And right now, I expect them both to be back, but we'll just have to see how that plays out, and ultimately, it's going to be up to them."
How do you think you did this year in your second season as a head coach, and how do you clean up in some of the areas that need work, like minimizing penalty yardage?"We talk about that every single week. You try to make your team as good as you can make it every single day. That's what coaches do. You coach guys when they walk into the building, you coach guys when they walk out of the building. It's a relationship, it's coaching technique, it's coaching decision-making, it's coaching scheme, it's all those things. So, you do the best job that you can. We'll leave you to do the evaluating. You can put an 'A' or a 'B' or a 'C' on it or whatever you want. But I like our team, and I like the way they play. And all the things that I think you saw through the course of the season that we struggled with at times, we improved on. And you move those things forward and you just keep building on all the aspects that you need to do to become a better football team."
Do you anticipate any changes on your coaching staff?"Well, I think it'll be interesting to see. We've got great coaches, so it's a great question, and I think that guys are going to have opportunities, probably, to do some things – to move up and improve their position professionally and have some more responsibility. And if that happens, we'll be really happy for them, but right now, we don't have anything brewing right now."
What is your take on the wide receiver position, and what do you think will happen throughout the offseason? "We're going to do everything we can to make our team better, and that goes for the wide receiver position just like it goes for the defensive back position. You put a level of priority on different positions, so we've got a plan that way. We've got an idea and a direction we want to go, for sure. I think we've got to put as many good players around Joe Flacco as we possibly can. That's going to be important. But we've got good players, and a lot of that is bringing guys back. Some of those guys you're talking about at receiver are restricted free agents, so we have an opportunity to bring those guys back, and we certainly plan to do that. And then if we can add more players into the mix, build the competition, and let the best guys win their jobs, or their catches, or their opportunities – that's what we're really all about."
With the uncertainty with the NFL and CBA, how much extra work do you have to do to figure out what your roster is going to look like if there is a capped year or an uncapped year next season?"Well, yeah, that's the question. You go under a set of assumptions right now that there's going to be an uncapped year, and that's how we're moving forward. And if something gets resolved, then that's going to change, and we've got a contingency plan. So, I think Ozzie [Newsome], and Dick Cass and the rest of our personnel group do a great job of that, and I'll be involved in that. Our plan right now, I think, is probably to keep as many of our players in place as we possibly can, first. That's where you start. We've got good players. Some of these guys who are unrestricted are going to have opportunities to move on. Others are restricted, and we want to keep as many of our players in place as we can. And then you look outward, see who's available around the league that you might be able to add, and then you go to the draft. And then you continue on after that, see who's available, who gets released, or whatever, and you're always working the roster. So, to me, that's 365 days a year."
Now that you can reflect a little, what are your thoughts on the season that RB Ray Rice had?"Ray Rice had a Pro Bowl season, obviously, and I think he's fulfilled – and maybe even exceeded – any hopes that we had for him in his second year. But yet, we thought he was going to be a heck of a player. So, I just love his work ethic, I love his mindset, I love the way he plays hard every single play, but I also think he can get better. And from this year, until next year, there are a lot of areas he can improve on, and he's going to go to work to do that. That's just the kind of guy he is."
Is it a challenge, with being a top eight team, going into next year with the possibility of an uncapped year? "Well, yeah, there's a balancing act there, because there aren't going to be as many opportunities for the top eight teams to sign unrestricted free agents. By the same token, there aren't going to be as many unrestricted free agents available as there would have been under the old system. So, I'm not sure how many free agents are really going to be out there. We kind of know who those guys are right now. If we lose a guy, then we can sign a guy. But we'll set our sights on the guys that we have an opportunity to acquire."
Have you given Flacco a workout plan for the time period before he comes back on March 15? "Well, we've got a specific work plan for all of our guys, just in terms of staying fit and staying in shape that Bob Rogucki, our strength and conditioning coach, has provided to those guys. But individual coaches and coordinators have plans for different guys, and Joe's our quarterback, so we've got some ideas for him."
What is your level of optimism that the players on Injured Reserve can be back participating in training camp? "I really haven't thought about the majority or minority of guys, but I think specifically, there's not too many of those guys that won't be back for training camp, if any. It just depends on how they progress. We expect to get a number of those guys back for OTAs, and even some of them back for March 15 when we start the program. So, we had a number of guys on IR, not as many as last year, which was an improvement, but we've done a good job of working through injuries and plugging the next player in there and still being very competitive as a football team. But that's kind of exciting too when you look at your roster, and all of the sudden you take those guys and plug them back into the depth chart and you see the competition you're going to have for training camp. So, that's a good place to start."
Will going to the Senior Bowl and watching that benefit the team in terms of the draft? "Well, that's a plus. I don't think it's a must. It's not like you have to be there, because you get the tapes of all the practices. But, there is a benefit in standing on the sideline and watching an inside run drill and seeing how a player really competes – just kind of feeling the player. A defensive back in a one-on-one drill, a wide receiver in a one-on-one drill – when you're on that sideline that close to them, you have a little better sense maybe than you would have on tape. So, it will be a plus for us."
Have you recognized anything you would like to do differently going into this offseason and next year? "Absolutely. We talked to all our guys, and it starts with all of us, it starts with ourselves. I think that's something we'll be able to do in the next couple of weeks, but I try to do that every single day. So, when the season is over, it's something you've thought about every single day through the whole season. What could I have done better in that meeting, or what could we have done better with that game plan, or how could we have expressed this better to our guys? How can we coach that technique better? How can we put our offense, defense and special teams together better? [How can we] put the roster together better? I think that's an ongoing deal, and if you're not doing that, if you're not trying to get better every single day, then you're obviously getting worse and people are going to pass you up. So yeah, that's very important."
Do you anticipate any roster decisions being textured, as last year's decision about K Matt Stover was? "Well, again, [that's an] esoteric question. I'm not an esoteric kind of guy, so if you want to be specific, throw it at me. I think we've got some pretty straight-forward personnel decisions, but I think the Matt Stover decision, to be honest with you, was very straight forward."
Going forward, do you see K Billy Cundiff still being in the mix, or will there be a competition for the kicking position next season? "Sure, yeah, we want to have the best kicker in here that we can, and we're certainly not opposed to having two guys kick. If it's a kickoff guy and a field goal guy – whatever's best for our situation, that's what we're going to do. We said from the beginning… I can kind of go back through that if you want me to… We've said from the beginning that we would rather have a guy that kicks off and does field goals because our punter is not a kickoff guy, and you'd like to have two guys in those spots. But we've proven we'll have three guys in there and be very happy with it, and that's a possibility going forward. So, if you're asking me about Matt coming back, sure, Matt's a possibility coming back. That could work out that way. Billy Cundiff, I think, is a big possibility for us. He proved that he could make field goals under pressure situations. He kicked off very well. I think he improved some things coming here. He'll be the first to tell you [he improved on] some mechanical things that he worked through when he first got here. Through the season, he's gotten better as a kicker, as a field goal kicker especially, and as a kickoff guy. There's going to be guys in the draft that we're going to look at. We want to have the very best kicking situation that we possibly can, just like we wanted to have the best situation last year that we possibly could."
Why would you be willing to bring Stover back after releasing him last season? "Why wouldn't I? We want to have the best team we can. So, if that ends up being our best option, we'll do it. We're not… I guess the point I'm making is we don't rule anything out. Anything we can do to make our team better, we want to do it. He's a great guy and good person and a heck of a kicker, and that may work out. But it may not. So, that's what we've got to find out over the next couple months. We're just going to do everything we can, personnel wise, to make our team as good as we possibly can. That's what we owe the fans, and we owe the players, the coaches and everybody else."
Do you see a lot more football in DE Trevor Pryce's future? "Yeah, Trevor can still play – no question about it. Trevor had a great year. I think he's been our leading sack guy for the last five years and our leading sack guy this year. So, Trevor can still rush the passer, he's a solid run defender, he's a tremendous leader, and he knows the defense inside and out. Trevor's got a few more years left in him, no doubt."
How has the D-line progressed throughout the season, and is it important to keep that group together for next season? "Well, we're going to try to keep them all together. That's our goal. Obviously, we've got some guys who are unrestricted – Dwan Edwards is unrestricted and Justin Bannan is unrestricted. So, we're going to try to keep those guys here. We're going to make a big push to do it. We want to keep that group intact. We've got some young guys – [Brandon] McKinney, [Lamar] Divens and [Kelly] Talavou – who will be competing to make that squad next year, and I'm sure we'll bring somebody else in. I think the defensive line is one of the real strengths of our team, and we want to build on that."
Is there a specific moment or game where DT Haloti Ngata became the Pro Bowl player that he is? "You know, there might have been, but I can't think of it right now. I think Haloti had a great year last year, in my opinion, and maybe I'm a little bit biased toward our guys, but I thought Haloti was a Pro Bowl player last year. For him to be recognized this year as such is big. He got a couple sacks, but Haloti, again, he's going to be a guy that's going to work to get a lot better in the offseason. There are some things he can do better. I just talked to him yesterday. He can't wait to get started."
What are your thoughts on LB Ray Lewis' hit in the Indianapolis game, and do you think he'll get fined by the NFL? "I don't think the league will fine him. It was not a cheap shot. I had a chance to look at all those plays, obviously. That was a good, hard football tackle. Ray Lewis made a perfect form-tackle. The receiver caught the ball, was going to protect himself, and dropped his head to a certain level that was below his shoulder pad level after Ray had committed to the tackle. And at that point in time, you're committed to the tackle. You're not going to stop. You can't stop in mid-air; it's not humanly possible. So, when he went in to make that play, he was definitely in the strike zone and the player ducked and got hit in the head. That's how I saw it."
Will LB Dannell Ellerbe compete with LB Tavares Gooden and LB Brendon Ayanbadejo for a starting ILB position?"Yeah, well I think Dannell… He was the guy this year as a rookie, but obviously, he's got to get better to be that incumbent starter, I guess you'd call it. Tavares Gooden is a heck of a player. Brendon Ayanbadejo will be competing for that spot as you said. I think we've – Jameel McClain – we've got a nice group of young linebackers, and we've done it in kind of an unusual way. Tavares is the highest draft pick of the group. So, I think our personnel group has done a great job of bringing in linebackers. I can't wait to see how that shakes out. My guess is they'll all be playing, and [we'll be] rolling them in through packages because we're going to try to get those guys on the field."
What are you looking for from DE/OLB Paul Kruger going into next year?"Well, Paul is going to be more of a contributor. Paul Kruger… I think Paul Kruger, and we've said this all along, he's on his way to being a heck of a player. We have no disappointment in Paul Kruger whatsoever. Paul Kruger backed up Terrell Suggs this year. He played when Terrell was hurt, and played very well. I think it's hard to say that he's going to get as much playing time as you would like by the fact that he has a great player in front of him. He's got to do some things from a special teams perspective, maybe, to be a backup linebacker over some of the other guys. But that's not something he's ever played before. He was a pass-rushing guy in college, and that's not something those guys usually do. So, he'll learn that in the offseason. He can't wait to get started on that, and then we'll see – rush linebacker, defensive end, depending on much weight, strength and size he puts on – but he'll be in that mix for sure next year, and I'll expect him playing a lot."
What can OLB Terrell Suggs do to fully participate in the offseason? "Terrell's a hard worker. There is no one who likes to practice as much as Terrell Suggs. He loves to play games. He loves to lift weights. He trains hard, and that fact that he's going to have an opportunity, which he's never had… Since we've been here the last two years, he did not have an opportunity to be with us in the offseason program. He's told me he's going to be here for the full offseason program. I'm sure he will. He'll have commitments here and there, but I'm sure he'll be here, and we'll be working with him, as well as all the other guys, as hard as we can. But, he'll be out there in front. He'll be leading those guys. That's the way he trains, so I can't wait to have him around."
What's your role leading into the draft, and do you switch over to more of a scouting role? "Yeah, I'd guess you'd say it that way. Eric DeCosta gets mad at me because I'm always in there demanding more tape. 'I need more tape!' He's got it written on his board, 'I need more tape, Harbaugh.' (laughter) We're very involved. Our coaches… To me, it's fun. I think it's something that we want to be involved with. We've developed this rapport between the scouting department and the coaching department as far as the type of player we want, what we're looking for at each position, how we play defense, how we play offense, special teams, specifics at each position – the kind of player we want. I think our coaches and scouts do a great job of dialoguing on that. We watch all the tape together. All of our coaches, all of our scouts watch all the tape, and then we hash it out. Then, ultimately, when it comes down to making that call, Ozzie [Newsome] will make that call in the end, but there has not been one draft pick over the last two drafts that we basically disagreed on. There's not one guy that we've said, 'You know what, you want that guy? I don't want that guy, somebody else...' We have our opinions in there, but in the end, I think we're all able to say yes to a guy we should pick, and that comes from a lot of work and a lot of communication over the months leading up to the draft."
With a young offensive line, how important was C Matt Birk to the maturation of that line? And, the second part of that are the second-string quarterbacks. Are you pretty set that both Troy Smith and John Beck will be back, and can you talk about their preparation?"As far as the offensive line, I think that's a great observation. A young offensive line and an anchor like Matt Birk is what tied it all together, and that was really the whole idea. You know that from when we sat here and we signed him, Matt Birk tied the offensive line together. He did a great job, not just with the calls, which obviously he did a great job with and getting the line going in the right direction, I think he did a great job of showing those guys how to prepare. And then he played really well. There's nothing more we could ask of Matt Birk. I think he's been a home run. As far as the backup quarterback situation, we think we have two good, young backup quarterbacks – obviously, two guys that want to start in this league. So, I think we're very happy with our situation. We're very content to have those guys as a strong two and a strong three, and even battling it out within those roles as we go forward. By the same token, my guess is there's going to be some people that are going to be interested in those two guys, so we're not going to hold them back. But, we're going to make sure we do what's best for the Ravens."
A lot of guys were expressing disappointment in the locker room yesterday. Do you want them to keep that for a little bit or move past it as quickly as possible?
"That's a good question. They're going to feel that way because our guys are competitive. Our guys expected to be playing this week, so that's a natural disappointment. But, I want them to understand how well they played this year. I want them to understand the accomplishments of the last two years. I want them to understand what we're building, and I want them to have a vision for where we're going, because if they don't have a vision for where we're going, we can't get there. But if they understand where we're going, they can build themselves into that. That's what I'm excited about. I think we'll move the emotions out pretty quick, and they'll get some time with their families, and they'll be back here going to work."
Back to the offensive line, you've got to be thrilled with the way T Michael Oher played in his rookie season. Do you see any circumstance where he might move to the left side next year?
"I think Michael Oher could play either side, and Jared Gaither could play either side. That's the good news. That's exciting. I don't know how many teams in the league have that kind of a situation with their offensive line – to have two young tackles of that caliber. There's nobody else in the league that has that situation. I think right now, Jared Gaither at left and Michael Oher at right is working pretty well. But, that's going to depend on the ability of Jared to stay healthy and Michael to stay healthy and to be consistent. It's ability and it's durability. I want to have an offensive line where all five guys are in there every single game as much as possible. That's what you strive for, so that's what the offseason is all about. If we've got Jared Gaither on the left side and Michael Oher on the right side next year, I think we're going to be pretty pleased with that."
Do you find yourself rooting for Jets head coach Rex Ryan from here on out in the playoffs?
"Yeah, of course. I'm biased, again. I mean, these guys are our guys. You look at Rex and Mike Pettine, Jimmy Leonhard, Marques Douglas, Bart Scott, those guys are our guys. We're proud of them, excited for them. Even a guy like Scott Cohen, who is the director of personnel over there with the Jets, [he] was a guy that I had the chance to work with for eight years in Philadelphia, and what a great job he's done. It's exciting to see those guys and what they've accomplished."
Have you talked to Rex at all?
"No. He's pretty busy. *(laughter) *He's pretty busy right now."
Knowing that there aren't going to be many free agents available, other than the draft, do you think next season this team will look like the one that just played in Indianapolis?
"I mean, if you're talking just foundationally and fundamentally, I sure hope so. I think what you want to do is always move forward, improve your team. We want to hold all the good players together as much as we can. We've got a lot of really good players. We're not willing to let anybody walk out the door, and certainly, we weren't last year, either. And sometimes that's beyond your control. You can't do anything about it. But the more guys we can keep here, then we can build on that and improve our team and get better, have as much competition in training camp as we can. I would say foundationally, fundamentally, culturally, yes. It should look the same, but better as we improve ourselves as coaches and improve our roster."
The other guy who people thought would make the Pro Bowl and didn't was LB Jarret Johnson. What are your impressions of him and how it seemed like he had a breakout year?
"Jarret Johnson, I think he's playing… The two years I've seen him, I think he's played at that level for two straight years. Here's a guy that always plays well, always practices well, plays through any injury. And you guys see him out there – you can tell he's in pain lots of times, and he's flying around and there's not a better man in this league than Jarret Johnson, and he's a good football player. To see him get recognized the way he has been is encouraging, and I would think pretty soon he's going to be in the Pro Bowl. I think he had a Pro Bowl year this year, and I also think he had a Pro Bowl year last year."
RB Willis McGahee has talked about maybe wanting to go somewhere where he has an opportunity to get more touches. He's under contract, so where do you see him fitting in next year?
"Willis is a Raven. He's under contract, and I had a chance to talk to him yesterday at length about it, and that's what he expressed to me. I don't think he's ever… No really good player is ever satisfied, ever, with their season. I know Willis wants to carry the ball as much as possible, and I was so excited for him. The way he ran the ball at the end of the year, I told him this, that was Willis McGahee. That was impressive. I think he'll have a great offseason, and he'll build on that going into next year. How it shakes out – Ray [Rice] and Willis and Le'Ron [McClain], and then two young guys, Matt Lawrence and Jalen Parmele – they're all going to be in our mix. You can't have enough good players at any position, and we'll put them out there and give them the ball, and they're going to help us win games."
In an uncapped season, a lot of fans will think that means spend as much money as you have to get the player you want to get. What is the organizational philosophy about that moving forward?
"I don't want to speak for Steve Bisciotti or Dick Cass philosophically, but I think that we, Ozzie [Newsome] and myself, respect the budget and respect… It's not a salary cap, but there's a certain spending framework that we want to stay within. That's out of respect for the organization. And really, you're not going to be able to just spend gobs of money and improve your football team all that much, because the free agents just aren't going to be available. It would just be foolish. I think what we'll do is do what we have to do to keep our players in place as much as we can, and then build our team as well as we can with respect for the budget, and that's something that I know Ozzie's committed to, and I am, too."
Are you going to take a little vacation from football and then come back to prepare for the draft, or are you just going to push straight though?
"I'd like to go take… Where do you go? I'd be somewhere thinking about football, right? *(laughter) *You'd be sitting down there thinking about your team. I can't wait to spend a little more time with Alison and Ingrid. Alison's got a basketball game tonight at 6:30. I plan to be there on time for that. I can't wait. That's what we'll do. We'll be doing family stuff."
Pryce and McGahee have higher price tags for next year. Do you envision keeping both of them this next season?
"I can't read the future, so I don't know how that's going to shake out. I think those are conversations we're going to have over the next months, and specifically, next week when we have our personnel meetings. But, from a football coach's standpoint, I know one thing: They make our team better, and that's a pretty good place to be with those two guys on your team."
RB Ray Rice's stiff arm the other night – was that him being a quick study of McGahee from a couple of weeks ago at Oakland, and what does that say about Rice?
"Wow. I think maybe he did learn a little bit from Willis on that, but I think Ray's always had a pretty good stiff arm, I would guess. I haven't really, to be honest with you, I guess I haven't studied Ray's stiff arm attributes quite as closely over the last couple of years, but I've seen it. I've seen him do it in practice, so it's in his repertoire."
There was a report last week that Flacco was in so much pain on the way back from Oakland that he couldn't sit down. Can you confirm that or elaborate on that at all?
"I don't know. It was a six-hour flight, and I saw him sitting down, so I think he was able to sit down. Joe fought through some… He had a bad contusion on his thigh, on the outside of his thigh and hip area there, and it swelled up legitimately so. I think it was restrictive for him. If any of you guys have had that kind of a serious bruise, you know how much that hurts. There's a former player right back here shaking his head. Right? You know how much that hurts. You get on a flight, and that's when swelling starts to happen a little bit more. I think Joe showed some real toughness throughout the last five, six weeks playing through that."
What do you want people to remember about this year's season?
"I haven't really thought about that to put it into words. I think people see what they see, and I think if you're looking closely you see a bunch of quality, high-character guys fighting every week to be as good as they can be and competing, playing from the first whistle until the last whistle, as hard and as well as they possibly can to try to win a football game. I'm pretty proud of them. I think we won some games by tight margins. We won some games by large margins, and we lost some games by tight margins. We never went out there and didn't equip ourselves well. There are some things we'd want to do better, but I'm proud of our guys, and I would hope our fans are, too."
When Reed mentioned the other night that he might consider retiring, is that something that was news to you or something that had been discussed in the course of the season?
"I'm not sure about Ed's private conversations, but I hadn't had any conversations with him about that. We talked about it yesterday. I think I understand where he's coming from. I think he wants a little time just to try to get healthy and look at some things to come back. That was my encouragement. Whatever he can do to put that stuff behind him as much as he can, he'll try to do. I'm real hopeful, and I believe he's going to come back and play, and I'm going to go on that assumption until he tells us differently."