Press Conference Transcript - Sept. 21

Opening statement: "Good to see everybody. We've had a chance now to travel back. Some of you guys traveled back, and gals, as well. So, we're refreshed and rested, and we've already gone to work. We had meetings starting at 12:15 with special teams. We just finished practice, and the guys will get out of here now and start getting ready for Cleveland on their own, and we'll be back on Wednesday. But, having a chance to look at the game, what stands out is the same thing that stands out after the game: [It was] a hard-fought victory, tremendous effort by the Chargers as well as the Ravens. That was a game that both teams really wanted to win and fought hard for. We were fortunate enough to figure out a way to win it at the end. I thought it was really a courageous effort by our team – in that environment – to play with the kind of poise that we played with. [To only have] one offensive penalty in that environment, with that crowd, against that defense, is pretty impressive. So, the poise and discipline [were outstanding]. Probably more than anything it came down to blocking and tackling. We blocked very well and we tackled very well. Defensively, we had to. Red zone defense, obviously, was a big difference. The two turnovers were huge. And scoring in the red zone, scoring touchdowns in the red zone for the most part, and Steve [Hauschka] making that field goal at the end [were all important]. It's all the little things that go into that. With the one sack we took, Joe [Flacco] holds on to the ball. We can't pick that particular pressure up. Rather than throwing it away or risking a fumble or something like that, Joe holds on to it. He takes a sack, which bumps us back a little bit but keeps the clock running and forces them to take a time out. That's headsy. That is really smart. Then, Cam calls a run on the next play which does two things: keeps the clock running, plus they're in a pass defense, and we gain 10 or 12 yards, and it makes the field goal much more makeable for Steve. So, those are all the little things that went into that football game. That's what's exciting. The things that we need to work on are plentiful, and we'll go to work on those things today.

When it comes to the problems with the pass defense, can you see from film that they are things that are easily correctible?

"The pass defense stuff is really very correctible. It's really a matter of sometimes guys in a big game like that trying to do too much – trying to do more than you have to do. We played together better back there, trusted the guy next to us a little bit better and stay in position, and we'll be fine. That was the encouraging part of it. Our guys see that, and it'll be corrected."

How do you feel now that Steve Mariucci has picked the Ravens as the team to beat in the AFC?

"We don't care. We don't particularly want that. That's not a place we're comfortable with. I'm going to tell you what: There are a lot of great teams in this conference. That game could have gone either way. To me, that's the crazy nature of the NFL. It's early. It's Week 2. But, I'm proud of our football team. They won a tough game, on the road, early in the season. Now, we've got two down and one to go."

Coaches often say they like to set a tone. Did yesterday's game set a tone for the season?

"Well, every week you want to set a tone. That's true. Our tone basically is to be who we are. We're a rough, tough, disciplined, hard-playing bunch of guys. Our guys were excited to go out there and play the Chargers in their home opener, in that kind of environment. It was loud. That place was shaking; the ground was shaking. That's what the NFL is all about, and if that's what setting a tone is, then we're just the men for the job."

How is CB Fabian Washington and do you think he will be able to play this week?

"He'll have a chance to play this week. We'll see. He seemed OK today. That stuff all comes down to those tests that they do. I haven't heard what the tests are yet."

The size of the Ravens' cornerbacks has been discussed. Do you feel you need to make any adjustments when it comes to going up against teams with big wide receivers like the Chargers?

"Who was out there that's in here? Do you remember seeing those wide receivers? That's true [that Rivers made some exceptional throws]. I'll say this, too: Their receivers are huge. You're not going to find corners like those receivers, that size. They'd have to be 6-6. The next 6-6 corner that comes out of the draft, we'll be drafting that guy. You talk about how big they are. We talked to our guys and Cam [Cameron] had kind of warned us about it. I hadn't played the Chargers [for some time]. We played them a couple of years ago in Philly, and they didn't have the players they have now. They came out on the field, and I was shell-shocked. They are big, athletic, good-looking players. And, [Philip] Rivers is a big guy. He's every bit as tall as Joe. That's an impressive group. Yeah, we can do things. We can play the coverage in a more together fashion and help those corners out a little bit better than we did, and the corners will come up and make some plays. 'Fabe' was all over the last one and had his hand right in there, and they came down with the ball. That's a case of a guy being covered and him still making the catch. So, there are a lot of things we can do to get better."

On the touchdown pass that LB Terrell Suggs moved inside on, was he trying to get to another guy?

"Yes. When you play man coverage against a good back like that, sometimes you put a call on to try to knock those guys off and slow them down a little bit, and Suggs tried to do that. They got us caught up in the man coverage on a switch and he came free. That was unfortunate. They caught us."

Do you feel that your aggressive approach to training camp has a lot to do with the early season success, and do you think your training camp is one of the toughest in the NFL?

"I wasn't at any other NFL camps, so I don't know for sure. But, our guys compete. That's just the kind of guys we have. We set up camp to be competitive. I think most camps do that in some way or another. I don't think there would be any other way we'd be interested in doing it, and our guys are in to it. So, that's who we are."

Do you think that aggressive approach helped the team be season-ready by the middle of the preseason, and is that why things are going so well now?

"I don't know. That's who we are. That's training camp. We said we're going to try to be the very best Ravens we could be at the end of training camp. And now, I think we are. But, we have a long way to go. We're looking to next week. What can we do on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and Saturday to be ready for Sunday's game? And that's what we did every week in training camp. So, to go back and try to figure out why we are or aren't something, it's kind of a waste of time for us, really."

How surprised are you that San Diego ran right into the defense at the end of the game?"Not surprised at all, because it's fourth-and-1½ , and they've got a really good back and a physical offensive line, and they had a couple runs before that. So, I thought that was… We weren't surprised by it. In that situation, they can do a lot of different things, and that's the tough thing about a fourth- or a third-and-short. There are a lot of options that they have, and you've got to try to defend everything. Obviously, the defensive front didn't get knocked back, and Ray [Lewis] ran through a gap and made a great play."

How have you seen the relationship between WR Kelley Washington and QB Joe Flacco evolve?
"They get along great. They have a great relationship. They hang out and have lunch together and spend a lot of time together."

Does that relationship translate over onto the field?
"I think they're both good players. I guess I'm having fun with you a little bit, but the relationship… They practice every day together, and I think that they have… Kelley gets open, and Joe throws him the ball. And it's the same thing with [Derrick Mason] and it's the same thing with [Mark] Clayton and Demetrius [Williams] and Todd [Heap] and all the receivers. So, to me, it's a product of hard work. That's really what it's a product of. And we're sure glad that Kelley is a part of this team, because he's been so instrumental in some third-down conversions that have kept some drives alive. And in this last game, he had a couple of big ones that were just critical in this game. So he's kind of opened up the middle of the field for us. And Todd would be another guy you put in that category, with the touchdown catch. So guys came up and really made some plays. Offensive line, the protection was outstanding. We talked about those two outside 'backers last week. I remember you guys asked those questions a bunch: 'How are we going to block those two guys?' Our guys blocked them, and that's a credit to our tackles, and we were chipping our way out, and Joe was getting the ball out. So, you look at all those kinds of things and you're pretty excited about that stuff. That's good players playing well. And, that's really how you win a game like that."

Did TE Edgar Jones' block on LB Shawne Merriman get replayed a few times today?"We replayed all the plays a few times, especially the good ones. Edgar obviously has a role, and it's a role to be really physical. And he's working on running around, catching the ball and all that, but even on special teams he's a physical guy and he loves to play. So, he's kind of got that so-called defensive mentality and brings it over to the offensive side, and that's what he did on that play."

Did you come out of the game pretty healthy?
"We've got plenty of bumps and bruises. It was really a physical game. But, nothing major. We'll see how it goes during the week."

Did Flacco maybe not understand last year when it was OK to take a sack in some situations?
"A lot of quarterbacks will take sacks a little further out, in fringe areas. And if you remember, Joe had a couple of those last year that knocked us out of field goal range. And to get him* *to understand that we were still in field goal range, and we still had another play to maybe bump it back up in there a little bit more, maybe to understand that the clock was more important than eight or nine yards in that situation, that's not a situation that we talk about really. We work on every situation that we can think of, but we haven't worked on the take-a-sack situation to keep the clock running. *(laughter) *I guess that's just him being a good football player and having a good feel for the game."

What didn't go right with the pass from WR Mark Clayton to RB Ray Rice? Was there a chance to really break one open there?

"Yeah, that was well designed and pretty well executed. Probably, if we catch it on a first try and get up field, we have a chance to break that thing because it was there to some extent. But their outside backer, was it [Shaun] Phillips? He came up and made an outstanding play. For him to, in space, make that tackle on Ray Rice was a great football play."

Has WR Demetrius Williams just not been compatible with the offense the first two weeks?

"I think it's like anything else: As the game goes along, we see how many receivers are going to play during the game. We've been in three-receiver sets. He's been the fourth receiver. When we feel like he's ready to help us win a game based on the situation, he'll be out there. He's worked really hard. One thing about Demetrius is he works really hard at it. You don't put on 12-15 pounds of muscle mass in the last year that he's done to get himself ready to play if you're not a hard-working guy. I think without question he'll be a big part of the plans the next few weeks."

Was TE L.J. Smith close to playing? Did it become clear in warm-ups that he wasn't ready to go?

"It became clear. We took him to pre-game, and he tried to go, but it just wasn't going to be something that would hold up to our best advantage. So now you've got to make a decision: 'This guy or this guy?' We felt like it was the other guy for that game."

What can you tell us about the Browns?

"The Browns? I haven't had a chance to really look at them on tape yet. Divisional opponent. Big, physical front, obviously, on defense, a really good offensive line, young quarterback. [They're] talented. It's going to be a really important game. They're going to come in here with a lot at stake. This is going to be an important game for the Browns, obviously. We're going to have to be ready to match that intensity."

RB Willis McGahee is looking better this year comparatively to last year. Is that more him, more the O-line or a combination?

"I think Willis has done a great job of getting himself ready to play this year. Certainly, all those other things you mentioned go into it. The fact that the O-line has gotten better, Joe's gotten better, the receivers have gotten better – that makes everybody better. But Willis has had a really good camp. I think he had a reasonably good offseason. It could always have been better. He'll be the first to tell you that. When he came to camp in shape, and then was able to work through training camp – and I don't think he missed a practice during training camp – by his own, he told me this was the best training camp he's had in his whole pro career, and it's shown up in the way he's running. It's been a real plus for us. He really ran well. And he blocked well, too, in pass protection. He had a nice game."

Can you talk about the ability of this team to answer? The Chargers scored, and you came right back.

"That's been a theme so far this year. That's something we need to hold on to, the fact that we've answered. Our offense, especially, has answered, and our defense has answered. We've been backed up a couple of times in the red zone, and we answered and got a stop. Offensively, if they score, we go right back down and score again and then go take the lead and then hold on to the lead when they are knocking on the door in our own stadium. If you want to be the kind of team that we aspire to be, you better be able to do that in this league."

Your one offensive penalty, it looked like C Matt Birk was getting ready to snap the ball when the official went in to stop it, and then T Michael Oher jumped offsides. Did you get an explanation as to why the official stepped in right before the ball snapped?

"No, I really didn't. And I asked for one. I made a call this morning, too. (laughing) That was a really well-officiated game. There were a few things in there that I was getting on those guys about during the game, that we went back and watched the tape, and they did a good job. That would be one that we weren't too sure about. We'll give them one, I guess, but they did a good job."

Can you talk about the defensive play that CB Frank Walker made at the end of the game, and how does he fit into this defense?

"We've said all along: Frank can play. We don't have a guy on this roster that is not a great football player. You don't get to this level and make a team like this or defense like this unless you're really, really good, because this is a tough roster to make. It's the NFL, and Frank can cover. The other side of the coin is you don't play corner in this league without getting beat once or twice, and the ability to put that behind you and play the next play is huge for those guys. Frank's going to play a lot of football. That was a great play. Talk about the big, tall receiver – I mean, he went up and got that ball out of the catch pocket about as well as you can do it. That was a huge play for us."

Do you feel good about Rex Ryan's victory over the Patriots?

"I've got to be careful on that. We're proud… I guarantee you everybody here is proud of Rex Ryan and Mike [Pettine] and Jim [Leonhard] and Bart [Scott]. How this thing shakes out, we're going to be rooting for the Ravens all the way through, and it looks like the Jets are going to be a big part of that just like Rex said they would. We're not surprised. We've come to pretty much believe everything Rex says. (laughter) You know what? That's a great victory. We saw it in the second preseason game. We're not surprised. We saw it in the second preseason game. That's a really good football team. They've got a lot of talent, they're really well coached, and obviously, they'll get after you. That was neat for those guys."

What have you seen from CB/RS Chris Carr in the return game?

"The return game came alive. You talk about the special teams – there's one play we'd like to have back. It was a [Darren] Sproles' artistic play. They were running a return to our left – we squeeze it down, get in front of it, and he bounces it out to the right, runs through a tackle and makes a play, which was tough because we didn't want to let him get out. Other than that we covered really well. I thought the return game showed signs of life – kickoff return game. We got the ball out to the 37 [-yard line] one time – past the 30 [-yard line] another time. Chris was hitting it north and guys were blocking. We didn't get a chance in the punt returns. Mike Scifres took care of that. That guy is a great punter."

Your punter, Sam Koch, had a pretty good game, too…

"We were 41 net [yards], and I think they were 37.5. To win the punt battle – field position was big in this game. We were plus-10 in field position for that game. Our punt team had them inside their 10-yard line three different times. On turnovers, we had them backed up two other times. So, field position in this game was a huge part of it. The punt team, obviously along with Sam, was a big part of that."

Has WR Kelley Washington been better than what you thought when he first came in?

"We try not to put a limitation on a guy. So, it's a tough question to answer. We thought… If you go back to Kelley's history, he was a guy that there were a lot of high hopes for as a receiver. For whatever reason, it just didn't latch on as far as stats and all that stuff go. We always thought he had the ability to be a great receiver in this league. A lot of that shows up in the way he plays special teams because he's such a hardnosed, tough guy. The play that he made as a gunner – he and [Lardarius Webb] to keep that ball out of the end zone – is as good a play as you're ever going to see in that situation. So, he does that and he's making catches on offense. He's just a football player. I wouldn't say we're surprised, but we're sure happy about it."

What can you take away from a battle like this in Week 2 to apply to future games?

"That's a great point. We talk to our guys all the time about… You kind of throw the emotions of that game away after a day or two, and you take the lessons with you, hopefully for the rest of the season. That's in a win and a loss – the good things and the bad things. The things that we can learn, the mistakes we made, we've got to carry those with us. The fact that our guys, not just in the regular season but also in the preseason, have been in tough games… The first game was a tough game. The first regular season game against the Chiefs. This one compounds that. That's something that we carry with us for the rest of the season. It should be something that we can draw on in the next situation that comes up like this. Every game is different. We'll see what happens."

After a day to think about it, was LB Ray Lewis' play still truly the greatest play you've ever seen?

"I'm trying to think of a bigger one. I guess it's as big as it is to the people involved in it. David Tyree's play was probably better for the Giants, but I wasn't on the Giants so I didn't really care. This game mattered – that play mattered to us. It mattered to the Ravens. I felt that way yesterday and I feel that way today. Hopefully, they'll be one next week that will be even bigger. That was a pretty special play. When you take the moment into account – you guys were there – a play had to be made, like Ray said, by them or by us. It wasn't just Ray who made the play. Our defensive line got a good knock back there at the point of attack. It wasn't like he could run away from Ray and had anywhere to go. The fact that our defensive line got such a good push is why that gap opened up because they're accounting for the down guys first. They're not accounting for the second level guys. Ray was through there like a shot. He anticipated it so well. So, I'm sticking by it."

Did you think the dark-colored uniforms versus the light-colored uniforms had any bearing on the game?

"We had a lot of guys cramping during the game. I don't what their situation was over there, but our guys were doing fine until they put the thermometer up on the big score board and it showed 108 [degrees]. Then all of the sudden our guys were dying. That was psychology or something going on there, but they started cramping toward the end. Our training staff did a good job of getting people hydrated back up and obviously, it went right down to the wire."

What was the plane ride home like last night?"You know, we do a lot of things to keep our minds occupied. So, we were just playing cards and making a lot of noise. Once you get caught up in that moment, the time goes by pretty quick. I found out I didn't use the bathroom at all since I was on the plane, so when I got home I had a real problem." (laughter)

What was your initial reaction when LB Ray Lewis made the play to secure the win?"Oh, thank God. I was happy. Me and Kelley Washington were on the other end down there just like, 'We need a big play, we need a big play!' And then Ray came through with that play that he made. We were happy the game was over, because we didn't want to lose."

Is the offense getting more comfortable for you with the running back rotation?"I'm pretty comfortable with it. That's still up to the coaches as far as how they're going to do the rotation. You know, we don't know who is going to be that guy or who is coming in on this down or whatever. It's just some spur of the moment, whoever [Cam Cameron] feels like, whoever has the hot hand."

Are you surprised you've gotten so many carries at this point with RB Ray Rice being the starter?"I'm not surprised. I just look at it like you've got to make the best out of the opportunity that you get. That's what I try to do every time I get out there on the football field, and I just take advantage of it. And I know it's not going to be a 22- or 23- [carry] game, so like I said, you've just got to make the best out of it when you're on the field."

How much can a game like yesterday, a battle, help the team in going forward from here?"I think it helps us a lot because it shows that we've grown as an offense this year. That was like really our first test as far as going out there and having a shootout with those guys. And you know, just helping out the defense – because like we say – defense has been that deal for the past couple of years, and we're trying to change that whole persona around. We want to go out there and contribute as much as we can and just make plays for those guys, let them know we're here [and] we have their back."

Were you able to find your rhythm on the field quicker this year than last year in this rotation?"Oh, yeah. You've got to find it quick, because hey, if you don't find it, then you're going to be out. So, you have no choice but to find it quick."

What are the challenges with the short week, coming back late last night with not much sleep, and getting your body ready for next weekend? "It's really no challenge. You've just got to get your rest these next two days. You know, even though we did come back late, we still had to come in and work on a couple of things [this morning]. But then, that actually helped us pretty good, because you can get treatment while you're here. So, there is no worrying about waking up late and [saying], 'Oh, I've got to go here, I've got to do that.' You're already here. You can get treatment, then you can just go home and get your rest today and tomorrow."

Do you feel like your work throughout the offseason is paying dividends now?"I think it's showing a little bit, but you know, we still have a long season to go and you still need to continue to work. I try to do that whenever we had a chance to lift weights with the team and with our guys and with [strength and conditioning coach] Bob [Rogucki] there. So, you've always got to work hard so it can pay off in the long run."

How good does it feel to be healthy and very fresh this year? "Yeah, it feels pretty good. You know, last year it was difficult. I think I was losing hair last year worrying about what was going on. (laughter) But right now, no worries. It's all about having fun and staying healthy, and that's what we're doing right now."

What about the job of the offensive line?"They've done a great job. You know, Coach [John] Matsko has those guys here day in and day out just working hard. That's the main thing they're working on, is establishing the running game and protecting the quarterback. Right now they're doing an awesome job, and I hope we keep it up and we get better. That's what we're doing – we're getting better, and those guys are growing. We have a young [offensive] line, so the sky is the limit."

Would you say that a lot of the early team success has to do with that really aggressive approach in training camp and the offseason? "Basically, I think it is [that] we have our team from last year, minus a couple of players. So, we know what it takes, we know what we have to do to go out there and get the job done. And not only that, [but] we've been together. So, we know what to expect and we know what we have to do. And then the coaches are doing a great job preparing us, and they know what our limitations are and they know how to push us. And I think they're doing a great job with that so far to keep us healthy, to make it through the season."

What was the difference preparing for this season with head coach John Harbaugh compared to his first season? "The difference is when you've got a new head coach coming in, you don't know what to expect. Sometimes things tend to go a different route. They want you to come in at this [certain playing] weight, where they think you're good at. When you've got another year under [a new coach], you know what to expect from him, so you try not to make those same mistakes you made that first year."

What has experience taught you about not getting too excited early on in the season? "You don't do that because if you do things can go south real quick. You always try to keep your composure – just stay focused. Things are going great right now. It's a smooth road, but eventually you're going to have that bump in the road and you have to keep your poise with that."

Was there something about the Chargers that allowed you to become more involved with the game plan? "I don't know. I do know that the Chargers are a nice group of guys. They have a great football team. We knew we were going to have to run the ball. We couldn't put Ray [Rice] in that predicament to take all the carries, so we had to switch it up. That was the game plan – keep them off balance. I think we did a great job with that."

Do you think the difference was scoring in the red zone as opposed to the Chargers having to settle for field goals?"That's one of our goals right there – work hard in the red zone. Last year when we would get in the red zone, we would start kicking field goals. Eventually, we want to get those to touchdowns instead of those field goals. That's one thing we vowed to get going – that red zone scoring. Hopefully, we can continue that success."

Was conditioning a factor at the end of the game and could you see the defense wearing down? "We knew it was their first home game and that they were going to be real high of off that. So we knew we had to come to play the first three quarters, and we always strive to be the best in the fourth quarter. We were just going back and forth the first three quarters, and we knew they were going to buckle sooner or later. They did in the fourth, and the offense – we didn't finish as strong as we wanted to – but we did a good enough job to at least give the defense a nice break. Then the defense finished real strong at the end. It worked out pretty good. The conditioning had something to do with it, too."

What did you learn from last year? "Basically, don't come in with a hard head. That's about it. Don't do that."

Did you come to that conclusion on your own or did someone take you aside and tell you that? "I knew that. Then you had some people saying things like that. So, it wasn't a no-brainer."

How different of a mindset is it as a runner when you get to the red zone and have a limited amount of area to work with? "There's limited amount of area in the red zone. That's the best part right there. It's either make or break, and I was trying to make – make touchdowns. Sometimes you're not going to be getting 100-yard games. You can just settle for touchdowns, and I'll settle for touchdowns [anytime]."

How do you feel about personal stats versus six points for the team? "Stats versus six points? If you would have asked me that a couple of years ago, I would be all for stats, but I'm going for six points right now. You can't worry about stats because sometimes you might just have a 36-yard game and it is what it is. When you get the touchdowns, it overlooks the stats."

Are you feeling satisfied at this point? "Oh, I'm good. No worries on this end."

How do you feel you have played so far? "I haven't had any negative things in the paper yet. *(laughing) *So, actually, I'm pretty good."

Does your contract hang over you at all?"To tell you the truth, I really haven't been keeping up with the contract. But, I have had some people come up to me off the streets saying, 'I know it's your contract year.' I'm sitting there looking like, 'How do they know all this?' I haven't worried about the contract year. As far as I know, I've got a couple more years left on it."

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