Opening statement: "We've had a chance to come to work, and the guys have just finished up now. We had meetings and a little practice, and the guys lifted and had a chance to go through tape. A lot of good things. There are a lot of things we need to get better at. But, all three phases contributed. It probably started with [Joshua] Cribbs and the coverage teams. Shutting down Josh Cribbs, that's a monumental feat, really, right now in this league. They've got a bunch of good special teams players, so I think the credit goes to those guys and to Jerry [Rosburg] and the work they put in. Offensively, we spread it around a little bit and threw it early. We were physical when we needed to be. I thought Joe [Flacco] did a great job of managing the things we had to manage, getting us in the right plays. We blocked well. That's another week that we blocked well. We're getting better in that way. Defensively, there are too many things to talk about, really. The turnovers obviously were a huge part of it. I thought we tackled well. When you tackle well and you run to the ball, sometimes they had a couple of nice things schemed up. I remember Haloti [Ngata] came out of the line one time and got a screen from behind. Jarret Johnson tripped up a screen one time out in the open field. Those are just a couple of examples of plays that are really, really special plays that are effort plays and just good fundamental football plays. That's what we saw on the tape, but we've got a lot of things we need to get better at."
Along with the excitement you've created with this team, are you starting to feel that it is time to explain to fans that they have to redefine what the phrase Ravens football is all about?"Hmmm, you got me. It sounds like a good piece that you're going to be writing. It's going to be interesting to read. I have no idea where you're going with it. It's a great point. That's a big picture thing. And that's something that would take some thought. I'm just not going to [say anything]. I don't have the time to go there. We're just trying to be the best team we can be right now at this time. And we've got good players to build around. We've got really good coaches that understand what our players are capable of doing, and we understand what type of team we want to be. So, if that's redefining from the last 10 years, it's probably true. But it's not something that we're thinking about too much."
Has RB Willis McGahee's role been redefined this year or is it just a role that is more suited to him?"The role is whatever you carve out as a player. You carve out your role by what you do every day in practice and what you show the coaches that you're capable of doing at a really high level. Willis has done a good job of that this year. He practiced well throughout training camp. He's doing so many things well that you're not opposed to having him in there, [whether it's] pass protection, running the ball – obviously running the ball near the goal line. All the things you'd ask a running back to do right now, he's doing well. So we're for having him there to do all those things."
Did LB Jarret Johnson's shoulder and TE L.J. Smith's hamstring hold up well from the game?"It looks like guys held up OK. There will still be some things that we're mending over the course of the week, but nothing major. We've got a few concussions that we are dealing with. We're just going to see how that goes during the week. You worry about the concussions because you don't know exactly where those are going to go."
Are there new concussions or concussions from the previous week that you are concerned about?"New concussions. You'll see Wednesday when the injury report comes out."
How important has it been to have veteran C Matt Birk to help the young players on the offensive line?"Matt has tied our whole line together. Matt, in his own right, is a really good player. You saw Matt line up against Shaun Rogers yesterday, and it was a heck of a battle. Shaun got a few good shoves in there, and Matt got a few good pushes in there, and it maybe was a stalemate, which is about the best you can do against a player like that. For a center to be able to neutralize a premier nose guard in this league like Matt did, that says a lot. Those guys have been going at it for years. So in his own right, he can play, and yet he still ties the whole line together. He does a lot for Joe as far as helping Joe identify some things. He does a great job of communicating to those young guys on either side which direction they need to be going, and that's really important for a center."
Can you talk about the coverage the running backs had from the offensive line yesterday being able to go into the end zone for a touchdown untouched by Cleveland defenders?"John Matsko and Andy Moeller did a great job. These guys walk-through like nobody else. They are constantly [working]. Before meetings or after meetings, during breaks in practice, they're working on assignments and techniques. So it's really a credit to and a product of the work [they do]. They're also talented guys, and they play really hard. But those plays are clean plays, and it's not very often in this league you see clean plays like that. That's a credit to the O-line."
DE Trevor Pryce said that the Ravens' offense is making the defense better. Is that by design?"We said from the beginning that all three phases make the other phases better. It's the offense's job to help the defense become great. It's the defense's job to help the offense become great. Special teams supports both of those areas. We had it last year. You saw it last year, when the offense was on the field finishing in the game and the defense doesn't have to go out and defend in a two-minute situation. That's gigantic. For us to be able to win crunch time is really the other side of the ball getting it done. Whether it's the offense staying on the field or the defense getting a big stop and giving the offense the ball back with a chance to win the game at some point in time, we want to complement each other. And it's not about stats. The one stat that counts is the one that says that we have more points than our opponent when the game is finished. You can say one side of the ball played great, but one side of the ball does not play great if the other side doesn't give them a chance to do so. Last week, maybe our offense had the numbers, but our defense played really well in many situations to put the offense in position to do what they did. And that's what team is all about."
How refreshing was it to see the secondary play so well after the scrutiny it faced following the San Diego game?"It's always good to see guys play well. Even San Diego, with the numbers what they were, there were a lot of good plays that were made. So you take each play and you look at it for what it is. There were a lot of good plays out there in this game, but I guarantee you there are a few plays that the secondary or the defense would like to say. 'We could have played that one better.' We'll always stand on that. Our guys did a really nice job of maintaining their level of play in the face of some criticism. I can't think of a better way to say it. They came under scrutiny a little bit because of the statistics, and maybe they felt like they had something to prove. But they're going to have something to prove next week, too. Just like everybody is. That's the challenge you face every week in this league."
How rare is a player like DE Trevor Pryce, who is both an inside and rush-in type of player?"It's rare. Trevor's got a lot of versatility as a player. He can line up over an offensive guard. He can line up with a tackle. He can line up over tight end and be equally effective in the run and the pass. Trevor's done a great job against the run. We know Trevor can rush the passer, and he had tremendous pressure in this game, especially off the edge. But he was good inside against the run, too. He was pushing and knocking back defensive [players]. The defensive line was knocking the offensive line back, and he had a big part of that. He's a pretty well-rounded player, especially for a guy who's been around for as long as he has."
What goes through your mind at the end of a lopsided game knowing that you have to greet the other coach afterwards?"Coaches in this league do a great job. I've known Eric [Mangini] for a long time, along with a lot of guys on that staff. But it's a competitive league, and those guys are trying to do everything they can to win, and we're trying to do everything we can to win. When it's all said and done, you respect the effort that their coach and their team put in. Really, that's all you can acknowledge. It's, 'Good luck next week and good game.' We had a conversation before the game about different things. He shared some thoughts, and you try to share some thoughts back. But that's more friend-to-friend than it is opponent-to-opponent. Afterwards, there's not really much to say. You're both moving on to your team."
Players talk about matching up with other good players, but as a coach, how does it feel to be facing a coach like Bill Belichick who has won three Super Bowls?"The good thing about this game is that the coaches won't be lining up and teeing off on each other during this game. I don't think anybody would pay to see that right now. I'd like to say that I think I'd have the edge, though. In a hamburger drill, I think I'd have the edge. Coach may not think that. We've got great respect, obviously, for everything that's been accomplished up there by their coaches and their team. There's no more competitive group to go against than those guys. They're edgy and they're battlers, and so are we. So, it's going to be a great matchup."
Are you glad that the two toughest places to play on the road, San Diego and Foxborough, are early in the schedule this year?"I don't know. I haven't thought about it. It's exciting to go play in places like that. That's what this league is all about. Whether it's going late in the year to Tennessee in the playoffs or Pittsburgh or wherever it is, that's exciting. You can't wait to go play in Gillette Stadium. You just can't wait. We're excited about it, the same as we were excited about San Diego. Like we've said, the buses will pull in right on time, and we'll be there and we'll be ready to play."
We all know Brendon Ayanbadejo's reputation as a special teams ace, but what is he bringing to the table as a linebacker? "That's a great question. Brendon has been, obviously, one of the dominant special teams players in the league for the last six or seven years. Now he's becoming a real asset, defensively, to us. He's basically on the field for all of our sub-packages. Our passing situations, when people put three wide receivers on the field, he's out there. He matches up because of his speed. He's playing all of the packages well. He's got the complete array of calls. He knows them all, and he's played really well. He got the interception in this last game. He just plays really fast. He told me something last week that kind of bothered me. He told me that playing special teams is really great, but playing defense is better. I didn't appreciate that too much. (laughter) But, he's having a ball. He's a football player. He loves to play. It's not too often that you'll find a really good special teams player, when he gets his chance on defense or offense, that doesn't play well."
With the preseason, which obviously doesn't count, you have won seven games in a row. Are you happy with that momentum going into New England? "Winning is always good. We'd rather win and correct and try to get better than lose and try to get better. But it doesn't really change. Whether you win or lose, you come out of the game… You play the game as well as you can, one play to the next, and then you basically look up and see what the score is, because if you're watching the score throughout the whole game, I think you're taking your focus [off] what's important, and that's playing this play. That's how you have the impact, the most positive impact you can have, on a game in terms of win or loss, is not thinking about winning or losing. But it's a lot more fun to win. We're happy with the fact that we've won every game so far. We say we expect to win every game. We're playing a game, and we expect to win it. But how do you win it? You play every play as well as you can."
Was it good to get TE L.J. Smith back in the mix?"Yeah, he's wanted to play, and he's worked hard to do it. When he came off after catching that pass, a few guys were checking out his hamstring to make sure he was all right (laughter) – having fun with him because that's how we do it – have a thick skin. He laughed, but it's good to have him back. He's a guy that can be a force for us. He can play as a wide receiver. He can play as a tight end. He's a really versatile guy and can play special teams. He's going to be important for us."
Is there a conversation about not letting other teams take advantage of you, but not putting your team in a bad situation? "That's a great point. You channel your emotions in a way that benefits the team. There's a way to physically get after an opponent the right way. Our guys have done a great job of that this year. I think we have. A lot of people have been frustrated by the fact that our guys have done that and they retaliated, and they've gotten flagged so far this year. That's not something we ever want to do. Sometimes it happens, but we'd prefer that those fouls get called on the opponent than on us, if we had our choice."
How has rookie LB/DE Paul Kruger been doing on special teams? "Paul has been practicing with special teams from the day he got here, just like he's practicing with defense. He's doing a good job. He works really hard. At some point in time, he's going to be really important to us. He's going to be up and active and playing in a game. Until that time, he's important to us for what he's doing in practice. Paul has a great future. He works really hard at it, and he's a good football player."
Is there a certain mentality you have to have to play on the road? "That's a good question. It seems like that gets asked every time we play a road game. I don't have a profound answer for you other than the fact that you go in there and you don't worry about any of that stuff. The idea is to play the way we play. There's nothing better than all of the sudden the crowd is up, and they're [cheering] with their hands up, and you see them standing up. Then all of the sudden, we do something and it all stops and goes silent. There's nothing better than a stadium that's three-quarters empty at the start of the fourth quarter. Those are the things that you try to get accomplished. But how you do that, I think you focus back in on yourself, pulling out the very best play you can at this time, from one play to the next, and then see what happens."
After a game, does it feel like everything went in warp speed? "Yes it does. You kind of take a breath and say, 'Ok, what just happened?' That's why the press conference is so tough after the game because you're not sure what happened. That's why I watch those [TV] shows at night to figure out what actually did happen." (laughter)
Do you have a favorite show? "Am I allowed to say? (laughter) I don't want to get in trouble."
At 27-3, is it easy to decide when to call it off and go to your bench players? "I think I know where you're going with the question. You can always have that discussion about when should you do that. I think back to that Houston vs. Buffalo… Was it Houston and Buffalo way back when? I guarantee you when you're a coach standing on the sideline, that goes through your mind. Joe went out there for the one play that series and threw a touchdown pass. Then it's 34 [points] and you feel a little better about it. We're not afraid to put anybody out there. Troy Smith can go out there and win for us. All of our guys can. At the same time, I've got Ray [Lewis] on the sideline when we took him out, and he's telling me he doesn't want to be out. He wants to be out there playing. So, guys want to play, and you can't always be thinking… We don't have enough players. It's not like college where we've got 80 guys and we can put the whole 'twos' in there and keep the 'ones' safe from injury. You just have a certain number of players, and guys are going to be out there playing anyway. You try to be smart with guys who have injuries and things like that, and do the best you can with it."
Are you comfortable with QB Joe Flacco being compared to Patriots QB Tom Brady this week? "I couldn't care less. Someone can write an article, and it's interesting to read, but it doesn't have anything to do with us. So we don't care. We probably won't read it. It doesn't matter."
How much of QB Joe Flacco's numbers are system-related, or is it just him taking another large step this year?"You want to go from last year to this year basically. If we're playing better in some facet of the game, it's because everything has gotten better related to that aspect of the game. So, if you want to talk about the passing game, Joe – everything he's done between last year and this year – through the offseason, through training camp, has helped make him that better. But it's not just Joe; it's the offensive line, it's the receivers, it's the tight ends, it's the scheme. Maybe we've cleaned up a couple things protection-wise or route-wise and made them better through offseason study. It's the defense putting us in a position where we feel like we can go ahead and throw the ball a little bit and do some things better than we did last year. So, you can never say it's one thing, because there is no way to know what value each thing has. But, everything together is combined to make us a little better in that area."
Where has Flacco taken the biggest step from last year? "I think he sees things better. He's quicker with the ball versus pressure. He's got a better understanding of how it all ties together with the protection and the routes. He knows how to get guys lined up. I mean, there are a thousand things that Joe does better than he did a year ago. And they are all little things, and it's incremental, how much better he does. But there are a lot of things, when you watch the tape. Cam [Cameron] and Hue [Jackson] are the quarterback experts. So, we'll watch the tape [and say], 'He's got to do this better with his release, he's got to do this better with his cadence, he's got to do this better with his recognition,' and those are things he'll work on this week. So, it's just kind of pushing… Hopefully, every single day we get a little bit better in everything we do and become a better team. And that's what our guys talk about every day. How can each guy get a little bit better to make us a better team?"
Do you admire the Patriots having the success they have even with a lot of personnel turnover? "Yeah, you've got to admire everything about what the Patriots have done and what Bill Belichick has done there, and really, the whole organization. They've got tremendous coaches. Scott O'Brien on special teams, Dean Pees on defense, I mean their whole staff is just top notch. So, they've been able to have success and sustain it for a long number of years, and we'll keep trying to make that not happen for them, at least when we play them. That's the competitiveness of the NFL. But we respect them, and we're excited to play them."
But with the changing faces they still manage to stay very consistent… "Right. Well, that's the nature of the NFL. You look at the teams that have done that: I think the Eagles are another example of that. The Giants have become an example of that. Nobody to the extent that the Patriots have done it, for sure, and that's something we aspire to. So, that's the idea."
What is your opinion of the defense pitching the ball around a lot after making an interception? "I like it when it gets pitched into our hands and it's not on the ground, and we're moving the ball down the field. When it's not, then I'm not too happy about it. I know that's maybe ducking for cover, but it's like anything else. You can't just play the game scared. You've got to be willing to attack people. And when we get an interception, our idea is to score. That's our first thought. Not at the expense of losing possession of the ball, so guys have to make good decisions. Now, we may have certain guys that are allowed to pitch it and certain guys that aren't, certain guys you're allowed to pitch to and certain guys you aren't. Guys earn the right to make those kinds of decisions. And Dawan [Landry] is definitely one of those guys, as would be Ed [Reed] and Ray [Lewis] and some of those other guys. Good football players should be able to make wise decisions in the heat of battle. And we count on our guys to do that, and we trust them to do that. If they stop doing that, then they lose a little bit of leeway."
You're at the half-way point of getting CB Samari Rolle back, who is on the PUP list. Are you optimistic that Week 6 he'll be able to possibly join the team?"That's a good question. We haven't had a conversation about that for a few weeks, with the medical staff. I don't have any new information on that. It's something we need to find out."
Is CB/RS Chris Carr's running style on bringing back kicks cautious to hold onto the ball, or is that just his style? It seems like he just doesn't bust loose. I hear people say that on the street. How are you impressed by how he runs?"I hope he's cautious to hold onto the ball. That's the No. 1 idea, is to protect the football. But, we want it to be aggressive ball security. We want guys to hit it north and south. We're looking to get the return game sprung. We need to block as well as we can. It's going to happen. We're getting better all the time. I'd love to be standing up here with a bunch of big returns under our belt and be bragging about it, but we haven't been able to do that yet. So yeah, Chris is responsible for that, but all the guys blocking, all the guys coaching, we're all a part of that. We've got to get that done."
So, is special teams coaching and all the learning and technique that goes into it, similar to trying to put an offensive line together and it just takes time for it to mesh?"The thing about special teams that's a little different is that it's so diverse. You look at… Basically, there are six phases. You've got 66 starting positions. Offensive line, you've got five. Maybe six, or maybe seven in Cam's offense. You never know. But, there are 66 positions on special teams. So, there are a couple of phases that could be doing very well, and a phase or two that's struggling, and we're like, 'Special teams is struggling.' I think we've been solid in our return game, but we haven't busted anything yet, and we want to bust some stuff. Our coverage has been really excellent, but we gave up one against San Diego. Whenever you have some lapse somewhere, it's like, 'Special teams is struggling.' I think we know enough to understand that's not the case. I think our special teams have played well, and they've been very aggressive, and they've played really hard. As far as making those plays, those turnovers, those game-busting plays, we haven't seen that yet, and we need to see that. Nobody wants to see it more than those guys out there playing. But we don't want to start chasing that at the expense of playing good, fundamental football. You've got to let those plays happen when they happen."
When do you turn the page on the Cleveland win?"Today. Today you watch the film, and we just got done with a little walk-through practice, so now it's over. It goes by that fast. That's why every NFL season you try to cherish a little bit of every moment that you have, because you have to prepare so quickly for the next game. So, when I walk out of here, it's pretty much done and forgotten."
Did the New York Jets' defense set up a blueprint for how to play against Patriots QB Tom Brady? "I haven't seen it yet. We run the same defense, we run the same defense. So, you have to at least frustrate Tom Brady. You're not going to sack him, because he's going to get rid of the ball. But you have to at least do your best to kind of get in his face, make some of his throws go off target. But if you don't do that, you don't stand a chance."
Did any of your defensive line units with the Denver Broncos ever as have as much depth as this Ravens line? "Maybe on those Super Bowl teams, maybe. We were pretty deep then, but that was a long time ago, and this is the team I play for. And we are pretty darn deep."
Is your position on the defensive line being employed any differently now? "I know some of it is a little bit of both, because I'm now playing more defensive rush end – like I weigh 260 pounds, and I don't. You know what I mean? It's a combination of a lot of things, but I think you have to understand a lot of things have to go really right for a defensive lineman to get a sack, or to get a pressure. A lot of stuff you can't control, so what you have to do as a lineman – or guys rushing the passer – is rush the same way every chance you get, and hope to God everything else around you works."
Does playing that role make you feel any younger? "I've never done it before, so no. It doesn't."
What sets you up well to play that position? "I'm bigger than everybody else that does it. I'm a lot heavier. I don't think offensive tackles are used to 300-pound guys running that fast off the ball. And it gives you a big advantage if you have some weight in your ass."
What do you remember about the last time you played the Patriots? "I remember being in a sling on the sideline. I remember crying my eyes out that I couldn't play. I remember the timeout, and I remember wishing I was playing."
From a temperament standpoint, is this team different or more mature? "I think so, especially the guys that are within the first five years of being in the NFL. I think it took John [Harbaugh] a little while to get them to understand the fine line between getting a penalty and playing to the whistle. There is a very fine line, and some guys can do it and some guys can't. I think we have a lot of pride in being one of those teams that can define that line. And so, we work on it in practice. We work on it, we talk about it constantly, and it works so far."
Being atop the division and undefeated, how do you feel about the way things are stacking up so far? "We're 3-0. There's not much you can take from playing only three games, except for your record. I don't think you can take… You can't read too much into it. A lot of teams go 3-0 and fall off; a lot of teams go 0-3 and wind up in the Super Bowl. You just don't know. You get a sense once a playoff race starts coming together, and we've got a long way before that. It's only three games. I wish I could say something poetic or some pithy dialogue with you all, but it's 3-0. It's not a lot."
How about the offensive improvement this year? "Now that I can talk about. Watching that on Sunday – put it like this: They ran plays that I've never seen, and I practice with them every day. So, I'll be damned if Cleveland knew what was going on. At one point they did something, and I was like, 'I've never seen that.' And I practice with them every day. So how they recognize or how they remembered all those plays that they ran, I don't know. And it's hard to defend. There was a point [that] I felt sorry for Cleveland. [There was] a point in the game where I was just like, 'There's no way, there's nothing you can do about that.' You can't throw the ball 20 yards downfield, then run a fullback dive and then throw it back 20 yards downfield. That's hard to defend. Then when you have guys running on and off the field, you get tired of doing that. It's like, OK, base defense, passing defense, goal-line defense, and guys are just running past each other. You spend more energy running on and off the field than you do actually playing the game. So, that's… Believe me, I've been in that situation, and it sucks, royally."
Where does QB Tom Brady rank among the quarterbacks you've played against? "At or near the top. There's no doubt about it. I've played against him, I want to say, four or five times, if that much. He can do things that boggle the mind, kind of like Peyton Manning can. How does your muscle memory work that you can throw that kind of ball consistently? That's what makes him a great quarterback – in the history of the NFL – period."
What does RB Fred Taylor bring to their offense? "Smash-mouth running style. That's why the Patriots are a veteran team. They know what they're going to get when they bring a guy in, like a Fred Taylor or a Randy Moss or a Wes Welker – those types of guys. They know exactly what they're getting. They don't rely on their young guys too much to play because there is too much at stake."
What can you expect from practice this week? "Another hard week of practice. That's just the way John Harbaugh practices us as a team. That's just what we do. I don't read too much in to it because whether or not we have pads on, practice is pretty much the same for me. Carrying around your pads was a big thing when I first got here because I never wore pads in Denver, ever. In my 10 years I was there we never put on pads. It was such a shock to my system my first couple years here. Now it's 'old hat'. It's just football practice. It's hard when you're hot and you're tired, but if you can push past that in practice, you can learn to push past that in the game."
Do you think that wearing pads in practice benefits you? "I think it will benefit down the road. You always have something to go back to as a base. When you get tired in training camp, you can always go back to how much work you did in the offseason, and you can tell yourself, 'I'm not supposed to be tired. I've done this. I've done something harder than this. I've breezed through this. I've breezed through that. So why am I breathing hard?' You can condition yourself mentally to get past a lot of things."
Was yesterday a breakout game for you? "For me personally? I have very high standards. What I try to do is not worry about stats and those types of things. When you start worrying about it, you start trying to do too much and you don't get anywhere. Last year, I felt myself pushing and getting really upset when I didn't get to the quarterback, or when I would get there and he'd throw the ball in the dirt. Now, I just know it's part of the flow of the game. Like I said, a lot of things have to happen for Terrell [Suggs] to get sacks or Jarret [Johnson] to get sacks or me to get sacks or interceptions. A lot of things have to go bad for the other team. A lot of things have to go right for our team. That's just professional football. A lot of luck is involved."
Do you just let the game come to you? "You have to. I did that my first year. I let the game come to me. I wasn't worried about it. I was more concerned with trying to set up Terrell [Suggs] to get a bunch of sacks. That was my job when I got here."
How big is it for the defense when your offense is giving you a lot of rest? "I can't stress that enough. When your offense has 70 plays or your offense keeps the ball for eight minutes on a drive, [it's refreshing]. That's what I honestly think you won't see a lot of this year – big stats from any of us individually – from any of the guys on defense, like we did in 2006, because we're not going to play that much. We do not play that much at all. We play 40 snaps a game. You get 40 snaps, and that's only 40 tackles. Divide that between 11 guys. Over the first two games, I had two tackles. Haloti [Ngata] had four, and Jarret [Johnson] had five. There are not a lot of plays because we don't play. Your best defense is the one sitting on the sideline. So, we don't mind it at all."
Are you excited about this offense? "Did you watch them play yesterday? I have every reason to be excited. I've played with really good offenses, really good ones. I played with a back [Terrell Davis] that ran for 2,000 yards and a Hall of Fame quarterback [John Elway] on the field at the same time – and a Hall of Fame tight end [Shannon Sharpe], a Hall of Fame wide receiver [Rod Smith], a Hall of Fame tackle [Gary Zimmerman], a Hall of Fame guard [Mark Schlereth] – all in the Hall of Fame, all on the same team and all on the field at the same time. What I've seen from our offense so far compares to that."
How does D-line coach Clarence Brooks handle reps in practice with how deep the line is? "I don't practice. That's how we do it. 'You go stand over there, old guy.' *(laughing) *'Hey, no problem.' You won't hear any complaints from me."