WEDNESDAY PODIUM AVAILABILITY: WEEK 9 VS. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, [it's] good to see everybody. Thanks for coming out. I just want to start off with condolences to the Matte family. [Former Baltimore Colts player and Ravens radio analyst] Tom Matte passed away. [Condolences] to [his wife] Judy Matte. We have a special bond; my mom and Tom Matte went to high school together. Tom, my dad, Judy and my mom have been friends ever since, through Ohio State and Bowling Green. They've known each other for a long time. So, when we came to town, one of the first people that welcomed us were Tom and Judy Matte. We went out to dinner. [He has] just a larger-than-life personality, and she's just the best. We love them. We love the Mattes. We know that he's a man of faith, and he's with his maker right now. Condolences to their family. OK, what questions do you have?"
Can I ask you one just off that note? Tom Matte, he would've wanted to laugh and have fun and share a joke. Do you have any funny story that is sensitive to streaming and TV that you could share? (Morgan Adsit) "Well … (laughter) That's a very good point. Obviously, you know Tom [Matte]. All I really know is that … My mom and dad have a few stories, but I know that they dated, actually – my mom and [Tom] dated in high school a little bit. He was the big football star at East Cleveland Shaw High School and went to Ohio State. I don't think they dated for too long, so I don't really know what happened. (laughter) I don't really have anything beyond that, but thanks."
What do you remember about the 2013 game against the Vikings in the blizzard? (Bobby Trosset) "I remember it was colder than this. I remember [we were] in a dog fight. [Former Minnesota Vikings head coach] Leslie Frazier was the coach; a good friend. It was a really good football game. I remember getting the lead with like two minutes left and thinking it was OK. Then, all of a sudden, the field looked like an ice rink. All of a sudden, our guys are sliding around [and] we couldn't tackle. I remember, they hit a … I think they hit a screen pass that went for a touchdown, and then we came back and might have hit a kick return that went for a touchdown. I remember Jacoby Jones … So, I'm on the sideline right here, and we had a play set up where we could tell when they're going to pooch kick it to our left short. We had a sideline return set up for Jacoby [Jones] to come up and catch it short. We thought we could really hit it on them. So, it comes up, and he had to change … He had to get over there so he could catch it, bottom line. I look down there, I was like, 'Oh, it's there. It's there.' I look down there, and I see Jacoby, and he's like in the far corner looking up in the stands. He told me later he was talking to his mom. (laughter) … So, I'm like, 'Jacoby! Jacoby! Jacoby! Jacoby!' He looks over, and he goes, (makes a shocked face). He starts running over full speed. And if you remember, running full speed, catches it on the run and houses it. 'Ah, we won.' Then Toby Gerhart, who played for my brother at Stanford, he hits a little draw up the middle. I was like, 'Ah, it's a touchdown. They won.' You know what I mean? They're celebrating over there, and we have like 20 or 30 seconds left. Next thing you know, we hit a couple passes, and then we're in the red zone. There's one play left. Joe [Flacco] moves around and throws it up high to Marlon [Brown], and he makes a good catch, gets his feet down in bounds, and then [I said], 'We won!' So, five teams won that day, but we won the last time, and that's the one that counted the most." (laughter) (Reporter: "Did you just watch the highlights?")"It's ingrained. It's ingrained in my mind, man."(laughter)
Was it one of those games that when you do see snow in games, that's one of the games because of that that will come back to you? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, actually. Probably so. It's one of those things that scars you in actually a good way, because we won. You do have scars. There are a lot of negative scars, but that's a good scar there."
It was kind of a crazy week. You go into the Bye Week in second [place], and you come out in first in the [AFC] North. You mentioned that it's a week-to-week league. With what happened with the Bengals in New York, do you think your players believe you a little bit more when you say it's a week-to-week league? (Kirk McEwen) "My players unquestionably believe me; it's you all that don't believe me, because I keep having to bring it up every week. (laughter) So, I feel kind of proven there. But it's the great thing about the NFL. It's the great thing. It's why it's so much fun. It's why it leaves you so many scars, because it's just going to be unpredictable. It doesn't matter if you're in … It's great to be in first place; it doesn't matter. We are in first place after seven games. We need to be in first place after 17 games – that's what we're shooting for. To do that, we really need to win this next game. It will go a long way toward that, and that's how you look at it."
Vikings QB Kirk Cousins has 14 touchdowns, two interceptions and is a veteran quarterback. What do you see from him running the offense? (Todd Karpovich) "Just that. He runs the offense so well. [He's] a veteran quarterback. We had a bad experience against him way back when he was playing for Washington in an overtime game, if you remember. So, that's another scar – I didn't forget that one, either. I could probably take you through that one, too. [He's] a very accurate passer, very on time, [and] on rhythm. [It's] a very defined offense. Call it kind of the 'Kubiak offense.' [Offensive coordinator] Klint [Kubiak] is running it there now, and [head coach] Mike Zimmer believes in it. They run it very well, and he's [Kirk Cousins] perfect for it."
What have you seen from the Vikings' defense? They had a rough go at it last week against Dallas. (Jerry Coleman) "I saw the tape, and they looked pretty good against Dallas. They made a lot of stops. They're a very good front. The linebackers are very instinctive [and] really good players. Safeties are all over the field. I mean, Harrison Smith is still one of the best safeties in football. [He's] very square, playing stout. [They're a] very well-coached defense. It's a very tough defense, and we're going to have to be at our best to move the ball against them."
The injured reserve rules have become more flexible since a few years ago. How much has that helped you guys navigate what you've had to at this point? (Noah Trister) "It's been huge. If we didn't have … If there wasn't some flexibility … There has to be more injuries now than there's even been before. I don't know if you guys are documenting that; maybe there's a story out, but what's going on? Some other teams are catching up with us in that sense. Thank goodness for the roster flexibility. Let's hope that stays in place going forward, because I don't really see too much downside to it. I'm sure they'll tighten it up somehow, but it's been very positive."
Since we last talked to you, ILB Malik Harrison went on NFI, the non-football [injury] list. Do you anticipate that being a long-term absence? Or could he play again this year? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It's a short-term, it looks like. He was very, very … His guardian angels were looking after him. We had him in the team meeting on Tuesday, and we all acknowledged that. We're very thankful for it. It's as much as it takes time for him to heal up, then he'll be back."
QB Lamar Jackson's sack numbers are up a little this year relative to past years. I know part of that is who you've played and part of that is how often you've passed. How would you assess the pass protection and how quickly he's getting rid of the ball? (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes, I think it's all part of it. … I acknowledge that there's going to be some sacks [with] the way we play [and] the way Lamar [Jackson] plays, because there are going to be a lot of plays where he's going to hold the ball a little bit and he's going to go make plays. You've seen that, too. So, kind of understand that. [I] don't take as much to it as much as I think we just have to take care of the sack situation, situationally, especially in field goal range and things like that. He's very conscious about that. He's a very smart player, and that's something you just try to do your best at every single week."
Has your approach to the Bye Week itself, in terms of what's expected of your players, evolved over your time here? You've had a lot of success coming off the Bye Week. (Bobby Trosset) "I'm sure it's evolved, yes. We approached it last week the way … It was a new way of approaching it, the way we practiced and stuff. I thought it was pretty effective. We had a couple of shorter practices with the guys that hadn't been playing; it was really good. Other guys got rested up. So, it seems like every year, you kind of approach it how you … It's probably a combination of what you're facing that year and where I'm at in my evolutionary process as a coach, to your point. But yes, you kind of figure it out as you go. The one thing … The guys taking care of themselves, being smart and all of that stuff, we talk about, but I just really do appreciate our guys. Nobody is … You look at the situation … You haven't brought it up, but I'll bring it up, in Las Vegas with Henry Ruggs [III]. It's just a sad, sad thing for everybody, and mostly the victim and the victim's family. Those are the kind of things we talk to the guys about. We talked about it today. We had a video. It's all of us; it's coaches, players, it's you guys in the media, it's everybody. It's everybody. To try to guard your heart, guard your family and guard your career. Guard the people that are out there with you; let's take care of each other as best as we can. So, you get a little older, but even at our age, we're not protected. Especially young guys, so we just try to talk to them and do the best we can. Our hearts go out to everybody involved with that."
I don't know if you've seen that Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has tested positive for COVID-19 and is not going to play this weekend. Something like that, again along those lines of protection, [does that serve as] a reminder [of] "Hey guys, I know it feels like we're kind of over this, but we're not?" You still have to take care of that, right? (Pete Gilbert) "Exactly right. That's exactly right. We have some guys who are not vaccinated – not very many. They're actually meeting in different rooms. They've done a great job with their masks, and they've done a great job at home, but it takes a toll on those guys, too, emotionally. I know it's their choice, but it takes its toll on those guys emotionally. We have a lot of guys vaccinated, probably some people vaccinated that you don't even know are vaccinated. Guys get vaccinated, and hopefully, that protects you, but I know some people who are vaccinated can get it, too. So, that's what it is – you're right. We've talked to our guys about that, and we're trying to be as vigilant as we can, still."
Back to the roster questions – I have a hard time keeping track sometimes, because you have so many moves. You've only kept 50 or 51 [players] on the roster. Is that a salary cap thing? How much talk has there been with executive vice president and general manager Eric DeCosta and the personnel [department] on a weekly basis about the roster, and the elevations, and ways to save money on the salary cap? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It's not really so much a [salary] cap thing; it is an element of it. There's no doubt about that, but the moves that we've had to make, or we've been challenged with, haven't been major [salary] cap kind of questions. So, it's not to save money on the [salary] cap. I'm not saying it wouldn't be part of it; of course, every penny counts. But I have to look at it, because I never know how many guys are on our roster when I start doing the inactives. It's like, 'How many do we have? How many do we have to inactivate? What are we doing here?' It is fair, but we've also, with the injury situation, and the roster flexibility that you've mentioned, we know guys are coming back. So, if you fill out the full 53 [-man roster] and you know you have to bring guys back, then you're going to have to release guys. And then you have the ability to bring those guys up off the practice squad for those two games. So, we've kind of been working every element of that, which has allowed us to stay under 53. In a normal year, you have to be at 53. You're working with a more flexible-type number right now, so it doesn't have to be 53 at this time. It will settle into 53 here shortly, because of the guys coming back from injuries."
QB Lamar Jackson
On if he enjoyed his week off:"Yes, [it was] a boring little week, though. It was boring. I didn't do anything. I slept. That's always fun."
On how excited he is for the return of TE Nick Boyle:"Oh, man, very excited. He brings a lot to the table for us – catching the ball, blocking. He's doing it all for us. And he's got a little, funny personality, too, so we missed that, too. We're glad we got him back, though – for sure."
On the Ravens' success after the Bye Week:"We don't really worry about just coming out tough. We want to do that regardless [of] Bye Week, [even if] we don't have one yet [or] we have it later on in the season. We just want to come out hitting the ground running, and Coach [Harbaugh] over-emphasizes that in there. We just want to start off right, start off 1-0 this round."
On being back on top of the AFC North despite not playing last weekend:"Yes, people were telling me, 'We're back on top of the division,' stuff like that, but we've still got to take it a game a time. It's a long season ahead of us. Anything can happen, and we're just trying to, like I said, take it a game at a time – 'W's."
On how much better this offense can be over the next 10 games as the team gets guys back:"I don't really know the limit with our offense. Like you said, we've got a few key guys back. The sky is the limit, though. The sky is the limit. We don't really know what's going to happen. We've just got to, like I said, take it a day at a time, a game at a time, a play at a time."
On if his body feels refreshed after a week off:"Oh, yes. It definitely feels refreshed. I feel great. I feel great – 110% – like I said before. I'm good."
On not being as effective on third down this season:"I'm glad we had the Bye Week. Now we can fix that, because I didn't know we were that bad on third down. Hopefully, we make it a positive this go-around off the Bye Week – just dial-in on that third down a little more and try to stay on the field for our defense. Let those guys work when they've got to work."
On his young daughter:"Her name is Milan. I just call her 'Lani.'"
On a photo of his daughter that he posted on his Instagram, and her Halloween costume:"Pebbles from the Flintstones – that's all. Did you like it? Did she look good?" (Reporter: "I thought she looked great.") "I appreciate that." (Reporter: "I had never seen her before.") "I'll be uploading [photos] on my Instagram page, on my story." (Reporter: "She lives with you here in Baltimore?") "She's here right now."
S DeShon Elliott
On if the Bye Week was tough, because the team didn't get a chance to get right back to it after a loss, or if it was good to take the week off and get refreshed:"I would say it was good just for us to be able to … Of course, we talked about it [the loss], but it's over with. We expect better. We have high expectations of ourselves – each person individually and as a team – and at that point, after a couple days went by, we were just kind of like, 'All right, it's over with. New week, new opportunity.' So, we're good. It's our time to get back at it."
On how the team is rallying around ILB Malik Harrison:"Well, I didn't find out [about] Malik [Harrison's] incident until maybe like the night of or the night before we got back. He'll be all right. Things happen. We're just happy he's safe, healthy – well sort of healthy. [We're] happy he's safe and back here with us. He'll be all right. A couple weeks, [and] he'll be back. He'll be fine. It was a little 'pea shooter.' He'll be all right."
On being a vocal leader for the defense:"I will say, I'm trying my best to be the best player and person I can be for our team, and I'm sure all of us are – even a lot of our older guys. So, I think if our older guys step up, and we lead by example, we'll come around as a defense, as a whole, and I think we're not far from that. We've just got to get it back right on track; the way we know the Ravens can play."
On how to keep the Vikings' short passes from turning into big gains:"Just technique and execution. We've just got to continue working on our technique and execution. That starts in practice, starting today. So, we've just got to go out there and do what we need to do. It's not always about X's and O's; it's about players and us doing our job, and I think we're going to get it done. We've just got to staple guys to the ground. That's been our biggest thing right now – stapling guys to the ground."
On supporting WR Rashod Bateman through his early-season injury:"I've been through a lot in my career, so I just kind of told 'young boy' … He got here, and in the first couple days, I could see his talent, I could see the way he moved, and I was like, 'He can be something out here.' So, when he went down, it was kind of like, 'Dang.' But all I could do was tell him, 'Hey, it's early, bro. You're young, so you've got to take it one day at a time. And it's a long season, so as long as you keep working, keep working your butt off to get back, don't worry about it. We're going to welcome you with open arms. Just do what you've got to do to get back healthy.' And I think he's finally done that, and I think he's going to progress throughout the season."
On CB Marlon Humphrey:"Marlon [Humphrey] is my dude. 'Marlo' is always going to be 'All-Pro Marlo.' And as a whole – it's not just Marlon – we take that into account [with] everybody in the secondary. We've got to play better as a whole, together, and when we do that, we're going to be great. I mean, everybody has a bad day. You've just got to go out there and make up for it by playing with each other, as brothers. So, he's going to be all right. Marlon is the best corner in the NFL. He's going to continue to show you all that. You're going to see."
G Kevin Zeitler
On if the cold weather bothers him, alluding to the fact that he wore cut-off sleeves and shorts to his press conference:"It will eventually. (laughter) Give it some time." (laughter)
On his Bye Week and what the time off gave him the opportunity to do:"The Bye was great. It's always nice – middle of a long season – to get a little time to refresh, take your attention off football for a little bit, spend some time with your family. But it also gives you some nice perspective. We know what we need to work on. We're excited to get back here. There's a good energy in the building, and we're excited to crush these last 10 weeks of the season."
On the Bengals game:"They simply outplayed us that day. They got us good. I think a lot of things [that] we knew were issues all came to a head, so it's been very put out front. We know what we need to work on, and it's time for us to take control of that, and we'll see how we take care of it the rest of the year."
On the improvement in the running game as the weather gets colder:"That's what every NFL team wants to do. You always want to run the ball. They always talk about it – November, December – it's how you take over games. The ball gets hard when it gets cold and all of that. So, I know this team has a lot of talent. We have the ability to run the ball, and we know we want to improve from the first seven weeks. And I think we have the guys to do it."
On working with offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris:"He's been great. I love working with him every day. He keeps everything in a great perspective. He never gets too high, he never gets too low on something that we do right or wrong. He pushes us every day to get better, and it's been a pleasure."
On how comfortable he would feel if he had to play tackle on this offensive line:"For me, I would prefer to stay at guard. But for the rest of the guys, the way we've been working it, everyone cross-training and whatnot, I think it only helps us. You never know when someone is going to go down, or what freak thing will happen here or there, or if COVID strikes or anything like that, so having guys available to step in at any given time is a huge advantage for us."
On the offensive line practicing together as a unit and how much more comfortable they're getting:"Honestly, I think we're pretty good. Kind of like you were saying, we've been doing it all year. Even the new guys in the room, they've been catching on quick, too. So, I think there's great comfortability playing next to anyone, no matter who it is, right now."
On what he's seen from C/G Bradley Bozeman's development throughout the year:"He's been great. He's one tough son of a gun [for] playing through last week and everything. He's just the perfect personality for it. He knows how to lead us and point us out, and I love playing next to him."
On the Vikings' front seven:"[They're] great. A lot of defensive depth; at linebacker, D-line, they have a lot of depth. They're very strong. They're made to stop a team like us, so it's going to be a great challenge, and we're going to have to make sure we put our best effort in."
On blocking for QB Lamar Jackson, and how it's been different blocking for him than other QBs throughout his career:"Yes, I've never blocked for anyone like Lamar [Jackson] before. Even after all this time, it still takes getting used to – you just never know what's going to happen. But you see the immense talent, the immense … Anything can happen at any time. You just don't get that every day, and it's a lot of fun to deal with it."
On his job when QB Lamar Jackson scrambles:"Just keep moving, keep trying to hit someone, and let it play out and see what happens." (laughter)
On if he'll wear sleeves on gameday when the weather is cold:"Not on gameday." (laughter)
On how he keeps his body warm on gameday when the weather is cold:"I just think it helps being this big. [I'm a] natural heater, so no issue." (laughter)