**OZZIE NEWSOME PRESS CONFERENCE: SUPER BOWL PREP WEEK
Ozzie, you are the architect of this team. You and your staff put this together, and what are your thoughts on the kind of football team you have because your depth was severely tested all year? (Aaron Wilson)"I think [head coach] John [Harbaugh] has used the word 'resolve.' [The team] has a lot of resolve. I think you saw that with those first four games in 17 days. That was a tough stretch. John did a very good job with his staff preparing the team for that stretch. You could see the resolve that the team had. They never blinked during those first four weeks, and we were able to come away 3-1. I think the resolve of the football team, I think we've got outstanding leadership on our team. And I think what they do in the locker room is we have a mentoring program, where some of the veteran players actually take and spend a lot of time with our rookie players. We've got great leadership also."
I think a lot of people have been seeing differences between this team and the 2000 team. What do you think are some similarities? (Jamison Hensley)"I think when I would talk with [former Ravens head coach] Brian [Billick] about that, he said, 'Ozzie, those last four or five weeks of the season going into the playoffs, anything I asked that team to do, they would do.' I think John would say the same thing. The way the team has responded to John and his coaches' leadership of how he's asked them to practice, the different things like that, how he wants them to prepare, I think that has been very similar as to the way it was in 2000."
The move to get rid of Cam Cameron was obviously a tough call at time, but it was a move that paid off. What was your role in it and how was the discussion with John Harbaugh? (Mark Zinno)"We used to call it the barber shop. Now, we call it the scrimmage. John and I, we talk about everything. What I try and do is help John look at the downside and the upside of every decision. And, when I have to make a decision, John does the same thing for me. What is the upside on us making a trade or giving away a draft pick or something like that? And what's the downside of not having a [former Ravens OLB] Jarret Johnson on our football team? So, what we try to do is to look at the upside and the downside. That's what I do for John. I try to paint the picture so that he can have as much information that he has, so he can go about making that decision. It came down to when he walked into my office and told me he was going to make that decision, he had a peace about himself. That's all I could ask from him. I said, 'You want [to]?' And he said, 'Yes, I think this is the right thing to do.'"
With the depth on defense being tested so much, were you at all pleasantly surprised with the way guys stepped up, like Dannell Ellerbe and Corey Graham, or was that something that was expected of them when you brought them in here? (Robert Klemko)"I think with [Dannell] Ellerbe, we saw that he could play a year ago when he got the opportunity. Corey Graham was a guy that we brought in because he was a special teamer. He had been to the Pro Bowl, but when he had played [defense] for the Bears, he had played very good football. Corey Graham is one of the better people, as a person, that I've been around. When he came into this building and this locker room, we got better because of Corey as a person. He wanted an opportunity, and we saw some things during the OTAs and minicamps that he could play. He has the height, weight and speed that we look for at the position, but then when he got his opportunity, he stepped in. We knew Dannell Ellerbe could play. It was just a matter of him getting on the field, and I think he was on the field in sub [packages] and Jameel [McClain] came out early."
Can you talk about what Ed Reed has meant to this secondary, obviously after losing Lardarius Webb? (Jim Corbett)"I can say this, and I've been around a few teams: I don't know if any team has more great leaders and great players than we do. Ed Reed is not only a great player, he's a great leader. Ed wants to be a coach, so he sees this as an opportunity to start his coaching career by helping those young players come along. But, the thing about Ed, he doesn't just talk about it, he goes out and works the way you have to work to get it done. Then you have Matt Birk, and you've got Vonta [Leach] … We have some unbelievable leaders on this football team. Anquan Boldin, nobody works harder than Anquan Boldin every day in practice, and the way he carries himself. We have unbelievable leaders on this team."
What prepared you for being a general manager? Was it your time as a player, was it talking to Art Modell, was it other guys? And how proud are you of what you did as a Hall of Fame football player and what you've accomplished here? (Dave Ginsburg) "The preparation, I think it came when I was asked to stay within the organization, I just asked Mr. Modell [that] I wanted to stay on the* *football side, and he allowed that. But, the preparation came from being around [former Browns GM] Ernie Accorsi and [Patriots head coach] Bill Belichick, and being able to listen to those guys for the first two or three years and to gain as much education as I could get. We know how great Ernie was, and you see how good Bill has been, but being able to learn from both of those guys really helped prepare me. The other thing that I think was so beneficial is that whole group that came over from Cleveland, me, [former Browns/Ravens personnel staffer] Phil [Savage], 'Schwartzy' [Jim Schwartz], Kirk Ferentz, Mike Sheppard, Pat Hill … We were all just slappies together. We had all worked together, so when we moved over, it was like, 'OK, you know what? I have a title, but I'm just one of you guys. Let's go to work.' And, it was fun."
How proud are you, compared to a Hall of Fame playing career, coming here, taking this team to the playoffs many times and two Super Bowls? (Dave Ginsburg) "As a player, that's something that you have to do as an individual. Football is the ultimate team sport, but if you want to achieve big, it's something that has to come from within to get it done, and we see it in Ray Lewis. But from this standpoint, it's not necessarily about what I can do as an individual. It's about me having a collective group of people around me that see the game, who work at the game the same way that I work at it, have the same visions and goals that I do. So as a player, you can go out there and play [alone]. Tiger [Woods] can go out there and shoot 68; it's Tiger [alone]. But when you're a general manager, it's not about you. It's about all of the other good people that you have around you that help you and have the same vision and goals that you do."
The way that Mr. Modell kept you with the franchise, how much can you see Ed Reed with the franchise in that capacity? (Sal Paolantonio) "That'll be up to Ed Reed. That'll be something that [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] and I can talk about. But, Ed's still got a lot of football left to play. I think we'll cross that hurdle [when we have to]. But, we've got [director of player development] Harry Swayne, who was on our last Super Bowl team, and nobody can put a measure of the amount of energy and importance that Harry Swayne has in this building and in this locker room. So, it's important for us to keep players around, but Ed's got a lot of football [left], and if he decides he wants to do that, I think we can find a way."
Can you describe Steve Bisciotti's strengths as an owner and the enjoyment in him getting out of this run? (Childs Walker)"No. 1, he is a very humble person. He's not afraid to challenge the issues, but he's a very good listener. I tell you what, he has some unbelievable insight when you have a chance to sit and talk with him. I've had a chance to watch him grow. I talked to a lot of the other GMs in our business, and they always say that Steve [Bisciotti] had it done the right way. He was able to come in to be a minority owner to learn and watch and then become an owner. Some of these other guys aren't having the opportunity, so therefore they make a lot of mistakes. I don't know if there is a more humble, honest, sometimes fiery, guy then Steve Bisciotti. He enjoys it, but he also believes one thing – that he hires people to do their job. Let them do their job."
*On the growth of Paul Kruger, how much has that been something that has been a core part of the defense, and what parallels have you seen between Patrick Willis and Ray Lewis? (Aaron Wilson) *"First on Paul [Kruger], it's tough – and I know you guys have to write every week – to evaluate a player in their first week, in their first season, in their second week or in their second season. But with us, we have four years to determine whether a guy can play and whether he can get on the field and be great like Ed [Reed] or Ray [Lewis] or he ends up being the guy that in his fourth year blossoms. We have to sit there and watch that. Paul has been that guy. I think the credit goes to Paul. When I'm around in the weight room, Paul does a lot of the extra stuff on his own. He has decided to become a good player. When a player decides that, that's when they become a good player."
For you going to the Super Bowl, you have Jonathan Ogden potentially getting the Hall of Fame, Art Modell, Ray Lewis the guy you drafted playing. Is this kind of like a culmination for you for what you tried to build here? (Jeff Zrebiec) "When we all were kids, you always had a dream of something when you were growing up. For the past 15 months, my dream has been having the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl … I think New Orleans is the greatest venue to have a Super Bowl. I'm biased in that aspect. I played in two Sugar Bowls there. As a matter of fact, I played in the first Sugar Bowl in the Superdome. I'm really biased about New Orleans as a venue for the Super Bowl. To know that Jonathan was up [for induction] and was going to have the opportunity to probably be selected the day before the game, and then for Art, who is now deceased, but always make it to the Top 15, that has been the little dream that the little kids have along the way when they are growing up. Wouldn't that be nice that we're playing in the Super Bowl, and then we have the ultimate that our ultimate warrior is going to play his last down of football in that game? I don't think you could write a script … We have a lot of great writers here. I don't think any of you guys could have written that script."
**Do you feel that in today's NFL, African Americans have the same opportunities to ascend to leadership positions like GM and head coach as do other races? Why do you think that the number of black head coaches has regressed instead of grown? *(Robert Klemko) *"Is the opportunity there? Yes, yes it is. You can look at the fact that I think I am the third of the GMs that have been [to a Super Bowl], because Rod Graves had a chance to go with Arizona, and Jerry Reese has been there, too. We've had our opportunity, and then we've had African American coaches that have had the opportunity. Would we like for the numbers to be better, and we are going to implement … I've had conversations. I'm on the diversity working group/committee that commissioner [Paul] 'Tag' [Tagliabue] put me on years ago. Are we going to work to get it better? Yes, but all we can do is to put people in front of people. Mike Tomlin got in front of the Rooneys and got that job. I can remember way back 18, 19 years ago, and all we were asking for from the Commissioner is to just give us the chance to get in front of you. I think that opportunity is there. I'd like for the other African Americas to get an opportunity, but John Harbaugh is a good football coach, and Jim Harbaugh is a good football coach and Rod Chudzinski is a good football coach. They aren't making bad decisions. It's just a good pool of candidates out there that people have to choose from."
What about [offensive coordinator Jim] Caldwell? He's, obviously, going to be your offensive coordinator next year, but have you heard about him getting a job as a head coach again? (David Ginsburg) "One of the nice things of being at the Senior Bowl … I got a chance to be around a lot of the GMs. I had a couple of GMs tell me, 'If it weren't for your guys [having] success in the playoffs and keep continuing to play and Jim only getting the job, then he would have been someone that we would have interviewed.' I can see going forward … Hopefully, next year we are in the same spot, and it will be tough for him to get interviews again. (laughter) I can see him getting that opportunity a year from now."
**Have you campaigned to get Art Modell in the Hall of Fame, and why do you think he should get in? *(Ryan Mink) *"I think it all came out when he passed, but when you look at what Art [Modell] has done for this league … He was involved in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, involved in the TV deal, involved in the merger, won a championship in 1964, won a Super Bowl, diversity – the first one to hire an African American … When you look at the body of work that Art did, then why shouldn't he be in [the Hall of Fame]? If this game is as good as it is today – and we all think we have a very good game – then Art was an architect of the game. He helped build the game for what it is. That's why I think he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame."
*Heading back to the Cam Cameron decision, it just didn't come out of the blue – John Harbaugh walked into your office. This is something that you probably discussed leading up to that decision, yes? *(Sal Paolantonio) *"Yes, no question about it. *(Reporter: "What kind of role did you have in creating that process for them?") We try to have a process in everything we do. We talk about a lot in the draft. We talk about it a lot in free [agency]. But the process of hiring [offensive coordinator] Jim Caldwell was something that John [Harbaugh] and I talked about way before, and why we wanted to do it and why he wanted to do it. He did not just walk in my office that Monday morning and say, 'I want to make that move.' As a matter of fact, when we got off the bus downtown and we both were driving home from the Redskins game, John and I talked about it that night. He said, 'I think I might have to make a decision,' and was telling me all the reasons why. So, there's a process in place. What we try to do is we try to minimize the downside and maximize the upside. The other thing about that is, Steve [Bisciotti] and John knew I had already gone through that when Brian [Billick] fired Jim Fassel. So, I had a history of why we did it and what we went through to do it. I was able to [say], 'This is the reason why we did it back then. How does it match up?'"
I guess what we are trying to get to is did you and Steve [Bisciotti] push John in that direction? (Sal Paolantonio) **"No, no, no, no, no. That wouldn't be fair to John [Harbaugh]. John has to stand before his coaching staff and his players, and if at any one point do they ever think that he's overly influenced by Steve or I, then he loses his staff and his players. It has to be him."
What do you see as John Harbaugh's biggest strength as a coach? (Jamison Hensley)"You know what? He's eager to learn, and he's willing to talk about things. One thing about John, he lets you know right away he's not the smartest guy in the room. I've been around people that say every time you see them they think they're the smartest guy in the room. John doesn't carry himself that way. But, I don't know if anybody works as hard as John. And you know what? John has a unique talent about him. I don't know how great he is in front of a group, but in a one-on-one setting, there's none better. To watch John operate here in the cafeteria, walking out on the field with a player, in the weight room with a player, and to see him spend five or 10 minutes with a guy, and how important that is, I don't think you can put a measure on it."
How important is it to have an intimidation factor on defense, and how much do you look into that when building a defense? (Howard Fendrich)"Well, the intimidating factor is, they try to run it on you the first two or three times, you stuff it about one or two of those times. Then, you know what? That sends them a message. What we've tried to do is to make sure it's hard for people to drive the football and score. And John and [defensive coordinator] Dean [Pees] have done a good job of when they're getting in the red areas, making them kick field goals. We just try to make it hard on people and try not to give up anything real easy. I think that's the way we try to be successful, build success on defense. Now when you've got [Haloti] Ngata and [Terrell] Suggs and Ray [Lewis] and Ed [Reed] and Jimmy [Smith] and all those guys, it makes it a lot easier to do it."
Ozzie, what parallels do you see between Patrick Willis, who is a young great middle linebacker, and a Ray Lewis? Do you see some of the same qualities? (Aaron Wilson)"You know, there are a lot of similarities. I think Patrick was bigger coming out [of college], though, than Ray was. I don't know him as personally as I know Ray, but I can say this: If he has anywhere the qualities of leadership that Ray has, then the [49ers owners] Yorks and [49ers head coach] Jim [Harbaugh] and [49ers GM] Trent [Baalke] – they've got something special."
Joe Flacco's contract situation, you knew it was going to be brought up … (Sal Paolantonio)"I'm not discussing that. I'm not discussing that. I'm not discussing that. You know what? I've gone on record – Joe and I have a very good understanding about his contract and where we are. End of story."
Ozzie, step one was getting rid of Cam [Cameron], some would say, would be the first step of getting the offense right, step two was Bryant McKinnie at left tackle. Can you talk about how that decision was made, or was it just Jah Reid's toe injury? (Glenn Younes)"It was just Jah Reid getting injured. That was the only thing that precipitated that change. The thing that we can look at, me as a GM guy, as we move forward, we've got Jah coming back, we've got Ramon Harewood, we've got guys that have played four or five games. We had a chance to see Gino [Gradkowski] play against Cincinnati, now. And I know because I've had the opportunity to read some of the things [written in the media], 'the poor offensive line…' We don't have a poor offensive line anymore in Baltimore. We've got some good, young talent that I think can play together for a lot of years."
Ozzie, the double-edged sword to your job is that you draft good players, you develop good players, but it's hard to keep them – you can't keep them all. The same goes for your coaches, as you guys year after year get coached. Just talk a little bit about those challenges on a day-in day-out basis. (Mark Zinno)"We knew we were going to lose [former Ravens safety] Rod Woodson. We drafted Ed Reed. I already can look down the stream. I know what the contract situation is, and No. 1, I know what our salary cap is, and I can look and say and know that we are not going to be able to retain some players, so that's the reason why we go draft players and they sit around for two years and you all wonder why's he not playing. Oh, he will play at some point. So, I don't have to worry. I worry about winning today, but I've got to also worry about winning tomorrow, and I've got to be able to balance those books every year."
Ozzie, can you go back to the phone call with Ray Lewis, when he called you and asked you not to put him on season-ending IR? What were your memories of that phone call? (Jeff Zrebiec)"He called, he was going to see [Dr. John] Uribe in Miami, and he said, 'You know what? I need to collect all of my information.' And I told Ray, I said, 'Ray, the one thing that we have … This designation was put in place for someone [like you].' Mario Williams was the reason the commissioner, at this time last year, Mario Williams – he saw him at the Super Bowl – and Mario told the commissioner, 'I could have played in the playoffs.' And so, the commissioner [said], 'Well, why can't we allow our marquee players [to return].' [Several] years ago, that could have been Tom Brady when he blew his knee out. So, once we got all of the information, and then we knew … People were saying 11 weeks, 12 weeks, 10 weeks, but I was saying, 'If anybody can get themselves ready to play sooner, it would be Ray Lewis.' So, let's use the designation. It was there for us. The other good thing about that is it was an upper extremity injury. When it's time to leave the game, it's your legs. I still can think as good as any football player, but my legs, I can't move at all. *(laughter) *So, it wasn't his lower extremities, and he was able to maintain his cardio and all of that, and I don't know, if he would have played those other 10 or 11 weeks, where that body would be right now. But he had a 10-week break, and now he is getting better and fresher as we go forward."
Ozzie, how impressed have you been with Bernard Pierce and his ability to emerge? It also seems like John Harbaugh has a good problem to have two good backs to get enough carries from. (Luke Jones)"We've seen in this league now, you need two backs. When we're back [at the Combine], [running backs coach] Wilbert [Montgomery] always takes the opportunity to go down on the field when the running backs are working, because he played the game. He came back and he said, 'I'm impressed with this guy Pierce.' And then we put the tape on, the grades come in, and he brings a different dimension; he's a tackle-breaker and he's explosive. He's a good match to what Ray [Rice] is, and he was there for us to pick in the third round. And you know what? For him to sit there and be in the meetings with Wilbert and Ray, and to be able to learn the importance of protection and all those other things, it's just very beneficial."
You guys have Haloti Ngata and Ma'ake Kemoeatu. The 49ers have Mike Iupati and Isaac Sopoaga. Can you talk about the influence and why we're seeing more Polynesian players, and Tongans and Samoans in the NFL? (Jim Corbett)"I think it's because of the level of football in the Polynesian Islands, and in Hawaii. They play very good football over there. And if you get someone like Haloti, who's 6-5 – 6-6, 350 pounds, that can move like that … I don't care what he plays; he's going to be pretty good at it.* *The guys are getting so much bigger in our league right now, but when they're that big and can move like that, you can find a place for them to play."
Ozzie, this is your second appearance in the Super Bowl with the Ravens. You've been close in recent years, but what does it mean to you to be going back and to get over that hump a little? (Garrett Downing)"I said this to John [Harbaugh] on the bus ride: You just don't know how hard it is to get to the Super Bowl. It's even harder, now you have to go and win it. But 12 years since we did this, and we got knocked out in the AFC Championship twice; it's hard. You've got to manage injuries, so many different things that you have to manage just to get this opportunity, and the other 31 teams don't care for you. It's hard to do. So, you've got to take your hat off to people like Bill Belichick in New England, and Pittsburgh has been there so many times. I think you take your hat off to those people. It's really, really hard to get to this point. It's hard."
Do you have fun at your job, and do you envision a time when it's not going to be fun and you'll step away? (David Ginsburg)"I enjoy it. I used to say, 'Boy, it's just so great,' and do it a couple hours a day, maybe three hours, is watching tape by myself and evaluating players. Or evaluating the guys that were in the draft last year, and seeing how well they do. But I'm enjoying another part of it. My relationship with Chykie Brown right now, and Bryan Hall … You don't get relationships like that, where I'm just a buddy to those guys. And to talk with Morgan Cox … Do you guys know who Barrett Jones is? He's probably the most decorated offensive lineman that ever came out of Alabama – he's going to be in the draft – and Morgan is telling me: 'I used to drive him to school every day.' So, it's stories like that, that you get a chance to be around these guys. And I've seen [Terrell] Suggs change, and I've seen Ray [Lewis] change, and I've seen Ed [Reed change]. To watch these guys grow and mature … Evaluating players is one thing, doing contracts is another, going down to the principal's office and spending time with Steve [Bisciotti], that's another thing. But to be there with those guys and to watch those guys grow up, you can't separate that. You can't find anything better than that. So, I enjoy it."
Does it seem surreal that you've got one guy possibly going into the Hall of Fame [Jonathan Ogden] and then a guy you drafted the same year [Ray Lewis] playing his final game in the Super Bowl? (Casey Willett)"It's part of the dream, I think. I don't know, I've got to pinch myself to see if I'm still dreaming." (laughter)
Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
Jerry, I know we've asked you this question before, but can you just talk about the confidence that Justin Tucker brings to the kicking game, even though he's just a rookie? (Ed Lee)"The most important confidence that Justin Tucker brings to the kicking game is confidence in himself. He goes out there and plays, and he feels like he's going to make every kick. As a result of his performance this year, all of the players around him have confidence in him as well. And it's good to have confidence in yourself, but it's been now reinforced by reality. He can kick, and he knows he can kick, and his teammates know he can kick. So it just keeps growing that way, and we're happy we have him."
As a coaching staff, how much comfort does it provide, knowing that Justin Tucker is dependable and reliable? (Ed Lee)"I think Justin has a real good sense that, as a kicker, you're as good as your last kick. And he's constantly working to upgrade his game. He understands that the next kick is the most important kick. Whether he made the last one or he missed the last one, the next kick is the most important kick. It's a common theory, but it's really important for a kicker to think that way, and he does think that way. When we send him out there to kick, we have great confidence that he's going to make it."
Seeing what the 49ers are going through with David Akers missing … If it came down to a field goal, that's got to be an advantage for you guys, right? (Ed Lee)"Every kick has a life of its own. So, you go face that next kick, that's what you do."
Jerry, we haven't gotten the chance to talk to you about the report out of Chicago that you interviewed for the Bears job. Was there any truth to that? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I had a conversation with Ozzie [Newsome] about, I don't know, it seems a long time ago now. It was early in the playoffs, and he mentioned that somebody was interested in talking to me. The most important thing that I had in front of me was getting our team [ready], helping getting our team to the Super Bowl. And through Ozzie and through the conversations we had, the timing of anything other than the Ravens wasn't good for me. It wasn't good for this team. So, we just focused on what we had to do, we won the first playoff game, and then we won the second playoff game, and then we won the AFC Championship game, and here we are. And that's really the most important thing."
Was that tough for you to make that decision? (Jeff Zrebiec)"No, it wasn't, honestly. This team is the most important thing to me right now, and there's nothing that's going to get away of that right now, professionally speaking."
Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell
This is the first time we've had a chance to talk to you since you were named offensive coordinator for next year. What is your feeling about that? (Dave Ginsburg)"I'm excited about it. I'm certainly very, very honored and humbled as well. It's a great opportunity, particularly working within the organization. It's a great organization from top to bottom and tremendous players to coach. So, we're looking forward to it, but right now, I'm looking forward to this next ball game we have coming up, so that's the most important thing. But thanks for asking."
How have you embraced this offensive coordinator thing? You had never done it before now, and it seems like you have the knack for it. (Dave Ginsburg)"I'm not sure if that's the case. I know we have a real good staff, a great group of guys that can certainly assist in every area. So, I don't have to necessarily do everything by myself, so that makes it easier when you have guys like [wide receivers coach] Jim Hostler and [running backs coach] Wilbert Montgomery and the rest of the crew that are here – [tight ends coach] Wade Harman, [offensive line coach] Andy Moeller and all those guys do a tremendous job in terms of helping, assisting, putting the plan together. Those are the guys that make a difference."
What can you take from your Super Bowl experience with Indianapolis? (Garrett Downing)"Obviously, having had an opportunity to go there a couple of times, it does breed some familiar ground. You certainly don't feel as much anxiety going in. There are no unknowns, because you sense that you are going to have a pretty good idea of what happens, and that's comforting in itself. It's tough to relay that, transfer that information, because one has to experience some things themselves. But nevertheless, I know it's a situation where the players are certainly going to enjoy the stage that they have an opportunity to play on. I know they are certainly thankful for – and the big thing that you can tell them – is that we'll have a good time in that regard, but our main focus is on the game, on what happens between those white lines."
Do you think when you approach it this time compared to previous times, is this a completely different mindset that have just having that experience and knowing some of the pageantry that surrounds the game? (Garrett Downing)"Somewhat, probably because of the fact that it probably allows me to be a little bit more focused, because I've kind of been through both ends of it. But nevertheless, the big thing is not necessarily how it affects me, but how it affects the guys that are on the team and to be able to transfer that information. We also have a number of guys on the team that are leaders, although you may not have great numbers in terms of guys that have been in this game, but they're force multipliers. Ray Lewis has been in the game; he knows what it's like. Anquan Boldin has been in the ball game; he knows what it's like. Those guys are great communicators, and they're certainly able to tell them exactly what to expect and all the do's and don'ts as well. Obviously, our leader, [head coach] John [Harbaugh] has been in the ball game and understands it. He does the great majority of the work with those guys and making certain that they can anticipate what's going to happen when they're there."
Can you talk about your red zone success? It's been so critical. It's been good for much of the year, but the playoffs in particular. (Pete Gilbert)"One of the things, I think, we've been continually improving. Every single week, we've been able to get a little bit better. We've certainly been able to take advantage of some opportunities where we run the ball as well down in that area. But, the guys have been making plays. They've been catching the ball. Joe [Flacco] has been throwing it extremely well. We've been able to mix the run and pass a little bit down there. I think it's from preparation. We practice well, and we function well in those areas. More often than not, you're going to see some evidence of it out there on the field. I know John, a couple years back, made it a real emphasis around here, to make certain that the red zone was extremely important, and that carries on today."
When you watch the 49ers on defense, what do you see? And have you faced a defense similar to theirs yet this year? (Mark Zinno)"Not as complete as this defense. We've faced a lot of good defenses. This defense is extremely talented, obviously. When you get to this particular ball game, typically the opposition doesn't have very many weaknesses. They can do a great job in terms of stopping the run. [49ers linebackers Patrick] Willis and [NaVorro] Bowman are just absolutely outstanding against the run. Justin Smith is a phenomenal guy, and then Aldon Smith, in terms of the pass rush. Both edges, both guys do a tremendous job – 19.5 sacks. You have to get yourself ready. Also, they can defend the pass. They have two Pro Bowl safeties that can get after it and two corners that can play, and even in their nickel situations. So, they give you a problem all the way across the board, so you have to be good in every area in order to compete with these guys."
Their secondary has given up some big plays. How are you preparing for that, and does that open the door for Torrey Smith?* (Adam Vorce)*"Well, they haven't given up a whole lot of big plays. When you look at them, they've given up maybe some here and there, but that secondary is very, very good – a very, very talented bunch. [49ers defensive coordinator] Vic Fangio is one of the finest coaches in this league. He coordinates their defense. He is one of the most thorough guys that you'll ever bump into in terms of preparation. So, they'll be well-prepared. They keep the ball in front of them as well as anybody. They function extremely well. They give you all kinds of problems, schematic problems."
Ozzie Newsome told us today that several general managers at the Senior Bowl came up to him and said that had you guys not made a deep playoff run, they would have been interested in you as a head coach. Is there any lament there, and we've talked before, I know you want to get back in the [head coaching] game, do you see that happening soon? (Dave Ginsburg)"Is there any lament? No. None whatsoever. I would certainly rather be right where I am, right now, with you asking me these questions. *(laughing) *This doesn't happen very often in your career, so to be fortunate enough to have this opportunity, I am thankful. The other things, they'll take care of themselves somewhere down the road."
Ozzie expects to have you one more year, and he said, jokingly perhaps, that he hopes you guys are in the same situation next year so you're in the same situation next year. Is it your goal, ultimately, to be a head coach again? (Dave Ginsburg)"Really, this thing is not necessarily about me. At some point in time, if the Lord wills, yeah, I'd love to be able to do it again. But, it may not happen. But, I think that, like I said, everybody in our profession certainly is looking for an opportunity to run their own program, and I'm no different than everybody else in that regard. I'd like to do it one more time. I don't want to coach until I am 85, like some of my mentors." (laughing)
Do you think that the Rooney Rule is effective, or should it be revisited? (Dave Ginsburg)"I do think that it is something that certainly needs to be revisited and it going to be revisited, so that I am not one of the individuals that started that particular drive to do so. There have been a lot of very intelligent men that have looked at it and said, 'Hey, let's look at this thing and talk about it in depth.' So, I think that's going to happen."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Can you talk about guys like Haloti [Ngata] and [Ma'ake] Kemoeatu – two Polynesian guys, and there are two on the 49ers – [Mike] Iupati, [Isaac] Sopoaga. What do you think we are seeing more of the Polynesian guys in pro football today? (Jim Corbett)"[I] wouldn't have any idea other than it's just like anything, probably an opportunity to do well in a profession that they are very physically gifted at and also mentally gifted at. Other than that, I think it probably starts with college. I don't know if more schools are recruiting. That's really something I really couldn't answer."
*Can you talk about what Haloti [Ngata] and [Ma'ake] Kemoeatu brought this year? (Jim Corbett) *"First of all, they are experienced veterans. That's part of it, because we have a bunch of other young linemen up there with Arthur [Jones] and Pernell [McPhee] and DeAngelo [Tyson] and all those guys. We are really pretty young, expect for those two guys. One thing they bring is in the classroom is the experience of how to be a pro, how to study, how to watch film, how to do all those things, plus that … Then you add onto that their physical ability. They're two big guys that can kind of hold forth in there. They have done a great job. I'd say it is a combination of both of those things."
What does it mean to you to go to the Super Bowl? You follow a great line of Baltimore Ravens' defensive coordinators, and you are only the second to make it this far? (David Ginsburg) "I didn't even really know that, to be honest. I know the coordinators; I didn't know there had only been two. That stuff means nothing to me. I don't really care who was here, how well they did. I don't care how they did statistically. That stuff really means absolutely nothing. I come in here to do this job – do the best job that I possibly can. That's it. Every year is a different year. Sometimes you just have a great amount of talent. Some years you go through and you never have any injuries. Some years you go through and you have injuries. My job is to do the best that I can every Sunday – whether sometimes that looks like it, I know that I'm doing that or trying to do that. That's all I ever pay attention to. All the rest of that stuff means … History means nothing. It's just all what means right now is what I can do right now to help our team win."
How big of a challenge has this year been for you with all the different injuries, all the different changes that you have had to make? How challenging is that? (Ryan Mink) "Actually, it's been fun. In some ways, it's challenging, but in some ways it's fun, too, because each week you have to look at maybe this guy is out or a couple of guys are out or a lot of guys are out. You had to kind of figure out who you can put where and how can you use them. Sometimes, that's kind of fun rather than doing the same thing week-in and week-out. I'm not saying that I didn't want to have everybody back, but along with the challenge, it's kind of fun to draw some things up and try do things a little differently and still try to get the job done. In some ways [it was] challenging, but in some ways [it was] very rewarding, too."
It wasn't always fun in some of those early on weeks? (Ryan Mink) "No, some of the early on weeks … The biggest problem that we had – and I take the blame for it – is trying to do exactly what we had done in the past without really looking at, 'Can these guys do what has been done in the past?' When you take over and you've been doing the same thing really for three coordinators in three years, you don't really want to change a whole lot of things up. And you've had success, and all of a sudden you come in and say, 'OK. I'm going to change a bunch of things up.' Everybody is kind of like, 'Why? We are pretty darn good.' You don't want to do that, but then you start realizing that this is not quite the same group of guys that we had a year ago doing the same thing. After we got through the break, I think we really changed as a defense and for the better. Maybe I should have seen that a little earlier, but I didn't, but at least we saw it."
**Can you talk about the appreciation for Ozzie [Newsome] because of all the injuries he was able to funnel you guys who we were still able to get the job done despite missing so many of your starting parts. *(Pete Gilbert) *"Yes, the bottom line here is that I think when you have a good organization, and especially a good locker room, I can't say sometimes say enough about … Everybody in this league has talent. Who doesn't have talent? Sometimes the difference between the team making it and the team not making it is the locker room and the classroom and the guys – not that everybody doesn't study – but not everybody takes it as serious as other guys do. When you have veterans like Ed Reed and Ray Lewis and Haloti Ngata and 'Kemo' [Ma'ake Kemoeatu] and those guys, the young guys learn how to study. When those guys' time comes, they are really kind of prepared for it than the guy that sits there and pays absolutely no attention because, 'I'm never going to play, because I'm behind Ray Lewis.' In our case, you had to be behind Ray Lewis, behind Jameel McClain and behind [Dannell] Ellerbe. All of a sudden, it's Josh Bynes, it's Albert McClellan, Omar Brown – all these guys who started playing that were not second team. They were maybe third or fourth in the depth, but they all learned from the guys in the beginning who didn't accept them just sitting there in a chair. To me, that's all part of the organization, from [general manager, executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome], from Steve [Bisciotti], from everybody on down of how we operate around here, especially with John [Harbaugh] as our head coach. That's how we operate."
**When it comes to a running quarterback like [Colin] Kaepernick, a lot of people are looking back to the Redskins game and some of the players have pointed back to Michael Vick. You've had some chances to face mobile quarterbacks like this before. How much are you going to draw on those experiences going into this? *(Mark Zinno) *"Hopefully a lot and try to eliminate some of the negative things that we did in both of those games. He probably is a good analogy. He is probably a good combination of both of those guys in some ways. He's not exactly like either one of them, but he has traits that are similar to both. Certainly, we have looked at both of those games, and we will try to correct the things that we didn't do very well in both of those games."
Can you talk about some of the things that you didn't think you did very well? (Mark Zinno) "No."
Was it just a matter of you were asking guys to do a little too much, stuff they just weren't capable of doing early and that was one of the things that you changed? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, a little bit of that. That was part of it. I thought we were asking guys to do maybe some things that they weren't particularly good at. But, I also felt like we weren't as disciplined as a football team defensively as we needed to be early on either. There were some times that we had chances to make plays, and our eyes weren't in the right spot, or we weren't in the right position – not as good of a discipline. We corrected that and got a lot better at that."
I know you aren't about history necessarily, but what about the physical nature of the Ravens' defense. Do you address that at all? It's long been known that it's one of the toughest. How important is that to you to have a defense with that reputation? (David Ginsburg) "It's very, very important. That's very important, whether it be the Ravens' defense or any defense, that I think you would coach that you want to be physical. I think that was some of the stuff that we pointed out on film early on, too, that if you are in the right position, you can be physical. If you are not in the right position, it's hard to be physical, because you are usually chasing the guy instead of hitting the guy front up. I think we tried to address all of those things. I thought we got more physical as it went on. I know sometimes … I don't know where we are, because I don't pay a whole lot of attention to it … I'm sure we are up there on defensive roughing penalties somewhere. I'm sure we are at the top of the list. I don't want to say that I don't care; I do care. I don't ever want to get a penalty, but sometimes those penalties you think twice about coming over the middle whether you got a penalty or you didn't get a penalty. They all take their toll. I'm not saying that I want penalties or I want to hit somebody like that, but at the same time, we aren't going to back off. We are going to play football."
How special is it to you to have overcome all of this and to be going to the Super Bowl this week? There was so much you had to do this year to get this thing right. (David Ginsburg):"Well, it's really special. It's really special, because not only for me, for the coaching staff, defensive staff, they don't get mentioned a whole lot, and they should. It's just all of us, and it's a combined effort between the players and the coaching staff, every week sitting down and putting together a plan and then the players believing in that plan. So, it's very, very special."
And I know you're happy in your position, but have you ever considered a head coach? (David Ginsburg):"I do not want to be a head coach. I want to be a defensive coordinator. I do not want to be a head coach. I was one in college – they can have that gig all they want. No thank you." (laughter)
Could you just elaborate for a second as to why you didn't really care for it? (David Ginsburg):"For being a head coach? *(Reporter: "Yes.") *Not as close to the players. That's why I'm in this business. It's why I got into it as a high school coach, because I like being around young people, I like having association with them, I like having fun with them, I like coaching. You become a head coach, you become everything but a coach. Especially in college, you're there speaking to alumni, you're doing all this stuff, you never coach. And, that's not why I got into this profession. And I watch head coaches, even in this league … There's just so many other hats that you have to wear; I don't want to wear those hats. I want to wear this one right out here on the practice field, call defenses and play ball and have fun with the players. That's why."
OLB Terrell Suggs
On whether it has sunk in that he is going to play in the Super Bowl:"Nah, it hasn't sunk in yet, because we're still taking care of the logistics, if you know what I mean – especially with the kind of practice we just had. So, you never know. You would've never thought that's the game we're [preparing] for; we thought it was training camp out there. But we're just kind of enjoying the ride. It's pretty fun, so I'm pretty sure it'll sink in when we get down there."
On what he says to all the naysayers now who thought they'd never make it:"I don't really have to say anything to them. I think the fact that we're the last two teams playing says it all. So, I don't have anything to say to them. We're just going to keep chucking and keep our eyes on the prize. One more to go."
On why they can be this far in the season and have a practice like that:"I don't know. We're a special group of guys, and we've never been immune to working hard around here. That's pretty much the only way we know how to work. But it was pretty fun. It was pretty cool."
On how much satisfaction he takes out of this knowing all that he's been through personally this season:"None. Not yet. Ask me that question on February 4."
On the play of some of the unheralded defensive players like CB Corey Graham and CB Cary Williams:"One unit. Through all our ups and down, like you all said, we've stuck together. We always believed, and we kept our eyes on the prize, and that's what we just kept doing."
On the emotions going into this game knowing this really will be LB Ray Lewis' last game:"We haven't thought about it yet. Right now we're just taking it one day at a time, trying to enjoy the work. But I'm pretty sure, like I said, when we get out there, come kickoff, we're all going to get a little emotional. But we've still got business to handle, and we'll try to get it for him."
On how QB Dennis Dixon has looked imitating 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick in practice this week, and if he's lifted his biceps up yet:"He did it a couple of times in practice – him and Tyrod [Taylor]. So, they're having fun being him. It's a fun offense to run; it's not a very fun offense to play against. But they're enjoying it."
On if preparing for Redskins QB Robert Griffin III earlier this year helps in their preparations for Kaepernick:"A little bit, but they're two different quarterbacks. They're both great; they're probably the only two quarterbacks in the league that can run that offense. But, I don't know, I guess we'll see how we fare come February 3."
On how the 49ers' offense is different than Washington's:"I don't know, they're both pretty successful. So, you can't really tell the difference, just that one is in the Super Bowl and the other one isn't. But with that being said, it's going to be a challenge to play against them."