FRIDAY ZOOM AVAILABILITY: Week 17 VS. LOS ANGELES RAMS
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, I appreciate everybody being here with us. We had a good practice today. [It was] nice football weather for the last day of 2021. So, Happy New Year to everybody, and Go Blue! Alright, what questions do you have?"
We haven't seen QB Lamar Jackson out at practice the past two days. What do you think his chances of playing Sunday are? (Jamison Hensley) "I think he has a chance to play on Sunday. We'll have to see. This time of year, you have guys who have different things. He has what he has, and some other guys have their dings and things like that. It's all hands on deck. The guys who are ready to play and can play will, and the guys who aren't and can't [play] won't."
With all the guys you got back this week from COVID and injuries, they looked pretty crisp in practice. Will they be ready to play on Sunday? (Todd Karpovich) "Yes. I don't know how I can elaborate on that; it was good. We had a good week of practice. The guys were into it. It was good to get a bunch of guys back, to your point, all positive. We're just focused on the game. We're not thinking about any of that stuff. It's not really on our mind. We're just trying to get ready to play the game."
Based on a video from Wednesday's practice, we saw QB Lamar Jackson [practice], but then he was absent these past two days. Is [his ankle injury] the main reason why he was out from practice? Do you think it was too soon to make him practice on Wednesday? We saw his discomfort trying to run. (David Andrade) "That's a medical decision. Those are what the doctors and trainers do; we don't make those decisions as coaches. It didn't make him any worse. So, no – I don't think it was a problem."
How did QB Tyler Huntley do this week? Did he have any ill-effects from his stint on the COVID list? Would he be ready to go Sunday if he has to start? (Jeff Zrebiec) "He practiced Thursday and Friday – today, again. So, he had a good week of practice. And yes, to your question."
We talked to offensive coordinator Greg Roman yesterday a little bit about the kind of unusual balancing act in terms of trying to have all three quarterbacks ready to start if that might be the case. Has it been an unusual week in that respect from your standpoint in that you have three quarterbacks who could play under certain circumstances? (Childs Walker) "Not anymore unusual than what we've seen pretty much the whole season. (laughter) So, I'd say it's pretty normal at this point, believe it or not. [It's] not unusual at all."
I know it was a couple years ago the last time you faced the Rams, and it was pretty lopsided. Understanding that they are a different team now, is there anything from a strategic standpoint that you guys can go back to and compare to this game? (Cordell Woodland) "No, that's like 10 years ago – that's about the equivalent in football years. It's like dog years. That's a long time ago; it's ancient history. The game went the way it went. Games get played … Let alone being week-to-week, year-to-year? Not really in this league, that's way back."
We didn't have a chance to talk to him yet, but as a coach, how gratifying is it to see a guy like OL Patrick Mekari who made the team as an undrafted rookie, didn't really have any scholarship offers in college, didn't have a whole lot of interest coming out into the Draft, to see him get rewarded like that for how he's gone about his business … How gratifying is that as a coach? (Jeff Zrebiec)"It's just tremendous. You said it so well, that's exactly what it is right there. He's the best. He's one of the best guys you'll ever come across. He does all the things that if you're a young player and you want to look at how to be successful in the National Football League, what priorities [to have], how to organize yourself, how to work [and] how to make the most of yourself as a football player, he's the guy to look at, because he does it perfectly, day-in and day-out. I just have great admiration for him, great respect for him. [I'm] very happy for him; it's well-deserved."
Has what OL Patrick Mekari has done at right tackle changed your outlook for where he fits into this offensive line long-term? (Jonas Shaffer)"Not really, because we kind of knew he could do that. It wasn't like we were surprised he could play right tackle. He's played left tackle. He's played both guard spots, and he's played center. So, I think a big part of his value is the fact that he can do all the jobs. We do have a saying around here, 'The more you can do.' What it basically means is, the more you can do, the better off you're going to be – you have more value. His value is the fact that he does all those things so well, and that's unusual. That's a talent. That's not something that you see every day. It's not always celebrated, but that kind of versality is a big plus in a football team, especially on the offensive line. So, no – I think we see him exactly the same way as we did before, and we see that he has excellent value."
Just going on the unpredictability which you touched upon a little bit, I know you try to stay positive and focused, but are there days where you come into work going, "There are just some things that I don't know what may happen. What's going to be coming at us day?" Are there any thoughts like that at any point? (Jamison Hensley)"There are days, yes, where I come in and I don't know what's going to happen. That would be every day, because you never know what's going to happen. Just when you think you know what's going to happen … Isn't that true for all of us in life? But there are never days where I don't attack the day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind, because really, that's your choice. Right? You have that choice. So, you could come in here dragging your tail on the ground like some people might want to do, but where is that going to get you? So, we're excited, enthusiastic, fired up, ready to go every single day to try to make the most out of the day. That's the way our guys look at it. We wouldn't have it any other way. I appreciate you asking that, though, and I'm fired up for today, man. We still have a half of a day left. And for tonight, I am watching the game tonight. Are you handicapping the game, [ESPN.com reporter] Jamison [Hensley]?" (Hensley: "Oh, yes. I think it's going to be Michigan and Alabama, but we'll see at the end. I think that's the game a lot of people want to see.") "Alright, alright. You got on my good side there, bud. I appreciate that. (laughter) Good choice. I kind of like Cincinnati, too – I have to be honest. I coached there for a while, so the Bearcats ..."
I like the Bearcats, too, because I like an underdog. So, Bearcats-Michigan works for me. (Aditi Kinkhabwala)"Bearcats-Michigan, that's right. You know, it's funny; [Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin] Coach Tomlin is a former Bearcats guy, too, and he likes Michigan, too. We don't always agree on everything, but we probably agree on who we're rooting for tonight." (Reporter: "I'm not going to ask him. I'll leave that one to you.") (laughter)
QB Tyler Huntley, you have started him on two hours' notice. You have started him with a week's notice. Is there any difference in his mindset in any way? What does that say about him that it kind of doesn't really matter? (Aditi Kinkhabwala)"That's really a good observation, because now that I think about it, it really doesn't matter – he's the exact same. He's the same today with a couple weeks of practice if he ends playing in the game. I'm sure he's thinking, 'I'm playing.' So, he's ready to go. If it turns out that he doesn't, he'll be the same. If it turns out he does, or if it turns out he … Like you said, two hours before the game, he was prepared and ready to go. So, that kind of demeanor, I'm sure, obviously, has served him well so far, and I think it will serve him well in his career going forward."
QB Tyler Huntley
On what his mindset would be if he was the starting quarterback on Sunday, and if there would be any additional pressure, given the circumstances:"No, not really. I'm treating it just like another week. We've just got to get a win, and that's the goal every week – to go 1-0 on the week – so that's the goal again this week."
On how disappointing it was to test positive for COVID-19 before last week's game, and how he's feeling now:"Yes, I had some tough symptoms. It really hit me that Friday. It hurt that I couldn't go to the game, and then, too, it was Christmas when I found out I was positive, so it was a tough little weekend for me. But I'm feeling way better now, and I'm happy that I'm just with the team, for sure."
On how his mentality helps him when he's thrust into these moments:"My mentality is just really … Coming down to it, it's football at the end of the day. We can't ever lose sight of that, and we can't put too much pressure on us, because we're just humans playing a little kid's game. So, I don't look too much into it. I just try to do my job, and I think that's what's playing out well for me."
On if he got the sense that QB Lamar Jackson was kind of gutting through his injury during Wednesday's practice:"I think it was cold outside. (laughter) I think it was cold outside, and that could hurt your bones a little bit. No, I've got good confidence that 'L.J.' [Lamar Jackson] is going to be back to 'L.J.,' and everything's going to play out good."
On the difference of knowing he's going to start early in the week versus finding out only a couple hours before kickoff, and which he'd prefer:"Yes, yes, more reps – it feels better just going into the game. But at the end of the day, I still study, draw up my plays, every week, so I just feel comfortable in whatever play is being called. So, I feel like, yes, more reps is better, but whenever my number is called, we've got to execute at the highest level."
On if he had a feeling that his illness was going to lead to a positive COVID test, and what his reaction was when he found out he was positive:"Yes, see, I was hoping – I had fingers crossed, legs crossed, everything – that [COVID-19] wasn't it, and we really took Friday off just to make sure that I wasn't around anybody or anything. So, once I came in, got tested, then that's when they told me that I was positive. So, it was a little hurting then."
On what he's learned about himself from the situations he's been in and the game action he's seen:"That I'm OK. I can play a couple games; I can play in this league a little bit. And I just want to get better, and I feel great that the reps that I'm getting, it makes everybody around me feel even better."
On why he's so thorough when it comes to studying: "In high school, I didn't know anything about studying, or nothing like that. So, when I took the time out and actually studied, I felt my game feeling a little better. Once I got to the college level, it's about knowing what you're doing. I just grew on that my junior and senior year, just really studying. My senior year, it turned out good. So, I felt like I should just translate that to wherever I go, and I'm just trying to keep that going."
OL Patrick Mekari
On what his contract extension means for him and his family:"I'm very blessed. I'm very fortunate to be here in this position. I thank God, because it definitely wasn't because of me. I'm so blessed with His grace. But it's great to be here; I love being here. I just want to keep getting to work. [There's] a lot, still, more to prove. I have a lot to work on. I love being a Raven, and I can't wait to be here until 2024, and hopefully, years beyond."
On his thoughts when he first made the team as an undrafted rookie:"As an undrafted guy, it's very much one day, one game at a time, one year at a time. So, each year and each day, I was just focused on proving myself and getting better each day, and it's the same now. I'm not going to change my mindset about it. I'm still undrafted. That doesn't change, so the mindset stays the same – that I still have to get better, still have to prove myself every day – and I'm looking forward to the challenge."
On being able to share his signing with his family via Zoom and the emotion of all of that:"Yes, I was not expecting that at all. They just put them on the Zoom call after I signed, and it was so great to have them there to see my family. [To have] my mom and dad and girlfriend and brothers and family all there, it was great. I was happy they were there just to be there with me to sign, and they're very excited for me. Like I said, I'm very blessed with a great family. [I'm] very fortunate."
On always wanting to give back to his parents for all they've done for him, and how this contract extension leads towards that mission:"Yes, they were very happy and grateful for the situation that I was able to be put in, and I thank them, because if it wasn't for them, I definitely would not be able to be here, as well. My goal was to take care of them. They've done everything for me, and God-willing, I'm able to help them a little bit [with] whatever it may be. We're just such a close family, so when I win, the whole family wins, and when my brothers win, we all win together. They're very excited for me, and it's a family win. So, I'm very blessed."
On his understanding of what this extension means for him from a football standpoint:"My understanding is that I'm still employed by the Ravens, and whatever they ask me to do, that's my job. And I'm very fortunate and grateful to be here and be able to do that."
On the full-circle thought that he had got his first chance in the NFL against the Rams in 2019 and now he's signed his extension the week of a game against the Rams:"I actually have not thought about that too much. They're a great challenge. We're just very focused on the game we have ahead. I haven't really thought about the correlation – that was my first game and now I signed a new contract [before] this game – but we're just looking forward to this week. They're a great opponent, it's a great challenge, and I'm excited to go out there and play."
On his mindset as an undrafted rookie with the Ravens:"I knew I had to prove myself every day – no matter what it was – like I said before, and I still have that same mindset. But I just knew that whatever God's plan was, that's the plan I wanted to follow, and He's brought me here. And like I said before, the mindset doesn't change – to prove it every day. I'm the same person. Everything is the exact same. I showed up today. I tied my shoelaces and got to work the same way as I always do. So, like I said, I'm very fortunate, I'm very blessed. It puts me in a better position, but [in] terms of the work standpoint or what I have to do, I feel like it only gets more intense. And with more reward, there becomes more responsibility, and I just want to rise up to the occasion and surpass it."
On the shirt he wore to sign his contract:"The team was given it. It was a blue-collar work shirt, and that's kind of what the team embodies; we're just hardworking people. When they told me I had to go up and sign, I was just getting ready for practice, so I had my practice gear on, and I thought I was just going to go up there and sign and come back and get to work, so I didn't think much of it, but I thought at least I should have something [like] a button-up shirt on. So, I looked in my locker, saw the button-up shirt, I said, 'This will be perfect.' So, I threw it on, went up there, signed, and there were a lot more cameras and media than what I expected there to be. So, it was great. It was very cool."
On if the team ever came to him to express the opportunity that was ahead for him:"No, I feel like I kind of just fell into it. In camp, obviously, I was working at tackle a bit, and then, unfortunately, when Ronnie's [Ronnie Stanley] injury happened, I kind of just got thrown into that position, and I just wanted to make the most of it. When I get an opportunity, I just want to capitalize on it, and that's what happened. It obviously wasn't the plan. I knew I could play tackle and guard and center – wherever they need me to play – but the circumstances this year just forced me into that position. It's unfortunate that an injury had to happen for me to be in that position, but I'm grateful for where I'm at, and I just want to keep moving forward."
On if he has a purchase in mind or if there was something that he was holding out for until he got a long-term contract:"I haven't really thought about it much. If it was really up to me, I'd get a coffee can, I'd put the money in it, and I'd put it underneath my bed. I wouldn't really think about it or look at it much, but my financial advisor does not advise me to do that. (laughter) So, I don't really have much planned to do. Like I said, we're still in the season, there's still a lot of work to be done, so I'm really just focused on the Rams game and moving forward, and in the offseason, we'll see what that brings. But like I said, if it was up to me, I would just keep it under my pillow and go to sleep."