FRIDAY PODIUM AVAILABILITY: WEEK 7 VS. CINCINNATI BENGALS
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "[It's] good to see everybody. I appreciate you being here. It's a great day for football. My college coach, [former Miami University head coach] Tom Reed, used to say that every day. He'd say, 'It's a great day for football.' There were days where we would look at him and we were like, 'It's really not that great [of] a day,' because it might be like 10 degrees out, or it might be like 100 degrees out, or it might be snowing or raining. And he would follow up with, 'Every day is a great day for football.' But this actually is a great day for football – it's a beautiful day. So, what questions do you have?"
We've always asked you about the running backs, but RB Devonta Freeman specifically, what have you kind of liked about him, his running style and things like that? (Jamison Hensley) "His style, he's had it for quite a while. He's a downhill, explosive, accelerating-type runner with some size. He has some power to him, and that's it. He's good. [He's] doing a nice job for us."
Is there any competitive disadvantage for a team having a quarterback on voice rest with that kind of throat contusion that QB Joe Burrow is going through? (Jonas Shaffer) "I don't know, honestly. I don't know. I think they'll be in silent cadence most of the time anyway." (Reporter: "But in the hypothetical of a quarterback with a not great voice having to make audibles and pre-snap changes at the line of scrimmage?") "I've given that zero thought, and I really don't care. (laughter) But I think it's an interesting question for you to ponder." (laughter)
Are you hoping the fans might be a little extra loud? (laughter) (Jamison Hensley) "That'd be great. Absolutely. (laughter) OK, now you know what? Now I'm getting interested. Now I'm getting interested. That's a very good point."
As a franchise, a 6-1 start has never happened here. This is not big picture, but this current group with everything you've been through, to be just in that position on Sunday, does that make this group a little more special with their focus and ability to handle adversity? (Morgan Adsit) "That's kind of big picture. (laughter) It's a special group, no question about it. It's a unique group. All these teams are different. The guys say it every year. They usually talk about it more at the end of the year, [but] our guys have talked about it even earlier, some of our veteran guys. No two teams are ever the same. You're never together two years in a row with the same group – every team is unique. And this team is the same in that sense, but it's really uniquely different, because it's really … What word can you use? Special, I guess, is a good word, but they're just a joy to be around every day. We've had that, and really, the last few years, it's really been that way more so in my career than I can remember ever, the last three years, say, or four years. But this group is probably even at the top of that chart. It's just been phenomenal to be around them every day. I don't know what's going to happen Sunday. You don't know what's going to happen ever, but I know how they're going to be. I know how they're going to show up. I know what their mindset is going to be, and, as a coach, you just love that. Yes, to that point."
I asked special teams coordinator Chris Horton this the other day: How difficult is it to project special teams ability if a player really doesn't do it in college, like in terms of WR Tylan Wallace? Is it something where you need to get a guy in here and see it first? Are there things you can pick up in the pre-draft process when you're scouting these guys and say, "You know what? I think that can translate and be a very good special teams player?" (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think it's part of both, really. You do the best you can. You look at things like can they run? Do they have a physicality about their play? Are they mentally tough? Does the coach say that they can process football after the ball is snapped? Those kinds of things. But no, you really don't know until they get here. We've had guys that we thought would be good that weren't. We've had guys that we didn't even think about. Tylan [Wallace], I didn't really … [He's] a very tough player. So, we thought he had a chance, but receivers are particularly tricky to project as special teams players, and he's been really, really good. So, you never know to that extent."
I know it's only been a few days, but how has TE Nick Boyle looked finally getting back on the practice field after all that time? (Luke Jones) "He looked good. He practiced this week, so that's where we're at." (Reporter: "We're getting into the injury portion of our questions." (laughter)) "I felt that coming. I feel a little uncomfortable." (laughter)
Are you feeling … Like last week, are you feeling like you might want to declare anybody out? (Jamison Hensley) "I know, you guys got me last week. [I'm] not declaring anybody out, and the injury report will be out at 4 o'clock. How about that for this week? (laughter) I was a little bit more on guard for this week." (Baltimore Sun reporter Jonas Shaffer: "Did you open with that?") (ESPN.com reporter Jamison Hensley: "Yes, he did. He opened with it last week.") "That was the problem. I opened with it and left myself vulnerable to the follow-up questions. I didn't make that mistake this week." (Shaffer: "And you guys had the best game of the season, I'm just saying.") (laughter) "Oh, this guy is tough. Very thoughtful." (WNST reporter Luke Jones: "So, you're not superstitious, but you're a little stitious.") "That's right, a little stitious. You make some valid points."
DT Kahlil McKenzie – in portions of practice, we've seen him over with the offensive linemen. Have you thought about putting him on the offensive line? (Jamison Hensley)"We have. He actually has played on the offensive line in his career – in college and a little bit in the NFL, in some of the practice places he's been. His [uncle], obviously, was a pretty fair offensive lineman. He even told me his dad kind of thinks he [maybe] should be an offensive lineman. So, we're going to start working him over there a little bit – cross training him. We've got some time with him, but we still … He played already on the defensive line this year, so we might need him there. But that's a thought – absolutely."
QB Lamar Jackson has been sacked 16 times. Is that a lot? Overall, how has protection been for him, just from your point of view? (Mark Viviano)"I think the protection has been very good. There's a certain style that we play with, in terms of the play-action passes and some things like that, that kind of equate to Lamar [Jackson], too. There's been some protection issues, of course, at times, but all in all, I'm pretty comfortable with that for us, because of the way we play, and the way Lamar plays."
Have you been particularly impressed with the interior of the offensive line and pass protection? (Jamison Hensley)"Definitely. I think the inside is much improved over last year. Those guys have done a really good job [in] both run and pass."
DT Justin Madubuike
On how the defense will combat QB Joe Burrow getting the ball out quickly:"We'll just stick to what we're doing in practice. He gets the ball off pretty quick, and he has great targets, like Ja'Marr [Chase] and all that stuff, but we just stick to what we do; we pressure him, we make him uncomfortable early, and then he kind of gets into panic mode, and that's when we've got him. So, we're just going to stick to that plan, and all we're trying to do is just execute – just execute the gameplan for Sunday."
On RB Joe Mixon:"Yes, [Joe] Mixon, he's a pretty hard runner, pretty downhill runner, [and] he can make you miss in space. So, we just have to stop him before he gets going, early. We have to come out with our head on fire and make sure to let them know that, 'Hey, we're not here to play around,' and kind of make them uncomfortable – stopping what they want to do."
On what goes into those hustle plays when the ball gets past the line of scrimmage:"It's just football, man. It's just being a football player. When you go through your block and you see where the ball is going, you just run to it. And I feel like game speed and you running the 40-yard dash are different. In game speed, you're [using] more adrenaline, you're faster, and you just get to him. So, we're just playing football – trying to bring the guy down and get off the field."
On playing a divisional opponent:"Yes, it's definitely a divisional game. There's definitely more hostility in the air. I hear they're talking about how what they're going to do, and 'this and that,' and we're just going to talk with our pads and our helmets. That's how we roll over here. [There's] definitely hostility, and it's going to be a bloodbath, for sure, and we're ready for it. So, it's going to be fun."
On evaluating his season so far, and everyone having to play more snaps in the absence of DE Derek Wolfe:"I think it's going pretty good. [Derek] Wolfe is out; he's going to be coming back pretty soon. He's in meetings and stuff like that, and we're glad to have him back pretty soon. But outside of that, we're just filling in his position and making sure that we all know all the positions on the line and making sure that we just play as unit, together, so that we can stop anybody that tries to do what they try to do on us."
On what ILB Josh Bynes has brought to the defense:"Josh [Bynes] brings a lot of communication. He's an older guy; he's been there, done that. He definitely knows the playbook in and out, so you can ask him any questions, and he has the right answers to them. He just brings the defense more collectively together on the same page. He's a great teammate, and he's doing great for us."