JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "Good to see everybody after a great weekend of football and baseball. Congratulations to the Orioles on clinching the playoff berth. That's tremendous. And now they're going for their [division] championship. So, we'll be pulling for them on that. Also, comments on Chuck Pagano: You guys have obviously heard about that. Our hearts and our prayers go out to Chuck. Chuck's a fighter in every respect. Chuck's got that swagger, and I'm completely confident that Chuck will go to work on this with the same enthusiasm he does everything else in his life, and he'll be victorious. So, we'll be pulling for him and praying for him on that."
When the team got back together today after a few days off, did you get the sense they were rejuvenated by the break? (Joe Platania)"They seemed to [be]. They were here in great spirits, had a good attitude and were excited to go to work. We had a real good day – not a full day – a little more than half a day."
You work to simulate crowd noise in practice. How is Arrowhead Stadium in terms of loudness and the challenges that presents with play-call signals? (Aaron Wilson)"The times we've played there it's been really loud. We played them in the playoffs, obviously. I remember the field was really rock hard. I remember that. It was a cold day, and it was frozen. It won't be frozen this time. But, it's one of the greatest venues in the NFL. It's a beautiful setting, it's traditional, and it's really, really loud. It's a sea of red. Our guys will have to be ready for that."
Despite your one-game-at-a-time philosophy, do you look ahead at the stretch of away games coming up? (Dave Ginsberg)"We do. We sort of break it up into quarters and all; a lot of people do that. It's a way just to segment things. But, you really do look at it one game at a time. There's no value for us. We know who we play, we know who's out there. But looking past Kansas City, practically, what reason would we have to do that? We have our hands full with the task at hand, like always, so that's what we are looking at right now."
What are your impressions of Tamba Hall and the Chiefs' pass rush? (Aaron Wilson)"[He is a] premier pass rusher. They've got two guys. The [Justin] Houston kid from Georgia is really a talented pass rusher, too. So, they've got two tremendous pass rushers right now. It seems like we see those guys every week, and there are two more of them coming down the pike."
What does Justin Houston do in comparison to Tamba Hali? (Matt Zenitz)"We're not giving a scouting report on those two guys. They are just both fast, speed edge rushers. They are both explosive, athletic guys. They're more explosive-, athletic-type rushers, more than power rushers, but they have power. They are just good players."
Joe Flacco has done a really good job of spreading the ball around to a number of different targets. What does that allow you guys to do offensively when you attack teams? (Garrett Downing)"It allows you to be less predictable, obviously. I was going to say it allows you to spread the ball out to different targets. You pretty much said it. That's what it allows you to do. I could be more creative, but I can't think of anything right now. People can't zero in on one guy. They can't say, 'It's Ray Rice.' There are a lot more people you have to defend out there, and that's a good thing."
Is that a game-plan thing? Or is that a function of Flacco taking what the defense gives him? (Garrett Downing)"That's a philosophy thing. That's the way we want to approach it. The more good players you have, the more ways you want to get the ball in their hands. Who gets the ball when depends more on what the defense gives you. It's Joe going through his progressions, and that's dictated more by the situation and by what you are confronted with defensively than by any predetermined-type of a thing."
Albert McClellan had eight tackles the other day against Cleveland. Can you talk about the role he has played, especially as a run defender? (Matt Zenitz)"Like we said before, Albert is real versatile, and he is real consistent. There are things that he is working to improve upon. Boy, he has really made strides, as you said, as a run defender on the edge. He has been very solid out there on the edge, and he is going to have to be this week. Those guys are all going to get tested this week. Jamaal Charles is a guy that's going to be lined up in front of us. He is probably the fastest back in football. I think he is leading the league in rushing right now. So, it will be a big challenge."
Do you get the feeling that although it was only three days, it was somewhat of a mini-bye, some guys got a little rest, maybe some of the injuries got time to heal? Do you feel it was a little break, and a well-deserved one at that? (Dave Ginsburg)"It was those things. Sure. It's a positive for us. I am sure the guys took advantage of it. Every team in the league will have that opportunity, so it's a plus."
What about the coaches, did they get away some? (Jerry Coleman)"They did. It was good. It was good for everybody."
Tandon Doss came up with a big play against Cleveland. Was it nice to see him get that first big play under his belt? (Garrett Downing)"I just think the world of Tandon. He is really going to be a good player. It was good to see him break out a little bit. He is going to be a threat and a factor for the rest of the season. People are going to have to keep a close eye on him. He has great ball skills, and he wants to do well. He has been wanting to do well. So, it's good to see that."
Teams have thrown the ball at an average of 40 times against you. I think a lot of this has to do with going that way across the league, where a lot of wide receivers are in three-wide sets. How valuable is it to have three guys at cornerback that you can count on to play more than half the time out there? (Matt Vensel)"That's the thing about starting corners, really, you have to have three starting corners, so to be speak, because people can put you in that personnel group anytime they want and put those guys on the field anytime they want. So, you better have at least three that can cover. We think that we have more than that; we think that we have a number of guys that can cover. But, covering is a challenge. By scheme and by talent of the guys you go against, as you said, the league is sort of set up that way. It's a challenge. We need to get better, not just with our corners … Our corners have done good things, and all of our pass defense has done good things. But we are capable, we all know that, of being as good as anybody. We want to get to playing that kind of pass defense."
What have you seen from Dannell Ellerbe in terms of progression this year? He's played well in the pass for you, but this year it seems like he's put it all together so far. (Aaron Wilson) "I'd say just that; he has kind of put it all together. That's exactly right. He's playing run, he's playing pass, he's playing the regular package, he's playing in all of our sub packages. He's becoming an all-around linebacker. He's always been really gifted. [I'm] really happy with him."
I know you offered praise to Adrian Hamilton when you brought him onto the practice squad. What have you seen from him throughout the course of the season so far, and what does he need to do to make himself viable for a spot on the active roster at some point? (Matt Zenitz)"Like anybody, part of it is opportunity. Part of it is going to be how it shakes out personnel-wise in the next week. He's doing everything he can do. He's learning the defense – that's a big part of it. And, he's learning special teams – that's a big part of it. In order for a guy to become active – as you know – on the 46, there has to be role for him on Sunday. He's displayed a lot of talent. He's displayed some ability both pass rushing and run defense-wise, and he's learning our special teams. He's a guy that I've talked to and tried to put a little bug in his ear about getting as much done as he can every day and putting himself in position where we can consider that."
**It's an election year and a couple of your players have expressed their views – Brendon [Ayanbadejo] and Matt [Birk]. Just your thoughts on your players being politically outspoken. Is that something that you encourage or do you not really think about it at all? *(Aaron Wilson) *"[I] don't discourage it or encourage it. As long as everybody respects everybody else's opinion, that's the main thing. We talk about politics, religion, all those kinds of things, movies, music. It's OK to have an opinion; it's really important to respect everybody else's opinion."
Going back to Chuck Pagano, did you have the chance to reach out to speak to him at all? (Jerry Coleman) "Texts. That's kind of how it's been right now. He sent us a great message about our guys. Told us to … I can't really repeat it here, but it was real positive, and it was very forthright is how he expects our guys to play. Our guys loved it. Chuck's a great friend. He's a great guy. He was a great Raven. We all love him. Chuck's going to be fine."
Just how high of a level is Ed Reed playing at right now. I mean, obviously, he has always played at a very high level, but it seems like he's been getting his hands on a lot of balls, just all over the place. (Ryan Mink) "He's playing as well as I've seen him play since '08, and he's played really well all those years. He's playing as well or better than I've seen him in the last couple of years. I just think the world of how he's playing and how he's leading. He's been leading us in the meeting room, locker room, training room. He's just been a great leader."
Matt Cassel, under fire some, and Kansas City is struggling some even as recently as yesterday. Dwayne Bowe, a talented receiver, on the other side. [Dexter] McCluster making some plays for them as well. Just talk about the challenge their passing game provides. (Matt Zenitz) "You're right when you mention those names. You're talking about weapons; they have them all. Plus, they have two really good tight ends and a third tight end has played because of some injuries the last couple of weeks who is playing really well. They have speed. [Jon] Baldwin is a guy that you didn't mention either, another big receiver, so two huge receivers outside. Two really good pass-catching tight ends, a running back that might be the fastest player in football – a lot of weapons. Matt Cassel has proven that he is very capable of getting it in those guys' hands. We'll have to be prepared for that."
Did you see Jamaal Charles' touchdown run yesterday – the all the way to the right and then all the way back to the left? (Ryan Mink)"I haven't watched that part of the tape yet, so I'll be getting to work on that. You know, it's one step at a time. So, I'll be looking forward, now that you've mentioned it, to seeing that."
With the no-huddle, does crowd noise make it that much more difficult, or is that something you're pretty used to? (Jeff Zrebiec)"It's a work in progress – all of it. We're not claiming that we're a finished product with our no-huddle by any stretch – or any other part of our scheme anywhere. So, we want to keep getting better at that, we want to keep continuing to put more pressure on defenses, make defenses more uncomfortable. Crowd noise is a two-way street, so if it's tough on our offense, it's tough on their defense as well. But it's up to us to make it difficult on them. They know that, so they'll work on that all week, too, and we'll just see how much we use it."
Is Derrick Johnson a guy that's an underrated player? (Aaron Wilson)"I don't know how he's rated. I always answer that the same way. I'm not sure what the rating is, but he's a really great player – run and pass. [He's a] premier linebacker."
John, do you think despite the Chiefs' record that they are a dangerous team because they're at home and it seems their backs are a little against the wall? (J. Michael)"How many times does a coach have to answer that question? I appreciate you asking it, because it's got to be asked every week, but they named the movie 'Any Given Sunday' for a reason. Every team in this league is really, really good. And people can categorize and rank … Those rankings, it's all fun to look at and rank out, [but] they don't mean one thing to us. They don't mean a thing. The rankings will be determined at the end of the season. First, it will be 12 teams in the playoffs who have an opportunity, and then … Where were the Giants ranked last year? So, who cares? All I know is we've got a really good football team [coming up] with great players – because we're talking about these players – who are capable of making plays, really good coaches. Their issue last week – they outgained San Diego – their issue last week was real simple. Turnovers, right? They had a bunch of turnovers. So, if they clean that up, obviously they're capable of beating anybody. They were down big to the [New Orleans] Saints and just came roaring back in that venue. So, this is a heck of a football team. They were predicted in the preseason to be a playoff team, and they're still the same team. So yeah, what you're saying is fair. It's right. It's something that I think is … We'll be ready. We're not going to overlook them."
C Matt Birk
On how the offensive line has performed through the first four games:"I think it's been solid. Obviously, we can improve, and we know that. We know that it's a work in progress, especially with young guys and different guys playing different positions, even old guys playing the same positions. You always have to work your craft and continue to try and get better. That's what the NFL is. Being a quarter of the way through the season, I guess it's a good spot, and we have a little break to kind of evaluate yourself and your unit and get a chance to take a deep breath and maybe focus on certain areas that you need to improve on, as a group and as individuals, and then you get back to work, and you try to correct those things."
On his impressions of G/Ts Kelechi Osemele and Ramon Harewood:"I give them a lot of credit, both those guys. [They are] young players, took different paths, but it's not easy. It's not supposed to be easy, but those guys have shown great willingness to work, to take coaching, to take constructive criticism, and they just get better. I think the biggest thing about those two guys is that they care, probably less about themselves and just more about making sure that the unit plays well and gives the team the best chance to win."
On Chiefs LB Tamba Hali and the Chiefs' pass rush that gave Baltimore trouble in the 2010 AFC Wild Card game:"I have not watched any film on them this year. I don't recall that playoff game very much, to tell you the truth, but obviously, Tamba Hali is a heck of a player [and] has been for a very long time. [He is] one of the premier pass rushers in this league, and Arrowhead Stadium is a loud place, very loud place. So, that just adds to the degree of difficulty, and we'll have our hands full. We're just starting to get to work on those guys."
On if it is weird when they play music from the 1960s and 70s on the loud speaker at Arrowhead:"That's kind of my era. I kind of enjoy it." (laughter)
On how much the noise of Arrowhead affects the no-huddle offense:"Obviously, it limits your communication, but that's the homefield advantage. That's really what it is. It limits the offense's ability to communicate and to communicate quickly. It will be a great challenge for us, but obviously, like we are every week, we are looking forward to it."
On how much the crowd in Philadelphia in Week 2 affected the offense's ability to work at a fast pace:"I don't know if I would say that. [They are] different games, different matchups, different scenarios. Obviously, [offensive coordinator] Cam [Cameron] is kind of in charge of all of that – when to use it, when to not, kind of at what tempo we want to go at. But, it certainly is an obstacle. Obviously, you plan for it, you work more non-verbal communication things when you are on the road, but obviously, it will be up to Cam when and how much we use it."
On the news that former Ravens defensive coordinator and Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with Leukemia:"I didn't even know that. I didn't even know that. I was gone at a family event yesterday, myself. Chuck is a great man. My wife became kind of close with his wife in their time here. She is a great lady, and they will certainly be in our prayers tonight and for the days to come. The thing about Chuck is [that] you meet a lot of people along the way in this business, and the thing that always comes through with Chuck – even the first day I was here – he has that smile and kind of walks around a little bit like a gunslinger. He just has a great attitude. He kind of brings a smile to your face. He has a great spirit, and certainly, my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family."
On if he and LB Brendon Ayanbadejo will be having any political debates in lieu of their recent comments regarding same-sex marriage:"I doubt it. I took a stance, like other guys have done before me, and in doing so, it's really not my aim, it's not my goal to engage in any debates with any one person or persons. Obviously, we all have opinions. They have their opinions, and it just so happens that we disagree on what marriage is in the public form. It's certainly a very inflammatory, very hot topic, because it's important, and I understand that. I am also going to say that out of respect to my teammates and my team and the organization, this isn't going to turn into a circus. It probably won't be the last time that I publicly make a stance on it, but I am just asking you guys, out of respect to everybody, that my focus and our focus here is on football and winning football games."
On if he and Ayanbadejo have had any conversations regarding the matter:"I let Brendon know that – out of respect for him because I have known Brendon for awhile, I played with his brother, and I like Brendon, and I respect him a lot. I told him on Friday that I was going to have a piece coming out, and I just wanted to let him know so he didn't get blindsided by it. I was a little late getting back this morning. I was tending to a family issue back home yesterday, so I haven't had a chance to talk to him today."
On how RB Bernard Pierce's running style meshes with the offense and what he was doing against the Browns last Thursday night that made him successful:"He was just hitting holes. He is a downhill runner. On a couple of those inside-zone plays, he is just a straight-line guy, runs hard, like all of our backs do. He saw some creases and took them. It wasn't just against Cleveland. He's done that in every game we've had on certain plays. As great as Ray [Rice] is, those guys that carry the ball, they take a beating, they get tired, and it's kind of nice to have a quality guy that can come in and spell him from time to time and give you a little bit different style, I guess, but also, obviously, to rest and rotate with Ray. A one-two punch is a good thing."
On if he thinks that Arrowhead Stadium is the loudest stadium in the league:"It could be. Seriously, it could be. It's not the most recently architecturally-engineered stadium out there, but it's loud. Is it one of the loudest? We could measure the noise. They have things that measure those things, and we could figure out what is the loudest stadium in the NFL. I remember in the playoffs, one play we were down on the goal line. Obviously, I am pretty close to Joe [Flacco] before the snap, and I could hardly hear him. You just feel the vibration of the voice, that's how loud it is. But, you know going in that's what it's going to be and that's a challenge that we'll have to overcome."
On if Flacco was under center when he could barely hear him:"Under center. Under center."
On how important having time off the last couple of days was to the team:"I think it was big. I'm sure the stats have been said a million times: four games in 17 days or 18 days. It's good. I think anytime you get a break, but you come out of training camp, you get a couple of days, you start the season, four games, a little break. It's nice. Physically, but mentally, it's just as important just to get away a little bit and whatever, reconnect or lay on the couch or whatever guys want to do. Just give them a chance to catch their breath, literally and figuratively, and kind of get juiced up for the next stretch."
On if he has spoken to the younger guys on the offensive line about what the Browns' defense giving the younger guys along the offensive line problems:"Certain things. Cleveland was very committed to stopping the run game, extra guys, line stunts, kind of all those things. You never know how a game is going to play out. You watch teams on film, and you think you know who somebody is going in, they play guys like this, and they might play you a different way. That's part of the NFL, and that's part of the learning curve for younger players is being able to adjust to things during a game, in between series. Even as an older player, sometimes you come out and things are different; they didn't show this blitz, they didn't do this on film. You can get a little shaken, a little rattled. That's why it's important to have a good base of fundamentals. Obviously, we have great coaching; you come over to the sidelines, you talk it through if you had a bad series, bad set of plays, whatever. You talk about putting that behind you, and you go out and focus on the next series. You make adjustments and you go out there. That occurs with the maturation of a player and, especially, young players. I told Ramon [Harewood] today, I said, 'We've all been young players before.' Even as older players, you have ups and downs during a game, during a season, during your career, whatever. You just have to remember that all the … Failure is a great teacher. Mistakes are a great teacher. You learn from that, and you just keep looking forward and keep looking to get better and don't worry about the past."
On if he follows baseball: "I do. I'm a diehard Minnesota Twins fan. I don't think we are going to make the playoffs, but we didn't lose 100 this year." (laughter)
On what it means to the Ravens on having the Orioles doing well: "I think it's fun. It just kind of gives more energy to the city, just to kind of everything – people on the street. We [all] live here. We are out amongst the people a lot. It's a great topic – it gets people excited. It brings people together. That's the great thing about sports, especially. I know the recent or last 15 years, the history with the Orioles, so I think to be able to do what they do, it's fantastic, and obviously, the city has embraced them once again."
On the importance of the NFL's Play 60 program: "The scientific reasons and health reasons and all those things, I think those are pretty common sense, but I've participated in the Play 60 program before at schools here with the NFL. I think the most basic need for it is that kids need to be kids. Kids play. That's what you do. As a kid, that's what you live for, along with all the structure of a gym class and playing games and rules and teamwork and all those things. I just think just let kids be kids. That's why it's important. Who knows, some kids might not have those opportunities at home depending on their situation, where they live. Certainly, I think it's a very important initiative, as a football player, but also as a parent. I'm always on my kids, 'Just go outside and play,' and they say, 'Well, what should we do?' 'Just go play. Get out of the house. Stop bugging your mom.'" (laughing)
CB/RS Lardarius Webb
On his thoughts on the news of Chuck Pagano's illness:"That's a tough one. I sent him a text message this morning and told him to get well soon. He said he's going to fight it, he's' going to work through it. A lot of guys … It hit our heart this morning when we heard the news, and we just can't believe it's Chuck – one of ours. We know he's a Colt, but he's still one of us. We send all of our heart and condolences to him. It hit us hard this morning."
On what it is about Pagano that makes him so likeable: "He's just one of the guys. He interacts with us just like he's one of us – like he's one of the teammates – not our coach. He's just a likeable guy. [He] always has a smile on his face. He's always joking around, having a good time, enjoying work. While he was always serious about his job, but he was having fun, and we loved that."
On if having the time off helped the team: "It was good for the whole team, so the whole team could get some rest. We needed those two days with all the games we had. It was well-deserved. We needed those."
On if he feels refreshed today: "I feel a little better. I feel a little better. It was two days, but it seemed like a day-and-a-half, but it was two days, I guess. We needed one more day – Monday – it would have been perfect. It was great. We're glad that 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] gave us these two days out. We came out and got a good little practice in today. The guys were moving around excellent, like we were off for months. Those two days did [help], it helped out a lot."
On the noise at Arrowhead Stadium: "I've played there once. I think I played there once. I don't remember. I don't remember."
On if he enjoyed the Orioles game on Saturday: "We had a great time. I just wanted to come out with the family, and since we had a day off and just relax – relax with the family and enjoy them. We did; we had a great time."
On his thoughts on the Orioles doing well: "The birds be acting up. *(laughter) *They're having a great season. [It's] wonderful. They beat the Red Sox, and it was a great game. They have a complete team. I played a little bit of baseball in my high school days. I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it."
On if too much is being made about the yards that the defense is giving up: "It's really not about the stats. A lot of people look at the numbers and try to define a defense. Each week, we have stuff that we have to go back and look at and correct, but right now, the only number to look at is 3-1. We won the first half, or the first quarter, so we have to correct our things and move on, be happy with where we are at right now and improve."
On if he has started looking ahead to the Chiefs, and what he thinks of QB Matt Cassel:"[He's] great. He is doing a wonderful job, especially with Dwayne Bowe. Bowe is maturing as a wide receiver. He is running his routes. He is being physical in the run blocking. He is coming into a complete wide receiver now, [from] what I've seen of him on film. We have to contain him. No. 25 [Jamaal Charles] is back now. He is coming off a little injury, but he is back. If he gets a step in front of anyone, he is gone. I'm not going to say he reminds me of [Eagles RB LeSean] McCoy, but their running styles are similar, the way they cut back. We have to know where these guys are at."
On if he expects to be limited in practice on Wednesday:"I am full-go."
On if he remembers playing this much in the nickel position:"I always remember playing nickel. I didn't play nickel my second year when I was coming off the ACL surgery, but that was only planned because I was just coming off injury, so [the coaches] didn't want to put me on the inside. All the time I have been a Baltimore Raven, I always played that nickel position, always went inside, and I like it. I get to show more of my game off when I am on the inside. I get to cover some quick, good guys like [Patriots WR Wes] Welker, but also get to make some tackles, get to make some plays, get to blitz within the defense. I really do enjoy being in that nickel position."
On how high of a level S Ed Reed is playing at this year:"Ed is playing great on the field, but he's better, right now, at his preparation, getting us prepared. He is teaching us some things that we've never learned before about film watching, studying the other team. He is Hall of Fame at that right now. That's what he is showing us – how to prepare for these guys. We just have our ears open and are trying to learn from the greatness."
On if Reed's off-the-field teaching is even more pronounced this year:"Yes, this year more than ever. He is into that [play]book. He is making sure we know exactly what we are doing so we can go 110 percent. He is in it this year. All the other years, he would teach us a little something here and there, but this year, it's all 110 percent. He is teaching us everything that he can possibly know, and I am happy for it."
On why he thinks Reed is teaching more this year:"Because he wants to make sure we are together. How the games have been going on – communication [issues] this game, then next game, another communication [issue]. Communication [is important] every time, but he is making sure that those things don't happen. If we study film together, we are on point together, [and] communication wouldn't be the issue, so he wants there to be another way, instead of being ourselves."