*MONDAY TRANSCRIPTS: Week 8 vs. DOLPHINS
*Head Coach John Harbaugh, CB Brandon Carr & QB Joe Flacco
(The transcripts of local media conference calls with Miami head coach Adam Gase and Coach Harbaugh are also below.)
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, good seeing everyone – appreciate you being here. [It's] a little different schedule – obviously – we're on our Thursday night routine that we do pretty much every year. The guys had a lot of energy, and I was very proud of the way they came out and practiced. We did add a player: Gavin Escobar. As you all know, he was signed this morning, practiced today, looked good. So, we roll."
*The league just announced that Vikings S Andrew Sendejo got suspended for the hit on WR Mike Wallace. Do you think that's appropriate given the hit? (Jeff Zrebiec) *"That's the first I've heard of that, so, that's probably not for me to comment on. It's probably best to leave it at that."
**Is it a sign of positivity having both WR Jeremy Maclin and WR Mike Wallace out at practice today? *(Jerry Coleman) *"It's a positive sign. We've had Jeremy out the last two weeks, and he was unable to play. So, I guess right now I'm just like, 'I don't know.' The way it's been going with all that … I just … We'll see. Whoever you see jogging out there at kickoff, they'll be playing. Up until that point, I don't know. I probably would like to be coy with you and say, 'I'm not going to talk about it,' but, at this point, it's just like, 'We'll see.'"
*Not knowing who will be healthy to play, how much does that compromise your game plan? *(Jerry Coleman) "It's a little more uncertain, obviously. But, we have guys in spots; they have letters next to them – Zs and Xs and Ys and Us. Someone will be filling in those spots on Thursday night, for sure. We will have 11 on the field – I promise you that – that much we can guarantee."
Is WR Mike Wallace out of concussion protocol? (Jamison Hensley) "[He is] not out of the protocol. He or Breshad [Perriman] are not out of protocol at this moment. Just like we said, we just have to see how it goes. You can never predict that."
How impressive was it for WR Griff Whalen to come into the game and play as much as he did? (Luke Jones)"It was. I was out there in pregame, the stadium is filling up, it's a big game, there's a lot of energy, and I see ol' Griff warming up like, 'Man, this guy was at Gold's Gym a couple days ago,' and here he is! (laughter) But the good thing is he's a football player; he wasn't just a guy at Gold's Gym. He was a football player at Gold's Gym, and he played well – which, we were not surprised. He's a pro."
How much is TE Gavin Escobar's history of making plays in the red zone a factor?* (Jeff Zrebiec)* "I'm all for it, man. I'm all for a red zone track record, for anybody. We'll just have to see how this all plays out. This is a little uncharted territory for … I don't know how many teams have had this many injuries on offense, so we'll see how it plays out. We have a lot of tough guys. We talked to them just now. It's about mental toughness. It's about just going out there, and you have to put everything aside and ignore the noise and go out there and fight. We have a bunch of guys that I know will do that. I'm looking forward to see how it plays out."
How has QB Joe Flacco handled all the offensive changes due to injuries this season? (Jamison Hensley)"You know I'm going to give you a positive on that. I'm not really into evaluating or giving out grades, right now. I don't have my grade book with me. But, Joe has done a great job through all of that. There's been a lot of adversity, and for the quarterback to shoulder that … Joe is mature, he's tough, he's tough-minded, and he just deals with it. That's something that people in Baltimore are proud of. They understand that about Joe, and there are good times ahead. There are going to be a lot of good times ahead for Joe Flacco. Stick with him. It's going to be fun to watch."
Does playing the Dolphins in the preseason help you at all this week? (Todd Karpovich) "I don't think it helps that much. It's a good question. By this time, they're not completely different teams, but it's totally different circumstance with preseason, regular season. It's almost like we're seeing a new team."
It looks like QB Matt Moore will start for the Dolphins. How does that affect your preparation? (Omar Ruiz)"It's good to know. We know him pretty well; we've played against him before. He's a heck of a quarterback – obviously, gave them a real good spark in the game yesterday. Have nothing but respect for Matt. He's a proven quarterback in this league."
**Are you getting used to adjusting to different quarterbacks on the fly? I think this is the fourth-straight week you're going against a quarterback that wasn't the starter in Week 1. *(Jamison Hensley) *"I guess so – it's probably all around the league. It's been one of those years. That's just kind of the way it goes."
How did you think CB Jaylen Hill fared yesterday?* (Luke Jones)*"I thought he played well. I thought Jaylen played well, had a couple good coverages, lost one seven route to No. 19 [Adam Thielen] there – a physical play by '19,' and he'll learn from that. But, he made some plays; he did well."
I heard you talk about the need for a run defense being better. Have you ever been part of a team where it's so dramatic in the losses versus the wins with your run defense? (Omar Ruiz)"I'm just not a stat guy like that. So, I don't know if I have or not – probably. It's pretty important; it's probably why it's so dramatic. It's been the key in those games, between that and turnovers."
Why do you think you've been so successful in Thursday night games? (Shawn Stepner)"I don't know. I just want to be successful in this one. That's what we're focused on right now. All that history stuff is interesting, but I really think it has no bearing to the next game; we've proven that both ways over the years. [We] can't rely on that. We have to go play well."
*What are the challenges that you'll face? (Shawn Stepner) *"You have to go to work; you have to put it behind you, especially when you lose. I think it's a little easier when you win. Everybody's in good footing, everybody feels good about things. [When you lose], you have to overcome that emotional hurt, pain, whatever it is, right away. You have to put it behind you right now, because you have to be tough. You have to go play on Thursday night against a team that's on a roll. That's our job; we have to get it done. That's probably the biggest challenge – but our guys are up for it."
Do you feel like S Tony Jefferson is still working, finding his niche, and getting comfortable on a new defense? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Tony is a young player. He's always learning. Nobody works harder; he knows the defense. He knows the defense as well as any guy who's been in it for a few months is going to know it. But, Tony is going to make those tackles. We were talking about that one, on the breakaway run [against Minnesota], in the early part of practice, and talking about the angles. He's a student of the game, a good tackler; he's going to make a lot of tackles. The least of our concerns right now is Tony Jefferson."
CB Brandon Carr
On if his juggling interception in Minnesota was one of his more memorable ones:"It was a good interception – good to start the game off with a pick. The first play of the game, I kind of had my 'Spidies' up after a big play on punt return. I figured they wanted to take a shot and try to get some juice going within the stadium. So, I was on my toes and ready for it."
On how preparation changes this week not knowing who Miami's quarterback will be:"It doesn't change at all. I know who the receivers are, and those are the guys I'm going to be checking. As long as I'm with them, the ball will find us all. Short week, but we're going to study these guys up. We've been playing them for a few years now, but we're going to clear up all of our wrinkles and grades and get ready for Thursday."
On how much comfort he gets from S Eric Weddle and S Tony Jefferson being on the back end and covering on the deep shots downfield:"This defense in general, even though it may look crazy with the record and things going on right now, but I'm comfortable and confident with the guys within this locker room. Whether they put us in man coverage or whatever the call is, we're going to execute. I'm going to do my job, he's going to do his job, and with those guys in the back end, they just eat the game up both in the classroom and on the field. It allows you to play with more confidence for yourself and go make plays."
On if the refs are allowing them to be more physical this year or if that is crew-to-crew:"It's crew-to-crew, depending on what kind of gloves you've got on. *(laughter) *Colors matter, you know?"
On if he keeps an eye out for his teammates' confidence and if there is anything he has to do or say to keep it high:"I don't have a defined role, I don't think, as far as being a vocal guy. We have our different circles with guys that we know that may need some confidence boosting or just words of encouragement, or anything just to get their butts going some more and give them some more fire. Just know your teammates and know the guys around you and give it as needed."
On how much motivation there is from the group right now to clean up the run defense:"Oh man, it's a yucky taste in our mouth right now. All hands are on deck right now. All 11 guys, back end and the front seven, of course, we're going to iron this thing out. It's a long season, we're halfway there, and we've got a lot of great football to play still."
On what makes Dolphins' WR Jarvis Landry so special:"He's a guy that can beat you all over the field. He can line up in the backfield, line up in the slot, line up in the outside receiver, return kicks and punts and all of those things. So, he's a guy [who] is a playmaker with the ball in his hands, so we've got to do a good job of just pinpointing him every single play, knowing where he's at on the field, communicating and putting hats on him."
QB Joe Flacco
On what keeps him confident that the offense will get better: "This is all we know – coming out here and working on the practice field to get better and better. It may not be easy all the time, but that was never promised when you came into this league. If anything, you know it is going to be tough, and there are going to be tough stretches along the way. We all have to keep our heads up and come out here and work on the practice field to put that last one behind us and start with a clean slate and go out on this one and get it done."
On if his role changes when the offense is struggling and dealing with injuries: "I think your role is constantly changing as the year goes on, depending upon what happens. But the biggest thing in these situations is to keep the confidence going. We have a lot of guys that we are rolling in there that have just shown up and are actually playing a bunch of snaps on Sunday. The biggest thing you can do is give these guys confidence and make sure they know what they are doing come Sunday and feel good about it. There is a lot of time for all kinds of other things. I definitely don't think this is a time to change up and start to be negative and do all kinds of crazy things to guys. We have to have these guys humming. Like I said, we have a lot of moving parts at this point, and I think a lot of our energy is focused on getting those guys ready and making sure they are playing confident and making sure the other guys that have been in here feel comfortable being by their side and ready to go."
On if there is a sense that the team has to stop losing immediately in order to not dig themselves a hole: "Well, I think when you talk about the feelings of things, the whole city … When you talk about having to stop something like that, I think we can all feel that. I do not feel it is just people in the locker room. We want to go out there and we want to put up points. It has to stop as quickly as possible, which that would lead towards this Thursday. We have to get this thing going to the point where are putting up points and putting our team in the position to win football games. It doesn't matter how we do it, but we have to find a way."
On if players being game-time decisions can change or compromise a game plan: "Well, it depends on the certain plays. When Mike [Wallace] got hurt, that probably hurt us a little bit, just because we had a couple of shots [drawn] up for him. The guys that we had left might not be ideal for those situations. Other situations, a guy like Jeremy [Maclin], we are not really sure about him until game time, and we have got a lot of work in practice with him, so that can hurt you in terms of reps for other guys and just getting comfortable with all that. But it is all part of the game; it really doesn't matter at the end of the day. We really wouldn't be talking about a lot of that stuff if we would just win these games. That is what we have to go do."
On if the offense draws confidence from having a good performance last year against Miami: "I don't think it matters. It is a new year. You guys can see. We all know. We have been around this game for long enough. You know how much teams can change year to year – personnel, schemes, everything. We have to take this for what it is, which is a game on Thursday night that we have in a couple days. Last year was great, but it is not last year."
On how he feels he has played this year considering all the moving parts on offense: "Ups and downs. I have to be more consistent, and that is the name of this game. In order to win the majority of your games, you have to play consistent, and you still probably are going to lose a couple. But if you can consistently play well throughout the course of 16 games and lose some games that you play well and win some games that you play well, you are giving yourself the best chance. The fact that I have been up and down, now you are climbing out of a hole and you are putting yourself behind the eight ball. [I] definitely have to be more consistent week to week. The way we are playing right now and the way we have played the last few weeks have been pretty conservatively. We are probably not going to go out there and put up 40 points. In a game like Chicago, you can look at a couple plays and say, 'Hey, listen, we played the game mostly how we wanted to, and if it wasn't for three plays, we might not have had a great day on offense, but we would have played winning football.' Those are the kind of games we are playing right now. We can't make mistakes. We probably are not going to put up 42 points, but what we do on offense, we have to do well. We have to be able to count on everybody, including myself – mostly myself – in crunch time to make big plays on third down and things like that to keep the chains moving. Settling for field goals sometimes is winning football. We have turned the ball over in a lot of those cases, where if we would have been able to kick field goals, then maybe the game would have turned out a different way."
On if he would like to see the offense get a little more aggressive or if playing conservative has been a result of the situations the team has been in: "Yes, it has been kind of how the games have played out this year. You always want to go out there and play aggressively and take your shots here and there. At the same time, we have to let the game come to us and play to our strengths. Like we have talked about, there are a lot of moving parts, so we have to hone in on exactly what we are going to do each week. The thing is each week those things have been maybe a little bit different than the past weeks."
On what he does to inspire confidence to players who are new to the offense:"For instance, this week, it is a walkthrough week, but we have a tight end [Gavin Escobar] that just got here today, and do you really want to go to a game on Thursday where you have done nothing but walk through with him? It is my job as a leader to keep him out here and maybe get him warmed up at the beginning of practice and get some high speed reps with him so we can feel comfortable together once Thursday comes around. It may not be exactly what my body wants to do at the time, but I think come Thursday, nothing crazy, but to get a couple one-on-one air routes with him at full speed will be beneficial. Things like that."
On if he has to second-guess himself on calling an audible due to moving parts: "No. All of our audibles and things like that – they have rules that come along with them. Obviously, there are matchups, but a lot of the audibles that we have are based off a front or coverage and whoever we have in there rolling that is what we are going to go with. Come game day, we have all the confidence that whoever is in there is going to get the job done."
On the challenges in playing on a Thursday night: "It is just about getting yourself ready to go and having the energy to get out there and get up and go. Both teams are dealing with a short week, and their bodies aren't quite what they would be on Sunday. So, whoever can get themselves going and turn that energy up as early as possible, that definitely has a little more influence on a game like this. But hey, it is tough to put your finger on it. These are quick turnarounds, and you just have to take it for what it is and make sure you are ready to go on Thursday night."
On how he would assess the Dolphins defense: "They are good. They have a good front, and they are playing well. Last year when we played them, they were really aggressive on some of the run action, but I think they are playing really well this year, and they are playing confident right now. They have won some games, and I think that definitely helps."
On the importance of winning at home: "You can talk about home and away and the fact that teams are more successful at home, but the bottom line is we just have to win football games. At this point, it doesn't matter where it is. You always want to win your games at home, because you feel like you have a slight advantage. But the bottom line is both teams get paid, and that counts going into opposing stadiums and playing well. We just have to win wherever we are."
RAVENS HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH
Conference Call with Miami Media; Transcribed by Ravens PR
This is five years in a row that you are facing the Dolphins who are not in your division. What changes have you seen over the years?"That is such a hard question, because I do not really quantify that. It is more with those types of things [that] you look at your own team. Adam Gase is doing a great job. I think they are very distinctive in terms of their identity in all three phases. They have excellent coordinators, and we have a lot of respect for them in what they are doing and what they are building there."
When you look at their defense, they are having a lot more success compared to a year ago when they had a lot of trouble stopping the run. What are you seeing on film about Miami's defense that concerns you? "Well, it is really good. They have good players – veteran players. [Rey] Maualuga is playing really well in the middle, but they have three excellent linebackers. They obviously have one of the best fronts in football. They are moving those guys around; they are blitzing the run a little bit. It is a good scheme. It is a very good scheme, and they have very good players."
What can you tell me about your offense and what is concerning you in terms of being able to move the ball and put points on the board?"I would say that is what is concerning me. We have been really struggling. We have had a lot of injuries. It is not that that is our excuse; it never would be. We still expect to perform at the highest level, and we just have to find a way to do it."
How healthy or unhealthy is your receiving corps right now? "Well, we didn't finish the game with … I think we had two [healthy] at the end of the game, so we will just have to see."
I know one of your guys … I read something interesting where you said you consider WR Mike Wallace a leader on your team. We know Mike pretty well down here. What can you tell us about what he has been able to bring to your club, not only on the field, but off of it?"Mike, since he has been here and our knowledge of him, he is a really hard worker, he has a lot of energy – kind of infectious energy. He is a big-time competitor. Every day at practice, he really wants to do well. He is a lot of fun to be around. He is always alert, he is ready to go to work, and he gives his best. I appreciate that about him."
I know you picked up WR Griff Whalen, who was here a little while ago. What has he been able to do for you so far? "He did a good job in preseason, and we got jammed up with our receiving situation in the last two weeks. We brought him in last week, and he only practiced two days and he went out there and played pretty well. We pull him out of Gold's Gym, and he went out there and did a good job. He is a pro, he is a very smart player, and it is not surprising at all."
Did you say you pulled him out of Gold's Gym?"Yes, I think so. It was Gold's or one of those places. He was working out when we called him.* (laughter) *He said he was working out. He picked up the phone, and started breathing really hard, and said, 'Oh, coach, I'm just working out!' So, that was the right answer."
Dolphins QB Jay Cutler went down yesterday, and he's not likely to start Thursday. How do you approach a situation like that? Do you spend some, or any, time on Cutler or is it strictly QB Matt Moore? "That's a good question. First of all, we prepare for the offense. The offense is established. Both quarterbacks run the same offense; the rest of the guys out there will be the same guys. So, you're preparing for the complete group, more than you are any one player. Each of the two quarterbacks brings a little something different. Matt Moore is a great quarterback; he's proven that. We've played him before. We understand what he brings to the table, and that'll be our focus and preparation. If that changes, we'll just have to adjust."
What are the qualities you see in QB Matt Moore that enables him to have the success he's had in this league?"He's just a talented guy. He's never not proven [himself]. He's always played well when he's gotten his chances – that I'm aware of. He can throw it, he has great awareness, he can move in the pocket, he can move out of the pocket, and he can make plays extended. He seems like he has really good control of the offense. All the things that successful quarterbacks do, he seems to be doing."
How do you build a confident team, and what is it like when you have a team that believes in itself? "That's probably a better [question] for Adam [Gase] right now." *(Reporter: "I mean, in terms of the team that you've been on. I'm sure you've been on some teams that had that feeling.") *"Yes, I haven't really thought of it like that. So, I probably don't really have a great answer for you on that."
DOLPHINS HEAD COACH ADAM GASE Conference Call with Baltimore Media; Transcribed by Dolphins PR
(With the short week, is it going to make it tough for your starting quarterback, Jay Cutler, to be ready for the Ravens?) –"Yes, I mean it's not ideal to say the least. He missed the majority of the second half. We'll just kind of see how it goes. We'll just get the guys ready that we know are ready to play."
(What did you see from QB Matt Moore when he went in?) –"I thought he did a good job of just kind of calming everything down. We were having some issues on third downs. They were getting us into some deeper distances and they were making it really tough on us. They did a good job of changing up a lot of things and giving us some different looks. (New York Jets Head Coach) Todd Bowles has done a good job against us every time we've played them. Matt did a good job of just kind of settling things down and finding a way to make some plays."
(Yesterday, I think seven teams didn't score an offensive touchdown. Another two scored one in the final minute for their first touchdown. I know you're focused on the Dolphins but do you have any thoughts on why offense seems to be down in so many places around the league?) –"That's hard for me to answer just because I really don't pay attention to what the other teams are doing. You're so focused on what you're doing that week. I'm all for it, people scoring less points, considering that we haven't scored a lot of points this year. (laughter) I'll take it; but I don't know why that's happening"
(Going back to QB Matt Moore, how much confidence do you have in him filling in for QB Jay Cutler if Cutler can't play on Thursday?) –"I have a lot of confidence. I mean Matt and I did this last year. I don't know. It just feels like we didn't really skip a beat. It's easy for us to kind of just start going again. Matt's an easy guy to call plays for because you never really hear him say 'I don't like that' or 'I don't like this.' He just kind of says the play and then rolls."
(I know you guys are 4-2 and the Ravens are 3-4. Does this feel like a crossroads game for both teams?) –"It's hard to say that early in the season. I guess we're both trying to find ways to get better. We're all working on the different parts of our games. I'm sure they're not happy with certain aspects and we're certainly not happy with certain aspects of our total team game. Really, at this point, when you get into this part of the season, you're just trying to make sure that you're getting better every week. You're trying to avoid being inconsistent. You're trying to avoid having one good game, one bad game. Until somebody tells you you're out of it, you just keep trying to find ways to get better and you don't worry about all of the other noise."
(Has there been one area where you've really seen dramatic improvement with your team during your winning streak? Something that's really made a difference for you guys in recent weeks?) –"Yes, I mean we scored some points and crossed the 50 a few times. That was good. (laughter) We were struggling. We had two really, really bad … If you look it, we probably had about 10 really bad quarters. It was good in that Atlanta game. We were moving the ball. We didn't get any points in that first (half) and then we finally did in the second half. In this last game, we were a little inconsistent as far as when we were doing it; but for the most part, we had some really good drives and we had some good execution. We had guys making plays down the field. It was good to see the offense kind of be a positive impact on the game. I think our defense, they're always going to be working on some things. We do have some young players on that side along with some really good veteran players. You're always going to have those situations that come up to where a younger guy makes a mistake and veteran players are going to kind of look at it like 'How did we screw that up?' But that's part of the process. That's part of the growing experience of young players playing week to week. We're always going to have to keep plugging along and learning from our mistakes."
(I think DE Cameron Wake had 2.5 sacks yesterday. What sort of impact does he have on the defense?) –"He just creates a lot of pressure. Both in the run game and the pass game, the quarterback feels him. Just the way he comes off the ball, everything is violent. Even in the run game, when tackles are trying to get on him, he's so strong that he's able to set the edge and then hold the point when he needs to, when it's any kind of downhill running game. He's been very impressive to watch over the last two years. You wouldn't realize what his age is. You feel like he's a 25 year old player with the amount of energy he plays with and the amount of passion he plays with, and just the physicality he plays the game with."
(You guys have played the Ravens a lot over the years. It almost seems like you guys are in the same division with how much you've played. I know the Ravens are struggling now but do they look to you like a typical Ravens team with the same characteristics that they've had over the years?) –"I guess personally, I have a lot of experience going against them, just from my time in Tampa and basically carrying through here. I just know (Head) Coach (John) Harbaugh does a great job. The way he tries to build a team personnel wise, it's always going to be a little bit different because over time, things change; but you can see the same personality traits in certain aspects of their game. To me, it's so early in the season. I know a lot of people don't think that way but we've got a long ways to go here. It really is all about getting better every week. That's the one thing that I've known about Coach Harbaugh. I feel like I've heard too many times that things aren't going in the direction they wanted and then all of a sudden, it's like six straight wins or seven straight wins and then they're in the playoffs. When I was in Denver, that's how it happens. They got in the playoffs and the next thing you know, we're going home and they're going to the Super Bowl a couple of years later."
(The Baltimore Ravens defense has given up a 100-yard rusher in three of its last four games. Do you look at that as an opportunity for RB Jay Ajayi?) –"My experience has been that it's always been tough sledding against these guys. When you turn on the tape and you watch what they're doing, there's a lot of runs that aren't very good. There have been a few that have kind of popped out of there – a couple of explosive runs here and there – but for the most part, there's not really a lot of air to run into. It's not an easy defense to run against. Their scheme is tough. Then when you add the way that some of these guys are playing and their gap responsibilities and how those outside guys really do a good job of setting the edge and they funnel everything back inside, it really makes it difficult to have clean lanes all of the time. Unfortunately, you're counting on your running back to make a great play the majority of the time to really pop one free."