BALTIMORE RAVENS POST-PRACTICE TRANSCRIPTS
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement:"OK, thanks for coming. I want to welcome the Sheriff's Department from Anne Arundel County right there, Ron Bateman and his guys. Appreciate you guys coming out. We also had another guest, [Olympian and Baltimore native] Michael Phelps. You guys have heard of him right? (laughter) He had a few words for the team, so he had a great message for us. We appreciate that. We had a really good practice. It was hot. It was a little harder than we thought it was going to be. We had a tough practice planned. Obviously, it was in full pads. First- and second-down emphasis, and the guys did a great job. It was one of our best practices we've had. So, that's where we're at."
What was Michael Phelps' message to the team? (Garrett Downing)"'Go get 'em.' That was basically his message. Go get 'em. He just talked about the last four years and what it takes to persevere like that a little bit, and he said, 'Go get 'em.' Is that going to be your headline?" (laughing)
Is Phelps enjoying retirement? (Kris Jones)"We didn't get into that. I'm sure you could ask him. He's right here, somewhere."
Coach, this is our first to ask you about the kicking situation. Could you talk about the competition, and why you made the decision in the midst of camp and not wait until the very end? (Jerry Coleman)"Obviously, if you can make this decision this week, you want to do it, because you want to get your kicker another week with the team as the guy before you go into the regular season and do that. The other part of it was, the third preseason game, putting him [Justin Tucker], basically, out front and putting the pressure on him to be the hunted instead of the hunter, and he handled that really well. So, the decision is based on the fact that that's what we think is best for our team. We think, going forward in the long term, it's going to be the best. We also think [that] in the short term. Billy [Cundiff] kicked very well. I've said it many times: He is a great person. He is a heck of a kicker. He is a huge part of what we accomplished here the last two-and-a-half years, and he'll always be remembered for that. We'll remain close friends. He'll always be a part of us as Ravens. But, the change is made. We're moving on to Justin [Tucker], and he's earned it by the way he kicked in camp. He won the competition, and that's why he is the kicker."
It was a competition though? Billy Cundiff assumed that it was his job to lose, and then all of the sudden, he is out. (Jerry Coleman)"It's always a competition. I've said that many times, and that's the way it works in this league. You have to be the best guy at that position – I am talking about any position – to earn a job. That's the way it should be."
Coach, in college, Justin never missed a fourth-quarter kick. Knock on wood he doesn't miss here. What did you like about him when you guys brought him in at the beginning? (Chris Miller)"The main thing … And [assistant head coach/special teams coordinator] Jerry Rosburg did a great job scouting Justin; he was the guy that found him. He wasn't really a highly-touted guy, as you know. There were a couple of kickers drafted; he wasn't one of them. But Jerry saw something in him. He saw his athleticism, leg strength. The way he hits the ball and strikes the ball is really about as good as you're going to see, and that's where it started. As Justin said, Jerry has done a great job, along with [kicking consultant] Randy [Brown] of working on his technique and tweaking his technique a little bit. It should make him even more consistent, but it will be his to prove. He is going to have to go out there and do the job, but we're very confident that he will."
Have you told him anything specifically about trying to keep that even keel and the idea that kickers do tend to go through highs and lows? He is a young guy getting a lot of attention. What have you told him about those types of things (J. Michael)"The main thing is to be humble. I'll go to Under Armour's saying: Stay humble, stay hungry. That's what he'll have to do. He'll have to stay humble, which he will – that's the kind of guy he is – and stay hungry and keep working hard. When you have a bad play or the momentum swings against you, you brush it off and you move on to the next one. That's the same for kickers. I think he has what it takes to do that."
Was his age at all a factor when you were determining if he would be the guy, in the sense that he's a rookie and if that factors in? (Garrett Downing)"Sure, that factors in. All of it factored in. We try to take everything into consideration and weigh it out. You have the experienced guy vs. the younger guy. There are pros and cons to both of those. Everything had a pro and a con, and what it really came down to – just talking to Jerry [Rosburg] a little bit here – it just came down to the competition in the end. We felt like he did the better job in camp. They both did a great job, and we feel like, going forward, he is the best option.
Was the end of the AFC Championship game one of those factors that you considered? (Robert Klemko)"No, because we brought Billy back. If it had been, he wouldn't have been back. We had confidence. Billy kicked well. Billy could very easily be the kicker here. He'll definitely be the kicker somewhere else. He had probably his best camp that he's ever had. So, he deserves a lot of credit."
Coach, the news regarding Terrell Suggs [moving to the Physically Unable to Perform list] is unexpected. The earliest [he could play], I guess, could be Week 6 against the Texans. Is that the game plan, or are you still not sure? (Jerry Coleman)"We don't know. It's still early. I'd say he's doing really well. From everything I've been told, he's doing very well. So, that's where we're at. It's too far off to say a date, really."
Coach, in terms of that final preseason game, does your philosophy this year change? How do you hope to get reps for those guys that are trying to get their name on that final 53-man roster? (Chris Miller)"That's our philosophy with those guys in the preseason, has always been to get as many reps as we can out of the game. So, we're going to try to win the game, but we're going to try to get as many reps as we can for the guys that we're trying to determine their future. These guys work too hard out here to not give them every opportunity out there in a game situation to prove what they can do. This is their dream. There are a lot of guys that have an opportunity right now that are on the bubble to make this team. So, we've got decisions to make here and for other teams to take a look at. So, they've earned that, they deserve that, and that's what we'll do."
Any chance that Ed Dickson or Dennis Pitta might get in Thursday's game at St. Louis to break some rust? (Ed Lee)"No chance. No chance of that. They're not ready for that yet."
What's your impression of DeAngelo Tyson and what he's done thus far? (Ed Lee)"He has done well. He has gotten better. DeAngelo is really a hard worker, very quiet. He just comes to work every day and does his job, and he has improved a lot as far as the techniques that [defensive line coach] Clarence [Brooks] has taught him. So, he continues to improve. He is one of the guys that we'll have to make a decision about."
Do you draw any parallels between Michael Phelps the last four years and the Ravens? (Robert Klemko)"I wish I was smart enough to draw that parallel right now and to have something really good. I'll let you do that. It'll be a good article. I look forward to reading it."
John, out of all the factors – you talked about the fact that there were many factors in the kicking competition – the fact that it looks like Justin might be able to push your range out a little bit more, is that a big factor, little factor or no factor? (John Eisenberg)"I would say that there were a lot of factors. That's one of the factors. How much it played in, it's really impossible to determine that. But, they are both really good kickers. That's the decision we made. We think we made the right decision, but you could make an argument the other way, and it's a fair argument. I'm sure that some of you guys will make it, and it will be fair. You just try to do what you think is best, and it will play out over the next couple of years."
With Sergio Kindle, do you feel like he's locked up a spot on the roster, or do you feel like he has to go out and have a good showing on Thursday? (Garrett Downing) "Nobody, well some guys … I will say this: Some guys are a lock, yes. *(laughing) *You wouldn't believe that. No, he's not a lock, but he's done really well, and this game will be important for him."
John, given some of the injuries that you've had at safety, what have you seen from Christian Thompson and his development, and how close do you think he is to being ready to contribute on this team? (Luke Jones) "He's done really well. He's a guy that is in the mix strong. I would expect him to be a part of this. We'll have to see after this game. He'll have to be a really good special teams player; that's where it's going to start. He's going to have to continue to develop as a backup safety. He's not there yet as far as understanding the defense, but he's getting close."
K Justin Tucker
On if he is a little bit more relaxed now with a decision being made: "Yeah, probably for about a minute I got a chance to celebrate and call everyone in my family and a few of my good friends from school and let them know some good news. Right after that, you have to put your head down and get right back to work. I just wanted to come out here today and have another good day just to start it off. [I] got a chance to have a little fun making a few phone calls. I gave myself a minute. That's all I needed."
On if he was taken aback by the decision and the timing or if he expected it: "You know, I really don't want to look at it like I had any expectation one way or another. Both Billy [Cundiff] and I just wanted to come out here every day and try to get better at something. That's the kind of attitude I've had throughout training camp, is that I wanted to come in and try to get slightly better at something every single day, and as long as I did that, I would give myself a chance. Obviously, I am very thankful that everything has worked out up to this point and hope it will continue to do so."
On what Tucker feels he did well on this month: "I think you probably hit it just saying by being consistent. One of the things 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] is always telling me is, 'Put it straight and give it a chance.' That's really as simple as it can get. In our world where everything can come down to very finite details, kind of going back to basic and just saying, 'Just kick the ball and kick it straight,' that's what I would tell myself when I would go hit a ball in preseason game or even just out here at practice every single day. I guess the thing that I've done well, I think, up through this point is just keep it simple and put it through."
On the organization putting a lot of faith in him and what it means to him: "I'll say first, [I] give a lot of credit to Billy [Cundiff]. He made sure this was a really, really good competition; he pushed me every single day. But, I really do appreciate the front office and the coaching staff putting their faith in me. I will do everything I can to bring my lunch pail to work every day, and I know that sounds cliché. I've said it probably a hundred times before, but that's really the attitude that everybody has around here. This is a blue-collar atmosphere, and we are just trying to bring our lunch pail to work every day."
On if he feels like the pressure will be any different from preseason to regular season: "There will probably be a little bit of a different feel just because everything is a hyped up a little bit and everything leading up to gameday. When I get out there, it's all the same to me. I try to hit every ball the same, and just really have fun – kind of going back to what we said a minute ago: 'Just put them straight and give them a chance.'"
On how much pressure he felt during the preseason games: "A little bit, but I'm just trying to put them straight and keep it simple. So, as far as feeling any more pressure than I would feel usually, I wouldn't say that was the case. After the fact, I kind of look back and say, 'Wow, I'm really thankful I made those.'"
On if he has highs and lows and how he dealt with that adversity: "I've been fortunate enough in my career throughout school that I've never really had any major lows, or at least I wouldn't tell myself that I'd had any. There was a time when I had, when I was still punting, I had a six-yard punt, left-footed, and that wasn't very good. The next punt I had was 45 [yards], fair catch, net 45 [yards]. That's just part of the duality of being a specialist is coming back from the highs attitude – and the lows with the same attitude – moving forward, really not letting anything phase you. [You] just have to have a poker face."
On not having lows at Texas: "I was fortunate enough not to have anything catastrophic happen. Knock on wood, we will continue that. That's just part of this business and part of really any football player's mentality. You just have to be able to bounce back from whatever."
On if he has thought about lows happening: "I really don't. [I] just think positively, and going back to what I've said about 100 times: 'Just keep it simple, and take it one kick at a time.' That's all you can do."
On kicking in bad weather games and how he prepares for bad weather games: "Inclement weather, wind, all that stuff, is something that Randy [Brown], coach [Jerry] Rosburg and 'Harbs' have really been good about giving me pointers on. The stuff that I've learned from Randy just over these past few weeks has been really good to help prepare me for those situations. If the ball I am hitting right now is true, and I carry that into the regular season, which I certainly plan on doing, then I will give myself the best chance to hit them right where I want them and not really let the weather affect me in a negative way."
On if he has kicked intentionally in bad weather to test himself: "We had one day back in OTAs, or minicamp rather, that was pretty rainy and pretty wet. So whenever it is rainier or whenever it is windy and we have a practice, say we will be inside, we will come outside and work on those things just to get the exposure to it. Most stadiums tend to have some sort of wind pattern or the location of where they are maybe cold, maybe snowing, wind, rain, all that good stuff. It's just something you prepare for on game week, and fortunately, we've had a couple of days out here where we've had opportunities to work in not perfect conditions. We really try to take advantage of every single one of those days."
On his winning kick during the Texas vs. Texas A&M game and where the game ranks for him: "I give credit to them for, I guess, making it a really good rivalry for 118 or 120 years or whatever it is – going back to college days, the glory days or something. Obviously, it feels good to put an end to a really good, fun football rivalry on a good note for the team you play for. [I'll] give a little shout out to Case McCoy for setting me up for it and making me look good. As far as where that ranks, I'll let you all decide that, and everybody back in Texas, they can talk about that all they want. I'm just really glad I made it."
On how big the Texas vs. Texas A&M kick was for him personally: "That was probably one of the bigger kicks that I've made in my career. But going back and looking at it on film, I probably left it a couple yards shorter of where I would usually want to hit it. Even on one of the bigger kicks in my career, I'm trying to find a way to get better. That's something that is really emphasized around here, especially with coach Rosburg, Randy and 'Harbs' just saying: 'Find a way to get better every day.'"
On how previous kicks under pressure situations help translate to the NFL:"I'm really thankful that I played at Texas where we have big crowds and we had the Longhorn Network just starting up when we were there. So, we had a lot of publicity, and we had a lot of people in our stadium on game day. So, hitting in front of a big crowd, playing on national TV quite a bit, was really good for preparing all of us that have come out of there for more big crowds and more exposure on TV and in the media. So, in that regard, I'm really thankful for the overall environment that I was brought up in."
On if he met Olympian Michael Phelps today:"I did. It's pretty surreal seeing a guy on TV … I was saying a couple of weeks ago, somebody [asked], 'Have you met Ray Lewis yet?' And I said, 'Yeah, probably one of the first times in a long time I've been sort of star struck.' And again, Michael Phelps comes out here – the most decorated Olympian of all time – it's pretty special to have him come out here and hang out with us at practice today."
On what Phelps' message to the team was:"Just to stay focused, get after it, and [he] really just wanted to come out here and say that he's proud to be out here and to be from the Baltimore area. Going off of that point, I really feel at home here. And the people that we bring around this complex, it's pretty remarkable the different types of people that are around here, all the different personalities. And getting to mingle with all of these different types of personalities has been really cool, and seeing a guy like Michael Phelps come out here and share some love with us, that's also really cool."
On what the overall reaction has been from his teammates since earning the kicker job:"Mostly, guys have just been saying 'congratulations' and, 'Let's get after it.' This is a business, and I'm finding this out real quick. Today is, I suppose, our first round of cuts, and some of my rookie friends that I came in here with during OTAs or even back to rookie minicamp … I was just telling a couple of the other guys that it gets real, really fast. There are 90 guys here over the weekend, and after today, there [are] 75. So, it is pretty crazy how fast it all happens."
On whether he has spoken with Billy Cundiff since the decision was made: "No, not as of yet. But I certainly want to give him credit for making this a really, really good competition. And I know he'll land somewhere probably really quickly, because he's obviously a Pro Bowl guy and he's a Pro Bowl-caliber kicker. So, it was really fun to be out here every day with a guy who's done really, really well. We can learn off of each other while we're out here, and that's what we did, and we're both better kickers because of it."