Bisciotti opening statement:"Here we are. Thanks for your coverage. Thanks for your work. I don't know if we have much to say other than the questions. It will be interesting to hear what you have to say. It seems like football is a passionate business in Maryland; we're pleased with that. Dick [Cass] showed me some numbers that showed our viewership trending skyward. We are one of the top five teams, as far as ratings in our home market, and that's a good thing. They say apathy is the worst emotion, and there's not much apathy in this town for our team. So, I'm ready to go, if you are."
*The Ravens are coming off a loss that seems to have lingered with the fan base longer than any in recent memory. As an owner and a fan, how long did the loss linger for you and how long did it take you to get over it? And, are you over it? *(Joe Platania)
(BISCIOTTI) "No, I'm not over it. We had our personnel meetings yesterday, and that's a good start. We'll have our retreat in about 10 days. The four of us spend a couple of days together, and that will help. And, free agency, the more you get into 2012, the more you realize that the pain is going away. But, no, no, you're not over it. I don't think any of us are over it, but we have to move on."
*The Ravens were so close to going to the Super Bowl. In your mind, as a lay person, not a football expert, what does the team need to do to get to the next level to reach the Super Bowl? *(Aaron Wilson)
(BISCIOTTI) "Hold on to a ball. That's where it was this year. It's a game of inches, and the ball bounces, and we were there. And, when you put up the kind of numbers and the success that we have, then it really comes down to tweaking. And we are forced to tweak regardless. We don't have an opportunity to stand pat. So, a lot of things change. Some coaches have already left. John is busy filling the staff again. We had a great personnel meeting, and of course, the salary cap dictates a lot. You hope Ozzie is on his game and finds guys like [Bernard] Pollard and [Vonta] Leach again to be those missing pieces. But, we really don't know where those missing pieces [are]. We don't know what pieces are going to be missing by the time we get to April, and then May, and even August. We were fortunate enough to pick up some offensive linemen [Bryant McKinnie and Andre Gurode], that without them, we don't know. We may have struggled a lot more to get where we wanted to go. That's about it."
*Do you see this as a team where the window of opportunity to win a Super Bowl is closing, or has Ozzie Newsome done enough to keep the team a contender for many years to come? *(Dave Ginsburg)
(BISCIOTTI) "Thanks, that's a good question. Some of the national guys have written some articles recently [questioning the age of the defense]. I think I've said this to you one other time: If Ray [Lewis] and Ed [Reed] – who are 34 and 36, or 33 and 36 – if you replace them with two 22-year-old guys, you've just picked up 14 years. Divided by 11 starters, that's a year-and-a-half difference. So, if you want to get younger, we can replace those two with two 22-year-olds and get down to being one of the youngest defenses in the league. That's clearly not our intention, and teams like the Patriots and the Steelers are older than we are. From top to bottom, we are only talking about a year, 1.8-to-2-years-per average. So, it's just not a number. I don't see age as being a window closing, not when you have a franchise quarterback coming up that's entering his fifth year. We got great contributions this year from three of our seven draft picks, and I know that we are very excited about the other ones. We didn't know what we got in Pernell McPhee, and we're really excited about Jah Reid. We're still very excited about Tandon Doss and Anthony Allen and Chykie Brown. And LaQuan [Williams], who wasn't drafted. We've got some contributors that we're going to count on and that fill a lot of holes for us. What Jimmy Smith and Pernell and Torrey [Smith] did for us this year is spot on. We think we can get some of that out of the other four."
*There has been a lot of dissatisfaction among the fans about the decision to move training camp from Westminster to Owings Mills. How do you appease fans about the move and not having access that they enjoyed at McDaniel College? *(Jerry Coleman)
(BISCIOTTI) "It's our job to get them comfortable with things that we do. We talked about getting out there and making some open practices at the stadium and in some other places. I'd like to get one down to Annapolis; it's my neck of the woods. So, maybe we can talk with Navy and maybe get it down there in the summertime, which would be good. We can get you all down to McGarvey's and have some fun down there. (laughter) It's our job to create that access. It hurts me personally, and yet, the NFL is a different animal than it was when I was a little kid. We didn't have fences in Westminster when I was a little kid. We got our pictures and our autographs from these guys by walking with them from the dorm to the practice field and then walking back. There might have been 200 kids there, and everybody got their time. I don't ever remember waiting in line to get my picture done with Raymond Berry. And now, you've got 1,000 people out there that are pushing and shoving, and it's not the kind of environment [it used to be]. We'll take care of the tykes. We'll figure out a way to get some open practices and get the autographs and get that interaction. We'll do a good job of that. And, it is very, very bittersweet to have to come to the conclusion finally that it is in our best interest, from a football perspective, to do that here instead of Westminster."
Have you, Ozzie or John gotten any definitive indication from Ed Reed if he plans to return for next season? (Dan Kolko)
(BISCIOTTI) "Ed doesn't give definitive answers. (laughter) No, no, he hasn't. We didn't get that same proclamation that we got from Ray. We're assuming he's going to be back. He's under contract, and I think he still has the desire to play."**
*Do you think Joe Flacco answered his critics with the great performance he had in the AFC Championship game? *(Barry Barnes)
(BISCIOTTI) "I don't think so. I think it helps, but I don't think you are going to convince the critics over a 300-yard passing game. If Brady had put up his regular numbers, then he wouldn't have outperformed him. Joe had a great game, but what our defense did to Tom Brady is something that I want my defense to do to the Tom Bradys and the [Ben] Roethlisbergers of the world going forward, forever. So, it's a very delicate balance when you try and shift attention over to the offense, and the next thing you know, you're giving up 27 points a game. We don't want to be there as an organization."
*With Joe Flacco's contract coming up next year and Ray Rice's contract coming up this year, how much influence will you have with Ozzie [Newsome] in the contract process? Do you take a big part in that? *(Pete Gilbert)
(BISCIOTTI) "I do. I know my place, and I certainly want to understand [the process]. I think we strike a good balance. They do listen to me – and Dick [Cass]. And Dick's a big part of that, too. Pat Moriarty runs our cap as well as anybody else out there. We spend as much money as I'm allowed under the CBA under the salary cap rules, and when I say as much, I mean that we've never been under the salary cap. And there's different ways to look at that, because we can mortgage a lot with a credit card. So, what the credit card does for you is [it] allows you to get a complete team. But, if you use too much on credit, then you are going to have dead money in future years. If you're not careful, then you are going to have a lot of dead money on your salary cap. So, we are conservative when it comes to how much [is used] on the credit card. That's how the window opens and closes, I believe. It's that you put more on the credit card than you probably should have, and then you start cutting guys and the dead money goes to $15-20 million a year, and that's 15% of your salary cap being eaten up by guys that are no longer here. That's the balance that we've got to set, and I think we do a very good job of that."
*At last year's end-of-season press conference, you stated that Joe Flacco needed to raise his game. In your estimation, with the lack of offseason activities, do you think Flacco took that step? *(Stan Charles)
(NEWSOME) "Did Joe improve? Yes, and he improved after we took away some weapons that he was accustomed to in [Derrick] Mason and Todd Heap. So, he was able to improve with two young tight ends, two young receivers, another receiver that got traded to him in the middle of training camp, and a second-year [player in Baltimore] with Anquan [Boldin]. So, there's no doubt that Joe improved. The thing that I like about Joe – and I think in the end, when you're in this business – you are judged on one thing: winning. Joe wins. If he continues to win, if one pass is caught, he'd be in a Super Bowl. And I think he's going to win Super Bowls – a lot of them. And I hope to be a part of them. He has improved. But the thing that you cannot knock about Joe is that he's a winner."
*How much cap flexibility do you anticipate having for the upcoming free agency period? *(Brett Hollander)
(NEWSOME) "Because of the way we started to do business three or four years ago – when John [Harbaugh] came on board – we do a good job of looking at our cost today and then our cost in the future and we try to balance both of them. To answer you in very simple terms, we will be able to put as competitive a football team on the field as we need to be able to compete with Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Cleveland – because that's where it starts."
*Where do the Ravens sit cap-wise now, and what will be the priority of your free agents coming back? Some of your older veterans are key guys in the locker room. *(Vinny Cerrato)
(NEWSOME) "Good question. Right now, when we finish, we are going to have our first initial cap meeting with Steve, because as we all know, 11 days ago we were preparing for something else. So, we'll have our first initial meeting with Steve, Pat [Moriarty], Eric [DeCosta], John and myself when we're done today. But, I always keep my eye on it, as you know. Just throwing it out right now, I think if there is a player that we feel like is going to help us – again, today and in the future – then we will find ways to keep that player on our team. When I look around and look at the landscape of the league and you see how some teams go from two wins to 12 wins and then down to seven and eight wins, I understand the value of having people in the locker room to be there when John is not there, because John and his coaches can't be there all the time. We understand the value of some of our veteran players, but we also know that we can't keep them all. We have a history of letting guys go, but we found ways to replace them in other ways."
*You said last year that you wanted to get contract renewal negotiations started with Joe Flacco in 2012. Has anything changed in that regard and does that hold true for Ray Rice as well? *(Jeff Zrebiec)
(BISCIOTTI) "Ray's an unrestricted free agent, so obviously, the franchise mechanism has to come into play. With Joe, it doesn't. We are just going to sit down and start grinding out a contract and terms, and that's something that I trust Ozzie and Pat to do well. Ray [Rice] and Joe Flacco will be part of this football team next year – guaranteed."
*Steve Bisciotti stated that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was on the hot seat last year. Can you fill us in on the decision-making process in retaining him? Does he have a multi-year contract? *(Jerry Coleman)
(NEWSOME) "I always look at a body of work. John and I have discussions consistently during the season about a multitude of things. He'll just come in and we'll try to talk for five minutes, and it can be an hour. And I always take a big-picture view of everything – about how we are going to get better in all three phases. Of course, one of them is on the offensive side of the ball. So, to answer your question, it's not about retaining Cam as much as it is, 'Are we headed in the right direction with this offense?' And Steve has some unbelievable numbers that he just showed me that prove that we are headed in the right direction. Are we satisfied with where we are right now? No. But, we think the best way to get there is to maintain the continuity of having Cam and then to bring in someone like a Jim Caldwell to be another set of eyes with that. As far as the contract, we have dealt with all of our coaches with their contracts. We are dealing with Cam and his contract, and today, I don't foresee a problem with that."
*A year ago, quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn was let go, and part of the reason was to let offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and Joe Flacco have a closer relationship. How did that develop over this season, and how do you see Jim Caldwell then fitting into that dynamic? *(Brett Hollander)
(HARBAUGH) "It developed well; I thought it was a success. It was something that we felt was important. Cam is the main, primary author of the offense off the field, and Joe is the primary author of the offense on the field. To put those two guys into the same meeting room, in the drills every single minute, to me, was a step in the process that was really valuable, especially where Joe was at in his third or fourth year in his progression. That, to me, was a success. Sometimes it's the right guy at the right time, and going forward, if we had kept that format, we'd have been good. But, Jim Caldwell became available. We had a chance to do some research around the league and also just with him directly, and to me, it became very obvious – and to all of us it became very obvious – [that] it's a perfect fit as we go forward. It's going to be the best thing for everybody, offensively, and just for the growth of our offense. It's not so much Joe. Joe is a part of that, sure. But [it's about] all of our offense, all of our coaches – just trying to get the most out of everybody. Just to me, at this time, he's the perfect guy to do that."
*Steve, in the last four years, you've been the only team to make the playoffs, but you have not made the Super Bowl. Do you look at the past four years with pride or with a little bit of disappointment because you haven't reached the ultimate goal? *(Dave Ginsburg)
(BISCIOTTI) "Both. Really, both. I am proud of it. I'm proud of what we're giving to Baltimore. I'm proud of the product we're giving Baltimore. But this is a business. I've told you in the past, if it wasn't the elation that you get from winning, nobody would subject themselves to this kind of pain and suffering. (laughter) You might think I lay on the beach all day, with this tan, but I don't. (laughter) You come home from losses some nights and you're thinking, 'Why are you putting yourself through this?' Then you experience those wins, and you remind yourself that with the good comes the bad. So [there is] a lot of pride and a lot of disappointment, and I would assume that's probably where you want us."
*Steve, along the lines of that disappointment, how do you feel, specifically and personally, toward a guy like Billy Cundiff? When that happens, do you … Are you mad like fans are? *(Mark Viviano)
(BISCIOTTI) "No, because it … When you work as hard as you do to put a team together like this, this is like watching your kids in high school play basketball. You don't scream at your neighbor's kid because he's not passing it enough. They become like sons to you, so you feel for them. You can't get mad when … This business is about managing your mistakes and managing your failures. Inopportune things like that kill these guys, and I die with them. I don't lash out. It's just different. You end up caring for these guys; you know how much time and effort they put in. It breaks your heart that somebody has got to be the goat, but if we had lost 35-10, then there'd be a lot of goats. It would be easier to spread the blame and the arrows wouldn't be pointing in one direction or another. I look at the development … Ozzie brought up the numbers – I get to brag about the homework I did (laughter) – I wanted to read to you: We've had, since I've been here, since I took over in 2004 … [The] 2006 [season], of course, was our best year offensively. Before Joe [Flacco] got here, we were 12th in the league in points and we were 17th in yards [in 2006], and we were elated, if you remember. That was the best offensive production that we had had. In the four years from 2004-2007, we were ranked 23rd in yards per game at 296. We've exceeded that all four years with Joe. We were 12th in points in 2006, but we averaged 20th in points per game in years 2004-2007. We were 12th in 2006, with 22 points [per game]. We've outscored that in all four years with Joe. So, if 2006 was the best that we had in the years that I've been here, and I think that goes all the way back to 2000, the average now under Cam [Cameron] and Joe is 12th in points per game and 17th in yards per game. We were 15th last year and 12th [respectively]. So the average of the last four years is better than in 2006. Last year was better than in 2006. So those are some pretty good numbers. I guess what I'm saying is we want to have a better offense, but if you flip the switch too quick, then you're giving up 27 points per game. So, I'm not going to be trading Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb for [Cardinals WR Larry] Fitzgerald because that's the quickest way to get there. I think we're making improvement. When you look at 2006, we had a Pro Bowl guy in his 30's and then he got hurt, hurt, hurt in 2007. So we got one good year out of Steve McNair. We got four good years out of Joe; he's trending up. This is the sweet spot for him, Years Five through 10. We think our numbers are going to continue to go forward, and we think Joe and Cam together will get that done in Year Five rather than scrapping that, getting a new offensive coordinator and trying to install a new system. I think they're getting pretty comfortable with each other."
*Ozzie, what's the priority with Ben Grubbs? Is the cap space with all the other guys on offense that you could be looking at factoring into that? *(Morgan Adsit)
(NEWSOME) "Ben has two major factors that we like: He's a really good player and he's young. So, as we start to put together the 53-man squad, going into 2012, we will factor those things in. But what we also have to factor in, what will that keep us getting and what will that force us to have to get rid of in order to keep [him]? And that's the balance that we'll have to deal with going forward. Ben was here in the building just two hours ago, and I had a good talk with him because [college] recruiting is going on. But he understands and his agent understands the business, but I think we're at a good spot with Ben. But, who will Ben keep us from getting and who will we have to let go in order to keep Ben? That's going to be the balance."
*Steve, what would you say to the people, you just gave a pretty good example of the numbers, but what would you say to the people who are still so vehement in their criticism of Cam and can't look past four playoff appearances, and they think there should be some other candidate out there? *(Steve Davis)
(BISCIOTTI) "This is just a carousel out there. It's like, the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive coordinator is let go, and then somebody else wants him. And defensive coordinators are going back and forth and are getting fired and re-hired in different spots all the time. It's not like we have a Triple-A system where those people are batting .400 and everybody knows that it's time to move them up to the big leagues. If he can bat .350 in Triple-A, then it's pretty self-explanatory. But to go out and get a position coach and make him an offensive coordinator and find out that he wasn't better than what you had … That's all I'm saying. I'm looking at these trends, and a logical businessman would say that we're making progress. So, I don't know if I have a message for that 10 percent of the fans with that vitriol. I just don't have an answer for them. I just don't. I'm sorry."
*Are you comfortable if Ben Grubbs leaves via free agency, or you guys decide the scenario doesn't work out, with Jah Reid playing guard? And would you be comfortable playing a rookie at center? You need to get big there because the offensive line struggled some in the playoffs. The other question is, would you like to get a deal done with Ray Rice prior to when you have to put the franchise tag on because it gives you more cap room to do other things? *(Vinny Cerrato)
(NEWSOME) "To your second question, yes. (Bisciotti: "He sounds like a G.M.") Yes he does. (laughter) You're making my answer really easy. Yes, we would like to have a deal done with Ray before we have to put the tag on him, because it does [give you more cap room]. I think that's – you probably know the dates better than I do right now – but yes, because that does give us flexibility to go and do some other things with some other players. But as you know as a general manager, the agent knows that, too, so we have to balance that. But as far as Jah Reid playing … The thing that Steve pushed John and I the last couple of years is, 'Don't be afraid to play young players.' We've had Jah now for a year, and now we've got him for a full offseason and OTAs and stuff like that, so John and I are not afraid. John, at the end of the day, is the guy that has to make that decision, and he is not afraid to play young guys when other guys walk out the door. We've seen it with Bart [Scott], and we went to Jameel McClain. I've got a track record where we wish we could have kept that player, and Vinny you know this, and then the next year some young player who's got three years on his rookie contract is playing, and that helps balance your books. So that being said, we've got some young players. One of the interesting things about the personnel meeting yesterday was to look at what some of those young players were ranked a year ago, and now that they've had a chance to play, where they're ranked in their [position], as far as defense and offense, because they got the opportunity to play because other guys weren't here. John understands that. He knows his No. 1 job is to win, but he also understands that having young players come in that can play for three or four years for you, before they get to that big contract, is huge for the way we do our business."
*Steve, was there an area that you most liked on the field that was consistently good, and also conversely, an area that consistently angered you as far as subpar play? *(Pete Gilbert)
(BISCIOTTI) "We took a big chance getting rid of some veterans last year. Clearly, in managing the salary cap, as Ozzie was just explaining, if you wait to put these young guys on the field, then they get out there and they prove themselves in Year Four and then they get huge contracts elsewhere. So to manage the cap, you have to get these guys out on the field during their first contract. If not, you're just teeing them up for somebody else that has salary cap space. We learned that the hard way sometimes with some guys. We kept veterans, we couldn't get them on the field, and then we get them on … I remember we signed a kid because we didn't think Bart Scott could play in his third year because he hadn't played. [He played] a little special teams in Year One and Two, and then we went on the free-agent market and got a kid because we didn't trust Bart, and that guy didn't play any better. Bart became great in his fourth year, and then we had to pay Bart a big number and only got one year out of him. Part of managing a salary cap is making sure that you get these guys some reps so that they can get out there and play. If they prove themselves, then you've got a financial deal with them in Years Two, Three, and Four. So that was the thing that I was most proud of, that our numbers didn't go down on offense when we made so many wholesale changes with Todd [Heap], Derrick [Mason], Willis McGahee and Chris Chester. Which, you're back to the Grubbs thing: What are you going to lose and what are you going to gain? It's a delicate balancing act. So, that's what I liked the most. As far as one thing that frustrated me the most, I really do believe it's the critics on Joe. I don't think that I've ever seen a guy as maligned as him. It goes back to the Atlanta game last year when he brought us back. [We were] down 13, and he scored 14 points, and it would have been Joe's coming out party in Year Three. Then [Matt] Ryan goes 80 yards in 70 seconds on our defense to win the game. So, once again, Joe doesn't get his due. That's happened a lot with him, where he's produced pretty well. We're going to stay the course. We believe in him. We believe that he is getting stronger mentally and smarter with the ball. So, we're pretty comfortable going into this offseason. I told John the worst part about this business is you have to wait eight months to prove yourself again. The good news is we have eight months to make this perfect. I love watching these guys work from January until August. I really enjoy watching the process and contributing to that process."
**Obviously, you're early in personnel evaluations for this past season, but your experience with the Cleveland Browns, with The Drive and The Fumble, how much will you draw on that as you evaluate Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff moving forward, seeing what guys can and can't overcome? *(Gerry Sandusky)
(NEWSOME) *"Lee came and sought me out on Monday after the game because of that experience. He is from Bedford, Ohio, which is a suburb of Cleveland, so he sought me out just for some counseling, and I was able to talk with him. I was able to see Earnest Byner two days later down at the Senior Bowl, who was with The Fumble, and talk with him. Time heals. The thing that now, not only for Lee but for us, that you have to come to realize is how hard it is just to get back to that point – to get back to the AFC Championship game. To get back to the opportunity to have a chance to win it is really, really hard. You cannot underestimate how hard it is to get to that point and how much energy it will take for us just to get to that point where we can hopefully finish it off. That's what I'll be able to carry from those disappointments that I had in those years, is that you just can't turn the page and say, 'OK, we're going to be in the AFC Championship next year.' It's not going to happen. We have to roll up our sleeves and go to work."
*With the changes in compensation policies this year, do you think there will be more interest in restricted free agents, namely a guy like Lardarius Webb? *(Matt Vensel)
(NEWSOME) "I think when it gets to that … This league covets draft picks. And so, in order to go after a restricted guy, No. 1, you have to give a number now that's something that I won't match, or we won't match as a team. And then you've got to also give up a significant draft choice, because we would put some numbers on there that would make it prohibitive for people. So, it would be like me … There's going to be some restricted free agents that we would like, but is it going to be worth giving up a significant amount of cash and cap and a draft pick? When you deal with that double-whammy, even though the rules have been relaxed, you just go, 'Nah, no, I wouldn't do it.' That's just my philosophy."
*What were you really pleased about with the offense, and what needs to get better? *(Keith Mills)
(NEWSOME) "I'm not a stat guy, but it came up in the meeting that we had no turnovers in the red area. I mean, that's huge. Every time we got in the red area, we got points. So, you can look to that [and say] that was a big improvement, because we had some issues with that years before. I'm pleased with the way Torrey [Smith] developed. I'm pleased with the way [Dennis] Pitta developed. Hey, the way Joe [Flacco] plays, you know what? I see a quarterback that can play and that can win in this league. [Marshal] Yanda, finding a place for him [was pleasing]. Those three young corners that we've got, that we can lock down … And to play in this division with Pittsburgh, with the receivers they've got, and A.J. Green at Cincinnati … Those corners … So, it was a lot for me to see. [Terrence] Cody, hey, to be able to play in this division, you've got to stop the run. So, it was a lot for me to like, but then again, when you look at the whole body, you go, 'There's still some things that we can do to make us better in.'"
*What are your thoughts about where Ed Reed and Ray Lewis are right now as they get a little older, and at what point do you begin looking for their successors? *(Aaron Wilson)
(BISCIOTTI) "We don't know if they're on the roster yet. I don't know that you ever look to replace Hall of Famers at their positions. I don't know that that matters. Jimmy Smith is Ed Reed's replacement. In other words, we have great players like [Haloti] Ngata and [Terrell] Suggs that are their replacements. We don't have enough money after paying Ngata and Suggs to go get Hall of Famers at linebacker and safety. So, they just rotate. They didn't find Ray Nitschke's replacement; 35 years later, they've got a great linebacker, but they didn't go out and replace him. I don't think you replace Hall of Famers. I think they show up in different areas, and as long as we're willing to spend the money, we will have four or five Pro Bowlers on our team. We think that Ray Rice has gotten it, we think Joe [Flacco] could be there, and Torrey [Smith] could be there. We don't know where they're going to show up later. So, I don't think you replace them. And then, safety and linebacker might not be our best two positions three years from now. They might be rookie or second-year guys, up-and-comers."
*Steve, do you have any rooting interest in the Super Bowl this weekend? *(Bruce Raffel)
(BISCIOTTI) "I like the AFC. It's our conference. I like the Maras and the Krafts. They're both good owners; they've both treated me great. So no, I really don't. I don't know if I'll even watch the game."
*You talked about balancing the cap with a decision on Ben Grubbs. Same with Lardarius Webb, he came up big this year and he's got one more year left on his contract. Are his guys knocking on your door talking about getting a deal done? *(Glenn Younes)
(NEWSOME) "No, they have not. But, is that something that we would entertain? Yes. I think it would be best for this organization. The sooner you strike, the better deal you can get for yourself."
*Steve, when you view your players as almost an addition to your family, does it make contract negotiations more stressful because you have to balance not wanting to hurt their feelings with being a businessman? *(Kevin Van Valkenburg)
(BISCIOTTI) "That's exactly how you handle it. That's why you're a good writer. That's exactly right. That's why I stay out of those negotiations. I've never sat in a negotiation and I never will. I never talked to Ray Lewis about his negotiation during that time. He and I just kind of shut off our communication, whether it's texting or a call here or there, or a dinner a year – which we typically have in Florida – we didn't have a dinner that year. We just kind of shut it down and let these guys do their job. No, it is hard, so that's why these guys [in personnel] get paid the big bucks, because I don't want to be in the middle of that, because it's very difficult."
*How realistic is it to expect you and the team to be able to find the room to lock up Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and Ben Grubbs over the next 'X' amount of months, to have them here long term? *(John Eisenberg)
(NEWSOME) "I think to answer that, I would have to say then, 'Who would we let go to keep those three guys?' Because if we decide to let four or five players go, waive them, terminate them, then we could keep those three very easily. But, the key is balancing – keeping the good players that we've got and trying to re-sign those guys. Now, hopefully I didn't skirt it, but it's easy to do if I was to sit here [and say], 'I'm going to cut this guy, cut this guy and cut this guy.' Then, I could sign all three of those guys in two days."
(BISCIOTTI) "Or [you can] restructure the hell out of some contracts. That's the other way that we can get it done; we can just restructure a lot of contracts to fit them in, but then we'll end up paying for it three years from now. A window will close, and we'll be letting a bunch of guys go like we did in 2001 when we did just that to try and repeat that Super Bowl."
*Steve, you mentioned earlier about Joe Flacco being so maligned. What more do you think needs to be done to change the perception, and would Lee Evans have holding on to that football at the end of the AFC Championship done anything to change that perception? *(Ken Weinman)
(BISCIOTTI) "I think that's how unfair it is, is that if [Evans] catches that, and Joe goes in and slays New England and we're in the Super Bowl, then they would've said, 'Wow! He really played well.' So, he really did play well. Everybody knows that, but we're sitting here with you all instead of in Indianapolis. So yeah, [there have been] a couple of bad breaks like that for him. We had that with Anquan [Boldin] and 'Housh' [T.J. Houshmandzadeh] last year dropping a couple of passes, and they don't get hammered the way a quarterback does. But we also know that we've got to hold the critics at bay, because we know that the play-callers and the signal-caller are going to be the ones that always get – like we say – more of the blame and more of the credit than probably they deserve. So, we have to be balanced in our assessment."
*At the center position, are you happy with what you have there right now, and do you anticipate both of them being back, with [Matt] Birk and [Andre] Gurode? With Billy Cundiff, and it's kind of been skirted around, but do you anticipate him working with a sports psychologist or something? There's no position in sports like a relief pitcher in late innings or a kicker, in terms of winning and losing a game on one person's achievements. *(Stan Charles)
(NEWSOME) "That came up in our personnel meetings. I think Jerry [Rosburg] did a very good job of talking about Billy and where he thinks Billy's state is right now and where he thinks he will be in the 2012 season. The psychological aspect of it – I'm not very good at that. I know people fail in this business and I know that they have success. The only way you're going to be able to continue to have success is to be able to deal with your failures. As far as the center, we don't know what Matt Birk is going to do yet. He was in the building yesterday. Andre is a free agent, but he's acknowledged to me that he enjoyed his one year in Baltimore and would like to continue. I will say this: Before we line up and play in 2012, there will be another center on this football team in some capacity – free agency, draft or whatever."
*Ozzie, can you address a couple guys on your D-line? Haloti [Ngata], was he hurt this year? There's a lot of talk about maybe a leg injury slowing him down. And [Terrell] Suggs, as great of a year as he had, he had nine sacks, I think, in three games and six of his seven forced fumbles in three games. Is there anything that concerns you about teams taking him out or maybe about his consistency? *(Steve Davis)
(NEWSOME) "Haloti did have some injury, but I don't think that it hurt his performance down the stretch. The thing that you see with those guys … You can have those 'hero' games, but this is the National Football League and you just can't have 'hero' games 16 weeks out of the season. It just doesn't happen, because you know what? Brian Waters is pretty good and Logan Mankins is pretty good, too. So, they play against other really good players. As far as Suggs, it's the same thing. We saw people starting to do some things to scheme [against] Suggs – using tight ends or chipping him as they go out. But, what we like about both of those guys is that they show up in both the run and pass. The stats show up as far as sacks, but the way both of those guys impact the way we play against the run, it's unbelievable."
*Steve, you mentioned about how maligned Joe Flacco is and how much it bothers you. How much of that do you think has to do with his personality, which is perceived to be laid back? How much does that factor in, especially with the fans? *(Kevin Cowherd)
(BISCIOTTI) "I think a lot of it, I really do. I think that it is perceived as a weakness when you're young, and yet, we had John Unitas here and he didn't scream and yell at people either. A lot of people take offense that Joe doesn't get mad at wide receivers, like literally, when the TV camera is on them and they drop balls. And Joe said, 'I don't expect them to yell at me when I throw at their ankles sometime. That's just part of the game, and they're not going to get over it quicker if I yell at them.' That's just not good enough for people. They're like, 'Bad answer,' and I'm thinking that was a pretty good answer. People want to see fire in their athletes. We know Joe has it, but should we get him a coach and tell him to fake it and be a 'rah-rah' guy and the next thing, he's focused on something other than what we want him to focus on? So, there's no doubt about it. I'm a Type-A [personality], and I have a brother that's a Type-B, and he's frustrated the hell out of me my entire life. I think that most people in sports want to see Type-A's, and Joe is solid in the Type-B Camp. (laughter) I think he is going to be extremely successful, and I think he's going to have rings, and I think he's got 10 years of his prime to show it, and I think that he will be rewarded for his personality in the long run, and hopefully our fans will, too."
*Which Harbaugh [Jim or John] is the A and the B? *(Stan Charles)
(BISCIOTTI) "They're A-plus and A-minus. [John] is the A-minus. (laughter) I've met his brother, trust me."
*Ozzie, what do you perceive is the biggest need for this team heading into the offseason, for this team to take the next step? *(Garrett Downing)
(NEWSOME) "I think you have to start with the offensive line. We were able to get 'Big Mac' [Bryant McKinnie] in here late in August and get him to play. He played every snap on the offensive side of the ball, which is incredible. We are going to have to build on the offensive line. I think we will still build at the receiver spot. I think we'll work there. And, you don't ever have enough pass rushers. So, if that guy is there, we'll entertain that also."
*Ozzie, you mentioned your appreciation for how hard it is to get even to the point you were this year. Personally, what keeps you going in climbing that mountain every season, and how much longer do you see yourself doing that? (Mark Viviano)
(NEWSOME)* "I was asked that down at the Senior Bowl, and my answer was, 'I enjoy coming to work every single day.' I work with good people. I enjoy Steve, Dick. John and I, we have a blast together – the coaches, my staff. I enjoy coming to work. I don't know if I have a bad day. I might make a lot of mistakes, but I don't know if I have a bad day at the office. With the people that are in the building, I really, really enjoy what I do. I don't know how much longer [I'll do this]. I want Super Bowls. Steve and I talk about two Super Bowls and three Super Bowls. Once I get to that point, I'll start deciding. But, I enjoy coming to work every day. This is a great place to come to work at. And, these three guys up here, they're great to work with."