*Owner Steve Bisciotti, President Dick Cass,
General Manager/Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome & Head Coach John Harbaugh
Last offseason was filled with talk of getting a contract deal done with Joe Flacco. How much talk was there during the season, and how close are you to a deal with Joe? (Joe Platania)
(OZZIE NEWSOME)"We did, prior to the start of the season, get very close to a deal, but we did not come to an agreement. It was a decision by [Flacco's agent] Joe Linta, [vice president of football administration] Pat [Moriarty], Joe Flacco and I that we would stop negotiating once the season started. Everybody was on board with that, and we would allow the season to play itself out. Joe had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Steve [Bisciotti] during the season, early in the season, about it a little bit. But, basically, the way we left it with the four of us is, 'OK, we didn't get a deal done. Let's play through the season, and once the season is over, we'll start back negotiating.'"
(STEVE BISCIOTTI)"I will add that when I spoke with Joe, it was August, I think we might have been in the preseason already, because they had shut down the negotiations, and all I wanted to do was to make sure that he was comfortable with that and that it wouldn't be a distraction. He assured me that it wouldn't. Obviously, they had an impasse, so I said: 'We will leave it to your agent and Ozzie, and as long as you don't think it will be a distraction, then I'm good to go.'"
With the Super Bowl behind you, the calendar moves forward, and it's time to focus on the offseason and next season. How important is it to create organizational priorities quickly moving forward? (Gerry Sandusky)
(NEWSOME)"It's very important. You could say we are five weeks behind the league. But, I will take being five weeks behind the league every year. *(laughter) *But, we've started already. We had a great personnel meeting yesterday. The coaches were very candid. We must have talked [about] between 70 and 75 players yesterday. So, that laid the foundation. Pat [Moriarty] and I have been meeting all morning. We'll meet this afternoon, and we are preparing ourselves to go down to Florida this weekend where we will sit down – Dick, John, Pat, [assistant general manager] Eric [DeCosta], Steve and I – and we will talk through all the scenarios, just as we have done in the past two to three years. And then we fast forward. As soon as I get back, we are right in the draft meetings. So, it is full speed ahead, but I think with the people that we have in place who are in charge of different areas, we will be able to move through it very smoothly."
(BISCIOTTI)"By the way, thank you for letting me have off for the parade on Tuesday. (laughter) That was very kind of you. After yesterday, we went right back into those meetings – about eight hours' worth – and I drove home last night thinking, 'He is a tough boss, man. He didn't give me one day to enjoy this.'" (laughter)
Do you feel from a salary cap standpoint, regardless of whether Joe Flacco is signed or franchised, you will be able to retain some of your players, or are you prepared to lose a lot of free agents because of the realities of the salary cap? (Aaron Wilson)
(NEWSOME)"First of all, we will discuss all of that this weekend, and we will come up with our priorities as to how we are going to go about building the roster for 2013. But, we do realize that, starting with Joe, because at some point in the middle of February we've got to make a decision whether it's the franchise tag or not. But, we will put our priorities together once we all get together, get down there in Jupiter [Florida] and have a chance to vent a little bit between us. But, we'll come up with a plan."
Have you decided about the size of the Super Bowl ring and how many people in the building will receive them? (Jerry Coleman)
(BISCIOTTI)"All the reporters. (laughter) [Players and coaches] wanted white gold instead of gold. We talked in the locker room while we were preparing for the parade, and that was the only question I asked. I said we are going to start working on the design. [Senior vice president of public and community relations] Kevin [Byrne] said to get your ring size, send it in, go to any jeweler. And I said to the guys, 'Do you want yellow gold or white gold?' I heard a lot of white gold. That was my preference, too, so we have no idea what the design will be."
(DICK CASS)"Steve has assured me that he is going to design a ring that I will never wear." (laughter)
Did the Art Modell Hall of Fame snub come up in any way on Saturday night? Did you talk with any of the players before the game about it and did it galvanize the team in any way? (Drew Forrester)
(JOHN HARBAUGH)"No, in conversation here and there it did, but not as a team. It wasn't something [we talked about]. We were focused on the game. It was all about football. There was really nothing that came up besides football. [Senior advisor to player development] O.J. [Brigance] actually talked to our team Sunday at 11 a.m. We had a team meeting, and he spoke briefly, just had a quick message, and it was all about football. And, it was all about football."
Knowing you will not have the same team back next season, are you confident that the young players will be a big help in moving the team forward? (David Ginsburg)
(HARBAUGH)"That's a great point. The fact that so many guys got so much experience and played well, they've gotten a taste of it. They understand what it's like to play in big games. That's got to help us going forward."
After the 2000 Super Bowl win, you tried to keep the team together and it became a tough salary cap situation. Will that experience play into what you might do this year, even though the salary cap seems like it will go up in 2014? (Stan White)
(NEWSOME)"Yes. We will not repeat what we did in 2001, because we are trying to build where we can win Super Bowls more than just one more time. But, I think our team is structured differently this time also. We do have some veterans that will probably be retiring, but we have a great nucleus of young players. [We have] players who are just hitting into their prime that we are going to build this team around. But, we are not going to be restructuring contracts and do all of those different things to be able just to maintain this team to make another run. We're not doing that. But, all that being said, John and I have talked about it, and we have talked to the coaches, [and] that doesn't mean that we don't want to try to go and repeat."
(CASS)"By the way, the cap is not expected to go up dramatically in 2014. The cap this year is going to be roughly $121 million. It should not be much more than $122 million in 2014."
Is there a big benefit of signing Joe Flacco in the next two weeks so you don't have to franchise tag him, keep the salary cap number manageable and possibly saving a couple guys' jobs with the reality of the cap? (Albert Breer)
(NEWSOME)"We're looking to get a fair deal with Joe. And yes, the franchise number does consume a lot of cap room. But, we are looking for a fair deal, Joe Linta is looking for a fair deal, and if we are able to get a deal done, it will allow us to participate more in the market, if we so choose. But, we understand what the priority is."
John, you are very hesitant to answer reflective-type questions during the season. Now that you've won the Super Bowl, have you had a chance to reflect on things, and what are your thoughts on what you've accomplished? (Mark Zinno)
(HARBAUGH)"No, I haven't. It's like Steve said: The parade was amazing, and then Ozzie had us in there for 10 hours yesterday grinding. In all seriousness, it's really amazing. It's a wonderful thing. I'm proud of our guys beyond belief, our organization – from top to bottom and sideways – and everybody involved. Every face you see, you know, you want to give them a big hug and thank them. That's really what it boils down to. And guys go back to work. We talk to our team about, 'We've got to improve.' We have to get better next year as a football team, just like we always do. That's going to be our goal. And Jah Reid is in the weight room lifting right now as we speak. So, that's what we will be all about going forward."
John, going into next season, you guys are defending World Champions and are going to have a target on your back. But, you're also going to be missing an amazing player in Ray Lewis. How much more difficult will your job be next year without Ray Lewis being able to help coach on the field? (Kris Jones)
*(HARBAUGH) *"I don't think it's in terms of difficult. Every season is different. I don't really believe in the defending champ thing. It's not boxing. They don't give you a belt, and you fight for the title. We were the champions. The 2012 NFL champions were the Baltimore Ravens. Next year's champion depends on who plays the best, who handles adversity the best, who comes out on top. We'll fight for that championship just like we fought for the last one and everyone we'll fight for thereafter. Every season is different. Every season poses different challenges. This was different than the one before that. With Ray being gone, that'll be different, but our guys are up to the task. Our guys are just the men for the job, and I can't wait to get started."
Steve, when the franchise passed from Art Modell to you, you've been charged with all the changes, and it's your organization. Can you break down the three to five top decisions you made or didn't make that led to the Lombardi Trophy? (Nestor Aparicio)
(BISCIOTTI) *"Geez. Hiring him. *(pointing to Harbaugh) I don't have a list of three or five. I haven't done that much. (laughing) *Look around, with Ozzie and Eric and [senior vice president of public and community relations] Kevin Byrne. Kevin doesn't get nearly as much credit as a confidant to all of us. He should be the fifth guy up here, really. I rely on Ozzie and John to counsel to me through the football stuff. I rely on Dick and Kevin to counsel me through the business side. Other than that, as you guys know, this place hasn't changed much. There is not much that I can hang my hat on. I'm happy that I had that window of four years to see that we had such a quality organization and then be able to maintain it. So really, other than replacing the head coach, that's about the only major decision I've made in all these years, unless you can come up with something that I did. I am willing to accept credit for anything else you can throw out there." *(laughing)
* * What about player and football decisions on draft day and signing free agents that you are brought into in some way? (Nestor Aparicio)
(BISCIOTTI) *"I love being closer to the decision than all the fans and all the reporters, because I get to hear these guys out and see what they like. Eric and I are on the phone all the time, because he *(pointing to Newsome) stops taking my calls. *(laughter) *But, personnel decisions, Eric will tell me, 'Look at this guy. Watch this guy. Watch this guy.' And I do. So when leading up to draft, when they send me players to look at, I look at, and I sit there and tell them why I think we could do better with this guy over that guy if they are even. But, I remember going back to 2002 when the top two guys left on the board were Lito Sheppard and Ed Reed. We had Ed Reed above Lito, and I said to Ozzie, 'I don't understand this. If they both have the same grade, why would you not take a corner over a safety? It seems like that's a more important position.' Ozzie said, 'Because I am true to my board.' We took Ed Reed instead of Lito Sheppard, so I kind of learned from that point on that I better not engage too much and try and alter their decision-making, or else we would have had Lito."
Steve, having achieved great success in business and now being at the pinnacle of the NFL, what is your personal philosophy about maintaining a drive and hunger to continue to succeed and do it again? (Mark Viviano)
*(BISCIOTTI) *"Ozzie kind of spoke on it. We are not going to get caught up in the moment and do things to our salary cap and make decisions in the euphoria of winning that could hurt us in 2014 and 2015, like we did in 2001. Every single veteran was restructured, I think, so that every single veteran could stay, and then we ended up losing so many people the next year [in 2002]. We don't want to do that. You have to make sure that the excitement of the day doesn't cloud what we promise to build, and that was a consistent winner. I am just proud for Baltimore, and there is a great pressure off of us. This is what we work for, and you know as you get closer that it's like, 'If we don't get it this time …' We felt that way last year. We have to get to it this time when we went up to New England, and we were devastated when we lost because we know how hard it is to get back there. Pittsburgh won two Super Bowls, and then didn't make the playoffs the next year. So, we're going to try and do that. We're going to try and build a consistent winner. We've got this one in the bank. Like John said, you can never take it away from us. I'm just proud for Baltimore for everybody that gets to bask in this."
Ozzie, before the season, you hired Sandy Weil to do statistical analysis. What were the benefits of that, and how does the front office weigh what he's passing along against what you guys are seeing with your own eyes? (Matt Vensel)
*(NEWSOME) *"That's still a work in progress. What he had to do was to come in and understand the football business part of it and then to mesh that with the analytical aspects of what he could bring. But, what we've been concentrating [on] is he tried to help John and [defensive quality control coach] Matt Weiss through some things this offseason, but his main objective was to gather all of the information that we have over the last seven or eight years, compile it, and see what that information is going to present to us. We'll be looking at some of that information as we move toward the draft."
Ozzie, how much of a priority will it be this offseason to address the left tackle position long term, and did Bryant McKinnie's play in the postseason make him a more viable option to keep moving forward? (Luke Jones)
*(NEWSOME) *"I think the thing that we found out this season is that we have probably about eight or nine offensive linemen with starter potential that were able to go in and play very good football for us. So, I think you start with [the fact] that we have good depth. 'B-Mac' [McKinnie] is a free agent. I think the way he played down the stretch against [Colts DE Dwight] Freeney, against [Broncos OLB Elvis] Dumervil and then against [49ers OLB] Aldon Smith, I think it makes a statement for him. I think he has a decision to make as to whether he wants to come back and play here. But, I think we like our young guys. I think [run game coordinator] Juan Castillo is going to be a great addition to our staff. He is known for helping and developing young players. So, I feel very good about our offensive line. If you look at the point, you're saying left tackle … But [Broncos OLB] Von Miller plays on the left side, and he has to go up against the right. So right now, it's not a right tackle-left tackle thing. You have to have the ability to be able to hold up whether you're playing on either side."
For any of the guys, can you talk about the first time that it entered your mind after Sunday night that you first thought about a repeat? (Ryan Mink)
*(HARBAUGH) *"I haven't thought about it yet. The word repeat means nothing. You go back to work. You sink the pilings deep. You do the same thing you do every year, and we're going to try to sink our pilings deep into bedrock again this year, starting, really, this week already, the day after the game. And we just go back to work."
John, earlier in the season we asked you about a solution to the helmet-to-helmet issues, the fine problems. You spoke out against it earlier in the year. Now that it's all over, I wanted to get your thoughts on how all of that can be rectified. Is it as simple as telling guys to lower the target? Or are these helmet-to-helmet shots unavoidable? (Robert Klemko)
*(HARBAUGH) *"It's not that simple. If it were, it'd be corrected. It's complicated. The helmet-to-helmet shots on defenseless receivers, there are varying levels of it. There are shades there. 'Fifty Shades of Grey …' Is that a book or something I heard about somewhere along the way? *(laughter) *I haven't read it. I haven't had time to do much reading. But, there is a lot of grey there. I know the Competition Committee is going to go to work on that and will have something to try to just clean it up and clear it up a little bit as best we can. Safety is here to stay – it's really important. Protecting guys and making the game as safe as we can is going to be very important."
(BISCIOTTI) "Wait until he finds out what it ['Fifty Shades of Grey'] is about." (laughter)
Both of you guys and Ozzie mentioned player development a little bit and depth – John, the faith that you have in your coaching staff to develop the players, Oz, the faith you have in your scouts. A couple of years ago you cut the cord with Derrick [Mason] and Kelly Gregg and Todd [Heap]. A lot of people around here said it was wide-spread panic almost, because they thought you were rebuilding. You have been able to maintain an unbelievable level of achievement since then with player development and scouting. Can you talk about the faith you have in that system that you've put together now when you have to make some tough calls? (Keith Mills)
(NEWSOME) "I would say it in two different ways: I think the key to any team's success year-in and year-out is the depth that they have on their football team. That's what John and I – we discuss on a daily basis of the depth. The depth goes all the way to our practice squad, having those guys and having those guys practice. But what combines it are our coaches having the ability to develop the players, spend the extra time with them and stand out on the field with them, getting them extra reps. We did something this year in training camp, and I think it was a little taxing, but it was very good. John split up the practices, and he had the young guys on one field and the veteran guys on the other field. Therefore, we didn't have to stay out there for three hours, but we had guys getting reps. Those reps, I think, paid dividends for us, because I don't know how many reps Chykie Brown took during that time, but if we would have just had a conventional practice, he wouldn't have gotten as many. I think I realized and John realized the importance of depth. But John and his coaches and our staff – my personnel staff – we realized that the development of players is an ultimate thing that we have to do."
(HARBAUGH) "I concur. The thing that we have here that is probably pretty unique around the National Football League – this is something that Steve doesn't take much credit for anything – but what he has laid is an organizational structure where everybody works together. There really aren't clear lines of demarcation between people – scouts and coaches work together. Front office and coaches and scouts work together. Everybody is involved with one another. It's not like … We are all responsible for our areas, but we all seek help. I can walk into [director of pro personnel] Vince Newsome's office at any time and just ask him what he thinks and how we are bringing along a player or something along those lines. That's just huge for us. I know that all of the scouts feel the same way. Ozzie and I do it all the time, but it's not just us two. It's not just Steve and Dick or Kevin; it's everybody throughout the whole organization. It's just interwoven together. To me, that's the key to any success that we have."
Steve, could you talk about the coaching job that John did this year, especially in terms of all the challenges that the team had to overcome? (Kevin Cowherd)
(BISCIOTTI) "It goes back to all the coaches. We did have a lot of injuries, but they were marquee players, and we got Ray [Lewis] and [Terrell] Suggs back quicker than we thought. We didn't know if we would get them back at all. [It was a] masterful job, but I think that it's not a mosaic, really. It's just every day he comes in and he talks with Ozzie, and they make the right decisions. It goes back to having those young players capable of stepping up. What I commend John for is that he spends a lot of time one-on-one with these guys. The 52nd guy on the roster is just as likely to be in a one-on-one meeting with John as Ray Lewis is. From an organizational standpoint, John understands that those guys on the bottom 15 – if you will – could be in at any given moment, so he spends an inordinate amount of time with the guys – the second half of the roster – so that he understands them. He has a real one-on-one relationship with them, and when it comes time to put them in, he knows what their strengths and weaknesses are. You can't run a business by talking in front of a group. John spends the majority of his time in one-on-one meetings, and I think it's the right way to run a business."
Ozzie, have you talked to Ed Reed yet, and when have you kind of planned to address the situation?* (Jeff Zrebiec)*
(NEWSOME) "No, not officially, but unofficially, we've had conversations. He's representing himself still. I don't know if he has an agent. I think he wanted to let some time clear. At that point, he and I will sit down. I think he realizes there may be some other options out there, but I think if you watched him and watched his body language over the course of the last eight to 10 days, that he loves being here in Baltimore. I think we can use that to help make that relationship last a little bit longer."
First of all, congratulations to all four of you. My question is for Steve and Dick: What does winning do to the brand, and conversely, how do you as businessmen – from that side – how do you monetize that brand moving forward? (Stan Charles)
(BISCIOTTI) "We are monetizing – that's our job. We monetize every year. I don't think … We've had shockingly little difference in tickets being renewed every year. It literally fluctuates between 99.5 percent and 98.1 percent when we went 5-11 or we made the playoffs. It's not that big of a deal. Will sponsors be more inclined to get on us? Yes, but it's not that big of a money-making operation. I think that it's really just about what you are delivering and the pride associated with the brand. And it does, and we should be, able to monetize. When so much of our money comes from the national level, it doesn't make that much of a difference. We aren't going to see a huge spike in revenue because we won a Super Bowl. All I know is that the softness of that potential is hardened now. I think that we'll see less turnover. We will see more teams – more companies – signing up with us. I don't think it's going to make that much of a difference when it comes right down to it."
(CASS)* "I do think it helps the brand in the sense that it strengths our brand. It deepens our legacy in this region and probably a little bit more around the country. That doesn't result in more dollars, but it makes us a more valuable franchise. People look at us in a different light. It is very difficult … We have won now two Super Bowls in 13 years. That is very difficult to do. New England has won three during that period. No one else was won more than two. Two other teams have won two. I think that really deepens our legacy. You try to think about how many people in this region were watching that Super Bowl game and how many were children and how many will always remember that win and will forever be Ravens fans. That's what I think is most important in terms of the win for us. It's building our fan base, having more and more fans think highly of the Ravens as an organization. That's something that will stick with us and live beyond this year."
Steve, this is for you. You saw people on video, probably, of people literally trying to break into the stadium during the event. Obviously, everyone around you wants a piece of this team now. I'd like to get your impression from the fans' point of view of how this first training camp here went in terms of the lottery and everything. Do you expect a similar structure – the three offsite practices, or have you looked ahead at that yet? (Bo Smolka)
(BISCIOTTI) "No, I haven't thought about it, but we aren't going backwards. I can assure you. We did those three, and we want that interaction, so I'll push John to do a fourth one. Logistically, it's hard, but we aren't going backwards."
(CASS) "I think we should commit to three, maybe." (laughter)
(BISCIOTTI) "That's all I committed to is three. I said I'll work on him on the other."* (laughter)*
(HARBAUGH) "His powers of persuasion are pretty renowned." (laughter)
During the three-game losing streak and the 1-4 finish, how concerned were you? Was there ever a moment in there when you thought it was slipping away? (Peter Schmuck)
(NEWSOME) "I engage in conversation with John two, three times a day. I think that is the strength of our relationship. So during that time, he and I were in constant conversation. And John knows, I am out at practice, I watch every practice tape. He tells me what the game plan is, and I have an understanding of that. So he and I were able to sit there and talk through it, but we never lost sight of what the goal was. The goal was to win the division, and even though we were struggling, we were still one game ahead, two games ahead. We needed to win one game to win the division. So, we never lost focus on what our first goal was. We never lost focus on that, but we also were able to sit there through all of that time, watching practice, and watching the practice tape, and interacting with each other and the players, and to realize that this thing could turn around and turn around very huge. It happened that way."
(BISCIOTTI) "It is a blur to me, because you guys get to write about it all week, and we turn around and start worrying about the next opponent the next day. So a three-game losing streak really didn't register to me, because like Ozzie said, we weren't losing ground. I think Pittsburgh was losing at the time, too. So, we were just kind of counting our blessings there at that point. But, the whole idea of being hot … It was up to last week that everyone kept saying we had lost four of our last five and all of this. They were picking and choosing what they want to do, because we lost three, and then we turned around in a must-win game and beat up the Giants pretty good at home. That got us clinched, and it got us the ability to rest our starters. Then we lost to Cincinnati, and they came up with this: 'They lost the last four of their five. They have no momentum going in.' To me, that is ridiculous. Interestingly enough, they kept talking about it and talking about it forever, and yesterday I read a report that said every single team in the last seven years has lost three of their last six games. So, they build up this big thing that we can't win because we are losing, and then once we overcome … Everyone said we weren't hot going into the playoffs; we kind of thought we were. So we looked at the whole season and thought that we were getting healthier and getting better. So, we are looking at it from the inside out and not the outside in, and we really believed that we were getting better and healthier. So, there really wasn't a lot of panic. When you get to rest your starters in the last week, that is a good thing. So no, we are much more even keel than the public is. That is all I can tell you, and we have to be."
Ozzie, I know you kind of talked about going through that first process like the personnel meetings. As you look at it in the early phases, what did you see as the biggest need heading into this offseason?* (Garrett Downing)*
(NEWSOME) "We talked about it – the middle of the defense. We think we have to get better at defensive tackle. We know that one linebacker is retiring and another on is a free agent. We have a safety that is a free agent, and some young guys that have yet to step up. So, we would say the middle of the defense is probably the one area that we will concentrate on. But in saying that, we realize that pass rushers and guys that can cover, we felt pretty good about that. We still would need an elite pass rusher to match the guys that we have. But when we talked through it, we felt very good about it. We have guys out on the edges that can cover, and cover with the best of them. We have guys that can set the edge and have some potential to rush the passer. Offensively, we will not turn down a good player if that player is available for us on the offensive side of the ball. We just won't do it, because you can never have enough depth. We got to a point in the last two or three weeks where Anthony [Allen] and Bernard Pierce were both hurt, and we didn't know if they were going to be able to play in the game. So we continually look for quality depth, so that when we are having issues like that, we don't have to panic or we don't have to do something drastic."
Steve, if you have to go the franchise [tag] route with Joe [Flacco], would you anticipate him being present in the offseason and up until training camp if that's the route that has to be done? (Brett Hollander)
(NEWSOME) "I don't know; I don't know the answer to that. Right now, the offseason doesn't start until April 10, so everything is pushed back now with the new CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement]. But, I do know that Joe has a very good relationship with [offensive coordinator] Jim Caldwell. And, it was amazingly nice to hear how Jim said yesterday in our meeting that anytime he asked Joe to show up, he showed up. So, that relationship is there, and I think Joe and Jim will be able to maintain their relationship while Pat, Joe Linta and I and Steve negotiate a deal, and I think that is huge."
I wanted to ask you a question about the franchise tag. I assume you won't tell us which level you would put on with Joe – the high one where you keep him, or the lower one where you could lose him to two first-round picks. Could you tell us how that whole process works – whether or not you put him with the low one, the team would just give up their two-consecutive first-rounders? When you've done it in the past, which route did you go with Haloti [Ngata] and [Terrell] Suggs and guys like that and whether or not teams historically have lost players at all if they went the route where they could lose them to two first-rounders? (Steve Davis)
(NEWSOME) "You kind of explained it yourself. If you put the low tender, it's two first-round picks, and I don't know if any team did. But what you have to look at is what the Redskins did this past year to move up to get Robert Griffin III. If someone thinks that a quarterback is that valuable, then I am sure you can talk to [Washington Redskins general manager] Bruce [Allen] or [Washington Redskins head coach] Mike [Shanahan] and [Washington Redskins owner] Mr. [Dan] Snyder and [that] they are very happy with RG3 right now, and they don't mind not having those draft picks. I can't monitor or I don't know what 31 other teams are doing, so we have to prepare ourselves for it. Then, we also know what the exclusive tag does. It puts him out [of contact], where it basically takes him off the market. Those are some of the things we will talk about. But, I am coming away today thinking that we can get a deal done. We got deals done [Haloti] Ngata, J.O. [Jonathan Ogden], Ray [Lewis], Ray Rice, Ed Reed – we have got big-time – [Terrell] Suggs … I have a very good owner who understands the business. He understands the importance of certain positions, so I am optimistic. Which tag we will use? We don't know, but we will be prepared for either scenario."
With Ray retiring, we know he has plans to go watch his son, maybe do television. Are there any plans that he would be around to be a coach? Have you talked to him, or even a tutor, just to be around and help? (Brent Harris)
(HARBAUGH) "All of the guys that have played here come back often. Talk to players, and they are always welcome. Of course, Ray would be no less than that. We have talked about it. He knows he is always welcome. He has not expressed an interest to coach. I have asked him, and he is not interested. But we have talked about it. Ray is iconic. He is going to be so many amazing and powerful things, and he is excited about those things."
How is Haloti [Ngata] doing? Is he doing OK? Is Jameel McClain making progress? (Aaron Wilson)
(HARBAUGH) "There is nothing serious with Haloti. There are some things in there, we will just have to see, but it won't be anything that should keep him out of training camp or anything like that. Jameel [McClain], we are still looking at Jameel, but I am very optimistic based off of what Ozzie shared with us yesterday. We are very optimistic about that."
Ozzie, you had mentioned a couple of players that are retiring – plural. Other than Ray [Lewis], are there other players that you have an idea or voiced that they may not be coming back? (Jeff Zrebiec)
(NEWSOME) "Not officially."
You have said that Joe [Flacco] is the priority. You hope it gets done. If it does, who becomes next? (Morgan Adsit)
(NEWSOME) "That is, when we will take the time for the tag? Oh, if we get a deal done with Joe, we will not franchise another player. We will not do that. You are OK with that, right?"* (looking to and asking Bisciotti)*
(BISCIOTTI) "Absolutely." (laughter)
Steve, can you just talk about what you saw from Joe Flacco this year and the progress that he made? (Ryan Mink)
(BISCIOTTI) "You know, I think John is better off explaining that, but I saw a guy just maturing the way we would expect him to mature. We were sitting here last year, and I said the same thing. A husband, a father, a familiarity with what we're asking him to do – all those things work in his favor. And I said last year, I didn't expect him to change, and he is who he is. And his demeanor, we're very comfortable with. We don't need a screamer. And I said that I believe that the fans will be rewarded because of Joe's demeanor, and Joe will be appreciated for it if he wins. And we believe he's going to continue to win. So, Joe proved that you can win being like Joe. We're thrilled, because we never thought we needed to change the way Joe was, like some of you all or like some of our fans [wanted]. Now, he gets to say I told you
so. So, you can be like Joe, and you can win. I told the national [reporters] after the Super Bowl that night … I said [Flacco] went to the 'Eli Manning School of Disrespect.' They gave Eli the same business, and now he's got two Super Bowls and Peyton [Manning] has got one. So, we'll let Joe do it his way."
Dick, have you had a chance with your staff to talk about Tuesday – the celebration? The good, maybe some of the things that didn't go as well, or maybe just in hindsight … If you create sort of a folder to say, "Hopefully we do this again next year. Here's the good and the things we can improve on." (Drew Forrester)
*(CASS) *"The good was just the energy of the crowd, the size of the crowds. I've never seen anything like that. I don't think any of us had seen anything like that. I don't think any NFL team had had a celebration quite like that, with that type of crowd, as large as it was, both on the streets and in the stadium. So, it was amazing, and I know our players were moved by it, deeply moved by it. I think with the benefit of hindsight, we did not anticipate the size of that crowd. I don't think the police anticipated the size of that crowd. I think the police did an extraordinarily good job of controlling the crowd and avoiding any major safety issues. So, I think they are to be applauded for that. I think in the future, if we had to do it again, we would have a ticketed event at the stadium. They would be free tickets, but we would hand out tickets so people would know they could get into the stadium. If you didn't have a ticket, you couldn't go. I think that was probably the major potential safety issue. Next time we do this, we'll know better."
You guys are always mindful about not putting things on the credit card as far as cap goes, and you've already mentioned that you're not going to re-do a bunch of deals just to repeat, but there is availability for cap space, specifically with some of your larger-ticket players. How do you balance the not credit card versus not much cap space? (Glenn Younes)
*(NEWSOME) *"I think over the course of the last two years, we've probably re-done two deals – [Marshal] Yanda last year. The only time we consider restructuring guys' deals is [if] there is a player that comes available that we think has great value and is worth us restructuring a deal to get it done. But it also, it has to be a player that we think has a pretty good chance of playing out his contract, because that's when you get in trouble, if you restructure a deal then all the sudden that player's abilities fall off the cliff, and you have to let him go. Then you have to eat all that acceleration right away. But we are of the mind right now … I think with the way John and his coaches develop players, the way Eric and Vince and [senior personnel assistant] George [Kokinis] and those guys go out and collect players, that we've got a good nucleus of young players that are still under their first contracts, that it's going to allow us not to have to be able to do that. But, that's something that we will talk about, and if there is a dynamic player out there, then there are a couple of guys that we could go to. But that's, so far, that's probably a last resort for us."
(BISCIOTTI) "And, I will say that we're more apt to create space to get a few really good veterans for small amounts. That's how Ozzie ends up putting the icing on our cake every year, is that we end up getting those guys like [Corey] Graham and people like that, that don't cost a ton. So we know, in order to fill a roster with professionals, while we're waiting on the young guys to develop, that that last $7 million that we have left is probably better spent on three veterans instead of one dynamic player. And so, I'm more open to that when it comes to creating cap room, because he's done such a good job with the last guys we put on the roster in the last couple years, like McKinnie and Corey Graham and people like that. So, that to me is not being risky, it's being prudent, and we're going to see high-priced guys getting cut. I think it started a couple days ago. You all know them – some of the guys out there. And their team wanted to keep them. They just couldn't. And [reporters] went and talked about two years ago when we let [Todd] Heap and [Derrick] Mason and Kelley Gregg go. That stands out because maybe, it stands out to you or some of the fans, but we were just as drastic last year. We let Haruki [Nakamura] go. We let [Tom] Zbikowski go. We let Cory Redding go. We let Jarret Johnson go. We let a Pro Bowl Ben Grubbs go. We don't have the money for all of them, and the two safeties went and got starting jobs with Carolina and the Colts. So, we have to have guys ready to go, and that's what we do. We've proven it two years in a row that we can kind of shock the world and disappoint our fans at the same time, by letting some of these guys go, but letting young guys fill in and then going out and getting good values on the free agent market."
Steve, a couple years ago you sat up here and you said that you wanted to model yourself after the Steelers, because they had had so much success. Is it fair to wipe that off the table now, and are you hoping that other franchises will model themselves after the Ravens? (Mark Zinno)
(BISCIOTTI) "I think they do to a small degree. When you look at the ones that are winning – something like eight years in a row with the AFC in the Super Bowl, [the conference] was represented by New England, Pittsburgh and the Colts. So, we admire all those organizations and we're always looking to steal from each other. This is a best practices-type of business. You look at the way they handle things – continuity of staff – they all have that same thing. Look at those three teams that represented us for eight years; they all have that, they all have continuity. They have [general managers] that have been around for a long time, they've got stable ownership, they've got stable coaching. They wanted [New York Giants head coach] [Tom] Coughlin's head for two years before he won two Super Bowls, so yeah, that's what we talked about – the brand. We now have two [Super Bowls] in 13 years, and we're one of the handful. So, that's our job, to keep winning. Get us a chance to win. The two seed didn't do us as much good [in 2011] as the four seed did us this year. [But you must] get in the tournament. We say that, and other people take that as, 'That's not good enough.' But you have to be there. We don't want to repeat – we want to be one of the 12 teams that has a chance to win every year. And if you think that we can build this up to try and repeat, it's fool's gold, because we're not the favorite to win next year. We're not even in the Top 4 teams favored to win next year. So, we want to make sure that [in] 2015 we have as good a chance to win as 2013."
Ozzie, you talked about the challenges of being five weeks behind the rest of the league, and we've heard from other Super Bowl winning teams that there are so many difficulties to winning the Super Bowl back-to-back. Can you talk about the lessons learned from that first Super Bowl victory and things that you might do differently in the offseason? (Robert Klemko)
*(NEWSOME) *"I think we have a process in place, and we'll stay true to the process. The process is what has gotten us the success, and I think the process will be where we'll maintain it. So, we'll stay true to that. Even though there are going to be more demands on our players, the CBA allows for more opportunities for them to do it before they have to be here in April. As far as our coaching staff, we will have continuity there. As of right now, I have not gotten a call or a letter from another organization asking to interview one of our coaches, so we will have some continuity there. Along the way, our scouts and our pro personnel departments, they've been working and preparing for 2013. It's just a matter of Steve, John, Dick and I depending on the people that we have in place and allowing them to do their jobs, and then we can come in when we have to and take a look at what they've done. Then we move forward."
With Ray Lewis, how about a statue? Is that something that may go up around M&T Bank Stadium to honor him? (Jerry Coleman)
*(BISCIOTTI) *"Yes. And the fact that you said, 'Maybe,' I'll say, 'Absolutely, maybe.' Yes, we have to work that out. Where? And how long it takes? But, yes, I think he set himself apart in Baltimore sports history, and we will certainly look into it, and I would not be surprised if there is one there in the next year or two."
Steve, how hard do you expect Joe Flacco to come pound on your desk, and basically, are you prepared to make him the highest paid quarterback in the NFL? (Jim Corbett)
*(BISCIOTTI) *"That was a figurative [statement]. *(laughter) *I'll lock the door before I let him come in pounding on me. *(laughter) *No, that's what we wanted. We wanted to see him do this, and he did. Like I said, this is history, and I have faith that it didn't set us back in our negotiations, really. We offered him a Top 5 contract last year, and we will be back at the negotiating table, and it was pretty close last year. So, we'll be right back at the table, and I don't see us winning the Super Bowl [by] making the negotiation any more difficult than it would have been had we gone out in the first round of the playoffs; that might have been more difficult. So, we both know that we want each other, and it's up to Ozzie and Joe Linta to work that out. Then Joe and I will go golfing or something like that, but I don't negotiate with Joe."
Closing remarks:* *
(BISCIOTTI) "The one thing that I want you all to know is that this is a staff of over 100 people, 120 people that are not coaches or players. And I want to take my hat off to them, because what they do, the quality of the organization goes all the way through the organization – not just the top. And what they did, what they pulled off in the last two weeks, is absolutely remarkable. You just can't imagine what our organization did in order to deliver us there, set us up correctly, and take the distractions out of our hands for us to be able to pull that off. So, they deserve so much credit, and there are so many people that work as hard as we do to make that happen, that it would be remiss not to at least tip our hats collectively to all the others that are on the other side of the camera. Thanks."