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Ravens Thursday Podium Transcripts


Head Coach John Harbaugh, TE Benjamin Watson & S Eric Weddle

Head Coach John Harbaugh

Opening statement:"Good to see everybody. I appreciate you guys being here. We had a good practice. It is a beautiful day, and we are getting ready for Buffalo on Saturday night."

Buffalo's new head coach, [Sean McDermott], you have some ties to. Do you still keep in touch with the Philadelphia coaching fraternity?* (Jamison Hensley)*"I don't keep in touch as much as I should or any of us probably do. But, we still have a relationship and obviously many friends from those years. Just like from here the last nine years, you build a lot of friendships. Families get close. That is the nature of it. Sean has always been a great friend. I have known him since he got into football. He was there early on in Philly. He has done a great job. I am very proud of him and what he has accomplished and what he is doing in Buffalo. You can see what he is building there when you watch them on tape. We have other coaches there – Leslie [Frazier] and Juan [Castillo] and Johnny 'Eggs' [Egorugwu] – and others and guys that we have relationships with."

Is the third game preseason plan similar to what it has been in the past? (Jeff Zrebiec)"We just have a plan for this year that we are sticking with. It does not really compare to any other year. You never really know. Different guys have different situations. It is more individualized, probably, than ever before. You play guys according to their needs."

How do you feel about where your running game is at this point going into that third preseason game? (Luke Jones)"I feel great about where our running game is. I am really excited about it, and I am looking forward to seeing how it goes this year."

The plan is to individualize in the third preseason game. How does that work out at quarterback for Saturday? (Shawn Stepner)"It will work out the way you see it work out. I am being pretty clear that I am not talking about any of that stuff. We will do it the way we plan on doing it, and we will see how it goes."

TE Benjamin Watson was talking about how it was a big deal for him just to be on the field last week. Did you sense that and do you think he will be able to build on that week after week? (Childs Walker)"He better be able to build on it. We all have to build on [everything]. That is why we do this – to get better every week and to build on what we have done in the past. Ben has been doing that all training camp. He has done a great job every practice. We built him up from a limited [work load] and eased him in, in terms of how many reps he took every day to now where he has a full load. He will be a full load in the game, as far as what the first offense does. He has just done an excellent job of working hard to get himself to where he can perform. If you watched practice today, I think you saw that. He had a heck of a practice. I am excited about Ben."

Can you talk about how valuable DB/LB Anthony Levine Sr. and LB Albert McClellan are? Just the versatility that they have and how they can play multiple positions, including special teams. (Ryan Mink)"All the players that play multiple positions … The more you can do; Jerry [Rosburg] says all the time. That is something really important and really valuable. Those guys, they do a lot. We look for guys like that. There are players over the years who have made careers in that particular role. You look at the really good teams in the National Football League, they have guys who play specific roles. That is the way football is built. There are roles involved. It is really important, and we value that."

Relating to TE Benjamin Watson, Marty Mornhinweg yesterday said that 10 days ago TE Maxx Williams suddenly looked like he was almost at full speed. I know he had the long run in the game. Your tight end situation, I assume, you are feeling much better now than you did three weeks ago? (Bo Smolka)"I wouldn't say that. You might say that, but I would not, which is fair. If you are feeling better about that, I like that. It makes me happy. (laughter) I really felt good about it 10 days ago and three weeks ago. I like those players. Of course, you always want to see guys perform. You always want to see guys step up and make plays. As a coach, I really believe those guys are going to be a heck of a group of tight ends."

There have been a couple wide receivers sidelined. How has that allowed you to get bigger evaluations of some of the younger guys that have gotten a ton of reps in games like game reps? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Well, we are always going to evaluate all the guys we need to evaluate no matter what happens, no matter what circumstances take place. We probably have not gotten as many looks at some guys, because they have had nicks and bumps and bruises. It is just an individual-type situation. If you are trying to make a team, you better get out there and play. Unless you are a guy that has a spot established, you need to be out there taking reps and earning your spot."

I know you hate to answer this question, but I have to ask it. There is an outside perception that there should be more of a sense of urgency here. Why does that not jive with what you guys go about every day and how you guys go about your business? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I don't even know what the question is, honestly." (Reporter: "There is an outside perception that you guys haven't been to the playoffs in a couple of years, and there is a greater sense of urgency.") "Well, I would say [that] you guys are pretty successful people. Has there ever been a day where you are not urgent about your job and what you do? I have had urgency since I was a little kid. I would say that about all of our players and all of our coaches. You have a sense of urgency about everything you do every single day. If I was going to school and I decided I wanted to get a good grade, I was working at it. If I decided I wanted to make the basketball team, I was working at it. If you want to be good at anything or great at anything, you better be working at it – no matter what you do. I happened to see coach [Bill] Belichick's answer on pretty much that same question, except the reverse. So you don't go to the playoffs for two or three years, and you are supposed to have a sense of urgency? But you win the championship, and they are asking him about his sense of urgency? Maybe the outside world sees it as you put – as you quoted it – 'the outside world' looks at it differently than NFL players and coaches do, but I really highly doubt that. I think most successful people understand that you better be urgent every single day about what you do. That is a longer answer than I probably want to give you, but look at what coach Belichick said. That is my answer – what he said – because it was spot-on."

TE Benjamin Watson

On what it meant to feel healthy and play last week:"It's was huge last week, first game in almost a year, being able to go against another team, test out where I was and have a baseline to start off with so I could look at the film and know what has to be better. But, to get back out there after the road of recovery and rehab was very satisfactory. My kids were at home going crazy; my wife told me through text message at halftime that the kids were going crazy, so it was a victory for all of us."

On how his "little calf" is feeling: "The baby calf! The baby calf is trying to gain weight. You know, I moved it up to solid food now; it's off of the breast milk, you know, growing up a little bit. It's still a process. There's still some ways to go with the strength, coming up to about a year since the surgery, I think, next week or so. There's still more to get. But, I'm satisfied with my progress, and I think I'm coming along great and getting back to playing football."

On if he feels quicker now than at the start of training camp: "Definitely – just mentally as well, being able to see things quickly and have your body react. Football is reactionary, so being able to read coverage and read it on the fly, and have your body do what your mind wants it to do, that always takes a little bit of time to get back into that mode. That's the physical aspect of actually going against someone that's bigger than you or stronger than you. I definitely feel much better than four weeks ago, and as I watch film, I still have some ways to go."

On if he thinks about the injury while on the field: "No, not really. Mentally, I don't feel like I'm worried about it at all. I do, sometimes, feel a little bit of a deficiency when I do certain movements. Part of it is because I haven't done them in a while, part of which is some of the strength isn't all the way where it needs to be. The great thing about the body is that it's able to compensate and able to maneuver when something is not right, so something else kicks in. I'm still going through a kind of a maintenance program. There are still certain exercises that I do regularly. But, the best exercise is getting out here on the field every day, being able to stack days then stack games."

On the offense: "I think every team is always waiting for pieces. That's the name of the game – that's football. You're always waiting for pieces, and some pieces are larger than others, obviously. But as an offense, we do feel like this is a great opportunity for us to get better every day. When you look at our progression, at least on the practice field from the first week to now, there's been more progression individually, as well as collectively. The ultimate test is the game. We'll go out there on Sundays or Saturdays or Thursdays or Fridays, depending on what time of the year, and that's your benchmark for the next week. So, we're looking forward to going out against Buffalo this week, moving the football, getting first downs, scoring points. That will feel good to do that, because I think we had a great week of practice. We've progressed tremendously since the first week."

On if he feels there's an "unknown" aspect about the offense: "Obviously, when a guy who's named your starting quarterback is not there, you [think] that guy is going to be there and he's not right now. So, we play with the guys are there. I think Ryan [Mallett] has done a tremendous job. We have all the confidence in the world in him. If he should play Week 1, whoever is out there Week 1, that's who we're confident in. We also know that if Joe [Flacco] is ready, he'll obviously be playing, and they'll be some sort of adjustment period there, as well. But, that's professional football. Your windows for adjustment are very small in this league. You're expected to come out and get a day or two to get your stuff together when you haven't been out there. But, once you're healthy, everyone is dependent on everyone else. Whatever that brings over the next week and the next week, whenever he is able to come back, we'll be happy to have him out there."

On the tight end group looking for somebody to emerge with all the injuries:"We just need somebody to be healthy. If somebody can be healthy for like four weeks in a row, we will be happy. *(laughter) *It is tough at tight end."

On how much he is putting it on his shoulders to be that guy to emerge:"Well, that is what everybody puts on themselves. Every player at every position puts it on themselves to be ready mentally, to know what to do. Physically, [they need] to take care of themselves to do what they need to do in order to allow themselves to perform the best on the practice field and the game field. That is incumbent upon all of us in the room. We obviously have leaders in every group, but we are all individual leaders when it comes to preparing ourselves. That is what pro football is about. You are a pro now. Your job is when somebody is not out there or when you are out there, you go out there and you have to be depended on. The health aspect, some of that stuff you can't control. This is a violent, physical game we play. Sometimes stuff happens and you get hurt. There is a 100-percent injury rate. Other things that happen that are in your control, you do your best to control them. The guys in our room are young, they are fast and they are very hungry. I am excited to watch them play this year. I have been excited watching them in the offseason. Even guys that have come in, like Larry [Donnell], have come in and learned the system. Vince [Mayle] moved over from wide receiver; he has learned the system. We have Maxx [Williams] coming off an injury like me. You have Nick [Boyle] who has had a solid offseason, as well as training camp. The list goes on. We are going to be ready when it comes time."

On if he has a better perspective on a season-ending injury and recovery than he would have had in the first two or three years of his career: "Oh, yes. I had one in Year One actually. I had a [torn] ACL, and that was devastating for me. A lot of my identity was tied up in football, and my performance, as it should be as a professional, but I was all over the place emotionally. I was a jerk to be around. When I was hurt, I felt like I was worthless, because I could not do anything. Now having that perspective 14 years later, I have a better perspective on my value not being so tied up in football and my performance. I think I was able to, from a wider-angle view, to say, 'This is an injury, this is terrible, this is hard, this is awful, but it is not a defining moment of who I am as a person.' I think that is important for all of us, because a lot of times we can get tied up in our job and our occupation. We should give 100 percent in our occupation, but it is not a defining mark of who you are, and your value is just not tied to what you can do, what you can write, who you can interview and how many touchdowns you can catch. I think that going through this, even in the locker room, there are guys that get hurt, and you can have certain conversations with them because it is tough. When guys get hurt playing pro football or playing pro whatever and you can't go out there to practice, as much as we hate going to practice, when we look out the window and everybody else is practicing, it is a terrible feeling. Nobody wants to be in that training room when you are stuck in there and you can't go out. It is important for guys like myself, who have been through those types of things, to offer an encouraging word to the guys who may have their first time having a surgery or a season-ending-type deal."

S Eric Weddle

On how the team has adjusted to injuries:"I think we haven't blinked, quite honestly. Injuries happen to every team. We've lost some good players, but that's why you have good depth and the roster is built the way it is – so that we could overcome the things we had. We're just building toward Week 1. Everyone says this is a dress rehearsal, so we've been treating each game, especially 'ones,' [like] it's a real game, and we've been playing like it. It's another test to get our minds right for Week 1 and really, that's all we're focusing on."

On what he would like to see better from the defense: "We had a couple situations last week, with the penalties, a couple missed tackles. You know, Brandon's [Carr] long completion up the field. He's got perfect coverage, and he turns and looks for the ball, and the ball was already thrown. So, you don't really worry about those kinds of plays. 'T.J.' [Tony Jefferson] had a bad angle on the play, and just so happens that Brandon isn't there to make the tackle. We have to be there to make it. [They are] just little things like that and to continue to build the cohesiveness and how everyone plays within the system. I love where we're at though. I love the energy, the passion, the togetherness, just competing within ourselves to try to be the best team that's possible. It's just another step going toward Week 1, because it's a huge game, Cincinnati. Start it off on the road. We're focusing on that and trying to be our best Week 1."

On if what he does in preseason carries over into regular season play: "One hundred percent. Anytime you go out there, whether it's practice or in games, you're trying to build something, you're trying to prove what you are as an individual, as a defense, offense or special teams. I think the first two games have shown what type of team we are. Play great on defense, play unbelievable special teams, and play solid on offense – that's going to be the secret for us to win. Don't turn the ball over, create turnovers, play sound defense, no big plays, and it's shown. Whoever we're playing against, it doesn't matter. When the whistle blows and it's live, you're out there competing and trying to show what you are. Obviously, a whole game is a bit different than three or four series being out there. We're anxious to get out there and play a full 16 games and see what happens."

On if teammates respect his critique more as a veteran: "For sure. My 11 years … This will be my 11th season; this is, by far, the closest team that I've been a part of. That's not just including the defense, but as an offense. This team is just on another level, both mentally – being together, competing, pushing each other, playing off each other – and defensively. You go through our whole DB room, and our personalities mesh. We're out there competing, pushing each other every day. No one has an ego; I don't have an ego. Coach gets on me for when I make a mistake, then I get on a young guy or 'T.J.' [Tony Jefferson]. It's just about being the best. We're pushing each other and not wasting a day or a rep. I think our whole team has tried to live that way and practice that way, and I believe it's going to show this year. It's exciting for me to be a part of this team."

On his relationship with CB Jimmy Smith: "In our system, I play the right side and Jimmy plays right corner. I think for him, just having a stable force on his side, and an older guy, per se, who's confident in himself and will also put him in his place when he needs to be put in his place so he's not straggling off or technique is off, just not getting the call … I'm on him right now. We can't afford a play where he's not ready or not getting the call. I think having me on his side and being able to play like the type of corner he is … He's a talented guy who has all the ability in the world. We definitely feed off of each other. I'm excited for this season. He's healthy, he's confident, and I think everyone can see an upbeat in Jimmy. When you talk to him, he's up for a big year this year, and we need him. You can't have enough good corners – especially a guy like Jimmy who can match up against big-time receivers. It's definitely a plus."

On what he likes about the dime package: "[Anthony] Levine reminds me a lot of myself when I was coming up in the league. Last year, he was one of the first guys I reached out to. Just seeing him play, I was just like, 'What's the deal, man? You have all the ability; you're awesome; we need to get you one the field. I'm here to help in any way that I can.' Over the last season-and-a-half, [we've been] just working out, trying to teach him and coach him as much as possible, and out here, it's showing. He's a playmaker. I said that since the first day I saw him practice, and now everyone is seeing it. He can do multiple things for our defense. He can play nickel, he can play linebacker, he can play dime and back up both safety spots. Having a guy like that is extremely valuable. Knowing if someone goes down or in our third-down or sub packages – he's in the game. We don't have to worry about what the offense brings us, because he can match up and let 'T.J.' [Tony Jefferson] and myself do what we do. I'm so excited for him and 'Webby' [Lardarius Webb]. I mean, 'Webby' looks like he's 25 – it's crazy. We're all trying to figure out what he did over that last five weeks to come back and look the way he has. We feel that the six of us out there, and the way we play, we can be one of the best units in this league. We have to. We feel great week-in and week-out that we'll have a great chance of winning. If not, if we have a slip-up, then we'll probably lose. That's our mindset, and we love the pressure, what they're saying, and we want to be on the field to win those games. Hopefully, we'll do that."

On what the offense thinks about the defense paving the way for wins: "It's a team game. It's complementary football. Obviously, there are going to be games where we give up a bunch of points, and offense is going to bail us out – that's the way football is. I believe that our team doesn't have an ego. We want to win; we're tired of losing. I'm tired of losing. It irks me every day that I didn't have a chance in the playoffs. That's not me, it's not what I'm about. Even if they do have a problem, I don't care if they have a problem. It's the way we're going to win. You put your ego aside for what's best for the team. It's all about the team and what gives us the best chance to win. Shoot, week-in and week-out, it could change. This is for every team; every team is going to say it: You don't turn the ball over, you play great defense and play great special teams, and you're probably going to win. It's not different in the way our team is built. Let's go do it. The history of the Ravens shows that you play great defense, you run the ball, you don't turn the ball over, you win, and you'll have a chance at the Super Bowl. We're going to show that and see where it takes us. I think it'll be great."

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