Ravens Thursday Transcripts: Week 1 at Las Vegas

Head Coach John Harbaugh

Opening statement: "[It's] good seeing everybody. I appreciate you being here. It's a great day for football, we're excited to get started. What questions do you have?"

The Raiders have overhauled their defensive line in the offseason and signed DE Yannick Ngakoue. You referenced this the other day, but having little film on those guys, are there going to be a lot of in-game adjustments happening in the first week? (Todd Karpovich) "Well, it's the first game – you probably kind of expect that. It's a new defensive coordinator, yet they run a system that's pretty well established. [Defensive coordinator] Gus [Bradley] is an established coordinator [and] head coach. We understand what he's done in the past. We're preparing for all that, but there are always going to be wrinkles. They have new players. How are they going to plug the players into the system? They did revamp the offensive line – it's a very talented group. So, we're just getting ready for normal first game challenges in that sense."

This is the first chance we've had to ask you about RB Le'Veon Bell coming in. I know he's just on the practice squad, but what did you think of the way he worked out? Did you talk to Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid about his background? (Jerry Coleman) "I didn't talk to [head coach] Andy [Reid] about it. Le'Veon [Bell] is a guy I think we're very familiar with. Obviously, we played against him so many times and in so many highly competitive [and] emotional games. It was fun to have him in for the workout; he had a good workout. Practiced yesterday – he did a good job. So, yes; we'll have a process with him. He's excited. He's learning, and we'll see where it goes."

Is there a chance he could be elevated from the practice squad for Monday's game? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, I think there's a chance. That's a possibility with the new rules."

How is DE Derek Wolfe doing? We haven't seen him out here for a couple weeks now. (Luke Jones) "He sustained … In practice against the Panthers, he had something that had been bothering him. It's kind of a lingering-type deal. Hopefully, he'll be back soon."

What kind of luxury is it with the new rules to be able to put a player like RB Le'Veon Bell on the practice squad? (Jeremy Fowler) "That's a great point. My take on it, hopefully, they'll consider these rules long term – some of these rules at least, because it does give you more roster flexibility. When you sustain any kind of an injury, it allows players to be prepared when they go out there and play as opposed to bringing guys in that haven't practiced. That gives them a chance to be healthier and more ready to play. Plus, know what they're doing. I think it's better for the players and better for the teams. So, the flexibility of some of these rules are a plus for everybody – a win-win all the way around."

We saw CB Jimmy Smith out there yesterday. Would he be an option for Monday? Or is he more ramping up for Week Two or Week Three? (Childs Walker) "We'll see. He started out there yesterday. We'll see how he looks today and tomorrow as the practices ramp-up a little bit in intensity. We'll see how he looks."

There's a lot of fluidity in the running back room, but wide receiver-wise to have so many of the guys back out there again, do you have a better sense that you can more properly prepare for Week One? I know it was hard without them out there for much of camp. (Pete Gilbert) "It was good to have them out there. Those guys look good. We're just progressing as if they've been there all along and just trying to get ready for the game."

After last season, you talked about how much you really trust this running game, but you've made efficiency in the passing game a focus. What does that look like to you? I know it's a moving target, but how do you balance what you want to do with that versus what you already have in the run game? (Jonas Shaffer) "Well, that's the art of the whole thing, and it's week-to-week. There are big picture observations, or what it looks like, but there's also attacking the opponent from a gameplan standpoint. Also, in-game, what are they doing to you? You're trying to move the ball. You're trying to get first downs. You're trying to find a way to score in battle, so to speak. So, it all just kind of falls together in terms of specific opportunities to be successful on offense and win games – that's really all you're trying to do. So, we'll see as we go."

When you brought in RB Le'Veon Bell, was it an easier decision for you to make since he's familiar with the division in all his years playing in the AFC North? (David Andrade) "I do think that's part of it. There's some familiarity that way, playing against him [and] defending him. After talking to him, I felt really good about where he was at. So, all those things definitely play in."

What about RB Trenton Cannon, the other running back that you signed? What do you make of him? (Bo Smolka) "Trenton [Cannon] is a guy that we practiced against. He's a guy that we've watched on special teams quite a bit. He's an excellent special teams player and kind of a speed running back. So, he fits us a little bit with Justice [Hill] getting injured. I think he's kind of a complement to Justice, a little bit. [He's] a great guy. He seems like he's learning well. So, once again, he's another option for Monday night."

What's an example of the growth you expect to see from QB Lamar Jackson as a passer this season? (Jeremy Fowler) "An example … Completed passes, touchdowns – that's kind of a broad question, really." (Reporter: "What kind of growth do you want to see from him?) "I want to see him grow as a quarterback. … The whole point is that we're focusing on the game. The big picture, the big horizon questions, I'm not even thinking that way. We're focused on the Raiders right now. We're trying to win a football game."

In regard to the way you interacted with the players and them having your back [as featured in Wired after RB J.K. Dobbins got injured in the preseason] the way they did, what did that moment mean to you as far as your team and getting ready for the Raiders knowing they coalesce like that? (Pete Gilbert) "I remember it happening when it happened. I'll tell you what, I needed it right about then. It got me back in the game, because I was pretty much out. I was on the mat a little bit, just walking through that as much as you can with J.K. [Dobbins] and feeling all the things that you feel in that moment. So, for those guys to say what they did, that's just the way our guys approach it. I think that's the way we all look at it. It meant a lot."

We get glimpses of that through Wired, but does that happen a lot where you can connect with players like that on the sideline like that? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, those things happen a lot – around the building [or] at practice – with everybody. I know we really work hard to be connected as a team [and] as a family, so those things do happen quite a bit."

TE Darren Waller is a guy you know pretty well. He had a breakout season last year. What kind of challenge does he pose for you guys? Is he a tough matchup for a linebacker or a defensive back? (Todd Karpovich) "Yes, you know, every time I see him do something or read his name in the paper, I get mad, because he was here. (laughter) It's like, 'What happened?' I think back on it, 'Well, a lot of things happened.' Now we have to play against him for the first time, and it's a huge challenge. He and [Derek] Carr have a real rapport. Coach [Jon] Gruden uses him really well. He's just a threat [and] a danger. He's fast. He's big. He makes contested catches. He's a guy that we have to stop. We know his number. We know where he's lined up. We'll know where he's at at all times. Now, the challenge will be doing something about it."

Just curious, the rock that you're holding, is there some significance to it? (Ryan Mink) "Yes, it's my stress relief for dealing with you guys. (laughter) Right there, I squeeze the rock. But be careful, I might just toss it at somebody right there. (Reporter: "It's a little small for that purpose.") "Not if you're accurate." (laughter)

QB Lamar Jackson

On his excitement level for Week One in Las Vegas: "Finally. Man, I'm very excited. The whole building is excited, especially the coaches. But coach always tells us, 'Don't peak too soon. Don't peak too early,' and we're trying not to, but it's tough. We've been going against each other for months, weeks and stuff like that. We've been getting better each and every day – 1% better each and every day – and it's go-time Monday night."

On his expectations of the atmosphere at Allegiant Stadium: "I have no clue. I never played in Oakland, and they've got a new stadium in Las Vegas, but I know it's going to be pumped. I know it's going to be sold out because we didn't have fans last year. The fans get to come back and watch us play this year. I know it's going to be rocking. I know that. I know that for sure."

On if he feels any added pressure to perform well given the injuries sustained on the offense: "No, I'm always going to try to do more, regardless of the fact. I know when my guys come back, they're going to be where they're supposed to be, how they're supposed to grind, and they know the 'Raven Way' to do it. But no, I don't think I'll try to do too much or anything like that."

On if there is something special about playing on Monday Night Football that has contributed to his spectacular performances: "It's another gameday – that's all. I don't really look into it like that, though. I just want to go out there and win, just like it's a Sunday Night [Football] game, or it's a Sunday afternoon game."

On the mentality and confidence of the offense: "We're very confident, because we know what we're doing. We've been executing each and every day, [and] we've been stacking, trying to get better. Our guys, who came in and filled in for those guys who went down, they've been doing a tremendous job. So, we're going to see when we get out there. I feel like our guys are going to be ready."

On if Week One is a great opportunity to show improvement in the passing game: "Yes, for sure – I feel so – and we've been doing a pretty good job in practice, as well, going against our defense. So, we're just going to have to see Monday night. But I think we'll do pretty good."

On if this camp and preseason has been particularly challenging with injuries or if it has been business as usual: "Business as usual. But I feel like I'd rather have it come now than during the season. Our guys are still coming back; they're still getting better – like I said before. The only one we're missing is J.K. [Dobbins], unfortunately, but I feel we'll be doing pretty good this season."

On his vaccination status: "I want to keep that between me and my family and the doctors – that's all. I don't really want to talk about it."

On the addition of RB Le'Veon Bell: "It's great. It's better playing with him than against him. But we're going to see. He's on practice squad right now. He's going to work his way up. Hopefully, we see him soon."

On the identity of the offense: "We don't know. We haven't played the first game yet. I don't know. I don't want to lie to you and say something crazy, but I don't know yet."

On preparing for a noisy atmosphere: "We've played in noisy atmospheres. I don't know how noisy this one is, but we've played in a noisy atmosphere before, so it'll be any other game. [The Raiders] are just a great team, great all-around team. We're just going to have a 'Monday Night Fight.' How about that? That's what it's going to be."

On how tough it was to see RB J.K. Dobbins go down with a season-ending injury: "Man, that's tough. We've been watching J.K. [Dobbins] produce since his rookie year. He came in, he [was] working hard – coming in off the offseason – working hard to be 'RB1,' or whatever people say. Then he goes down the last game of the preseason. That's tough seeing that. That's my brother, at the end of the day. I wanted to see him cherish and ball out this season, but it's all good, because we're going to have him next year. But that was a tough loss, for sure."

On if he feels as though he's throwing the best ball he's thrown since entering the NFL: "Since I've been in the NFL? Yes, I think so." (Reporter: "And what do you attribute that to?") "My guy, [Tom House Sports'] Adam [Dedeaux]. My guy, Adam, and [quarterbacks coach] Coach [James] Urban being on us, making sure we keep getting reps at it – stuff like that – but Adam, for sure."

On if he uses a mantra to get his body set mechanically: "No, because if I mess up, I'm going to stop everything and be like, '[ugh],' and let it be known. The whole team is going to know I messed up. So, no I don't [have a mantra]."

On the benefits of that work in practice and having it transfer to the games: "Because when we do it out here on the practice field, it's probably going to transition over to the game."

On what he attributes his Week One successes to: "Offseason preparation, staying locked in. I just need it to carry over during the season – just keep that laser focus on – and we'll be good. Hopefully, it'll be like [that] this Monday, too – season opener."

CB Marcus Peters

On OLB Justin Houston: "It's been fun. He's been bringing excellent leadership, especially in his room alone. [I'm] just watching him take the leadership role like he's always done, and helping the young guys learn some new things that he learned from Tamba [Hali] when he was in 'K.C.' [Kansas City], and [he's] just passing the torch over. That's always been a blessing, because I know that's what he is about. I think the young guys have been appreciating it, too. So, now we're going to see how it's going to feel to have him with us, to fully know, on Monday. It's going to be fun, though."

On why coming here to Baltimore brought his joy back: "I would just say, shoot, just coming into the league, I didn't think I would be getting traded anywhere else, just with the way I was playing the game and just how much I appreciated being in 'K.C.' [Kansas City]. But it's a business, so you get traded, and those types of things happen. Life gets a little bit tough, even if you don't expect it to get that tough. I wouldn't have thought a trade would feel like that, but it did. But I had some great experiences with the Rams and just me going there, being around 'Qib' [Aqib Talib], being around 'A.D.' [Aaron Donald], being around Todd [Gurley], being around just the whole team. It was good to be there, but it just didn't feel like I was playing football in a place that I would like to play football at.

"I got traded here, and it just felt good here. All the guys just were young and upbeat, but were willing and determined to work hard to win a Super Bowl here. And it was a good mesh of people who were already here, who have been building with the foundation here. So, you just like those things. And when you've got a young guy like Lamar [Jackson] at quarterback … It's always going to start with the quarterback piece with any franchise. It's going to give you a chance to win. I just love being in the same building as this dude, and it's just been dope, and I've been appreciating coming to work. I just like being in Baltimore; it reminds me of Oakland, a little bit." (laughter)

On if he's felt that joy at other stops during his career: "Yes, I did. Yes. Like I said, I enjoyed my time in 'K.C.' [Kansas City], and I also enjoyed my time with the Rams. We went to the Super Bowl with the Rams. I built great relationships with the staff there, upstairs and in the training room, and then ultimately, just with the team, in general. We were doing some great team bonding there. I didn't feel like we did it enough in 'K.C.' We had a lot of older guys who had families and those types of things, but we were at that little cusp of making our leap to get to where we needed to be. And then with the Rams, I feel like we just had it. We came out here, and we did some team bonding when we came to practice against the Ravens here. Just that whole week here, while we were here, it was dope to be around everybody. And it's here.

"Aqib Talib used to always say, 'Man, it's the locker room when you know that you've got a good team, when you can go contend for Super Bowls.' Because you've got to be together to be able to go through some hard times, face adversity, and then ultimately, just strap it back up and stick to the main focus of just, we've got to take care of a job, and a job has got to get done, because we're tired of the same result that we've been dealing with."

On QB Lamar Jackson's growth: "It's unique. It's like when we first saw [Michael] Vick; guys had to try to figure out new ways to stop him. But with Lamar [Jackson], I just think that the game is at his disposal. He can do whatever he kind of really wants to do out there on that field. Then, you put the right pieces around him, like we did. We got Mark [Andrews] here for future years down the line, we brought in Sammy [Watkins], and then we've got 'Hollywood' [Marquise Brown], then we've got 'Bate' [Rashod Bateman], then we've got 'Pro' [James Proche II]. There are other moving parts to this whole little thing. We lost J.K. [Dobbins] – it's going to hurt us – but Gus [Edwards] is going to be able to pick it back up. We're going to get on the bus, and we're going to ride it.

"It's just wonderful to see him [Lamar Jackson] grow, just all the way around, because you know what type of person he is. He really cares about this game. He has a passion about this game because he understands, football, for us … I'm going to say it for both of us: We come from places where football is just our only way to get out, to be honest, for us to make that strive of changing future generations for our family. It's a blessing to watch him, because he always goes back home, too, and shows those kids where he's from that it's possible to get back out. So, you've got to be a fan of a dude like that. And he's just going to keep getting better and better, and he's just going to keep winning and winning."

On if this defense has a chance to be the best he's been on: "Yes, for sure, but we know it's going to take day-by-day, week-by-week and game-by-game, and we've got to put in that work if we really want to be that good. Teams are going to start attacking us in plenty of ways that we know. We've just been putting in that work, and we trust our preparation, we trust everybody in our personnel, and we're just going to play fast and play together. I think that's going to be the biggest thing for us – stay together. Like I said, when it gets hard and teams make some plays, we'll just stick together, because we know our foundation is strong, so it isn't going to be broken."

On playing on Monday Night Football at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas: "I mean, it's going to be special. It's Vegas – everybody's got that experience about Vegas. (laughter) No, for real, it's just Vegas. Looking back at it, for me, being an Oakland, CA, native, you look at it, and you're like, 'Man, wow. They really took our team to Las Vegas.' But it was a good thing that I think both [cities] needed. I think the Oakland Raiders and the city of Oakland couldn't find a natural understanding to keep them there, so I want to see how the fans are going to react to it, because I know how it was with playing in the 'Black Hole.' If they can bring that to Vegas, it will be special. It's got the lights, the glitz and the glam, but it's time to play football."

On if he feels as though he has to say something to the younger players about being in Las Vegas: "No, just enjoy the experience. We get to play in Las Vegas; it's the first Monday Night [Football] game that's going to have fans there, so it's going to be electrifying, and like I said, we're here to handle business. It's Vegas, but we've got to handle our business, too. It's Week One, so this is going to help us get off the first stop, off and go, and move forward. It's going to be cool, though."

On if he would like to share one of his Las Vegas stories: "No, Vegas is Vegas. What happens there, stays there." (laughter)

On facing former Ravens WR Willie Snead IV: "We kind of understand Willie [Snead IV]. Willie is a great dude, hard-working dude, who is going to do anything to help his team win. You've got to respect that. So, it's going to be kind of fun to see Willie."

On what he likes about this defense heading into the regular season: "Everything. I just like everything about it. We've got everything that we need to go out there and go compete at a high level. Like I said, at the end of the day, it's just going to be about us trusting each other, getting the job done and trusting the fact that we go out there and we put a product out there on the field of running to the ball, of tackling, of being physical, of setting a standard, because the standard is always going to be high here – just being in Baltimore. So, if you want to be a part of the great legacy here, you've got to set the standard, you've got to meet it and just stay together."

On how defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale's personality is reflected in the way the team plays defense: "I mean, it flows through the whole building. I think everybody has got that underdog mentality of, 'We're here to work.' The job is not done until they say, 'Hey, you all can quit working, and you're Super Bowl Champs.' And even when that happens, we're still going to hit the ground running here, because it's not finished until we keep getting it done. So, it's just a blessing being able to be around here when people just like to come to work."

OLB Justin Houston

On how he's feeling to open up the season on Monday Night Football in Las Vegas: "It's exciting. When you can open up the season on Monday night, I think there's no better time. The guys are excited. We're excited. I think it's going to be fun for us."

On his impression of the defense entering Week One: "This unit is very special. A complete unit from front to back. You have backups that can come in … We have starters playing as backups, so that tells you the depth of this team. Our unit is so special. If we get in our own way, that's the only way we're going to stop ourselves. I don't see anybody stopping us. We could stop ourselves, but if we prepare like we're supposed to and put the work in, I don't see anyone stopping us."

On if he feels the defense needs to carry the team a little while there are injuries on the offense: "We know as a defense that's just it in the NFL. If you want to win a championship, you have to have a great defense, and the defense needs to play great at all times. Plays happen on offense, so you just have to be prepared on defense to be ready to play. If they score, they may win. If we score, we may win. If they never score, they never win. So, it's all on us."

On how he's enjoyed his time in Baltimore: "I'm really enjoying it. They brought the excitement back to football for me. They let me be me. The scheme, I think it fit perfectly for me. The young guys, they're eager to learn. They ask questions. I told them, 'I'm an open book, just ask,' and they ask every question there is known to man. So, I'm just trying to help them."

On any advice to the younger players as they travel to Las Vegas: "This is a business trip. I think everybody in this locker room knows that we're going out there to handle business – we'll party later. It's all about business. Let's just stay focused. We have a goal in mind of where we want to be at the end of the season, and that starts Week One."

On his impressions of OLB Odafe Oweh: "I told him when I met him, I said, 'When my son plays Madden, he creates a player. You're the created player on Madden.' (laughter) He's 6 [feet] 5 [inches], 260 [pounds] and runs a 4.3 [40-yard dash]. I'm like, 'Listen, you have every tool. There are guys praying to have your tool set.' So, I'm praying that he maxes out and I'm just trying to push him to max it out. I told him, 'I have more days behind me than I do ahead. I'm going to be on the couch watching you play, and I just want to see you tear the league up.'"

On OLB Odafe Oweh's nickname for him, Yoda: "It's cool. I guess it rocks with me."

On what questions the younger guys ask him and what it means to him to be a mentor: "A lot of questions are on my technique, my movements during the rush, a lot of pass rush stuff, how to study tackles [and] how to beat tackles. So, they're asking everything. When I say they ask every question known to man, they're asking every question." (Reporter: "And you like that?") "Yes, I don't mind at all. The better they play, the better I am."

On his impressions of defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale: "He's a great coach. I love the atmosphere. They all are relaxed. As long as you come into work and you take care of your business, that's all that matters. They treat you like men here, and I think that's the most important thing."

On where the size of the Ravens offensive line compares to others across the league: "They're pretty big. They have some size across the board. I haven't even paid attention to that, but now that I think about it, they have some size. They're up there with the top. As a complete unit – height, weight and size – they're definitely at the top."

On how fast the offense feels with QB Lamar Jackson: "Any time you have a quarterback like Lamar [Jackson], it's special to just sit there to watch. I can't wait to see him, actually, from the sideline on a gameday. You know, I've always been on the other side. I've seen it at practice, but I know there's another gear. I'm just excited to be able to have a front row seat to get to watch it in person."

On how much he thinks about getting to 100 career sacks: "I'm more focused on winning right now. I know the sacks will come. I'm planning this year that [hitting] 100 sacks is gotten; I'm not worried. (laughter) It's only two-and-a-half [sacks], I'm not worried. Good Lord, keep me healthy, I'm there. So, I'm going to focus on winning and getting to that ring."

On Raiders QB Derek Carr and the offense: "I think he's a very smart quarterback. He's very talented. He can make every throw. He's a veteran quarterback, now, and they have a good running game. So, our hands are full. We're definitely going to have to play ball."

On if he feels like he's in top shape for a big season individually: "Oh, yes – I'm ready to go. I prepared well this offseason. I think it's time."

On if he was impressed by DT Justin Madubuike's speed for his stature: "He's another guy. Like I said, the depth on this team, especially on the defensive side, you have starters playing as backups. (laughter) He's another special guy. I hadn't heard about him until I got here. To see somebody like that with that size and can move … I don't know where they're finding these guys at, but they know where to get them." (laughter)

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