Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening Statement:"It's great to see everybody. I appreciate you guys being here. Of course, it's another beautiful day. The kids are having a great time. The military is here again. It's just a great day to be a Raven and a great day for football, and we had a really good practice today. I want to obviously [say] Ellicott City is a focus of ours. We have the t-shirts today and all of our employees are wearing them, so we do love Ellicott City. Our thoughts are with them right now and everything's going to be just fine."
John, how has T Ronnie Stanley been progressing? It's a tough position for a rookie to be in at starting left tackle, but he seems to be handling it well. (David Ginsburg) "Obviously, that is a tough position. That's a premier position in the National Football League and Ronnie's going to be – if he continues to progress – manning that spot as a rookie. He's doing well with all positives so far. Really, no negatives other than just minor technique things he needs to get better at. I'm sure he'll be game-planned and schemed-up, and tested and all of those kinds of things. We'll find out if he's up to the challenge, but up to this point he has proven to be up to the challenge."
**John, some teams would be a little concerned putting a rookie at that type of a position. Does his maturity and demeanor alleviate some concerns in that regard? *(Jamison Hensley) *"It does, really. He is mature. He's smart. He's conscientious and does what he's asked. As a player, being coachable is really a big deal, especially at that position. Being able to understand why the techniques are taught the way they are, and being able to apply them because it's a very repetitive type of training to get good at that position. You have to be able to think on your feet, react without thinking and apply technique really fast against powerful, great athletes coming at you. I think smarter players are able to apply that coaching more quickly, and he's one of those types of guys."
Secondary coach Leslie Frazier was talking about the phone call you made to him talking about the position and how excited he got immediately. How well has he fit in so far? And what has it been like personally, knowing your history with him? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Leslie has fit in absolutely as expected, which means he's fit in just great. He's a great coach, great person, excellent teacher and [has] very good demeanor for those guys back there. I think for everybody, he's really got a teacher's demeanor. He's like a professor back there, but at the same time he's got the ability to motivate and to push guys, and demand, and all of that. I think the experience really helps us and Leslie is just a great coach. Leslie's a head coach in this league. He's been a head coach, and he'll be a head coach again. To have that kind of coaching talent on the back end is really a big plus for us."
John, we've heard many times that the biggest improvement for a player is from Year One to Year Two. DT Carl Davis has gotten reps with DT Timmy Jernigan. How has he looked to you? (Joe Platania) "[DT] Carl Davis is coming. That's a good question. I'd say [DT] Timmy [Jernigan] and [DT] Brandon [Williams] are ahead of Carl right now, as you would expect. They play with more hand violence. They're quicker, they're faster, and they react better to schemes and that's where Carl is going. We're just pushing him every day to get there and he's on his way. He gets better every day. We want him playing at the exact same level as those other two guys. We don't want any drop off when Carl goes into the game, and we think by the regular season that should be the case."
**You had a new player out there. Did you just need more numbers at running back? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"Yes. We brought in a running back [Stephen Houston] and he passed the physical this morning. He will be practicing full go tomorrow."
With RB Trent Richardson, was it just not being able to get healthy? (Jamison Hensley) "With [RB] Trent [Richardson] it was strictly health. It's a situation, there's a lot of rules involved there, but he had a waiver in his contract. We knew the knee was a problem when we first brought him in. We were hopeful that he'd be able to work through it, but we just couldn't wait any longer. We need the running back. We need the bodies out there practicing. Trent has an opportunity to come back in the future, [general manager & executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] had a conversation with him about that. I talked to him at length about a lot of things, about life and his career, but also about potentially coming back. He's definitely still on our radar. It's amazing to me – and I guess I'll get on my soap box here because I'm allowed to – it's amazing to me the vitriol, and really the hate out there that people want to put out. All he's done is come in here and work as hard as he can, and he's got a knee, and we're making a roster decision. He's done nothing wrong. He's still trying very hard. He's just a young guy who's trying his best to make it in this league. Because he was a top pick, I know that that definitely comes with more scrutiny. Certainly he understands that and he handles it really well, but he's a good person, he wants to do well and he's a hard worker. There's a possibility that sometime, someway, some fashion he could come back here or somewhere else in the league."
John, can you talk about WR Kamar Aiken, who showed up here as an under the radar signing to then leading the team in receptions last year? That evolvement and what his role may be going forward? (Pete Gilbert) "[WR] Kamar Aiken just continues to prove himself, right? Your point is really valid because he continues to get better. He's a guy that gets the most out of every ounce of his ability, and that's not to take away and say he's not talented because he is talented. His gifts are strength, and then he's got all of the intangible gifts of toughness – toughness is a talent. Persistence is a talent. Overcoming adversity is a talent. This guy plays strong to the ball. He runs great routes, he's a great blocker, and just has made himself into a really good football player."
CB Jimmy Smith talked about his health. What does it say for him last season being able to get through the whole year and not being at 100 percent? (Morgan Adsit) "You're right, it says he's very determined. [CB] Jimmy [Smith] is a determined guy. We talk to the corners all the time, because those guys are on a razor's edge every play. At any point in time, if they slip up that razor is right there, and everybody can see it. It's not like another position when you're in the trenches and nobody sees it. For a corner not to be 100 percent – not to be as fast or as quick – is tough. That's where we've got to get him to, and he's working to get there. He's 100 percent healthy, now if we can get all of the quickness, and the speed, and change of direction back to where it was then we'll have the Jimmy Smith that we all know."
John, one of the more interesting drills was the tennis ball drill with the defensive backs. Whose idea was that? (Jamison Hensley) (Harbaugh raises hand) (laughter) "Blame me, all you critics. At one point I wanted to use fungos, but some guys thought the hard ball might be a little bit dangerous, so [coaching assistant/opponent analysis] Scott Cohen actually said, 'How about we use tennis balls?' He made it a way better idea and he's the guy out there hitting the tennis balls. The idea is tracking the ball. If you watch guys who are defensive backs, historically – it really can apply to wide receivers too, but usually its DBs – the guys who played baseball, center fielder-type guys, they track the ball well. Ed Reed, he tracked the ball well. Even our guys; [S] Eric Weddle. We're trying to give those guys that experience – just reps of tracking balls and just getting a feel for being under them and moving, and seeing them. We've had a few more interceptions, so maybe it's paying off."
We saw three tip drill interceptions today as opposed to zero last season. That's very impressive to see. What is your reaction to that? (Ken McKusick) "I'm really happy about it. (laughter) Really happy. I do think it's an emphasis. We are working on tracking the ball, and getting our hands on balls. When you study the turnovers – and we did a study on that – our biggest issue last year … We had two issues: We didn't get to enough balls. That's on us schematically and also playing the scheme well. But more so, we didn't catch the ones they threw to us. If you catch the ones they throw to you, then you're probably going to have a lot of interceptions. Seeing those tipped balls get caught and not fall harmlessly to the turf like they did last year – some of that is luck too. Our analytics guys will tell you it's luck, but as coaches we never say luck. Get to the ball and catch it when they throw it to you."
Coach, whose idea was it to scare our security and invite all of those kids on the field today? (Kevin Byrne) "The kids had a good time. (laughter) We had dogs out there. We have kids out there. We have it all out here, man. (laughter) The NFL experience, why would any kid even watch practice? They're all playing and then all of a sudden they show up for the autographs, right? (laughter) It's really a fun time out here. It's just a carnival, a football carnival."
You instructed the guys not to pet the dog, right? (Jerry Coleman) "It does say, 'Do not pet,' right? (laughter) They're all rubbing him. He's on his back." (laughter)
Secondary Coach Leslie Frazier
Opening Statement: "A good day of work for us. I think the rain kind of helped; it cooled things off. It was a good day of work, and hopefully we can just keep building on days like today. [I] was really impressed with some of the things our guys on the back end are doing. Good day."
Is it too early to say that things are progressing in terms of developing the game day communication with the guys back there? (Joe Platania) "It is never too early to develop that chemistry; to get the communication to where you want it. I think having two veteran guys [such as] Eric Weddle along with Ladarius Webb doing what they are doing … The communication up to this point has been pretty good. It is something you are always working on as you are doing the installation in training camp, because there are new calls and new adjustments. You need safeties that are vocal to really get that communicator across the board. I think our communication for the most part has been pretty good."
**What has been your focus getting to know these guys? Obviously there has been a lot of attention on the secondary heading into this year. *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"I spent the offseason throughout OTAs and Phase One and Phase Two, trying to get a good feel for our players by watching tape of their previous performances, and also the things we did on the field with them in the spring. Talking with them during our break as well, just checking on them, seeing how they were doing. [I was] just trying to develop a relationship so when we would get back in the fall, when we would talk about things it would have some gravity. I just focused on trying to develop that relationship so I can coach them, and help them get better. That is the goal of every coach."
**What are some of the things you emphasize with your players in trying to force turnovers? Turnovers were way down, so what are some of the things you've worked on trying to help improve that? *(Pete Gilbert) *"Coach Harbaugh, he has had an emphasis going all the way back to OTAs on takeaways. We have had a drill just about every day, emphasizing taking the ball away, whether it is stripping the football, punching it out [or] getting interceptions. That is what you do: you achieve what you emphasize. We have always heard that before. That is what we have been doing: emphasizing taking the ball away on defense. Hopefully, it will pay dividends for us when the season begins."
**Have you ever used tennis balls before? *(Jamison Hensley) *"This is something that [head coach] John [Harbaugh] really felt good about. We have used different things to try to help guys catch the football, but it's kind of innovative, and that fits John, and I think it will be effective. Especially when you hit them deep, and now you have to track that little tennis ball compared to a football. It is a little bit different, but I think it will be effective for us."
**What is it like after being reunited with [head coach] John [Harbaugh] after a while? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"It has been great, just to see the maturation in him as a person and as a coach. We have stayed in touch over the years, but to have a chance to work with him again and just see how he leads – he has always been a great leader. I've told him a number of times how impressed I am with the way he handles the team and how he deals with different issues that come up from a head coaching standpoint. It's been great being back reunited with him, and looking forward to a great season."
*What was it about this opportunity? You have been in different places and I'm sure there was plenty of interest elsewhere. What was it about this place? (Jeff Zrebiec) *"There were some other things that were on the table, but you can't get away from this relationship. When John called me, I was actually going to the grocery store, and he told me about the opportunity, and I kind of got excited about it. Because of who he is, as much as anything. I didn't know a whole lot about what had transpired over this last season with the Ravens. We had our own things we were dealing with. But once he talked to me and shared with me what his goals were and how he saw me fitting in, I said 'Man, why not?' I'm glad I made that decision. It was a good decision; it has been really good."
**When you look at the past a bit, Rex Ryan was here. Mike Singletary came through here. Obviously, you played with the Bears in 1985. When you first got here, what struck you about the way Baltimore does things as opposed to the way the 1985 Bears did things? *(Joe Platania) *"Well on defense, there is some remanence to what we did in Chicago when Buddy [Ryan] was our coordinator. I'm sure that comes from when Rex [Ryan] was the coordinator here and they kind of left some things in – some terminology. Even the way we would do certain things, they are still within the system. That helps me from a familiarity standpoint. That is probably the one constant. There are some things that are remnants of what we did when I was in Chicago. That is probably coming from [former Ravens defensive coordinator] Rex [Ryan]."
*What have you seen from CB Tavon Young and CB Sheldon Price? (Jeff Zrebiec) *"Sheldon is really improving every day. He has the length that you look for. He has the movement skills. There are a few things that we have to continue to work on to see him improve. His challenge will be once we start playing games in the preseason, to see how he has really progressed. He has done some good things here in training camp up to this point. Tavon, he just gets better every single day. He is doing a great job on special teams. He is doing a very good job playing both the corner position and the nickel slot position. The game has not been too big for him as a rookie. [I'm] anxious to see how he will play once we start playing against other opponents, but he has been terrific here in training camp."
WR Kamar Aiken
On his reaction to being called under the radar, even after a breakout year:"[My reaction is] I'm not working hard enough. I probably have to do a little more. I just take it day-by-day. If you look at where I've come from, it has been a steady progress. I don't listen to too much noise, or anything else that is going on outside. I definitely have a chip [on my shoulder]. I'm going to have a chip every year, whether it is this year or next year. That is just how I am, personally."
On his next individual goal: "I don't like to set goals, because then you put a barrier on yourself. I just like to go out there and put out your best and let that set the limit for you."
On if there is anything he feels he has to prove: "You always have something to prove. You are playing for next year. You are playing for another contract, another year to be able to play this game. I take every year the same way: This year makes me come back next year and have the opportunity to play again."
On if he anticipated becoming the starting WR when he first got here:"Yes. You would be crazy if you play this game, and you never have that in the back of your mind that you can be a starting receiver. If you don't have that mindset, you won't make it in this league."
On if his mindset is still the same, with him potentially beginning the season as a starter: "It's still the same. That is my mindset. I'm going to approach it every day as that – as me being a starter – and take it day-by-day."
On if he takes pride in being able to stay healthy last season:"I have a lot of pride, but I've also been in that same role as far as having injuries and having little nicks. So, I've kind of learned what to do to take care of my body and do different stuff. I've just been blessed to be honest, to not have any freak injuries or anything come up."
On his impression of QB Joe Flacco a week into training camp: "He definitely looks like he has never been hurt. That is Joe for you. We love him, we are glad that he is back, and we are just looking forward to this year."
On if he thinks he took any defensive coordinators and opposing defenses by surprise last year, and if he expects that to change: "I wouldn't say I took them by surprise. If they paid attention and watched film, I'm pretty sure they would have given me some type of respect. It probably will be a little different this year, because I have more tape out there, but I'm looking forward to it. I take all the challenges."
On if last year gave him more confidence: "I always had the confidence that I could do what I could do. It did give me more confidence in the experience aspect. I gained a lot of experience last year, so in that aspect it made me build more confidence in what I do."
On if he can tell a difference in CB Jimmy Smith's health, compared to last year while going up against him in practice: "Yes. Last year, I guess he was still playing through it. You could still see that he was a little gimpy. Now he's moving fluidly. He looks like the old Jimmy to me."
On having WR Steve Smith Sr. back: "Steve is Steve. If anybody knows Steve, [they know] Steve is going to make himself known. We are just happy that he is still in the building, still around. He is doing what he has to do to get back out here. We do miss him, and we are ready for him to come back out there."
WR/RS Michael Campanaro
Opening Statement:"I just want to make an announcement: Being from Howard County and growing up in Ellicott City, what happened with the flood really hits home. I'm from there and my brother lives right on Frederick Road. I just wanted to announce that the Ravens are going to be donating $10,000 to the [United Way of Central Maryland's] ECStrong fund, and all proceeds will be going to the relief [efforts] for Ellicott City. You can text 'ECStrong' to 51555 to support and donate. Also, these [I heart EC] shirts you can find and purchase on 98online.com. All proceeds will also be going to the relief in Ellicott City. It means a lot with the Ravens and the team, this organization, just supporting the families and victims. Our prayers are out for all of those people."
On his initial reaction to the flood: "It was tough. One of the first things I did was text my brother asking if he was OK. He lives maybe a mile away from Old Ellicott City. It's tough, but a lot of people are helping out. I know a lot of guys on the team have texted [director of community relations/executive director of the Ravens Foundation] Heather [Darney] and people in the organization just asking what we can do to help out. It was tough news, though."
On if he was blown away by the footage of the flood damage: "It was nuts. I think the video that was awesome though was the people helping each other out. Getting the lady out of the car, that was awesome. Just the water flow and cars flying down the street, it was nuts."
CB Jimmy Smith
On if there are any different techniques they are practicing to get more turnovers:"We've gotten turnovers. I think we didn't get a turnover in two practices so far, but we've gotten a lot more. It's the same, if it's just punching the ball out, stripping. You see people running to pick up the ball even if it's an incomplete pass, just because we're trying to make sure that we're always getting to the ball. I think when live pads come, when you hit, tackle and punching the ball out; the turnovers are going to come this year."
On the tennis ball drill: "Catching a tennis ball is a lot harder than catching a football, people don't realize. To judge it in the air is a lot harder. But I think it's good for coordination to judge the ball in the air. It's a good drill."
On his initial reaction to the tennis ball drill: "I did it in college. We actually used to put an eye patch on and catch tennis balls, so it messes it up real bad for you. I'm kind of used to doing drills like that, but it's a good drill."
On how he is feeling physically: "I feel way better than I did last year. My foot is not even close to what it was last year. Now it's just getting back and knocking some rust off, but I feel good."
On if he feels bad about the possible pick-six he dropped in practice:(laughter) "That doesn't have anything to do with my foot. (laughter) It was just bad hands on that play. The crazy thing is, like I said about the turnovers, that's something in our room that we don't let slide easily, so I know I'm going to hear it big time in the room."
On his impressions of secondary coach Leslie Frazier: "It's been really good. I actually met coach about six years ago on my trips. I really connected with him in our brief meeting when he was the head coach for Minnesota. To have him here, he's a great coach. He's not a coach that over-coaches you. He can tell you and explain things very well. Having him on our side this year is going to benefit us greatly."
On how much it helps his confidence to have his foot back at 100 percent: "Confidence is everything in football. A corner with no confidence is going to get beat every play. It's huge, just the fact that I can run and jump again, and cut. Like I said, just knocking some rust off, but still its way ahead of last year and it makes me feel a lot better."
*On his reaction to CB Shareece Wright joining the Ravens: *"How many people in the NFL have their best friend starting on the same team with them? We talked about this last year, it's kind of like a dream to talk about it and then to actually live it out is just great."
On how he likes playing with the reconfigured secondary unit: "I like it. I think we're jelling every day. We talk a lot. The communication issue is already leaps ahead of last year. We have a couple of players even behind them that – I think just the combination of players back there right now, the camaraderie, how we're moving and running together and how we're playing off of each other. Even when we make mistakes we know exactly how we want to play it the next time, so I think this year we're leaps and bounds ahead of where we were last year."
On if he likes that there are still some questions from outsiders lingering about the secondary: "That just gives us a chip. You guys write your stories and it's not like we don't hear it, so we're going to play with a chip on our shoulder. We see what people say, we see where we're ranked, but we know what type of group we have. We know what we can do and we know what we're capable of. I think this year we're going to prove people wrong."
On his impressions of CB Tavon Young: "We all give him advice, but obviously he's out here making a lot of plays and getting a lot of reps. I think that, for a rookie, this stage isn't too big for him at all. He has, I think, the most [pass breakups] of everybody, so that's a good thing. He's getting to the ball and I think he might be on the field this year."