Ravens Transcripts: John Harbaugh 9/4


Opening statement: "Good to see everybody. Thanks for coming. This is the season-opening press conference, so it's a festive occasion. Everybody seems pretty fired up in here. Where do we start? Monday Night Football – that's kind of a big deal. [We're] very excited about that. We've got a Monday night game at home. Our fans are going to be excited about it.  The players are excited about it. We'll get a chance to play a national TV game to open up the season. That's a big deal. We've been in these games before. Our guys will be very comfortable in that environment. It's something we're looking forward to, and we're going to be ready for it. The Bengals are going to be ready for it, too, and they'll be fired up.  They're an excellent football team, one of the most talented young teams in the league.  [They have a] tremendous defense, a great young quarterback, maybe the best receiver in football, perhaps, a big, physical offensive line, big physical defensive front, bunch of first-round picks in the secondary [and] good linebackers. You name it, they've got it.  It's going to be a big challenge, and we're excited about it and we're looking forward to it.

"The other big new story of the day, I guess, I've been told, is Bryant McKinnie.  Bryant McKinnie is with us. He's here. I just had a great conversation with him.  He's been on the team, and we move forward, and we're happy about that."

Any explanation as to why things went back and forth with Bryant McKinnie today? He tweeted that he was leaving. (Jerry Coleman)"Not really.  He's been a part of us.  He never left us.  I'm excited about Bryant, always have been.  Like I told him, I've got a lot of respect for him as a football player.  [I] love his style of play, and we're going to be strong up front.  We are going to have a strong offensive line, and he's a big part of that."

How much will the preseason tape of Cincinnati help, or will you rely on tape from last season to game-plan? (Joe Platania)"Well, we do both.  The preseason stuff is important, because you see the latest version of what they're doing.  They don't show you everything, but you see how the guys are playing and how they are executing – who's in the lineup, obviously, their healthy guys and guys who aren't playing, things like that. [With] guys who have developed a little bit from last year, especially with a young team, it helps you.  We go back and we rely on a lot of the previous stuff from last year from our games and other games they've played that we think apply.  I'm sure they do the same thing with us."

How do you feel Bryant McKinnie performed this preseason, and did he do what you wanted in terms of your expectations for him? (Aaron Wilson)"Bryant is a hardworking guy.  That's our expectation.  Our expectation is that guys come out and practice hard, practice fast, give us their best.  And, he's always done that.  He continues to work his way back to that Pro Bowl form that he and I agreed that's our goal for him.  We talked about that as far back as last winter, he and I.  So, he's working his way back in that direction."

Did you get involved in the situation or was it left up to [executive vice president/general manager] Ozzie Newsome and [vice president of football administration] Pat Moriarty? (Aaron Wilson)"I'm always involved with all of our players. I had a chance to talk to Bryant. I talk to Bryant, probably, every day. I talk to most of our guys every day, so nothing's really changed in that respect."

Are there any new wrinkles in Torrey Smith's game that a national TV audience might be surprised by? (Robert Klemko)"I don't know if it's a new wrinkle.  He's talking about cutting his hair, I heard. (laughter) I'm not holding my breath, though.  Torrey just gets better.  He's not really a new-wrinkle kind of guy.  He's a steady-improvement kind of guy.  He's a hard worker.  He's a very old school, blue-collar kind of mindset guy.  He just comes to work and he gives you his best every day.  He plays through any kind of an injury. Any kind of a tweak he's got, he plays right through it.  I think the world of Torrey Smith.  That's why he gets better.  He's got that mindset, and he gets better every single day."

You mentioned that A.J. Green is one of the top receivers in all of football. What impresses you most about him? (Matt Zenitz)"Incredible athleticism. I've read it and I truly believe it – watching him play on tape and watching him in pre-game. You throw a ball anywhere near him and you don't think he's going to be able to catch it, and he finds a way to go grab it.  He's got an amazing catch radius. He's big, tall, long. He can get behind the defense very quickly. He's not their only weapon. Obviously, Jermaine Gresham is a tremendously-talented guy.  They've got good running backs.  It's a very talented group."

Coach, we talked a couple of weeks ago about the progression of the offense and where the team was. Do you think they are ready for the Monday night opener? The progression has gone well? (Bill West)"Sure. Absolutely. You've got to be ready. It's coming. Time stops for no man or no team, right? Monday night at 7 o'clock is going to be here, and we're going to have to be ready. We've done everything we can do. We're as good as we can be coming out of training camp. That's all you can ask for from a bunch of guys. We've a had a great camp in that sense. Are we as good as we're going to be? I sure hope not. Hopefully, we can keep getting better every single day throughout the whole course of the season."

John, with Geno Atkins, what sets this guy apart as guy that will penetrate and get off of a block?* (Aaron Wilson)*"That's probably what sets him apart – just that. He is really tremendously athletic. He's really got quick feet. He is an explosive, quick, powerful guy. He is a tough guy to reach. He gets on that outside edge of the guard and gets upfield. Sometimes when you move, and you kind of shift their defense a little bit, he'll play over the center and play as a nose guard and do a great job. He's a pass rusher. He had seven-and-a-half sacks last year. As an inside rusher, you don't see that very often. I think he led the league with that. [He is a] really athletic guy."

And a guy on the other side of the ball, Andrew Whitworth, has been tough, whether it's for James Harrison or Terrell Suggs or really any pass rusher. How tough is it to get around or go through that guy? (Aaron Wilson)"Every time we play them, I tell him, I go up after the game and say, 'You're a heck of a player,' every single time, because it's the truth. He has just been one of the more dominant left tackles, and he is really underrated. Maybe he is starting to get his due now a little bit. He is a long, big, physical guy. He plays with a real nasty streak. He is tough to get around. He has perfect technique in everything he does. He is just a really good football player."

How nice is it to have Bobbie Williams on your side for this one? (Ryan Mink)"That's a good point. Bobbie is another guy I used to make a point to go over and say 'hey' to and tell him how much we thought of him. Bobbie is a special guy. It's good to have him on our side. Bobbie is just great to be around every single day."

John, you added James Ihedigbo over the weekend from New England. What can he bring as far as depth to the secondary and on special teams? (Luke Jones)"Well that's it – he brings depth to the secondary, and he is a proven special teams player. He started a bunch of games last year for New England. We played him. We really studied him. He is a very good player in the secondary – really smart player. [He has a] very physical style. He adds a lot to our secondary with experience, which helps us. Then in the special teams, he is a big, physical safety, which is what makes good special teams groups. If you look around the league, you will see the big, physical, fast safeties make a big difference. So, he helps us there, too."

You mentioned Cincinnati's ability to pass the ball down the field. What does BenJarvus Green-Ellis add, in terms of a dynamic, to their offense?* (Jason Butt)*"Has he ever fumbled? Ever in his career? The answer is no – never has in his whole career. It's incredible. He is a guy that I loved when he was at Indiana, loved him at Ole Miss. He is a north-south, hard-running guy. He has great vision. [He is] another underrated player, probably, throughout the course of his career when you look at production. I thought that was a really good pickup by the Bengals. When they picked him up, I was kind of disappointed, because I have just been so impressed with him. He is a really good running back."

Could you talk about how much you've looked forward to having this Monday Night Football home game? And do you like it especially that it's kicking off the season? (Ryan Mink)"I really haven't thought about any of that, in all honesty. I just haven't. It's great. Monday night is always fun. We're looking forward to it. It's a big deal. Our players will be excited. Fans, I'm sure, will be excited. I'll be excited, too, but I get excited at 1 o'clock on Sunday, too. No matter what, it's great to be in this league."

You had quite a season last year against your divisional opponents. Is that something that you've mentioned to the guys, the way you controlled the division last year? (Jerry Coleman)"I don't know what I'd say. I mean, they're aware of it. It's just a matter of … We have a new challenge. I can tell you it's one game at a time, and we need to be 1-0 this week; that's the truth. We have a huge challenge. This team is a great football team. They proved that last year. So, that's our challenge right now. All the rest really doesn't matter."

John, you saw Andy Dalton last year. Just your impressions of him going into his second year… (Matt Zenitz)"He's done great. He looks great in the preseason – looks like the same guy, but better. He makes very few mistakes. He's a very accurate passer, gets the ball out in time, very durable, and he can scramble. He's a sneaky scrambbler. He's gotten us a few times when we've gotten into some coverages that allow him to get out and run. You have to do a great job of keeping him in front of you in the pocket."

K.O. [Kelechi Osemele] said yesterday that he's under the impression that he will play a substantial role, but wasn't sure if he would start or not. Is that going to be a game-time decision there, or is your mind made up on whether he starts, Bobbie [Williams] starts or you don't know? (Jeff Zrebiec)"It's not a game-time decision. What was the other part of the question?"

*Just whether he starts or Bobbie [Williams] starts… *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"I don't think we will be disclosing that at this time. But, there will be five guys starting, and we do have a plan." *(laughing)

*So, obviously, you expect him to play a substantial role? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"Yes, I will confirm that. K.O. has done a good job." (laughing)*

Teams seem to like having the Monday night game. It's a big showcase and it's on national T.V. But then, it squeezes you in a week behind. Is it worth it? (Peter Schmuck) "It's worth it. But definitely, you're at a disadvantage playing the next game, especially when you have to go on the road, and that's just a statistical fact. We'll have our hands full in that game, and we'll have our hands full the next week in Philadelphia. But everybody has got challenges in the schedule, and it will be our challenge to go try to win one game and then go try to win another game. But, that's a good point."

Do you have any concern that everything that happened with Bryant McKinnie today will be a distraction to him or the team? (Robert Klemko) "Really, [there's] no concern about that. I don't think it will be an issue at all. Guys are pros and guys understand the business aspects of all this stuff. And, he's a great guy, he's a hard worker, he's a pro, he's a Raven. I'm really happy about that, and he seems very happy about it, too. So, it won't be a problem at all."

**Coach, you had a couple undrafted free agents make a significant impact on the offense in Deonte Thompson and Bobby Rainey. Knowing that special teams is where they made their mark to get on the team, do you see significant contributions in their first game this week? *(Kris Jones) *"That remains to be seen. Both those guys are very capable. They're capable offensively, too, of contributing. They could be active because of their special teams role as well. They both are return guys. They both have done a good job in the coverage part of it. That will be more of a game-time decision as the week goes on; we'll have to determine that. But they're in the mix to be up, and if they're up, they will play on special teams."

Regarding Sergio Kindle, what was the deciding factor of him making the team? (Jerry Coleman)"Sergio's potential as a pass rusher is something that's really important. That's something that we've seen him do in practice, in the preseason. He's got some talent, obviously. He's still probably on his way back from a really bad brain injury. It's remarkable how far he's come, and we're not ready to give up on him. And I don't know … We never would 'give up on him' – that's probably a bad choice of words – but we're still looking at him as a pass rusher and a physical edge-setter as an outside linebacker."

**What are your thoughts on the practice squad guy you picked up, Adrian Hamilton, from Dallas? *(Aaron Wilson) *"[Ravens area scout Southwest] Jack Glowik really liked him coming out of college, and Jack had a really high grade on him. That was probably the first thing that I looked at that really meant a lot. And then we watched the preseason tape – [director of pro personnel] Vince Newsome did a great job of scouting the whole league, along with his staff – and he's a guy that we felt like, like Sergio, has edge-setting ability and also flashes of pass rusher, not only in college, but also in the preseason. He's going to have to pick it up on special teams. That's something that was new to him [and he] didn't do a great job with that in the preseason, and he knows that. And that's something … We'll be working with him in all those areas, but he's a guy we think has potential to be a real contributor for us."

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