Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "Thanks for coming out. That was a good, tough practice. As you saw, [the players were in] full pads less than 48 hours from the game. Our guys did a nice job, and we got a lot of work done, and there's a lot to work on. So, I'm happy with where we're at right now after today's practice."* *
Asa Jackson went through some adversity in the past couple weeks. Are you pleased with his response, particularly in the game Thursday night? (Matt Vensel) "I'm very pleased with Asa [Jackson] and how he's handled everything. It's a process. Everything is a process. It's tough. Football is not easy – it's a grind. Sometimes, you've got to fight through, and he's done a great job of that. It's not so much what you're faced with – it's how you respond to it. And he's done a good job of that, and I'm proud of him."
Is that a melancholy feeling to know that he's playing well in practices and games, but won't be available for the first eight? (Glenn Younes) "Melancholy wouldn't probably describe how I'm feeling, but I could see where some people might see it that way. He's setting himself up for the second half. That's the situation. If he earns the opportunity for consideration to be on the team when he comes back, that's what he's trying to do right now."
When a guy like Aaron Mellette keeps getting in the end zone, regardless of whether it's ones, twos or threes, what does that do in terms of the picture he gives you guys? What is your take on him so far? (Aaron Wilson) "That's how you make it. That's how you earn your stripes – you make plays. And you've got to do it in the context of knowing what you're doing, and you've got to stack days and all those things. It's not just that. It's not just two catches that you see – it's all the other things that go with it. You could have two great catches, and everything else cannot be there, and then you aren't doing what you need to do. But he's doing all those things and doing a good job."
Now that you've seen [Terrell] Suggs and [Elvis] Dumervil on the field together, in a limited sampling, is it kind of what you expected? (Garrett Downing)"We'll find out. As far as making some broad statement about what it means, we'll find out when the games start getting played for real. That's when we'll find out if it's what we hoped for. They're both the real deal. [Terrell] Suggs is rushing the passer better than I've seen in the time I've been here. And obviously, Elvis Dumervil is as good as advertised. But, to me, he looks the best that we've seen him look from afar. He's just doing a great job every day. These two guys work incredibly hard. They challenge our tackles every day, so they make each other better. That's the kind of thing that makes you a good football team."
**Is it tough to balance, early in the preseason, wanting to get in a rhythm on offense and do different things with not wanting to show too much? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"We haven't game-planned either one of these games. The last game – we just looked at them for one day, a little bit what they do, and played what we would call a camp game. We're not trying to scheme anything. We're just trying to get good at the fundamentals and then evaluate our players. But, at the same time, we didn't play fundamentally very well, and that's the issue. I'm not worried about scheme or result as much as how you play. And we put ourselves in a hole too much to even get a look at ourselves. You can't be in first-and-25. You can't turn the ball over. All of those things we've got to do a better job of."
With Brandon [Stokley] and Dallas [Clark], are you seeing more playing without thinking, or is it more on the practice field like they have to think about where they should be? (Clifton Brown) "I would say it's both – it's 'and.' I've seen more playing without thinking, and then also they're thinking about what they're doing because they don't have it all yet. It's going to be a work in progress. It's not going to be an overnight-type deal, but they had good practices today. What you saw today was two guys come out here and practice fast. When they didn't know, they asked. They seemed to know most of it, and they looked good."* *
**You guys had talked before about Chris Canty being that well-rounded player at the five-technique. What have you seen from him so far? I know he's made some plays in the preseason. *(Matt Zenitz) *"Chris Canty has played really well. He's played at a level that we can win with and more. He's improved us at that position. I'm excited that he's on our team. He's also a great guy, a great leader, hard worker – all those things, too."
How much of an asset is it to have that type of well-rounded player who can get after the quarterback? (Matt Zenitz) "I don't have my asset thermometer out here. (laughter) *I know you could go a long way with that as I think about it, but maybe we'll stay away from all that." *(laughter)
Last year, you guys didn't turn the ball over much. Do you have a sense that that could be one of your strengths, or is it too early to tell? (Clifton Brown) "Well, it better be. If you turn the ball over, it's tough to win. We need to turn the ball over less than we did last year, even though we were one of the better teams at it. If you're the best team in football at not turning it over, you've got a great chance to be the best team in football. And then we probably need to turn people over more than we did last year. We'd like to be the highest turnover ratio team – that would be our goal."
Do you expect Elvis [Dumervil] back in a couple of days, or do you think he might take a little longer?* (Aaron Wilson)*"I don't know. It's not a serious deal, though."
What have you seen from Terrence Cody the past couple weeks, and do you think he's doing all the right things to secure a roster spot? (Matt Vensel) "He's done well. He's played well in training camp, so there's no issue with Terrence [Cody] and the way he's playing at all. He's graded out really highly, and I think he's improved. The hip being healthy has helped him, it seems like, but more than that, his technique is a lot better. He's playing with his hands. He's playing square and just playing with more power. He's moving his feet a little better."
WR Aaron Mellette
On if he thinks scoring in the games could help his chances of making the team:"I think it's helping out a lot, going out there and performing well in the game, letting the coaches see what I can do. When it gets into game situations, I'm able to perform."
On if things just click with him a little more in a game setting:"To me, I'm a big-time gamer. I love to practice, but when it gets to a game, I love to play the game as well. It's less thinking to me in a game; I'm just out there reacting more than anything."
On if he is gaining confidence as this process plays out:"Every single day I'm gaining confidence. That's all you can do. You don't want to be second-guessing yourself out here all the way into Week 3 [of the preseason], or you're really on the outside looking in. Ever since we first reported on the 21st [of July], my confidence has been shooting up."
On if having a few good games changes expectations for his role at all:"I think now, every game I'm going in looking to score. After every touch, I'm looking to raise the bar, see if I can get maybe another catch – two catches and another touchdown in the game. After every game, I'm raising the bar for myself to perform better."
On what type of feedback he's gotten from the coaches in terms of where they're looking for him to improve:"Just keep being consistent, staying in the playbook, making sure I still know what I'm doing. And keep practicing hard; that's just the main thing."
On how the transition to playing on special teams has been:"I did that when I first got to Elon my first couple of years. I didn't start right away, so it's just like back when I was at Elon, playing special teams and trying to make a name for myself."
On if he was caught off guard by head coach John Harbaugh's vocal feedback in practice last week:"I just tried to respond positive. Even though it was said in a certain way, you just want to be positive with it and go out there and just keep making plays."
On what the typical crowd size he played in front of at Elon was:"The biggest crowd I played in front of, I think, was 30,000 up in Boone [N.C., at Appalachian State]. No, I take that back, it might have been Carolina – that might have been 55,000 up at UNC."
On if it feels any different playing in front of bigger crowds in the NFL:"No, not at all. I actually enjoy it. I like when more people are watching. But no, when I'm on the field between the lines, the only thing I'm thinking about is the play ahead. I'm not worried about what's going on outside until I'm back on the sideline. But still, I'm not really paying attention to the stands – just trying to find my mom more than anything." (laughter)
On if he feels like he could be getting more playing time in the next two weeks due to his contributions:"I hope so, but that's not really my decision. That's what the offensive coordinator and the head coach [decide]. It feels great for them to say my name telling me to get in, [but I've got to] be ready to go."
On what the wide receiver competition has been like from his point of view:"I think the competition has been pretty good. It's been pretty fun. Every day you've got to come out here and compete, and you've got to give it your all, because the one day you might take off, another guy might just jump ahead of you because he's having a great day. So, it makes you want to be consistent each day."
OLB Terrell Suggs
On how he feels the preseason is going: "I think it's going really well. I say that because … The preseason, that's why it is the preseason. You need to know exactly where you are. Like I said, the night of the game … We've had two [different] kinds of games, and we were fortunate to win them both. In the Tampa game, we had a lot of things go our way – we had a lot of success. In the Atlanta game, we got to see some things that we have to work on. It was a good [thing] that we got to play against a good team just to see where we are and see where we [need to] get the work in. That's why you come out and have a practice like we had today. It was competitive and we kind of got after each other today. I love the way preseason is going right now."* *
On what he wants to accomplish in the third preseason game:"We just want to play good football. You want to get sound football [in], and our goal is to get better from game to game. Your first game is [to] knock the rust off, hit somebody else. [The] second game is [where you] play a little more. [The] third game is kind of like the real thing. You just want to play good sound football, and we have the opportunity to do that, especially against a great team and a phenomenal talent like Cam Newton."* *
On the expectations for the defense:"Just to play good football. If you want to be a good team, you've got to have a good defense. In this day in age, with the explosive offenses [that exist] in this league … If you want a chance, you've got to play defense. You can't put your offense under a lot of pressure to go out there and score a lot of points every game. Sometimes, you're going to have to win the game [with] your defense. We've got to play fundamentally sound football."* *
On having a pass rusher as talented as OLB Elvis Dumervil:"The kid is explosive. It's good to see another guy want to get after the quarterback. We've always had guys that wanted to do it. We've never had such a phenomenal talent on the opposite side of me as Elvis Dumervil. To bring him in here … 'In Ozzie we trust.' [It's] a brilliant move by Ozzie Newsome. I'm just glad we've got him here and we've got the opportunity to do some great things."* *
On being concerned about the run defense at this point:"You've definitely got a concern, but I don't want you to confuse 'concern' with 'panic.' Atlanta is a hell of a team, and they executed. Do you hit the panic button [saying], 'Oh my gosh, this team is going to struggle against the run this year?' Absolutely not. You get the things corrected and you take it into the next game. You definitely want to address the issues, the things that we saw out there on Thursday night, but there is no cause for panic."* *
On the plethora of inside linebackers competing for playing time:"That's a good problem to have. You named four guys – three of [whom] have played in this league and started for us. The other guy [Daryl Smith] is a 10-year veteran. The young rookie [Arthur Brown], he's explosive and good for your sub package. It's a good problem to have, and all of them are progressing very well. It's the second preseason game; it's not going to be perfect now, [and] I wouldn't want to be perfect now. I'd rather be perfect going into November and December. I say it all the time: 'No Super Bowls are won in preseason, but you have lost some.' You've just got to continue to play and get better."* *
On how well the inside linebackers have played:"We're happy with how they are coming along, but you can't be satisfied. You've got to continue to climb. You don't want to stay the same; you want to get better every week. As long as the guys keep progressing, we're proud them."* *
On him advising rookie CB Moe Lee not to pitch the ball after his interception vs. Tampa Bay:"We have a lot of veterans of this team that could have done it. I think that I was just the first one there. He made a phenomenal play. I told him, 'If you can, score it.' The fastest way to the end zone is north-south, and you don't want to [be unable to] score by doing something [poorly] and trying to pitch [the ball]. Ed Reed was probably the best ever at it. He's had 12 years in this league, and this is Moe Lee's first one. So, it's going to take some time before he can perfect it. He did a good job; he made a good play. But, let's just keep it basic and stick to fundamentals."* *
On if there are times when he feels a need to keep guys in line on the practice field: "No. The [mindset] of the guys out here is that we are all here to work. We have not achieved anything yet. [Our record] is still 0-0, and the first game is to be played in September, not in August. We all know and we all understand we've got to continue to come out here and work."