Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement:"It is good to see everybody; I appreciate you guys being here. We are on to Buffalo."
**When you look at this roster that you have assembled, do you see it as a deeper roster that can withstand lots of injuries, should that happen? *(Joe Platania) *"Well, you hope for that. That is the objective, certainly. We try to do our part as an organization – scouts, coaches, everybody. We try to find the best players, develop the players as best we can, hold on to the players that we like and build as deep a roster as we possibly can. That should be valuable in the end."
Can you explain the RB Justin Forsett situation? One day he was a Raven and one day he wasn't. (Jerry Coleman) "It is pretty self-explanatory, to me. I thought Justin handled it exceptionally well. It was a team move on his part, and it didn't hurt him in any way, financially or otherwise. We knew what the plan was all along. I thought it was well-executed. Hopefully it helps us in the end. It is a small thing – but it is not a small thing to those two guys that have a chance to come back on the roster. It is a big thing for those two guys and our team. We see it as a plus all the way around and a well-executed move."
Were you prepared to lose RB Justin Forsett? He was a free agent, if another team made a lucrative offer [he could have left]. Were you prepared for that to happen? (Luke Jones)"We understood that. You have to take risks, you know, 'No guts, no glory.' You can't achieve anything unless you are willing to take some risks, but certainly you take calculated, smart risks, and that is what we did there."
Does it speak to his character that he came back and it just seemed like it was business, but he understood and wanted to be a part of this organization? (Chris Miller)"Certainly. Justin is a high-character [individual]. Top to bottom, every way you talk about him – he is the best. He handled it just like you would expect a man of his character to handle it. He was great, he wants to be here, and he was going to be here, and he is here."
How did the addition of WR/RS Devin Hester work into that or did it at all with RB Justin Forsett? (Dave Ginsburg)"I think you are looking at the timing, that is probably what you are alluding to. That was part of it. That was the other spot, that is how that played out – just like you are saying. [Hester] was the other spot."
Is WR/RS Devin Hester a player immediately for you or does he still have some ways to go to contribute? (Jeff Zrebiec) "He looks like a player, immediately. Practice today was, albeit, not a real fast practice, but he looked good in the practice. As we said before, he was good in the workouts. No side effects from the workouts were good to see. He seems like he is actually in very good shape. He looks like he is ready to play. I'm not worried about him being able to handle the job at all. We are excited about him, and we are anticipating him being out there handling kicks and punts for us, at least on Sunday."
Along those lines, how was your conversation with WR/RS Keenan Reynolds? Did you tell him immediately that you would try to get him on the practice squad, and did that make it easier for him to take it getting cut for the first time? (Dave Ginsburg)"I don't know about that; that would be a good question for him. He has been great about it; he is a pro. Keenan doesn't say a whole lot. He listens, and if he has a question, he asks it. I'm sure if he has an observation, he will make it. He understood where he stood and where he needs to go and what the plan is. I explained the plan for him going forward and the practice squad was part of that and how much we hoped that he would make it to our practice squad so we have a chance to continue his development here. You don't want to be somewhere else. These young guys start bouncing around other places, and next thing you know, you don't have a home anymore. I think if you are smart, the smartest thing to do is to stay home and continue to develop, and he chose to do that."
As you are on to Buffalo, do you have any lingering questions or unknowns about QB Joe Flacco based on what you have seen him prepare for as the season starts on Sunday? (Mark Viviano)"There are always lingering questions about everything. I have a lot of lingering questions about a lot of things that only the season is going to answer. [I have questions] just like media, just like fans do – anybody that follows our team. It is exciting, but they are anticipatory questions. I can't wait to see how it plays out. The same would be true of Joe. I can't wait to see how it plays out for Joe. I admire his work ethic. The fact that he has been able to put himself in this situation to be as ready as he is after the injury he had last year speaks to his character and work ethic and athleticism and talent. It is just who he is as a person. It is very impressive."
Rex Ryan is known for being aggressive on defense. Are his blitzes so much different than anybody else or is it just the way it is executed? (Jamison Hensley) "It is all of the above. He has some different blitzes; he has some that are executed various ways. Some of it is Rex's personality. He certainly is not afraid to call something up. I think he is willing to risk for reward – that is kind of his M.O. He wants to play great run defense, and he wants to force incompletions on first down and get you into third-and-long. That is what he wants to do, so he can heat it up. He has been very successful for a long time doing that."
You have some familiarity with Bills QB Tyrod Taylor. What kind of challenge does he put on this defense with his arms and his legs?* (Todd Karpovich)* "The thing that Tyrod has done … I'm thinking about comparisons to make, but I think I'll stay away from the comparisons. He has made himself into an NFL quarterback. His quarterback rating last year was very high. He did it with his legs, certainly, but that is not to take away what from what he has done with his arm and his mind. He operates an offense extremely well. He manages the game very well. He is an accurate thrower. He makes good decisions. The added element of the fact that is he is probably one of the best athletes in the game just makes him a real weapon."
What kind of challenge is it between giving different running backs opportunities and allowing guys to get in a rhythm? Is it sort of a fine line? (Jeff Zrebiec)"That is a fair thing. If things don't go well – if we play too many guys – it is because we didn't let a guy get into a rhythm. If we play one guy, it will be because we didn't give a guy a chance. [People will say], 'Why isn't that guy getting carries?' You understand how that works, and in the end, wisdom is in the results. We will all be judged how well we run the ball as a group. My goal is for all those guys to have success running the ball. I think they all bring something different to the table, style-wise, ability-wise. Those are all things that we can utilize, and it should to be our benefit to have multiple good players back there carrying the football."
Along those lines, how are you feeling about the offensive line from a run-blocking standpoint? You have a couple new pieces in there as well. (Luke Jones)"I like them. I think we have a good run-blocking offensive line. We have worked really hard on the run game, and it will be interesting to see how we do. It is tough; you have a defense that is very determined to stop the run, and you have an offense that is determined to run the ball. We will see how it goes."
How would you characterize S Lardarius Webb's transition from cornerback to safety? (Edward Lee) "I would say 'smashing success' up until this point. Until we play a game, it is hard to hand out too many accolades. But he is what we envisioned, in terms of our picture of him going to the position, when he was playing corner – what he would like – I would say it is that. He has done that. He looks the part back there. I'm looking forward to seeing how he plays in these games."
Do you think the offense this year has the potential to be more of a quick-strike offense with big plays? How important is it for that to happen? (Cliff Brown)"You would certainly think so. We have some guys that can do that. In order to do that, you have to have guys that can do that, and I'm excited about those guys. You can go through the whole list. There's a bunch of guys that are going to be threats to take it the distance every time they touch it. That's always important for an offense."
ILB Zachary Orr is your only first-year starter on defense. What step did he need to take to go from where he was to being the starter? (Jamison Hensley)"It's probably not one step for a guy like Zach Orr or anybody that develops into that kind of player. There are countless guys around the league that have done that. You'll see a couple of guys on the Bills' defense have done the same thing. I would say it's thousands of little steps to get a guy to that point. [He] comes to work every single day and does everything he can to do the best job he can at whatever he's doing, and to learn everything he can. He's done that, and he's made himself into a heck of an inside linebacker. Now, let's see how he looks in games."
*John, I know the injury report comes out tomorrow. Have you seen enough from CB Jerraud Powers to feel confident in his role on this team? *(Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes. We knew why we brought him in. He's a guy that's played for seven years, so you have a pretty good idea of what he is as a player. He played many practices for us, so we understand how he fits into what we're doing here. We anticipate that Jerraud is going to be a big part of what we're doing going forward. We know him as a player. We respect his ability and what he brings to the table for us. As soon as he's healthy, which is probably day-to-day right now with an ankle sprain, we'll see where he goes from there. I'm excited to get him out there, too. We kept a lot of corners. We kept numbers there. That was probably for a reason based on some past experience. I like all of those guys."
Coach, I know it had to be a tough decision with WR/RS Michael Campanaro. Could you tell us, without giving away what the conversation was like, the process and where you guys go from here? Down the line, could you see him returning and playing for this team? (Jerry Coleman) "He was released-injured. That tells you something right there, in terms of where he was at, health-wise. I think he was pushing through a particular issue that he had, and you could see why he would do that. I definitely could see him coming back. We have a lot invested in Michael; he has a lot invested here. Of course, he's going to be a free agent, so that's a choice he's going to make. We'll have to see what the circumstances are when he's available to come back, which is a few weeks down the road by rule. I have nothing but respect for Michael Campanaro – not just him as a person and a worker, but also as a talent. The guy has talent. Sure, it would be great to get him back."
WR Jeremy Butler was someone a lot of fans were asking about. How difficult was that decision? Did special teams factor into that decision? (Luke Jones) "Big, big tough one. That was one of the toughest conversations, if not *the *toughest conversation, because in my mind, he deserved to make the team. He earned it based on the fact that he made those plays. Circumstances just dealt him and us a tough situation, because we needed a returner. He can play special teams. He's a good special teams player. He's learned how to play special teams since he's been here. [Special teams coordinator/associate head coach] Jerry [Rosburg] was all for him being on the team as a teamer, but we needed a returner. When you looked at who would have to go and stay, just for the team, and to make sure we had enough players at different positions, he was a guy that there wasn't a chair left for him at the end. That was probably the most – one of the most – two or three [difficult conversations]. There's probably two or three in there that were really tough."
John, as you enter your ninth opening game as a head coach, has the experience changed the feeling of what this is when you start over? Have they all flat-lined the same? (Mark Viviano) "It has changed. The first one was just like I didn't know what to expect. It's like, 'What's coming around the next corner?' Marvin Lewis told me before the very first game on the field – I took it in a positive way, I guess … I look back, and I'm still not sure what he meant. He just said, 'Just keep smiling. No matter what, just keep smiling.' I tried to do that for a while. That didn't always work out. (laughter) Sometimes you scowl; sometimes you throw a fit; sometimes you smile. It's probably to the point now where you have enough experience under your belt … I look at Buck Showalter. I have so much respect for him. I watch his press conferences. I text him back and forth. He gives me advice or wisecracks sometimes. Just seeing a guy that's been through it, you have perspective. You learn perspective. My perspective on this team is I cannot wait to see what this team is and where it's going. I can't wait. Maybe that has something to do with nine years. Maybe that has something to do with this team. We'll see."
You've gotten a feel over time as to what kind of football town this is. Your nine years ties you with Weeb Ewbank and Brian Billick for a record here. Does that mean anything to you? (Joe Platania)"I don't know. We're not tied yet! You have to get through the season to be tied. (laughter)Weeb Ewbank was a Miami of Ohio guy. He's a Cradle of Coaches guy. I met Weeb when I was playing. I went over to his house for dinner while I was playing, as a senior. It was a pretty big deal. Brian Billick, I have a chance to talk to Brian, probably not as much as I'd like, but whenever I talk to him, he's always incredibly supportive and always has a wise word. Heck, to be mentioned in those two breaths would be something I never dreamed of. I never dared to even think, other than in my wildest dreams, it could happen. I just say, 'God is good.' I'm very grateful to be in that situation right now."
What has been the players' response to you as it pertains to the grass? I know that changing the playing surface was probably a good thing for the older veterans. What are the analytics and the common sense things that has been the result of that? (Chris Miller) "Both the analytics and the common sense probably say grass, but the turf is better than ever, so I don't want to downgrade anybody's turf. The players, they love me. They're really happy. But you know who they love even more? Dick Cass. (laughter) *They love Dick Cass, our team president, because when this whole thing happened last year, and Marshal [Yanda] and Terrell [Suggs] and some of the guys came in and said they really wanted to go to grass, I think most organizations would have basically said, 'We can't do it,' and they would have listed 10 reasons why they can't do it. Dick was like, 'You know what? We're going to find a way to do it. If we can do it, we will do it.' He said that and actually followed through and did it. To me, that speaks to what kind of a team president he is. He got the job done for the players, and the players appreciate it – also, to Steve Bisciotti for paying for it. *(laughter) *That was a big deal, too." [Kevin Byrne: "And the grow lights."]* "And the grow lights! Yes, the grow lights! Have you guys seen the grow light pictures yet? Do some homework on the grow lights. Get those for your front yard. It will change everything." (laughter)
Will owner Steve Bisciotti pay for that, too?(Jamison Hensley)"He said, 'Would Steve pay for that, too?' No." (laughter)
WR/RS Devin Hester
On if he still feels like he has something to prove:"I feel like that every day. Not a day goes by where I don't feel like I have to improve. Even the greatest think that, even Michael Jordan. If you ever paid attention to him, he always felt like he could get better. I've always kind of looked up to those types of guys and tried to be like those types of guys. So, deep down inside, I still feel like I have a lot more to prove."
On if he feels like he is completely healthy at this point, and if he had to wait a while before he thought he was ready to come back:"Yes, that is correct. When the [Atlanta] Falcons released me, I was still hurting. I wasn't able to perform; I wasn't able to practice. From that point on, they released me, teams started calling. And at the same time, I told my agent, and I was like, 'Hey, let's just go ahead and give this toe time to heal.' Not too much rushing, really rehab, going back to rehabbing, really give it time. This was an injury I just felt like time was the only thing that was going to heal it. I did all the treatment I could do and it still wasn't where I wanted it to be. So, at the end of the day, we just realized time would heal everything."
On if he feels at full strength right now:"Yes."
On when the Ravens came in to play as an option:"I want to say like the first week after I got released from the Falcons. They were one of the teams that reached out right away."
On how his game has changed over the years, particularly as he's become an older athlete:"I would say diet is number one. I couldn't eat McDonald's like I wanted to when I was a rookie. Can't go out and eat all the fast food; I really had to concentrate on eating right. And then from that point on, it seems like the older you get, whenever you have an injury, the longer it lingers. Back in the day I tweaked a hamstring, I'd twist an ankle, and two days later I was ready to go. Nowadays, the older you get, you find yourself doing more treatment, more massages, more chiropractors, spend a little more time in the weight room and getting a little more sleep. So, that's one of the things I had to adjust to, was start taking care of your body the right way."
On if he would have considered any team that called, and why the Ravens were an appealing choice:"First of all, I looked at the past history of special teams; [that was] number one for me. I'm the type of guy … I'm a special teams guy, I return, and I wanted to go to a special teams unit that was pretty much one of the dominant teams in the league. I found [out] myself that the Ravens were in the Top 5 for the last five years or something. They were ranked No. 1 last year. And then they were also under my old special teams coach in Chicago, Dave Toub, and those guys, they all worked together, so they run the same exact scheme. And then with the same exact scheme that they run, the group of guys that we have here, it wasn't a hard choice to pick the Ravens."
On what challenges are presented with it being this close to the regular season:"A returner, I feel, is all about experience. Everybody out here can run fast, can make guys miss, but I feel as though when you're back there you've got to be able to manage the game, you've got to make the right decisions, pick up small instincts just by repetition. And I feel like I've put a lot of time in it from the returner's standpoint, and I feel like I can come here right away and contribute." * *