Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement:"Good to see you guys. A couple of things: 'Doom' [Elvis Dumervil] and Crockett [Gillmore] were out here practicing, so you saw that. That was good. They have different degrees of where they're at, but it was good to see. Jimmy [Smith] is still working on his back issue. Hopefully he'll be out there tomorrow; we'll see. Marshal [Yanda] had the day off. Brandon [Williams] had the day off. Lorenzo [Taliaferro] is working on a hamstring. I actually thought he was going to practice; he's close. Then, Alex [Lewis], of course, you know. Nick Boyle is back."
How important is it for the Harbaughs to go 2-0 against Ohio teams this weekend? (Jamison Hensley) "It's pretty important. (laughter) It's important. I don't want to rank priorities, but you have to take care of your own priorities first. It's a huge game for them. I wish them nothing but the best of luck – just pulling for Michigan. I know that they just had a great year. I know they fought through adversity, and they're going up against a very talented football team. But, Michigan has a lot of heart. They're pretty tough. They're a reflection of their coach [Jim Harbaugh], certainly. I wish them nothing but the best."
Any victory guarantees from the Harbaughs this week? (Garrett Downing)"You're going back historic right there. (laughter) I like it. I know one thing: We're planning on winning. There's no doubt about that. We're planning on winning, and I'm sure they are, too."
How important has the defense been for you guys? I know the offense is a work in progress, but the second-ranked defense has been one of the key reasons for each win. (David Ginsburg) "Our defense has played really well. The thing about our defense is they're not satisfied with anything they've done in the past. They just keep building on whatever they've done well. They keep trying to improve on whatever they didn't do well. They play extremely hard, and we can be better. That's the beautiful thing about it. As well as they have played, we can play better. I'm sure Eric [Weddle] is going to be up here in a second. I would expect him to say the same thing, because he says the same thing to me every single day. We have great leadership with he and Terrell Suggs and all of those guys on defense."
John, I know you talked about G Marshal Yanda a lot on Monday, but do you see his adaptability as something other players can look up to?* (Childs Walker)*"It probably is. Gosh, if guys don't look up to Marshal, I don't know who they would look up to in terms of, really, the whole package, just everything that he does. Specifically, the ability to do what he did, the willingness to do it, and then to be able to pull it off is pretty remarkable. But you know what? He has another game. People have seen him at left guard now, so the new challenge is the next challenge."
QB Joe Flacco talked about how Nick Boyle was here first thing Monday morning ready to go. Do you get the sense that he is trying to capitalize on the opportunity he has here? (Garrett Downing) "Sure. I think Nick really feels like he missed out. He says, 'What do I do? I work out, and I think about football, then I go work out again, and I think about football.' He's got a football head. That's who he is, what he thinks about. That 10 weeks, 11 weeks, actually, was very painful for him. I'm hoping he makes somebody pay for his pain on that by playing well whenever we're able to get him out there."
Might a decision need to be made regarding RB Lorenzo Taliaferro's status, in terms of IR possibly? (Jerry Coleman) "No, I said he was almost … I thought he was going to practice today. It's not a major injury."
*John, a lot of people have strong opinions about Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict. What do you see in him as a player? (Jamison Hensley) *"I'm not probably going to comment on other guys' players and stuff like that. He's a good player. He's a guy you definitely have to be aware of when you play against him."
Do you have to let your players know to be aware of him because of things that have happened in the past? (Jamison Hensley) "We do that on every player. There's a scouting report on every single player. It includes everything that the player does. Linebackers, pass rushers, offensive linemen, running backs – it's very thorough. We go through that with our players. Everything that's a part of a guy's makeup as a player, we talk about."
RB Kenneth Dixon
On if he feels as good physically as he has all year:"Yes. I feel really good. We have some great trainers like Mark Smith. I got in and got rehab and kind of slimmed up a little bit and got to running on my knee and got a lot of confidence back in it. I started to get back in the offense and learn all my plays over again and started to feel more comfortable."
On if the game is starting to slow down for him:"Yes, definitely. That is one of the things [running backs] coach Thomas [Hammock] always talks to me about. He is like, 'Go through your progressions. It is going to be fast at first, because you are a rookie, and you have never seen things move this fast before. Trust what you see, and as you see it, it is going to slow down, and the game is going to become slower to you.' Things like that have happened, and I have made some plays off of it. I am just going to rely on him to keep teaching me that everything is going to be alright."
On if he can avoid the rookie wall and if his legs will stay fresh because he missed the beginning of the season with an injury:"Yes, definitely. I do not feel like I hit a rookie wall. But saying that, we do have six games left. I am going to go out there and work hard every day. If I have a rookie wall, I am going to climb that rookie wall and keep fighting every day."
On if they can build on the way they ran the ball against the Cowboys: "Yes. Everything we can build on. Everything with our offense we are trying to build on for the end of the season, because this one is going to matter the most. Every game, we take a step in the right direction, and the running game has been one of our focal points. We want to get up in some games, so we can show everybody that we can run the ball."
On the adjustment of going from getting the ball a lot in college to just getting touches here and there in the NFL:"It is not a big adjustment at all. In college, I was the same guy. If I tote the ball one time, I was out there to make the team win. The same thing goes for the NFL. I am not a guy that is going to come in and demand carries. I am a guy that is going to come in, and I am going to work hard, and if I get my opportunities to play, I am going to play as hard as I can."
On if him and RB Terrance West are starting to form a one-two punch:"Yes, we are doing very good. Terrance West is a great guy. All of our running backs are great. Lorenzo [Taliaferro], we have 'Juice' [Kyle Juszczyk] and 'Buck' [Javorius Allen] and also me in there. All of our running backs are good. I feel like all of us are good tandems, no matter which one of us gets in the game. We all are going to execute and run the same play. Coach [Thomas] Hammock does a great job of coaching us all up and to each his own – anybody [who] gets in there, it is all on us."
On the best Thanksgiving dish in the Dixon household:"I think my mom is going to cook some greens. I like greens, some collard greens."
On if his mother came for Thanksgiving:"Yes. She came yesterday. Her and my girl and my little daughter. I can't wait to have Thanksgiving with them."
QB Joe Flacco
On how the shuffle at the tight end position has affected him and how nice it is to get TE Crockett Gillmore back from injury and TE Nick Boyle back from suspension: "I think it just gives us a little more versatility to have those guys back. [They have] the ability to give Dennis [Pitta] a break here and there and just add to the mix. I think they are good players, so when you can get them back on the field, it is nice. I think Nick was here at 3 a.m. on Monday, so I think he is ready to go."
On what extra dimension RB Kenneth Dixon adds to the offense:"He is just a good runner. He has good vision. He has the suddenness to make people miss when he gets in space. If we can keep him going, it is definitely going to be good for us."
On if it has been tough in the red zone and on third down with tight ends injured:"We are trying to get everybody involved as much as we can. When you are short on numbers, you obviously can't do as much as you would like to. I do not know if that has had a direct impact on it, but it may have affected it a little bit."
On what type of player he thinks Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict is: "That is a tough thing to answer. I try not to worry about all of that stuff. I just want to go out there and play the game. I think for the most part, he does that [just plays the game], but obviously he has had his incidents. We will see how it goes on Sunday, but I am not going to worry about it. I am going to go out and play."
On if G Marshal Yanda playing through his injury is a reflection of the kind of player he is:"Yes, I think that is obvious. He was pretty down a couple weeks ago, because obviously, it looked like his season was over, and he wasn't going to be able to help us out. I walked in the building – I guess it was last Monday – and you could tell he had an extra pep in his step and that he was more excited. I didn't know why, I could just kind of tell, and then he broke it to me that he was going to try to play left side. I said, 'Alright, I am cool with that. Obviously, I love that.' He did it. It is just a matter of which shoulder he hurt and the fact that he feels like he is limited on the right side, and on the left side, he feels like he can do it. I think he has played with a similar injury back in 2012, so he has had experience with it. I asked him when the last time he was on the left side, and I forget what he told me, but it was not any time close to now. It is definitely impressive what he does, week-in and week-out."
On the importance of starting fast on Sunday:"It is definitely big, especially at home. We want to go, and we want to get our crowd into it. We want to go, and we want to continue to build and get better. I think it is huge to get going just to get our crowd in it and to get everybody excited, to get our guys excited. These guys have played us well. We have not beaten them in a long time. It is definitely going to be a tough game, but early on will be a big part."
On the key to getting WR Breshad Perriman more involved in the offense:"Just experience. Not everything is going to be perfect, but the fact that he is out there and that he is working through things is going to do nothing but get him better and better."
On the Bengals Cover 2 defense and what has given the offense problems against them in the past:"We were talking about that a little bit today in the QB room. I know they have gotten after us a couple years ago back when they first started doing a lot of the double mug stuff. The last couple years, we have just gotten down on them early and let them play with a lead, I feel like. I remember a couple years ago, we were pretty much a two-minute offense the whole second half. These games are all tough. I'm sure if I was to go back and look at the film, I could tell you what those things were. They have been a good defense – talented defense, well-coached. You have to be able to … When you look at the film this year, they are still playing good. Teams that have beat them have hit big plays on them. We probably have not been able to do that as much as we would like until the end of games when we have been in desperation mode. It just goes back to the point we were making about early on in the football game being a big part of being victorious."
OLB Terrell Suggs
On losing five-straight games to the Bengals:"Damn, it has been that many? I didn't know it was five in a row. That is like that kid you have to fight every day until you win. They have been kind of picking on us. Unfortunately, their deep threat [A.J. Green] is hurt, but he might miraculously show up; you never know. We are still going to game-plan him, though. Like you said, five straight is five straight. Numbers do not lie. They have kind of had our number. We are going to see what we can do to change that."
On if injured Bengals WR A.J. Green and injured RB Giovani Bernard could both "pull a Roethlisberger":"I don't know, they could. This is a miraculous league. They have stuff … Guys can get back pretty fast, you know what I am saying? You never know. I think it is their coach. We respect Marvin [Lewis], and they are going to play hard for Marvin. We think whoever we line up against is who we are going to line up against. We are not going to be shocked by anything."
On how he feels watching G Marshal Yanda play through an injured shoulder:"It is kind of the mentality for some of us. That is the cost of doing business. That is the only way Marshal knows [how] to play. We all get banged up, and Marshal is going to be out there. It is good to see your bell cow out there, definitely. Him playing at the level he is, that is also really good, too."
On if the division games are more important in regards to making the playoffs: "They are always important. This is the NFL, especially, this is the AFC. They are all important. Everyone knows what lies ahead of us. You definitely want to win all your home games. That is when you have your best edge, your best chance to win – when you are at home. You take care of your home games and you split on the road, and it pretty much takes care of itself. These are not only big games, they are monumental."
On if there is an added motivation because a win could help eliminate the Bengals from making the playoffs:"No. If you need more motivation to win when you are at the top of division, then I do not know what to tell you. You are definitely in the wrong business [if you need more motivation]. I told the guys, 'We came up short last week, we are a little disappointed, but we are still in a six-game season. We still have the opportunity to make this a great, magical season.' We are going to continue to work and strive toward that, so we are already motivated. We don't need any added motivation."
S Eric Weddle
On being a part of a highly-ranked Ravens defense:"There are only so many opportunities you have in this league to do something special and to be No. 1 in this league. We talked about that today: 'By a show of hands, how many guys have been on a No. 1-ranked defense?' I think only a couple of guys have done it once. You always will have that. I think our guys are a very prideful group and unselfish and willing to get better at all costs. We always look at each other first and myself first. We did a lot of good things in last week's game, but it wasn't good enough. At the end of the day, it's about wins and losses, and we didn't do our part to get a win. We had an outstanding practice today – a focused group, division game. First place is riding on it. We have everything to gain. Everything is still right in front of us to go get, and that's what we plan on doing."
On how confident the defense is that it can overcome CB Jimmy Smith's injury if it is long-term: "We're a confident group. We just didn't execute and get off the field [in Dallas]. Whether Jimmy is in there or not, we have to step our game up, myself included, to get off the field. We just didn't execute and didn't make the plays needed. They made the plays, and credit Dallas for doing an excellent job in the second half. You live, you learn. You look at yourself first. How can I get better? The group gets better, and we'll go see on Sunday if we learned from our mistakes, which I believe we will."
On if the defense takes on the responsibility to win each game: "We want to play great week-in and week-out, regardless of what's happening on offense. I know deep down that they're going to win us some games, and we're going to need them when it matters most. Until that happens, we have to go out and play great. We have to keep the ball out of the end zone, eliminate the big plays and stuff the run like we've been doing. The offense is going to turn around. They're showing signs. I thought Joe [Flacco] looked as comfortable as he's ever been last week throwing the ball in there. We just have to be more consistent in all three phases. To go on the road and beat a great team – one of the best teams in the league – you can't have penalties. You can't not win third-down field position. You have to do everything to win on the road, and we didn't do that, but I think we get confidence looking at the film and correcting our mistakes that we can definitely do that in the future."
On not facing Bengals WR A.J. Green this week: "I wish he was playing. I love competing against the best. I think he's an amazing player and an even better person from all of the times I've played against him and played against the Bengals. I hope he gets better soon, but I don't really … They're going to run what they run. It comes down to us making plays, being in position, communicating and doing our job whether he's out there or not."
On if there was extra message to the defense to start fast this week: "I think more so it's just not letting last week linger as a team. I've expressed that and just let everyone know that this is a week-to-week business. You have to forget about the previous week to move forward and get your mind right for what's ahead of us. We have a six-game season, we're first in our division, and we can easily be out if we let this linger with a big game and not coming out with a win. We stressed that. We want to start fast, but mainly, we just want to play good football – complementary football, winning football, in all three phases and playing together. If we can do that, we'll have a good shot."
BENGALS CONFERENCE CALLS: WEEK 12
Head Coach Marvin Lewis
Marvin, how are you as a team coping with the absence of WR A.J. Green?"We're going to go into our first game without him. We had to play a couple of years ago without A.J. It's a part of professional sports and a team. The next man moves up and gets going. Everybody has to adjust. Everybody has to pick up the slack and get going."
How confident are you in WR Alex Erickson and WR Tyler Boyd to pick up the slack? "I'm confident in them. That's a part of the opportunity and what happens when a player goes out."
Marvin, does that change your passing game in his absence? "A.J. is obviously a tremendous, tremendous player. He has been a big focus for us. He's a big focus for the opponent. Now, we'll have some other guys in there that can, in some cases, they actually run faster, but they're obviously not A.J. Green."
Was it a double dose of bad luck with RB Giovani Bernard going down in the same game? "It was unfortunate that we lost Gio. He's been a big a big part of what we do."
How does this change things for you guys? I know you keep saying "next man up," but losing two starters must change things. "We're going to show up Sunday."
This has to have been your most difficult year yet at 3-6-1. How do you keep the locker room motivated? "We are. That's where we are right now. We have a lot of football ahead, and we have a big football game for us come Sunday in Baltimore."
You guys have won five-straight against the Ravens. What do you think has been the key to doing that? "It's been very close games. They're physical football games. We have to continue to make plays; that's important. That's what the AFC North has been all about – tough, physical football, and you have to keep making plays throughout the games."
With two games against the Ravens, still to go do you feel like winning the division is still attainable? "We have to take care of our business. That's an opportunity where we have a chance to put a step forward on Sunday."
Marvin, what would you single out as the biggest problem with your team this season? "We haven't won close games. We've had opportunities in the fourth quarter of football games. We've had leads. We've had opportunities, and we haven't closed the games out."
LB Vontaze Burfict has been playing fairly well with only one penalty this year. Have you had to talk to him about toning it down from previous years? "Well, he had two penalties the previous years. Again, Vontaze, enough has been written about Vontaze and his adjustment of how to play football the way he's coached to play it. That's all we continue to do is have him play the way we coach him to play."
Are you happy with how he has come along?"He's doing a very good job. There's always more to give, and that's our point to him to keep playing and keep raising the level. You continue to be the player you can be, and we'll put you in position to make football plays for us."
Some of the players here are may remember LB Vontaze Burfict's hit on TE Maxx Williams. Are you going to talk to Vontaze about what he should expect? "He's going to expect to play NFL football. It's a game on Sunday. If Maxx Williams is the receiver in the play … It's no different than what was just done a couple of weeks ago. The difference is Vontaze doesn't know the ball is not coming that way. It's unfortunate that way. He understands he can't do that if the ball goes the other way, but if the receiver is within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, he's just chucking the receiver. He's not taking the cheap shot or anything that way. He's covering the play that we worked on. Unfortunately, the ball went the other way, and now he knows he cannot just … We don't want to hit a guy if the football goes the other way."
We know the key to success for any coach is winning, but what has been something you focus on that has made you successful? "We've had an influx of new players year after year after year. It's been important that we continue to draft and develop players, and that's part of it. That's the challenge year-in and year-out, is fitting the guys in, keeping the guys going and moving forward. We went from Carson Palmer, who is a tremendous player, to Andy Dalton, and we've been fortunate enough to make the transition through that. Andy has been able to carry to football team again. We continue to try to put guys around Andy that help him affect the game."
What's your impression of WR Steve Smith Sr. and his ability at the age of 37? "Still playing at a very high level and competitive as he's ever been. He's productive as a player; he's productive as a receiver. He's energy on the football team. As I told our people here, he's really fun to watch, particularly when he's playing another team and not us."
Does the back end of this defense look different with S Eric Weddle than it has looked in previous years? "Eric has done a good job. He understands offense. He understands disguise. He's played the game a long time. He's a heady player, smart player, and I think he's done a nice job with that."
Going back to Steve Smith Sr. Some of the Ravens have wondered if he could come back. Would you rather see him not come back? "That's not a question for me to answer."
QB Andy Dalton
On the difficulty of playing without WR A.J. Green and RB Giovani Bernard:"It is tough anytime you lose two big, key parts of your offense. For us, the other guys are going to have to step up, and they have to play at a high level."
On what he has liked about WR Tyler Boyd's development: "He has done a great job. He has come in, and I think he is really comfortable with what we are doing now. I feel like he is getting better every week. I feel like he has done a great job for us."
On if he looks at the remaining games as if the team has to win out:"We feel like we have to win as many as we can. Obviously, it starts this week. You have a division game that matters even more. We just have to find a way to keep winning games."
On what has been the key factor to Cincinnati's winning streak against the Ravens:"I think the biggest thing is you have to take care of the football. Any time you can keep the ball in your possession and not give them an extra possession, that is key. We have had some really good games against them that have come down to the very end."
On what he has seen from the Ravens' defense on film: "I feel like it is your typical Baltimore defense. They are big up front, they do a really good job against the run, and they get you in third-and-long situations, so they are good on third down. That is the style, and that is the way I know Baltimore has been for a long time."
On how different the Ravens' defense looks without CB Jimmy Smith:"Obviously, he is a really good player, so when you get a guy like that that has played well for a long time … For them, I am sure they are saying the same thing as us: 'The next guy has to step up.'"
On the main issue the Bengals have had this season:"It is hard to put your finger on one thing that has caused it. At the end of the day, I think we have not made the plays that we have needed to at the times where they have presented themselves. We have to move on from that, and we have to try and play our best game come Sunday."
On the pride the Bengals take in having beaten the Ravens five-straight times:"I think that is big. Anytime you can beat a team like that five games in a row, that is big. For us, we have to keep that going."