Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement:"Good to see everybody – appreciate you guys being here. A couple of roster moves: We brought Michael Campanaro up from the practice squad and released Devin Hester. That was a little bit of a tough move, just because we have so much respect for Devin and the effort he's put in. I told him I feel like we didn't get the job done. We didn't do enough to make the return game productive enough to make it worthwhile. Just as far as our team, and where we're at and value for those spots, where that's gone for the last three games and into the playoffs, this is a move that we just think makes us stronger as a team. Nothing against Devin; he's done everything he can do, and his skill set is still there. We just haven't done the job in the return game, and that was a value move for us. A couple of guys practiced. I think you saw Crockett [Gillmore] out there. He practiced. That's where we're at."
With a guy like QB Carson Wentz, who is 13 games in as a rookie, is he a guy that you look at and say he's not a rookie anymore? (Joe Platania) "Definitely, he's not a rookie anymore. He's played all these games. He's played very well as a quarterback. He came out playing great right out of the gates. I don't know if he was a rookie the first three games when he was a rookie. He didn't look like one when you watch the tape. He's done a heck of a job for them."
**It's an ideal situation, I would think, having three games to go and control your own destiny. While you would probably like to be controlling the division, is this where you would want to be at this point in the season if you could draw it up? *(David Ginsburg) *"It would be. This is at least where you want to be. Obviously, the scenarios that you just said would be even better, but the opportunity to control your own fate with victory is really what you hope to work for at this time of the season. Two teams in our division have that – us and the Steelers, and we'll both be fighting for that division championship right now. And the Bengals are still in it. Mathematically, they have a shot, too. We have our work cut out for us, but all that becomes focus on the task at hand, which is to win the next game. We have to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, a very good Philadelphia Eagle team, in our stadium on Sunday afternoon to make it count."
**Do you, as a coach, have to talk to your team and say that this Eagles game is the focus, because a lot of people want to talk about the magnitude of the Steelers game. Do you have to talk to your team about keeping the focus on this game? *(Jamison Hensley) *"No, we don't. Our guys are completely focused on this game. It's not something we would have to say to them at all. They understand it. They get it. This is what they do. This is what they do, and they're completely focused on the task at hand."
John, the emergence and growth of CB Tavon Young has been really impressive and all the more important now that you aren't sure if you will have CB Jimmy Smith coming back. Can you speak to that? (Pete Gilbert)"I think it's really important that Tavon is focused and ready to go, just like you said. You made the point. Really, that's what is it. It wouldn't matter. The rest of it really wouldn't matter. He has to focus on his game."
John, is CB Jimmy Smith a realistic possibility for this week, or is it a multi-week thing? (Luke Jones) "I really don't want to get into that, to be honest with you. I don't really see any purpose to get into that. Thanks for asking." (laughter)
When a team drops back, whether it's seven or eight guys, into coverage, how tough is it to get the big play and stretch the field when they are playing like that? (Jamison Hensley) "Anytime a team drops eight guys into coverage, they're covering you. They had guys deep and all that kind of thing. We had a couple chances. We had two chances to hit passes down the middle against that coverage and we didn't. One of them was intercepted and one of them we didn't make the play on. Those were two big opportunities for us. We would have liked to hit those two opportunities. That's what the coverage is built for, to defend that sort of thing. The pass rush suffers when your rush three people. There's give and take to all those kinds of calls. I think they have a good game plan. Give them credit, they had a good game plan, and they executed it very well."
Throwing the ball, you probably want to get more yardage out of that. How much is that a priority to get that efficiency out of the passing game? (Jamison Hensley)"Sure. More yards per attempt, you mean? Absolutely. That's very important. Chunk plays, yards per attempt when you throw the ball, that's the whole point. That's something that we're working very hard to build up."
**How much improvement do you need to see from the secondary as a whole, specifically the corners? People say "next man up," but when CB Jimmy Smith has been out, you guys have had trouble stopping teams. How important is it for CB Shareece Wright and Young and those guys to solidify things back there? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"I'm not pushing the panic button like it sounds like you are, so that's good. We'll play great back there. I don't doubt it for one second."
What do you want to see from WR/RS Michael Campanaro in terms of being the return guy?* (Edward Lee)*"I think – and also, Lardarius Webb is a part of that mix – I want to see him catch the ball and make good decisions. Those are one and two. And then get us some yards, number three. That's the job of that position."
John, at the end of the New England game when you guys were down by 10 and had the ball, were you satisfied with the pace of the offense? (Cliff Brown)"No. No, I was not. We were in a two-score game there. It's something we've addressed the last couple days at length. We didn't do a great job of that at all. I don't know if it was the environment. That's part of it, probably. Communication wasn't as good as it needed to be. We just didn't move as quickly as we needed to in the end. When you chart it – which we do; we chart everything out – we were slow on every single play in that drive, even when we got the ball down in, when it really wasn't about getting a first down. It's about getting a touchdown right there. Heck, if we're not going to get a touchdown, then we might as well kick a field goal with four minutes left, and we'd have four minutes to get the ball back. That was disappointing. That's not something we did a good job of. We have to be way better in that situation in terms of moving quickly. Really, we need to do that in all of our two-minute situations. That's something that we need to improve on, and that's going back about a year-and-a-half. We'll keep working on that. We've had our moments where we've gone very quickly and we've done well. But just generally, that's a focus for us right now, and we can do better with that."
QB Joe Flacco
On the key to producing against zone coverage and against teams that play schemes similar to the Patriots:"I think it is just being precise. We expected a little man [coverage], obviously, last week. We have to come in probably a little bit more prepared and be able to make quicker adjustments. In terms of when you are playing [against] zone, it is just getting the ball out in a rhythm. Because those zones can open for sometimes a split second, and when everybody is on the same page and sitting in the right spot and the ball is coming out at the right time, that is when you can really hit it. That is when you can get catch and runs, even when they are playing zone."
On the difficulty of winning games when you are not being as efficient in the passing game as you want: "It is definitely tough. But at the same time, when you are completing passes and you are getting a couple yards at a time … I think when we were getting yards on first down no matter how it was, we were moving the chains. You go back to that [Patriots] game, and we moved the ball a good amount, but at times in the first half after we moved the ball the initial times, we would get stalled out for whatever reason. I could be more specific if I was looking at it right now. But yes, you have to be efficient in every way. That is obviously how you win games."
On Eagles QB Carson Wentz's comments that Flacco paved the way for quarterbacks from smaller schools and if he pays attention to how Wentz is doing:"Yes, there have been guys [from smaller schools]. You always look at the I-AA guys and the small school guys. I feel like you have a little bit of connection to them. So yes, no doubt."
On if the jump from an FCS school to the NFL is overstated:"I have always said that when you are playing quarterback, it is all relative. I was not playing at Delaware, Tony [Romo] was not playing at Eastern Illinois, with USC wide receivers. We had good wide receivers, but at the same time, it is all comparable – the DBs we were going against with the receivers we were playing against and all of that. Every now and then, you get a guy that has the ability to play wide receiver, has the ability to play quarterback, and has the physical traits to do that, and for whatever reason, was overlooked. A lot of the time when you are down at that level, guys can play football. They just do not run 4.3 [40-yard dashes]. They are really good football players, and I think that is what you see when you are down at those levels. You see a lot of guys that can play really good football, and every now and then, you get a guy that really can play football, and he has the measurable that maybe typically are not there. That is why as a quarterback, you are still throwing into the same windows. You are still making the same decisions, reading the defenses and doing all of those things. If you get a guy that can do that, and you also feel like he has the physical traits to play in this league, then I think the jump is not really any different than any other level."
On the key to picking up the pace at the end of the Patriots game and scoring faster:"Yes, no doubt. You do not want to get the ball with six minutes [remaining] and give it back to them with 2:01. You want to be able to get there, and at least if you are going to settle for a field goal, do it in two minutes. Do it in a minute-and-a-half. It is a collective effort – coaches, offensive linemen, receivers, myself. Sometimes the circumstances are difficult. Guys are running from all over the place, their defense is walking around, things like that. But it is a collective effort; it starts with me."
On if there is a reason for the lack of run plays and if the team needs to start running the ball more:"There is no doubt we are going to have to run the ball, especially if teams are going to go out and play two high [safeties] against us like the Patriots did. We have to be able to hand the ball off and get yardage out of it and really make do. Because then it is going to get the play-action game going a little bit more and make it that much better. So yes, we have to make sure we get all we can out of our backs. They are running the ball really well. You see how hard they are running the ball when we get it in their hands. We have to make sure we get them going."
On his thoughts about the Ravens playing in London in 2017:"I kind of always had a probably negative stance on it, but I am warming up to the idea. I think it will be a cool little trip and just a new experience. I think this team will have a lot of fun with it, and we will go out there and play well."
On why he had initial negative thoughts about playing in London:"It is just long travel. We are playing Jacksonville. I think it is the Jaguars, right? Instead of traveling two hours, we are traveling however many it is. You probably have to spend a whole week over there. We all have families and things like that. We are not baseball players; we are not used to spending a week away from home, so we cry about it a little bit. (laughter) *It really will not be bad. I have four kids now. I think that is probably why I am looking at it a little bit more optimistically now. It will be good to get away from them." *(laughter)
On the key to improving the deep passing game:* *"I think part [of it] is the run game. I think when teams are playing like New England did, it is going to be tough to get down the field a little bit. When you do have the opportunities to, you have to make the plays. You might have to make one-on-one plays here and there and pick and choose your spots. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it does not. But yes, sometimes it is more about what they do and the opportunities they are giving you."
S Eric Weddle
On how the team will approach the next few weeks knowing it control its own playoff destiny:"We've been playing in these types of games for a while now. I think everyone's focus, drive and sacrifice is there. Obviously, we weren't good enough to beat the Patriots. That's really what the reality comes down to, but that doesn't mean that our ultimate goal to win the division and get in the playoffs isn't attainable. The quicker we can learn from our mistakes, move on and get on to Philadelphia – which we have; we had a great practice today – the better we'll be on Sunday. We just can't let it hang over our heads and have a poor performance when everything is still right there to be attained."
On the talk about the game against the Steelers in Week 16: "The Steelers game doesn't happen unless we win this game The Steelers game is on the backburner right now. It's all about Philly. It's all about getting this win this week just to get better. Look at yourself first, get better, continue to believe in each other and play together. When we played together last week, we played outstanding. When we didn't or had breakdowns, we didn't play so well. That's in any team sport, especially this one. That's why it's the greatest sport, because you rely on 10 other men to do their jobs. We're excited. The spirits are high. We have a great matchup up, great challenge, and we'll be ready."
On his confidence in the secondary if CB Jimmy Smith cannot play: "It's as high as it's ever been. We're not worried about who is going to play or who is not going to play. We'll play with the guys we have out there. We'll be ready. We're going to be honed in on what they're going to be doing. We're going to play outstanding and hopefully have a great game."
EAGLES CONFERENCE CALLS: WEEK 15
Head Coach Doug Pederson
You guys started off the season 3-0, but is there anything you can put your finger on to explain what occurred after that?"We haven't played as efficiently on offense. There been a lot of mistakes, turnovers, particularly in the red zone, pre-snap penalties and things of that nature. Injuries on the offensive line have played a little part in that. Defensively, kind of the same thing. We had some injuries early in the season. We struggled to get off the field on third down in the middle part of the season and extended drives for offenses. Then, we got away from having explosive plays in the kicking game. Earlier in the season, we had a couple nice returns there, and then we had one this past weekend, a punt return for a touchdown that was called back due to penalty. It's just those things that are self-inflicted wounds and self-inflicted penalties that have caused us from maybe winning a few more games."
How disappointing has it been because of those things?"It's frustrating, because you put so much work in – players and coaches – during the week, and you want to go out there and you want to perform well. When it doesn't happen, that's the frustrating part. The beauty of it is you can come back to work the next week and get ready for your next opponent. It's just unfortunate that you're running out of weeks."
When you were evaluating QB Carson Wentz, how much was where he played in college and the level of competition a concern? Or why wasn't it a concern? "We definitely looked at it, but it never came up in the discussions. It was never one of the deciding factors to take him or not to take him. We just felt like the kid could play football. You watch his college film, and he's won a lot of college games, and he has led that team to several national championships. That was just the exciting thing about him, watching him on tape. Then, when you get to know him, everything you see on tape holds true to when you get a chance to meet him in person. Of course, we were fortunate to position ourselves in the draft to take him. It did remind me … It reminded me of the Ben Roethlisbergers and the Joe Flaccos – those types of players that came in early as rookies and had success. They had tremendous defenses, ran the ball, opportunities to go to the playoffs, and obviously, in Ben's case, early in his career to go to the Super Bowl. It just kind of reminded me [of that]. Carson reminded me of those two guys and how their careers have really escalated because the team around them has gotten so much better."
You look at Flacco, Carson, and Tony Romo from I-AA schools. As a guy who played quarterback in the NFL, why do you think these guys are able to make that jump so quickly and have so much success? "I think it's just the way they're wired. They're wired as quarterbacks. They're tough-minded. They're physical from the standpoint they can take shots, and they come back each week that way. I think, too, it is their overall demeanor and their leadership ability. These guys, they want to rip your hearts out. These two quarterbacks – you're talking about Flacco, Roethlisberger, Romo – they want to rip your heart out when they play. That's a great thing. Being a former quarterback, that's what you want. I played with a guy in Green Bay [Brett Favre] for so many years that he enjoyed going out and destroying defenses and trying to win football games. We're trying to build that. We're trying to establish that culture here, and Carson has that type of demeanor. It's just a matter of getting some pieces. Again, we're playing with a lot of young players. [We have] a lot of kids we drafted this year that are playing, which is great. We have to do it again, year-in and year-out, and get on that championship level playing field. Baltimore has been there many years. Pittsburgh has been there many years, and that's the model to do it with."
I know quarterbacks and coaches hate the "game manager" label, but in Flacco's rookie year, they were careful with how much he had to do. Have you had to ask Carson to do more than you'd like because of injuries and other issues at the wide receiver position? "We've asked him to do quite a bit – manage the run game, passing game, protections and things of that nature. Obviously, with the way we've played the last couple of weeks, you never want to ask your rookie quarterback to throw the ball 60 times and then 46 times like he did this past weekend. It's usually a recipe for disaster. You have to have a great running game; defense has to hold up – things like that, things that you definitely see in Baltimore and their success. It just helps your quarterback. It helps young quarterbacks that way, because then you get a great feeling about the National Football League. They're not burned that first year, so to speak. When you can do that and help your young quarterback that way, I think the future can be bright with those people."
I know you mention injuries along the offensive line, but what other factors contribute to QB Carson Wentz being sacked 30 times this season?"Well, I think some of it can be [attributed to] maybe he holds the ball a little too long, [his] eyes are in the wrong place, anything that a young quarterback can face – the blitz, just a little bit of pressure. Early in the season, there were some sacks that he took, [where] they were scrambles. In the National Football League, when you do not get positive yards, they go down as a sack. There have been some of those that we have worked through. It is just a matter of understanding the game. It is OK to throw the ball away. It is OK to punt. It is OK to trade field position and all that. Those are things that young quarterbacks learn in their first year."
There was a columnist locally who suggested keeping QB Carson Wentz on the bench for Sunday's game. Can I get your reaction to that?"For this Sunday's game?" *(Reporter: "Yes.") *"No, I'm not at all [keeping him on the bench]. That is not even a consideration. I think the more reps he gets, the more valuable it is. He is obviously the leader of this football team, and we are still trying to win football games."
How much have you kept in touch with John Harbaugh over the years. Have you guys been able to maintain a pretty good relationship?"We see each other a little bit here and there, obviously at league meetings and different things. We maybe catch up in the offseason from time to time. I'll tell you what: He was here in Philadelphia when I came back in 1999; he was the special teams coordinator. That is where we first rubbed shoulders back then. I think the world of him. He has done a great job there in Baltimore, and I can't wait to see him this weekend."
Are you expecting to face a really desperate Ravens team, knowing what they have on the line and this also being their home regular season finale?"Yes, this is a good football team. Obviously, [they are] coming off a loss Monday night. But these guys are well-coached, a lot of veteran players on both sides of the ball. [They have] great leadership. Defensively, they are playing extremely well right now. [They are] healthy, which is great this time of the year. It is understanding where they want to be and where they want to get to. Hopefully, it is a good football game. Again, we are in a position where we can just get better and continue our progression to where we want to be and try to compete and fight and try to get a win."
DE Brandon Graham may not have the sack numbers that some of his peers have, but he is consistently graded out as one of the best defensive ends by Pro Football Focus. Can you comment on what you are seeing from him?"One of the things … He is the energetic leader of the defense. He prides himself on that and the way he practices during the week. He is a pro's pro – handles his business extremely well on and off the football field. He is quick off the ball. He anticipates the snap count. He is not a big guy, so he can use his leverage to his advantage and get to the quarterback and disrupt some timing. All the things that you are seeing … He is healthy right now. Those are all things that are playing into him playing as well as he is right now."
Your team is the only team in the NFL with two kick returns for touchdowns, and you guys lead the league in the average on kick returns. What has been the key for you guys in that aspect?"[Special teams coordinator] coach [Dave] Fipp does an outstanding job with our guys in the meetings, and then, how well he takes it to the field. He does a lot of drill work with the guys, which I think is unique around the league. Some coordinators just want to run the scheme and not detail or do some drill work there. So, our guys are constantly doing more drill work than they are actually running a kickoff return or a kickoff cover scheme. Just the pride that the guys have, there are great leaders on that team with [Chris] Maragos and [Bryan] Braman, and Trey Burton is on there – guys that are young players that have a lot of pride in what they do, and it is paying off for them on special teams."
QB Carson Wentz
On what he has seen from the Ravens this season: "The first thing you see when you turn on the tape, of the defense especially, is a really sound football team. They fly around. Obviously, Eric Weddle back there, he's all over the field making plays everywhere. A guy like Terrell Suggs, you have to always know where he's at. They fly around. They're a great football team, a great defense, especially. We have our work cut out for us, but we're excited for the challenge."
On his increase in passing attempts lately and how important it is to avoid that against the Ravens:"I think it's really just been a result of the flow of the game. Each game is different. You go into each game, and we always want to be balanced, but either you get down earlier or the defenses are stacking the box, or whatever it may be. You have to go off script a little bit. Obviously, the pass attempts have added up, but especially last game, we were in it until the end, and we just didn't pull it out. Against the Ravens' defense, we're just going to have to stay on the field. Whether we're running or throwing or whatever it is, we just have to be efficient, stay on the field and really convert third downs, and in the red zone, because that's a good football team. We have to be sharp."
On how much QB Joe Flacco's success with his small-school background serves as a guide: "I think every guy is different coming in, and every guy has their own background and their own thing. But having a guy that's come from that level and to go in the way he did and have the success early, I think it just made people believe that it could be done again. I think he set the bar – set the standard for that, at least in recent times. For me, I think that was huge. I think it was huge that teams could go and look at him as an example and go, 'There's no reason this guy can get it done, too.' [I have] a lot of respect for what he's done and what he's continuing to do."
On if he still feels there are things he can learn as a rookie: "First of all, you're always learning. If I were to sit here and say I think I have it all licked, that would be ridiculous. You're always learning. I've never used, even in Week One, the 'rookie excuse,' because I've always held myself to high expectations – high standards. That's a part of it, but I never fell in that category as, 'Oh, I'm just a rookie. I have a long ways to go.' But at the same time, you're always learning. There are always things to learn."
On how he feels mentally and physically at this point in the season:"Mentally and physically, I feel good. I think one thing I had going for me that a lot of rookies didn't is that we played 15, 16 games every year in college. We were playing into January every single year. I'm kind of used to the schedule. I think, obviously, it's still even more demanding in the NFL, but I'm in a good spot both physically and mentally."
On what is concerning about the Ravens' pass rush: "First of all, they're good. They're a good pass rush. They do a good job, both interior and on the edges. We have to be solid. I think we have to do some things to get the ball out quick. The biggest thing is [to] just establish a run game to slow them down a little bit. They're a good football team – good D-line, so we have to be sharp."
On if any evaluators brought up Ravens QB Joe Flacco's name to him during the pre-draft process:"It is hard to remember. But I know a lot of media people asked similar questions like you just did and how that affected me. I think some guys would bring his name up, and I just always pointed like, 'He went and did it. He went and did it right away.' Again, everybody is different, but I think he has shown that it can be done."
On if the jump from a smaller school to the NFL is overrated:"The jump is a big jump no matter where you are coming from – Division III, FCS, FBS, SEC – it does not matter. Everyone is bigger, faster, stronger [in the NFL]. Obviously, we believe at the FCS level that there is a lot of good talent, and you are playing a lot of good competition. I think they just lack the depth overall that a lot of FBS teams have. But at the same time, everybody is different. Everyone is playing at a different level, everyone learns at a faster pace and different paces. Everybody is different. I didn't really use that as an excuse; I actually used that more as motivation. I thought what I did in college, in terms of running the offense and the protection calls and the run checks and being under center – all of those things – were in my favor, actually, going forward."
On what changed after the Eagles started the season 3-0 versus where they are now:"It is hard to say. We have been in a lot of close ball games. We have had lots of chances, and I think we didn't find a way to win in a lot of them. A lot of them, we were hurting ourselves with mental mistakes, physical mistakes, turnovers, some little things. We played a lot of tight football, and unfortunately, we are in the spot we are in now. It is hard to say exactly what one thing changed. But I think we just did not execute when it mattered in some of those tight ballgames."
On if there is any particular reason why the team has struggled on the road this year:"I wish I knew. I wish I knew and we could fix that. That is for sure. It is just part of the National Football League. It is hard to win on the road just in general."
On how he would describe his chemistry with TE Zach Ertz:"He has been great. Obviously, earlier in the year it was a little slower. He had the first game, and then he got hurt. So, we didn't get quite as many reps and opportunities to work together there. But I think we have really involved him more and more as the weeks have gone on. He has been great. He has been a great security blanket. Sometimes he is the primary option as well. He is able to do a lot of different things underneath and down the field that are nice to have in a tight end."
On what the Eagles are playing for at this point in the season with a 5-8 record:"We don't really worry about all of the external things and what has happened in the past going forward. Our goal is to win each week. That starts with practice every week going forward. We just all want to start getting this organization [and] this team going in the right direction. Our goal is to win the last three, for sure."