Head Coach John HarbaughOpening statement:"Great to see everybody. Thanks for coming out a little later than usual. There are really no announcements to make other than we're very excited about the opportunity to go out to Denver and play a great football team – I would say the hottest team in football. They've won 11-straight [games]. They've done it with complete, team football. All three phases have contributed. They are a very complementary team, a very physical team. They've just done a great job, so we're looking forward to the opportunity."
Does it help you at all to have game-planned for them a couple of weeks ago and have looked at it already?* (Nestor Aparicio)*"It does. I'm sure it helps them, too. It's an opportunity. We have a lot of foundation of work already done. We have a lot of games broken down up until that point, so then we just added the games from there on out."
But on a short week even? (Nestor Aparicio)"It's a help. It's a plus, I would say."
Do you put any stock in the fact that you've played, and they've had the week off? What do you think that that does as far as you continuing to play with them having the break? (Craig Heist)"I don't really want to analyze the pros and the cons of that. That's been done. There are pros and cons to playing, and there are pros and cons to not playing. Everybody is aware of that. The biggest con is the short week. This short week is … Over the years, the percentages haven't been real favorable for the team going on the road on a short week in the playoffs. We know that. We did get one of those wins in 2008 against Tennessee, though."
What does Ray Lewis mean to Baltimore? Before you got here, did you already have a feeling, and did you get a better grip of that through your five years? (David Ginsburg)"Yes, you see it from the outside when you're not involved. You have your perception, whatever it might be. Coming here and getting to know Ray [Lewis] and getting to know Baltimore and getting to know the Ravens organization and everything has just been tremendous, personally. It's been a great experience. It's a great thing the relationship between Baltimore and Ray. It's very unique. I don't think there could ever be another situation like this. Jonathan Ogden was a similar situation, obviously. You have two guys that came in when the organization was just beginning – as Ray said. Before there were team colors, before there was a mascot, there was Ray and Jonathan Ogden and [general manager and executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] and everybody here and Art Modell. That's where it really begins is with Art and Pat Modell. It's just a very special thing."
You talked a little bit yesterday about how the altitude is something that you have to think about a little bit. If it were to show up as an effect, where do you think it might show up and who do you reach out to to talk to about dealing with it? (Childs Walker) "We have doctors here, so we reach out to our doctors and experts in the field who know a lot more about it than we do about it as coaches or players. They give us their advice, and we follow it and do the best we can with it. It's a factor. It's an advantage, obviously, for the Broncos. They live there. They play there. They practice there. No matter who goes out there and plays – playoff game or not – it's got to be an advantage for them. It has been over the years. But, there are always advantages in every situation, and we will do the best we can to deal with it."
John, with the forecast calling for snow, and if it is that kind of environment, does that help in slowing down their offense? Or, is it one of those things where receivers might have an advantage because they know the cuts and defenders don't? (Mark Zinno)"People will say both things. They'll say both sides. We'll just have to see how it plays out. It can be an advantage either way; it could be a disadvantage either way. The main thing you have to do as a football team is you have to deal with it, you have to cope with it, you have to wear the right cleats, you have to call the game accordingly – and you're not going to know until you get out there and get a feel for how the field conditions are and things like that. So, we'd like to think that we're a team built for all weather, for all conditions. That's something that we pride ourselves in, and we would like to think that we can go out there and perform well in those kinds of conditions."
John, you guys have played Peyton Manning a few times now. Do you think any of those games before have any influence or any bearing going into this game at all? (Jamison Hensley)"I do. I think every situation, every experience that you have, plays into your next opportunity – especially when you're talking about an opponent. And the offense is very similar to what he has run in the past in Indianapolis. They've built it around Peyton, and that's part of the great thing about it. They've done a great job of building the offense around their quarterback. Their whole offense has grabbed onto it with an enthusiasm, and they've executed it extremely well. So yeah, we'll apply all the lessons that we've learned over the years, and that's the best we can do with it."
John, when you played Denver last time, Joe Flacco made the error at the end of the first half. Did he beat himself up over it, or did he quickly get over it and turn the page? (David Ginsburg)"You'd have to ask him that. I really haven't thought about it or talked to him about it. He's OK."
QB Joe Flacco
On how he feels about playing in the cold, snow, high altitude and all the upcoming conditions:"It should be fun. We haven't had to deal with that much over the past couple of years. We've had pretty mild weather around here. But I think we'll all adapt pretty well to it and just be ready to go. I don't think it will affect us too much."
On the mentality a team must have on the road in the playoffs:"You just have to be ready to go into a hostile environment and play your best football. It's not going to be up and down with the crowd; they're going to be in it 100-percent for the whole game. Whatever that may give the opponent, we have to make sure that we go out there and we just play our best game and try to ignore it as much as possible. Maybe we listen to some of the boos and all that, and have it work in whatever way it works for us. But the bottom line is we have to go in there and just make sure that we have a good, sound week of practice and we work on all the things that could possible go wrong – just because of all the noise and things like that – and make sure we have an answer for it. [We need to] go in there with a sound game plan and just execute it well."
On how much playing Denver for a second time will give them a learning curve:"I think it's probably a little beneficial just because we played them a couple of weeks ago, and they are kind of fresh in our minds still a little bit. But having said that, they're a good football team, and we're a good football team, and we have to go in there and play a good one against them. It doesn't really matter what we learned from the last game. We've got to put that to work during the week and in the game plan, and then when it comes down to playing them on Saturday, just go out there and execute. I think some of our receivers will have a pretty good feel for how some of the guys locked up on them last time, and they'll probably come to me and give me a little bit of a head's up on how they feel about running routes on certain guys, and I think that will help us a little bit."
On if having a more mobile pocket last weekend helped with some of his success:"I think anytime you move the pocket, it keeps teams with pass rushers a little bit uneasy, at least about attacking one spot. And I think that's something we've been able to do over the past few weeks, and I think it's definitely helped us out a little bit."
On if he feels like he needs to score points knowing that QB Peyton Manning has the ability to score a lot of points:"Last time our defense played really well against these guys, and we have to let them go do their thing, and we have to go do our thing. I think just as always, our goal is to go in and score touchdowns. Obviously, they have a high-powered offense and can score at a pretty high rate, but like I said, you have to let our defense go do their job and have faith that they're going to play the game they always play. At the same time, we have to go out there and do the same."
On how much the first game against Denver stuck with him, especially the end of the first half when he threw the interception:"It stuck with me a couple minutes, and then I moved on and went out there and played some more snaps. And then when we lost, it stuck with me for a couple minutes again, and then we started getting ready for the next game and we went out and won it. Stuff like that happens. We didn't play well enough to win the first game. We had some turnovers, and obviously, I think one of them led to a field goal, maybe a touchdown, I don't know … And then obviously, the touchdown on the interception led to a touchdown. It was a touchdown. Stuff like that happens sometimes, and believe me, I'm the last guy that wants it to happen. But you've got to go out there and keep your head up and play the game, and I think I did a great job of rebounding from that, and I think our whole team did. That's why we are where we are right now, and we have to just … That's not in my mind at all going up to Denver this week. We feel confident, and I think we should."
On how he would describe rookie RB Bernard Pierce's development the last three weeks:"I think he's been playing pretty well all year. He's obviously a good running back. When you give him the ball, he makes guys miss and he has good vision, good balance, all the things that kind of go into playing well back there. I've seen it from Day One when he got healthy at the end of the preseason and started to give us something out there. You could tell that he was a good back."
On if it is important to have Pierce playing his best going into this game:"Oh yeah, no doubt about it. He's a good player, and when he's going, it adds something to our offense."
On if he's able to tap into what the playoffs mean to this city at this time of the year:"A good amount. It means a lot to us. This is where great teams are born and great players are born – coming up big in the playoffs and winning a lot of games. Having said that, you can just feel the energy around the city, and obviously, when we had the home game last week, you could feel how into it everybody was. So, I think it's pretty easy for us to see how excited everybody is, and we're excited ourselves."
On if there is any desire to prove to the world who the Ravens are going into this game as an underdog:"I think there's always a little bit of going out there and proving that we have the ability to win football games, and it doesn't surprise me that nobody would really give us too much of a shot. They beat us up pretty good a couple weeks ago. But, I think you always have that little chip that you want to go out there and prove to people that you're a good football team. Once the whistles blow on Saturday, we're just going to be focused on our job and all that stuff will kind of be in the background."
On his assessment of the offensive line last week, and how they were able to handle the pass rush:"We've seen some good pass rushers the last few weeks. We had Denver, then we had New York [Giants], then we had Cincinnati; they're three of the top pass-rushing teams in the league. Came back with Indianapolis, with the two guys on the outside, and I thought the line did a great job last week with Bryant [McKinnie] and K.O. [Kelechi Osemele] on the left and moving Mike [Oher] to the right. I thought they did a really good job. They played really well together, and I felt comfortable back there, and I think they'll do a good job this week."
On whether it's been a little more normal this week without all the pomp and circumstance surrounding LB Ray Lewis' last home game:"That was all cool, and it was just kind of awesome to be a part of. But to be honest with you, we practiced like it was a normal week. This week is a little bit different just because it's such a quick turnaround and we're back in here and had to practice today, and normally this would be our day to get prepared and all that. So, I think this week is a little bit different, and we're kind of just going and stepping right into it and not really thinking about too much. But I didn't really feel too much difference in last week, besides maybe the one day where he made the announcement."
On if he has any concerns about the altitude in Denver:"No."
**LB Ray Lewis
On what it's like facing Broncos QB Peyton Manning again:"You hear that time and time again, and I think for my team, the thing is it's not about facing Peyton; it's about facing the Denver Broncos. As a team, that's our No. 1 goal. Who are we going to play? Like I said, just sitting in the team meetings and just listening to everything, everything we've been talking about is going to play the team that has won 11-straight games. They have a very hot streak going right now. Arguably, they are the best team in football. If that's what it is, then let's line up and let's be who we are, and let's get ready to play the best team in football."
On how the weather conditions and altitude can affect his performance:"Look, if it was life or death, then you make it an issue. It's not life or death; it's just going out and playing [in] a different climate and whatever it is. They have to play in the same climate we are in whether they're acclimated to it or not. Coach didn't make it an issue, so we're not going to make it an issue. It's a 60-minute football game. It's not like we're going to run against [former Olympic sprinter] Michael Johnson or anything like that out there. We are just going to play a football game, and I don't think it'll be that big of an issue."
On if the altitude has ever affected him in Denver: "I've never really been affected by it, no, honestly, myself. Like I told the guys, 'Do what you have to do during the week to get yourself physically prepared to go a play a fast and physical football game.' But at the same time, you know you're going to be playing in some rough climates, but it's not like we're playing by ourselves. They're playing in the same climates we're playing in. Both teams have to do deal with it."
On how the team can put the emotions of last week's win behind it on a short week: "You don't have to turn it around – those emotions are gone. Last week was last week. Last week was, 'If you win, you keep moving.' Now, we closed that chapter. Now, it's a new chapter. It's the Divisional round, and we know what that round feels like. Our team is well-prepared for it. Like I said, right now, the way everything is going, arguably we are playing the best team in the AFC right now. So, let's just go see, because like I said, the emotions are going to be what they're going to be. When you go out to the next round, you move to the next round very quickly, and you're mentality has to move with it. You can't be running around here still celebrating last week. Last week is over."
On what the chess match with Manning is like on the defensive side of the ball:"It's just two people who understand the game very well, and offensively, he understands what things he wants to see, and defensively, we understand what things we don't want him to see. That's where the chess match comes in. You give him what he wants? He beats you. You give him what he doesn't want? Then you beat him. I think that's the way the game always plays out against us every time we play each other. We're back to one of those classic games again."
On how he feels physically and how the arm held up after the game:"I feel awesome. The arm held up incredibly great, so on to the next move."
On if Art Modell has been on his mind at all as of late:"Yeah, it's hard for it not to. Last week, when I came back, I put his shirt up under my other shirt. His legacy will never die. So, it's always something that's on my mind. Not just his, a lot of people that I've lost over the years, I take them with me every time I go on the football field. But, he is one of those special ones, and I know that if we have the ability to look down from heaven, then he is smiling. He is smiling because I know he'd be pulling in here right now saying, 'Here we go again.'"
On if he feels blessed to have played 17 years in the same city and established the relationship that he has with Baltimore:"Out of everything that's been going on, that's the biggest thing that has me more excited than anything, that I've been able to stay in one place for so long. You watch so many players go in and out and shuffle from team to team. For me to be here – I was 18 years old when I came here. I was a kid then and didn't have a clue what was going on. Now, I grew with this city, and this city grew with me. That's one thing that we will never have complicated. I will die a Raven. That being said, that's an awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome feeling. There's no greater achievement for me, myself, [than] to say that I've always been connected to one thing in my whole life."
On why he wore a shirt with "Psalms 91" on Sunday:"It's a safe place. A lot of things are always swirling around your life and pulls you in and out of this and pulls you in and out of that. But, when you read Psalms 91, and I will encourage anybody to read it no matter what you are going through in life, because it's a safe place. It's what God confirms, that when you feel yourself going through it, come to Him. Bring it to Him. For me, through the ups and downs, the roller coasters of 17 years, you have to find a safe place. You have to find that place that is very quiet in your head, and anytime I read it, anytime I come across it [in] my Bible, the first scripture in there is Psalms 91. An old military vet gave it to me. It was just special to read it over and over and over because you get insight from it every time. For me, I always like to display it to people because no matter what you are going through in life, we all need that safe place. We all need a place to go back to despite your religion, whatever you may want to claim. But, I think that, for me, has always stuck with me."
On if he has talked to Colts WR Reggie Wayne after he said that his dance at the end of the game was disrespectful:"No. I love him to death. Ray [Rice] kind of mentioned that to me. It wasn't about them at that time. That was about capping off a heck of a legacy for 17 years that when he was in Pop Warner playing football, I was in Baltimore. To salute my city that way … I guess the trot around the field was disrespectful, too? No. It wasn't even about [the Colts]. The game was over. Triple zeros; it was over. I didn't go towards their sideline and make no big issue of that, because I have never been that type of player. But, to salute my city, knowing that people love to see that … People love to see that, and not just people – my teammates were the ones that encouraged me the most, saying, 'Just go out and give it to us one more time, knowing that this will be the last time you actually do it in [M&T Bank] Stadium.' So, I don't take it a bad way. Of course, after a loss, everybody is bitter. I've felt the same way many times. I love Reggie to death. Reggie will tell you how much I love him, and it was never nothing personal between him and the Colts. I texted [Colts head coach] Chuck [Pagano] immediately after the game and told him how much I care for him, how much I love him. It wasn't even about them. It was about me honoring my team and honoring my city."
On his reaction when he hears the media say the Ravens have no chance Saturday at Denver:"You know much I have heard man say? Man said I wouldn't be playing the season again, but I'm back. Man doesn't dictate what you do or how you do it. If you believe in God, believe in God; have your faith in Him. That's where my faith lies. I don't get caught up in what this person feels like, that person feels like. I heard Tony Dungy say last week that he likes the Colts, that the Colts were going to come in here and beat us. Does that make him right or wrong? He's wrong this time. So, those are the things. I love Tony Dungy to death, but everybody has an opinion. Everybody has an opinion. Whatever that opinion is, let them have it. One thing about it, the game has to be played. No matter what anybody says or who they feel is going to win, you have to play the game on Sunday. That's the way we feel – let the game play out. Because at the end of the day, some people are going to be right, and some people are going to be wrong."
On if he relishes the role of being the hunter instead of the hunted:"My whole life. My whole life. I'll always go back to it, because we had to live it. My Super Bowl year in 2000, we were never picked one time the entire season to win a game. Not one time. But at the end of the day, we held the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champs. That alone taught me a valuable lesson, that nobody on the outside dictates how we play on the inside. Nobody controls what our emotions are. I don't read it, good or bad, because you can't. You can't because your world is your world. What your team believes in is in each other. That's what Divisional rounds are all about. The irony of this sport is if there is a winner, there's a loser. That's just simply the way it is."
RB Ray Rice
On what LB Ray Lewis means to him: "I actually went around and was asking people … I caught myself getting caught up so much in the moment of him retiring and hearing that message, because I've heard it. I've just heard it in bits and pieces where I didn't think the day was coming. What he's meant to me? He showed me what it was to be a professional, but he also showed me what it was to be a man. I think that just speaks volumes, because in terms of playing football, he makes it real for all of us. He knows that one day the game is going to fade, and he asks all of you a real question when you hear his messages: What will your legacy be? He puts you in a deeper process of deeper thought that where when we're all done, when we're all raising our kids and we're doing … There's a legacy being built in all of us. He always puts you in deeper thought, because a lot of his messages have a lot to do with football, but they have more to do with life. That's something that you don't get on a daily basis. Every speech that Ray Lewis [has given that] I've heard – whether I've heard it once or 60 times – I've taken something from it. That's something that we're going to truly miss around here. I'm sure he will come back and do it if we need [him] to, though."
On Lewis being a Raven his whole career and what he thinks about being a Raven for his entire career: "I would love to be in Baltimore forever. This place has become home for me. This place is where my family is at. When you think about what he's done, you think about the Baltimore Ravens. When you think about the NFL's history – not timing all the way back – but you think about a pioneer in the NFL … He's even changed the way some rules [are]. You can't hit people the same way anymore because of guys like that because of the grueling hits that … That's just a credit to him. Obviously, they wanted to make the game safer, but when you think about him playing in one team, one city, Baltimore Ravens, the first name you mention is Ray Lewis. That's just what it is. It's something that will never be taken away from him."
On if he would change anything about how he handled himself during Lewis' last game: "It was a perfect day. It wasn't a perfect day for me, but it was a perfect day to send him out. I took a lot from that game – a lot from that moment. I'm sure you all took a lot from it. It's something that you just don't plan on it. A guy that has played 17 years, won a Super Bowl, has all kinds of honors and the one last victory lap around the stadium just to soak up everything, it was just so emotional. What he's done for me … I'm sure he's done a lot for you all just the way he plays the game. To see that one victory lap, when I saw him come out of that tunnel, it was just an emotional-struck day for me. I'm glad I got to live to fight another day. You all know why."
On how much pressure is on the offense playing the Broncos to perform for a second time: "The Broncos – most sound team in football right now. I'm sure with the extra rest, they will be well-rested. One thing I want to do in this game as an offense is to not let their defense dictate how we play. If you saw the last game with guys out … We put all of it in perspective. Before that turnover, the game was … We didn't execute at a high level. Before that turnover, that's when the turn of events happened with guys out. We aren't going to make any excuses, but I don't want to go into that game letting their defense dictate how we play ball. We have a certain way we play around here. It's playoff football. We are going to go out there and give it our best shot, obviously, but my biggest thing this week is how we execute. They are a great defense. They are a great team. I'm not taking that away from them. They have earned the right to have their homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. With all our ups and downs, we have earned the right to get another shot."
On controlling the time of possession: "Peyton Manning is lights out. Give the guy an opportunity, he'll make you pay for it. But that's when, like you said, as an offense, it's our job to go out there and make it tough on them. Time of possession is always huge when you're playing against Mannings and Bradys. We have to go out there and execute, and then when we get in the red zone, we'd like to score – score touchdowns. That's the games I've seen them lose – people score touchdowns in the red zone. They are able to sustain drives and the time of possession is different."
On how big of a difference RB Bernard Pierce has made in the postseason stretch: "He's been great. I think when you draft a guy that high, you expect him to perform, but I think he has exceeded expectations. For a guy like me, when you sign a five-year deal, you think about how you even got here. Before I became the starter, obviously, there was Willis McGahee, and even when Willis was still here, we worked with each other to take care of each other. I just think that's how you last at running back in this league. The guys that continue to go out there and take a million snaps, your body is only going to have so many snaps in them. Coach [John] Harbaugh has done a great job of being able to rotate us in and out. I can honestly say I'm fresh. I'm fresh in the playoffs. I'm healthy. This is the best I've ever felt, but obviously, that's because I've had a guy come in when he gets in there, and we don't lose a step."
On how he would describe Pierce's running style: "Our styles are different. He's a slashing, one-cut guy. Obviously, he has speed as well. I think that's where he gets overlooked, because when he hits it, he goes. He's a strider."
On how he feels about playing in 20-degree weather and playing in the altitude: "No, I'm an up-North boy. I haven't seen any mountains. I haven't seen anything. But, I've heard it's going to be cold. I've heard it's going to snow. I am used to playing in the cold. That's one thing I am. I'm a New Yorker, but the altitude is something that you have to get used to. Is that something to their advantage? I don't know. We'll get used to it. I guess they say after the first drive – whatever it is – you get acclimated to the air. So, if I need oxygen, I'll get it, but I'll be back out there."
On if he tries to forget after he fumbles the ball: "You can look at my resume and you can ask yourself, 'Am I a fumbler?' (Reporter: "You've had one fumble all year.") That's what I'm saying. For me, it's always a short-term memory. I'm not being bland about the comment, but if you look at the way I protected the ball, I was only trying to do something that I've been doing – make plays. As a runner, there's a certain time where you have to be smart, and going to the playoffs, I have to be smart. Obviously, we won that game, but there's a time where you make a guy miss where you could have took him straight on. I made the guys miss, and the guy made a great play. That's usually when stuff happens. It's not the first guy; it's the second guy that makes the play. As a runner, you learn from it. It's not something that I'm used to do, obviously. I'm used to scoring touchdowns and making plays. I will continue to try to make plays, but I'll be smarter."
On if it's frustrating that he has a target on his back against opponents: "I had 100 all-purpose yards. As a rusher, I think 70 yards in the playoffs is pretty decent. In terms of passing – I'm an all-purpose guy – so I really don't understand that questions in being limited."
On only having one game where he has rushed for over 70 yards: "It's 2013. We play the Denver Broncos this week. Yes, being a target … If you look at some of the games where maybe I've been limited in rushing, if you really scout football, there might be times where in the pass game I took out two defenders so one guy can get open. There are times where I'm rushing, and there's a fake where Joe Flacco can fake it to me, and there's an over route coming across the middle. Playoffs are not about stats. Playoffs, for me, are about winning games. If it's being a decoy, that's sometimes what you have to be. I like having the target on my back. I love it, because … I think Aaron Rodgers said it, 'You play the regular season – that's what you get paid for. But in the playoffs, you are building a legacy.' Obviously, I want to be a guy that's remembered by his playoff play. It's time to step it up another level, if that's what you're implying. But, me being a target is unhidden. There are hidden stats in there, that if you really studied the game, that help out a lot by me just being on the field. You have to know where I'm at at all times."