HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH
Opening statement:"OK, [I] appreciate everyone being here. Just first up, [we] want to express our condolences for [Mississippi State head] Coach Mike Leach and his family [and his] Mississippi State football family there. I didn't know him personally, but [I had] a lot of respect for him as a coach over the years and how he changed the game of football in so many ways. I want to express that on behalf of the organization. What questions do you have?"
Are there influences from Hal Mumme and Mike Leach's offense that you think are in your offense? (Jonas Shaffer) "Absolutely. No question – that whole kind of idea, in terms of going fast, spreading people out, seeing what the defense looks like, running the play based on that has been transformative. So, all those guys – and Coach [Mike] Leach was definitely one of the first guys to do that. [It was] really [an] out of the box kind of the way he saw the game. And, [he] stuck to it. He never was apologetic in any way. He did it differently and did it really well."
We saw QB Tyler Huntley at practice today. Is he out of the concussion protocol, or are there still parts he has to clear? (Bo Smolka) "It's part of the process, what he did today. Yes, he's in the protocol, and he was allowed to do walk-through."
I know it's only been a couple of games, but what are your impressions of QB Deshaun Watson since coming back? (Luke Jones) "He looks like Deshaun Watson; he looks the same. We're preparing for that. What we've seen from their offense in the last two weeks, also the things that he's kind of been known for in Houston offensively. That's what we'll try to make sure we prepare for."
RB Nick Chubb had 91 yards on 16 carries against you the first time he played you. What do you have to do to slow him down? (Todd Karpovich) "That's the big task; there's no doubt about it. It's their run game. They're still averaging I think 150-plus [yards] a game – one of the top-rated run offenses in football. They run their runs; they run their plays. Then, they add a little bit more of an element with Deshaun Watson at quarterback because they have some of the quarterback read stuff added to that, and the RPOs, so it just makes them that much more of a challenge to defend."
Is it still too early to tell if QB Tyler Huntley will be able to go on Saturday? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, he's still in the [concussion] protocol."
Does your one-day shorter week feel compressed, and is it better when you're facing an opponent you see twice and year and whom you know well? (Bo Smolka) "Probably yes and yes. It does feel compressed; it's just a different pace. The guys had to get out here and kind of get at it. We had to really ... You miss a day in preparation, but it's not unusual. We have six-day schedules that we kind of prepare ahead of time, so everybody knows the format."
CB MARLON HUMPHREY
On if it's different going against a QB like Deshaun Watson, who hasn't produced much game film over the past few years: "Yes, it is. 700 days is a lot of days. Obviously, we played the Browns earlier, with [Jacoby] Brissett, but they paid a lot of money to Deshaun [Watson] and have a lot of faith in him, and he's obviously one of those Top 5, Top 10 quarterbacks in the league. [There's] limited film, [and] it's kind of only heating up, so it's not really the best time to play him, but we look forward to the challenge. It's good to see him back out there."
On if there's a feeling of wanting to "Welcome" a new AFC North quarterback: "Yes, we want to give him a not-so-soft welcoming. So, it's cool to welcome him to the rivalry. Hopefully, it won't be a good rivalry-welcoming for him, but it's always … I think it's interesting to see when guys come in this AFC North; it's not sweet over here. It's interesting to see how it will be. I love how basically all the teams now are just good in the AFC. It just makes the game so much [more fun]; it makes the rivalries so much better. I know he's going to be there for a while, so I'll be matching up against him for a while."
On his favorite thing about watching ILBs Patrick Queen and Roquan Smith play together: "On the field, I just feel like I see Raven flashes going across me. So, since 'Ro' [Roquan Smith] got here, I just feel like it's made 'PQ' [Patrick Queen] be able to just play so much faster, just because I feel like he carried a lot of the load in the past, and now he knows 'Ro' has his back and ['Ro'] knows vice versa. So, it's really cool playing with those guys, seeing the stuff they do. I didn't even … There were a couple plays on film that I didn't even know … Those guys are some monsters. That duo is looking really deadly. So, I think since 'Ro' has [been] here, it's been great for how he's been playing – just seeing how he plays. I already knew how 'PQ' played, but to see 'PQ' take it another level has been … I kind of didn't think that could happen, but it can. So, it's been great playing with those guys."
On ILB Roquan Smith's communication and if he can ever hear him on the field: "Yes, [Roquan Smith] communicates a lot. He communicates. He talks a lot, too, off the field, as well. He will let you know quickly about … He's very honest. He's very honest. He will tell you to do your job, [and] he will make fun of you when you're complaining about this. We call him 'Uncle Ro.' He's got a very old soul. [He] plays his country tunes; [he] runs to the ball; he eats the same breakfast every morning – I watch him. So, he's a cool guy to be around. He's a true southern guy, which I heard when he came in. But his communication on the field is really great. I think it helps out everybody when he's yelling loud enough for the other team to hear and the fans to hear. So, that helps a lot. But he's a communicator in all aspects of life. So, it's good, it's good."
On what S Kyle Hamilton's skillset has added to the defense:"It's been huge. I think ever since … Kyle [Hamilton] is obviously that unicorn that we drafted that we expected him to be, and now that we've kind of figured out his best role in this set of players we have for this defense this year, he's like an undersized linebacker that just when you come to block, you've got to get ready. A lot of wide receivers cannot block the guy, and when you just insert him in there … Obviously, we know what he can do covering, but I think he surprised a lot of guys with what he's been able to do on [special] teams [and] not only teams, but also on the defense – just shedding blocks. Any time they throw the screen to Kyle's side, I don't really have to do much tackling. He usually handles the blocker and the tackle for me. So, he's been able to really help this defense and just give us a lot of different looks that we didn't really necessarily have before. But, it's been a really good addition having him at that nickel/slot role."
ILB PATRICK QUEEN
On the defense allowing the second-fewest points in the NFL since Week 9 and if they are happy with where they are:"Yes, obviously, we're happy with where we're at, but we're not satisfied at all. I think the biggest thing is knowing that we gave points up when we shouldn't have the last few games. So, the biggest thing for us is just executing the calls and communicating [and] making sure that we're all on the same page, because when we're not on the same page, [in the early part of the season] we were giving up plays here and there, unfortunately. I think that's the biggest thing that we can build on now, is just being able to communicate and trust each other."
On him and ILB Roquan Smith both playing better since they got paired up:"I don't know; God. Just [us] trusting each other, going out there [and] playing football, just having the utmost trust and comfort with each other and just playing the calls that they're giving us. I think we both know how great we can be, and I think that's pushing us to be better than what we've been playing."
On the most interesting things he's learned about ILB Roquan Smith since he got here as a player and person: "As a player, he just has a great motor; he doesn't stop. If you watch film, you see every play he runs to the ball non-stop with his hair on fire and really lights somebody up. Then as a guy, [he is] the most talkative guy in the [meeting] room. He's an all-around good guy; a great player, a physical player. How he acts as a person, you wouldn't take him to be such a physical guy, but yes."
On what he has seen from QB Deshaun Watson on film so far:"[He is] still the same guy that he used to be, still a great quarterback, still can move, still can make the throws on the move. [He] can still do everything that any other quarterback can do. So, the biggest thing with him is just trying to keep him in the pocket and limiting the things he does well."
On head coach John Harbaugh saying after the game that no one can talk about his hands after his interception last week and what his teammates said to him after it:"[They said,] 'You still have to prove that you have hands.' (laughter)No. For the most part, everybody has been pretty happy about what I've been doing. It was just the point of me going out there and doing it. They've seen me catch in practice; they've seen me do it. So, it was just taking it from practice to the game. So, I think everybody is just mostly happy with me coming down with the catches that I've been having."
On if he got a beat on the throw pretty early on before his interception since he had to make a leaping grab:"Yes, I figured. There were two wide receivers over here, [and No.] '88' [Pat Freiermuth] on the other side, so I just knew there were like three things he runs from over there. So, I just already knew what he was about to do."
On if the way he is playing right now what he pictured of himself when he came out of college:"In college – I'm not going to lie – In college, I really didn't even envision myself in the NFL, like what I would be doing in the NFL, how great I would be doing. I really live in the moment; I don't really try to look at the future too much. I just try to do the best I can with where I'm at in that point in time, but right now, I think I can still take it up another notch, a couple more notches, actually. I think the sky's the limit for us and our defense."
On if he wants to say 'I told you' to people who doubted he could play at this level:"I think that people just try to find the 'out guy' and just try to blame somebody for stuff that happens. There were some instances where I could have played better, could have done better things. At the same time, I think I was just getting a lot of the blame for a lot of stuff that was going on. So, if they were on their side, [I would] tell them they're still on their side; If they were on my side – and they were always on my side – they're welcome."
On the defensive line's performance even without NT Michael Pierce: "I think that it's the standard that we have here. I think that starts with the front office and stuff [and] the guys that they bring in. I think it's just how we act in our defensive room. It's the whole team surrounding each other, embracing each other, trusting each other, just knowing that we're all going to go out there and do our job individually. I think that leads to the success of every player that's on the team. So, when guys go down, you just know that the next guy has to step up and just do your job to the best of your ability, and we'll all be fine."
On what he hears from offensive linemen when he and ILB Roquan Smith are both lined up in the A-gaps:"Sometimes, some teams have tells. Like, they'll be saying words, or they'll slide too, if they'll be picking us both up, or whatever it may be. For most teams, they really don't say anything. Like, you just have to go up there [and] you just have to guess, or you just have to just hope one of us gets through and miss or something. I don't know. Whatever the center is thinking at that time, that's on him. I'm just trying to make my money and stuff."
On what he said to ILB Roquan Smith after he cleaned up the sack on a pressure from both of them in last Sunday's game at Pittsburgh:"I told him, 'It's a free Christmas gift. Don't expect any more, though.'"
On what makes TE David Njoku so challenging to defend and formidable as a tight end:"He does it all; run block, pass block, [he] can run routes, [he] can break. He has all the tools in his box. He's great; he does it all. He's fast [and] strong. Like I said, he does all those things that he can do. So, the biggest thing with him is just trying to limit what he does well. I think – with him being injured – that he's still going to come back and be fired up to get after us again because usually he has success against us for some reason. So, that's the biggest thing that we're looking at, is how to stop him."
On if having S Kyle Hamilton – a large player at nickel – on the field will be helpful in stopping TE David Njoku: "Yes, definitely. I think that Kyle [Hamilton] can handle the job. Whoever that is [and] wherever he ends up, I think we just all have to do our best job of just knowing how to use him, what he does best and try to eliminate those things."
On if he has gone back to watch any tape of QB Deshaun Watson in Houston:"I think [we are] pretty much just watching Cleveland and what they do. I don't think that Cleveland will change what they do. I think they will throw in some wrinkles here and there and stuff, but I think for the most part, they have what they want in place. He does a great job of being more mobile than Jacoby [Brissett], but I think for the most part they're still the same, true Browns offense that they have been."
T RONNIE STANLEY
On if it ever gets any easier in the AFC North: "No, none of these games are easy, honestly, especially when it comes to these pass rushers. Teams always … That's kind of one of the first positions they kind of look for to be an elite defense. So, yes, we know we have a challenge ahead of us."
On how he maintains his level of play following absences due to injury: "For me, it's always been about technique. I would just say that's just been my focus, and the lack of time I've been able to spend [getting] reps has made it more important that my technique has to be on point – for the limited time of practice I've had. So, it's just been a really extreme focus on my technique and being able to repeat that process at any given point."
On splitting the difference with a blitzer and the edge rusher to get his hands on both of them:"It can only happen in certain moments where the timing kind of works out, where they're kind of meeting at the same intersection, and you can kind of split the difference. But sometimes they're too far apart, and I just have to pick one and kind of go with it. But I just understand that [with] the concept, we don't have any help in the backfield, [and] I know the quarterback is going to have to throw hot, so I'm just trying to take as much pressure off of him as possible, and it's just kind of a natural reaction."
On if it's as good a feeling as any to hear from the opponent that they knew what was coming but still couldn't stop it:"Yes, I think so. I think that's the best compliment you can have as an offensive lineman – is to be able to run the ball in those situations when you've got to have it, [and] both teams [and] everyone in the stadium knows what's going on. So, we were able to execute [last Sunday in Pittsburgh], and we got the job done."
On what stands out to him about G Kevin Zeitler: "[Kevin Zeitler's] commitment to his craft. And I would say Kevin [Zeitler] is a technician as well. He's always thinking about his technique. And I know you see videos online of him always working on it, walking through stuff, and that's really how he is. And beyond that, he's just a beast of a man. He's a big guy, and he's a really strong man, and he plays the game the right way – a lot like Marshal [Yanda]. So, he's really a great stronghold for us in there."
On if there is a lighter side to G Kevin Zeitler: "Oh, yes, for sure. He's very sarcastic. He has a very great sense of humor, honestly, but he reserves that for his close boys." (laughter)
On how different the running game is with RBs J.K. Dobbins and Gud Edwards back: "It's a tremendous boost when you have guys like [J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards] just getting back. Those are starting-caliber backs on any team, and it showed on Sunday. We have faith in all of our backs in that room, but those guys, they're definitely special in the different abilities they have. I'm sure people saw it Sunday, and those guys aren't even back to their full strength yet, and they're playing at a high, high level."
On how he's seen G Ben Powers grow into an established starter: "Yes, Ben [Powers] has grown a lot. He's really taking control of his fate in this league, and he's done a great job. There's no drop-off I see from Ben or any other starting guard I've ever played with. He's playing at a high level, and I have full, complete trust that he's going to do his job. That's just how it is with him. He's a great guy, as well."