Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement:"Good to see everybody. It's a lighter crowd today. Thanks for coming out. We made a roster move; we brought Ray Lewis onto the active 53-man roster, which according to NFL rules – this is all new this year, so you were right – we had to bring those guys up this week. Ray Lewis is up, and we put LaQuan Williams on IR [Injured Reserve]. He has a hamstring that's been bothering him, and he tweaked it in the game. That's where we are at right now."
**That doesn't change anything about Ray [Lewis], right? You still stand by the same thing that you said Sunday? He won't play this Sunday? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"Correct."
**Is there perhaps an emotional difference knowing that he's on the active roster versus being on the Injured Reserve/Designated for Return? *(Ed Lee) *"I haven't noticed any emotional difference, no. It seems the same."
**Is there a morale difference [with Ray Lewis being on the active 53-man roster]? *(Ed Lee) *"No, I haven't noticed that either. Morale has been good either way."
**What did you see from OLB Adrian Hamilton in his first game up? *(Ryan Mink) *"He did a nice job on special teams. He covered kicks well. He was on the punt return team, and obviously, that's a role that we will be working on expanding for him – where he can get to the point where he can play on three and then four phases, and also, his defensive role. He's still learning the defense, but we would like to get him out there and see how he does on that, too."
**Is he a guy that has a lot of potential, defensively? *(Ryan Mink) *"That's why he's here. He's got pass rush potential. He had a bunch of sacks in college, and he's shown that in practice. The way it works basically with these guys, as you know, you develop them all year. Every single practice is an opportunity to develop players, and he's been working really hard, and we hope he's ready. That's the plan. We try to bring him along when opportunity presents [itself] with a guy being prepared and ready to contribute."
**How difficult is the decision as a coach when you have to balance players' rest, playoffs, your ultimate goal and a game on Sunday? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"There's probably a degree of difficulty there. I'm not sure really how to really measure that other than the fact that you just always try to do what you think is best for you team, all things considered. There are a lot of factors involved with that. There's no formula here. What we try to do is do what's best for us to be the best team we can be in the playoffs. Part of that is playing as well as we can this week. We're going to [try to] win the football game, but we have other considerations to take into account as well. Some of that has to do with different guys' health, and there are some domino effects with that. The No. 1 thing to keep in mind is you have to go play all out to win the football game. You have to. That's the 46 guys who are active. They have to be a part of that, because if you don't, this game's not made for that. That's what we will be doing."
*How good was it to see S Bernard Pollard back out on the field the little bit [we saw] in the open portion of practice? (Luke Jones) *"It was great. Bernard [Pollard] went through the full practice, so he was a full participant in practice. That was great to see. Obviously, going forward, he is a big, big part of what we are doing – big part of our defense."
The fact that you guys still have a chance to be the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs, how much of that is a motivating factor for the team? (Ed Lee)"It's a motivating factor; it's important. It's something that could help us."
*The Pro Bowl rosters are announced tonight. As a coach, obviously, the last few years you have had quite a few guys selected to that team. How does that make you feel? I know you're about the team, but so many players recognized individually... *(Luke Jones) *"It really is a great thing. That's something that you really feel so good for those guys, especially a number of guys have made it a number of years in a row. You look at a guy like Ed Reed, who has made it all these years in a row. It almost becomes expected, but then what an accomplishment that really is if he were to make it. Have you guys seen the list yet? *(Reporters: "No.") OK. (laughter) If he were to make it … Then all the guys that are doing it for the first time, it's just a great thing. Also, I think most of us look at it like it's a team thing. Vicariously, we all take pride in that. When a guy makes it on offense, all the guys on offense feel like they were a part of that. It's a big deal."
ILB Dannell Ellerbe
On what he feels is at stake in the game against Cincinnati on Sunday:"We just want to go out there and play Ravens football. We want to go out there and show the world that we are getting better at the end of the year, and we are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs."
On if he would be disappointed if playing time was eased up on Sunday: "No, I wouldn't. We are going to do what is best for the team. Whatever the coaches' say, we are going to do it, but we are still going to go out there and try to win. We are going to go out there and play hard."
On what it means to see LB Ray Lewis activated to the 53-man roster, and what it would mean to get him back for the playoffs: "It's the greatest linebacker to ever play the game. That's always going to be a big boost. His leadership, his determination to come back from his injury, it's going to give the whole team a boost. We are just looking forward to getting him back, because we all know what he brings to the game."
On if he would be surprised if he didn't see Lewis play in the playoffs: "Yes, I would be surprised, but I have high hopes. I know he's going to be out there, because he's Ray Lewis. He's not going to sit down. If he feels like he can go, he's going to go."
On what Lewis has meant to his career: "He means a lot to my career. Being around a legendary guy like that, being in the film room with him and just getting bits and pieces of how he takes notes, how he studies, what he sees, what his thoughts are on how to play plays – of course it's going to make you better. On top of that, you don't want to let him down when you're on the field, so you're going to give it your all. It's helped out my career a lot."
On if Lewis is able to point out things differently versus him being on the field: "Yes, it's a different thing when you watch from the sidelines, because you get to see the whole game instead of being out there and focusing on what you have to do and come to the sidelines and look at the pictures. When you're on the sidelines, he's looking at all positions, and he can tell everybody what he sees."
On how it felt for him to get back out there: "It felt great to be back out there after the three weeks off. It was killing me watching my team, but I knew [I wasn't] going to go out there and help them make plays and make the defense better. But the ankle, it held up. I'm not going to say it's 100-percent, but it's good enough to go."
On if Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis reminds him of any running backs he has faced in the past: "He's sort of like a Trent Richardson, but without all the jump cutting and stuff. He's a downhill guy. He lands forward when you tackle him. He fights for extra yards. He's not a fumbler. He's just a good guy all the way around."
On his approach to containing Green-Ellis: "We are just going to have to go in there and play defense. We're going to have to wrap [him] up. We are going to have to be sure tacklers and play within the defense and do our jobs. I felt like we did a good job against the run the last couple of weeks and we're getting better."
On if they are just focusing on tackling Green-Ellis instead of trying to strip the ball: "We are focusing on tackling, but the first guy will hold him up and the next guy's going to come get him. We aren't going to go for the strip or a rip."
QB Joe Flacco
On his impressions of Bengals DT Geno Atkins:"He's a good player. Obviously, from my point of view, it's just kind of listening to what your offensive line says. We've been playing him for a few years now, and I think our guys on the front would tell you that he's a very good player and have a lot of respect for him."
On if Atkins seems more dangerous as a pass rusher or a run stopper:"He's just an all-around player; he's good at both. He's just a guy that's in there, and he's a strong player, and I think he shows that he does both of them really well."
On how he looks at the game this weekend:"You just look at it like you would any other game. We're preparing to win the football game, and that's what we plan on doing."
On how he felt the up-tempo offense went last week, if he enjoyed it, and if he plans to see more of it going into the playoffs:"Yeah, definitely. Obviously, it worked pretty well and there are always things that we can work on. We're working every week to improve those things and get as good as we can get. But it was a good point, and a good game for us to build off of and try to kind of carry into the next few weeks."
On if there was a better sense of communication and comfort with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell last week:"I don't think so. I think it's been pretty good, and I think it's always going to be a work in progress, and get better and better and better. I couldn't tell you I noticed too much difference from Week One to Week Two. That was one of the things that we tried to do very well Week One, and I think we probably grew a little bit in Week Two, but it was pretty similar for myself."
On if rest is a motivating factor this week heading into the playoffs:"Listen, like I said, we're preparing to go win this football game, but bottom line is we want to win games in the playoffs. So, that always goes into the thought process."
On if there is any pride in the adversity this team has overcome this season:"I think there's a pride factor in winning our division. It's a tough division, it's a tough league, and we have been through a lot. We've looked a lot of things right down the barrel and dealt with them head on. So, yeah, I think there's a lot of pride that we can take in what we've accomplished throughout the year; dealing with the adversity and still being able to come out – maybe not quite as well as we wanted to – but still pretty darn good. We fought our way through a lot of stuff."
**RB Ray Rice
Opening statement:"Happy Holidays. I hope everybody had a great Christmas. I had the best Christmas of my life, I promise you. It was unbelievable. *(Senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne: "How was your daughter?") *It got me in my feelings. Seeing my little one running around, opening gifts, climbing on my legs, pushing little carts around; she is turning into a little athlete."
On what is at stake in Sunday's game at Cincinnati:"I always go with the mindset that it's never over until it's over. Obviously, we won the division, solidified a playoff spot, but you just want to finish the season off right. Finishing off right is being able to say that we won the division, but we controlled the division. So, this game does matter. We want to go there and win – that's No. 1. We want to go there and win. Obviously, what's at stake is a win, basically. You know how it goes. We could be the fourth seed or third, and all that other stuff that really we control, but it's out of our control. Once you start something, you have to finish it. Our goal was [to] come in, not only win the division, but it was also to control it. We did our thing against Cleveland, split with Pittsburgh and right now we are 1-0 vs. Cincinnati. But, you also want to finish [being able to say] – if you sweep them – you're 2-0."
On if he would be disappointed if the starters were rested on Sunday:"That's the coach's decision. That's never going to be our decision. Right now, we came out and had a great practice. All of the starters practiced. We're ready to go. That's a decision that [head] coach [John] Harbaugh will make. Obviously, that's what he wants to do, but for me, I was out there [taking] full reps, full-go. We're preparing to play this whole game."
On if it is strange to have a little control of who they will play in the first round of the playoffs:"I was always saying, back to a couple weeks ago when we were in our little skid, that we only needed to win that one, maybe two games. But, we had some help along the way, and we only needed to win one. Winning that one last week really put you in a – not rest mode – but it put you in a, 'Wow, alright.' For me, it was, 'Wow. Five years in the playoffs.' You have some guys that play 10, 13 years who have never been in the playoffs. For me to say every one of my NFL years I have been in the playoffs, you have to sit back and reflect. It's a blessing, but it shows the greatness we have in this organization, the greatness we have in the team. It does feel different that you are going into a game, knowing that your situation is sort of controlled already. But, if you know the AFC North, and you know what coach Harbaugh is preaching, and you know what we want to build around here, we want to win every game."
On how difficult he thinks it has been for LB Ray Lewis to watch from the sideline, and how much of an impact Lewis can make in the playoffs:"Knowing Ray Lewis – and I'll just be honest – he could have played last week. I just know that's the Ray Lewis I know. But, it comes [to a] certain thing [that] you call the gut instinct. His gut instinct told him to not play. But, he also felt firmly that if we just get him to the playoffs that we were going to be OK. Obviously, that takes a lot. It wasn't easy. He's our leader. He's our guy. We did our job. Our job was to get him to the playoffs. That's where we're at. If Ray Lewis comes back this week, that's still up to him. Right now, we know for a fact that some time in the playoffs, we'll have Ray Lewis."
On if the fact that Lewis will be back is a motivating factor:"My locker is right next to him. I kid with him every week. I call him my modern day Superman. So, when you don't see Superman suited up, you ask what's going on. You know him; he knows his body better than all of us. Obviously, he's been working very hard. Even when he had his first day back at practice, you saw practice change. He is that kind of guy where he comes in the building and the whole mood changes. He has that ability. Even when he is back out at practice, it was just great knowing that he was back out there with us. You are talking about an injury – same thing that happened with [Terrell] Suggs – that could have taken a whole year. But, these guys work, work, work, and obviously, had great surgeries, and they are back on the field with us in the same season."
On how special it is to be named to the Pro Bowl:"I am just looking forward to seeing what happens. Honestly, the ultimate goal is the Super Bowl. I always put that out there. But, to have that amount of respect around the league is something that you never take for granted. People respect the kind of work you put in on and off the field, because it comes from everybody. People can talk about what they want about the fans. The fans vote, players vote and coaches vote, so you are getting a three-way respect when you hear your name called, so that's special."
On if he takes a lot of satisfaction when lesser-known guys, such as FB Vonta Leach, get Pro Bowl recognition:"Yeah, I always laugh when I hear Vonta, because the relationship we have is bigger than football – same thing with Ray [Lewis] and me. That guy has been [through] nine years of battering people around. I told him, good luck to you, buddy. You are a better man than I am. So, I try to do my best to take care of him when I can."
On if he remembers the last time he played in Cincinnati, when he rushed for 191 yards:"I definitely remember it. It was a great way to finish the year. I think that's when we clinched the AFC North, that game. I'm sure that's something that they remember. They are going to go in saying, 'We got the Ravens again. We can't let them come in here running all wild like they did last year.' They are a great football team. There's a reason why they made the playoffs. I think they're the most improved team in football, to be honest, because if you look at them from the time they played us [earlier in the year] to the time we're playing them now, that's a totally different football team. They've figured it out on all ends, playing great defense. On offense, they are able to run the football. That's what good teams do."
On getting 24 carries and six catches on Sunday vs. the New York Giants:"That was the magic number. *(laughing) *It felt pretty good, and actually, coming into this week, I felt pretty good. The thing is with me, I was fresh going into that game. I give my head coach credit; coach Harbaugh took care of us. He took care of us during the week, and let us guys go out there, practice smart, and when it came to the game, we came out there ready to play."
On how much momentum means to the team:"That momentum, it's sort of like you were going to say: stop the bleeding. We know what kind of pressure we were under. We're not used to that losing streak. We were able to always bounce back after one [loss]. So, that was something that was different for us. To know that the playoffs are around the corner – I said it on Sunday – we are talking about a Ravens team who are battle-tested. There is nothing that you could throw at us that we haven't dealt with. We've dealt with injury. We've even dealt with death with one of our teammates' family members. We've dealt with everything else you can imagine during one year. So, this team right here is focused. You are talking about a team that has been through a lot of adversity. To win the AFC North – no matter how you've done it – you did it. We're battle-tested going forward, and that makes me feel good about this team, because it's different. It's different than any other year. You guys have seen what's going on around here. You've seen the changes that we've made. We've always responded to a change and adversity, and we're ready to play."