Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "Good to see everybody. We're just getting started here. Preparing for the Chiefs is the main part of our week. I want to wish the Orioles luck tonight. It's going to be big. They have a chance to make up that game and force a playoff. Hopefully they can get that done. They are down in Tampa."
Do you find yourself second-guessing managers in baseball games? (Nestor Aparicio)"I do not. I do not. I am a loyal. I have total confidence in [Orioles manager] Buck [Showalter]. 'Buckle Up,' go play. It will be fun; it's great. It's interesting the way these playoffs work, in every sport. You can be anywhere from division champion, and get the benefits of that, to lower seed Wild Card. And, we've been in the situation a lot, too. It's always a fight."
John, have the Orioles been a topic of discussion in the locker room among the players and coaches? (Brett Hyman)"We talk about it a little bit. Everybody is excited about the Orioles and about baseball in general. It's a great time of year for baseball. Most of the topic is football, but every now and then you get a little break and you talk about something else. We've got a lot of topics of conversation around here, as you guys made note from some of the articles that have been out recently. I try to stay away from most of those."
John, is there a sense that team is a little fresher with the longer layoff than normal? Do you get the sense on the field that guys have a little bit more spring in their step?**"We do. Obviously, we had two short, short weeks. To have a little bit longer week, the guys seem like they are bouncing around. They did a good job taking care of themselves over the weekend and Monday and Tuesday."
Why do you think the run defense has played better since Week 1? You guys are only allowing two or three yards a carry since that game. (Matt Vensel)"We've played better. It's nothing really schematic. We're playing the same defense we've played. Our guys up front have just tightened it up a little bit. We're playing the kind of technique that we want to play up front. Our linebackers are fitting in well with the defensive line, and we are getting great support from our secondary. It's just good, basic football."
Specifically with the outside linebackers, it seems like that's an area that Albert McClellan, Courtney Upshaw and Paul Kruger have done a better job at setting the edge since that first week. (Matt Vensel)"They have. Until you are in that situation, probably in any type of situation, when you do it for real, and you're the guy who is responsible for doing it over the course of the whole game and staying consistent doing it, it's a different challenge. And those guys, they learned from the first week a little bit, and they are doing well."
Offensively, you guys have been able to move the ball downfield with a lot of success. Is there a key to that or a main reason for that? (Garrett Downing)"There are a lot of reasons for it. Football is like that. You've got 11 guys going against 11 guys. So, it just multiplies the factors that are involved in that. When you get the ball downfield, there are a lot of things that go into it, and obviously, it starts with protection. So, you just build from there."
What kind of change of pace does Shaun Draughn and Peyton Hillis, if healthy, give this running game, coupled with Jamaal Charles? (Jason Butt)"Those guys run more of the downhill runs, more of the lead-type runs, and they are very good at it. Draughn is a heck of a player; he's been very explosive. And Hillis, we all know him and the issues we've had with him in the past. But, Jamaal Charles is the straw that stirs the drink, to use a Yankees' analogy. He's really special. He can run them all – the inside plays, the outside plays. He's not just a guy who tries to run outside, though he does. He can cut it back. He cut it all the way back last week against San Diego; someone brought that up. I did get a chance to see that play. He's a very special player. [The Chiefs] have a heck of a run game."
John, you mentioned the differences in winning the division and being the Wild Card. Is it over simplifying to say that, for good teams, games on the road will determine the difference in being a Wild Card or division winner? (Glenn Clark)"Well, it probably is. Hopefully, we do play well enough over the long haul to be in that position to have a game or two make a difference. But, all these games matter. That's why you get so frustrated when you let games get away, and you're so thrilled when you win a game, because they count for so much. Especially in football, there are 16 [games]. If you do the math, one of our games is 10 of their games in baseball. So, you talk about how important a 10-game win streak is in baseball; that's how important one game is in football on the final standings. All these games just mean so much."
Are there different things you can do on the road to prepare more? (Glenn Clark)"Every game is the same in the sense that every game is different. Every game stands on its own two feet. It's just a matter of how well you go play. It's a matter of how well you take care of the football, if you score points in the red zone, if you stop the run, if you play special teams [well]. [You need to] make a play here or there and find a way to win the game. Yes, it's more difficult. The stats will tell you that. Obviously, home teams have an edge over visiting teams historically in the NFL. So, it's a little tougher."
When you run the no-huddle on the road, is that just an inherent issue on the road no matter where you play? When you decide to run that offense, you are giving yourself a little bit of a challenge on the road. (Nestor Aparicio)"You are from your standpoint, because you have to communicate things really clearly. But, the other side of that coin is that it is really tough on the defense. The defense has to communicate, too. So, they're getting a call in, they're making checks, they're adjusting to motions and things like that. And if the crowd is really loud, it challenges the defense as well. So, we'd like to say we could use that to our advantage as well."
With LaQuan Williams being inactive the last couple of weeks, is he just kind of a victim of the numbers game? Or what does he need to do to be activated? (Garrett Downing)"It's just whatever 45 guys give you the chance to do the best. Sometimes it's a combination of what a guy might do on special teams, what a guy does for you offensively and defensively. His chance is coming, no doubt about it. He's been practicing really well. He does a great job. He's played a lot for us. We've got a lot of confidence in LaQuan, and he's going to be out there soon enough."
John, is it difficult to play a team struggling because you know they are trying to steal a win? (Bill West)"They're fighters. They're a very talented football team. When you look at the statistics, they're way out in front in every statistical category except one – and that's turnovers. And they know that. So, I'm sure they feel like if they can get that part of it cleaned up, they've got a great chance of winning football games. I'm sure that's probably true. So, we're going to have to deal with that football team at their best, and that's what we'll be expecting to see."
John, can you talk about Anquan Boldin's game Thursday and what kind of a season he is having so far? (Kevin Cowherd)"Happy birthday to Anquan, first of all. It's his birthday today, so that's a big deal. He gave us all a present last Thursday with the way he played. He's a star. He's one of the premier players in the National Football League and has been for a number of years. It's great to see that kind of game. He's a guy that plays big. He's got great catch radius. No matter where the ball is thrown around him or how well he seems to be covered, he's really not covered. To me, that's probably one of his greatest strengths."
Do see him as a guy that is sometimes overlooked with some of the attention that Torrey Smith gets? (Kevin Cowherd)"You mean from opponents or media, what? I know the opponents don't overlook him either. I really haven't looked at it, in all honesty. I really don't know. I hope not. He's a star, no doubt."
Do you have to think about Brady Quinn at all this week? (Glenn Clark)"Sure, absolutely. You always do. You always look at the backup quarterback. You've got to know who the backups are and what their strengths are. We've played against Brady, and we know how talented he is. But, Matt Cassel is not to be underestimated by any stretch. He's put together great seasons, he's put together great games. He knows that offense, that New England-style offense that they run there. He's got all the ability, and we're going to deal with Matt Cassel – that's the starter."
QB Joe Flacco
On what he thinks about the Orioles making the playoffs:"It's pretty cool. We were playing our game on Thursday night, and we heard the fans cheer when they found out the results of the game. It was pretty cool seeing the whole city rally around them."
On WR Anquan Boldin's great game last week versus the Browns:"He stepped up big time. He played physically and went up and got some tough, contested catches and really used his body. He was huge for us in that game."
On the key to the Ravens' success in the vertical game:"Having guys on the outside that can do it. We have that, and so far I've been able to hit on a few of them."
On the speed of WRs Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones being a factor in that:"Not only the speed, it's the athleticism and the ability they have at the wide receiver position. They're good guys and they're good wide receivers. So, if you give them an opportunity to make a play, most of the time they are going to come down and make the play."
On if he feels he is having improved success in the vertical game this year:"I guess so, probably a little bit. We're moving the ball a little bit more and having some more yards out there, and for the most part, putting up more points. So, I would say yes."
On the Chiefs limiting the Titans' offense in last week's game:"I didn't even notice it until after the game when somebody said that neither of them had a catch, or maybe there was one catch … I don't even remember. But, I didn't really even notice it, to be honest with you."
On how WRs Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones give other players on the offense more opportunities:"[Defenses] definitely have to decide how to play us. I think as the season goes on, it will continue to open things up more and more. So far, it's been here and there. They've tried to take those guys away, and sometimes they've left them one-on-one out there. In either situation, I think we've done a good job of running routes underneath and winning underneath. I don't know how much it's shown that our underneath has been opened up those guys so far, but I think as the season progresses, then that will start to happen. I think we'll start to see more teams play coverages where they have to double Torrey and Jacoby on the outside."
On how nice it is to have Smith and Jones to open up the underneath routes: "It definitely helps, because Dennis [Pitta] has been so productive in the first few games that teams have had to squeeze the middle on him. New England picked one off on me. Really, all of that game, they were playing their safety in a position where they could get to those seam routes, and it opened up some room for us on the outside with Torrey, even in coverages that you wouldn't necessarily thought we would have got him. So, they're definitely a huge benefit for us."
On the Ravens evolving into more of an offensive threat now than in past years when the defense was the dominant side of the ball:"I'm just going out there and playing football and hoping to move the ball and score points. We're only four games through right now, so there could be a lot that changes from here until Week 17 is over. So, we've just got to keep our head down and continue to play, and if it works out that way, it does. We just have to keep winning games."
On his statement that this is the best group of personnel he's had with the team and how quickly the offense has come together this season:"Definitely. We have guys that have been in this offense, and we added Jacoby this year. He stepped right in and played a big role. I think because we've had that experience, mainly last year with some of these young guys, we were able to come out here early on this year and hit the ground running right away."
On the Chiefs' secondary:"They're pretty good. They're not afraid to come up and press you and be physical with you. That's really their whole defense. They've got a good 'D' and they play physical, and they get after the passer. Like I said, when they choose to, they put pressure on the outside guys. We're going to have to be good and beat them in one-on-one coverage. We have the guys that can do it, and we've got to go out there and execute."
On Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers is:"He's good. We played him a couple of years back, and I remember being out there and saying that he's a physical guy and he was able to hold us up on a nine route and hold us up on our stop routes and do a good job. He's going to be around the ball. It's going to be a matter of making contested catches and making the throws to allow our guys to go get it."
On using the no-huddle offense in a stadium as loud as Kansas City's:"It's pretty much any stadium you would go into in the NFL; there are going to be times when it is really loud and you have to be able to operate under those situations. We have all of our signals and things like that that we would be able to execute at a high level and a high pace, even with the noise."
On the Orioles being a topic of conversation in the locker room and if he will watch the game tonight:"What time is the game tonight? Yeah, I'll probably catch a little bit of it. I don't know how much all those guys talk about it. I'm sure that myself and a couple of other guys, once the playoffs get ramped up – and hopefully they continue to win games – I'm sure it will be a big topic of conversation. I know with me and some of the guys around the building who enjoy baseball, they've been a topic."
On what he's enjoyed the most, as a baseball fan, about watching the Orioles this year:"It's crazy how many close games they are winning. Obviously, they've won a ton of them and won some extra inning games, and their pitchers have been good. The thing I notice is I feel like they are hitting a handful of homeruns every night. I was only able to get to one game this year, and they hit a handful that night. But, they've definitely been able to come through in clutch situations and come out with some wins. I don't know if we've ever seen a team win this many close games before and be as successful at it as consistently as they have. So, it's pretty impressive."
LB Ray Lewis
On if the extra rest this week helped him:"I think overall as a team, any time that you can get – you play that short turnaround game – but anytime you can get a good weekend off [is good]. It goes way faster than you expect it, but I think rest is rest, and I think as a team, it helped us a lot."
On whether it feels like 10 days off rather than seven:"I mean, yeah, you can feel it instantly. Like I said, the short turnaround playing on Sunday night then to turn right back around and play on a Thursday, the wear and tear, you're going to go through it as a team. But I think overall, we do a pretty good job taking care of ourselves, and I think we bounced back pretty good."
On what he thinks about Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles:"Straight speed man – one of those guys that are home run hitters. If you let him get in the open field – you saw it last week against the Saints – you jump out of a gap here or there, one seam, and he's out of the gate. We saw this guy before, we've played him before, and we know what we're up [against]. So, it's going to be a big test for us."
On why he thinks the defense has tightened up against the run the past few weeks:"It's just the way the game always folds out. Anytime you play a season, you start to put this new person in, that new person in, you try to fix this, fix that, try this, try that, then once you really settle down, [you] say, 'OK, bottom line, just make somebody beat us.' And I think for the past couple of weeks that's kind of what we've been doing – just winning our one-on-one battles, really getting in there and stopping the run pretty well. And then, when you kind of look at the film, you see our front seven is really starting to get back to form to making sure the run doesn't bleed us."
On Chiefs QB Matt Cassel having new offensive weapons to utilize:"Totally different weapons [than Cassel had in 2010's playoff game]. I think one thing that people don't talk about with Cassel is how he uses his legs an awful lot. He can run way better than people think he can; he extends plays. Watching film, [we] just watched him run for almost a 25- or 30-yard gain against Buffalo that took them down to the 1-yard line. So, he's that type of quarterback there. If you let him sit in the pocket, he can make a day hard for you. He's got a lot of weapons around him, all the way around him actually. They added a lot of new pieces, and I just think they're doing a great job. You take away the turnovers and things, [and] they're doing an awfully great job with their offense. I think they were leading the league before last week."
On the growth of LBs Courtney Upshaw and Dannell Ellerbe:"That's kind of the thing of always the next man up. You lose a 'Sizzle' [Terrell Suggs] and you bring an Upshaw in, who didn't know that he was going to have this much time to play so quickly and learn it, but when you see his learning curve, I think you kind of respect where he came from and what type of program he came from, because he picked it up. And [Ellerbe] is not just playing well on defense, but is playing well on special teams as well. And to get that push, no matter who is down, who is up, we're always going to need those guys to really step up, and they're doing an awesome job."
On whether it was previously a maturity issue with Ellerbe:"I think he can probably tell you that more than anything, and I think every year once you get into the league and understand that your role is starting to increase, increase, increase, then you understand that you've got to take the business way more serious than he probably did in his younger days. And what you're seeing now is his study habits [and] the way he approaches the game now, now you know that he's really turning into a real veteran to understand the business side of it."
On his impression of K Justin Tucker and how he's gelled with the team:"'Tuck' has been … It's always funny when you say, 'Our type of team,' because he just fits our mold. He's so laid back, so confident, and he's just having fun. That's one thing he does very well. He has a good time with the guys in the locker room, and you'll never see him isolated. He's always in the mix of things, and we put more pressure on him, I think, than anybody puts pressure on him. So, when he goes out there on game day, I think it becomes kind of easy for him because of the pressure we put on him in the locker room and out here [in practice]. But 'Tuck' is a great young kid, man. A great young kid, and just a good, young kid to be around."
On whether he likes having Tucker's locker close to his in the locker room:"When we first saw him in our corner down there, we told him that he had to pay some dues being down there. (laughter) But he's understanding it, and I think he's really getting accustomed to what goes on down in that corner. It's a good thing having him down there."
On how confident the defense is with how productive the offense can be:"I think when you look at the balance with what we have, it's kind of what's becoming more exciting than anything. You look at how we can go into games, and you make a big stop as a defense, and then your offense can come in and instantly put three points [or] instantly put seven points [on the board]. That puts pressure on people instantly, and anytime you have that type of balance … You see the good teams; the good teams have that balance. And for us to have that this year, I think all sides – not just the defensive side – I think the offensive side appreciates it as well."
RB Ray Rice
On his support of the Orioles and their success:"It's amazing. It's just amazing to be in the same town. Our stadiums are right next to each other, and the excitement when you get down there is amazing. It's like no other. We've been pushing our run for the last few years. They knew they had greatness within them, and now they're going ahead and doing their thing as well."
On if he will go there if the Orioles have a game Thursday night: "I have to get out there. [I'm] probably going to have to call for a parking pass – you know how parking gets down there – see if I can park in our lot. I don't mind the walk, but … Yeah, definitely, you see those guys at our games and their genuine support. It's great to return the favor to support our hometown. When you're achieving greatness on your field, it's great to have moral support from both of us, because it's mutual respect; we are all professional athletes."
On what he remembers from playing Kansas City two years ago in the playoffs and if he is surprised by them this year: "Like you said, a few years ago they were a playoff team. Not a lot has changed with the personnel there, so we know what they are capable of. That's a very dangerous team with a lot of weapons. Like I said, I never really get into a team's record. I go into every game just preparing for the opponent. That's a very young, talented team. They're going to pose some challenges for us, but we're going in there to just try to take care of business and come back home. We know what kind of game it's going to be. They are a very physical team. They're defense gets after it. When you watch the film and watch everything that they are doing, it's always sometimes a play here or a play there that really made the difference in their games. With their offense, they are [near the] top in every statistical category, especially in rushing. Defense gave up a few plays here and there, but I'm sure they are working on that to get better, and obviously, they are playing at home. So, they will have their crowd behind them."
On what he likes about RB Jamaal Charles: "I've always been a fan of Jamaal Charles. We both came out in that running back class [of 2008] that was very deep. I remember that guy being a third-round-guy, and I was a second-round-guy, so I'm sure he plays with a chip on his shoulder. And obviously, last year with the injury, the guy is coming out to prove he's an elite back in this league again. Obviously, with the big game that he had – the 200-yard game he had against New Orleans – [it] really showed that. That guy gets out in space; it's trouble for a lot of people."
On the challenges that the offense will have with OLBs Justin Houston and Tamba Hali: "You're talking about a young guy, and then you're talking about a vet. You're talking about a … Like I said, we are facing a different defense this week; we are facing a 34 defense. So, those guys are technically defensive ends, but they are called linebackers in the 34. They get after the pass; they are great pass rushers off the edge. We have to be alert where they are at at all times. Other guys – the linebacker No. 56 [Derrick Johnson] – you always have to know where he's at. He's a Pro Bowl-type linebacker, and obviously, when he's playing at a high level, their defense plays at a high level."
On if he marvels at S Ed Reed and other guys over 30 and their ability to still perform well: "I marvel at all our guys over 30. It seems like those guys never age. The running back position, we get to about 28 and we feel like we're about 50. When you see Ed Reed, a guy like Ray Lewis, you see Anquan Boldin – whose birthday is today, who is 32 – Matt Birk … I don't want to forget about my center; want to show him some love as well … Our guys who are over 30 have shown one thing that they are able to do, and that's take care of their bodies. Ed comes in every year, Ray comes in every year, Matt comes in every year, and Anquan comes in every year in great shape. Obviously, I marvel at what those guys do, because when you're trying to play for a long period of time, you have the right example right in front of you."
On if other teams' offenses are catching up with the Ravens continually having a good defense: "On offense, we are just doing our job. We have a young defense. Regardless of what people want to say about the age thing, the oldest guys on our defense are Ray [Lewis] and Ed [Reed]. For the most part, our defense is very young right now. When you lose a Terrell Suggs – when you go through the adversity that we had to go through – and you lose the kind of guys that we lost, of course there is going to be a little bit of a rebuilding process. But, does our defense get after it? Yes, they do. We've given up a few plays, but that's not to say about … You take away the big plays that we gave up, our defense is right up there at the top. That's something that we all will work to get corrected. On offense, we feel like we can do better. Do I expect our defense to be ranked in the Top 10, maybe Top 5 at the end of the year? Of course, because we've always done that – we've always gotten it together. It's still early. Everybody's still figuring each other out. But, the greatest part about coming away with our defense being young and our team being where we are at [is that] we finished the toughest part of the season 3-1."
On OLB Tamba Hali making the comment about Rice talking trash on the field: "No, I don't really know what he is talking about. Maybe it was just that game [during the 2010 Wild Card playoff]. Maybe it was that game – the playoff game. I was getting into it with one of their guys back then. That's really not me. I think the pads, you let [them] talk. But, I got into it with one of their guys that playoff game, because I don't remember playing them like I play Cleveland and Pittsburgh. So for him to say that … I'm just going to zip it up for that game. Maybe I'll go shake his hand – try to be his friend." (laughter)
On Hali saying that it wasn't malicious trash talk, but that it was in good nature: "I was getting into it with one of their guys in the playoff game, but he's no longer on the team. I really … That was just one of those … I usually don't let anybody get to me in that kind of favor, but that one guy was playing very dirty that day – twisting ankles under the pile, spitting and doing some things. He's no longer on the team. Like I said, talking is usually not a part of my game. If it's talking, it's usually out of good nature, like you said. I tell a guy, 'Good play.' [I] have no problem giving respect when respect is due."
On what the extra days off meant to him physically and being able to recharge:"I feel unbelievable right now. [Are you] kidding me? (laughing) We wanted to use this time as like another bye. If you have a long weekend and played the amount of games that we played in that short period of a time, you want to use the extra couple of days like a bye weekend. That's what we did. Coach Harbaugh did a great job of taking care of us."