Head Coach John Harbaugh
We're going to be talking to Ray Lewis today, and I know you can't commit whether he is playing or not. But, can you talk about the way he has worked hard to get to this point where at least he can be under consideration to play? (Dave Ginsburg) "The rehab – watching [Ray] in there working out and training, just the physical pain that he's been through to make this process as fast as it can be – is just incredible, and it's not surprising. It's who he is. I put Terrell Suggs in the same category in terms of what he went through. These guys – one thing about players in this league – they sacrifice a lot, and, those two guys are great examples of that."
Their run defense numbers being what they are, near the back of pack, how do you attack? (Drew Forrester)"Well, we'll have a plan on Sunday for them, and it will unfold on Sunday. But, we have a plan, yes."
**What type of impact does Bruce Arians bring, just given how many years he spent in Pittsburgh and how familiar he is with this team? *(Kris Jones) *"Well, we played him a lot, too. So, it's a two-way street. He's a great coach, and we have a lot of respect for Bruce and for all their coaches and all their players."
**How much have you been in contact with Chuck Pagano over the months and caring about him? *(Nestor Aparicio) *"We text a lot. Not an inordinate amount, just a certain amount of times, we text. That's kind of how we did it when he was in the chemo situation."
*This is your fifth-straight playoff appearance. They are coming off 2-14 season and making their first run. Is it an advantage for you guys, and can you remember when you were doing it for the first time, was it a little difficult? *(Dave Ginsburg) *"I don't remember. It was a long time ago. *(Ginsburg: "But an advantage for you?") Don't know. I have no idea. It doesn't really matter."
What has been a key for the defense coming along the last quarter of the season? (Jason Butt)"We are playing fundamentally a lot better. We are communicating better. We are on the same page better. Our coaches have done a great job of continuing to coach – every single week, every little thing. You can improve throughout the course of the season. Our team has done that every year. Our defense and our offense and our special teams have all done that this year."
How big has it been for young guys, guys that began the year on the practice squad, to be key contributors (Jason Butt)"Really important. We wouldn't be where we are at with the circumstances that we faced if our young guys hadn't played really well and played winning football. So, that's a credit to the hard work and to the fact that those guys are good players."
**Getting to the playoffs five years in a row is quite an accomplishment. Looking back at it with all the parity in the league, what have you guys been able to do as an organization to kind of sustain that success where you continue to put yourself in the position where you are today? *(Matt Vensel) *"I am not even thinking about that right now. What we're thinking about is the fact that we have a playoff game on Sunday. We're excited about it. All those things are just things to talk about another time."
**What do you guys think of T.Y. Hilton as a threat? *(Aaron Wilson) *"T. Y. Hilton is a threat. We liked him coming out [of college]. He was a guy that we had rated very highly as a return guy and as a wide receiver. He's probably exceeded most of the league's expectations. They've done a great job with him. He's a homerun hitter."
**And that bubble screen with him, how tough is that? *(Aaron Wilson) *"It's tough. That's a great play. They get it to him a lot of different ways."
**You got to meet Matt Jeffers last week. He has been through a lot as a kid. Why did meeting with him and hearing his story mean so much to you and why was that something you wanted to share with the players? *(David Snyder) *"A lot of that is kind of private. Matt Jeffers wrote us a letter that was really moving and just so spot-on to the point for anybody, whether you are playing football or just in life. He was talking about attitude and how you approach adversity in life, and it really resonated with me and with our coaches and with our players. Our guys were excited to meet him when he came over last week. [He is a] great guy, a great talent. He's got tremendous talent and is just a real good person."
*Coach, at the beginning of the year, we talked about Justin Tucker coming in here as a rookie and kicking in big environments at Texas. Does it go up a notch now that we're in the playoffs? *(Jerry Coleman) *"It probably holds true for everybody. That's what the playoffs are. *(Coleman: "But for a kicker who has never experienced anything like that, is it different than another rookie position player?") I don't think so. Everybody's got their own challenge. Everybody's got their own role. It's different. His position, if that's where you are going with it, is definitely different. He plays a different position, and it's a different type of skill set than playing linebacker or something. But, it's a challenge for everybody – especially every young guy."
*How difficult was it to see Chuck Pagano move on from this program and franchise? *(Dave Furst) *"Difficult? *(Furst: "Well, I'm sure you would love to see Chuck still here, but it was a great opportunity for him to take the Colts job.") That's how I would frame it. It was a great opportunity, and we're proud of him. [It was] well-deserved. [Chuck has had] a long career of doing a great job everywhere he's ever been. [He is a] loyal, hard-working guy, a good friend, a good person. You just love to see guys like that get opportunities."
How closely did you guys follow Pagano's progress after his diagnosis and everything he has gone through? (Dave Furst)"Closely, closely. Most of us were in contact with him through texts. Our families are close. Closely, I would say."
**Do you approach game management, maybe in third-and-short and fourth-and-short situations, differently in the playoffs than in the regular season? *(Mark Zinno) *"I don't think it can be quite that defined, because every game is a little different – who you are playing, what the challenge is in the situation. But, we are pretty aggressive anyway, as you know. We pretty much go for it a lot in situations like that. So, I would say we play our usual aggressive game and try to do whatever we can to win the game. There's going to be a time for being conservative, perhaps, too. We are not throwing caution to the wind, but we are going to do everything we can to win the game."
**As close as your family is, have you gotten to know Andrew Luck at all over the last few years? *(Glenn Clark) *"Just in passing we've met and talked a couple of times here and there, but I don't know him real well."
**Do you reach out to Jim Harbaugh this week to find out more? *(Glenn Clark) *"Jim, he hasn't been looking at Andrew Luck. He's been looking at … Well, he's in a bye week right now, so he's doing whatever you do in a bye week."
**Personnel-wise, does Chuck Pagano have an advantage at all coming back and playing you guys? *(Dave Furst) *"I don't know, does he? You'd have to ask him that."
If the roles were reversed, would you have an advantage? (Dave Furst)"I haven't thought about that. That's hypothetical. I don't care."
LB Ray Lewis
*On whether he is officially back and will play Sunday: *"Let's just say I'm active on the roster. We'll see from there."
On how eager he is to get back to playing and how difficult it was to be on the sideline with his injury:"I think me, speaking to my team, really eased a lot of things that were going through my head. Because, for them, I had to let them know that from the time I got hurt, everything that I've done up until this point has been to get back with my team, to make another run at the Lombardi. So, whether you are eager, sitting home, watching it on TV, from on the sideline, you do what you've got to do. You're always challenged to do different things, and I was challenged to be that leader from afar. And now, to be back and running around with the guys, it's always good to be back and just back in the saddle – always."
On being recovered sufficiently to ward off blocks and play at a high level:"I probably went through one of the craziest 12 weeks of just training that I've probably ever been through in my life. But I just think I'm there where I should be. I'm way past where I was supposed to have been. I was supposed to have been out for the year. That was one thing – my mindset was totally different. My mindset was, like I said, as soon as I had [the injury], I made a phone call to Ozzie and I told Ozzie directly … I told Ozzie, 'We need to talk, because I'm not going out like this. I'm not walking out on my boys like that.' So, I feel good. I feel healthy, and I feel great, actually."
On being concerned at any time during his rehab that things were not progressing well:"Actually, it was the opposite. It was the opposite. Most of the doctors I was dealing with were trying to get me to calm down, because I wanted to push it a little more. And I just went fast. I went real fast. Pain was really the last thing that was on my mind. I never really thought about pain a lot. I just thought about really just getting through it – the next day, the next day, the next day – and kept stacking days on top of each other. So, I started feeling good real quick, and that's when I started getting really excited. Because after [surgery], I think, I was riding my bike in 10 days. I had banded it up, but it didn't hurt me. I didn't feel any tweaks or nothing like that. I had a very speedy recovery."
On feeling that he is totally ready to play:"I just think where I have it now – 100 percent. I can't tell you there is no weakness in it. I can't tell you if I go out there, I might do this, I might do that. I don't think I would put myself, as well as my teammates, in that position. Have I played hurt before? Absolutely. With this injury, because of what I do so much, I don't think I would take that chance."
*On his injury and rehab being any different from previous injuries throughout his career: *"[It was] bittersweet because I've played the game at whatever level for so long. So to get hurt … I've been hurt before. I've been through injuries. But through this injury, I was able to do something that I had never done myself, [something] I had never had myself. And that's why I say it is bittersweet. Do you ever want to be hurt? Absolutely not. But I got a chance [to see] my oldest son and my middle boy – my oldest boy is a senior this year and my middle boy was a freshman – and they both played on the same team. And we went 11-1. And my sons had one of the greatest runs I was probably ever to witness being hurt that I would have never witnessed if I wasn't hurt. So, it's kind of [bittersweet]. I told my teammates, it always hurts to be away from them. But to be there in my cast and everything and to know that my sons knew that daddy was there for the whole ride … And I got to be there every Friday. I did all of my training Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, [and] Friday I would get on a plane and fly there. I would meet him there and just be there to be with him through that journey of his last senior year. Me being who I am and not having a father myself, that damaged me a lot. So, I didn't want my kids to re-live that. That's why I said it is bittersweet. I can never say I would do it any differently because of what I had the opportunity to do – and that is to see my babies go out and [play]. And now, he's definitely committed to the University of Miami, and we'll go from there."
On what his long-term plans are:"I talked to my team today; I talked to them about life, life in general, and everything that starts has an end. It's just life. And for me, today I told my team that this would be my last ride. And I told them I was just at so much peace in where I am with my decision because of everything that I've done in this league. I've done it, I've done it, man. There's no accolade that I don't have individually. But, I've never played the game for individual stats. I've only played the game to make my team be a better team. And now, God is calling. God is calling in so many of the areas of life. And my children, my children have made the ultimate sacrifice for their father – the ultimate [sacrifice] for 17 years. Whether it was jumping on a plane, jump right back, go to school and … I don't want to see them do that anymore. I've done what I wanted to do in this business, and now it is my turn. It's my turn to give them back something. So, it's either hold on to the game and keep playing and let my kids miss out on times that we can be sharing together … I always promised my son that if he got a full-ride scholarship, daddy was going to be there. And I can't miss that. I don't know if I could sit in a meeting room and fight that war. One of the hardest things in the world is to walk away from my teammates, because that's my brotherhood. The only thing I ever play for is to be right there [for my teammates], and to raise Ed [Reed] and be with Sizzle [Terrell Suggs] for so long and sit next to them … And we are so much on the same path. Does that part hurt? Absolutely. You can never rebuild those bonds. Those bonds are forever. But, the chapter is huge for me to now step into other areas of life. A good friend of my, Lady O, she told me that I may be gone now, but I'm not gone forever. I'm just going into another phase of life. And I think my fans, my city, they deserve it. They deserve that whenever this role stopped for me not just to walk away and just [say], 'I'm done.' I think we all get to enjoy what Sunday will feel like knowing that this will be the last time 52 plays in a uniform in Ravens stadium."
On knowing he was going to retire being the motivation to work so hard to come back this season:"Yeah, and I knew it, honestly, because I knew that I couldn't divide [family and football priorities] anymore. I couldn't split my time. You know, when God calls, He calls. And, He's calling. And, more importantly, where He aligns me is He calls me to be a father. It's OK to be daddy, and it's OK to say that. Yes, this chapter is closing, but the chapter that is opening is overwhelming. That's the thing that excites me the most. I told my teammates, what's set up for me now, I could never see this day. I can always push, push, push. [There] is always next year, next year, next summer, next summer, whatever. But, I could never see this day. And I've watched other people's retirements and I've watched so many different things, and I've always said that when I go out, I will make sure that I give Him all of the glory for letting me be able to stand here after 17 years. And, God forbid, that I don't have injuries that are really going to hamper me when I am done playing the game. I've played the game at a very, very high level and a very rough pace. But for me to be where I am standing as a man now and to make my own declaration and say it's time for me to go on, then I make this last run with my team. I give them everything I've got. That's one thing I shared with them in that meeting: 'I am going to give you everything that I've got, because this is our last one.' And wherever it ends, it ends. But, I didn't come back for it to end in the first round."
On what it is going to be like running through the tunnel for the last time:"It would be hard not to think about it. Torrey [Smith] asks me every day when he's going to see me come back out of that tunnel. He's just one of many, but that moment is for everybody from the day I walked in here in 1996. That moment to walk out of that tunnel Sunday, every, every, every person that was a Ravens fans – 1996 and to this day – we will all enjoy that moment. We will all savor in that moment, and I can't tell you how I will feel when that moment comes. I can only tell you it will be probably one of the glorious moments of my life."
On the team's reaction to his announcement: "You have to be careful with them, because we are connected. We are all connected, and I think they … Did it bother them? Probably, but I think they respect it. I think they respect the fact that I didn't come to everybody else before I came to them. I came to them. It was more of a brotherhood that I really wanted to discuss with them. That's what I was talking about – about being a man, about understanding the things that a man should be able to carry in life. The game will fade one day, but being a man will never fade. You came into this world a man; you're going down a man. My teammates respect that to the ultimate, and I had to respect them by giving them that courtesy by coming out and saying, 'You all deserve this first. You guys deserve this first that I've ran my course with this.' Now, I'm overwhelmed telling you inside out. The emotions are very controlled, because I never redo one day. I never try to redo one day. Every moment I've ever had in this building, what this organization has done for me, what this city has done for me, what my fans have done for me, what the mutual respect for different players have done for me around this league, I can never take any of that back. That's the ultimate when you leave this game. You leave it with one heck of a legacy. Hopefully, I've done a heck of a job doing it, but it's time for me to go create a different legacy."
On at what point during his rehab he realized that it was time to retire: "The hardest thing to do is to look at … I knew it was probably it when I had to look at my son. It's hard to look at him and know that he's going through some of the things that I'm going through and see the warrior side of him, but see, ultimately, what he needs. My decision was kind of made up from the first day that I went down [to Florida], and I was in the cast, and I watched his game. I said, 'You know what? You have to go back and finish it.' You have to go finish it, because I've always taught my children if you start something, finish it. That was my whole goal, so my mind was kind of made up then that I had to come back and make this one last run."
On when his son got the news of getting a full-ride scholarship at the University of Miami: "I was sitting right there in the office with Al Golden when he got that. That was a year ago. He committed as a junior to the University of Miami. When he did that, he did say, 'Daddy, remember what we talked about.' I said, 'Yes, Junior. I know what you are talking about, baby.' That's what I've always promised him. I've always promised that I wouldn't put myself before them when it comes to my baby going to college and making that next step in life."
On how he views his legacy and what is next for him besides spending time with his family:"Wow. What's next? I'm not supposed to tell you guys all that. (laughter) My legacy, I tell you, like I said, accolade-wise, whatever … I've done it. I've done it. I used to sit back, and I used to marvel, rest in peace, at Junior Seau's legacy, and how he had his run, how he ran at it, Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl. I'm like, 'Wow. Who does that?' How can you be at that level?' And then I started making my own mark, and then I realized that I can do a lot of things to be great individually, but I wanted to be known differently. I wanted to make men better. I wanted to figure out ways to challenge men to not let the game dictate your emotions and not let the game dictated if you are mad, you're glad, you're sad – no. Be who you are as a man. Walk with who you are as a man and be OK with being a man. So, my whole focus changed, kind of almost in the middle of my career, and I was blessed. I was blessed to have a [former Ravens] Rod Woodson and Shannon Sharpe. I was blessed to have Tony Siragusa. I was blessed to have Rob Burnett, Michael McCrary. I was blessed to have some great guys who took me up under their wing and said, 'This is the way you should pray about life. This is the way you should live life.' My legacy now is [that] when I listen to people, when I hear people call me with whatever is to, 'Thank you for doing this for me. Thank you for doing that for me.' If that's my legacy, if helping people [is my legacy], then so be it. Going forward, the world is my oyster. God has created so many opportunities for me. There are a lot of things that I have always put on hold for the game that I could never do because of the game, because I would never put anything in front of the game. I think that was the biggest difference in me from a lot of other people. A lot of people would entertain a lot of things, and I wouldn't. I would shoot a couple of commercials here and there, but I'm not going to put too much more in front of the game. It's a new chapter. It's a new chapter that I've already pre-planned out. There are a lot of things that are waiting that are lined up. I have a lot of great people I'm working with as well."
On if he has four more football games left in him: "Four more football games in me? Yes, I have way more than that. I just had to make a decision to cut it off at four."
On if there is any chance he won't play on Sunday: "I don't think the people that I work with would tell me no Sunday. We've got a great relationship with each other that I trust them, and they trust me. I've worked my butt off to get to this point. There is no reason for me not to be playing on Sunday."
On if there is an emotional connection with Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano and him coming back around the same time: "I talked to him every other day. We talk every other day. We are texting every other day. We are texting something to each other … It was funny, because me and him said the same thing. Of course, never let me put my injury on his level, because his is way more serious than mine, but that's what we talked about. It's amazing that because of the things that we shared as men, it was amazing that we were going through adversity at the same time. That's why every day I would pick up and I would send a scripture to him, and I would send thoughts to him, and we would just start hitting back and forth. We would keep each other laughing. It was just a bond that was created over the last few months that probably only me and him knew we had – that strong of a bond. So, for Chuck to come back here, like I said, the game will fade one day, but that brotherhood – that manhood that we created – will never die. I'm looking forward to seeing him and looking forward to getting back and get this game started."
DT Haloti Ngata
On LB Ray Lewis announcing his retirement:"It's crazy. It makes you think you take it for granted with someone like that you have on the team. When he told us, I started thinking about things I could probably ask him, or things I could actually try to pick his brain about – things like how to be great, not only on the field, but off the field. So, it's another chapter in his life that he's about to close, and I think here as the Ravens, we all want to do our best to help him close it the best he can."
On how honored he feels to have played with Lewis:"It's definitely an honor just to be in his presence, but to play with him and be in front of him, it's an amazing player to be with and play with, and I know we'll definitely miss him. But, like with all teams, everyone goes through it, and right now we haven't done anything yet, so hopefully we can make his career a little longer."
On how much they will play for Lewis at this point:"I don't know if it's all that. I think he wants us to play for ourselves, just to make sure that you're doing everything you can to not regret anything if we were to lose."
On whether it was an emotional moment, or if Lewis was emotional:"No, he didn't tell us right away, but he was just kind of talking about how to be men, on and off the field, and then led into it. It wasn't emotional. Just, for me, it made me think more."
On what he expects from Lewis on Sunday:"His best, like usual. He should be the normal Ray Lewis out there. He's always going to give it his all and then play with great passion and fire, and that's going to be him."
On if there is anything they'll do differently when facing a rookie QB in Andrew Luck:"No, he's a great quarterback. Throughout the film that you watch, he's done a lot of great things. Moving around, he's mobile, faster than you think, he's bigger than you think and does a lot of really good things. Hopefully, we can just try to make him look like a rookie out there instead of a veteran quarterback."
RB Ray Rice
On how much motivation LB Ray Lewis' retirement announcement gives the team:"No added motivation for the playoffs. This is a day where you really don't prepare for it [Lewis' retirement announcement]. You come in, and it's something that we talk about it. He's never actually told me. He's always hinted that one day he is going to close the chapter on this game. But today, I definitely didn't prepare for it. Mentally, he has raised me over the last couple of years. My locker is right next to his, and I just can't picture Baltimore without him. He has kids, but I was one of his kids. It's like he's passing the torch down saying, 'I have to let you go.' But I know he is always going to be there. It's just one of those days where you just don't prepare for these kinds of things. Emotions, everything, we could talk about all that. No added pressure, but we will give all we've got Sunday for Ray. We owe it to him. We owe it to the organization. He's done it for 17 years. What he gave to this city, what he gave to his fans, what they've given back to him, it's something that I got to witness – not only got to witness it, [but] I was right inside. These moments that he always talks about that will never be again, finally it's real. Sunday will be Sunday, but this week will be a different kind of week, especially for me. I'm right there in the corner with him. I told him jokingly that I'm not speaking to him for a week. I'm a little upset at him."(laughter)
On how he would characterize the emotions around the team:"Everybody's emotion is different. He's played a part in everybody's life, but when you share moments that have nothing to do with football and has everything to do with life, as he said, 'being a man,' … I shared my whole life story with him. There are a lot of things we've been through that we kind of related to – that's what brought us really close. I know I'll always have that connection where I can reach him outside of football. Just when you're having that bad day, and you've got a guy right next to you, maybe you didn't have to pick up the phone because he is right there. That's where the emotion is with me. No matter whether it was football, life, whatever it was, he's right there. Jokingly, he's still right there. I'm sure he'll be in Baltimore, but if he packs up and goes to Florida … My house [in Maryland] is only five minutes from his, so he'll still be right there."
On what it will be like when Lewis runs out of the tunnel on Sunday:"That's when it's going to hit me the most. That's when I think it's going to hit the City of Baltimore the most, that it could be possibly his last time coming through that tunnel. Like I said, I just really can't prepare for that. The emotions are going to be too rough to even think about, because Baltimore is Ray Lewis, and when he comes out of that tunnel, everybody is electrified. There is no one else that is going to come out of a tunnel the way he does. There is no one else. The other side, no, trust me … The mutual respect the other team is going to have, it's going to be something that is just going to be crazy. I never prepared for this day. I never prepared for the kind of emotions I would feel. I am feeling them right now. Thinking about that being the last time of [Lewis] coming out of that stadium, I don't want it to be the last time I play with him. I want to win to just keep it going as long as possible, because week-in and week-out, it's a do-or-die deal. We want to win on Sunday."
WR Torrey Smith
On putting aside the emotions of LB Ray Lewis' retirement announcement and playing the game:"Whether it's [personal] tragedy or your last game, people look at the emotional side of it. But really, football is an outlet. It gets you away from everything. But, I'm sure for a guy like Ray, he'll be appreciating every single moment. He'll cherish every moment while he's out there. Even watching guys like him, it makes you do the same. You want to cherish the moments, and it's not guaranteed. Nothing is guaranteed here, whether it's injury or life in general. So, to have the opportunity to go out and play the game again is a blessing in itself."
On Lewis' body of work:"It's unreal. You look at how he looks physically, he could probably play another three or four years. I swear, physically, he could still do it. I think that's a testament to him, the way he works and the way he has taken care of himself over the years."
On how important it was to watch Lewis' announcement to the media:"Not only because he is a great player – all that stuff speaks for itself – but he is a guy that means a lot to us, and I just kind of wanted to witness it. I think he is probably the greatest linebacker to play the game. To have the opportunity to not only play with a person like that, but to call a person like that a friend and a brother, you have to be there to support him. I wanted to be there. A few of the guys were there. It was a good feeling."
On what the emotion was when he first heard the news:"He's played so long, I felt like he could have said last week or the first game of the season that he was done. What more can you get? It's about chasing rings, and he is always talking about it. If you have a conversation with him, he never talks about the individual awards and accolades. He always talks about trying to get another trophy, another Lombardi. We have an opportunity. That's all you can ask for at this point. We're one of 12 teams that have an opportunity to go out there and try to get it, and we want to send him out the right way."
**OLB Terrell Suggs
On his reaction to LB Ray Lewis retiring after the season:"It was sad. I'm not going to lie to you. It affected me, because for the past 10 years of my career, I've been sitting right next to the man and going to war on Sundays with the man. It definitely affected me a little bit. When he went up there [in the team meeting], I thought we were getting our 'let's go on a run to the playoffs' speech. Not that. Come Sunday, it will be the last time, potentially, he and I will be at M&T together. Like I said, it was very sad, but now the emphasis is on getting the job done. It's going to be one hard last ride, and we need to make it one to remember."
On what Lewis has meant to his career: "I'm not sure there is a word that can describe to it. Ray has definitely been like a brother to me. It's been bigger than football between he and I. Sitting next to him, like I said, for 10 years picking his brain has been fun. It's been one hell of a ride. Like I said, come Sunday, if that's going to be the last time we are going to be on the field together, we are going to make it good."
On if he was expecting Lewis to make the announcement today: "It caught me by surprise, because we all thought the Great Ray Lewis was going to play forever. I thought he was going to surpass Brett Favre and still be out there doing it well into his forties. Only he knows. Do not be fooled. All of us have that day coming. Just like an NFL player's career, there is a sunrise and there's a sunset. He let us know that the sun is setting for his career. He gets the opportunity to start doing things he didn't get to do, like going to his son's football games – things like that we take for granted that are priceless. It's amazing. It's amazing, and it's sad all at the same time."
On what kind of legacy Lewis leaves: "He's probably, arguably, is going to be labeled the greatest linebacker of all time. I think that's an amazing legacy to life. He was on a record-setting defense led by him. He's done some amazing things, and it's been awesome to play aside a giant such as that, a legend like that."