*WEDNESDAY PODIUM TRANSCRIPTS: Week 1 vs. BENGALS
*Head Coach John Harbaugh, QB Joe Flacco, OLB Terrell Suggs, S Eric Weddle & G Marshal Yanda
Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis Conference Call
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement:"Good to see you guys all here. I sure appreciate the turnout. We're excited – it's time to start the season. All of our focus and energy will be, and has been, dedicated towards the opener and beyond. A lot of work has been put forth. If you think about every individual person in the organization, every player, every coach, everybody that's in the managerial role, the scouts – there's a lot of effort going into preparing an NFL season for every single team – and that's all under us. We believe it's been very effective work, and we're ready to go out there and compete."
There's an air of mystery about the offense because we haven't seen QB Joe Flacco out there. What makes you confident that it's going to show up on Sunday and all be there? (Nestor Aparicio) "I'm always confident – for one thing – but I believe in our guys. I believe in our scheme, our guys. It's the National Football League. What team … Well, maybe there's one team that everyone thinks is the perfect team right now. Maybe it's that way every year – there are a couple darling teams that you get into the predictions and prognostications and all that, but when you look back at all that stuff, it's not always completely accurate. Teams rise up, and they're better than people thought they'd be. So, you don't have to justify it beforehand. You just go and play the games. That's your justification, to see how you'll do. So, we're ready to compete, we're excited, and we can't wait."
Ray Lewis made these comments last night about Colin Kaepernick. Brings up the fact that Steve Bisciotti was close to doing something with him, and you brought his name up originally. What Ray said last night – was it true? Were you guys close to bringing in Colin? (Jerry Coleman)"I'm not even exactly sure what all was said. But, I can tell you this: I'm way past that. I haven't even thought about that for weeks. Our focus is – and has been – Cincinnati."
The fact that he brought it up though – is that an unwanted distraction for the team? (Jerry Coleman)"It's exciting to start the season. We have two healthy quarterbacks, and we're ready to roll."
Are you going to add a third quarterback? (Jerry Coleman)"Not this week."
That means you must be completely … You must feel … Joe came out fine after the first practice?* (Jerry Coleman)*"Yes, he was good. He looked sharp. There have been no setbacks – at all – in the whole process. We said all along that that was the main thing: no setbacks. There were no setbacks; we were assured he'd be ready to go. He's ready to roll."
Is it tough to prepare for Cincinnati [when they have] so much depth at running back?" (Mike Preston)"It's important to know who they are. You have to check out what the jersey number is and the guy who's in that game. You have to know each guy, because they have versatility at running back. I think it's probably true for their whole offensive personnel. You have to know who's lined up where, what those guys do, how they're utilized, and then there's the unknown because it's a new season. So, you don't know exactly how they plan on using guys. I'm sure they'll have some game-plan twists for us in this game that we have to account for. That's all part of it."
**It's always tough to play on the road in the NFL, but are there any special challenges to an opener on the road? *(Peter Schmuck) *"It's energetic. The opener in the NFL is always big; it's a big deal for organizations and franchises, especially when it's a home opener. That place will be rocking. There will be a lot of energy – it's going to be loud. We have to prepare for that."
As far as QB Joe Flacco with his back, have you been told by either doctors or trainers whether it's not an issue anymore or if he's more susceptible to having a back injury? Going forward, will this be a lingering issue?* (Jamison Hensley)*"I don't think there's any danger, as far as I know. I haven't been told there is. He's cleared to play; he's ready to go. You can ask him how he feels; he's standing right there. But, we're ready to roll."
QB Joe Flacco
On how his back feels:"It's good."
On if he was surprised about the amount of time he missed at practice with his back injury:"I do not know if I was really surprised once we found out it was my lower back a little bit, just because it is kind of a waiting game. It was not ideal, but it is just the nature of what goes on. I showed up here early. I reported early with the rookies and those guys and practiced for a few days. I did not really realize quite what it was. I had something bothering me a little bit, but that is the way it goes. It is not ideal, but I feel good now, and I'm ready to go."
On if he can explain how he injured his back: "I honestly don't know how I did anything to it. From talking to the guy – the spine guy – it could have been anything. It could have been something I had for a little bit, and I just wasn't showing any symptoms of it. It could have been something that happened over time with something little. I really don't know."
On the report that he injured his back while lifting weights:"When I came back and told these guys, I just said, 'Listen, I was working out like I typically do before I come here in our little time off, and there were a couple days where I felt some tightness, but didn't really think too much of it.' I can't even pinpoint it to something like that. I really don't know."
On if he received an injection: "No."
On if he has been assured he is not any more vulnerable to his back getting reinjured:"I don't know. I really do not know the actual answer to that. But, yes. Given the time that we have given it to heal, the idea is that I should not have to deal with this long term."
On if he has restrictions in regards to weightlifting or anything else:"Yes. We are definitely going to take it easy with the weightlifting for the time being. But other than that, no. I'm going to be out here practicing and going through the days like normal."
On if not having much practice time with his wide receivers will be an issue:"Like I said, it is not ideal. But, I have been doing this for a long time, and I am going to make the most of it."
On what he did over the last month:"It is really film work and being able to concentrate on Cincinnati a little bit. Then, yes, getting your back ready. You can go crazy, that is for sure. You are watching your guys practice, and you are kind of pent up in the training room doing some mental exercises. It was tough."
On if he ever worried his back might not be ready in time:"I really didn't know. You just kind of listen to what the doctors are telling you and how your symptoms are progressing. It seemed like it was pretty good news every time I would see somebody or talk to somebody, so I wasn't too worried about it. Plus, I didn't really figure I was not going to play at some point. The thing is, it was not something that was completely crippling to the point where if it was the Super Bowl, I couldn't play. So, I don't think I was ever worried about it, in terms of that point. But, it was more one of those things where if you don't give it rest, you are going to be dealing with it all year, and if you give it the right rest, then you probably won't have to deal with it all year."
On if he is confident partly because he has nine years of NFL experience:"Yes, I am going to be as confident as ever taking the field. I am not going to think any differently. It is not ideal, because obviously, we have some new guys out there and some new things that we are doing, and I have not had as many reps at that kind of stuff. As far as how I approach the game, and how I feel that we are going to go out there and play, I've played plenty of football games. Like I said, we just have to make the most of what we have over this last week and the next few days before the game."
On if he would have came back sooner from his back injury if it was the regular season:"Yes, I definitely would have tried to."
On how his back felt after his first practice this past Saturday: "It felt good – not any worse than I have been feeling. I felt like it responded really well to going out there with the workload that we put in. I felt like I put in a pretty decent workload that day. That was the idea kind of going into practice on Saturday was building up to that point. I felt like I handled it really well, and that is why we are here ready to go."
On the challenge in building chemistry with WR Jeremy Maclin:"I think sometimes people … We tend to just think about how hard it is to never have thrown to a guy. That is true; every guy has their own way of doing things, and you build a rapport with guys throughout the course of the year and throughout practice and all of that. But, the other side of it is that Jeremy is a good player and he knows how to get open. Things might not be perfect right now, but if he gets open, then I should be able to put the ball on him. We have been doing that since we have been six years old. You just have to go back to the basics of things. You can't overthink things too much. You have to go into games like this and keep it simple for yourself and just hit the guy when he is open."
On what has made it tough to win in Cincinnati:"It is a tough place to play, and they are a good football team. They have been a good football team for a lot of years now. You guys have seen it. We have a tough time winning there. We have not won there since maybe 2011. I think Marshal [Yanda] told me that today. It has been a while. You have to forget about all of that. When you walk into the stadium, you can't be thinking about all the bad times you have had there. You have to completely wipe those out of your mind and go in with an open mind and act like you have never seen this place before and it is brand new to you, and when we win this week, it will be a whole new feeling as to how that stadium feels when we walk in it. Yes, you have to make sure everybody blocks out the bad feeling you have had about that place, because obviously, when you walk into your home stadium, you feel at home. When you walk into places that you have won, you probably feel more at home. You have to make sure you feel that way when you walk into this place, too."
On how he feels about how good the team is at this point:"I feel really good about us. If our defense continues to go out and do what they have been doing all preseason and what we have been seeing in all of training camp and practice, then we are going to be tough to beat. If our offensive line plays solid and lets our backs and receivers go do their work, gives them time to do those things – and the way our defense is playing – we will be tough to beat."
On if he won't know that he is fine until he gets hit by the opposing team:"I don't really care. If I'm not fine, I'm not fine. If I am fine … I am probably not going to think about it; that is the truth of it. Once the ball drops and once we are out there, I'm going to be dropping back playing, and I am going to either notice that I got hit or I'm not going to notice. Because usually you are getting hit when you don't see the guy, and you just get up off the ground and you don't even really realize it. I'm either going to be doing that and not have thought about it, or I'm going to end up hurting, and I'm going to be thinking about it. Either way, it is what it is."
On if he feels good about how the tight end group is shaping up:"Yes, I do. We are going to rotate guys. We have a lot of guys, and we have a lot of guys that are going to play. These guys can all play the game, and they are going to have to be asked to do multiple things. I feel good about how we are with that group. I think we will make up … I do not know if we are going to get 90 catches from them, but that is not the idea. We are going to have other guys that are going to carry the load on that part and see how well we can do."
On his expectations for the offense as a whole:"The expectations are as they always are. We want to go out there, and we want to run the ball, and we want to hurt people down the field and put points on the board. Just because we have a couple of new guys and there have been some injuries and things like that, your expectations do not change. The expectation is to go out there and play winning football. That is to go out there and put as many points on the board until the 60 minutes are up."
OLB Terrell Suggs
On if his emotions have changed heading into the beginning of his 15th season compared to how they used to be:"No. It still feels like the first one. It still feels like 2003. Anytime you get to line up … The openers are always the same. You are very anxious. You can watch film from six years ago to make sure they don't get you on a play that they got you with before. You are just very anxious. You are ready to get out there and do it for real."
On how fun it is to start with a team like the Bengals that has so many offensive weapons:"It is never fun to start with a team like the Bengals with all those weapons. *(laughter) *When you start with a team that is good like that, that is explosive like that, it is going to be hard for teams to match that week to week. It is good while you are healthy, and it is the first one out, that you get to play a team that has a lot of firepower. We are looking forward to it."
On if he looks at his teammates and tells them not to let WR A.J. Green get behind the defense:"All the time. Yes, all the time. But, people think he is just a one-trick pony. He is not just running the deep ball; he is not just going to run 'go' [routes]. He is a pretty precise route runner. I don't think he gets enough credit for that, but we are not fooled over here. We have a young defense, but we also have a veteran one now. We have kind of seen everything. We know that he is not just going to run deep balls. They are going to give him the ball often and early."
On if there is any sense that the defense needs to compensate for the offense, particularly with QB Joe Flacco being injured in the preseason: "No. We expect Joe Flacco to be Joe Flacco. If anybody else expects anything otherwise, I'm sorry. You are badly mistaken. We expect Joe to be Joe."
On what advice he would give the rookie version of himself:"I don't know. Ask me tomorrow. I take value in every day. I wouldn't know what I would tell the rookie me. I would definitely tell me to study more and take advantage of the guy to the right of you [Ray Lewis] and having 'Superman' [Ed Reed] in the back of your defense. I would take that to my advantage, but other than that, I think I did it all pretty good."
On G Marshal Yanda's comment that he would use the word "commitment" to describe the run game:"I love that. I love that. Every time, they do something, every time they do something – [senior offensive assistant/tight ends coach] Greg [Roman] – every time I see Marshal [Yanda] out there, I am smiling and giving him the thumbs up. They know they will hear from me if it is something I don't really approve of, but they have been getting a lot of thumbs up."
On what makes it difficult to beat Cincinnati:"Like you said earlier, their firepower, their weapons. They have a lot of momentum going. It is their home opener. They obviously have been preparing for this game ever since we played them last year. It is their home opener, and they want to start off good. Both teams want to start off good, but we are just going to have it out on Sunday."
On if there is anything specific that makes it hard about beating Cincinnati: "I don't know. We are going to figure that out."
S Eric Weddle
On if he has seen Bengals film and what he thinks about their offense:"Yes, I'm actually tired of watching Cincinnati, quite honestly. We've been watching Cincy for the last four weeks. This is an important game. It's not just the beginning of a new season and new aspirations, but we haven't won there in five years. We know the problems and the matchups they present towards us, especially when we play there. As you guys know, throughout the preseason, we didn't game-plan, we didn't watch any film [of preseason opponents]. We've been preparing for this game all training camp. We're excited. It's going to be a huge challenge. They have weapons all across the field, but we're excited. It's a new beginning. Last year is out of the way and [we] move towards winning this division and having a chance at the Super Bowl."
On facing WR A.J. Green this season after Green missed both games due to injury last year:"I always wish he was going to play. You always want to play against the best. I've played against him a few times in my career, and obviously, [he is] one of the best – if not the best. [He's] just as talented as they come – route-running ability, playmaking ability. A guy like him, you have to know where he's at at all times. He can ruin a game – he's done it before, especially for us. We have to be on our toes, technically sound, and play good team defense to make sure he's not going to ruin our afternoon."
On if it's more fun to start off the season playing against an offensive team like Cincinnati when you have a defense wanting to prove itself:"Any game in this league is a tough matchup and of such importance. But, a division game on the road? It doesn't get much better than that to start your season. All the work, since the season ended last year, to accumulate to this point … We're just excited to get back out there as a team and to see what happens if we get down or give up a touchdown. How's the defense going to respond? I'm excited for that. Hopefully it doesn't happen, but most likely, it's going to happen. How are we going to respond? We're going to fight back. This team has something special in them, and I'm just grateful to be a part of it and do my part."
G/T Marshal Yanda
On if the first-string offense's chemistry is a concern:"To be honest, we're not thinking about that. We're just thinking about having a good practice today, putting in the game plan, and being ready to roll. That stuff is gone, and we're moving forward with what we have today. We're focusing on today, having a good practice today and getting the game plan down and airtight."
On the feeling of the locker room when QB Joe Flacco got back to practice:"It's great. He's our leader and our guy. It's awesome having him back out there. Like I said, he's the leader of our team. We're excited to have him back – no question."
On if the expectations for the offense are high: "Yes. This is the National Football League. We're paid to do a job and paid to do a job at a high level. It doesn't matter how much time you're taking off, if you're injured or sick, it doesn't matter. You have to go out there and produce. We're expected to go out there and play winning football on Sunday, and we're preparing to do that."
On the difficulty of playing in Cincinnati: "They're a division opponent, and they've played us tough. They've played better football than us there, and we haven't done the things we need to do to win. We were talking about it, and in 2011, we ran the ball well. I don't think we gave up any big plays, stuff like that. Joe [Flacco] played well, too. Just playing winning football on all three phases, not turning the ball over, penalties on the road is another big one – just all those factors."
On what winning football looks like: "We always talk about it as an offense. First and foremost, taking care of the football – turnover ratios are one of the most important indicators in football – offensive line keeping Joe [Flacco] clean, keeping him upright and letting him make his reads, and running the football. Those three things: carry the football, protect Joe, and run the ball."
On what important traits he learned to make the transition from a young lineman to a starter: "Working at your craft, every single day, no matter what job you have. You have to keep working every day to get better. I feel like the guys that continue to take that approach, every single day, get better. They have to attack it, because there are a lot of days of football. The job that we have, it's hard to want to get better; it's hard that your body feels like crap and you just don't want to get better. The guys that grind and take that approach, that want to work on their craft every single day, they get better. That's not easy to do in football, because there are a lot of factors with injuries, fatigue, and you're fighting those things every single day."
On the messages he sends to new offensive line acquisitions about cohesion: "It's not a ton. I mean, it's knowing your role and doing your job at a high level. Like I said before, it's what we're paid to do. Just making sure, No. 1, knowing who they got first, then obviously, the toughest part is blocking them. But they have to know who they've got first, then block them. How they approach that with technique and fundamentals – that's it."
On RT Austin Howard: "We're working every day. I feel like he's a good guy, and he's been working hard. He's been dialed in and trying to get the plays down and fundamentals down. We've been working hard every day, and I think he's going to do a good job for us. He's been a good guy, and I like getting to know him. He was here in 2011, I think. I'm familiar with him – he's a good dude. We're excited to have him."
On his confidence in the run game:"I'm excited. We're all excited. It's a fresh start and I think … The word I think of is 'commitment.' I think we're going to be committed to it more this year than we ever have. We understand, too, that we're going to have to pass the ball, too. I tell the offensive line that it doesn't matter to us in the end – you can't look at it that way. When a pass is called, a pass is called. When a run is called, a run is called. It doesn't matter. You have to run the play that's called and execute that. If we have to throw the ball 60 times on Sunday to win the game, who knows what happens? You might have to do that. You have to be prepared. It doesn't matter – run or pass – you execute your job at a high level – run or pass – no matter what."
*Cincinnati Head Coach Marvin Lewis
Conference Call with Baltimore Media
What do you feel has stood out about OLB Terrell Suggs that has made him such a special player over the years? (Jamison Hensley)"I think the one thing he has done so well is how well he plays the game mentally. I don't think he gets much credit for that. Not only is he the physically-tough, gifted, greatest rusher, but he understands the offense, and he plays things out there on the field, schematically and mentally."
The offense just returned QB Joe Flacco on Saturday. What do you anticipate from them with essentially only a week of practice as a complete offense?* (Ed Lee)* "I think they'll run their offense. Obviously, Joe is very familiar with what they do. I haven't been able to sit there in Owings Mills and watch him, so from what I understand, they'll continue to do their thing. He's very experienced, very accurate with the football, and I don't expect they're going to change much."
From your experience, do you need a quarterback to be there for the entire preseason practicing? (Ed Lee)"It's actually not my place to judge one way or another. Joe [Flacco] is a very experienced quarterback. Those guys are fine coaches over there, and between the medical staff and them, they decided what was best."
They put a lot of emphasis and investment in the secondary this offseason in Baltimore. What do you see of it, and what are its strengths? (Bo Smolka)"They have. They've invested with bringing over [Brandon] Carr, bringing over the safety [Tony Jefferson], and adding their No. 1 pick [Marlon Humphrey]. Those guys are all talented players. They're playing a lot of man concepts. I heard press man-to-man even before we were allowed to use that in OTAs and the first couple days of training camp, before we were even allowed to. A lot has been written about that, and you can see it on tape."
You've had a recent run of success against the Ravens. Is there anything, in particular, you team does well against the Ravens? (Ed Lee)"I know it's going to be a very physical game – very close. They're a well-put-together, physical, football team – well coached. We just have to play our very best, and that's what I explain to our guys each and every time. That's the way it's going to unfold. We just have to keep chopping wood and hanging in there."
How excited are you about some of the new pieces on offense? (Ed Lee)"We're really excited. We're excited to open up the season and excited for our players here to get an opportunity to go out and play real football. We put them in early on in the preseason and got them going, because we knew they were going to be here and be a part of the football team. Now, this is the next test against a real quality opponent."
WR A.J. Green has had a lot of success against the Ravens in the past. How does he look thus far? (Ed Lee)"A.J. has continued to be himself. He's had a good summer for us. He didn't get to finish the season last year – didn't even play against the Ravens, I don't think, one time last year. We need him to step up and have a great year for us all throughout."
OLB Terrell Suggs says that people think of WR A.J. Green mostly as a deep threat, but they forget how good he is running routes – both intermediate and short routes. What would you say about his ability for those? (Ed Lee)"I think he's a very good all-around player. He does everything he's asked to do. He's first in everything he does. I'm very appreciative to have someone of his talents on the football team."