*RAVENS WEDNESDAY TRANSCRIPTS: Week 11 at packers
*Head Coach John Harbaugh, QB Joe Flacco, OLB Terrell Suggs, TE Benjamin Watson & S Eric Weddle
(The transcript of Packers head coach Mike McCarthy's call with Baltimore media is also below.)
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "Good to see everybody here; I appreciate you coming out. You have the jackets on, very emblematic of Green Bay. It is good football weather out here, and we are getting ready to go to Lambeau."
TE Benjamin Watson is coming off an Achilles injury at 36 and has really done a good job. Can you speak to what it means for a guy to come back off that injury and perform so well? (David Ginsburg)"That is a really good point. Achilles is a tough injury, as we know. Steve Smith came off it last year. I saw Richard Sherman had one just last weekend. Those things are unexplainable sometimes, but the rehab is really tough. His age, to come back … He is so motivated; he loves to play. It has not been just that. He has been playing through different bumps and bruises all year. He is just a very tough person, a very determined individual, and we are very fortunate to have him."
A couple years ago, we kept asking you why you couldn't get more interceptions. Now, you are leading the league in interceptions. What do you think the biggest difference has been? (Jamison Hensley)"Well, coaching. I'm coaching them more. *(laughter) *The guys. The guys. [Secondary coach] Chris Hewitt has done a great job with those guys. The system is built really well, in terms of the way we run our coverages, but really it is the guys back there playing. Eric [Weddle] and Tony [Jefferson] are doing a great job of disguising, and our corners are making plays in tight coverage. We have had some batted balls. We have disrupted with our pass rush. Those are the things that generally lead to interceptions, and I just think our guys deserve all the credit for it."
You guys made an investment in your secondary and particularly at cornerback. Is this how you guys had hoped it would play out with the three options on the outside and other accomplished guys even moving inside? (Jeff Zrebiec)"It is. We even probably visualized Tavon [Young] being in there. All those guys have panned out. We have not had one guy not pan out. That is a credit to everybody involved in that – scouts and coaches and the players themselves. But you know what? They have to keep playing. We have a big challenge. We have a really good receiving corps in front of us coming up here, and we are going to have to cover those guys."
Along those same lines, CB Maurice Canady is another cornerback who has a lot of talent. What did you see from him, and how big of a part that secondary can he be in the second half of the year? (Ryan Mink)"I think a big part of it. Maurice has really not skipped a beat from training camp. He stepped right in to practice and played exactly how he played during training camp. What a credit to him and his rehab and the trainers and the strength coaches to have him ready and for his mindset. He is a very smart player, a very aware player to go with his talent. We are counting on him."
I know you kind of answered this question in several different ways already, but how tantalizing was that first drive of the season, in terms of exactly what RB Danny Woodhead could do for the offense if he comes back? (Childs Walker)"Sure. That is probably a great word. I probably would not have thought about that word myself. But that is why you do what you do. You are a wordsmith! We will just have to see how that plays out, but that is why Danny is here. That is why Ben [Watson] is here. Those guys are veteran guys that know how to do those kinds of things for your offense. Speculation at this point, but I anticipate having him out there would really help us."
During the season, it is week to week, and you really focus on that specific game. But when you get that bye week, you are able to do some reflecting. Was there anything you were able to pull where you thought, "This is really going to help us going forward." (Pete Gilbert)"There were a lot of things. I had a notebook that thick on my desk, and just studying those things and having a meeting with the offense and defense and saying, 'OK, what is relevant? What is not? What can we apply? What don't we need to apply? What we can take advantage of? What needs to be fixed?' All those kind of things. That is what you do as a coach. You try to do it every week. We really try to keep track of ourselves every week, but over the bye week, you get way deeper, way more involved. We will see. We will see how it plays out. It is more than just that. You have to go out there and do it. The opponent usually has some say about that as well, but we should be able to benefit from those studies."
In that regard, is having the bye week this late more beneficial? You obviously have a lot more to look at. You maybe had a better idea because of the sample size. (Pete Gilbert)"I'm not sure about the timing. It probably does, as opposed to really early in the season. A week or two might not matter, but compared to the early bye, it probably is an advantage in that way."
How critical has a guy like DB/LB Anthony Levine Sr. been, not only on special teams, but also on defense? (Ed Lee)"Anthony is really a flexible player. He is probably our special teams captain; I think everybody would regard him that way. He has played excellent on special teams. But defensively, you see him out there, and he plays multiple positions. Is he a safety? Is he a linebacker? A corner? What is he playing out there? He does all of those things equally well. He knows the defense in and out. He plays really hard. [He's] fundamentally a very sound player, an underrated talent. He has been a big part of our defense."
Obviously, you had seen plenty on Vikings QB Case Keenum, because he had played a while, but is there a challenge to playing a guy like Packers QB Brett Hundley, who is still finding himself and where he fits in. He is not Aaron Rodgers, but is there a challenge in that way? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I really think, yes, and probably, the next follow-up answer is that all of these guys present a unique challenge. Quarterbacks in this league are here for a reason. They are very talented; they are very good. How it pans out for them in games in this league … That is the highest level. That is the toughest position to play in sports, I think. He has done a good job for them. He has operated the offense very well. He is not a rookie. He has been there for three years. He knows the offense. You can see that he emulates Aaron Rodgers a lot in the way that he handles himself and the way that he plays the game. How could you not? It has been good for him."
Last week, former Ravens TE Dennis Pitta said that the offense tends to be conservative. I was just wondering your reactions to his comments last week. (Ed Lee)"I don't think that is exactly what he said. I didn't read it, but someone brought it to my attention. I can tell you this: I have been in every single offensive meeting, and I know how the reads are built. It is not one read and then dump it down. Dennis called me last night, and we had a great talk. He explained to me what he was trying to say. The difficulty – and as he said it to me – the difficulty when you are trying to explain how offensive systems are built in a sentence, it is really hard to describe it, because it is just not that simple of a game. Our reads are complicated. They are the same reads that we have had. They are West Coast-style reads. They take into account many factors, [like] rotation of the defense, coverage structure. Is it two-deep, is it three-deep? Is it man? Is it zone? What are the matchups? Are they pressed, or are they off? Those are all, just off the top of my head, examples of what the quarterback has to go through to decide where he is going to start his read progression. From there, the read progression is always one through five, if you get them all out. If you get four out, it is one through four. The checkdown is part of that. Sometimes the checkdown might be two. Most of the time, it is three or four depending on where the structure of the defense puts the quarterback's eyes. If you ask him, he could probably explain to you what he was trying to say better than I could, but I know how the offense is built, and it is just not that simple."
QB Joe Flacco
On what TE Benjamin Watson has meant to the offense after missing last season with an Achilles injury:"He's been through a lot this year, too. He suits up every week. Just the toughness that he's had this year is unbelievable. He's always in the right spot, you can count on him to win, I can anticipate my throws with him – and make them that much more accurate because of that. He's been huge."
On his experience playing at Lambeau Field:"I think it was a Monday night, and we lost, and I threw some interceptions. So, it wasn't a great experience. That's what I remember." (laughter)
On how would having RB Danny Woodhead on the field help the offense: "I think you got a little taste of Danny the first week and what he can do. He's also a guy that knows what he's doing in protection and can give you a lot of things, obviously. We all know he's a good athlete. He catches the ball out of backfield well and does a lot of those things. I know he's out here working to get himself healthy and get himself going. So, we'll see."
On how he approached the bye week:"When we didn't have to be here – I wasn't here. Other than that, we self-scout. We came in here Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then we got an extra day coming back in the beginning of this week. You get to go over with your coaches a lot of the stuff that we've done well and then the stuff that we haven't done very well, and we can hone that in. It kind of carries a lot of the game plan for the rest of the season. You get to take time and reflect and really see what plays we should be carrying and really focusing on down the stretch here, because we need to be efficient. We need to be focused on the details, and we need to be really on top of things. It's going to give us a better chance to do that if we do the things that we do well. I think that's the biggest thing for these bye weeks, is reflecting on what we've done so far, and obviously, going over some of the things we haven't done so well. But, it's more about what we've done well so we can focus on being that good team down the stretch. We definitely got some extra time out here last week, and that was huge for that."
On if anything surprised him when reviewing performances: "It's always funny when you go back and look at some stuff. You'll end up leaving the meetings optimistic about where we are, and you always end up leaving that having an optimistic view about how close we are, as opposed to how it may feel sometimes. Like I said, we were able to go out there yesterday and get an extra practice in and hone in on some of those things; that felt good. We're starting to get healthy at certain spots, so hopefully, that'll help also."
On if it's difficult trying to distribute the ball amongst five tight ends:"I'm not thinking about trying to get the ball to all those guys. Each guy does specific things very well, and they're placed in different positions on the game plan based on what they do, and that stuff usually takes care of itself. It's tough … If I was worried about getting the ball to five guys, and five more wide receivers, and a couple running backs – that'd be a tough job. I'm not actively thinking about getting the ball to certain guys. I think, game plan-wise, we think about getting guys going early and things like that. But no, that'd be a pretty tough job."
On if there's a feeling that this is going to be the most rested the team will be the rest of the season:"I think yes and no. I think, yes [because] there is a reality to the fact that we're getting a little bit healthy. I also think it's a hot topic because of a bye week, and people tend to think about getting rested up and healthy."
On the importance of improving the intermediate passing game:"It speaks for itself. Obviously, it's important. We've been pretty good at quick game and stuff like that. In order to get some chunks, we're going to have to be better at the intermediate stuff, and then hopefully, get some over the top. We were able to take some shots last week over the top, and just none of them worked out. Then, by the time we got the intermediate stuff going … Yes, we hit some of it, but it was late in the game. It'd be nice to get some of that stuff going early on and put some pressure on the defense."
On his reaction to former Ravens TE Dennis Pitta's comments about the offense: "I didn't really know. Somebody in a group text sent some article where all those comments came out. But, I didn't read the article, because I didn't really care. (laughter) *I don't know. What is there to say about our offense right now? We all can see the obvious. When you go out there and watch the game on Sunday, [it] is that we're not performing at the level that we need to, to win football games. It doesn't really matter what you say. I think it's pretty obvious as to what people see and all that. We know that, we understand it, and that's why we're working on getting better." (Reporter: "Are there instances though when you only have one read and have to checkdown, where you'd like to have more latitude?")* "Just from talking to Dennis, I don't think he said … I don't know what he said, to be honest with you, so I can't speak completely honestly on what he said. But, I think he's probably trying to – at some level – stick up for a friend, and at some level do some other … He's trying to answer a question honestly. Like I said, I can't talk too much about it, because I don't know exactly what he said. But, your reads are what they are. The way the play turns out is what it is come Sunday. It's really on us to get that better."
OLB Terrell Suggs
On the mental break of a bye week and if it energizes the team:"Around this time, they start talking about the playoff picture and the hunt and all of that. You kind of want to get on a roll. Like you said, we did need a mental break. We had some guys out, some guys injured. But we get some guys back, and we get to have at it for seven games. You can start with this one.
On if he embraces that the team is right in the playoff hunt: "Absolutely. You do not want to concede your season. Some teams don't have a shot. They don't have a shot of getting in, and we still do. You play well at home, and you do well on the road, and you have a shot. You definitely want to be in the hunt."
On if playing backup QBs over the last seven games can give the team an advantage: "No, because we thought that earlier in the season, and it didn't work out so well for us. You kind of have to … There is nothing more important than the team you are playing and the guy that is under center. I don't think it really so much matters that they were backups before. They are starting now, and the guy is coming off a win. Momentum and confidence is everything, especially in this league. Every team we play is going to be a task we have to handle."
On if it seems there are more backup QBs that are playing this year than ever: "No, I've never really thought about it that way. There are only a few select guys that you would know that are going in there. After that, all of these guys can play in this league. Unless it is the guy up in Boston [Tom Brady], that would be a big difference [if his backup played]. But there are some other premier quarterbacks. Other than that, everybody else, it is just like, 'They can play.' They have been conditioned to play NFL football, so it really doesn't matter."
On if there is anything special about playing in Green Bay: "I've never played at Lambeau Field in 15 years."
On if it is meaningful to play at Lambeau Field:"Definitely. I am very excited to go play at a historic stadium against a team with so much tradition. I am excited."
On if he likes cold weather football: "Not on Monday through Saturday. Sunday, I love it. Monday through Saturday, not so much."
TE Benjamin Watson
On how gratifying this season has been coming off an Achilles injury:"As we talked about before, it's been a long journey. My goal was to get to a place where I could contribute to this team and contribute to this team winning. We haven't won as many games as I would've liked, or we would've liked, but it is satisfying any time you have an injury like that, to be able to come back and see yourself again on the field."
On if it means something to him to not only be back, but to be an integral part of the offense: "The goal for every player, and it doesn't change whether you're injured or not, is to be part of the offense, be someone that can be depended on. That's what we all strive for. Especially when you have that type of adversity, you strive for getting back as close as you can to where you were before. There's always, kind of, a new normal – some things are different, some things are the same. But again, I am happy to contribute to the offense, and hopeful to turn it into some more wins the second half of the season."
On the effect RB Danny Woodhead could have on offense upon his return:"He's a versatile player; he's been that his whole career. He's a guy that can run between the tackles; he can help in the passing game, great at pass protection, those sorts of things. That's why he's here. Like all of us – injuries happen, and that's when other guys come in and play; it's a team sport. Whenever he's able to return, we're going to be excited to have another one of our offensive backs."
On how healthy he feels after the bye week:"Every 24-hour block counts. (laughter) So, you add seven of those together, [and] it's kind of like a meter. You're down here, then you work your way back up. Everybody goes through it throughout the league and everybody … Whenever the bye week comes, everybody is excited across the league, because if you're healthy, you get some time away, but if you're not, you get a little time to recover and recuperate. This game is one that's never played, really, at 100 percent. Anytime you get some rest … I enjoy having a couple days to be off my feet and to allow some things to heal."
On how disappointing it was to be injured during the preseason last year and his thoughts while rehabbing:"I was very disappointed. I've talked about it to you all before. Anytime you come to a new place, and coming from New Orleans [to] here, there are people that you want to make happy – including you all and the guys in the locker room, the guys upstairs. You want to come in and make a statement as a new player. You want to prove that you're someone that's committed to this organization and someone that wants to help the organization be successful. Obviously, injuries happen, and you can't control that. As a player, it's always tough – especially on my family, moving all the way up here and having those things happen. But, life is full of adversity. This isn't going to be the first or the last time we face this type of adversity. On the field, or whatever occupation you're in – you're going to face some sort of adversity. It's not that it's not going to happen, but it's about how you deal with it, and how you fight through it, and what message you send to others around you – including my children, who have prayed for me and continue to pray for my Achilles – every single day for the last year-and-a-half. What kind of message am I sending to them with my willingness to fight? There were times in that training room over there, where I felt like, 'You know, I don't know if I'm ever going to be able to play in the NFL again, at a level that I'm satisfied with – or at all.' God blessed me to be able to come back. So, my goal this year has been to do the best that I can with what I've been given, to contribute as much as I can, and really, to have a sense of gratitude just to be able to be out here."
On if it's difficult to share playing time with five other tight ends:"One thing about coming here [is] I've never seen an organization with this many tight ends all the time. (laughter) I'm telling you, when I got here last year, we had five tight ends, then we had a receiver that would move to tight end, then we had a running back that moved to tight end. They keep a lot of guys in our room. Our room is always crowded – which is great. The position of tight end is one that takes a beating. If you look around the league, and you ask trainers, I would probably say that tight ends, safeties, those are guys that get hurt a lot, because of what we're asked to do. It's always important to have a number of guys that can play, that can step in. I think that's been a strength of ours, that we've had a number of guys who can play, because injuries are going to happen. For us, it's about knowing what to do. Every guy has to know every niche, every position, because you never know in the middle of a game, if you're going to have to come in and do it."
On if he's comfortable in his role as a pass-catching tight end: "They're roles that morph from quarter to quarter. If you look at our games, there have been times where I've been in more running plays, and it's been the other way around. I think over the course of the season things change. As tight ends, I'll say this, we pride ourselves … My goal, as a tight end, is to be someone who can do it all; that's what we all want to do. We want to be someone that they can call on to run the ball behind us, and also if they need to throw the ball downfield on a deep cross, they want a big guy that can do that as well. When you have multiple tight ends, there's going to be positions that you're put in, but it's important for us, offensively, to have very versatile players. I think that's been the goal here."
S Eric Weddle
On the impressive play from the cornerbacks and what that has allowed the defense to do: "When you have corners that can cover, who are smart, intelligent and play hard and tackle, you really do not have to call the game a certain way for the defense. For us as a defense, we are confident in whatever we call that they can hold up on the outside. The way the game is nowadays, it is pass-happy offenses, so if you don't have corners that can run, cover and tackle, then it is going to be a long day. We have been fortunate enough, obviously, adding Brandon [Carr] and drafting Marlon [Humphrey], who has been unbelievable since the day he got here, and Jimmy [Smith] having his best year as a pro. We all needed it for him to take that next step, and he has to continue that. I told him yesterday [that] as good as he has been playing, I need him to be even better this next seven games and take that approach. We all do to get what we want to get accomplished and have a shot in December to make those games relevant. I am proud of those guys. They have to keep it up, and when they play well and when the back end plays well, we always have a chance to win."
On what RB Danny Woodhead can bring to the offense: "He just gives us a shot in the arm. He gives us some juice, some energy. He is a guy that creates matchups, not only in the running game, but also in the passing game. It gives Joe [Flacco] another weapon when things may not be open. He can just always check it down or see the matchup. The thing with 'Woody' is there are not many linebackers or safeties in this league that can cover him. When you know you have that matchup, you get him the ball and let him work. He is eager to get out there. He is fresh. He is energized, and I really think he can be the shot in the offense that we need to jumpstart the offense a little bit."
On why RB Danny Woodhead is so hard to cover: "He knows the nuances of offense. He knows route-running. He is explosive in and out of his breaks. He catches everything. He is hard to bring down. He runs routes like a wideout, in and out of his breaks. He is not going to run by anybody, per se, but he has the speed to break away when he gets in and out of his cuts. It is tough in general to guard running backs out of the backfield, because they have so much space and room to work with, whether it is in or out, getting vertical, running seven-routes. It presents challenges, and it opens things up. You can't think as a defense [that] you are going to single him up with your middle linebacker. It will be a long day. It will be bad. Just having him on the field, the defense has to account for him getting out of the backfield, running certain things, protection, run, screen game. He can present so much on offense that if you don't have a plan for him, it won't be good."
On if he can cover RB Danny Woodhead: "Of course. I feel I can cover anyone, so that is not an issue." (laughter)
On what factors have led to the defense leading the league in interceptions: "I think it is a combination of the front, obviously good coverage on the back end, great calls. There is so much that goes into an interception. The coverage by the guy … Against Tennessee, 'Mo' [Maurice Canady] had great coverage on the seven-route, which if he didn't have good coverage, he could have banged that ball right in there on a line, but he had to sell it over his head, because he had such good coverage, and it gives me a chance to get over the top and make a play. There are a lot of factors that go into it. The offseason two years ago, obviously, it was a point of emphasis when I got here last year of creating more turnovers and just catching the ball when it comes your way. I think we have done that. We stress and harp on it day-in and day-out about creating turnovers and creating that advantage for our team and the points that we can get off of it. It is fun. Obviously, creating turnovers, we have to do a better job and continue to create those turnovers and catch the ball when it comes our way."
**What did you see from CB Maurice Canady and where do you think he can help you guys? *(Ryan Mink) *"He is just another guy that can run – explosive, fast, playmaking-type cover guy for us. It is obviously his first game back, and he got his feet wet and played well. We are just excited to get another guy back that we feel confident in that can go in there and get the job done. It gives us an opportunity to move guys around in certain packages to do what certain guys do well. Move them around and if their blitzing is better than covering, let's blitz them and have other guys cover. Cover guys cover, blitzers blitz, and me play deep and make plays. It is exciting. We have a great stretch. We are getting healthy, and the building is excited to hopefully get some wins."
On if there is anything special about playing at Lambeau Field: "The aura of the stadium. You just walk in, and it is just a beautiful stadium. There is not a bad seat in that place when you walk in. I have played there twice. I am 0-2 there, so hopefully this will be my first win there. I'm banking on it, hopefully. But you know a lot of the history, way back when we were not alive. It is 'Title Town' for a reason. A lot of Super Bowls have been won there."
On if playing multiple backup quarterbacks in their last seven games is an opportunity the team has to take advantage of: "At this point in the season, I am not going to say we should take advantage of this [or] we should do this or be this. At this point, we just want to play as best as we can and try to get a win. They just got a huge win last week in Chicago, which is a team that we lost to. We are not looking past whoever is playing. [Brett] Hundley did some great things last week; he didn't turn the ball over. He has a good feel. When you look at him without the number on him, he has a lot of the same characteristics as Aaron Rodgers. We are just taking it one game at a time, one week at a time. Like I said, I just want to get to the point where the December games are relevant and we have a shot."
On what specific characteristics Packers QB Brett Hundley has that are similar to Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: "Just his pocket presence, the quick throws, his mannerisms. It is almost like his last three years, he has looked at [Rodgers] and tried to do everything to be like him. I would do the same thing if I was in his position. It is good. He has played well. He makes plays inside the pocket, outside the pocket. He has a great feel in the pocket. It is almost as A-Rod does; he is like a magician back there. It is impressive, the things that he has done. He has three-and-a-half starts in him. The half of football after A-Rod got hurt and then three starts. There is more film that we have on him than E.J. Manuel at the time that he was playing against us. We have some time to look at him, and we will see what happens."
On if it is an advantage that two Packers running backs got injured:"I do not know if it is an advantage. Advantages go out the window at this time of the year. We should have beat some other teams that we didn't. They are going to try to run the ball. Teams think they can run the ball against us, so go ahead and try. That is fine with us. We will be ready, and we are excited for the challenge of an offense that is as potent as this that runs the ball, play-action with shots. They present a lot of problems with how many multiple things they do with the screen game, with the different route combinations, with the shots, with the red zone routes. Everything is a lot, so it is going to be fun to go up there and see what we have.
*GREEN BAY PACKERS CONFERENCE CALL
Head Coach Mike McCarthy with Baltimore Media
I just want to get your sense on how you feel QB Brett Hundley is progressing? He came on strong last week. Where do you think he is? (Peter Schmuck) "He's improved with every opportunity. Really, it is more about the cohesiveness of the offense. [We are] just playing the way we need to play each week. Obviously, we have a huge challenge this week with Baltimore's defense and all the different things that you have to prepare for."
As far as the Baltimore secondary, they spent a lot of the offseason on it. What you've looked at film, is this one of the better secondaries in the league? (Peter Schmuck) "Absolutely. You have a lot of experience, and you have a group that does a really good job of understanding the*opponent's passing concepts, the way they are jumping routes and breaking points, the anticipation. *I think the culmination of what their safeties and corners can do, you just have to be very aware, very distinct. [They are an] excellent disguise team, a lot of different pressure concepts and so forth. You really have to be on top of your game when you play these guys."
**A lot of people have talked about CB Jimmy Smith emerging as one of the best corners in the NFL. What specifically have you seen from him? *(David Wolf) *"I think the first thing that shows off is his length and his patience. I think when guys play to their strengths, the game slows down for them. He's very respected, obviously, very comfortable on his team, and pretty comfortable with what they're asking him to do."
How much of a challenge is working with a second-string quarterback and bringing him along? How much do you think it's a matter of his teammates getting comfortable with him, as much as him getting comfortable with his teammates? (Peter Schmuck)"It's definitely a process. It's one you hope you're prepared for when the situation occurs. It really goes back to the quarterback room and how you train everybody. We were fortunate to have a great quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, and more importantly, just the way he gives himself in the way he shares and tries to mentor the young players – and I'm talking about long before the injury. We have an excellent quarterbacks coach in Alex Van Pelt, so there's a lot of time, energy, and resources that go into the quarterback room. It's almost the most important position on the football field. So, when Brett's opportunity came about, it's just a matter of getting him up to speed of not only how to play properly, but play the position well, really. It's a challenge of what's in front of him. This is probably our biggest challenge, just from a preparation standpoint, of the season." The Ravens had a ton of injuries early in the season. By their account, they finally seem to be getting a lot of their guys back. The offense has been spotty, and QB Joe Flacco has had some issues. What are you seeing from them offensively, and as far as personnel? (Peter Schmuck)"I think you really answered the question. Health is such a critical factor in the talents of this league. If you come off a bye week, we expect to get your best shot. They have good players. It always happens. They have a style, a playing style that they always adhere to under John Harbaugh. We're just really trying to clean our own house and improve and get ready for these guys."