WEDNESDAY PODIUM AVAILABILITY: Week 4 AT DENVER BRONCOS
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, it's good to see everybody. I appreciate everybody being here. [It's] a beautiful day. What questions do you have?"
You look at the Broncos defense giving up under 10 points a game, and of course, LB Von Miller has four sacks. What do you see from those guys? (Todd Karpovich) "They're playing great. [Broncos head coach] Vic Fangio, [defensive coordinator] Ed Donatell and those guys do a great job. It's reflected in how they're playing."
I'm sure it brings up good memories when I say Super Bowl XLVII. What are your thoughts about DT Haloti Ngata getting his recognition in the Ring of Honor? (David Andrade) "[I'm] very excited about Haloti [Ngata]. That was a foregone conclusion, probably, at some point in time. So, he's a Raven. [He's] a Raven for life. It was an honor to coach him and I'm looking forward to that."
On Monday, we talked a little bit about the thin air out in Denver. You've dealt with it a lot. I don't know how many of your guys have experienced it. How much do you think it is a factor? Do you think it could make a guy like QB Lamar Jackson run a little faster? We talked about K Justin Tucker's distance and all that. (Jerry Coleman) "I don't know." (laughter) "That's the honest answer." (Reporter: "What about getting your team ready for the thin air?") "We'll be ready." (Reporter: "Is there anything special you have to do?") "No."
Do you have a timeframe for DE Derek Wolfe's return? Are you concerned about your rotation because you're a little thin since DT Brandon Williams was out and DT Justin Madubuike was out? Are you worried about that moving ahead? (Mike Preston) "I don't have a timeframe on Derek Wolfe with a back [injury] – that's up in the air. We'll get those guys [Brandon Williams and Justin Madubuike] back this week, so we should be back to normal."
How cautious will you be with WR Rashod Bateman and WR Miles Boykin? Will you know toward the end of the week if they'll be a go on Sunday? (Kirk McEwen) "It'll just be based on if they're ready to go [and] how ready they are to play."
The stats say that QB Lamar Jackson is throwing downfield at a higher rate than any other quarterback in the league this year. Is that gameplan? Is that him having more confidence in those throws? Is it all of the above? (Childs Walker) "No, I think it's the defenses that you see. You see some defenses that don't allow you to push it downfield and force you to put it underneath. Other defenses give you some opportunities, and if you execute route running, protection and all those things, you get a chance to throw it downfield."
G/C Patrick Mekari's development has proved that he can take the lead at right tackle. Do you think he can be even better when TE Nick Boyle comes back 100%? (David Andrade) "When [Nick] Boyle comes back, that's going to be great for us. I'll say that the tight ends are playing really well. All those guys have really done a good job. So, that gives you a little bit of a comfort, the fact that those guys have played so well, and then we'll be adding Nick when he's ready. Of course, Pat [Mekari] has done a good job at right tackle, I agree with that. So, I'm happy with all of that."
You're familiar with Broncos WR Tim Patrick. What have you seen on tape so far? (Bobby Trosset) "He's playing well. He's really made a name for himself. [He's a] big, physical receiver. Fifty-50 ball guy, he goes and gets a lot of contested catches. They use him as a blocker, as well. Everything that we thought we had; we would have loved to have kept. He's blossomed."
You guys have a chance to tie the NFL record this week for the most 100-yard rushing games in a row. I'm wondering, what do you remember about those Pittsburgh teams from the 1970s that set that record? (Noah Trister) "I remember I was a Browns fan, and we never beat them. I remember that. It probably had to do with rushing for all those yards. I was a kid. So, I remember Franco Harris and [former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach] Chuck Noll. I really do admire Chuck Noll. I really have a lot of respect for him. I read a lot of the things that he said. So, sure, that's something that counts for something. It's kind of not really in the forefront of our thinking right now at all, but it's something, for sure."
You talked about Denver's defense. Offensively, what do you see from them with QB Teddy Bridgewater and some of the things that they're doing? (Cliff Brown) "Well, they're completing passes, that's the main thing. He's completing passes at a very high rate. He stands in there. He sees the field really well. He hangs in and makes throws. He gets out of there when he has to. The offensive line is doing a nice job. He has some talented receivers, two tight ends [and] one really good receiving tight end, you almost treat him like a receiver – [Noah] Fant. He's doing a great job in there, but they have three good tight ends. They have [running] backs that can catch the ball in the backfield really well and all kinds of different routes – swing routes, burst routes, stop routes. [They are] just a pretty complete West Coast-type offense, and he's running it really well."
On Monday, you said that T Ronnie Stanley was meeting with doctors. Any updates on that? (Jamison Hensley) "No updates on that."
What do you make of LB Von Miller's sustained durability and the fact that he, seemingly, at least early on here, seems to have bounced back from last year's injury? (Bobby Trosset) "I don't really look too much into it. I don't know Von [Miller] other than coaching against him. I have great respect for him. I respect what he's done. For us and for me, it's just what you see on tape. That's what I'm looking at and how we're going to deal with him, which is going to be really … That's the main job right now. When you look at the defense, you have to deal with a lot of things, but it starts with him. He's the centerpiece. He's the game wrecker. He has been for a long time. Beyond that, that's really all I'm thinking about."
You're getting most of your defensive guys back, but what did Sunday tell you about your overall defensive depth? (Peter Schmuck) "I'd say it's pretty good. I feel good about it. … It's not just Sunday's game; I think it's what has transpired going up into this situation."
QB Lamar Jackson
On his relationship with Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater: "He wasn't really … He came back [to Louisville] a few times, but we didn't really get after it, talk about much around that time. But for sure, that's my boy, though. That's my boy."
On if Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater has helped him out at all: "Not really. We haven't really talked about football like that. I need to holler at him about it, though. I need to talk to him about it – for sure."
On if he'll talk about Louisville with Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater: "We'll get to it. We'll get to it."
On if he remembers where the play clock was before he snapped the ball on the last drive: "We got the first down. (laughter) I don't know about anything else. We got the first down, 'Tuck' [Justin Tucker] kicked the game-winning field goal, we sealed the deal, we got out of Detroit with the 'dub.' That's all I know."
On the offense leading a game-winning drive in each game and having late-game success as unit: "Yes, for sure. Just to close out the game sometimes instead of putting the defense back on the field or having 'Tuck' [Justin Tucker] go out there and try to win one for us, like he just did. It's good for us. We need that, especially early on in the season, because you never know what will happen down the road."
On how impressed he is with K Justin Tucker's ability to handle high-pressure situations: "I'm impressed in practice with 'Tuck' [Justin Tucker], so of course, especially with a 66-yarder. It was like, 'Man, there's no way.' I didn't have doubt, to be honest with you, I didn't have doubt. When he was kicking that field goal, it was like, 'Man, I wish we would have gotten him more yards, if anything, to make it easier for him.' But it was like, 'Man,' [and] I kind of threw up one of these (raises his arms) and looked away. I was like, 'Man, I know he's got it,' and then he did it, man. It's amazing. It's still amazing to this day, to me."
On if he's surprised that he's leading the NFL in yards-per-pass average: "I'm not surprised. It's not surprising to me. I just want to win. I don't really get into the statistics part of the game. It's about winning at the end of the day, and that's what we've been doing, so I don't really care about the naysayers [or] about anything else."
On if he's put in extra work to improve his deep-passing: "For sure, for sure. Like I said, I worked with [Tom House Sports'] Adam [Dedeaux] during the offseason and stuff like that. And Coach 'Urb' [Quarterbacks coach James Urban], he stays on us about repetition and doing the stuff over and over again, so it can be like the back of your hand, and it's working."
On if looking aggressively down the field leads to interceptions, and if he can play aggressively without throwing more interceptions: "If anything, it will probably lead to a sack or something – holding the ball too long – not an interception. Sometimes you're just trying to make things happen. If you're looking at the clock, you get caught up with the score and you try to make stuff happen too fast. Instead of just taking what they give you, sometimes you might throw a pick."
On his thought-process of how he'll try to get WR Marquise Brown back on track: "We're just going to play ball – do what he's been doing. We're not worried about the Detroit game; it's over with. He caught passes during that game. It's just mishaps. It happens sometimes to the best, and we're not worried about it. In Denver, I know he's going to have a strong game – for sure."
On his emphasis to complete deeper passes and the strides he's made in that area: "[Since] OTAs and stuff like that, we've been working on pushing the ball downfield. That was a huge emphasis [for] us coming in. Coach was telling us, 'If we get a few during the game, it'll help us throughout the game,' and that's what we've been trying to do. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't, but hopefully, we'll be hitting a lot more throughout the season."
On what he's noticed about his own personal growth and development this season: "I haven't been trying to critique myself at all. I've just been trying to get better each and every day and trying to win these games. That's all I've been focused on; not 'Oh, what have I done good? What have I done bad?' We're just trying to win games, and that's all."
On if the offense has been successful in attempting to stretch defenses horizontally and vertically: "Yes, I feel we've been doing a pretty good job at it. We can do better, though. I feel we can do better – a lot better. But for now, we've been doing pretty good."
On WR Rashod Bateman: "[He's] a great route-runner, strong hands, [and] he has speed, too – sneaky speed. That's it right now. But I feel he's going to be ready. He's going to be hungry and ready when his time comes."
On the Ravens fan getting a tattoo to commemorate each victory: "That's nice. That's different. We've just got to keep winning for him. He said he'll stop when we win the Super Bowl. We've got to get that for him. I like that, I like that. That's different." (laughter)
On if the thin air in Denver might add to his speed: "I hope so. (laughter) But no, I've never played in Denver. I've never been out there."
On watching game tape with WR Marquise Brown on the plane home from Detroit: "That's my teammate, but that's my brother at the same time. We had mishaps in the game. There were things we saw throughout the game that he saw, things I saw. I didn't have my iPad, so I got my center Bradley Bozeman's iPad after he was done, and we were just watching the bad things we did. It was like, 'We've got to get better. We've got to hit this, we've got to hit that, because sometimes we might not get a second chance.' But that's pretty much what it was."
On if he had to build up WR Marquise Brown's confidence: "No, he was good, he was good. We're in the NFL. We're grown men. You've got to let things go. It's over with."
On if the Lions' defense was doing anything that the Ravens' rushing attack hadn't seen very much or if they were just executing well: "I'd say both of us were executing really well. They did pretty good throughout the game; we did pretty good throughout the game. But we were passing the ball a lot more throughout the game. We weren't really running it as much as we usually do."
On if he has been reading defenses better this year, specifically when they're in zone coverage: "Yes, I feel I'm doing a pretty good job at that – just being a lot [more] comfortable. [It's] Year Four for me; that's pretty much what it is."
On if there is an art to making a defense hesitate at the mesh point of a handoff: "It's the feel of the game. Just feeling out your opponent, seeing what they do. You try to look the guy in the eye [when] you're making your read and stuff like that – little things like that."
DE Calais Campbell
On how his alma mater's football team, South High School, the team he helped change from "Rebels" to "Ravens" is doing this year: (laughter) "I think they're doing pretty good so far. I haven't been able to keep as many tabs on them as I would like too, though. But it's cool to be able to call them Ravens now, though. That's for sure."
On how much pride he takes in special teams and knowing he's a part of the unit blocking for K Justin Tucker's game-winner and NFL-record 66-yard kick: "I take a lot of pride in that – I do. I've been blocking for field goals all my life, really, from high school, college, all the way through the league. You see some spectacular things happen – big kicks, game-winners and all that good stuff – but you can't ask for anything better than a record-setter. Being a part of that and being a part of that history, it's pretty cool."
On how excited he is to return to his hometown of Denver, Colorado, and if he plans to visit anywhere: "No, I won't be visiting anywhere, but it's very exciting. It just kind of brings you back to the days when this was just a dream, and [now] it's Year 14 – time flies. But I can remember, like it was yesterday, being in middle school, high school and just working as hard as I could to realize this possibility. And for me to be here today, 14 years in, and being able to go back to Denver and play a football game in the stadium I used to kind of just dream about playing in, it's pretty cool, it's pretty surreal. So, I'm excited. It's going to be a lot of fun."
On if he ever thought he was going to play for the Denver Broncos: "When I was like 10 – yes, of course – I was like, 'I'm going to play for the Broncos.' And I was actually still a big Broncos fan until I had to play against them. Even when I first got to the league, and we didn't play against them in the regular season, I still would root for them as long as it didn't affect us. But then, once I played against them, all that went out the window." (laughter)
On what advice he gives to players about playing in the thin air and altitude in Denver: "Well, there's not much you can really do. Just try to make sure you get a lot of cardio; we've been able to do a lot of that with these exciting games. You really just have to get on the oxygen machine, make sure we rotate – keep a good rotation, especially on the defensive line. But besides that, we've just got to get an early lead; that's the biggest goal. We don't want to be in a ballgame where it comes down to the last play, because you're definitely going to be tired; you're going to feel it."
On what the three hard-fought games and two victories say about this group: "Yes, I think the biggest thing is it kind of conditions us to learn how to win – learn how to win in those tough moments. The game is never over as long as there is time on the clock, and I think we've started building that confidence that we can win those tight ballgames. Hopefully, we can make them a lot less interesting, and we can win a little more decisively going forward. But for us to go where we want to go and have a chance in the playoffs and in the Super Bowl, you're going to have to win some tight ballgames. And so, [we're] just building that confidence, that belief that, 'All right, just stay the course. Keep doing a good job at a high level, and the play is going to be made. Somebody is going to step up and make a play.'"
On if he's surprised by anything anymore at this point in his career or if he's seen it all: "I will say, I've seen everything, but this last week, though, that was unique; you don't see that too often, if at all, really. You see it happen with a 58-yarder, maybe even a 60-yarder, but to hit a 66-yarder to win a football game, it's still a little mesmerizing. It's a big deal."
On if he felt the need to take his game to another level with two starters out last week: "Yes. As a veteran player, sometimes when you're missing guys, you feel like you've got to pick up the slack a little bit, but really, it should be a standard, always – of just playing at the highest level you can. We were just thin, and we just had to take it one play at a time, and in each play, just give it your all. We had a decent little rotation going on for a while, but when it got thick in there, we've all got to be on the field and just make a play. But it's always better when you've got your full arsenal of people."
On if he's spoken with DE Derek Wolfe: "I talk to him often. He's going through the process. We'd love to have him back as soon as possible, but he's going through the process."
On if it's harder to get comfortable in a game against a balanced offense like Denver's: "No, I think they just have committed to the run and done a really good job with it. And when you're able to run the ball, you can be as balanced as you want to be. So, the way we have to combat that is just by winning those early downs and winning against the run. And if it's second-and-6 or less, you can be very balanced, and you can do all the play-action. If you start getting first downs, earning first downs, then you can start throwing on first down. It's just the way the game goes. The best way to combat that is to win on early downs."
On how K Justin Tucker is a little different than some of the other kickers he's been around: "I feel like most kickers have always had big personalities. I feel like to be a kicker in the NFL you have to have a different kind of swagger. But 'Tuck' [Justin Tucker] definitely has the biggest personality. You've never seen a kicker make so much noise in a team room. In the meetings, usually they try to be seen, not heard in that environment, but 'Tuck' is so comfortable. He's a big jokester. He's always keeping it light, keeping it fun in there, and it just says a lot about his confidence and just who he is as a person. He makes it fun to be his teammate."
On how he's feeling physically, and if he ever feels the need to get in the ear of defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale about playing time: (laughter) "I feel pretty good right now. It's football season, so things hurt. But for the most part, I know that in Year 14, I have to be smart, and I have to pace myself, because this is a long season, and to where we want to go, it's going to be a process. But I also know that I want to be out there, I want to get a feel for the game and be the best version of myself. So, it's a balance of trying to figure out what the right formula is for playing time, and when to take breaks, and how often to take breaks, but we're all figuring it out. It's a moving process. But I'm always in the coaches' ears about what I think could help us win, and especially with me on the field and what I can do to help the team win."
On all the roster movement and getting players back from injuries this week: "You always prefer to have the same roster [as the one] available to you at the beginning of the week. And when you have those unexpected changes, that's kind of like the new normal with the COVID thing the last couple of years. But at the same time too, injuries happen in this game all the time. You see people go down on Fridays and stuff, and it's sad, but it's part of the game, so you always have to be able to adjust, and it's next man up. This team, we have such a deep team, and we believe in everybody in the locker room, so if your number gets called, we know we can count on you."
S Chuck Clark
On what the hard-fought games say about this team: "I think it just shows the character and the traits that we have on this team right now. [It shows] the resiliency and the fight that we build in practice. We get after each other in practice, and I think it shows in the game in just how we fight at the end of games and keep trying to pull it out to get a win."
On if he feels like he's playing the best football of his career: "I always feel like I could be better. Always. I never feel like I've arrived anywhere. I had a college coach once tell me, 'Just by the time you feel good about yourself, you'll get knocked off.' So, I never feel that way."
On what stands out when watching film on QB Teddy Bridgewater: "I think just the way he operates the system. He's pretty much in control, making all the checks [and] the cadence. He's doing everything."
On what the last minute of the Detroit game was like for him as a defensive player: "I was just watching it hoping something would happen. When I saw they got the fourth-and-19, I was like, 'Oh, we're going to win the game.' I was just hoping that we could get back up and clock it in time." (laughter)
On what players can do to better themselves as tacklers: "Just taking advantage of the days in practice where we do have on pads. You have to overemphasize wrapping up, getting your feet … Of course, we're not going to the ground, but that's the main thing. Once you wrap somebody up, getting to the ground is easy. So, we just have to work on that on the days that we are in pads."
On what sticks out to him about the Broncos' receiving corps: "They still have big-bodied receivers out there. [It's] a different challenge this week with bigger guys, bigger catch radius. So, they still have guys out there, for sure."
On how he's seen young players in S Geno Stone and DB Brandon Stephens develop: "They're coming along well right now. It takes more on our part as older guys and guys with more experience to try to bring them along. [We're] just showing them different things that have happened to us and slowing it down for them so it's a lot easier for them."
On how tough it is when S DeShon Elliott has to leave the field and a different player replaces him: "I wouldn't say tough, but I would say different, just trying to feel it out throughout the course of the game with a different player. Just trying to see how they communicate, how they move around and how they do different things. So, I wouldn't say tough, but different. A lot of those guys, when they do come in the game, they've been out here in practice with me before. So, I kind of know a little bit, but I would definitely say different, because practice and a real game is a little bit different."
BRONCOS HEAD COACH VIC FANGIO
(Conference Call with Baltimore Media)_
With the Ravens' run offense, with all the motions, the different personnel groupings and even the option game, as far as the run game, what's the biggest challenge in preparing for such a unique run game that the Ravens have? (Jamison Hensley) "It's a huge challenge. Basically, almost all of their runs are two running plays in one, where they can hand it to a running back on a designed run, or Lamar Jackson can keep it himself, and he has his escorts to take him along his way on a designed run for him. So, it's a very unique, exotic run game. It's definitely well-designed, well-schemed, and [offensive coordinator] Greg Roman does a great job of doing that for them."
Along those lines, obviously the Ravens have their injury issues at the running back position. I guess, what have you seen from the personnel there, a lot of familiar names but also some unfamiliar names like RB Ty'Son Williams kind of taking up the load? (Jonas Shaffer) "He's done a good job for them, as have the other guys. It's kind of a running game much like the San Francisco run game and the Denver Broncos run game when Mike Shanahan was here. It just seems like whoever they put in there at running back is productive and does [well]. I think that's something that happens there with the Ravens."
QB Lamar Jackson has also been throwing downfield a lot this year. Is that harder to account for because of what you just said about the running game? I mean, does that create sort of a difficult situation for you guys? (Childs Walker) "Yes, it does. That's the basis of the offense – really run it well with a multiple, exotic scheme, and when they don't run it, try to throw it downfield. That's the whole basis of their offense, and they have fast, good receivers to do that with and the tight end, [Mark] Andrews."
We've been talking since training camp about injuries here, but it seems like your team has gotten hit pretty hard. How challenging has that made it in recent days with all the guys that are coming and going? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, it's hit us here the last two weeks in particular, but we feel we have good players behind these guys – good players to come in and play for them. We feel we'll weather this storm and come out good."
Why has QB Teddy Bridgewater been such a good fit for what you want to do on offense? (Luke Jones) "Well, he's a good quarterback; he can fit anybody's offense. He's had a calming effect on the offense. He plays with a good demeanor. He's very smart [and] very instinctive as a quarterback. [He] has a good feel for the game. Teddy [Bridgewater] is just a good quarterback. He's been successful everywhere he's been when he's played."
We've seen the numbers, but from your perspective, has LB Von Miller sort of come back without missing a beat this year? (Childs Walker) "He has. Fortunately for him, the injury he had was one that just needed time to heal. It wasn't one that may have residual effects and bother him from time to time. He just needed the time to heal, and he's back to being right where he was before he got hurt."
You were here in Baltimore right for the start of head coach John Harbaugh's tenure. The past couple of years, they've really embraced this blitz-happy mentality. Do you think that that was always the way he wanted to play from what you could tell from those early years? (Jonas Shaffer) "The Ravens I know and remember have always kind of been that way. When Rex Ryan was the defensive coordinator, they certainly were doing that in abundance, probably more than most. Now, with [defensive coordinator Don Martindale] 'Wink' calling the defense, they've continued in that vein. I know that's the way [head coach] John [Harbaugh] likes to play, so I'm sure that he's happy with that."
What do you remember the most from your time here in Baltimore? (Jamison Hensley) "Just that it was a good, classy organization – a solid organization. It's one of the elite franchises in the league, spearheaded by [executive vice president] Ozzie Newsome then. He was the backbone of that franchise and set the tone for the whole building. Now, he's handed the baton to [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta], and he's doing a great job. They've had two great head coaches in the last 20 years in Brian Billick and John Harbaugh. John has done a great job coaching this team. I think this is his 14th year there, I believe. Stability in the NFL is rare, but when you have it, it pays dividends."