SUNDAY RAVENS ROOKIE MINICAMP
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening Statement: "Alright, good to have everybody here. How about the new patio? Obviously, we have some very special guests here. You'll get a chance to talk to these guys [Doug O' Neill, trainer, and his staff of Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another]. What an honor to have the training staff of a champion here. (Reporter: "Are you going to the Preakness?") Absolutely. I'll be there, bright and early, ready to go. Rookie minicamp, we are excited. Guys have worked hard. It's a good group. It's a really good group. You never know for sure. I think our scouts, starting with [general manager/executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome], [director of player personnel] Eric [DeCosta], [director of college scouting] Joe Hortiz, our scouting staff, [southeast area scout] Joe Douglas and his group. Joe is in charge of the undrafted free agents. They just did a great job of putting together a group of guys, really a big group. We have over 40 guys that are just rookies competing for a spot on the team. The beauty of this whole thing is, probably more so than anywhere else in life, this really is a true meritocracy. Football is about the best guy, and these guys have a chance to come out. All that other stuff, you can take the combine, you can take the 40 [-yard dash] times, you could take the vertical jump, you can take all that now and just throw it out. Everybody is on equal footing and everybody is competing for an opportunity at a spot and a chance, and it is competitive. And they did compete. They did a great job, so we're off to a good start."
John, what kind of an impression did OLB Courtney Upshaw make on you guys? (Aaron Wilson) "I'd say a very positive impression Courtney made. He is really sharp, really knows football. He does all the things that you might not expect a bigger guy to do. He does those things well. He gets into coverage well. He's just a quick learner. He's off to a good start."
Some teams treat these rookie minicamps as a glorified walk-thru. You guys do not. Why do you practice at the speed you do? (Ian Rappaport) "We don't ever have any walk-thrus. We don't have anything that we term walk-thru. As a matter of fact, that term is forbidden around here. We don't do walk-thrus. We do alignment, assignment, communication and technique practices – that's what we call it. We try to get the most out of everything we do within the roles. Tempo is really important. The game is played at a really fast pace. We want our guys to understand that pace so that when they get to the game on Sunday, they are up to speed."
John, Terrell Suggs is optimistic that he might play this fall. What are your hopes for him in terms of the outlook as he recovers from his injury? (Aaron Wilson) "I'll take that outlook. I am on board for that. That's everything that we've heard from the doctors would be consistent with that. Everything Terrell has said about it, from my understanding, has been right on. It's just going to depend on the injury, the healing process and his effort and his work."
What's been your biggest takeaway from camp so far? (Bo Smolka) "The biggest takeaway probably is that this is a good group. This is a really good group of rookies. We like these guys. We've got some talented guys here. There will be a couple undrafted guys that have a shot to make the team. I wouldn't bet against it. I think all the draft picks look really good."
How did they handle the crash course that you gave them? They had to absorb a lot in a short amount of time. (Jerry Coleman) "Well, like you saw today, they looked good today. They operated and handled themselves really well. From the first day, I was surprised. I thought it was better than we could have dreamed because they understood the drill and the tempo. By Day Two, they were picking up what we were teaching them. And today, it looked pretty good."
What has been your impression of G/T Kelechi Osemele so far? He looks massive when he straps the pads on. (Ryan Mink) "Yeah, I noticed that also. He has done a really good job. He is really athletic for a big man. He can explode and uncoil. He has a lot to learn though, just like they all do. But, I am very optimistic and excited about him."
With your defense the way it is built, can they withstand an injury to a guy like Suggs? (Ian Rapoport) "Of course. It's obvious, it's a team. We're a team. That's why you draft guys and bring guys in. It's never about one guy, ever. I know Terrell said that and all of our guys said that. We've done that before. We've handled losses to our biggest stars, now Terrell, Ray [Lewis] and Ed [Reed]. That's all happened in the last two years. It will be up to all of us to do a little bit better, and we intend to improve in anything we do including our defense."
Did you feel fortunate the way it happened, to have drafted Upshaw and had the injury happen a couple days after? (Ian Rapoport) "I didn't really feel anything. I was disappointed for Terrell more than anything. We'll have guys that can step in, but Courtney is a great answer. But, he has to earn that. We've got some other guys that are competing, too. Paul Kruger is going to be a big part of that. Sergio Kindle is going to be a big part of that. Albert McClellan is in the mix there, and then some other guys that you guys know who they are, are going to be a big part of that."
John, the structure of the OTA schedule and the offseason program is different in the new CBA. What are your early impressions of how this is structured compared to how it was in the past? (Luke Jones) "You make the best of it. It's different for sure, and we've spent a lot of time talking back and forth with the League and making sure that we are within the rules and all that. I think we've done a really good job with that. In some ways, it's probably better for us. You find ways to make it better. We've gone a little slower and hopefully we've made it even better than it was before."
What are your first impressions of Tommy Streeter? I know he is battling the flu bug a little bit. (Garrett Downing) "First impression, he is really tall. Second impression, he is really fast. I'd say third impression; he is going to be a good player. He is a young guy, but a talented guy, and we're excited to work with him."
Looking at the depth you have at certain spots, are there any positions you still would like to address in free agency, or do you feel pretty good about the numbers you have? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I would say – and I'm going to give you the basic answer – but every position, we're going to look for good players. You can't create a player, but if a good player becomes available at any position, then we're going to be interested in him."
How did S Christian Thompson do, as he tries to adjust to the pro game? (Aaron Wilson) "Christian did well. He's a talented guy, works hard. He's got a lot to learn. I thought he had a really good camp."
What did you see from K/P Justin Tucker, the kicker from Texas? (Matt Vensel) "I saw him almost make a 60-yard field goal. You guys saw that, and he made a couple of kicks before that. He gets really good lift on the ball, very accurate. He had a very good camp."
Is the thinking still that it will just be those guys [at kicker] or do you think you could still go with a veteran? (Aaron Wilson) "I'd say right now we have who we have, and we'll just play it by ear. That's always unpredictable."
OLB Courtney Upshaw
On what his experience of the first rookie minicamp has been like: "It's been a great experience. Playing with these guys out here, out here in this minicamp, it's been fun. We had a lot of fun, as you can see today. We enjoyed it. Everybody is coming out, working hard, trying to make this team."
On what his biggest adjustment is at the NFL level: "Honestly, playing at Alabama, I kind of played something similar to the defense here, the same position. Just being able to go out and compete at a pro level and get in and just condition myself to be ready for when the veterans come in and be prepared, and try to get a spot in the starting lineup."
On if the competition is similar to what he experienced in the SEC: "Pretty much. Some of the same caliber guys. Everybody is out here competing. Everybody, like I said, is trying to make the team. They are going to give their best – that's the best for everybody. The only way you are going to make it is if you come out and practice hard and compete."
On how comfortable he feels dropping into coverage: "It's definitely more than what I dropped [at Alabama]. If anything, that's something that I have to get more used to, being a drop linebacker. Everybody knows I can pass rush, and I did that a lot at Alabama, but I am very prepared and capable of doing so, learning the terminology. Once I get everything down, I'll be ready to go."
On what he wanted to show the coaches and what kind of feedback he got from them: "That I can pick it up, pick up the defense and go out and compete. Just get in and be ready when my name is called to compete and make plays."
On if the coaches have talked to him about potentially replacing OLB Terrell Suggs: "The coaches told me to come out here this minicamp and learn the defense, get out there and compete. Speaking on Suggs, there is only one Suggs. You can't replace Suggs. Everybody has to come in as a team. I know the veteran leadership on this team is not going to allow slack on my part or anybody else. Everybody needs to step up."
On if he would stay at his current weight or if it would fluctuate: "I definitely will be going down. Just getting myself prepared is the reason why I want to get down. Like I said, to be ready condition-wise, and in shape for when the veterans get in and be able to make a starting job, and just going out, competing and doing what I do best – play football."
On his reaction to the Suggs injury: "I heard about it on Twitter. I woke up one morning and somebody wrote me on Twitter. I really didn't believe until my agent texted me. I got a bunch of calls and then on Twitter, everybody is saying, 'You have to step up,' and everything like that. I heard it from Twitter."
On what he thought when people told him he has to step up: "Nothing much. Honestly, if I can remember, I wrote that it's a grown man's game and everybody has to come in and be prepared, even if Suggs was healthy. I have to be prepared either way."
On if he feels there is more pressure on him: "No, sir. Honestly, I got the goal and the mindset to come in and compete. That's my No. 1 goal. If I am able to get on the field and make plays, that's what I want to do."
CB/RS Asa Jackson
On what this weekend was like for him: "It's been interesting. It felt real good to get back on the field and be able to go through stuff, especially with an NFL team and an NFL defense, and the coaches and everything. It has been a little challenging mentally, just trying to get all the calls and make sure that I'm on point with everything. But it's been fun more than anything. Football is what I love to do and I'm happy to be out here doing it."
On his mindset that now this is a job and not just playing collegiately:"To be honest, it hasn't quite all the way set in yet. But you know, it's something that I'm working towards getting into that mindset every day. Being a student of the game comes along with that, but just acting like a professional on a day-to-day basis, and doing the things that I need to be a successful professional for this organization is something that I'm working on."
On trying to make himself stand out on the practice field, but also being a good teammate: "Yeah, that's football, period. That's how it's been since Pop Warner. So, I'm used to that, and I think everyone is pretty much used to that. But, it's good. It's fun to be out here competing with a lot of great players, because it just raises everybody's game. And from what the coaches said, everybody had a real good weekend, and I think that's part of the reason."
On how important it is for him to make an impact on the defense, but also on special teams: "That's going to be my starting point to getting a spot on this team, is definitely going through special teams, and I'm relishing that role. Something coach Harbaugh said last night is that everyone on this team needs to take a job. So, if I need to take a job on special teams to get on this team and be on that 53-man roster, I'm more than happy to do that, and then try to work my way into the lineup as a corner."
On how he likes Baltimore so far: "It's been great. You can't beat this weather; it's like 70-degrees. So, that's been great. Owings Mills is nice; it's a nice little suburban area, so I've liked everything that I've seen so far."
On how many players from his alma mater, Cal Poly, are in the NFL:"How many? I think two maybe; [Cleveland Browns LB] Chris Gocong and [New York Giants WR] Ramses Barden. I think they're the only two from Cal Poly still active in the NFL."
On whether he's proud to add to that list: "Oh, yeah. Absolutely. It is an accomplishment to come out of Cal Poly and be able to say that I made it to the NFL, and I relish it."
On what it means to him to put on a Ravens helmet, and his thoughts about playing with some of the veterans on this defense: "It's going to be pretty interesting. Coming into the process, I said to myself, I want to really soak up all of the teachings and all the game that they're going to be giving to everybody on the defense. Because who knows how much longer those two guys [Ray Lewis and Ed Reed] are going to be around? I'm really excited to be a part of this defense. I know it's a ball-hawking defense, and obviously the Ravens are the standard when it comes to defense in the NFL, and I'm really excited to be a part of that."
On the mentality of being a playmaker on defense and how important that is in the NFL: "It's paramount. Especially now in the NFL, like I said earlier, it's a job now. So, if you're not making plays, they're going to find somebody who will, so you've got to make plays."
WR Tommy Streeter
On how this weekend went for him: "I think everything went good. We were basically out here with no veteran guidance, so from our standpoint, we were just out here trying to have fun and competing at a high level, learning the system and trying to perform each play to the best of our abilities from film study and watching guys run it in game-type situations. I know we didn't run it exactly the same way, but we tried our best and tried to have a starting point moving forward."
On whether there was anything that surprised him about these first few days: "I can't say anything surprised me so much coming in. I have been training with Ray Lewis ever since Draft Day, so there's a tempo and work ethic that he does, and a way he trains, that kind of prepared me for this moment, to the point where nothing was too overwhelming."
On how the training with LB Ray Lewis has been: "Oh, it's been tough. He pushes his body to the limit, and it's no surprise why he plays the way he plays on gameday, and why he's been playing so long in the NFL."
On what he does with Lewis:"Oh, we've been doing offseason conditioning. Lifting and things like that."
On how training with Lewis initially got started: "He reached out to me on Draft Day. He congratulated me on being part of the family, and we kind of had a discussion [where] I basically told him that I was ready to make that next step and ready to train. And he took it upon himself to extend an invitation [to me]. He stays probably 40 minutes away from me in Miami, and he just invited me to come over, work out and you know I accepted it, and we've been on the road ever since."
On whether that is a University of Miami connection: "Possibly." (laughing)
On whether he has been in touch with WRs Anquan Boldin or Torrey Smith: "No, sir. I saw Torrey around, but that's about it, only one day. I haven't had a chance to sit down and talk with those guys."
On what the main thing is that he takes away from Lewis about what he learns and how he prepares: "One thing he has on his wall in his home is, it says, 'Pain is a gift from God.' And just so you know, exert your body to the maximum limit, to the point where when you're out here and everything is easy, because in that time when you're alone, do you take your body to the maximum that it can? And once you're out here, you're able to withstand anything that anyone else throws at you."
On what he gets out of a weekend like this and what he tries to prove to the coaches: "I try to be technique-sound and work on the little things. Not so much let the moment overwhelm me or try to go out of my way and do something fantastic, but let it come to me. And just correct the small things; my steps coming out of my breaks, and the way I look the ball in, hand placement, little things like that."
On how he describes his drive and hunger: "Oh, yes. I'm extremely hungry. I kind of felt like… How can I put this in a nutshell? I kind of feel like a lot of people didn't believe in me, even though I believed in myself. And I thank God that the coaches believed in me and gave me this opportunity. And ever since I got that phone call on Draft Day, I had the mindset that I was willing to work and I'm going to be the best Baltimore Raven that I can be now that I'm in this position. And I'm ready for whoever lines up in front of me."
On whether there was some pain on Draft Day: "There was. I was looking to go second [or] third round, but God had a different purpose for me. And things unfolded the way they did and I can't do anything but be thankful for the position I'm in now."
On whether he'll remember that feeling: "Yes sir."
On whether he feels like everyone is equal coming into this weekend: "Oh, yeah. You know, when you're out here, there's no, 'He was a second-round pick, he was a third-round pick.' Everybody is just out here competing. It's you against the guy in front of you. Football is one-on-one battles. You have to win that one-on-one battle. It doesn't matter who that guy is, you have to perform to the best of your abilities. All that draft stuff goes out the window once you're out here, because it's business at the end of the day. No more college. Guys are out here trying to eat, provide for their family and make a career out of this and make their name great one day."
On how he's feeling after having to leave practice briefly: "Starting yesterday, I was under the weather. I had a stomach virus. I'm overcoming that and just trying to push through the day. All around this weekend, I had a great time out there with my teammates, competing and learning from the coaches."
On what he can bring to the Ravens as a red zone receiver: "That's what I thrive at, I feel. I feel I create a mismatch down there on jump-ball situations. Not just in the red zone but anywhere on the field being of my stature and my size. It's rare that you find a guy who can run the way I can. That's one thing that I'm looking to bring, [those] mismatch and jump-ball situations in the red zone. Me being a receiver, I feel like you don't always have to run the ball down there. It's OK to throw a fade. I'm hoping they incorporate that in the game plan."
On what it was about his final season at Miami that his numbers went way up: "My first two years… Well, my first year of college I had an injury where I had missed an entire season, and I came in with like seven other wide receivers. So, for the most part, those guys had played and had the system under their belt and did very well in the system. So, the next few years I kind of got limited opportunities. The coaches felt comfortable with those guys, and we had a coaching staff change, and everything was basically open from there. And I just tried to go out there and work hard in the offseason, challenge myself and perform to the level that I felt I could, and everything just worked out."
Doug O'Neill (Trainer of 2012 Kentucky Derby Winner, I'll Have Another)
Opening Statement: "This is one of the perks of winning the Kentucky Derby; being able to hang out here at the beautiful Baltimore camp and meet the coach. We're living up Baltimore."
On how much of a football fan he is: "I love football. I have a body to play football; unfortunately I just didn't have any skills. But, I love pro football, and we're all in awe of the way a practice runs here, how professional everything is. Everyone is constantly moving. To have that many people doing something organized is pretty incredible."
On how the opportunity to visit the facility came about: "[Senior vice president of public and community relations] Kevin [Byrne] was kind enough to offer up to the Pimlico people of us coming out and we couldn't believe it. I got some of the guys here who have kept I'll Have Another loose and ready. We've just got a great team, and like the Ravens, we do a lot of walk-thrus and a lot of stuff that we think we need to do on raceday. It worked last Saturday and hopefully it will work next Saturday."
On what he is expecting in the coming week and why they brought I'll Have Another in so soon:"We didn't have a lot of knowledge of the tracks at Churchill or Pimlico, so we just figured they are both good tracks, why not get to Pimlico as early as possible and get him settled in? The people at Pimlico have just rolled out the red carpet for us. The setting is real quiet over there. It's great. He settled in nice. He is doing great, and as Preakness week comes, there are going to be a lot of new horses coming in, and I think we might have a little edge because we are already settled in [and] ready to go. And a lot of these horses, it's going to be the first time they're going to see stuff. We're ready."
On if he will pick up the pace of his training: "No. Like every other race, we give him a few days to recover, and then we get right back into the mile and a half, good comfortable gallops. He'll maintain that right through the race. We school them in the gates, so he gets to know the starter and the starting gate. He's a four-legged Joe Flacco, this horse. He's just a classy… He's got the mind of a champion, and he handles everything unbelievably well."
On other memorable things he has done in Baltimore:"This is going to be right up there at the top. This has been incredible. We're lucky enough to throw out the first pitch this Tuesday at the Orioles game. It's been just a wonderful time. We are staying somewhere near [Olympian] Michael Phelps along the water over there, so we've been looking for him swimming out in the bay. (laughter) It's just been a great time."
On if he would want to win the Kentucky Derby every year: "Exactly! 2013, we all should put like $1,000 together and buy one for next year." (laughter)
On the smaller number of horses at the Preakness: "Yeah. They limit the race to 14, so it's going to be tough race. Bodemeister has a lot of speed. We're lucky and honored enough to have Ron Turcotte, the winning jockey of Secretariat, come by the barn today. He gave us a couple of little tips of how to ride Pimlico, which I can't share with you guys. Definitely the track plays… You want to be pretty close when they turn for home. It doesn't seem like horses really come flying down the lanes. So, I'll Have Another is so versatile, he can be up near the front or come way from behind. We feel in good shape. However the race unfolds, we'll be OK."
On where he grew up and his favorite NFL team: "The Ravens are our favorite team this week, but the Lions… I grew up in Detroit, so the Lions are my favorite team."