Training Camp Transcript - Practice 8/1


Head Coach John Harbaugh

On G Ben Grubbs:"He looked OK. It's the first time he has been on a football field since January. We'll look at the tape and see how he looked, but I didn't see any real major problems. He looks like he got through it physically, if that is what you're asking."

On if the roster changes have been easy to adapt to:"Oh, it's a piece of cake. It's a piece of cake. There is nothing to it. *(laughing) *It's just the way it is – you know that. It's just part of the process. The way the National Football League is always going to work… I think probably this year more than ever, plus we are without OTAs [Organized Training Activities]… It's just the way it is. I think we expected it, so I'm definitely not surprised by it. Our goal is going to be to handle it better than everybody else – and that's the goal – the best way we can."

On if the team is better today than where it was a week ago: "Oh yeah, I think we're better because we have been practicing. We are better because we have had the chance to get out here and start to get in football shape, so to speak. We're working every day to get a little bit better. The goal is to be better today than we were yesterday. Our goal is to go into the meetings tonight to prepare for tomorrow's practice so that that three-hour practice is better than today's practice. That's what we have to do every single day just to build a foundation underneath ourselves every single day and get better. It's not glamorous. There is not much to talk about. It is just work."

On the departure of TE Todd Heap:"I just wish Todd [Heap] nothing but the best. I have the greatest respect for Todd. I really like him personally. I think we had three great years here. Todd is a huge part of what we have done, and we appreciate everything he did for his whole career. I know the fans feel that way, and on behalf of the fans, Todd, thank you for what you did all those years here. I am sure he will do very well in Phoenix. It worked out well for him financially and also he is home, in a sense, because his family is out there, so there are some pluses for Todd."

On if FB Vonta Leach will be a big part of getting the run game going again this season:"Yeah, we wanted a big, physical fullback. Vonta [Leach] is going to have to come in here and – I think he said it well – he is going to have to come in here and prove it every single day. But that is what he brings to the table. He is a presence. He brings the personality, I think, that we had a little more the first year [I was here] with [former Ravens FB] Lorenzo Neal. He is a guy that we really were targeting all the way back, so we are happy to have him."

On if the death of former Minnesota Vikings T Korey Stringer's death, 10 years ago to the day, has opened eyes around the NFL to take care of players:"I really don't know if it did. I assume everybody has always really tried to do everything they can to make sure guys do well. I think there has been a lot of great science. We understand that the heat affects the big guys. One of the, probably, unintended consequences of this new work rule legislation is that the big guys are on the field for longer than they were. Instead of taking that practice and splitting it up – two hours maybe and two hours or two hours and an hour-and-a-half like you might have done in previous years – now you have the big guys out there in the heat for three straight hours. That's reality. I don't think they thought about that, but as coaches and trainers, we'll just have to deal with that and make sure we keep them cooled down. It has been compounded for us by the fact that we had limited numbers of offensive linemen, which really affected the tempo of our practice a little bit, but I think we have worked with it well."

On if he admires Leach's story:"Yeah, Vonta is a guy from East Carolina [University]. He was a special teams guy the first couple of years. He got cut a few times. It is a great story, and for him to do as well as he has done – made the Pro Bowl last year, which is a great testament… Our linebackers respect him – we played him in Houston last year – I can tell you that."

On if he thinks WR Anquan Boldin can be even better this season with a year's worth of experience in the system:"Yes on both counts. I think he was good last year. The issues we had – if we had any issues in terms of… I am not sure what you are referring to specifically. There are always team issues – offensive issues. I expect everybody to be better. Certainly, the fact that he and Joe [Flacco] are together for another year, it should be better. Yeah."

On if the lack of OTAs has held back some of the second-year guys:"I don't know. It's a great question. It's just so early to even say. We have been in pads two days. Let's give it a week and then we will see if we made any progress."

On if anything stood out about today's practice:"No, not really. It was just a good, tough football practice – training camp practice. Everybody worked really hard. I thought it was competitive. We just got a little bit better."

On rookie WR Tandon Doss: "He has got great hands and he has great, what I call, RAC [run after catch] transition. [He can] catch the ball and get up field. He has showed that. What we saw on tape, he has definitely showed."

On if he has heard anything from the NFL about the Aug. 4 date for free agents to begin practicing:"I haven't heard a thing. I haven't heard a thing."

RBs Coach Wilbert Montgomery

On whether he is comfortable with the way his running game stands right now and perhaps happier than he was a week ago:"As a coach, you've always got to be happy, and you've got to be happy to work with the guys you've got. To lose Willis [McGahee], you know, he's no longer here. Le'Ron [McClain], right now, I wouldn't say we have lost Le'Ron. That's still up in the air; Le'Ron could still be a Baltimore Raven until someone like Ozzie [Newsome] or coach [John] Harbaugh says Le'Ron is not in the picture any longer. But as of right now, I see him still in the picture."

On what jumps out to him about newly-acquired FB Vonta Leach on film:"One is that he's a more – like you said – a physical guy; he brings a more physical presence. And he is more of a fullback mold, and not like Le'Ron [McClain, who] is a two-way guy. Le'Ron can block and Le'Ron can also run the ball, but Vonta, basically his job – and he knows – he's a road [paver] and he's going to attack, attack, attack. It's nice to have him in this division."

On how much he thinks Leach has improved since he entered the NFL until now, from what he has seen on film:"It goes back to when he had the opportunity to go to Houston; it was that eight million dollars that made him better. (laughter) That makes an improvement out of you, because [also], when he left Green Bay and New Orleans, you know [Houston] saw something in him. Everyone looks for fullbacks, and the Achilles heel right now is with the spread offense in college now, these guys, you can't find them. We looked at hundreds and hundreds of fullbacks out there in college, and they just aren't there. So, when you find one, you've got to bring him into the fold."

On what makes Leach one of the League's best fullbacks:"Well, he proved it this year, like Le'Ron [McClain] did the year before. When your peers can vote you into the Pro Bowl, that says enough. You're playing in the game over there in Hawaii and that's the big game, and that's where you want to showcase. He's the best fullback out there, and Le'Ron was the No. 2, the [Pro Bowl] alternate, and Le'Ron was the best the year before. So, it's always kind of nice if you can get the best. And then if you can keep them to that standard and get him to play at that level again, then you got yourself something."

On how nice it is to have a fullback who just wants to be a fullback and isn't worried about other duties:"When he comes in here, he knows he's a fullback, like you said. The game plan: He's a fullback, and it is nice to have a guy in the game plan that knowing when you're going against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he's a fullback. And it makes the job a little bit easier when you know that, 'Hey, here's your guy; you've got to block this guy.' And you know what? When you bring a guy into the fold like that, the teams in your division, they pay attention to it, because now it makes it that much harder to stop the running game."

On what kinds of things he has specifically seen Leach do to linebackers:"My big thing is that just this past season, he happened to have more pancake blocks – and what I mean by pancake blocks [is] he'll put more linebackers on their back – than anybody I've seen in the last four years. So, that makes him a powerful stud at his position. And when [I] say a powerful, stud, that's what he does – he looks to pancake guys."

On what went through his head when executive vice president/general manager Ozzie Newsome told him that they had signed Leach:"Well, until he walks in that door… (laughter) And then, what's going to happen in my head? I'll say, 'Yes!' (laughter) But it's not just me; Ray Rice was thrilled to death that he got a guy of that magnitude, and someone that he's going to be able to run behind. We've all watched Vonta Leach films and we've watched him, we've watched [Houston's] games, so we know what kind of player he is."

On whether it is a low center of gravity and upper body strength that makes Leach so powerful:"No, he really doesn't have the low center of gravity. He plays high, he has a little stiffness to him, but it's kind of like if you're on his tracks and you can't get off, good luck." (laughter)

On his philosophy of how a running game should balance with a passing game:"You can't ever dictate how the game is going to come. You go into the game plan… Your game plan is to go out there just to win the game. If you throw the ball, you've got to throw it to win. If you've got to run it, you've got to win. But when you can put the two together, it makes the defense… It puts the strain on the defense, because they don't know if you're going to run or pass. And when you've got someone of [Leach's] magnitude along with Ray Rice, and then you can put Anquan [Boldin] and Torrey [Smith] out on the field, along with the young tight ends, it just makes it hard to defend when the runs and the passes look the same."

On what a young, rookie RB is going to have to do during camp and preseason to separate himself from the pack:"One is, you've got to come in and you've got to learn the offense very fast, because you can't make mistakes. You get evaluated every day, and when you can eliminate the mistakes and learn your assignments, the rest is football. You've just got to separate yourself. It's all about separation – coming out here and playing hard every day – because you're getting graded every day. So, once you can separate yourself from the other guys, then you become a running back. I don't care if you're a first-round draft pick or a free agent; your job is to come in and learn the offense and get on the field as quick as possible, and you look for those guys. Free agent backs, like Vonta… Look at him, free agent. So, it's there if you're looking for an example. He's a good example. Set your bar to his level and his standards and go out here and do the job."

On his thoughts of rookie free agent RBs Walter Sanders and Damien Berry:"Walter Sanders… The first time I heard from Walter Sanders, I got a phone call and he said he was the best back coming out of college this year. And I guess he'll swear by that. But Walter's a good talker; he's a good prospect, and we hope that Walter can show us some things out here on the field. We're giving him an opportunity. Damien played at, we all know, the 'U' [University of Miami] and the 'U' has a good program there, and Damien, you know, he has to come in and earn his spot. He came in and he took Willis McGahee's number [23], so I told him, 'Those are tough shoes and big shoes you've got to fill if you're going to wear that number.' So, he's trying the swagger, he's trying to walk that talk. But Damien is a tough kid, hard-nosed kid, and that's the way he was in college. And so far, he has shown some of that toughness here, so I'm looking forward to what he really can do once we start going at it."

On how RB Matt Lawrence is looking so far:"Matt Lawrence is basically… Everything that Matt does from here on – because he missed a lot of football – he's learning football all over again. But he's doing really well. He's still going to make mistakes, but he's testing it. It's training for him all over again. But Matt is on pace."

WR Anquan Boldin

On the differences in the offense this season:"For us, it's definitely a different offense. We made some moves. We let a couple guys go, but I think we've got a good group. We will miss those guys. I mean, anytime you spend that time with guys you've been in the fire with, then you build a relationship. We'll definitely miss those guys, but we all know this is a business league, and those things happen. But at the same time, it's just next man up. We have that saying no matter what happens, if a guy gets released, if a guy goes down, we just need the next guy to step up and make plays."

On his expectations for the offense this season: "I'm here for one reason, and that's to win a Super Bowl. That's why I was brought to Baltimore. So anything less, I'm disappointed."

On the progress of rookie WR Torrey Smith:"I think he's doing a pretty good job. For those guys, they're doing a good job catching on. It's a little different this year, because they didn't have the off season, obviously. They missed out on mini-camps and OTAs, and things like that, so they're playing a little catch-up. But the entire group, they're doing a good job. I know we've got a lot of young guys over there this year; they're making coach [Jim] Hostler earn his money this year. But, I think the young guys… The thing I like about them, they're willing to learn. They ask a lot of questions. Usually, young guys come in and they kind of stay in the back and try to hide a little bit, but these guys are ready to get out there."

On the toughest part of being a rookie wide receiver:"I think the toughest thing is missing the offseason. As a rookie, just getting a grip on the language and what the coaches expect out of you, I think is the toughest thing. Once you know what you're doing, it's just like college. You kind of go back to being yourself and playing football and just making plays."

On having a teaching role within the offense:"Bad part for me is I've been teaching since my rookie year. (laughter) So, I'm kind of used to that role. I've always had young guys under me. But it's good for me; it makes me have to be on top of my game, because like I said, those guys come and ask questions, and I have to know what I'm doing. I have to know exactly what to tell them, so it keeps me on my toes."

On whether he feels more responsibility now that WR Derrick Mason is gone:"Mason is Mason. It's hard to replace a guy like that. But for myself, I know why they brought me here. And with Mason being gone, I'm the big brother of the receiver core now. I've got to take care of those guys and make sure they know what they're doing. There's times when I pull them aside and let them know, 'Watch out for this,' or, 'Do this,' or, 'Try this,' or, 'This helped me,' or, 'This works,' so it's like I'm a second coach almost. You've got to help those guys out, because the better they are, the better we'll be as a team. So, I'm trying to help them be ready as much as possible."

On his expectations for the upcoming season with QB Joe Flacco:"Me and Joe? Even though we didn't have this offseason together, we got out there a couple times and threw around. But, we definitely feel the chemistry getting better. We're starting to see the same things and we're on the same page as far as this offense is concerned. So, I definitely see us having a better year together."

On the people who helped him as a rookie:"When I was a rookie, we had a great receiver coach, Jerry Sullivan, who helped me along and helped me out [to have] a big first year my first year. I talked to older guys around the League – Torry Holt – they also helped me around my first year."

On the biggest difference in Flacco this season from last season:"He just seems a lot more comfortable with what they have him doing. He's really taking charge. But he's our captain, he's our guy, so how he goes, we go."

On if he feels he needs to make more plays now that Mason is gone:"Yeah, that's part of it. That's why I was brought here. I don't shy away from things like that."

On how the DBs have changed the position of WR:"For us it's, since my rookie year, I don't really consider myself going against DBs. It's more about going against defensive coordinators. A lot of times, when you see different coverages, roll coverage, double teams, guys in and out, guys bracketing, guys high-lowing… So, it's not so much who you're across from, it's the defensive coordinators who you really have to understand what they're trying to get done."

RB Ray Rice

On playing with FB Vonta Leach: "I'm so excited, I can't…" *(singing, laughter) *It's very exciting. I watched what he did for Arian Foster, and he's an amazing fullback. He lays the wood on people. Everyone knows what his reputation is, and I just can't wait to follow him. I said, 'Look, I could probably trip and get five yards running behind him.' All jokes aside, I'm just excited to have a guy like that in front of me, because he's all about business and all about hard work."

On seeing Leach on film:"Of course, oh my gosh, if you see what we've been doing lately… If you see him on film, he's just a guy who is the stretch-cut offense, but you follow him… If you watch Arian Foster, he led Arian Foster to that 1,600 yards. You know Foster will say it himself that without Vonta Leach his season is not the same. I'm not taking away from Arian Foster. My season would not be the same without Le'Ron McClain in front of me. But having that guy of Vonta leach in front of me is amazing."

On Leach describing every down he plays as a car crash:"I believe it. Now if we go to some one-back protections, he could be in there. It's a group priority. I'm sure that when it comes time to protect Joe [Flacco], they'll build something around him being in there. It doesn't matter if teams know that we're going to pass it. There's that cue on the outside. We're just a straight-forward team. When you've got a guy like that, who brings that physical nature, your job as a running back is almost just run and catch the ball. He wants the dirty work. That's what he wants to do."

On if he knew who Leach was before he was named a Pro Bowler:"Well, playing against him, you see what kind of guy he is. When you see a guy, when you make the Pro Bowl, obviously, it's a little different. His name is out there. But, when you're game planning for a team and you hear about their offense, and coach gets up there [and says], 'They've got a physical fullback,' this is what you're hearing about their guy. He just came from the bottom to the top, and that's what it's all about. We share a lot in common. I always felt like I was an underdog, and I'm sure he felt the same way. And then, you go out there knocking a few helmets off… And here he goes, one of the best rocking fullbacks in the NFL.

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