Transcript - John Harbaugh Monday Press Conference


Opening statement:"OK, we're back. Had a very spirited practice – a nice, crisp, fall afternoon. Beautiful day here at the complex. A couple guys reported being a little leg-weary from walking around last night on Halloween trick-or-treating with their kids. So, we had to overcome that, and we had a good day."

You have been successful after the bye while you were in Philadelphia and here. Is there a secret to keeping the team up during the bye and being successful after?"I don't really know. I think what you do every year is a little bit different. You kind of gauge it toward what you may think you need. [Eagles head coach] Andy [Reid] always probably went towards rest more than he did practice. But, we've done it both ways here. The first year we pretty much, really didn't have a bye. We practiced that whole week. But, it was the second or third week of the season, so you're going to do that early in the season. I think our task right now is to make sure that we extend that record, and that's going to be a big challenge against Miami."

Did you get a chance to watch the Dolphins-Bengals game on TV yesterday?"I did. Yeah, I watched it."

What did you see from Miami?"I probably saw more watching the tape this morning than watching the game. But I think you get a little bit of a feel. It's kind of different watching it on TV live. It's different. We don't get a chance to do that too often of the team that we're playing the next week. But, I was very impressed. Obviously, that's a competitive game; it's a tough place to play. Cincinnati had a lot to play for [and] so did Miami. I think it's pretty impressive what Miami has done on the road this year. If you go back and you look at them over the time since [head coach] Tony [Sparano] has been there, they've got a really good road record. They're way above .500 on the road over the course of the last two-and-a-half years. So, they just kind of carried that over to this year. I think they're a tough, physical football team, very hard-nosed [and] good in all phases. That's what I saw."

How did you think WR Donte' Stallworth looked in practice today?"He went through the practice and had a certain number of reps. They kind of planned it for him to have a certain specified number of reps, and he had no problem with that. So, we'll just kind of see how it goes this week. But, he looked good."

What do you see from Dolphins QB Chad Henne?"Chad's a guy that, as you know, we really liked coming out. He was one of the quarterbacks that year that were highly thought of, along with Matt Ryan [and Joe Flacco]. So, we'll get a chance to see those two guys back-to-back here, it looks like, in the next few weeks. But, he's accurate. He's very fundamentally sound. You can see he goes through progressions very methodically, and he's been productive. So, he's just doing a nice job."

As a coach, is there any explanation for why the Dolphins have done better on the road than at home?"I don't know. They've given up more big plays at home, I think. [That] is probably the biggest difference. But why that happens at home? If we were playing at home, we'd probably be concerned about it. But, I think we're concerned with the team we're going to see here. We expect to see the team that's played so well in their four wins. It's a rough, tough team. You can see what they want to be. You can see the personality that their coaching staff is trying to instill in them on both sides of the ball, and it's just going to be one of those kinds of football games. It's going to be a very demanding football game."

Did you feel like the team was "worn down" when you broke for the bye last week?"I'd never use that word, those terms. I've never said anything like that, term-wise. But, I think after you play seven games – NFL games… We played the first four out of six on the road. We played four really good teams on the road. We played a lot of close games, obviously. We played two extra quarters, basically. I think there's a natural need for the bye week. And the bye week was good because it came in the middle of the season for us this year. Hopefully, we took advantage of that in the right way, but that'll be determined. We'll see how it goes here."

Did you notice that the guys maybe were a little invigorated today? You talked about a very spirited practice. Did you notice maybe a refreshed attitude? "Well, I wouldn't say any… It's not like we weren't spirited before that. We always have spirited practices. But, I think anytime you've had some days off – obviously we didn't play yesterday – it's a lot different than it would have been if we would have played a game. Our guys… Yeah, there's going to be a benefit there. It's something that's important. Hopefully, we can take advantage of it like some teams do after the bye."

You keep it one week at a time, but coming off the bye do you think as a team there's a focus on now until the end of the season, that this is kind of the grind we have to go through? "That's what the NFL season is, right? We've been through a grind – if you want to call it that – the first half of the season. So, there's going to be a grind the second half of the season. It's tough, you know? It's interesting to me when you watch the games, but when you get a chance to watch the games, you see how good the NFL is. And a lot of people want to classify it, 'Well, it's not as good as it was 25 years ago,' or something like that, or, 'Everybody is middle of the road.' That's not the case. When you've got to line up and play the games every single week, you realize how good these teams are you're playing. Everybody's got playmakers. Everybody's got a big, physical offensive line. Everybody's got a defensive front that can get after you. You know, there are players all over the league. There are good teams that are all well-coached, and from week to week that's proven. That's proven from week to week, and the teams that can find a way to win basically – one week after the next week like certain teams have done – those are the teams that end up in the best position and make the playoffs and make a run at a championship. But, every single week it's really a fight. And I think when you sit back and you watch the games on TV, I get a better feel for that after having done that on Sunday."

How would you assess P Sam Koch's importance in terms of winning the battle of field position? "I'd say it's huge. I think it's really a big deal what Sam has done. The net punting – when he's not pooch punting – I think our net punting is 42-something. That's really impressive. We've been a team that's been fortunate enough to be punting down into people's end a lot, and Sam's as good as any pooch punting. What's he had, one touchback I think so far? That's kind of unheard of. It's changed, you know people do a better job of that now than back in the old days. People's percentages of not getting touchbacks are way up. But, Sam's as good as anybody, and it makes a big difference."

You said you gave your staff the weekend off. Did you notice from them a renewed sense of rest and that it was as important for them to get away as well? "I think it was. It's like we hadn't seen each other for a month it seemed like. We're around each other so much, and two days we're apart from each other it was like, 'Hey, how are you doing?' It's like we had so much to talk about. (laughter) But, everybody's excited. Everybody's excited. We've got a big game this week."

Have you noticed at all, and you had only one game under the new guidelines with all the physicality and the helmet-to-helmet hits, but have you noticed in the two weekends any difference in play at all? "I saw some big hits yesterday. There were some big hits. Guys got separated from some balls. I think that players… The athletes at this level, these guys are just… They're fabulous athletes, and they'll figure out a way to make plays within the rules as best they can. There'll be some helmet-to-helmet [hits], and I think as long as you can look at them and say, 'Hey, that's not something a guy's trying to do,' there's going to be times where a receiver is going to drop his head and all of a sudden it's going to happen. But I would think that most of these guys – they may say otherwise – but I think they're good enough to find a way to do it more within the rules, and it looks like they have."

Is there anything new with RB Matt Lawrence as far as being closer to practicing this week?"No, nothing new right now. We're thinking about it right now, whether we want to do something right now or wait until next week. But we'll be looking at him real soon just to see how he holds up in a practice-type of a setting. But it could be as early as Wednesday; it might be as late as next week."

Did you see anything glaring on tape over the bye week and think, "Now I know where we're going to go with this from here."?"I don't think there's ever anything that's like the 'big fix,' because we're looking at it every single day. I think you have some things on your mind that you basically feel like that this is the direction we want to go in certain areas. Then you look at some numbers a little bit, you go back and look at some tape, then you just formulate a plan. And most of it is probably along the lines of what we're doing – we're doing a lot of great things – but you want to build on what you do well. Some things we're not doing as well we might get rid of and just charter direction for the next three or four weeks. But that'll evolve throughout the course of the whole season. But we've got some ideas."

Given WR Derrick Mason's admission to wanting to return punts, how seriously is that being considered by the coaching staff?"I would say it's an option. Derrick is one of those guys – and like I said, when I said it the other day – he's in my ear to do it, [and] that tells you what he's all about. It's probably not the first guy that I'm going to think to put out there, but if it turns out that he's the best choice, we're willing to do it. I'm not anticipating it for Miami, but the fact that he wants to do it I think is kind of neat. It says a lot about Derrick."

If Stallworth is able to return this weekend, would you be hesitant to put him in at punt returns right away because of his foot injury?"I think if he's able to go, he's able to go with whatever we need. The foot injury, we wouldn't be worried about that. I mean, you can get hurt doing anything, football-wise. But it'd be a matter of whether he's ready to do it or not. He'd have to look good catching punts in practice in traffic. He's done it before; he's a good, solid punt catcher. As a matter of fact, he's been catching punts for weeks out there. So, it would just have to be something that we feel like he'd be our best option, and I would say that's a possibility."

In the grand scheme of a 16-week season, how important is Week 8 in terms of establishing an identity?"I think if you look around the league, you pretty much know what teams are at this point. I think it goes deeper than the record – you know, the old Bill Parcells thing is part of it. But also, part of it is what you see. But teams are going to change. We won't be the same team the next time we play the Bengals [from] the first time we played the Bengals [this season], for instance. That's kind of a big stretch from Week 2 to Week [17], I guess it is. So, we're going to continue to evolve, for sure, but I think you basically see from a personality standpoint what we are."

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