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Transcript - John Harbaugh Monday Press Conference


Head Coach John Harbaugh

Opening statement, after receiving a special honor from the Maryland National Guard for the Ravens' commitment to the military and Baltimore's fans: "How about that? I am going to put that right up here where everybody can see it. It is big. It's Maryland National Guard Week, and we're really proud to be partnered with the military this week for this event. We've got the patch on our practice jerseys; you guys have seen them all week, and that's to honor our troops overseas and here in Maryland especially. So, anything we can do to draw attention to the Maryland National Guard, we want to do that. We're proud of the Maryland National Guard.

"OK, as far as the game yesterday and what we're doing, we're moving into a bye week. We had our team picture here earlier. The players are in the NFL-mandated Player Development Program right now. They should be finishing up very soon. Three former NFL players are involved with doing that. [They are] Peter Boulware, Jamal Lewis and Courtney Hall. So, those three guys are going to be talking to our guys. I think it's a good idea – rather than just give them a canned speech – you've got guys who have done it before and they can talk about various life issues and transitions from the NFL to their careers going forward.

"As far as the game, we're very pleased with the victory. And I'm happy to answer any questions you have about the game itself and things we could have done better, things we did well, what we're going to try to accomplish this week and next week before we play Miami. But, the bottom line is our guys found a way to win, and it was epitomized by the Ray Lewis play in overtime to get the ball back. That's the mark of a good football team. Sometimes you don't play your best but you find a way to win the football game. This also is very important: It was a very determined and a very emotional opponent. They were ready to play in every way. They're a good football team. We said they were a good football team many times. You will see them the next few weeks win a bunch of football games. There's no doubt about it. They're very well-coached. Chan Gailey has done a great job. It's obvious what he's trying to build there. They've got a lot of talent. Their offense especially showed up in that game. You could see what they can do offensively. So, we're not going to be ashamed in any way of a victory, especially against that football team. And we found a way to win, and that's the important thing."

Would you have changed your schedule for the bye week and given the team more time off if they had won the game differently?"Well, no. We're not practicing this week. So, it's not like we would have practiced less than we're practicing. We set up the week with what really was in mind the fact of what we've done the first seven weeks of the season and how hard our guys have worked. Our guys have worked extremely hard at practice. They've played really hard. They've been in a bunch of physical games, and what they really need is a chance to rest, both physically and mentally. We'll have a big workout morning tomorrow morning. We'll watch the tape tomorrow morning, and then they will be excused in the afternoon, and we will see them again on Monday."

Is there anything that is similar or that concerns you about the last two games where the Ravens had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and then had the game go into overtime?"Certainly, we're concerned about that. We're not happy about it. We need to get stops in the fourth quarter. We need to find a way to do that. We need to get first downs in the fourth quarter, and I would prefer if we score some points. You can look at each of those two games and see where those things didn't happen. You have to look at it specifically, play by play, and try to improve in those areas. But, those are things that we [need to improve]. We could have won both of those games. Obviously, this one, but neither one of them would have gone into overtime. But, that's a concern."

What are you thoughts on pass coverage on the deep ball and your decision to take CB Fabian Washington out of the game?"Fabian is going to play a lot of football. We don't get quite as caught up in starter or non-starter labels as some people do. But obviously, that's part of it. We always play the best guys the most. And who are the best guys? The guys who are playing the best. That having been said, I have confidence in Fabian. He's a good football player. It's a very competitive sport. You line up against really good players, and sometimes it's not your day. He said he had a tough day and he did. That was kind of the bottom line of the whole thing. It was in one-on-one cover situations. I think it's technique, basically, fundamentals, things that we can certainly do better."

As you're out in the community having coffee, going to the mall – you've got your radio show – what is your sense seven games in about how the fan base feels about your team? "Well, I haven't been to the mall, and I haven't been out for coffee. We have coffee here at the building. That's where I get my coffee. (laughter) I actually don't drink coffee. Reporter interjects: "You do do a radio show." I do do a radio show. You know, I really don't have that sense. I wish I did to give you kind of a better answer. I do go to softball games for my daughter, I guess, so I see a lot of people that way. It seems positive. I think people like the direction of the team. I think they like the type of people that play on our team and how they play. I think they appreciate what the organization stands for, and I think they like the fact that we've won most of our games. I'm pretty sure they all think we could have played better, and we feel the same way at times. I don't care what your record is – you always want to play better, and that's what we're going to continue to try to keep doing."

Do you think because you're the only team in the conference that has won playoff games in each of the last two years that the fans want style points now – just because you've raised the expectation now and took down a team that did make the playoffs three out of four years, and now here you are battling for a division championship? "Yeah, I think the expectations do raise. I think you're right about that, and that's OK. We want the expectations to be high, and that's OK. We want to play as well as we can, too. And we look at it every bit as hard as the fans do or the media does. We probably look at it harder. We probably look at it more in-depth. We want to play better every week because we… It's not so much that we… We're not about pointing fingers. I mean, you don't look back and say, 'OK, this is what happened,' in order to point a finger. That does us no good. There's no point in that. What we're trying to do is improve. So, whether you win or lose a game, whether you win by a big margin or it's not by a big margin, really what we're trying to do is find a way to get better, because we've got to apply it to the next week and the weeks down the road."

You said earlier in the week that QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has always given the Ravens trouble in the past, and on Sunday he looked liked Jim Kelly. What did he do that made him so effective? "Well, you know, I tell you what: He made some accurate throws under pressure. I mean he made… The throw to Roscoe Parrish on the sideline – that's as good a throw as you're going to see any quarterback in the league make. And, he scrambled around. I think two or three times – two that I remember off the top of my head on third down to convert third downs – which he's done against everybody so far this year. I think his quarterback rating is third or fourth in the league right now [it's second]. Coming into our game it was fourth. OK, so he's played well against everybody. They made the change for a reason. He's a good player. I wish we could have done a better job against him, but he's a good football player."

You made a roster move over the weekend with T Jared Gaither, who never really got healthy this year. Can you talk a little bit about Jared and how disappointing it is to not get him to play this year? "Yeah, I'm disappointed for Jared, and I'm disappointed for our team. It's just one of those things [where] we weren't able to solve the back issue. He'd be the first to tell you that it's not right. The roster spots became necessary for us to make a change, and I feel bad for Jared more than anything."

How disappointed are you or confident in the pass rush? And what's your take on say, pressure versus a sack? Do you prefer one over the other? "Yeah, I prefer sacks. We want to get as many sacks as we can. I think we got good pressure in that game. It's funny, it's real easy to say, 'We've got to get more pressure.' Sure. We've got to get better coverage. Sure. We've got to stop the run better. Sure. All those things are true. But, if you look at the tape, the pressure is pretty darn good. He got hit a number of times. The ball was forced out quickly. If they're going to throw the ball quickly, the idea of pressure is to force a quick outcome. So, we want to force a quick throw, because if we have an idea that the ball is going to come out quickly, it helps us in coverage. We can cover the quicker routes or he's going to get hit. He got hit a number of times. I don't think you saw him holding the ball, holding the ball waiting for routes to come open. Unfortunately, they got some guys open on vertical routes that they were able to make plays out of, and that's what hurt us more than anything."

What's your schedule and your staff's schedule the next few days? Do you guys need a break at this point as well? "No, well, we don't go on vacation. We'll be working. We're going to get ready for Miami. We've got to look at Atlanta, and we also do a self-scout process, so those three things will be something that we'll be focusing on this week. [We'll be] trying to find ways to get our team better, all three phases. [We'll be] looking at the Miami game and then looking at the Atlanta game, which will be a quick turnaround from Miami. But, the coaches will get the weekend to get with their families a little bit."

Was it surprising to you with the tackling in the secondary? It seems like they had their worst game where throughout most of the season it seemed like that was one of their strengths. "We didn't tackle well in the secondary, and I don't think we tackled really well at all in the game. That was probably the biggest factor. There were probably eight plays that went for big yards that could have been controlled with better tackling, so that was disappointing and surprising."

How can you correct that going forward in talking to these guys? "You correct it on tape. We do do some drills. I think the best way to do it [is] you do it in practice, and you emphasize team tackling, pursuit, and you emphasize proper angles to the football. We try to practice really fast, and we want our guys to tag off the right way in practice. So, if we get them in position to make those tackles, emphasize tackling high as opposed to tackling low, we'll be in good shape. We have a good tackling defense, so I feel confident that we'll be a good tackling defense the rest of the way."

Did you ask for or receive any information on the ball that was misplaced for the field goal?"We sent that in [to the NFL office], but I haven't heard anything back from it yet, so I don't know. I think it's pretty obvious, though, what the result is in that. Billy [Cundiff] came through, so that's what counts."

How happy are you with your decision to keep K Billy Cundiff over Shayne Graham as the kicker?"I think Billy's a heck of a kicker. I thought we had two really good kickers in training camp. I'm sure that they'll both prove to be quality NFL kickers. And that's my answer."

How much more comfortable are you with the kicking situation this year compared to last year?"I feel comfortable with our kicking situation this year. I like Billy; I think he's a heck of a kicker, and obviously that's been proven. He's probably leading the league in touchbacks [currently ranks second]. And I'm not sure what his field goal percentage is, but… Has he missed one? *(Reporter answers: "Two.") *Two, OK. He's made some big kicks for us, so he's done a great job. I think everybody can see that."

Can you talk about the return game and your decision to go with CB Lardarius Webb for punt returns?"If you look at our special teams, I think we're playing really well, except for the return game – specifically the kickoff return. That's been tough. [Josh Wilson] putting the ball on the ground was really, really a problem. That should never have happened. Josh will tell you that. There's no reason for it to happen. It was not well-blocked. They did a nice job of covering it, making some blocks miss. But at that point in time, you minimize, get up to the 20-yard line, and wherever the offense goes, we'll be in good shape. I think guys… To me, the returners are trying a little too hard right now to make a play. That's the big thing: Make a good, solid play, run the ball north and south, protect the football high and tight, and we'll get it blocked, and there will be some plays there for us. But don't make an average play into a bad play. That's kind of the cardinal sin. As far as putting Lardarius back there, he's the guy that's got some talent, some ability, and he's a good returner. And we felt like he was our best option in this game. I do feel confident that we have some guys that can do it as we go forward. Obviously, 'Zibby' [Tom Zbikowski] will be coming back. Chris Carr's an option back there; Donte' Stallworth will be coming back. [Derrick] Mason has been in my ear to do it. So, guys want to help, guys want to be a part of it, so we'll try to get that thing going."

You referenced "self-scout" as something you will do during the bye week. Is that when you and your staff watch the team as if you were playing against them?"Right. That's basically it. We'll take a hard look at the computer print-out stuff that we do, in terms of what our opponents are looking at, and see if we have any certain tendencies. We do that every week, [but] we'll probably do a little more in-depth. I have some of our coaches cross-key a little bit in terms of looking at us from the opponent's view point, and just see if there are some things we could take advantage of. It's not so much that we need to find things. Both of our coordinators… All three of our coordinators kind of set up tendencies to break tendencies, but there might be something that even they don't see that we can take advantage of."

What are your thoughts on the rookie class halfway through the season, and what do you expect from them going forward?"I think they're developing. When you have a really good football team like we have, you're probably not going to get as much out of your rookie class as much as some other teams are, and that's a good thing. I think that's a good problem to have. Terrence Cody, he's done a nice job. He's got to continue to work on, I'd say, two things: Pad level and shedding blocks quickly so he can make more plays between tackle and tackle. But he's got all the ability in the world. He plays hard, he practices hard. He's going to be a good player. David Reed has had a big impact on special teams. I think his impact will just only grow on offense. Jason Phillips is a guy that's kind of new this year. He's done a nice job on special teams so far. The two tight ends – [Ed] Dickson is playing more and more, [and Dennis] Pitta is playing more and more. I think we need to get those guys in there more and more. Todd [Heap] played, I think, in the low 40's this game, which is good because we got his number down a little bit. We want to continue to balance out the numbers a little bit with those young tight ends. So, I think you'll see more and more of those guys as the season goes on."

Is it too early to state whether WR Donte' Stallworth will be back in uniform against the Dolphins?"Yeah, I don't know yet. I think he's got a good chance to be. He thinks he's going to be. So, we'll keep our fingers crossed."

What element would Stallworth provide if he is able to come back for the Miami game?"As you know, he's an explosive guy. He's a strong runner with the ball. He's got the speed element, obviously, that always helps. He's kind of a little different than the other three [receivers] that are playing mostly right now, so that should help us."

Are you satisfied with where you are as a team at 5-2 going into the bye week?"Never satisfied, always content. That's a life motto, OK? I'm content with the way our guys have approached the season. I like the work ethic, I like the attention to detail, I like the way they compete. We'd rather be 7-0 than 5-2, but we're not. And what we need to do is focus on being 6-2, and I think part of that is going to be our guys getting a little rest this week, and part of that is going to be us doing everything we can to – when they come back – be able to present them with some things that are going to help them be a better football team."

Did you miss S Ed Reed's cheerleading on the sidelines?"No, didn't miss it at all." (laughter)

Can you characterize Reed's play and talk about how he looked returning to the field, and did he look the same or maybe a little bit slower because he hasn't been playing and didn't go through training camp?"I didn't think he looked any slower. Obviously, he's a different element back there; he kind of changes the whole picture back there, and I'm sure he does [that] for quarterbacks. And he's going to be a problem for quarterbacks as we go forward. I think for him, I kind of defer to what he said: He kind of feels like he's going through training camp right now. So, the contact and the physical part of it is something that's going to be interesting to see how his body responds to it. But, it was great to have him back."

When did you make the decision to make RB Willis McGahee a captain for the Buffalo game, and what was the decision-making process behind that?"We made the decision last Tuesday, and we kind of go through our guys, you know? We do team captains, as you know. So, guys, kind of week by week, you try to spread it around a little bit, and if there's a special reason to make a guy a captain… We were kind of saving the Buffalo game for Willis. Obviously, you know that's where he played before, and I also felt like it was important to let everybody know how important he is to our football team. He didn't play the week before as much. I take responsibility for that – he should have played the week before – and he's going to play a lot going forward. And that's a little bit of a statement that way."

With your strong ties to the military, how do you feel about terms like "warriors" and "battles" being tied to football players and games?"Well, I would say it's just a metaphor – to use one of your terms in the media. You know, it's OK. I think [military personnel] understand what we're saying, but I don't think it's at all accurate. I mean, I don't think for one second any of us think that it's really a battle [or] it's really a war. To me, there's no comparison. I think what [military personnel] do and what they've been a part of and what they've contributed that way is something that's just beyond description, and I know our players recognize that. And I think our players, when they use those kinds of labels, they do it kind of in a way of honoring what that really means. At least I think most of them do."

Can the Ravens' defense only get better when you combine Reed and Lewis together as leaders for that unit now?"Yeah, they are great leaders. That's exactly right. And I'd put two more guys in that category – and there are probably more guys – but you can't talk about that caliber of player without Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs. Those are four, great players on this defense. Now [they] kind of have a chance to play together and lead, and then you go right through the list, because I don't want to leave anybody out, short anybody – Jarret Johnson comes right to mind. We've got a bunch of guys like that, but you know, those are four star players in this league that are great leaders and have great work ethic."

When a guy struggles like Washington did on Sunday, do you talk them through that or just let them kind of work it out?"To me, what you do is you go back to the basics. You go to fundamentals. You know, it's fundamental football, it's technique, it's the same… And [it is for] corner probably more than any other position. I don't know. You're out there on an island. Fundamentals are important at every position, but when you're on an island, you've got to pay attention to fundamental technique. And as soon as you get away from that, boy you're really putting yourself at risk. And I think that's a little bit what happened in the game, because of the way they were attacking him. And I know he can get right back on that right away. But it'll be our job as coaches to emphasize that and kind of take him back through that. And that will be the same with all the players. So, you're talking about one guy, but we're really talking about everybody."

Without talking about who the "starters" are, is it a situation where you would consider putting different personnel on the field if some players are struggling more than others?"Well, yeah, and we'll mix Chris [Carr] back into the slot and all that, too, or somebody else. But no, the guys who play the most are the guys who are playing the best. And I've always said that. We play the best player, and the best player is the guy who's playing the best – not the guy who's had the most Pro Bowl appearances or the most starts or all that. It's who's playing the best this week, and that's the way it's got to be, and that's the way it will always be here."

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