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Transcript: John Harbaugh Monday Press Conference

JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE: WILD CARD vs. chargerS

Opening statement: “Great to be here – appreciate you guys all being here, once again. I’m very excited with where we’re at. I’m very excited about the opportunity that’s been presented, and really, earned by the guys, the coaches and the players and everybody in the organization. We’re ready to roll. We’re way deep into preparation for the next game. It’s going to be a big challenge against a great football team, as you all know. We’re up for it. What do you have?”

Yesterday you mentioned a “new beginning.” Is that sort of the message this week for your guys? It’s been a whirlwind of a season. Is that the message? (Todd Karpovich) “Yes, probably. We’ll kind of see how it goes as we go. Usually messages come up as they come up – you kind of roll with it, what comes to mind. That’s definitely part of it. It was an amazing moment last night. I think everybody was there. You guys were all there, right? It was incredible. It’s just one of those magical, great moments. Not magical, but just one of those meaningful moments that’s really what sports are all about, football is all about. The stadium was incredible; the fans were so in to it. I was so excited; the fans were so excited, coming off the field, coming toward the locker room and getting a chance to grab hands with a bunch of fans – it was really a great moment. Just the whole feel for the place – it was electric. The way the game came down to the last moment was … I mean, you guys are writers, you guys think about these things. Put all that together and put it into words somehow. I can’t do that. But it was really something to remember. But now you move on, now you move on. That’s where we’re at.”

Sports is about making adjustments. Do the Chargers have an advantage having faced QB Lamar Jackson previously? (Stan Charles)“I don’t know. It’s a good question. We’ll probably learn as we go. Both teams – I wouldn’t call it an advantage – both teams have something, because we just played two weeks ago. So, all that preparation that went into to last game, we both have that. We’re not starting from scratch, either team. I’m sure both teams will build from there, and it’ll be great. Both teams are really smart, great coaching staffs, great players, smart players. I’m sure both teams will be very well prepared.”

I’m curious about the way you opened the game last night offensively. You threw seven passes out of the first 12 plays, and on the eighth it was a scramble. How much of that was scripted, and how much of it was an adjustment by the coaching staff or QB Lamar Jackson, based on what you were seeing? (Randy Moss) “Well, the first number of plays we have up as possible calls were about 50/50 run-pass. That’s pretty normal for us. So, how we call those just depends on the flow of the game a little bit. Then you have third downs and situational calls and things like that that get in there. I think there were some third-down calls in those first 12, too. I don’t think there was any grand design to that. I think it’s just the way it rolled in the game.”

We didn’t see WR/RS Chris Moore after a while. What was his situation? What’s his situation going forward? (Jeff Zrebiec) “He had something that kept him out – a bruise-type of deal. His situation, as I was told this morning, looks really good. He came through it last night just fine. He should be good to go.”

You walked off the field last night with … I don’t even know how to describe it. It was sort of a weaponry in your hand. What was that about? Can you tell us about that? (Kevin Richardson) “That’s a lion spike. You guys familiar with the lion spike? The lion spike is what used by the Maasai tribe in Africa to kill lions. Mark Patterson, who’s a preacher down in Washington and a great author, wrote about chasing the lion into a pit on a snowy day and other things. It’s what we talked about: A guy named Benaiah, it’s in the Book of Samuel. Chasing lions is something we’re talked about all year. He talks about how there’s some speculation that’s maybe how this Benaiah did that back when in ancient Israel. So, the lion spike is something that we’ve had for our guys, and we said that would be the moment: ‘Somebody’s going to chase that lion into the pit.’ We were all in the pit with the lion last night, believe me. I mean, we were down deep in a dark pit last night, trying to fight our way out. (laughter) I would say C.J. [Mosley] is the one that finally killed the lion in there. So, we gave that to C.J., but I just wanted to make sure on the field … A matter of fact, Johnny Shelton, our team chaplain, knew it was in my bag in the office. He went in there and grabbed it and brought it out after we took a knee – not before, just for the record. So that was something I think the guys rallied around a little bit. It was a lot of fun, very meaningful.”

You guys went for a fourth-and-one on your first drive offensively, and then the final four plays defensively, you ran cover zero going after QB Baker Mayfield. Does that just reflect how aggressive you guys want to be on both sides of the ball? (Luke Jones) “Yes, sure. It does reflect it, because that’s what we’re doing, and I think it reflects our personality, mindset, the way this team thinks, what the guys want to do. We’ve mixed it up on different situations like that, end-of-the-game situations. We haven’t been in those kinds of all-out blitzes every time, but we’ve been mixing them in, so I loved it. I loved it. The guys executed great. The guys executed the fourth down great. We’ve gone for a lot of fourth downs. We’ve made a lot of fourth downs. I think we lead the league in third- and fourth-and-short in the National Football League, so credit to the coaches and players for that. Hey, as a head coach, it makes you want to go for more if you think you have a good chance to get them, and that’s what our guys have been doing.”

A lot of people talk about the sustainability of the offense. The fact that a good coaching staff, a guy like Cleveland head coach Gregg Williams had time to look at this – they were putting an extra guy in the box a lot – and yet, you still run it for 298 yards last night. What does that say about the sustainability of this attack? (Randy Moss) “Yes, I think that’s a good question to be answered by people that study that stuff, like you. And, I think that’s a … It’s going to be interesting. We already are sold on that, or we wouldn’t be running the offense. We already believe that, and this is not some fly-by-night offense. This is not something that somebody just made up in their head. This type of an offense has been around for decades and decades. The concepts have been there. The passing game just didn’t get invented in the past couple years. It’s been around for a while, and it’s been developed. I’m excited to see where it goes. I think our coaches have done a great job of expanding it and throwing formations and motions and different things out there that haven’t really been done before. So, that’s the creative part of it, and I’m excited to see where it goes. It’s going to be fun to see.”

Do you think it’s kind of an underrated part of the QB Lamar Jackson phenomenon that he’s such a personable guy, that he’s so good at building connections with people? (Childs Walker)“Do I think it’s underrated? What is it rated? I don’t know what the rating is!” (laughter)(Reporter: “Do you think that’s a big part of why he has been successful?”) “I do. It’s a good point. He’s great. He has a great personality, he has natural leadership ability, and he’s a charming guy, outgoing guy. But, the thing I like about Lamar – and it’s probably true for most all of our guys, all of our guys one way or another – but he’s just himself. That’s what you appreciate about him. He’s not trying to be something. He’s not trying to prove to anybody that he’s this or that or the other. ‘You don’t think I’m this, I’m going to be this, what you think I should be.’ That’s not how he thinks. He’s been raised differently than that. His mom has done a phenomenal job with him. His family has done a great job. I’m sure he was raised in a great way, and he’s very comfortable with who he is. Most people who are like that, you like being around people like that, comfortable in their own skin, and that’s who he is.”

On a similar topic, the defense has a lot of big personalities, veteran guys like S Eric Weddle and OLB Terrell Suggs. ILB C.J. Mosley is not necessarily that big personality, so how have you seen him grow as a voice and a leader over the last five years? (Aaron Kasinitz) “He has. C.J. has always been a leader because of his ability and because of his work ethic, but he’s definitely grown. Or, I don’t know if he’s grown – he’s grown into, he’s more comfortable with, he’s taken more charge of, the defense that way. He’s more vocal. He’s the signal-caller; he and Eric share that duty a lot, but there’s no question about it that C.J. is making calls and all that kind of stuff. He did the speech on Saturday night to the defense, did a great job. He’s not shy. He may be a little lower-key, but he’s definitely not shy about expressing himself.”

Earlier in the season, the points people were scoring were just going crazy. It seems like it has leveled off towards the end of the year. From your experience, do you feel that this is the time, with the weather and everything, that defenses start taking control? (Jamison Hensley) “I hope so, I hope so.  One defense, specifically, that I’m hopeful for. The rest of them, I don’t really care about. But, we’re looking for one defense to start taking control of things.”

The last time you went on a big playoff run, there was a guy making his last ride – and that was Ray Lewis – on the field. Can you compare that at all to general manager Ozzie Newsome’s last year as general manager of the team? Is that a possibly rallying cry for the team? (Stan Charles) “Sure. Our guys love Ozzie, and they respect him. I think sometimes it gets lost that Ozzie is not leaving. He’s not going anywhere. He’s going to be right here with us, so the guys understand that, too. But from the standpoint of ‘this is his last year as the GM,’ that’s why last night was another layer to the whole thing about why it meant so much. It’s Ozzie’s last opportunity as a GM, and here we are, playing the Cleveland Browns, of all teams, in a game like that. So, yes, that kind of puts it in perspective a little bit.” (Reporter: “Three Super Bowls as a general manager would be pretty darn special.”) “It would be amazing. We’d love to make that happen, absolutely.”

With QB Lamar Jackson getting the ball knocked out at the goal line, is that something you chalk up to a fluke play, or is that something you can address? (Aaron Kasinitz) “We can address that, sure. It’s something that’s just execution, and [the Browns] did a great job, timed it up and all that stuff, so you give them credit. But, that’s something that we’ll continue to work on. There are a lot of nuances to every different kind of play. So many things can happen in this game. They don’t catch you by surprise, but so many things can happen. You can’t work on everything all the time, so that’s not something we want to see happen. That was a huge swing point in the game. We want to score from the six-inch line. We don’t want to not score, so we’ll continue to work on things like that, and there will be new things that will come up, too, I’m sure.”

On QB Lamar Jackson’s 30-something-yard touchdown, TE Maxx Williams was called for holding. Will that be one of the plays you submit to the league for review? (Jamison Hensley) “Yes, it will.”

I think tomorrow will mark a month since you last made a roster move. How beneficial has the continuity been – obviously health is important for everything – but just the health and continuity been in the game-planning process, having all the guys on the practice field and all of that? (Jeff Zrebiec) “I think it’s been big. To me, the fact that we were healthy, the healthiest we’ve been all year, credit goes to the players for how hard they work and for our strength and conditioning and performance people. What a great job they’ve done. The continuity of practice and then games and having a full roster is really important.”

A lot of people were asking about your conversation with Cleveland head coach Gregg Williams. He said some nice things about your coaching staff. Was that just kind of a mutual admiration-type thing? (Jeff Zrebiec) “Yes, could you hear the conversation?” (Reporter: “No, I didn’t even see it. I was watching the players.”) “Yes, it was just really classy, just giving a lot of respect for Gregg Williams and Freddie Kitchens and the staff, the job they’ve done there. I know a lot of those guys – Al Saunders, Greg Seamon. I know so many of those coaches over there – Bob Wylie. They’re great coaches, and they’ve done a really great job. They really have. He just kind of shared some of his thoughts on us and the game and what we’ve been doing, and it was appreciated, and right back at him.”

I know there’s only one team that you really care about, but in your years coaching the National Football League, do you remember a playoff coming up where there’s not one or two really overwhelming favorites, like where you could make a case that any of these teams could end up being in the Super Bowl? (Stan Charles) “I don’t think about that. I wish I had. I would be just making it up if I went. I haven’t thought about it at all. Sorry. That’s good. I’m glad it’s like that. Good! Good.” (Reporter: “Three first-round games are two-point games.”) “I’m sure it will be exciting.”

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