REVISED: JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE: WEEK 17 VS. BROWNS
Opening statement: "OK, good to see you guys here – appreciate everybody being here. We're looking forward to the next challenge. [We] had the day yesterday. I got in – coaches were working, a number of players were working. We had a number of players get off the plane with a couple of coaches, myself included, who got off the plane and got a workout in right away. So, you're kind of fired up when you see 10 guys in training off the plane. So, that was good. And then, we'll be in today working. This will be like a Tuesday day for us in terms of our preparation with our guys. We'll start at 12:15 with special teams, work our way through the afternoon as if it were a Tuesday, and then the guys – the players and the coaches – will have tomorrow off, which is a big day. Merry Christmas! And then we'll be back at it Wednesday with our normal routine."
Your team was really prepared and emotionally up for that game Saturday night. How big of a challenge is it in the NFL to have a team emotionally up two weeks in a row at that level? (Stan Charles) "I think we've done that. I think we've been doing that pretty regularly. I don't think we've not been emotionally up really all year, so we've played better in different games, but our guys have been great about that. I appreciate that about them. They get themselves ready to play and peak at the right time."
From the get-go, you talked about the importance for winning the division and then perhaps getting a home playoff game. To be on the cusp of that, do you feel that, realizing nothing is done, that you have your goal within reach right here? (David Ginsburg) "Absolutely. That's the first goal. It's not the top goal, but it's definitely the first goal – we set it every year – is to win the division, to be division champions, and we're playing a championship game on Sunday. That's what you work for. That's what we put all that time in for, and in order to do that, we've had to weather some storms and overcome some challenges and win some games, and guys have done a great job. We appreciate where we're at. This is the opportunity that we wanted, and now it's ours to go get."
The way things played out yesterday, you have to be pleased. What will be your message to the team? Does that change in any way, because now, all you [have to do] – it's pretty simple – win and you're in? (Jerry Coleman) "As I just said, I think the answer is exactly what we just talked about. It's our opportunity that we've been working hard for, and that's our goal."
Will you mention anything about the past, or is the past the past? You have a lot of players on the team that experienced last year being in a similar situation. Will that be reminded? (Jerry Coleman) "We all know where we've been. We don't need to talk about anything. We all know. We've all learned from all of our past experiences this year, last year, previous years, all those things, the guys who have been here. The guys who weren't here, they're not going to understand it anyway until they experience it. The guys who were here, that drives us, certainly. It's an experience that, like any experience, you want to learn from those experiences. And, when you have a gut-wrenching experience, a tough one like we had the last two years, you take those with you, and it makes you stronger. It forges you as a person, as a competitor, so that's what I expect."
What can you say about the way QB Lamar Jackson has handled all of this? This has been a playoff push for weeks now, and he's really shown poise for a rookie. (David Ginsburg) "He has. He's done very well. He's a very poised player. He makes plays. He expects to make plays. He's not afraid to go for it, so to speak, and that's how we want all of our guys. We want all of our guys to think that way. I think all the work you put in, everything – you stand on everything that you've done before, everything you've experienced, like Jerry [Coleman, reporter] is talking about – you stand on all that stuff, and you apply it to the next game. I think Lamar is a quick learner. All of our guys are smart players, and we appreciate that about them."
OLB Terrell Suggs is going to be completing his 16*th* year for this franchise. What has he meant? Most of his years have been with you. What has he meant to this franchise? (Jamison Hensley) "I don't know if I could sum it up here in a sentence. I'm not thinking about what Terrell Suggs means to the franchise right now; we're thinking about playing this game. And, I'm quite sure that if you asked him, he would say the exact same thing. So, why don't we just leave it at that? I think we all know what Terrell Suggs means to the franchise, and I really appreciate him as a player, and a person, and a leader. I love being around him every single day – couldn't be around a better guy, a better football man. And, that's what we're here for, so that's what we're focusing on."
How has QB Baker Mayfield grown since the last time you played the Browns? (Jordan Schatz) "He's grown. He's a good player. I don't compare; who cares how much he's grown since the last time we played him? It's not our job to determine that or to measure that. Our job is to compete against him and try to stop him – him and the whole team, and that's the challenge. Their offense revolves around the quarterback, Baker Mayfield. He's playing very well. He is who he is. He runs his style. I think they do a good job of recognizing what his strengths are, and they play to them. I'm sure he's more experienced than he was last time, or whatever. But, he's going to extend plays. He's going to keep his eyes downfield. He's going to run when he has to. He's going to change things at the line when he needs to; he's going to try to make plays. He's going to push the ball downfield. He's an accurate passer. He's certainly not afraid to push the ball in there, and they're almost like a touchdown check-down kind of team. They throw shots all the time – in the pocket, out of the pocket – they'll drop screens down to everybody. They have tremendous – I think they have playmakers out there. They have good backs that can line up as wide receivers, so they throw a lot of slants. They have an offense that's designed for what [Mayfield] does well, and they run it very well."
Big picture, are you happier to play a team that's still really playing hard at this point in the season, rather than, say, a 3-12 team? (Stan Charles) "I haven't even thought about that. I wouldn't even have that answer. We're playing the Browns this week, and they're very good. It's going to be a hotly-contested rivalry game at the end of the year. We've been in these before, as you know, and that's our challenge."
I know most of yesterday was probably preparation for the Browns. How much were you able to watch the Steelers vs. Saints game, though? (Jamison Hensley) "I watched most of that game, yes." (Reporter: "Were you quite pleased towards the end of the game?") "I don't root. We just see what the… Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. If you get all emotionally caught up in all those kinds of things, they drive you crazy. I don't know how people even watch these games in this league. (laughter) It's just too crazy."
Now that you're a couple days removed from it, have you reflected on what the teams' announcement Friday that you'd be back next season has meant to you? (Aaron Kasinitz) "No, I haven't."
Do you think it's a non-story? Because, the team announced it on a Friday night right before your biggest game of the year, and it was a big deal to a lot of people. (Jerry Coleman) "I think it's a non-story. I think it's just… We're just trying to win football games. We've kept it simple, kept it about football. Everybody is on a one-year deal. You're on a one-week deal, as far as I'm concerned, in this league, players and coaches. That's how we are. We get that. Players and coaches understand that. We don't think too much about all of that. You try to go out and do your best the very next game, have the best day you can have, and that's how we look at it. So, all that stuff is really not something that you dwell on or think about. There are a few other things to think about."
There was talk that a comedian broke the news to the players. Was it part of a joke, or were they taking it seriously? (Jerry Coleman) "It was part of his act. I mean, he just threw it into his act there. It was very funny how he did it. I wouldn't want to risk embarrassing myself up here explaining how he did it. I don't have that kind of talent, but it was great. We had a guy who was great – he's kind of become a friend. He was just really funny with all the guys – did a great job. He threw it in there and everybody got a big kick out of it – to my expense and Steve's [Bisciotti] expense, so that was OK."
Do you have a message to the fans? This is the first game in a long time the fans are really looking forward to a game and pack the place and be like the old days four or five years ago. (Stan Charles) "I love our fans. I'm looking forward to it. I look forward to it every time we get to M&T Bank Stadium – I can't wait. You drive up to that place, it's beautiful, you see the people out there tailgating and excited. I've never seen a fan in there who's not excited for the game. Every time we go in there, the fans there are loud, they're into it, they're having fun, they're laughing, they yell at us – and most of the time it's really positive what they say. Our fans are like that. It's a little different than other stadiums that way. They don't get too negative. They want to see us do well – that's what I love about our fans. Yes, I'm looking forward to it. I can't wait."
After the game, S Eric Weddle said the Ravens are a team that no team really wants to face. Is this a formula that really – since it's so unique – might give other teams problems? It has: strong defense, running game, which is pretty much anti-NFL right now. (David Ginsburg) "Well, you hope so. I mean, any time you put something together you hope it's going to be tough on your opponent. That's the whole idea is to impose your will upon your opponent however you can do it based on what your personnel is, and how you want to play and what your fundamental beliefs are. In Baltimore, our coaching staff, our players, our whole organization … You look at [general manager and executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] – I think we all have a certain vision for how we like to play the game. And that is also built around the players' talents and their gifts. You have to be able to adapt your strategy to your players. Those are the guys who out there playing the game and making the plays. So, we've tried to do that, but still built around our core beliefs and principles about how the game should be played and won – how you win games. That's what we're trying to do – I think you see it. It's pretty clear what we're trying to do and just kind of roll with that and see what happens."
I think there's a stat that QB Lamar Jackson has the second-best passer rating in the league when trailing. What do you attribute that success to? (Aaron Kasinitz) "That's a great stat, man! I don't know, because I don't care, and I haven't thought about it. It's really irrelevant to us, but it's great for you guys to look at and study. I love that. I will be looking forward to reading about it, too – what you think – because it'll be interesting. But, seriously, it just doesn't matter to us. I don't mean to downplay it, because it probably says that, 'Hey, Lamar can bring you back and makes plays just like the other guys do.' But I look at it from a team aspect. I mean it's him, but it's the other guys [too]. I'm sure guys are making catches, and we're making runs. It's team football. We're a team."
You guys have been practicing since July. How impressive is it for your defense to be able to fly around like that so late in the season, and keep the momentum going even though they've practiced probably longer than any team in the NFL? (Todd Karpovich) "That's a great point. I'm glad you brought it up. It's very impressive, and it's a credit to the players, to the strength coaches, to the coaches and to everything. But it's mainly a credit to the players. Our guys have worked very hard. Our guys get in that weight room, our guys get out in practice, they run around … We practice. They run around and practice hard, and I think we have a lot of calluses built up. I think we're in great shape, and that shows up in December."
Along those same lines, how important was the tackling on Saturday? The Chargers have a lot of quick players. Do you think that was a key factor in the end, especially on defense with your ability to get people down in the open-field? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Right, absolutely. That's been really important all the way through here: The fact that we're running to the ball and we're able to play physical, we're able to get off blocks. But I think the effort that our players play with is at a very, very high level. They deserve a lot of credit for that."
TE Mark Andrews seems like he's been consistent from start to finish this year. Your young players seem to not be hitting the so-called "rookie wall." Would you agree with that and what would you attribute that to? (Cliff Brown) "[No], because the rookie wall is a phantom. It's a mirage. It's a figment of your imagination or whoever thinks there is a rookie wall. The only walls in life are the ones we build ourselves. If there's a wall, we're climbing over it or getting around it, whatever. There's no wall. You have a day. You get a good 10-hour sleep, you're fresh and ready to go the next day. For an athlete – you need at least eight hours for a normal person – an athlete needs 10 hours of sleep: Get in bed, get ready to go and have a great day. Let's go. That's true for a rookie or a veteran. What difference does it make? That's my theory; I'm sticking with it." (laughter) (Reporter: "How many hours of sleep do you get?") (laughter) "Enough, I guess. Plenty, plenty! Good! We're doing good. I get lots of sleep. Our staff does a great job. It's a team effort, man."
Back in September you said you were happy to see WR Breshad Perriman get a fresh start. I guess to see him catch on in Cleveland and really produce these past couple weeks, how much have you seen of that and what have you seen from him? (Jonas Shaffer) "That's a very good observation. Breshad's playing very well. He's made numerous big plays, he's playing fast, doing a great job. He's going to be a factor that we have to contend with for sure with our defense. He's bringing what you always expected him to be able to bring to the table. He's found that there in the last few weeks, and they've done a good job with him."