Transcript - John Harbaugh Press Conference


Opening statement: "Welcome and thanks for coming. I had a chance to study the game, and I'm very pleased with the win. I'm very pleased with many things we did. It's like always, you take a look at the tape, and the good stuff wasn't as good as you thought after the game, and the stuff that you thought wasn't so good, it wasn't as bad as you thought. I think that's true when you have a good football team, more so than any. I like the way we played overall. There are a lot of areas where we've got to get better. But, all the focus now really comes down to the next game. It comes down to [Kansas City]. It's a one-game tournament – you know, one and done, two and done, three and done, four and champions. That's what it's all about, and you realize that. Our guys are ready for it. They understand how it works. They've been there before, and they're excited to play.

"Some individual awards that we talked about yesterday: Obviously, Derrick Mason's, Billy Cundiff's accomplishment, and also Ed Reed's accomplishment. I think he's the leading interception guy in the league – in 10 games. So, congratulations to Ed on that. That's pretty amazing. He's definitely maybe the greatest safety that ever played the game. I would argue that. I'm probably biased, but I would make a case for that. So, we're proud of that.

"Going into the playoffs, the main thing we're looking at is the opportunity to win the next game in all three phases and just try to put it together as much as we can. We win as a team and have three phases complement each other, play complementary football, and do the things we need to do to beat the next team."

Is there the same euphoria with each playoff run or do you start to expect it?"It's probably both, a little bit. I don't think euphoria is exactly the word, but you sure are excited. Maybe it is that. You can never take it for granted. It's a tremendous accomplishment and an opportunity. That's what it is. You're proud of the accomplishment of making the playoffs, because it does say something. But, it's really the opportunity to go to the next level and achieve the next thing. To me, that's what drives you."

How is S Ed Reed feeling today with his rib injury that forced him to leave the game yesterday?"When did he come out? I don't know exactly. Ed's that kind of guy; he's going to play. He was urged to come out of the game at one point, very strongly, by the head coach. He was ordered out at one point. But, that's who he is. He's just a courageous guy. I'm sure he could have finished the game, but he's getting treatment and all that, and I'll be surprised if he's not ready to go. But, you never know."

Is it a little bit of a blessing that you don't have to play Indianapolis this week? This Kansas City thing is sort of a new deal for you."It doesn't matter. Once you get your assignment, that's the one you're excited about. If it had been the Colts, we'd be excited about that, and you turn your attention to them. It's Kansas City. I watched the game. It was the Colts, it was Kansas City, it was the Colts, it was Kansas City. Oops, it's Kansas City. It was crazy. You guys think some of our games are crazy. *(laughter) *That's football. That's the National Football League, right? And, I'm excited that it's Kansas City. But, now you look at them and you're like, 'Wow, this is going to be a big challenge.' This is going to be a tough football game. There's a reason these guys have the record they have. There's a reason they won their division. There's a reason they got a home game. It's really a tough place to play. Historically in the playoffs, it's been an incredibly tough place to play. So, we've got our hands full. But, as far as judging the two, what's the point?"

Some of the offensive players expressed disappointment with the game yesterday and feel they can't go deep in the playoffs unless they play better. What did you see on the tape of yesterday's game that the offense would be disappointed about?"I'm glad they feel that way. That's how you expect them to feel. I always say this, I know, but I bet our defensive guys feel the same way when they watch the tape and the special teams the same way. That's what I mean about playing complementary football. When you watch that game, there are a lot of little things. There are always a lot of little things. You go through it and you say, 'What do you boil it down to?' You can't really boil it down to anything – other than execution. So, you come back to that same old word. There are some things you want to do better. There are some things that you want to call better. There's blocking schemes that can be executed better. There are throws that can be seen better. There are routes that can be run better. The good news is after watching it – because I was disappointed last night, I think I said something in the press conference about it – I really think we are really close. I watch our offense every single day in practice, and I know how good we are – can be – and how close we are to being really good. We have really talented players and really talented coaches who are working real hard to be really good. And, they've won 12 games playing complementary football. That's the bottom line. And still, we can be a much more potent offense. I see it in practice. Friday's practice was as a good a practice as you're ever going to see. So, that's there, and I want it to translate to Sunday. How do we get it to translate to Sunday? That's what we're working on as coaches to do. I know that's a big roundabout answer, but it's the most honest one I can give you. [If] you keep chopping wood, you keep coaching, you keep practicing hard, we'll break out and play good offense. That's a certainty."

Was there still an emotional component to yesterday's game despite it being a game that wasn't really a "must-win" and did that factored into it at all?"I don't know. I think we were really emotional; I think we played, really, really hard. It was a really physical game. So, I don't really think that was a problem. I just don't see that as being part of it, but you never know."

Did you see LB Terrell Suggs throw a punch after a play yesterday, and if so, what did you say to him today?"I saw it in person. I was right there on the sideline. I saw all the other stuff that was going on, too, and yeah, we don't ever want to retaliate, because usually they get the retaliation. My feeling is what they did was, they saw the whole thing and they could have flagged it both ways, and they chose just not to flag it at all and let it go. So, I think it was a good common-sense decision by the officials. It was one of those kinds of games, and we strive very hard to keep our composure, and I think we've done a really good job of that this year."

When you say your offense is "really close," is that to an explosive, breakthrough-type game that hasn't been displayed yet?"Well, I think* *it's been displayed at times. I don't know if we've had four quarters of it, but there's been times where we scored over 30 points, where we've scored three times in a row. There's been stretches where we've been unstoppable. So yeah, but I'm looking for that game, where we play the whole game that way. And that's what our players and coaches are looking for, too. So, if we want to win a championship – and I think the offensive guys are saying that – they feel like they need to play that way. And we support that."

Can you talk about DT Brandon McKinney and him looking like he's been pretty effective, and what's the importance of having fresh legs and bodies in the postseason?"You're right, Brandon has played really well. He's been really good against the run. He's a very… He's a 330-pound guy, he can bend and move his feet, and he plays great technique. And he's been a run-stuffer for us and done a really good job. Yeah, fresh… We really try to make sure that we're as strong as we can be in January, and that means being fresh. Recovered is the word we use. So, we try to recover from one week to the next week based on how many plays guys get and all that. So, I think we've done a good job of that."

After watching tape, how did you feel LS Kevin Houser snapped in his debut? "Well, he did a good job. And he did a good job with the protections. They were coming after him. They got us on one little twist in there where they got pressure. Maybe he could have done a little better with that [and] maybe could have gotten a little more help. But, I'm not surprised that for the first week that they came after him. But Sam [Koch] got it off, so he did well."

You knew when you signed him that he had some background, some baggage that he brought along. Was that even discussed with him before you signed him or is that something that is in the past and doesn't deal with you guys? "Both. It was discussed with him and it's in the past. He took some good-natured ribbing, I think, from all of us, and that's how we kind of cleaned the slate."

What are your thoughts on having not played the Chiefs much?"It'll be new. We saw them the first game last year and haven't seen them since – when [Chiefs head coach] Todd [Haley] was just starting the program. It was a close game; it went right down to the end, if I remember [correctly]. We just have to study them over the next few days and really get to know them. I think we understand how they're trying to build. It's a lot of the New England philosophy, obviously, along with Todd's personality. You can see it written all over the team – rough, tough, hard-playing team. [They] want to run the ball, stop the run, play well in the conditions, [and have] good quarterback play. It's going to be a big challenge."

How is T Michael Oher feeling today after leaving the Bengals game with an injury?"I haven't talked to him today. I think [vice president of medical services/head athletic trainer] Bill [Tessendorf] thinks he's OK. We'll have to see how he responds. I'm sure he's going to be sore."

What do you think about the playoff seeding process?"I'm not OK with it this year. This year, I think it should be the other way [by record]. *(laughter) *Some people say you could have two 9-7 teams who beat each other up in a great division [and] would have a worse record than a team that comes out of maybe not as strong of a division. I haven't really seen that play out yet, so I'm probably for the re-seeding right now. That's where I would be, given our situation this year. But, it really doesn't matter. We've got to go play [in Kansas City]."

What are your thoughts on Browns head coach Eric Mangini being fired after playing against him in the division the past two years?"I'm a big Eric Mangini fan, as you know. I've still got a lot of respect for him; I think he's a great coach. We've had some tough battles against him, and we've been fortunate enough to come out on top. I can recognize what he was trying to do with his team real clearly, and to me, that's a sign of a good coach. They're always going to be tough. It's going to be [tough] whatever direction they go. With [Browns president Mike] Holmgren running the show, you know what they're going to try to build. They're in our division. It'll be interesting to see what they do."

Do you think being on the road in the playoffs the past two years is an advantage going into a third playoff run on the road?"I think it's a benefit – the fact that we've been through it two years in a row, and now we'll go through it a third time. We wanted like crazy to not go through it. We wanted that home field [advantage], but we didn't get it done, so here we are. But, the fact that we've done it before is a plus for us."

What was it about DE Cory Redding that appealed to you before signing him in the offseason?"We liked his motor a lot. We thought he was a guy that just flew around, played fast, was just really aggressive [and] played really hard. So, we felt like he would fit our style, and we felt like he could learn how to play the two-gap system. Plus, he had some pass rush ability. You probably saw earlier in the year he was kind of working his way in, technique-wise, and now he's doing it really well. He's a really good athlete, and he's big."

What was your assessment of how the pass rush performed in yesterday's game?"We always think there's opportunities for pass rush with us. We always think we're going to get after the quarterback, because you have to. And we got after [Bengals QB] Carson [Palmer] pretty good. Carson got hit and knocked down a bunch. I credit him; he made some amazing throws under pressure. And he missed some throws because of the pressure, and he threw some interceptions because of the pressure. And, he'd tell you that. I thought we got great pressure. We had a lot of blitzes come scot-free, and he got the ball out [with] a lot of quick throws. We expect and intend to get pressure every week."

With how well K Billy Cundiff and P Sam Koch have been playing this year, will special teams give you an edge in the playoffs?"We hope it's going to be an edge. It's part of our plan every week. We've got our special teams playing at a really high level at this point, and really, the last six weeks they've played at as high a level as anybody. We've got to keep building that up. Those two guys [Cundiff and Koch] are a huge part of that. There's not a better combination in the NFL than those two guys."

Do you expect lesser-known players to step up in the playoffs?"Yes, absolutely. But, I think we – as coaches and players – we kind of look for that every week. You look for that from the opening game on. I really think that maybe there is more fan attention on those guys now because there are fewer games to watch, so the fans and everybody gets a closer look at the team, and you start to realize what makes a team click. They'll see a 'Cary Williams' running down the left sideline as a gunner or making that tackle for no gain because it's so huge in the game, and they're all watching one game. [Giants WR] David Tyree [made] the Super Bowl catch a couple years ago [to help the Giants defeat the Patriots]. There's a guy that will be remembered forever. We had him here. Those are the kind of guys you're talking about, I think."

With the openings around the league, your brother has been rumored for a bunch of them. ESPN ran today that he is "unlikely to return to Stanford." Is that accurate? They scrolled that on the bottom of the screen. Is there anything you'd like to shed on that? "I knew that was coming. That's good. I don't know what he is going to do, I really don't. I don't know what he is going to do. I thought I knew. I thought I had an idea, and I don't think he is for sure."

Reporter interjects: "What was your idea?"


"I'm not giving it to you. Good follow-up, I walked right into that! (laughter) That's my fault. I mean I don't want to speak for him, but I think there is a chance he will stay at Stanford. I think there is a good chance he'll stay there. I don't know that for a fact, but I know this: He loves those players, loves them. And he loves the university. So, I wouldn't be surprised at all if he stayed at Stanford. That's not to say I think he's staying there, because I don't know. But, I wouldn't be surprised."

Are you going to be able to carve out a couple hours to be able to watch Stanford play in the Orange Bowl? "[I] can't. I want to. I want to. I want to be on Steve [Bisciotti's] plane and fly down there and go see it, you know? You figure we can probably get that worked out, get the video all set up on there and everything. But, if we would have had the bye week, I would have done it. But realistically, it just wouldn't be fair. There's no way."

Reporter interjects: "But you'll watch it on TV, then?"


"Oh, yeah. Yeah, I'll carve out a couple hours to watch it on TV, yeah, certainly. But I can't go down there and see it. Is that what you were asking, for TV?"

Reporter answers: "Yeah, I was asking if you were going to watch on TV."


"Yeah, you knew I couldn't leave now."

Can you summarize your thoughts on not sitting any starters yesterday? "I think realistically, when you look at the numbers, I mean how do you that? If you don't sit them for the outset – if you don't just pull guys out so you've got a 45-man roster – then how do you pull guys out? We already had a couple, two, three injuries turn into four, five, six injuries that we pulled guys out. Now, you're basically out of players because you can't take a Ray Lewis out of the game and still be in your dime package once [Dannell] Ellerbe's hurt. Once guys start to get nicked a little bit, you can't pull guys out of the game and be able to play defense. And we were trying to win the game. And I think if Ray Lewis or one of those guys – if I try to take one of those guys out of the game – it was hard enough getting Ed out of the game with the injury that he had. So, a) they wanted to win the game, and b) the numbers really don't allow you to do it. Like, OK, Michael Oher got hurt… Well, we only have seven offensive linemen up, and we run a lot of six offensive line[men] packages. Yeah, you can get out of a package, but you can only pull one or two guys, and then you're done pulling guys because you have to play those guys. I mean everybody plays, so I think it's a little easier said than done. It's a little more in theory. If you can do it before the game starts, then that's different, because now you've still got 45 guys to play with."

What's the scariest thing about facing a team like Kansas City who hasn't been in the playoffs for a few years? They could feel like there is nothing to lose and maybe go all-out. "I don't think so. I don't think there's anything scary, but I see your point. I think I understand your question, because they can cut it loose. But you know what? In the playoffs, we're all going to cut it loose. We're going to cut it loose, too, and we're going to do everything we can to win the game. So, they're a playoff team, we're a playoff team. Everybody's got a chance."

How do you feel about your run defense going into this game, and what does Kansas City show you? What type of running team are they? "Again, we'll study that in the next couple days, but they're a good running team. I know that. They're a power running team. They've got a very fast back who, I think, almost set the record for average yards per carry in the history of the National Football League, right? The young kid from Texas [Jamaal Charles] – he's a talented guy. He can break it at anytime, so that's always a threat. But, I feel great about our run defense. I have all year."

What's the book on DT Terrence Cody these days? Is he taking care of business in the trenches? "Terrence is playing very well, yep. Terrence is… I think he has really grown as a player. He's a big part of what we do. He's learned under the tutelage of Kelly Gregg and Clarence Brooks. He's adapted to the technique system that we use, the two-gap system. He's done really well. He's playing good."

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