Transcript - John Harbaugh Press Conference


Opening statement:"Welcome, good to see everybody. Sorry we're a little late. Obviously it's a tough, but an important day in the National Football League. I think certainly the toughest meeting that you have for 31 teams in this league is the last meeting. There's one team that gets to have a joyous last meeting. But some good things were said. We've got some great men on this team and on this coaching staff. [We] had a chance to share some things back and forth about a lot of things that are going on, and Ray [Lewis] got up and said some things in his way, and he's amazing in every way. He just said some great things and put some things in perspective, which I think we all appreciated; I know I did. And I had a chance to share with them some thoughts on where we've been and where we're going, and I think our guys get it. And they walk out of here with their head held high, as it should be."

Do you feel paralyzed going into this offseason not knowing what to expect with regards to the C.B.A.?"Yeah, you know, I don't know. It's very uncertain. I'm not sure how it's going to all work in some ways, but there are some rules in place; there is a process in place for dealing with all those things. We'll have a process in terms of how we go about evaluating our players, how we go about looking at our free agent situation, and I think I can say with a lot of confidence; we're going to try to get as many of these guys back as we possibly can, because we like our players. And the interesting thing is, talking to the guys today, all the guys I talked to – and I think everybody's got their own situation – but for the vast majority of guys, they really, really want to be here. They really want to be a part of this team. I think they know where we're going, they understand how great this organization is, [and] I think they understand what we stand for as a football team, and they want to be a part of it. And so, I come out of some of these meetings really encouraged."

Do you expect to retain your coaching staff, specifically offensive coordinator Cam Cameron?"I really like our coaching staff. I think we have a great, great coaching staff. And top to bottom, that includes all three coordinators, that includes every one of our position coaches; there's not a guy that I'm disappointed in. We're all going to look in the offseason as part of our process and say, 'OK, what can we do better?' You know, 'How can we be a better head coach? How can we be better coordinators? How can we be better assistants? What scheme can we build next year that stays ahead of our rivals?' And correct whatever issues we had this year, and you know, that's an ebb and flow, because things change all the time. But, I like our guys. You asked about Cam specifically; Cam Cameron is our offensive coordinator. And that's how we're going forward, and we're going to go to work."

Have you had a chance to talk to S Ed Reed about his future? "I'm very impressed with and proud of Ed Reed; always have been, but even more so this year than ever. But I've seen him say publicly where he plans on playing for as long as he can, and he's told me – I don't think he'd mind me saying this – he wants to play football. Ed's got a chance this offseason, I think, to be healthier than he's ever been going into a season, because I don't think he has anything major – that I'm aware of right now – any major injuries. He's got some things he's got to work through, but I think he's going to have a full year of offseason conditioning, and he's really excited about that. I don't want to speak for him, he'll have to tell you all that, but I think Ed's going to have a great year next year."

When you evaluate the offense from this year, what are your thoughts, and what gives you the confidence that they can take that next step and that Cam Cameron can be the guy to lead them?"I know all of our coaches. I know Cam is a tremendous coach, and I know what kind of man he is. And I know he's a humble guy, like all of our guys. You look hard at yourself first, and then you make plans to try to get better. So, he's the same guy that was the offensive coordinator three years ago, and everybody said we [surpassed] our expectations, and even last year, [too]. So, yeah, we had a tough year statistically, but we did win a lot of football games with that offense. But there are things we can do a lot better, and we will go to work on those things. So, we're going to be OK."

Is there one tangible thing with regards to playing the Pittsburgh Steelers that you're missing that you would try to add this offseason?"I think that's worth looking at. We'll have to go through a process to determine that for sure before I'd say specifically. I mean, I've got some ideas in terms of how we play them, but I think we play them very well. We didn't statistically play them very well on one side of the ball in this game – we had a bad third quarter – but you can't turn the ball over. And I think the key with the Steelers is they do a great job of forcing errors and by taking advantage of those forced errors. And you can't give them the game. And when we've won, we haven't done that, and when we've lost, we've basically done that. I can't say that they've outplayed us dramatically in any game, and I think we've outplayed them most of the time we've played them. Yet we've won two out of eight, because we've allowed them to make the plays that have turned the game. And we're going to have to find a way to get that solved."

Would you echo the statement made by many of the players that said Saturday's loss was one of the toughest in their careers?"Yeah. You know, and I think the fact that it's the last game of the season… I felt that way about the last Steelers game, I think I said that. And this one probably even more so. I felt like we should have won this one, I felt like we should have won the last one, but we didn't. So, we've got to find a way to win these games, and you know, we need to win this division. And that's something that we've got to find a way to do."

Back to the previous question about what you need to do to beat the Steelers; is that an intangible quality that you're talking about that's the difference between the teams?"I think it has to do with the way they're built, and they've got some veteran guys that have been doing that for a long time. We've got some of that. If you look at a lot of the games we've won, it's been Ed Reed and Ray Lewis making those kind of plays. I think we'll continue to build that on the offensive side. They've probably got a little more on both sides of the ball right now. I mean their defense; they've got two outside linebackers and a safety that just come up with plays. And they've got a quarterback that creates plays. And I think that's where we're going. That's what we're trying to build, and we'll get there."

Now that the season is over, are you looking forward to getting your contract situation addressed and solidified?"I'm looking forward to a lot of things in the offseason. And I'm excited about being here. I really am grateful and appreciative to be the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, and to be associated with Baltimore football. Now three years here, kind of soaking this in and being a part of this fan base is the most amazing thing I've ever seen in my life. And I love the Baltimore Ravens fans. And we're reaching out trying to get more. We're trying to take control of this whole area; you know, we'll take over Washington D.C. while we're at it, and head up into Pennsylvania and grab all those fans, then over to West Virginia and Virginia. Come on and be a Baltimore Ravens fan, because you know, this is an exciting organization and an exciting football team. We stand for class, character, men of integrity – all of those things that you guys want to make fun of me about – it's kind of real. It really is. And I think people out there see that, and I think they want to be associated with this organization. I can tell you I sure do, and I'm grateful to be here, and hopefully that can continue."

Have you sensed how disappointed the Baltimore community is following this loss? "Yeah, I really have. I feel the same way, and I know our players do. This was a tough meeting [today]. You could see it in their eyes. This was tough. Our guys are disappointed, frustrated. It was such a great opportunity, and we feel like we're good enough. We're good enough. I was in here this morning before 4 [a.m.] because I couldn't sleep, just going through the tape and watching and studying it. I was in here yesterday going through the tape and studying it again. I didn't really see the [other] two [Divisional] games because I was here. I think our fans need to know how important it is to everybody in this building. We're really disappointed. We know we had it right in the palm of our hand, and all we had to do was just do what we were capable of doing. But we didn't, and you can't get that back."

Do you feel like there is a chance that this locker room could look significantly different next year? "There's always a chance it could, but I don't think it will. I think these guys want to be here, and I think [executive vice president/general manager] Ozzie [Newsome] and [president] Dick [Cass] and [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] are committed to bringing as many of them back as we can. And I think we have the means to do it. We don't know what the salary cap is going to be exactly, but nobody does a better job than Dick Cass and Ozzie Newsome of putting those numbers together."

In terms of the other coaches, do you expect all of those guys back? "I can't speak for those guys so much. I'm hopeful that they will be back, but guys get opportunities and career things like that, and you never want to hold people back from opportunities. We'll just have to see how that goes. It's kind of hard to see down the road too far."

If you could make one good assessment of QB Joe Flacco and one thing he needs to work on, what would they be? "It's so hard because it's game-to-game and week-to-week. I think where Joe is going is… I think he is going to the place where he is going to be in games like that and take those games over. I'm very confident that that's where he is going to go. I mean here is a guy in his third year. There are many plays and many throws and many looks and things like that that he's going to look at that tape – even all through the season – and go, 'Gosh, I know I can do that so much better.' It just doesn't happen overnight. I think it's a process. I think in this league, if you want to win these games, and you want to take it to that level, you've got to play great defense, and you've got to make plays on offense. And Joe is going to be able to do that."

Are you disappointed you won't be heading to Hawaii with your coaching staff? "No. That would have been great. The Pro Bowl is great, but that was kind of out of our hands. I'd have rather been headed to Dallas with the coaching staff and players."

Does it make it sting even more that the AFC Championship could have been at home? "Yeah, absolutely. We talked about it. The opportunity to host that championship game was something our guys had talked about, and we wanted to try to get done. We weren't able to hold up our end of it. I feel bad for our players, coaches, fans – especially the fans. That would have been a great, great thing, and we need to make that happen."

What are you looking for from OLB Sergio Kindle in terms of his growth physically and emotionally? "First of all, I think it's healing probably, the neurologist reports and those kinds of things making sure that it is safe for him to play. From what I hear, there's a possibility of that. He's doing very, very well, probably making progress faster than anticipated. Then, it's just going to be a football growth thing, and obviously a maturity type of thing. But we're going to give him every opportunity to do that and go through the spring here and see how he progresses. I can't say it's high hopes because he's coming back from such a tough spot, but I think he's got a chance."

Even with his off-field incident, you guys are still committed to developing him as a player? "Yeah. At some point in time, there's a balance to all these things. There's nothing for us to gain by not giving him an opportunity to become a player. We've got a lot invested in him right now. I think he understands what he needs to do. We will see based on what he does, but he's a good person. He's got a good heart. He wants to do the right thing, and he's got a chance to be a very good player, so we'll do everything we can to see if we can make that happen."

C Matt Birk and WR Derrick Mason could potentially retire. Can you imagine this offense without these two guys? "Have they said something about that?"

Reporter answers: "Yes."

"They have? Possibly? OK. I think probably when guys… You talked about Matt Birk and Derrick Mason retiring. I'm sure when they get to this stage, guys always have to think about that every year. I'll keep my fingers crossed that they don't. I think we're a better team with both those two guys, and my guess is they have a couple years left. It'll be a family decision for them probably, but those are staples of our team right now. We can replace everybody, from the owner through the coach through the senior vice president of public relations. We're all replaceable, and we would obviously move on if anybody decided not to play anymore, but I'm going to keep my fingers crossed for those two guys."

So, no veteran player today said to you in your meeting that he was finished? "No, I'm not aware of that. No one said anything to me."

FB Le'Ron McClain said he doubted he would return. He said if he did come back, he'd want to be more involved. Your thoughts on where Le'Ron could line up next year? "I don't blame him. I think everybody wants to play and contribute. We've seen that with all our guys. I wouldn't want a running back that doesn't want the ball. I wouldn't want a running back that doesn't want to block or any player for that matter. I think they all feel that way, and Le'Ron is willing to do both. I think there's a chance to a good chance he could be back. It probably depends on the market a little bit. But I could see a role for Le'Ron where he carries the ball more as we go forward. We'll just have to see how that goes."

Can you talk about the season that OLB Terrell Suggs had? Especially the last few weeks, it looked like he was playing at maybe the highest level of his career. "Terrell Suggs is one of the premier defensive players in the National Football League. I know that all of us out here – the coaches, the organization and the fans – were really hoping that that would happen, but Terrell knew it was going to happen. I think our coaches believed it was going to happen, and he made it happen this year. He's a tremendous pass rusher, he's great against the run, he's a complete player on defense, and the thing that I'm really grateful for is the fact that he's really becoming a leader on our defense. He is really growing into that role. He was a big part of the success of our defense from a leadership perspective."

Going forward, what areas do you need to improve? Are there any specific types of players that you need? "I think all those are really valid conversations, and I think the fan base is going to have them, media is going to have them, and we're going to have those same conversations in here. First, I'll give you the padded answer. There's no good player that we're not going to be willing to add to our football team, but there's a lot of good football players on this football team. So, I think you go through the process. The first thing is we try to hold as many guys together as we can, and we see where we're at. Then, you see what players are available to add, whether it's in free agency or the draft. The draft might be before free agency this year, so it might be an opportunity to go through the draft and take the best available player – which is what we really like to do anyway – and then augment whatever need we have in free agency in the end. It might work out really well for us in that sense. I think everybody will have that debate. I don't really want to sit here and name positions, but we can become a better football team."

Why didn't the offense perform up to expectations this season?"I think there's a lot of reasons. We talked about expectations… As a matter of fact, I think you're the one who [asked] the expectations question in training camp. And what did I say? I said, 'Our expectation is to go out and have the very best practice that we could have, and ultimately, we want to win a championship.' I felt like we could win a championship this year with the team we had, and I think we could have. You can say offense, defense, special teams, [but] I'm just going to say our team wasn't as good as it needed to be. I guess the expectations maybe from yards and all that kind of stuff, points to somebody else. I will also say that we are going to be a top-notch offense in the National Football League. That's going to happen, and I probably said that at some point in time already. I think that we're closer than you might think, based on some of the stretches we've had. The bottom line, we've had bad stretches. We've had bad quarters, we've had bad halves, we haven't always finished games as well – offense, defense and special teams – but especially, probably on offense, so I respect your question. We can't let that happen. We've got to get better. We can run the ball better, we can throw the ball better, we can protect better, [and] we can protect the football better, especially in critical situations against good teams. We're going to find a way to get that done. We're going to find a way to be a top-rated offense, with the goal – and I think Cam [Cameron] says it very well: 'To be the winningest offense in the National Football League.' That's going to be our goal."

Do you think there will be games played in the 2011 season?"I don't know if I'm allowed to answer this or not, but I'm going to answer it anyway. All right, [Senior VP of Public/Community Relations] Kevin [Byrne]? (Kevin answers, 'Yes.') I think there are going to be games played. I think the whole season – 16 games – will be played; I believe that. I think the players want to play, and I think the owners want to have football, and I know the coaches sitting right there in the middle want to coach; I can tell you that. What are we going to do? We want to coach ball. So, I wouldn't think anything else. I really do; I believe that they'll come to an agreement. I think that cooler heads will prevail. I think they both understand what's at stake. And, I'm just going to believe that's going to get done."

Would you give WR Plaxico Burress consideration if he is cleared by the league to play?"Sure, yeah. I don't know Plaxico Burress at all; I've never met him. But, we'd consider him. We'd consider anybody. It would just depend on where he's at. I'd like to find out what kind of a person he is and see where he's really at in his life."

Do you think a deal will get done to get K Billy Cundiff back next season?"I think it'll come together. I think Billy really wants to be here. I know we're in negotiations with him right now, along with other guys. I'll be very surprised if something doesn't get done with Billy Cundiff, and I'll be disappointed. But, I think it's going to happen."

How important is it to get a deal done with DT Haloti Ngata to bring him back next year?"It's really important. As we talked about last year at the owners' meeting, I believe Haloti Ngata will be a Raven for life. That's the goal. I know that Haloti wants that. He's told me that he wants to be here. I don't want to speak for him, again, but I think he wants to be here, and I believe the organization wants him here. He's a little trickier because of the restricted nature of his free agency right now and the lockout thing. It's priority No. 1 to have Haloti Ngata here."

Do you think T Michael Oher has a future at LT or could he be moved back to RT?"I think his future is at left tackle, but I could always see a situation where you could move anybody. Whatever's best for the team. The good thing about Michael is he really doesn't care. Michael just wants to get out there and play. He's one of the most just aggressive, committed, dedicated guys you're ever going to see. But he's got all of the talent to play left tackle, and I think he's going to be a great one wherever he plays."

Is the future of T Jared Gaither complicated with this team because of his health?"Jared was here at the meeting. I'm not giving up on Jared Gaither. I've got high hopes for Jared Gaither. We'll just have to see because his contract issue is out there, too. Hopefully, he can fulfill all of the things he's trying to fulfill in his career, because he wants to be a great player."

How does the process of you meeting with ownership and front office staff take place over the next couple of days?"Ozzie's [Newsome] going to spend a little time, I think, out there at the [East/West] Shrine Game. He'll be back, and he and I will spend at least a day going through everything. [Director of Player Personnel] Eric DeCosta, I'm sure, will be involved in that as we go forward. And Steve [Bisciotti] will come in later in the week, and we'll spend a lot of time with Steve going through those things, too. The great thing about this organization – and Dick [Cass], obviously, will be a big part of that – everybody, at every level, everybody gets involved. Kevin [Byrne] will be involved, our coordinators and coaches will be involved. So, it's pretty thorough."

Is your coaching staff for next year already determined, or can things change after the meetings with ownership?"Like I told you, I like the staff. I'm not going to sit here and say, 'Things can't change,' because I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. Nobody's promised tomorrow. And that's just being honest. I can't stand up here and make promises and oaths, but I like our coaches, and I think we can have a great staff next year, and I'm confident in our guys."

WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh said it was important for him to be a starter moving forward. Do you think that could happen here in the future?"I don't know. We'll have to see how that shakes out. I haven't talked to him specifically about that, so that's news. But, I really respect him. I think he's a good man and a really good player, and I'd respect whatever he said there, and we'll have to see if we can make that work."

Do you feel like you got what you expected out of WR Donte' Stallworth?"Donte' was great. He's a great teammate, and he just killed himself to be the very best player he could possibly be every single day. He worked very hard at it. It didn't work out mainly because of the injury. I think he got out behind the 'eight ball' and was never really able to pull himself out of that injury situation and get into a rhythm this year. But, he's going to be a good player going forward."

WR David Reed said he is having surgery on his wrist. Are any other players planning on having surgery?"Off the top of my head, I can't think of any. Maybe Kevin [Byrne] can help me with that. (Byrne says, 'I haven't talked to "Tess" [VP of Medical Services/Head Certified Athletic Trainer Bill Tessendorf]')."

Is there a process where you have to tell the coordinators immediately whether they are staying next season or not?"Yeah, I think it's a process that goes on every day throughout the course of the season, but especially here at the end of the season. Those guys know where they stand. I think I made it very clear to them where they stand. But, everybody's got things that they're figuring out right now, professionally. I'm hopeful that they'll all be here, but I can't speak for them. I think they know where they stand with me, and they stand in a good place."

Is it tough as a head coach to map out the offseason with the uncertainty going into the 2011 season?"We love to get our calendar together, man, and get our practices organized, get our scripts all set up. We like to do that, and now we can't do that. What I'm going to do now is we'll make a plan as if we're going to be back on time. And then, with Ozzie and the coaches, we'll make a number of contingency plans for different dates when we think maybe things could start up and just go from there."

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