Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, good to see you guys. [It was a] good practice. A couple announcements: [Breshad] Perriman has a bruise, so he may be back tomorrow. It's going to be day-to-day with him. He wanted to go today. Elvis Dumervil had a little tendinitis-type of an issue, so we held him back today. That'll probably happen from time to time with different guys. [It] doesn't seem to be serious. You saw Steve [Smith Sr.], and [Timmy] Jernigan went in with an IV, received an IV. He was dehydrated."
I know you've had a long association – you and special teams coordinator/associate head coach Jerry Rosburg – with defensive backs coach Chris Hewitt. What is it about him, football-wise, that impressed you enough to bring him on board here? (Joe Platania) "[Chris Hewitt] was a college coach for a long time. He played in the NFL for four or five years, and I always loved him as a player when we had him in Cincinnati. [He is] just a very mature guy, family man, studied the game, worked his way up the ranks as a football coach and earned an opportunity. [He has] done a great job."
It seems like young defensive backs really respond to Chris Hewitt. Is that a trait that he had when he was a player, engaging like that? (Jon Meoli)"Yes, everybody has always responded to him. He has that kind of personality. He's a no-nonsense kind of a guy; that's the way he played. [He was] one of the biggest hitters you'll ever see as a football player, so I think he transfers that kind of a mindset to the way he coaches. But [the players] respect him and like him. Yes, I would agree with that."
John, you guys locked up CB Jimmy Smith for four years. How happy were you when that happened, and what are his qualities that you like? (Dave Ginsburg) "Jimmy [Smith], to me, is ... First of all, he looks the part. If you draw up a corner and build one by yourself, you'd make him look just like Jimmy Smith. He's just what you're looking for. He is a student of the game. He has matured a lot that way as a football player. He is really taking pains to become a technician and things like that, and he has played really well. The next step for him is to take it to the next level and play into that contract, and that's what he very much wants to do."
You said you're going with pads the next two days. How much more can you gain out of a padded practice to have live action? How much are you looking forward to that? (Ryan Mink) "Everybody is looking forward to it. That's the next step, so we'll see guys actually blocking people and getting off blocks. We'll still try to keep them off the ground. We'll do everything we can to keep them healthy in that sense, but they'll be banging a little bit harder and the collisions or the tussles that they have in there will be a little more for real, and it'll be a little more like real football."
John, are you shortening practices any? (Mike Preston) "No, we have the same practice schedule. We have different things built in, as you know, as you watch the practice – fundamental periods that kind of break the practice up. We surprise them with different things throughout the course of the practice – situationally – that they have to react to, but they'll still be almost three hours."
Saw a little more from TE Maxx Williams today, especially in kind of short-yardage situations. What have you seen from him even in just two days? (Ryan Mink) "In short-yardage situations?" (Reporter: "Yes.") "What do you mean, catching the ball?" (Reporter: "Catching the ball.") "Fourth down?" (Reporter: "Getting first downs.") "What did you see? I don't remember now. Did he make some plays?" (Reporter: "Catching the ball, turning up the sideline a little.") "That's what we drafted him for. (laughter) That's what he's here for. My dad … Can I tell you a story, speaking of, 'What am I here for?' So, my dad – about three years ago – his back blows up. He goes to the hospital, and he sits down, and he's bent over, he can barely walk. He said it was the most painful thing that ever happened to him in his life. It was a herniated disc. They bring him in, and he's lying there, and he just wants to see a doctor, and this lady brings him a stack of paperwork. He's like, 'What's this?' And she goes, 'You need to read through this and sign this.' He says, 'Well, can you explain to me what it is?' She says, 'Yes, it's in case things don't go right, you're on the life support system. If we have to pull the plug, we want your permission to pull the plug.' He said, 'I didn't come here to die. I'm here to live. That's what I came for, OK? Don't pull the plug!' (laughter) So, that's what [Maxx Williams is] here for – to catch passes." (laughter)
**WR Jeremy Butler, just everything that comes his way – occasionally there's an offensive interference – but he's catching everything so well and in a tight group of receivers. *(Peter Gilbert) *"Yes, Jeremy [Butler] has done well. He showed some great body control going up and making plays on the sideline. You always look for that in a receiver. Guys that can do that are very valuable – for him and for everybody else. Other guys are making plays, too. It's just, can you sustain it? Can you stack it from one day to the next? I know he's going to be determined to do that."
**John, it seems like you have a lot of corners and secondary [players] that are making aggressive plays on the ball. Can you talk about the secondary's attempt this year to, maybe, create more turnovers? *(Cliff Brown) *"I hope it's not potential. It has to become a reality. We need to create turnovers. We need to be a defense across the board that people fear in the sense that you want to throw the ball out there [and] there's a good chance it's going to come back the other way. You have to have that from your back end. That's something … As you know, it has been a big emphasis for us, so we're working hard on that."
How excited are you as camp goes on to continue to look at some of the younger guys up front? DT Haloti Ngata is not here, OLB Pernell McPhee is not here – that opens up some opportunities. (Jason La Canfora) "Sure it does. It goes to the question about getting in pads tomorrow. That'll be an opportunity to see how those guys do and big bodies are coming off and putting full weight on them. That's going to be fun to see. I really think they're going to do well. I believe those guys are all very good players, but you can't be considered a really good player until you play really well for a long period of time, so that's what they have to do."
**Coach, how do you weigh the pros and cons of putting a guy like WR Steve Smith Sr. back there to return punts? Obviously, you want to avoid injury. How do you weigh that? *(Turron Davenport) *"It has to do with the injury part of it. You have to factor that in, and you have to factor the rep, as far as [if] it's a rep that can gas him a little bit and then you're on offense the next play. But at some point in time, you put your best players on the field. Punt return is an opportunity in space to make a play, and guys like Steve Smith are pretty good at doing that. I like having our best players on the field as much as possible, but we'll have to decide that. I don't think it's a given. We'll have to pick our situation and see how we want to do it. We're far from having that answer yet."
Defensive Backs Coach Chris Hewitt
Obviously, you have a long association with John Harbaugh and Jerry Rosburg. They obviously knew your knowledge of football. What do you think it is about you as far as a coaching skill set that impressed them to bring you on here? (Dave Ginsburg)"Obviously, I know football. That's the reason why I got the job, but my experience with playing the position and coaching it from the past makes me qualified for the position."
Is there anything about all the young guys that you feel like you're well suited for? A lot of them respond really well to you. You seem like you're connected with them on a level some other coaches might not. (John Meoli)"That's a funny question. People always call me a young guy, but I'm 41 years old, and I'm not really that young anymore. But I have a young attitude." *(Reporter: "Holy cow!") (laughter) *"Exactly. But I have a good perspective with the guys. I've got kids that are … I have a 19-year-old daughter. The things that they're in to, my daughter is in to. So, I'm in tune to all those things, and there are a lot of things that they listen to, I listen to, too. So yes, we have a good relationship that way, and as far as relating to them, obviously, me playing the position and coaching the position, that's another thing that we're [connecting with]. They respond to me."
How would you describe yourself as an on-the-field coach in practice? What's your style? (Ryan Mink) "I've got to be a teacher, and then I'm a little intense, because I want them to be intense as well. I get in their face a little bit sometimes, and I'm always going to try to motivate them. But at the same time, I always want to be a teacher first and foremost."
How much are you focusing on turnovers this year? John Harbaugh just talked about the importance of doing that. (Ryan Mink) "I think that's something we always focus on and something we're always going to strive for is to try to create turnovers. We drill it every day: catching the ball, working interceptions, working fumble returns – recovering fumbles, rather – and stripping the football. That's something we're always going to try to strive to do, to be good at."
**Chris, what are you seeing from S Will Hill, and what's the potential for him? *(Garrett Downing) *"Sky is the limit with him. He has just got to take that next step from where he left off last year. I think he's responded well in that aspect. It's yet to be seen until he gets out on the field, but I think that he's responding well right now."
There were a few guys like CB Asa Jackson and CB Rashaan Melvin who started games last year but had difficulties. What kind of urgency do guys like that have with CB Jimmy Smith and CB Lardarius Webb back? (Jon Meoli)"Obviously, when you're not a starter, penciled in, you're always fighting for a position, and they're a hungry group. They want to be No. 1, and that's the way that they approach it every day, is to try to be the No. 1 guy, regardless if they're No. 1 or not."
S Kendrick Lewis last year led the Texans in tackles, and now he's in your secondary. Can you talk about how he could help increase turnovers and just making plays against the run? (Turron Davenport)"Kendrick [Lewis] is a great football player. He's not just a guy that just plays the run; he plays the pass extremely well. But his biggest strength right now is [being] a guy that comes in and he brings leadership to our secondary. He's a great communicator. He's a guy that lines everybody up and he's ahead of the game. [He's] a very smart football player, and we're very thrilled to have him."
Is there anything in particular you're looking for out of those guys like CB Asa Jackson or CB Rashaan Melvin who are fighting for a spot? (Jon Meoli)"I'm just looking for them to play well every week. That's all I'm looking for."
CB Jimmy Smith
On whether this season feels different having signed a new contract: "I don't think I was ever really worried about a contract situation. That always plays out itself. If you're a good player, you get paid. If not, you probably won't be in the NFL. So, I don't really think about it. I never thought about it, but I'm happy it's out [of] the way."
On whether he feels more or less pressure after signing a new contract: "No pressure."
On how he feels health-wise, with his foot: "Obviously, I think about it, because it's still an issue. But as far as me being healthy, I'm out here practicing, I'm getting a good amount of reps in, so it's a steady incline, and that's all I'm really striving for at this point."
On how important it is to be one of the NFL's best cornerbacks: "I'd be lying to you if I sat here and acted like it didn't matter. To me, being one of the top-rated corners is more important to me than having the biggest contract. I guess that just goes hand-in-hand. But, it's very important for me for the league to know who I am as a cornerback."
On what he thinks it means to be the best cornerback in the league:"I don't judge; [the media does]. (laughter) You guys come out and tell us our stats and pro football this and that. What I do is I just go out and play, and hopefully, my best is one of the best in the league."
On if a contract dictates how good a player is: "Yes, that's why I said it goes hand-in-hand. To be the best, you get paid the best. I feel like I got a great contract, so I'm not mad about it. But I do feel like I'm a Top 5 corner in the league."
On what it was like to sit out last season and see the secondary struggle:"It was tough watching, especially that [final] playoff game last year. It was really tough just to know how close we were for that team, and that was a strong team to get that far in the playoffs. It was very difficult just to sit and watch it, but I knew I was going to come back next year. There's not too much you can really do about it, you know?"
On if he thinks teams will avoid throwing in his direction this season: "No, I don't believe that at all. I don't ever think that. After I had my rookie season and I got a rude awakening by the NFL quarterbacks, I don't think I'll ever think that [any] quarterback is not going to throw at me."
On the defense's emphasis on turnovers this year: "Obviously, we have to get picks. That's huge. Every corner wants to have 12 picks, but to me, honestly, I don't think that's what makes you the best corner, because you can have a corner out here that takes chances all day and gets a lot of picks, but gets burnt every game. Or, you can have a corner that plays sound football, gets maybe two, three picks a year and is an elite player. So, I don't really judge it by picks. However, that's what you want; that's the good stuff. That's draining a three from half court in somebody's face. That's the good stuff."
On whether or not he wants opposing quarterbacks to throw in his direction in order to get interceptions: "Yes, absolutely. I invite the throws. I invite all competition. We're a man-to-man [coverage] team though, so a lot of picks come in tips, overthrows, playing a lot of zone coverage. My strength over my career, I can, obviously, say hasn't been getting a lot of picks, but what I do is I eliminate the guy in front of me or on my side of the field, and I feel like that's a strength in itself."
On what CB/RS Asa Jackson and CB Rashaan Melvin gained from last season: "Obviously, Rashaan [Melvin] is coming off an injury, and he came out here with great confidence. I think getting experience for every player is just getting a lot of confidence, and to have them get that experience now, we're going to need them this year. I think it's going to help us in the long run."
On his early impressions of WR Breshad Perriman: "That boy is fast. He's fast."
On the differences between this year and his rookie season: "I'm 27 now. I have a kid now. I'm a lot more mature now, I guess you could say. Life. You just grow, football grows. Just like your freshman year of college to your senior year, you grow that much. My rookie season to now, it has been a process, but I've definitely seen a growth, and I just have to keep growing."
On if he is more physical now than his rookie season and what his best attribute is: "My best attribute? My smile. (laughter) I don't know. I mean, I feel like all my attributes are pretty solid. I don't really think one is the best. I know I'm tall and long, so obviously, press technique is what everybody sees the most. A lot of stuff goes into playing corner, [like] being smart. I think some stuff that's hidden is just how much you have to really focus on technique more than just your attributes."
On whether WR Breshad Perriman is faster than WR Torrey Smith: "You can have this debate for so long. I'm going to explain to you all like I explained it to coach: [Breshad] Perriman will probably just straight out … I shouldn't say this. Perriman straight out, I think, is unbelievably fast. Torrey [Smith] will jog a route, and when the ball gets in the air, will take off on you – can't catch him. But it's a different way they run the routes. Both of them completely [are] blazing. But just straight speed, I would have to see them race. But Perriman, that kid is fast."
On whether he likes the challenge of playing man-to-man coverage: "Absolutely. If you can lock up the best receivers and put nine people to play the run, you're going to force teams to be one-dimensional. And if you can have corners on the outside that can cover them, that's always a great thing in this league, especially having three or four of those guys."
On head coach John Harbaugh saying he can be a leader in the secondary and if it is part of being a great player: "I heard him say something about that. I don't know. I just lead by example. I'm not ever going to be a guy that's, "Hey!" But I might pull a rookie aside or somebody – it might not be a rookie – but I might try to explain to that player as much as I know about it, whatever [way] I can help. But [being] a super leader like Ray Lewis, coming up with speeches, that'll never be me."
On defensive backs coach Chris Hewitt: "[Chris Hewitt is] a good coach. He has been around already, so he knows the players. We all respect Chris as a coach and before when he was a player, so we can relate to him. He treats us with respect, so I'm excited to see how this year plays out."
WR Steve Smith Sr.
On his ability to gain yards after the catch, his background as a returner and converting to a running back when he catches the ball:"I think you've just got to have something extra. Obviously, me playing returner, that's helped a lot [with] being able to look at the field, being able to anticipate what defenders are going to do based on their body mechanics and stuff like that."
On how much he wants to get back to the "returner days" this season:"Returning days [are] based on blocking, the blocking schemes. That's what took me off of it. The blocking wasn't there where it used to be. Basically, it's kind of like going to a job, [and] they don't want to pay you. 'We can't pay you, but we want you to work.' No, I'm good. Blocking is essential. So with the good blocking, it's really easy. It makes it very easy to focus on catching the ball. When you've got to focus on catching the ball and doing this, doing that, I think that's where it gets too complicated."
On if he would like to return kicks again:"Oh, absolutely. I've been out there practicing, always practicing, giving those guys advice [and] trying to read the ball. So yes."
On when he will know if the blocking is there to return kicks:"I don't know; we'll figure it out. I think I'll do it at least once or twice, so I'm excited about doing it."
On John Harbaugh's comments about monitoring his snap count to keep him fresh throughout the season:"That's something we discussed, but as you see – we're going in there – I think it's going to be hard for both of us to do." *(Reporter: "Why?") *"Because we're both competitive, and we want to win."
On what makes CB Jimmy Smith a good cornerback:"I go up against Jimmy [Smith] a lot. We talk a lot. He does some things that I think … He's long, lengthy [and] he uses his height to his advantage. He does a lot of great things. He's a corner that I watch. When I go against him – and even when other guys go against him – some of the things he's able to do really makes … I think, really, he's quietly underrated, and I think he's really a very good corner that a lot of people don't know about. But I think the injury kind of took away a little bit, and I think that's why we locked him up so soon, because he's a great value to this team." *(Reporter: "Is it physical, too?") *"Yes, he's very physical, but he also does a good job of playing mind games.
On which of his teammates he would least want to fight:"What do you mean?" (Reporter: "Like in a fight.") *"Like me going against them?" *(Reporter: "Yes.") *"I would pick any one of them. *(laughter) I think Marshal [Yanda] reminds me of Jordan Gross, who I went to school with and played with for a long time. But he's a lot nastier. Jordan smiles a lot; Yanda doesn't smile as much. So I would say Yanda, but I would still take him, though." (laughter)
On if it's just about winning for him at this point in his career:"I've always been about winning. So it's never not been about winning." *(Reporter: "So personal numbers …") *"It's always been about winning with me. If we're not winning, I'm not happy. It pisses me off. That's what drives me; that's what I want to do. Monday through Saturday, or when it's not a game, it's traditional, I call it nonsense or B.S. work. But Sundays [are] what it's worth – or Thursday night or Monday night or whatever game we're playing – that's what makes it worth dealing with, and obviously, having great results and wanting to win."
On if his goals are different entering training camp this year compared to his first season with the team:"My goals are … I really just consider myself an assessor. I assess that defender that's playing against me. Will he be good enough? And if he's not, we'll find out very soon. He'll get cut, we'll move on [and] bring in another guy. So I'm just there to help the defensive coaches see which guys can cover and which guys can't."
On if career statistics mean anything to him at this point:"I try not to think about them. I really don't. You're going to have numbers, and you're going to base it off things, but I think statistics sometimes don't tell the true story. Sometimes guys may have low numbers and were phenomenal guys. The receiver for the Steelers, there were both of them, but one of them, I know, he has like 5,000 yards. But he has a number of Super Bowls and a Super Bowl MVP, so those numbers are always skewed. But his … The thing I look at is [are] the team goals higher than the personal goals that you can put aside? And I think I like it here. I think the personal goals get pushed aside because the team goals, I think, exceed the personal goals. And I think that's a good thing. I don't know the guy from the Steelers, though. (laughter) "I do, but I don't." *(Reporters: "Santonio Holmes?" Reporters: "Hines Ward?") *"No, no, no." *(Reporters: "[John] Stallworth?") *"Stallworth, yes. His numbers aren't that high, but he was a beast. He was a great player, and he was willing to put those numbers aside."