2014 SEASON REVIEW/2015 SEASON PREVIEW PRESS CONFERENCE
Owner Steve Bisciotti, President Dick Cass,
General Manager/Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome & Head Coach John Harbaugh
Ozzie Newsome Opening Statement:
"Thanks for coming out today. I'd like to begin by saying we came up short in 2014. Our goal every year is to win the Super Bowl, and in that, we did not win it; we fell short. But I'd like to take this opportunity personally to thank John [Harbaugh], his staff, the players and all of the support people for the hard work that they did during 2014. But as we move into 2015 now, at this juncture, we've already had our personnel meeting that lasted over a day. We spent a day-and-a-half down in Jupiter [at owner Steve Bisciotti's home], and we all just got back from the Combine. We are within two weeks of being ready for the new League Year, which starts, I think, at 4 o'clock on March 10. We're well involved in getting ready for our 2015 season."
For Steve and/or Ozzie, last year when the League Year began there was more than sufficient enough cap room to bring in a lot of difference-makers, and it resulted in the best offensive performance in franchise history. With a couple of weeks to go before March 10, how confident are you of that kind of room, you can at least get close to it and bring in some more difference-makers? (Joe Platania)
*(NEWSOME) *"I will begin by saying that we will exhaust every avenue that we have to use and to get as much cap flexibility as we can, so that I can, hopefully, have us set up to move toward the draft with the best football team that we can have. We've been working at it. We just had a meeting with the six of us, the four of us plus Eric [DeCosta, assistant general manager] and Pat [Moriarty, senior vice president of football administration], before lunch today. We're working very hard to gain a lot of cap flexibility so that we can retain our guys and be able also to go out and get some."
Steve, do you view DT Haloti Ngata's situation, being as successful of a player as he has, as one of the keys of the offseason in terms of making sure you keep him in the fold while also opening up potential flexibility down the road? (Jeff Zrebiec)
(BISCIOTTI) *"I think that's a little more in Ozzie's [hands]. But, yes. You go back to [Terrell] Suggs, we were able to successfully do that, which doesn't guarantee that he retires as a Raven, but it certainly guaranteed that we would play him well into his 30s. We were successful with Ray [Lewis]; we were unsuccessful with Ed [Reed]. I put Haloti [Ngata] in that group of iconic players that helped us to get where we are as a franchise. Again, that's Ozzie job to negotiate the nuances of those contracts that allow us to get some cap relief and give Haloti a chance to stay here. Twenty-eight teams don't have Royal Farms stores in their area, so there is some incentive for him to want to stay here to close things out." *(laughter)
Ozzie, there was a lot of talk last year about the secondary, the number of injuries you guys had and the way the season played out. How high of a priority is it to improve the secondary this offseason and the depth of it? And, also, how much of a challenge is it going to be in that a lot of scouts are saying it's not a strong safety class and cornerbacks are a presence divided? (Cliff Brown)
*(NEWSOME) *"As we look at it now, getting Jimmy [Smith] back healthy is going to be very big for us. So, that's a good start. Having Lardarius [Webb] go through a season where he's not rehabbing – he's just getting himself ready to play – [is beneficial]. And because of the injuries, we were able to pick up Rashaan [Melvin] and [Chris] Greenwood, some other young guys, that we have in our system right now that should be able to get on the field and help us. But as we move forward for 2015, I would look at it as this time last year we were talking about the offensive line, and I don't think we'll be talking a whole lot about the offensive line going into 2015, because when we attacked that we did it in a good way because of the process the coaches and the scouts have."
Ozzie, as far as the DT Haloti Ngata situation, where do you find, as far as his extension, do you feel that progress has been made on that? And, as a second part, does the team want to reduce Lardarius Webb's cap number, try to do something to do that? (Jamison Hensley)
(NEWSOME)"To both of those questions and to any other one that comes to negotiations, I think what I tried to say at the beginning [is] we are going to exhaust every avenue to retain our players. We like to retain our football players, and we also like to be able to create some cap room."
Steve, there have been some issues, legal-wise, concerning some of the players and even your security director. Are you concerned about the reputation that the Ravens might be getting? And, is there anything that you can do to address it personally or at least have someone else address it within the framework? (David Ginsburg)
*(BISCIOTTI) *"I think things come in waves, and we certainly took a crash here last year. There isn't a lot you can do. I think that we are a team and an organization that cares, obviously, about our reputation, and when it takes a hit, then you examine what you do. But in order to take a hit to your reputation, you have to have a pretty good reputation to start with, and we did. So now it's about proving that it was an aberration, and we believe that to be the case. Are we a little more aware? Yes, I think specifically if you go back to the Ray Rice thing, we certainly are more aware. We've been able to tap resources in the community that have furthered our knowledge, our sensitivity and our responsibility. And I do think that for the Ravens and then society in general, I think it is a positive, and it's our obligation to turn that negative into a positive. I'm very encouraged that all we have to do is be aware and be sensitive, and we will do a job that Baltimore is proud of going forward."
Ozzie, when you look at the offseason, what are the positional needs you want to address in free agency or the draft in the next few weeks and months? (Garrett Downing)
*(NEWSOME) *"This is something that John [Harbaugh] and I talk about on a daily basis. We want to build as strong a football team as we can build. I was even talking to coach [Brian] Billick within the last couple of weeks … I wish I could sit here today and tell you where we are going to have injuries at. I have no idea. But, John and I and his staff and the scouts and Eric and Joe [Hortiz, director of college scouting], we are going to work to build the best 53 players we can build and the best practice squad. That will allow us the opportunity to go into the season [prepared], because it's very, very difficult to go out onto the street and get players. So, what positions we will be looking at, I can't honestly say because we want to build that really, really strong 53-man squad."
Ozzie, going back to Steve's comments, because of what you went through as an organization off the field last year, will you take more players off your draft board this year ahead of time with character flags? (Gerry Sandusky)
*(NEWSOME) *"Steve said this back during the season: The one area we will definitely take a hard look – and it will be tough for us to bring a player to Baltimore – is someone who has domestic abuse in their background. Other than that, we'll exhaust every character aspect of the player, but we believe in allowing the information to lead us to a decision when we deal with that. Our scouts do an unbelievable job of getting information when they are on the campuses. We will have good information, but just as our boss has already said, someone that has domestic abuse in their background, it's going to be tough for them to be considered a Raven."
*(CASS) *"Just to add something to that, in the past, the process we've had in place has worked a lot better than it did this past year. We had five arrests in 2014. If you look at the five-year period leading up to that, 2009 through 2013, in that five-year period we had three arrests. So, we are hoping that 2014 was an aberration and that the processes that we have in place will continue to work the way they had the five previous years – much better than they did in 2014."
For Ozzie, you developed WR Torrey Smith, drafting a homegrown player. How optimistic are you that you will be able to retain Torrey, as a guy who said he would like to be here but also there might be a good market for him? How tough is that balancing act? (Aaron Wilson)
*(NEWSOME) *"We have a history of retaining our players, especially players that have been productive. But also, we have a history of allowing our players to go out and maximize themselves in the market and go and play for other teams. Where that lies within Torrey, we'll find out between now and sometime before the opening of the League Year."
Based on that and on the relationships you have developed with players over the years, when you have DT Haloti Ngata, an iconic player – you've talked about guys like that – you've always been very good at setting a number, and if you can't get a deal done at that number, you let him go find somewhere else. How tough is it when you have those iconic players to set that number and be willing to say, "We've got to let you go." (Rob Carlin)
(BISCIOTTI) *"I've always said that's the worst part of the job, just the nature of this beast living with a salary cap. Let's be frank: Do you hope that Torrey doesn't break the bank out in the open market so that we can get him for our number? That's a hard thing to say. I care about the kid. I want him to maximize his earnings. At the same time, the more successful he is at doing that, the less success we have in retaining him. I don't like to stand up here and say I'm rooting against the guy, but we've got to find a number. And some of the numbers that are thrown out there, quite frankly, we can't match. We don't have that kind of space. There are a lot of teams out there that don't spend to the cap, and we do. I'm always envious of those teams right about this time of the year, and then they're envious of me when we are in the playoffs. So, we're going to keep doing what we do, the way we do it, and that precludes us sometimes from capitalizing on paying certain guys – like [Paul] Kruger and [Dannell] Ellerbe and all those guys. We've got a [compensatory] pick system in place that we benefit from those guys outperforming their deals and getting better deals. And that's the thing, is we have to get very creative with deals. That's why we are talking with Ozzie about restructuring guys contracts to get us more relief. When we tried to get Anquan Boldin to take a restructuring and a reduction, he didn't want to hear it. So, we got a pick from it, and instead of saving and having $2 million extra available to us by that reduction, we had $6 million available, and we were able to get Daryl Smith and [Elvis] Dumervil. You can say we missed Anquan, and yes we did, but would we have been better than we were that year without Dumervil and Smith? Arguably, to me, that's at least a wash. So, [Newsome] sets his number; I live with that number. I've never successfully talked him into changing that number. Maybe, maybe he'll call me because he knows that he told me this was the number, and he'll say, 'We can get this done,' that it's going to cost us about $400,000 a year – usually catches me at happy hour *(laughter) – and I say, 'Yes.' But he likes calling me saying, 'I'm going to give in to you,' so I kind of say, 'I'm willing to pay more,' and he says, 'No.' And then when he gives up a little more, he pretends he is doing his boss a favor. We play this dance every year. (laughter) So, we've got some availability there. The difference between what we can pay Torrey and what he gets on the open market … Mike Wallace got $10 million. I don't think anybody thinks that was a good deal. There's always a team that has lots of money that wants to bring in playmakers, and those guys are going to get those deals, and we're just going to have to take it on the chin and move on."
Ozzie, have you or will you seek any sort of medical reassurance for TE Dennis Pitta as far as how you can stack your tight end roster for this season and moving forward health wise with him? (Morgan Adsit)
*(NEWSOME) *"John spoke with Mark [Smith], our [head athletic] trainer, today and he relayed this: Basically, we are in a wait-and-see [mode] with Dennis. We may not have any answer to that until we get into the summer. But, are we going to try to add some tight ends to this offense? Yes. This is a tight end-friendly offense that we watched last year. The better the tight ends we can get on the field, the better this offense will be and the better Joe will play."
Ozzie, this is the first time we've had a chance to talk to you about Ray Rice. Do you think he will play football again? How would you characterize his relationship now with the organization in light of the litigation that went on? Steve, my question to you is, do you envy some of the relationships that other NFL owners seem to have with Roger Goodell? He seems to have an inner circle, if you will, and where do you fit in in the scheme of things of all that? (Jerry Coleman)
(NEWSOME) "I don't know what 31 other teams are thinking. I think we will find out probably before April whether Ray will get the opportunity to sign with another team. The only chance I've had to be with Ray was at the hearing. And we had a very good embrace during that time. So if he gets the opportunity to play … He was in really good shape when he was with us this offseason, and from what I'm hearing, he is still working his butt off. If he gets that opportunity to play with another club, I'll be happy for it."
(BISCIOTTI) *"You ready for me? Well, the last time I sat up here I was being accused of having too cozy of a relationship with [Roger Goodell]. The irony is I disappeared for five months, and now I'm on the outs with him. *(laughter) I don't know. Wasn't I being accused of him doing favors for his good friend, Steve, his old golfing buddy?"
You were, but then he didn't choose you to be a part of any his committees, so I was wondering?
(BISCIOTTI) *"I'm already on two committees; I'm on two very important committees [Broadcast and Digital Media]." *(Reporter: "Investigative committees.") "Investigations? No, I'm not on investigative committees. I'm not on labor committees either, because I have a short fuse. *(laughter) *I don't have an answer to that. I don't really care what my relationship is with Roger. I don't think Roger plays favorites. When you are the chief negotiators like Jerry Jones and Bob Kraft are, they are with him in very, very high-level, very intense negotiations for those deals. I'm on the Broadcast Committee, but I'm not sitting across from Les Moonves. There is no doubt in my mind that they develop a rapport and a trust with each other that is probably unmatched. So no, I think I would have to work too hard. I would have to put in too much time in order to get that kind of exposure to Roger to get where I am. But, I don't think Roger is in the frame of mind to play favorites with anybody after the year he's had. I think he's got to be pretty wide open and spread that ability to discipline out. I didn't think I had a fabulous, different relationship with Roger. We have a respectful one. He calls me; we talk. I don't think it certainly was damaged by what has happened now. I don't see any change in that. I think Roger would tell you the same, that we are kind of status quo."
This is a question for both Steve and Dick: Back in September, you did both express some concern over the state of sort of [the] trust [and] relationship that had been built up with the fan base over the years. Taking stock of that five months later having gone through a season, did you feel like you saw any evidence of damage to that relationship, or do you feel like it's now as strong as it has ever been, I guess? (Childs Walker)
(BISCIOTTI) "I think it's as strong. I think that people can be disappointed or they can be somewhat in disagreement with how you handle it or critical of how you handle something, but they still take things as a whole in the proper perspective. No, I don't see [damage]. I don't think that it's a long-term effect. I think that – like we talk about the players, that we consider character issues, and we talk about repeating offenses versus making a mistake – I think that we have every right to be judged the same way. I think that our fans have the right to be sensitive and expect us to perform better than maybe some of them thought we did. And that's our goal – to perform better and have them say, 'I'm glad the way they responded.' So, as far as sales …"
(CASS) "We have not seen a direct impact on sales. I think that fans would – next time we have an incident that's a very sensitive incident that requires careful attention and careful handling – they're going to scrutinize us a lot more closely than they would have [before]. They gave us, I think … The fans, I hope, have given us the benefit of the doubt. But the next time we have a situation like we did last fall, we're going to have to perform better, or we'll lose the respect and trust of the fans."
Ozzie, a couple times during the season, John Harbaugh talked about how strong the rookie class was. How does that change the next few weeks for you guys knowing that you have such a strong base of young talent already here on the roster? (Jon Meoli)
(NEWSOME) "Again, it goes back to what John and I talk about. Let's build the best 53-man squad and the 10-man practice squad that we can. Nobody talks about how good you are. You have to keep working to get better. However good that class was, I think it's upon us to try to do a lot better this year, because we did not end up in the Super Bowl, and that's our ultimate goal."
Short of that Super Bowl goal – and Ozzie just said it, "Came up short," – but to be 10-6, to have weathered what you did off the field and injuries on the field, how do you rate what was accomplished this year? Do you consider it an accomplishment? (Mark Viviano)
(BISCIOTTI) "I think it's an A. I think the 'plus' is a Super Bowl. I think it's an A. I think that what John did – and the way he handled the coaches and the players – was masterful. Let's face it. You know how the … We're either sitting here and [the media is] saying, 'John, what do you feel about potentially not making the playoffs three years in a row?' if we hadn't gotten in. And instead, the year before when we missed it by one game – we could have won in Cincinnati and been in the playoffs and been a sixth-straight year – we failed. We lost that game. You can go back to three other games we probably should have won, but that last game we could have dictated our future. And then we were right back here. So, with all those distractions, we were in the exact same position. We had to win the last game of the year in order to get into the playoffs, and we did it. And then we went and beat Pittsburgh, which we were 0-3 as a franchise [in the playoffs]. For a lot of you Baltimoreans, you remember being more than that with the [Baltimore] Colts and the Steelers. I had a long history of losing to the Steelers in the playoffs. John and I talked that night after our last game, and I think the Pittsburgh [vs. Cincinnati] game was that night, right? We said, 'We want Pittsburgh. They don't think we were supposed to be here anyway. I'm not rooting for Cincinnati. I'm rooting for Pittsburgh. I want to go get that monkey off our back,' and we did. I consider that a great success. Now [John Harbaugh is] six of seven years [in the playoffs], and we're trying to start a new five-year streak, at least, which hopefully includes another Super Bowl. You can't be in a competition with 32 [teams] – flat out, say maybe it's legitimately 20 – get to the final eight and say it's not a success. So, that's where we are, and we're going to continue to win. I believe that, and a lot of it's because of [John Harbaugh]."
Ozzie, at the end of last season you did say that you wanted to improve your secondary. Can you give us an assessment of S Terrence Brooks, S Matt Elam, [the] free agent market, as far as defensive backs, and kind of go and evaluate how you guys have done in recent drafts as far as selecting defensive backs? (Mike Preston)
(NEWSOME) "I can start at the beginning of that and say I think Jimmy [Smith is] going to be a really good ball player. He got hurt. I think he was playing at a very, very high level when he suffered that injury in Cincinnati. Matt Elam has to be a better football player for us next year. He has to be. Terrence [Brooks] was a guy that had shown flashes. It'll be tough for him to be ready to go at the beginning of the season, but he should be able to help us out coming off of PUP. We were able to go out and get Will Hill, who we think is going to be a guy that's going to have a very good role on the team. I think [Darian] Stewart did a good job in the role that he played in. Lardarius [Webb] was a guy that … When you have a neck/back injury, the medical aspect is out of his hands and out of our hands. Hopefully, like I said, he will be able to bounce back. We had Danny [Gorrer]. Chykie [Brown] did not pan out. Jeromy Miles has been a guy that has shown some … [Miles is] a good [special] teamer. Anthony Levine is a guy that got forced in the action, and he didn't hurt the football team. To me, that's just a basis, and we can build from that. If you start to add to that – as we will do this offseason – then I think we will be able to sit here next year and say our secondary is better. But our secondary is going to be good as long as we can rush the passer, and we can do that pretty good."
Steve, you've been involved with Ravens ownership for, I guess, about 14 or 15 years now. Up until this past year, you had been perceived in a very positive fashion. You never really took much in the way of blows. I'm wondering if what transpired last year has affected you at all and your ownership and your appreciation of ownership of a football team? (Stan Charles)
(BISCIOTTI) "My appreciation of ownership? That's an interesting way to put that. Look, I said I would do this as long as I'm happy, and it was my worst year as an owner. If Steve Ballmer was interested in football on the East Coast, then I might be introducing a new owner right now. But I'm not going to react. I had 14 good years, and then I had an absolutely crappy year. John's success in the season at least bolstered me up and probably evened out my temperament a little bit and reminded me of the good things. When we went and spent a couple days in Florida, it did the exact same thing. It gets me exited for the next year, and our meeting this morning for two hours got me right back to where I am every other year. I am off suicide watch. (laughter) I'm stable mentally, and I'll probably be your owner for a while."
(HARBAUGH) *"He's speaking figuratively there, anybody, if you were wondering about that."(laughter)*
Ozzie, I'd like to know how high a priority is re-signing RB Justin Forsett, and is his career arc more tricky than some you've dealt with given his age, but he doesn't have as much wear and tear as some backs his age? (Bo Smolka)
(NEWSOME) "[Justin Forsett] doesn't have the wear and tear, and Justin did a very good job of coming in, competing and then being our bell cow. We would like to retain Justin, but I've learned something since the end of the season about Justin that I didn't really know. He has mentored some very good, young backs, starting with Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch, Maurice Jones-Drew when he was in Jacksonville. Having Justin here – and with the opportunity [of] also brining in hopefully another young running back – to have Justin be around that guy would be an asset also. So, we will work to try to retain Justin."
This is for Steve and Ozzie. I'm curious to get your guys' take on the whole situation with the Patriots' footballs. It seems to maybe a lot of people that people should have been asking questions about that Ravens game – which was a one possession game – that it would be hard to imagine if they did something, they would have wield it out for just one game. And the statistics about their fumbling [are] somewhat alarming since 2007, how rarely they fumble. Was there any concern on your part – particularly when you find out the Colts went to the general manager to complain prior to that game – is there any concern on your part that something has gone on with the footballs prior to this game? [Are] there any questions that you would ask of the league to look into that? Not that you can obviously change anything, but the concern of fair competition? (Steve Davis)
(BISCIOTTI) "No. Any question that we have is going to be answered by those investigators. I don't think we … It didn't come up once. When we were in Florida, it never came up once. I don't want to say that it's overblown, I just think that's their issue and there's an investigation, and they're going to pay a penalty if they get proven that they did something wrong. That would be like asking the Falcons and the Browns and the Patriots about how we handled Ray Rice. It's none of their business. As far as I'm concerned, that's none of our business. We didn't lose the [Divisional Playoff] game because of deflated footballs. We lost because we couldn't stop them in the fourth quarter."
Steve, in the matter of your security director [Darren Sanders], what will be the process on dealing with that moving forward? (Gary Mihoces)
(BISCIOTTI) "Wait until the investigation is complete. There's virtually nothing we can do. The league is looking into it, the Baltimore police are looking into it, and that will be cleared up sometime in April or May. But we believe in Darren [Sanders], so we're all very supportive of him, and [the nameplate] sign is still on his door. We'll address that when we get some information, but right now we don't have any."
This is for Dick, but if John wants to chime in he can, because he has been lonely sitting up there. Nobody has asked him a question.* (Gerry Sandusky)*
(HARBAUGH) "This is great." (laughter)
(CASS) "He's enjoying it immensely." (laughter)
Dick, for years it seems like there was almost a habit, not a policy of raising ticket prices about every other year. I think this is three years in a row you haven't raised prices, but you've put a lot of money into the stadium. This is a team that spends money aggressively in all areas. What's the philosophy, how do you balance that and how do you determine that? (Gerry Sandusky)
(CASS) "We always look at what other teams are doing and how we slot in terms of our average ticket price and decided we didn't need to raise prices this year to maintain a position that we'd like to maintain. We do think that given the money we spend and the improvements we keep making at the stadium, we can justify being one of the more expensive tickets in the league, but we don't want to be the most expensive. We don't want to be in the top five. We sort of look at what everyone else is doing and make a judgment each year, and we just didn't think it was the right time to do it. We are making some more improvements this offseason. We finished that $35 million renovation at the stadium last season. This offseason we're putting in Wi-Fi. It's going to be a brand new Wi-Fi system. It should enable all our fans to be able to access everything you want to access during a game. I hope most fans are watching the game, but if you get bored you can turn to your phone and get whatever you want. It'll be a state-of-the-art Wi-Fi system. It's going to cost about $5 million to put it in."
John, a lot of people have asked about TE Dennis Pitta and his plans to play and WR Steve Smith, Sr. Have you heard anything about DE Chris Canty, and is he part of something you'd like to keep in the fold going forward? (Jeff Zrebiec)
*(HARBAUGH) *"I haven't spoken with Chris since the season was over. I think he was thinking about what his future held and whether he was going to play going forward. So, I haven't spoken with him about that, no."
When you made the coaching change – last time you made a coaching change in 2008 – you said you were sort of tired of the up-and-down nature of the way things had gotten. You were hoping for more of a sustained success. Six playoffs in seven years sort of speaks to that, but I'm wondering – and we've been talking about it a little bit – what's your definition of a successful season with that in mind? Is it making the playoffs? Is it going farther? Is it something you just feel? Is it something in black and white? (John Eisenberg)
*(BISCIOTTI) *"I just think that our communication … This is certainly not a slight to Brian [Billick], because Brian was here long before me. He had a relationship with Ozzie, and I'm taking over the transition. I was kind of far behind in the development of a relationship. And I always thought that was kind of hogwash about people saying an owner wants to put a stamp on the organization, wants it to be his guy, because I was perfectly fine with Brian. But it's kind of like you don't know what you don't know, and the losing is certainly what caused me to finally want change. The beauty was that when John came in, we got to develop a relationship all together. John's first day was his first day with Dick, his first day with Ozzie, his first day with me. And I just think the communication has gotten so much … When we sit down, it's like the old friends where no matter how long you've been apart, you kind of just pick up where you left of. I just really feel like that's really what it is. [It] is that we've talked so much about the intricate details of what we're trying to build that we know the way each other thinks, and we know each other's strengths and weaknesses. We kind of rise and fall together, and we fail and succeed together. I would say that the only blemish on our resume right now as a group sitting up here is that we haven't won our division as much. We probably haven't performed [well enough in the division] as much, which doesn't give us … There's a reason why Joe Flacco has more away game wins in the playoffs than any other quarterback in history, because we keep sending his butt out there on the road. Until we actually win more in our division and start claiming some home games, we're doing something that hasn't really been done, historically, in the NFL, and that's win on the road and win all six of those years – actually win a playoff game, most of them on the road. So, when we're critical of each other, we don't have to go far to look at our failure, and I think it's [division titles], probably. We have to beat Pittsburgh and Cincinnati more consistently, and we have to start claiming that AFC North title before we start looking forward to accomplishing greater things. That's a little bit of a smudge on our resume, and we're well aware of it. Obviously, Ozzie spent years building a team that can beat your division, right? When we took Jamal [Lewis], that's the first thing you said to me when we were drafting Jamal. My first year as a part owner, it was, 'We need him to beat Pittsburgh and play in the AFC North.' We're aware of that. We need to focus, and we need to succeed at that a little more."
Steve, you mentioned, and I assume you were talking about off the field, that this was your toughest year as an owner. Does there have to be from you, from the top, a senior voice that says, "This can't happen again?" And do you have to make that statement to your organization? (Mark Viviano)
(BISCIOTTI) "I don't think so. I really don't. I think it would be short-changing these guys who are here working 60 and 70 hours a week. I admire them for the men that they are. I don't need to hold them to a higher standard. I'm really proud of the standard that they hold themselves up to. We all know that we don't like taking hits to our integrity, and I think that we're very quick to come to a meeting of the minds. Last year just makes it a little more sensitive. Like I said, we'll do a better job, but I don't think it was an affront on our character. I think it was an affront on dealing with a major, controversial, societal issue in the middle of our season, which is what it was when we woke up Monday morning after the first game and had to make a very, very tough decision. But, we all agreed that we should support Ray Rice in February, and we all agreed that morning that we couldn't. I don't change either one of those, and I don't think these guys do either. I don't regret either one of those decisions. It left open room for interpretation and people questioning us, but I think some of the polls that came out in September were some people were blaming us for not being tougher on him in the beginning, and then other people were mad at us for bailing on him that Monday morning. It wasn't even a consensus of what they were mad at us for. Controversy in and of itself – regardless of what company, what industry you play for – controversy is going to create split decisions. And the public is going to take their position on that decision and they're going to be sure they're right. But they all stake different positions on that issue, and therein lies the controversy. All I know is that we all [initially] agreed to support [Rice], and that day we decided that none of us could. I'm more than comfortable with these guys' judge of their own character and how we have to go forward with that. Again, the chances of us facing something that significant are not very good, but if it happens, then we'll deal with it."
Ozzie, I wanted to ask you a little bit about the defensive line. OLB Pernell McPhee, you guys have developed him and now he's become regarded as one of the better free agents. How difficult do you think it might be to keep him? (Aaron Wilson)
*(NEWSOME) *"You have to look at it this way: If we were to go after the market on Pernell, how many other players would we not have on the Baltimore Ravens? And that's kind of the way we look at this thing. Do we pay market for some players? Yes, you can look at … We paid market for Joe [Flacco], Eugene [Monroe], [Marshal] Yanda. I can name names for years. But, we have to look at how we can't pay everybody market value, because it would hurt our roster overall in trying to retain other guys and then go out in the market and get other guys."
You have a lot of defensive linemen. How is DE Brent Urban doing and what are the expectations for when he may be able to do things? And your thoughts on DT Timmy Jernigan and DT Brandon Williams? (Aaron Wilson)
*(NEWSOME) *"Brent Urban was doing a very good job [before his injury]. He was going to be in our rotation – I think John [Harbaugh] would agree with that – if he did not end up suffering a torn ACL. So, I'm looking forward. I see him every day in the weight room working, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do – whether he's going to regain what he had. [Timmy] Jernigan, I think he has a high ceiling. I think Brandon Williams is probably as good a nose tackle as there is in the league right now. We've got some good, young talent, but we need to continue to add to it. You don't ever have too many good defensive linemen."
(BISCIOTTI) *"Or corners or offensive linemen …" *(laughter)
(HARBAUGH) *"Or wideouts, tight ends …" *(laughter)
*(BISCIOTTI) *"You can never have too many, until you run out of money."
Ozzie, we pretty much ask you this every single year, so might as well ask again this year. Have you thought about how much longer you want to remain general manager? Do you have an end game in your mind at all? (Jamison Hensley)
*(NEWSOME) *"No, only because every time I walk in this office, it's a good day. I enjoy coming to work every day, and the first time I walk in here and it doesn't feel good, then that's when I'll call the boss and let him know. I walked in today and I felt good – even though I knew I had to spend time with [the media]. I don't like that a lot." *(laughter) *
Ozzie, on guys that are coming into the final year of their rookie contracts – like G Kelechi Osemele or CB Jimmy Smith – is there any thought to try to extend some guys like you have in the past rather than playing out the rookie deal and have them heading into free agency next year? (Garrett Downing)
*(NEWSOME) *"We've always felt the best time to get a fair deal for the player and for the organization is to attack it a year ahead. So, those are some of the guys that we will be talking about going forward."
Ozzie, you had talked about how you guys will not touch anyone who has a domestic abuse history. Are there any other red flags that you guys will look at before you add a player to this organization? (Jerry Coleman)
*(NEWSOME) *"Yes. There have already been guys that are playing in the league that were not on our board. We've already looked at that, and we'll continue to look at that. But you know, what we try to look at is football character and their ability to come into this building, respect the people in this building, respect their teammates, and respect the game. We'll always use that, but even before domestic violence, there were players that we play against who are playing very good in this league who were not on our board."
John, Ozzie pointed out that this is a tight end-friendly offense and there's been a lot of speculation about TE Owen Daniels and whether he will follow Gary Kubiak to Denver. Have you talked to him at all and know what his desires are? And then secondly, you had an experience as a media personality during the Super Bowl, and I wondered if that affected your perspective at all on your relationship with the media? (Stan White)
*(HARBAUGH) *"I've always had, as you know, a sterling relationship with all the media, *(laughter) *especially the guys in this room. It was a lot of fun to do that. You figure a job is always harder than it looks. You can probably vouch for that, right? Everybody can. But that was true. What went into that broadcast and what those folks at NBC did, how well organized it was, and really, how hard it is was really obvious. [They are] really talented people, unbelievably good people. That was really neat. I learned a lot about just how to present certain thoughts on TV. Hopefully that will translate to press conferences, so I'll cut to the chase a little quicker with you guys in the future. On certain things – injuries, probably not. *(laughter) *But other things, maybe so.
"The Owen Daniels part of the question: We've talked to Owen, and Owen says he wants to come back. I'm sure that he and his agent will talk about what's best for them financially, and every other way, but he's very interested in coming back here."
Steve, I know the character issue keeps coming up, but this was a bad year, as you mentioned, for the league. Does the league have a problem, or are more things just coming to light with the Ray Rice video and the public getting hold of it? Maybe more media sources and more outlets to get this information out? Or does the NFL really need to get control of the players and the kind of guys they're bringing in? (Morgan Adsit)
*(BISCIOTTI) *"Every stat that I've ever read says that our players get arrested at a less frequent rate than society, in general, in the same demographic. And you've read that, too. So, we obviously don't have a problem. We have a tripling of exposure, and I said when it happened the last time, 'Do I hold it against the press?' No. But teams used to have three, four or five people cover them. And now it's 100. And now with the nationals, it's 1,000. So, you've got your hour, three hours or four hours on the radio – you've got to talk these things up. You've got to come up with theories and explanations and accusations, and the greatest thing to do is accuse somebody and make them squirm and explain to you why it's not true. But that's the business that we're in, and as long as statistics prove that we're not in bad shape, then we're not in bad shape. I'm very comfortable with that aspect of it."
*(CASS) *"The one thing I would add, Steve, it's something you said last fall, was that I think the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL did not really treat domestic violence with a degree of seriousness and severity that the issue deserves. To borrow from what Steve said last fall, we were treating domestic violence the same way we did a bar fight. And that was a mistake, and that was wrong. And I think the league has recognized that. We've certainly recognized that, and that's an offense that will be treated very differently going forward."
*(BISCIOTTI) *"And that's because it was a very taboo subject in and of itself. We're talking about society. That was the one issue, that was the one closet issue that people, families, never, ever talked about. It was a terrible stain on people, and so because it was downplayed and it was such a taboo subject in society, then I think that it allowed us to downplay it when it came to a public institution like the NFL and the teams. It was very rarely given the sense of seriousness that it deserved. What I did say last year was that if this is the seminal moment that turns that into the force, the seriousness that we have to take, then we don't mind being the poster boy for that. We are more sensitive, but I think so is America, and they're going to expect that out of us and every other institution – Fortune 500 companies, everybody."
Steve, it was kind of surprising to hear the story last week about Jamal Lewis selling the [Super Bowl XLVII] ring that you guys had given him as a gift. I was just wondering if you could fill in the blanks: When did he let you guys know, and what your thoughts on that were? (Steve Davis)
*(BISCIOTTI) *"He sold it a long time ago, probably not long after we gave it to him. It was part of his bankruptcy thing, and so they weren't going to allow him to keep assets. I think they allowed him to keep his Super Bowl [XXXV] ring, didn't they? Did he have to sell his actual Super Bowl ring?"
*(CASS) *"I'm not sure, but he had to give up a lot of assets. He, like a lot of other business people, got caught up in the recession. He got over-extended. He was invested in a business – a serious business – I think signed some loans, personally guaranteed some debt of a company, and he got over-extended, and like a lot of companies in the recession, couldn't pay off the loans and had to declare bankruptcy. I think that letting go of the ring was really part of the bankruptcy process."
Ozzie, on QB Joe Flacco's contract, it seems like his cap number next year is really big. Have you guys faced a challenge with a player that has had a cap number that large in the past? And is that something that you'll have to deal with prior to the 2016 season? (Steve Davis)
*(NEWSOME) *"Part of the discussion that we have down in Florida, we not only talk about the current year, but we talk about years going forward. So, we've already addressed that to a certain degree. We've had a chance to look at what 2016 will look like – projecting how many draft choices would make our team. We'll be prepared to deal with Joe at that number when we get there."