Transcripts: Day Seven of Training Camp

Head Coach John Harbaugh

Opening statement: “OK, good to see everybody. Appreciate you guys being here. Good practice. We were in pads yesterday, we went to shells today, we’ll be back in pads again tomorrow. Trying to work the rhythm of that just a little bit. We had a few of the veteran guys out with veteran days. Jimmy [Smith] still has his situation ongoing, so he’s taking care of that. That’s why he’s not here. What do you have?”

How good was it for you guys to get new guys like S Brynden Trawick who has experience here and also should give you guys more competition on special teams? (Luke Jones) “It was really good. Brynden was here for numerous years, and then Nick Grigsby was here for a cup of coffee, I think. (laughter) But then, he went and did so well for himself. So, it’s good to have those guys back. Brynden has been a guy that was a guy that we really wanted to keep when he left, and we weren’t able to do it financially. But, to have him back, put him in the mix, those guys will be competing to make the team, and we’ll see what happens.”

How was the team’s speed today? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) “The team, I think the team got the message on the team speed, and that’s good. I know you’re making the reference to the [‘Speed Kills’] t-shirt, which is awesome. We practiced fast. It was hot, and the challenge is to practice fast and practice well, to do both of those two things, to play with discipline and do it quickly, and so much of that begins with communication and ends with knowing what you’re doing and effort. Guys did a good job of that. We could have been cleaner. We could have been a little tighter with some of our assignments. That’s what we’re working for.”

Was the reason for shells instead of full pads today to work on discipline and communication more so? (Kyle Barber) “No, I think you’re working that all the time. You probably do emphasize it a little more when you’re not in the pads, but the idea was just to pace our camp a little bit. These guys are big guys. If you bring them out and you bang them into each other every day, you can take more out of them than you want to, so we try to pace our way in that sense a little bit.”

Have you seen OLB Shane Ray flash a little more in practice? Does he look a little more comfortable? (Jeff Zrebiec) “I have seen that. I’ve noticed that, too. I feel like Shane is starting to get a feel for the defense and starting to get his legs under him a little more, and he looks good.”

It’s easy to see RB Justice Hill’s speed around here. What are the other things he is working on? (Aaron Kasinitz) “It’s all of it – assignments, reads, catching the ball, route-running, all those things are things running backs work on. I think he has done well, though, to your point. The thing I’ve been impressed with, when the pads have been on, he’s looked solid in pass protection, which for a little bit of a smaller back is something you always concern yourself with. Once we get in there where we’re tackling and we’re playing against somebody, I think Jacksonville will be interesting for those young guys, of course the game. Especially with running backs, I think that’s when you really get a chance to evaluate them more.”

We’ve asked you a lot about the edge rushers, but how do you think the inside pass rush is coming along? (Luke Jones) “It’s been good. Willie Henry looks really good in there. We have a lot of really good power rushers. These guys can push the pocket, and some of the young guys are starting to look pretty good, too. Daylon Mack is a pocket-pusher, and Gerald Willis has got some quickness, a little more like Willie, so it’s been interesting.”

A lot of guys are mixing in on offensive line in those spots. Is there a date in your mind – I’m not saying you’re going to reveal it – but is there a time that it becomes important for a starting group to start working on chemistry, where you’d like to have that figured out? (Jeff Zrebiec) “There is, but it’s not yet, and it’s probably not for awhile, because you’re always going to be working combinations anyway at this point in time. You have to be prepared for every scenario during the season, all the different things that can happen in terms of where you have to shuffle your line around to get through. So, you want those guys to get the bulk of those reps now during training camp. There is no date. You’d like for it to happen naturally and to be clear. That’s what you’d like. You don’t want it to be clear because nobody is taking the reins. You want somebody to take the reins. Now, if more guys take the reins and make it tough on us, that would be even better. But, we’re not there yet.”

It looked like CB Anthony Averett was getting first-team reps today. How has he grown from Year One to Year Two? (Aaron Kasinitz) “Yes, Anthony gets better. He was a guy who played wide receiver for most of his career. He was a wide receiver in college at Alabama when he got there, and they moved him at some point, so he’s kind of young to the position, so he learns a lot every day. He is very talented, not afraid. His biggest thing is focusing on the details of the technique and the assignment, and as he does that, he seems to get better and better, but that’s what he works on. He’s doing a good job.”

Along the offensive line is G Ben Powers. What have you seen from him so far, and are you guys kind of throwing him into the fire with the first team, seeing how he can handle himself and seeing how good he can get practicing with that first team? (Ryan Mink) “We are, but we don’t have a starter there, and who would you want me to put in there? He’s the guy right now. Jermaine [Eluemunor] has to get in shape still more, and those guys are competing, along with James Hurst. Although, James Hurst knows how to play the position, so we’re giving those younger guys the reps. We’ll see what happens.”

With TE Mark Andrews, obviously, he had a heck of a rookie season, but it seems like he was trying to get up to another level. Is he kind of self-motivated? Is he a guy that you don’t have to say much to, that he kind of knows what he needs to do on the field? (Cliff Brown) “He is like that. Mark takes coaching really well, but he’s thoughtful. He knows when he messed up. He’ll be the first one when he comes back to tell you what it was before you even have to say it. So, he’s definitely that kind of guy.”

Tight Ends Coach Bobby Engram

How has your adjustment been from wide receivers coach to tight ends coach? (Kevin Richardson) “It’s been a great adjustment. Obviously, a young, talented room. It’s been a great adjustment in terms of just being able to go in there and get more involved in the run game, get involved in protections, and just trying to figure out a way to help these guys get better at every phase of the game. Run game, pass game and in pass protection.”

What is TE Mark Andrews doing well in the passing game? (Ryan Mink) “With Mark specifically, we’re giving him some routes where he has a little bit of freedom in terms of his creativity to get open. He’s catching the ball fairly well, for the most part. We put a couple on the ground today, but we’ll take a look and keep hammering that. He’s a good, savvy route-runner. He understands defenses and he’s playing fast. Also, Hayden [Hurst] is showing his speed. He’s showing some different things at the line of scrimmage that are allowing him to run and get down the field. The whole entire group is working hard in both phases.”

Do the tight ends remind you of wide receivers that you coached last year? (Ryan Mink) “Big wide receivers. (laughter) That’s what I call them, big wide receivers that block.”

Have you seen motivation in TE Hayden Hurst to improve this year? (Bo Smolka) “Our focus right now is on moving forward. You learn from the past, but you don’t dwell on it. Where he is right now, he’s in a great place. He’s working hard. He’s really understanding the offense and what we want him to do. There are a lot of intricacies in the run game, in terms of whether it’s a gap scheme or a wide zone. It’s footwork, it’s hand placement, it’s hat placement. In Year Two, that’s when he can make a big jump in that category. Obviously, with his speed and his physicality, in terms of him wanting to put on weight and be stronger but not lose any speed, I think that’s going to help him in the pass game moving forward as well.”

Was there anything you had to learn when you switched from wide receivers coach to tight ends coach? (Aaron Kasinitz) “Yes, you do. There’s a lot of learning and studying going on. Our offensive coordinator [Greg Roman], he knows a thing or two about coaching the tight ends. [Assistant tight ends coach] Andy Bischoff, who’s in the room, he’s coached Pro Bowl tight ends. I’ve had the knowledge and the wisdom of some guys that have done extremely well as tight ends coaches. My standard is to have excellence, just like with anything else, but it’s about, like I mentioned, the footwork, the angles, the hand placement, the hat placement, what the communication is with the O-line, whether it’s a tray block or a quad, all of those football technical terms. Those guys are doing great, and it’s moving along pretty well.”

You mentioned big wide receivers. Could you see the tight ends splitting out wide and playing the role of a receiver? (Ryan Mink) “Yes, you saw it today.”

What makes this group of tight ends special? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) “First of all, you have multiple tight ends that are good players [in] play-making, route-running, blocking at the line of scrimmage. Nick Boyle is a dominant guy at the line of scrimmage. I think he’s quietly really getting better in the passing game. He’s catching the ball well and doing some good things. So, just being complete players. We ask those guys to do a lot, so we have to prepare for a lot. They’ve stepped up to the plate. We still have a lot of work to be done, but I’m pleased with the way camp is going.”

What are some improvements that you have noticed from the tight ends in training camp so far? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) “Improvement is different for every guy, but you see improvement in releases, whether we’re in a two-point or a three-point stance. You see improvement in technique and blocking. You see improvement in pass protection.”

What have you seen from the undrafted tight ends? What have you seen from TE Charles Scarff, in particular? (Sean Grogan) “I really like our two guys that are undrafted free agents. No. 1, both of them are extremely smart football players. If they make a mistake, they don’t make it twice. You teach them some things, and they’ve picked up on our scheme really fast. That’s No. 1. No. 2 is they’re workers. They come to work every day, and they’re following the lead of our veteran guys. No. 3, Charles is a big, physical guy at the line of scrimmage who has to continue to play with better pad level, but he also does some things really well in the pass game. Cole [Herdman], he’s a natural athlete. He’s catching the ball well. He’s making his plays, and he’s working hard to be better in the run game.”

What makes QB Lamar Jackson so comfortable in his connection with TE Hayden Hurst? (Gabby DiPaula) “They’ve been working together for going on two years now. So, natural time and working together helps that. I think we do a lot of things, like run routes on air. Those guys talk about different looks that they see. And then in practice, it’s just repetition. I think he’s [Jackson] getting used to guys and how they run, how they come out of their brakes, how they separate. The more they play together, hopefully, the more of a rapport he will continue to establish with every guy in the room.”

Do you talk to the tight ends about how instrumental they’re going to be in the new offense? (Ryan Mink) “It starts with the [offensive] coordinator [Greg Roman]. He’s made the vision clear. It starts with him. Our job is to reinforce that and get them ready for it. They know that they’re going to have to be a big part of our success, and we’re going to embrace that.”

How do you feel about the new offense potentially revolutionizing football? (Aaron Kasinitz) “You have to get excited, as a coach. You have to love it. But again, as I mentioned, our standard is excellence. Whatever type of system we’re running, the thing that we’re trying to do is put our guys in advantageous situations so they can go out and have success.”

How do you find good route-running? Is it getting in and out of the break, or is it more than that? (Kevin Richardson) “It’s more than that, but that is a big piece of it. Any time you can run fast and transition quickly, it’s going to create separation. Again, it starts with the release. If a guy is in your face pressing you, it’s recognizing man versus zone. A lot of times, we’re asking them to adjust their route based off of the look. It’s recognizing single-high versus two-high. So, there is a lot that goes into good route-running. That’s just repetition. That’s watching film. That’s understanding football. And obviously, finishing making a play.”

TE Mark Andrews

On what he feels he needs to work on entering his second NFL season: “Just being a complete tight end. I think last year was kind of eye-opening for me. I learned a ton. The game has kind of slowed down, but just working in the offseason about blocking, getting stronger so I’m able to be in on all the plays and not just pass plays and stuff like that.”

On if he feels like after his rookie season other teams know that he can make an impact “I don’t know if ‘the secret is out.’ I still have a ton to prove. In my head, I have high expectations, and I plan to meet them, but I’m excited for this year. We’re going to have a bunch of great guys. There are a lot of great skill position guys that it’s going to be tough for defenses to stop. It’s kind of a pick-your-poison type of thing. It’s going to be a fun year, and I’m super excited.”

On why he and QB Lamar Jackson have a great connection: “We came in together, and we’ve been through a lot of the same things. I think the way we think about football and how I run routes and what he’s seeing on the field is super similar. In terms of quarterbacks, he’s probably the quarterback I’ve had the most chemistry with right away. It’s fun to play with him, and it’s kind of cool to see how we kind of think alike, in terms of routes and him throwing the ball.”

On where he has seen QB Lamar Jackson improve in his second training camp: “He’s been great. I think he gets pegged as a guy who can’t throw the ball and all of that, but you come out to practice and that’s all we do. That’s all we’re doing is throwing the ball. He puts the ball in incredible spots, and he’s such a dynamic player. He has that special ‘it’ factor about him, and again, he’s special, and there’s really no other word to describe him. He’s incredible.”

On if he sees his offseason blocking work paying off in pads: “For sure. I could definitely tell. The strength and lifting program I had in the offseason, working with my brother and all that, has helped. And then, I learned so much last year from Coach Andy [Bischoff] and now Coach Bobby [Engram]. Those guys have helped me a ton to grow as a player. I wouldn’t be here without them. Those guys have kind of taken me under their wing and really showed me the ropes in terms of blocking as well.”

On how much of his offseason training involved what he does after the catch, referencing a play when he caught a long pass but was tackled before reaching the end zone in 2018: “That’s huge for me, and I’ve kind of always prided myself as a guy to get those YAC [yards after catch] yards, being able to make a guy miss or going over the top. That made me mad, but I’ve always felt like I have a good knack for that. I’ve worked a lot. I know what my bread and butter is, is catching routes, getting open and getting yards after the catch. So, that was definitely something I focused on as well.”

On which skills he has most improved in camp: “I think the game has just slowed down a ton for me. Just being able to mentally break things down and know the coverages and know where to be at a certain time and be on the same page as the quarterback is probably the biggest thing for this phase.”

TE Hayden Hurst

On how he has improved coming into his second season: “For me, it’s just getting in the playbook and knowing everything. Knowing the ins and outs of where I’m supposed to be, because there’s a lot of formations where we’re two tight-end sets, three tight-end sets, and you have to kind of figure it out, know what you’re doing, know what routes you’re running, whether you’re front side or back side. So, for me, it’s just understanding the playbook so the coaches have the confidence to throw me in there.”

On how comfortable he feels right now: “Very comfortable with all three – F, Y and U. I feel a lot better than where I was at last year. My head was spinning a little bit last year, but everything is starting to slow down.”

On how he feels entering this season after starting his rookie season strong prior to being injured: “Right now, I feel really good. I feel like I’m making a lot of plays out there. I’m catching every ball that comes my way. I just go out there and do my job. I know what I’m capable of on a football field. I know when you get injured, you kind of get put by the wayside, and I totally get that. You’re out of sight, you’re out of mind. But like you said, preseason last year I was doing some pretty good things, and I’m starting to do that this year. I’m just going to stay on the field and do what I do.”

On his chemistry with QB Lamar Jackson: “I think all the tight ends, we’re kind of his first line of vision. We’re able to create separation and get open, whether it’s me, Nick [Boyle], Mark [Andrews], all the tight ends, we’re right there in front of him, and he’s finding us.”

On if CB Marlon Humphrey’s characterization of the tight ends as a “three-headed monster” is how he views them: “Absolutely. I think all three of us do things extremely well. I think we’re going to make it hard on the coaches to take us off the field. We’re out there making plays. Whether it’s Nick [Boyle], whether it’s Mark [Andrews], whether it’s myself. You guys see us: we’re all over the field making catches. It’s really fun to be in this offense, especially to be a tight end.” (Reporter: “Do you feel like there will be times when all three of you will be on the field together?”) “Absolutely.”

On what he likes the most about tight ends coach Bobby Engram: “I like how loose he is. He keeps things really fun. There’s a time to work, and there’s a time to have fun, but he makes the environment so fun to learn when we get out there. He’s always complimenting us. I couldn’t be happier to have him as our coach.”

On his touchdown play today and how QB Lamar Jackson is throwing the ball in general: “It’s just a four-vert concept. It was cover-zero, it was a two-minute situation. We have to have points. [It was] a little bit of a busted coverage. I saw ‘T.J.’ [Tony Jefferson] kind of sink, and the right side of the field opened up, and I just took off and Lamar found me.” (Reporter: “And his throwing in general this camp?”) “It gets better every single day. He’s such a good athlete. It’s just, every single day you see improvements, and he makes some incredible throws out there, some tight-window throws, some pretty impressive stuff. It’s just day by day, he’s getting better, and that’s what we all do. Day by day.”

On his excitement for the offense to debut: “I’m stoked. It’s such a fun offense. It’s fast. We’re all over the place. Me and Mark [Andrews], whether we’re deep or across the field, then Marquise [Brown] taking the top off, it’s going to be exciting. It’s a lot of speed, it’s going to be fast, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

On the emphasis on tight ends in the new offensive scheme: “I knew when they named ‘G-Ro’ [Greg Roman] OC [offensive coordinator], it was going to be tight end-oriented because of what he did in San Francisco and what he’s done here. He puts a lot of emphasis on that position. It’s really cool to be a tight end in this offense. We’re asked to do so many different things, whether we’re spread out, whether we’re bunched up, whether it’s two tight end or three tight end sets, there’s so much focal point put on the tight ends in this offense. It’s really fun to be a tight end here.”

On how it feels to practice in pads after bulking up this season: “I definitely feel stronger. I’m able to, at the point of attack, move people a little bit more than I did last year. I was 247 [pounds] last year. I’m 264 [pounds] now. I’m holding it pretty well. I know what’s asked of the tight ends in this offense. There is a lot of route-running, obviously, but there’s going to be a lot in the run game, too. I want to be able to hold my own.”

On his touchdown play in practice today: “That was awesome. Like I said, it was two-minute, fourth quarter. We have to have points there. It was our four-vert concept. I saw ‘T.J.’ [Tony Jefferson] kind of sink, and that right side opened up a little bit. It was a busted coverage, but I saw open field and took advantage of it.”

On if it’s frustrating to hear critics say that QB Lamar Jackson can’t throw or is just a running back: “There’s a lot of outside noise with everybody, whether it’s myself, Lamar, anybody. There is negativity all over the place, but I think as players, we know what we’re capable of. What I’m seeing out there, that’s not a running back. He’s an incredible quarterback. He makes really good decisions. He makes some really impressive throws. I’m just happy to see how he progresses moving forward.”

On if he feels like he is back to the physical shape he was in before his injury last season: “I’m right there. It took me a little bit, just getting back into football shape, but I think it takes everybody a few days. I’m really comfortable with where I’m at and my decision-making. I think today showed that when I was able to take advantage of that open field and gap some people a little bit.”

On how he and TE Mark Andrews differ from each other: “I think we’re both special in our own ways. Mark’s really good in man-to-man coverage. We’re both really good at getting open and creating separation. Like I said, I think the main thing we’re trying to do is make it hard for the coaches to take us off the field. Whether it’s two tight end or three tight end sets, I think the tight ends are going to be a huge part of this offense. You’ll see a lot of us all on the field at one time. Whether it’s one of us, two of us, three of us, there is going to be a lot around the tight ends.”

On if he has changed his diet this offseason: “I’m focusing more on healthy eating, whether it’s proteins, carbohydrates, vegetables. I talk to [director of sports nutrition] Sarah [Snyder] a lot. She’s great. She’s probably one of the best hires we’ve made. Just sitting down, talking with her, going over things. I told her my goal weight and where I want to sit, and she gives me some things that I need to follow. She’s great.”

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