Head Coach John Harbaugh & S Eric Weddle
John Harbaugh opening statement:
"It's a great day to be a Raven. We've had a few great days, haven't we? Last couple times … We have to quit meeting like this. (laughter) *And this, to me, just tops it all off, but it's just an honor and a privilege to welcome Eric and Chanel [Weddle] into our family and their four kids, as well, into Baltimore. It has been a great process. Compliments to [agent] David [Canter], who wore his black tie for the affair – very sharply dressed – and for [assistant general manager] Eric DeCosta and [senior vice president of football administration] Pat Moriarty and [general manager and executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome], just for the job they did. I have to give Eric DeCosta a lot of credit on this one. Eric was a pit bull on this one, and he went to work early and got after it and really did a great job of making this happen. So, kudos there, and the other thing that sealed the deal was the fact that we had our normal Baltimore winter day out here today. Chanel liked the weather, so that was a real positive, right? Just how it always is in Baltimore, just like this in the winter. *(laughter) It's just a big plus for us. Eric is going to make our team better in so many different ways as a player and as a person. [He will be] great for the community, and we're pleased to have him here, so welcome."
Eric Weddle opening statement:
"It's great to be here. First off, what an amazing moment for myself, for Chanel and our family to be welcomed into this organization. To [owner] Mr. [Steve] Bisciotti, to Pat [Moriarty], to Ozzie [Newsome], to everyone, to Eric DeCosta – who did all the work behind the scenes – to coach [John] Harbaugh, to coach [Dean] Pees, to coach [Leslie] Frazier, to coach [Chris] Hewitt, I can go down the line. I can't tell you guys how excited I am to be a part of something special and to be a part of a culture, to be a part of winning, to be a part of defense, toughness, everything that I want as a football team and an organization. As you guys can tell, I can't wait to get started, can't wait to meet my teammates, get to work and hopefully bring a championship here."
After nine years in San Diego – a lot of years in one environment, one building, one way of doing things – were you just ready for a change? (Joe Platania)
*(WEDDLE) *"Obviously, last year was a long season for myself, going through the ups and downs within the organization, and basically, I wasn't wanted there; and that was what had happened. And for me personally, it's a blessing in disguise. 'J.J.,' as [in] Jarret Johnson, we talked on the phone before deciding to come here, and he had a great quote [for] me: 'As good as I can bring to Baltimore, Baltimore can be even better for me.' In this stage in my career, the excitement, the blood that's flowing through me, it is hard to imagine how much I want to win for this organization, a team that wants me and knows what I can bring, not only on the field but off. To my teammates, to the city, I'm all-in in everything I do, and my family, as well. We can't wait to get here, get to work and win a bunch of games."
Coach, how much of a luxury is it for you now to ... You draft kids; you hope they're going to develop; you hope things are going to work. You hope guys are going to evolve, but to have someone with this pedigree now on that back end, I'm guessing you sleep a little more easy? (Jason La Canfora)
*(HARBAUGH) *"That's really a great observation, and we do develop guys; and we have young guys back there that we're excited about. And of course, we're moving a guy [Lardarius Webb] from corner to safety who we love as a player and a person, and all those things are in the works. You work on that as a coaching staff, but to have a player that is there, that has done so much over the last 10 years in the National Football League, who we've played against, [who] we understand what he brings to the table, who knows how to play the coverages already, who knows how to get a back end lined up … [Weddle] understands positing, understands disguise, understands pressures – all the things that we won't have to talk about from Day One that he brings here and can also help our young guys with that. I hate to say a coach on the field, because that probably ... The reason we coach is because we can't play. We have a player, though – a great player – that thinks like a coach and that understands the game that way. In the back end, that's really, really valuable."
Eric, when you were ... There was obviously a lot of interest when you became a free agent. What were the primary things you were looking for, and what sort of sealed the deal, that made you want to become a Raven? (Jeff Zrebiec)
*(WEDDLE) *"I've played in San Diego for nine years and gone against my new team a bunch of times, and I've always envied their success. I've always envied the way they play, the way they go about business. And for me personally, I'm a simple guy. I live and breathe football. It's my family away from my family, and I sacrifice a lot of time with my kids and my wife to give everything I can to my team. The things I felt Baltimore would give me is that – a team that gives everything for each other, a team that wants to win, wants to go back [to the playoffs], has the goal to win a Super Bowl every year. The culture, the business-like atmosphere, the working, the toughness, the defense – it's just football. You think of Baltimore, you think of football. You don't think of anything else – obviously the Orioles. *(laughter) *But this is what I want, and I've always wanted it. It's just an honor and a privilege that coach Harbaugh and the front office decided that they wanted me just as much. And when it comes down to it, coming from a place that didn't want me, to now coming to a place that would do anything to get it, it means the world, and I'm forever indebted to this organization of playing my best and doing whatever I can to help win."
Eric, there were reports that you chose the Ravens even though there were opportunities to make more money elsewhere. Is that true? (Jamison Hensley)
*(WEDDLE) *"Yes. Obviously, this is an unbelievable place and an unbelievable contract, and I'm grateful. But it's about being appreciated. It's about being wanted. Last year was hard. It was hard for me. For Baltimore to come, for Mr. DeCosta and the hard work he did and just the interactions with him, explaining what it's like to be here, what it's like to be a Raven … I slept, went to bed Sunday night, with a hard decision for my family. It's not easy to just wake up and say, 'Hey, we're going to move our family, our four kids, across the country for the next four years, I can only hope,' and be happy. And that's the right decision. Honestly, when I went to bed Sunday night and going through everything in my mind, I kept waking up in the middle of the night thinking Baltimore, thinking this is my fit, this is where I want to be, and they want me. I couldn't be [happier]. I know it's the right decision. I know it's going to be a special journey for us, and I can't wait to be a part of it. I really can't."
John, there are a lot of teams, that after a five-win season, say, "We're going to do everything we can to turn this thing around right away," but they don't do it. Clearly, the Ravens are, and what does that mean to you as the head coach to know that was going to happen? (Pete Gilbert)
*(HARBAUGH) *"It means a lot. It's what you come to expect from a Steve Bisciotti-run organization – and Ozzie Newsome and Eric [DeCosta] and the people here. But the other side of the coin is I feel like we try to do that every year. This year, we had the opportunity to do it because we had some cap room, and that was the result of some hard-won victories over the last two years, where we had to create that cap room in various different ways through good strategies and money management and things like that. I feel like our organization did a great job of setting us up this year so that we had an opportunity to sign players like Eric [Weddle]. Just to answer your question shortly, it makes me very happy. I feel like we have a chance to be a championship football team."
Can you talk a little bit about the recruiting that, probably, WR Steve Smith Sr., I would imagine, did? (Ryan Mink)
*(WEDDLE) *"Yes, 'Smitty' [Steve Smith Sr.] 'Smitty' and 'Doom' [Elvis Dumervil] and 'J.J.' [Jarret Johnson]. It wasn't so much them pitching to me or recruiting me, in a sense. It was just them being honest and upfront with me. They believe in this organization, and as a guy who strives to be like those guys … I don't have all the answers. I'm not the best. I'm striving to be even better, and those guys have done it longer than me, played at a higher level for longer than me. So, those guys are the guys I trust, and it was just them sharing me info, giving me advice, and they didn't have to preach at all. Just them being close friends and guys I that can trust and letting [me] know how much they love this play and how they work and the drive that they all have, it was honestly an easy sell to me on what I was looking for."
Eric, you were loved in San Diego for those nine years. How difficult was it to realize it was over, and was there a point where you just knew that you had to move on? (David Ginsburg)
*(WEDDLE) *"Yes. Nine years there was amazing. The people, the fans, the relationships you build there – I'll always have. You can only do so much for everyone, and in the end, you're not wanted. It was hard to deal with, to wake up every day, going to work at 4:30 in the morning knowing that the organization doesn't want you after this year. It was hard to deal with. You play through injuries. You play through all that stuff, and the only thing that got me through that season was my teammates. But, it made me stronger. It made me humble, and I think all those tough times brought me to this moment right now, to be a part of this amazing organization. I'm going to give everything I can to show them that they made the right decision."
You have a new look. Is that just your offseason non-beard sort of thing? (David Ginsburg)
*(WEDDLE) *"Yes. *(laughter) *You're like the eighth person who has said that to me, and I'm regretting it by the second, that I shaved it. It was a spur-of-the-moment [decision]. I was working out one morning, and I got done, and it was just everywhere. There was sweat and water and who knows – probably bugs in there. *(laughter) *I'm like, 'What am I doing? I look ridiculous right now.' So, I came home, and I told Chanel, I'm like, 'Babe, I'm cutting this thing.' She was like, 'No, you've got to wait! You've got to do something cool.' I'm like, 'I'm cutting it. Let's do this.' So, it was almost three years I had it. It was awesome. Luckily in the NFL, they don't care what you look like as long as you play good. *(laughter) *I might have to bring it back now. I'm getting too many people asking me. I need to bring it back, but I might get more kisses from my wife [if I don't], so that's always a plus."
I'm sure you did your research on personnel and the roster. What do you see around you in the secondary? How confident are you and optimistic are you with the other pieces that they have in the secondary? (Jeff Zrebiec)
*(WEDDLE) *"Obviously, I played with Shareece [Wright] for four years. I know what he's about. I know how to get him going, and it's exciting that he's going to be here three more years and the potential he has. [Jimmy] Smith [and Lardarius] Webb … I've known Webb way back when he first got in the league; we were down in Miami together a few years back, and we hit it off. So, I've known him over the years, and Will Hill [III] is a thumper, a good, talented player. I feel I can just come in and imprint what I am and what I'm all about, gain the respect of my teammates, my coaches, and everything else will kind of exude from there. But there's talent. There's [Elvis Dumervil]. There's [Terrell] Suggs coming back. You've got a beast in C.J. [Mosley]. So, there's talent there. There are pieces. I'm just another piece of the puzzle. I've got to know my role and do my job at a high level and get those guys playing at a higher level than they have. I know I can do that for them."
Will it be hard to think of fourth-and-29 [play from the 2012 Ravens-Chargers game] as a positive play now? (Pete Gilbert)
(WEDDLE) (laughter) *"Yes, we were just walking through the hallway and looking at all these great pictures of the game-defining plays, as coach [Harbaugh] talks about, and I see my [No.] 32 up there. I went, 'Oh man, that was a great play for you guys – not for me!' *(laughter) *Yes, I'm on that side now. It wasn't a good play for us back then, but shoot, if that play doesn't happen, if I make that tackle, there's not another Super Bowl here. So, it all happened for a reason, and I'm here for a reason. I can't wait to put on that black and purple. Black is my favorite color. My wife's favorite color is purple." *(Harbaugh: "Really? Wow!") "It's meant to be."
It has been said and written that the Ravens haven't had a safety with your pedigree since Ed Reed. Do you feel any sense of, I don't want to say pressure, but coming to a new team and the expectations? Also, you mentioned a couple times that the Chargers didn't want you. Not that you need motivation, but is that in your thinking to show a lot of people there's plenty left?* (Cliff Brown)*
*(WEDDLE) *"Yes. First, with Ed Reed, he's a legend. Ed Reed will always be the standard that, as players, we look up to and strive to be like. I'm not Ed Reed. I'm Eric Weddle, and you're going to get a great Eric Weddle that does a lot of amazing things on the football field. And there's no pressure; pressure is self-inflicted. I want to be great. I want to be the best. I want to help my team win, and this is a winning organization, so there's no added pressure. If we don't win, then it's a failure, and if we don't all think like that, then what's the point of being here? That's the way we think here, and coach [Harbaugh] can tell me if I'm right or wrong, but I believe that's what we're all about."
*(HARBAUGH) *"That's what we're all about."
*(WEDDLE) *"So, I'm just excited. You're going to get a guy that does a lot of things that can help in a lot of ways and is passionate and is hungry and [whose] blood is boiling for this opportunity to go fight for a team."
You have a lot of safeties on your team. There's talk about, "This guy is a free, and this guy is a strong." How much does that mean anymore, and how do you perceive the mix to be in getting those guys on the field? (Stan White)
(HARBAUGH) *"It's good to have competition. That's where it starts. I like having a lot of great players. Obviously, Eric [Weddle] and his role … We're excited about 'Webby' [Lardarius Webb]. You know all the other guys we have. There are very good football players, and everybody has their strengths. So, strong safety, free safety, it's not like it was back in the '70s, and it has evolved since then in a lot of ways. It has become more interchangeable. But, you put guys in position to play to their strengths. If you have a big, physical guy – and he's more of a thumper, as Eric said – you're talking about a guy that's going to play close to the line of scrimmage more often and blitz more often. If you're talking about a guy with range and ball skills and the ability to track deep balls, you're going to want those guys deep more – deep third and deep half a little more. So, you want to put guys in position to do things well. One of the plusses that we have with both Eric and Lardarius, who are two guys that you might call *free safeties in the way that it has been over the years, both these two guys can blitz. You can bring both these guys down, and they can blitz and bring it really effectively. So, it's going to be really hard for people to know exactly ... And it goes for all our guys. All of our guys can blitz and be in different positions to do what they do well, but you're not going to know who's down and who's deep. That can be a big benefit for a defense."
You talked about pretty memorable games against the Ravens, maybe not as much as WR Mike Wallace was talking about yesterday – Steelers and Ravens. But the Chargers and Ravens have played some memorable games. What did you see from the outside about this organization, and when you were talking to people about it, whether it was assistant general manager Eric DeCosta or players or head coach John Harbaugh, what did that confirm for you? (Jeff Zrebiec)
*(WEDDLE) *"Just the passion, the belief, the structure, the toughness. Going against Baltimore was always [a game where] you better get your mind right; you better get physically ready for a battle, for a fight for 60 minutes, because that's the way the AFC North is. That's the way football is played, and that's the way football is supposed to be played. The games always go down to the wire. We've had some memorable games, obviously the fourth-and-29 and the one down – was it the year or two before when Ray Lewis stopped the fourth-and-two or whatever, going in to win the game?"
*(HARBAUGH) *"I think of the one last year, when you guys threw the touchdown pass – two years ago – you threw the touchdown pass right at the end there in the corner. Crazy games."
*(WEDDLE) *"Yes, it was always a back-and-fourth battle, and I think our matchup from the past was always one game that you looked at on the schedule and was like, 'That's going to be a fun game.' Now, I'm on the other side, and I can't wait to feel the energy and the electricity against these AFC North teams, the rivalry games, and hopefully make a lot of plays to help win some games."