Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, great to see everybody. I appreciate you all being here. We're getting ready to embark upon our first road trip of the season. It's always tough to play on the road in the National Football League, and it's even tougher when you have to play a team like the Texans. They're a divisional round team – a division champion – [and] a super talented team. [They have] one of the best quarterbacks in football [and] are very well coached. So, we're looking forward to it, but we understand the challenge that's in front of us, and we've been preparing for that this week. So, what do you have?"
We talked to OLB Matthew Judon on Wednesday, and he said he likes to find the best pizza place in town on a road trip and go out to eat before the game. He said he'll probably have to get it delivered this year. Is that going to be the protocol – try to keep the guys in the hotel and away from any potential damages? (Todd Karpovich) "Right. That's one of the NFL protocols. They can't go out and eat at a restaurant and sit down and eat there. Even if the restaurant is in the hotel, they can't sit down and eat in a restaurant. They can order; they can have it delivered. They can take a walk; like day of the game, go get a cup of coffee or something, but they have to bring it back, basically. That's part of the protocol, yes."
I know we've asked you a million times about K Justin Tucker, and you don't take him for granted and everything. Do you attribute the struggles of kickers around the league to the lack of preseason games or to this disjointed training camp? What else might you attribute it to? (Bo Smolka) "That's a great question. There are a lot of young kickers in the National Football League right now. You see a lot of guys who are trying to make their way, and that's tough, because a lot of the guys who have been in the league for a long time are still hanging around a little bit too. Being a proven kicker is a very valuable thing in this league, but at some point in time you have to transition to a younger guy, and teams are trying to do that. I think it's hard to kick field goals. It's just a big challenge; especially at the level of expectation that this last group … The standard they've set has been so high. I do think not having preseason games probably is tough – just to be in the setting, the environment and kind of get a feel for that. That's probably the biggest challenge so far."
Now in your 13th year as an NFL head coach, I'm just wondering your perspective on the guys who do your job while also serving as a general manager – head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien being one of them? (Mark Viviano) "Gosh, I don't really have a perspective on that. [Patriots head coach] Bill Belichick: I don't know if he serves as a general manager or not; they have a general manager. [Texans head coach and general manager] Bill O'Brien has the title. I think that there are people in positions in those types of organizations. [Chiefs head coach] Andy Reid has [Chiefs general manager] Brett Veach – does a great job. Who makes the final call in the draft or free agency? I guess there's some value in it. It's interesting, and different people do it differently, but I guess I can only speak to the way we've done it here all these years; it's a collaboration. I'm sure in Bill O'Brien's case, he's not doing the day-to-day work on the front office side; he's coaching the football team. So, that's the thing. I just think there's too much work for one guy to really do all the work. How they appropriate the decision making is different in each case, but in the end, it has to be a collaboration. People have to work together to be successful. And I do believe that that's something that [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] is a big proponent of and [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] was so great at and [executive vice president & general manger] Eric [DeCosta] is so great at, and that's why I appreciate the way we're set up here."
I went back towards the draft and was reading something about G/T Tyre Phillips, and executive vice president & general manager Eric DeCosta said you had recognized him very early in the process and thought he'd be a good fit for how you guys like to do things and possibly a guy who can move inside. What do you remember when you first saw him, and what did you see that made your belief so strong that he'd be that fit? (Jeff Zrebiec) "That's nice of [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] – throw a little credit out. I appreciate that. The biggest thing about Tyre [Phillips] was – and we all saw it; we had agreement about him as a player – first of all, his size [and] secondly, his athleticism. He can bend and move his feet; he has long arms and a really good punch. Then I talked to [former Mississippi State head coach and current Oregon OC/QB coach] Joe Moorhead, and Joe Moorhead had nothing but great things to say about his work ethic and his attention to detail. He said, 'He's a young player.' He told me the story about [Tyre Phillips] playing in the band and being plucked off the band to play for the high school football team. I said, 'Wow I've got to think his best football is still in front of him.' So, all those things went into play. Obviously, he's on track to being very successful, but he also knows that he has a lot of work to do."
On the other side of the field will be Houston Texans' defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Anthony Weaver – a former Ravens defensive lineman. I'm just wondering your thoughts on what you've seen from his defense? (Ryan Mink) "[It's a] very aggressive defense. Coach Weaver is putting together a mindset there that is an attacking-type style. On third down especially, they give you every kind of look [and] every kind of blitz. The coverages behind it are very, very aggressive; they have the players to do it too. He moves J.J. Watt around a lot, so you can see he's thinking about matchups all the time, and I wouldn't expect any less. [He's] a very well-respected coach in the league. He also believes in fundamentally sound defense and the guys being able to play fast. So, those are all things you'd expect from a former Raven, of course. And he's doing a great job."
Are you feeling good about T Ronnie Stanley for Sunday after he got back on the practice field? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, he was full participation today."
What do you think is the biggest challenge about facing the Houston Texans? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "There are a lot of challenges, but I would say the two biggest ones are the best players on each side of the ball. You start with Deshaun Watson on offense; the offense is built around him, and he drives it. And defensively, J.J. Watt; the defense is built around him, and he drives it. They have a great supporting cast on both sides, but it starts with those two guys on both sides of the ball."
OLB Tyus Bowser
How did it feel to start your 2020 season off with a sack against QB Baker Mayfield? Defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale said you had, maybe, your best game of your career. What does it mean to you to start your season off that way? (Ryan Mink) "That's exactly how I wanted to start it. That was one of my goals coming into this past week in Week One, just try to get to Baker [Mayfield], and I did. It was definitely a team effort trying to get there, and it just felt good, especially just getting the win. So, I'm just looking forward to this next week. [I'm] trying to make it happen again, just staying consistent and just trying to figure out any type of way to help this team win."
You made a really nice play in pass coverage, too. Obviously, as an outside linebacker, I'm sure you love to get sack numbers and stuff, but how much gratification do you take out of being able to make a play like that in coverage and do other things that don't involve getting the quarterback? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I've been working hard at it. [During] this whole quarantine break, just being with my guys, [trainers] Justin Allen [and] Leo Johnson, just those guys working on feet [and] quickness. Then also, a couple other guys from my hometown, [Philadelphia Eagles WR] Greg Ward [and] [former Los Angeles Chargers WR] Justice Liggins, trying to hold them one-on-one and trying to get them working on their routes for the season. And just working on me, just trying to cover. It definitely worked out for me. I just tried to make a play and I did, just to get us the third down. [I'm] just working on it hard each and every day, just trying to be the best player both in the pass rush and also in coverage."
There's kind of been a trend of Ravens pass rushers who have a really good season in their fourth year [and] end up getting big contracts. I know you're focused on the team and this year, but is there something personally driving you to get that second contract? Would that be a meaningful thing for you to do? (Aaron Kasinitz) "[For] me, personally, it's just trying to be better than I was the last day. Of course, like you said, just having other guys come in during their contract year, make big plays and get paid ... It's going to work out. I pray about it all the time. I know God is going to work something out for me. All I can do is just control now, and that's just taking advantage of each and every day in practice [and] each and every time I'm on the field during the game just to make the best of the plays that I have. I'm going to go out there and work hard each and every play, and if a play happens, it happens. [I'm] just going to continue to work and get better."
Last year, you shared with me that you got a motivational call from your dad who told you, 'You're as good as anybody in the NFL.' Is he a regular source of that sort of input for you in your growth? (Mark Viviano) "Yes, absolutely. I talk to him all the time, whenever I can really. I've been so busy with practice and meetings and stuff. He likes to check on me just to make sure that I'm good. [He'll ask,] 'How's practice and everything going?' He'll just give me a couple motivational word, 'Continue to just build on what you've done. You've worked so hard to get to this point. God doesn't make mistakes.' I just take advantage of that time, this moment, and just try to do the best that I can to be the best player that I can be."
Along those lines, you're one of a number of Ravens who have ties to Texas. There are going to be limits about … You might not be able to see your family, I guess. Is that disappointing to them? (Mark Viviano) "It's very disappointing. When the schedule first came out, just seeing at first that we were going to be in Dallas for the preseason game and then having a game in Houston, finally, [but] COVID-19 struck and said, 'We're just going to cancel all of those plans.' So, it's unfortunate. All of my family was buying tickets, telling me that they were going to make it to the game. They continue to ask me, 'Are they going to have fans? When are they going to have fans?' And I'm like, 'Not this game.' So, it's hard. It's hard to know that I won't be able to have my family there, but I'm definitely going to go out there and rep for them."
Defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale said he thought, perhaps, this was the best game you've played as a Raven this past week. Do you leave the field with that sense on Sunday? You've had sacks in other games, but in your mind, what kind of other things occurred that led him to conclude that was one of your best games ever as a Raven? (Bo Smolka) "Just what I've been doing in practice; just taking advantage of each and every snap, just honing in on my craft and technique, and just going out there and playing my game that he knows that I can play. I just went out there and played, and just did me. Plays worked out; I was able to go out there and play free, not thinking too much and just going out there and reacting. What he said, I definitely appreciate it. Each and every time, I'm always working on something that I struggled with during that game and just learning from that and continuing to be consistent each and every game to be the best player that I can be. I greatly appreciate it."
I know you guys are focused on Houston and QB Deshaun Watson this week. But just looking at your Instagram story, I guess I didn't know that you and QB Patrick Mahomes both grew up in Smith County, Texas and you played basketball together. What do remember from those days? Was it just basketball, or did you guys compete in football as well? (Jonas Shaffer) "Oh, yes. Not just only basketball, but definitely on the football field. Just consistent battles, just going at each other all the time. He's definitely a good basketball player. He's showed all his videos and all of that stuff, but he was actually a pretty solid player on the basketball court. It was his birthday, so I was just saying, 'Happy birthday.' I found that picture and I was like, 'Let me just throw it back to Thursday and just show how [far] we've come and what we've done to get to this point now.' So, it was just a little joke or whatever."
How much has defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale stressed this week, and how much do you look at pressuring QB Deshaun Watson as a huge part of Sunday's game? (Ryan Mink) "It's definitely going to be important. He's a great player. He was a Pro-Bowler last year, so that tells you there what type of a player he is. He's a playmaker; he's going to find ways to get to his receivers. The run game is going to get going, and we've got to find ways to stop him. It's going to definitely be a collective effort as a team, and we just have to find ways to get to him."