HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "Ok, good to see everybody. I have a couple things I'd like to talk about: First of all, we give our condolences, and prayers go out to, Rob Bironas' family – his wife and his extended family. In the kicking community, this is something that really shocked us yesterday. [Ravens kicking consultant] Randy Brown let me know about it; I talked to David Akers about it yesterday morning before the game. They were very close. So, [I offer] our condolences on that situation.
"Dennis Pitta, I have an update for you on that. He had surgery this afternoon. We do not have the results of the surgery, specifically yet. I just talked to Mark [Smith, Ravens head certified athletic trainer] now walking in, but we do know that he's going to be done for the season. So, he is out for the season.
"Just going into the game – a couple things that I've just jotted some notes down here: The first thing is the finish to the game. The game was won by … We have a t-shirt [that reads]: 'Finish Everything.' You guys have seen it. That's what won the game – the resolve of our guys to win finish the game, probably spearheaded by our defense in terms of the three-and-outs. I think we had three out of four three-and-outs at the end – two in a row in the fourth quarter. All three phases did special things in the fourth quarter to win the game, to overcome the deficit with great field position and put points on the board. Right up until the end, we operated the clock really well. I thought Joe [Flacco] did a really great job and had a great deal of poise to make the play to Steve [Smith Sr.]; he ran the ball to the left hash where we wanted it; we took a knee to run the clock down, and then with no timeouts we were able to kill the clock with 4 seconds so they wouldn't have a chance to return it at the end there. That's a little bit risky, because if you get a penalty in that situation, you're going to have a 10-second runoff. They did a great job of that, and it was really well executed by our offense. It was just a great job.
"Coaches – the in-game adjustments that our guys made … Players and coaches were really good. Coaches made some adjustments in all three phases, but especially on defense and on offense, and especially on defense to get the run game stopped. The coaches and players did a really good job. We have a lot of smart players, and for our coaches to be able to do that, it really won us the game in the fourth quarter.
"Then the last thing: Our determination to improve [was important]. The thing about the National Football League is that we all play each other and expose each other's weaknesses, football-wise. You're going to find out where you have problems real quick in the early part of the season in this league. We exposed some of theirs, and they exposed some of ours. Our determination to improve – our willingness to accept the fact that we have some weaknesses that we have to attack – is going to determine the year we have going forward. There are plenty of things that we can get better at, and our guys have to go to work on doing that. That's what we plan on doing starting tomorrow."
After not blocking a field goal since 2009, you've got two of them this year. Was there any fundamental change made in the way you've attacked that situation? (Joe Platania) "No, no – we've been trying to block field goals as long as they've been kicking field goals. But we did something this week that I thought was helpful. We just went to work on our edge rush. Our inside rush has been good – Chris Canty and some big guys have been getting a good push – but we went to work on our edge rush. I thought Jerry [Rosburg] did a good job. Asa [Jackson] and Jeromy [Miles] and Brynden [Trawick] rushing off the edge – we had pressure off the edge all day – it turned out to be a really key block, which was great."
**For TE Dennis [Pitta], specialists have said that this could be a career-threatening injury. Just your thoughts on that? *(Aaron Wilson) *"I don't know the ramifications of that long term. The specialists, as you've said, will probably give us some information on that. So, I really don't know. But, I'm going to be really hopeful for Dennis' return. I'm sure we'll learn about that in the coming weeks."
Did you have a chance to speak to [TE Dennis Pitta] at all, since or before or after [the surgery]? (Jerry Coleman) "No, just on the field while it was going on – briefly. I texted him, but I didn't hear anything back from him."
Looking at it, there wasn't any contact. Is it kind of befuddling, the fact that something like that would happen, or is that just a ramification of having the previous injury? (Jerry Coleman) "I don't know. For all of us who don't know anything about why those things can happen – I'm sure a hip expert could probably explain how that can happen – but [Dennis Pitta] caught the ball and he basically twisted back. You could see that just the one little pivot there, you could see all of a sudden he didn't have his right leg anymore and he stumbled to the ground. I don't know how that could happen."
John, you have TE Owen Daniels, TE Crockett Gillmore, FB Kyle Juszczyk … Do you feel like you have enough tight ends? How do you feel about those guys? (Aaron Wilson) "Those guys are going to be a huge part of it, because they are here. We do have really good players. The fact that we have Kyle [Juszczyk], who can swing in there and play different positions, is a big plus for us. Then, you're going to have to adjust your offense. We're going to play our good players. So, who goes on the field is going to depend on who our good players are and how our offensive coaches decide to attack. But, we're looking for another tight end. We were just working on that upstairs. We'll see if we can bolster that position."
Did you have any idea that RB Lorenzo Taliaferro could make that much impact" (Stan Charles) "Well yes, of course we did. We sure hoped he could. That's why we drafted him. To see 'Lo' get in there and play the way he did … You have to have depth at running back to compete in this league. That's been proven – proven all across the league. Even when you think you have a premier guy, you still need running backs. I love competition. I love the fact that those guys are battling each other as well as our opponents for yards."
*When Steve [Bisciotti] was out here, he talked about the organization being beaten down for its lack of integrity with the ESPN story. Did that bother you, and does it bother you, that people are questioning the Ravens' way? (Dave Ginsburg) *"When you're in football, you pretty much get used that. You pretty much get used to being under attack. When you do your best, people criticize you. That's the nature of what we're in. I don't think it's unusual in this arena, but you can't worry about it. You have to try to do what's right, do your best, and you attack the next day."
John, there was a play, and you've often said [if] the evidence is overwhelming, you should go for it on fourth-and-1, tried it again yesterday and got stopped. Can you take us through that specific play, what happened, and does it change your approach at all going forward? (Bo Smolka) "It's certainly dependent on the fact whether you think you can get it or not. If I don't think we're going to convert it, then it's a lot more likely that we're going to punt or kick a field goal depending on the situation. I felt very confident that we were going to get it there. What happened there, [the Browns] had a little movement up front, with the front they got penetration on us. They got penetration on the front side of the play, forced Lorenzo [Taliaferro] back, and they had a guy coming off the edge that made the play. So, we didn't even get back to the line of scrimmage on that one. Previous play, they stuffed us on a quarterback sneak, which we've been very successful at through the preseason, early part of the season. So, we have to look at that. It certainly influences me, but it influences me and our coaches and players a lot more to get better and to find ways to make those plays. Percentages are pretty overwhelming in those situations, but you still have to go by your gut, and my gut was, 'I think we can use a touchdown a lot more than we can use a field goal here the way the game is going, and I really think we can convert this.' [I give] credit to our players and our coaches that we didn't need a touchdown there. We ended up needing two field goals, I think it turned out to be, or was it three? I can't remember now. But our guys did a good job of overcoming it, and I'm proud of them for it."
Follow up on that play, if you can, when you look at it today, was there anything that QB Joe [Flacco] could have done at the line of scrimmage to change the play and do anything different with that, and does he have the authority to change the play at that time? (Steve Davis) "Sometimes we do. There are a lot of plays were [Joe Flacco] has the authority to change the play, take it in a different direction, or things like that. There was nothing he could have done in that situation to create a better play. We had to block it better. If we block it better, we get the first down. It's only a foot. We should be able to get that done. I know that our offensive line, fullback and everybody else will be the first one to tell you that."
**John, going back to a couple questions ago really quick, it's kind of the nature of the NFL, team-by-team, to be secretive for competitive reasons, and it's pretty routine to close ranks if a player is in trouble, your family, all that stuff. Is this a watershed moment where you're going to have to present differently, organizations are going to have to present themselves differently to look more transparent even? *(Peter Schmuck) *"I don't know. I haven't given that any thought. That's really not something I'm too involved with right now. It's a good question, fair question. We said a week or two ago [that] all of this … I don't know how equipped we are to handle things all the time, but the good things is, things come up, and we try to do our best to get better, whether it's football or life. And through all this, because there are a lot of good people involved at every level and on the outside, good things are going to come out of this. We're going to improve. Everybody is going to improve, and as a society, we have a lot we can improve on everywhere. So, if that's the motivation for all of us – inside, outside, media and sports – that's a good thing. So, let that be our motivation."
John, Steve [Bisciotti] described this as easily the greatest crisis he's had to deal with in this time in leading the Ravens. How do you feel he has been as a leader through this situation? (Childs Walker) "Steve [Bisciotti] is a phenomenal leader. He's a great friend. He's very highly-respected. I'd say he's loved in this building. I believe the fans love him, too, in my experience being out and about with him or hearing about what fans feel about him. In my opinion, he's a great man. I admire him. I look up to him. Like a kid brother, maybe, sometimes I want to get a pat on the back and please him and do a good job for him. So, I'm not surprised by the way he has stepped up through all this. He's very humble, and he's a good person, and he wants to do right. I didn't watch much of the press conference, in all honesty, but I'll bet you saw Steve Bisciotti, who he is, and what he stands for. And hopefully everybody out there gets to know him a little bit better through all this."
**Matt Elam expressed disappointment with his play yesterday, he said he was not happy at all. What do you think are some of the things that cropped up there? He talked about miscommunication between himself and the other defensive backs? *(Aaron Wilson) *"We all can get better. And without addressing any specific guys, because you know I don't do that, but I like it when guys feel like they can play better, and they feel like they need to play better, and they want to do well. That's all of our guys. So, we can all play better. We can all coach better."
Can you explain a little bit how difficult it is to balance your emotions as a person with the way you have to be as a coach? How do you deal with those emotions of what you might think is right versus what you end up doing? (Juliet Macur)"It's not hard. Without getting into any specifics, the balance is that you care about people. In football, you get close. We're really bonded. It's a very intense world we live in, and it's very competitive, and there are a lot of challenges. I personally think it's a microcosm of life. I think we face 16 life challenges in a six-month period, like one wave after another. It's a very emotional game, and then you have to bounce right back up and get ready to play another very emotional game, and these are guys that are very competitive. They're at the top of … They're world-class athletes going against each other in a very physical game, and that brings a lot of emotions and we get very close. We are a family. We have friendships for life through all this. I love our players and our coaches – always have. That's why you get into coaching. That's why you decide when you get done playing, 'I don't want to leave this. This is so good.' The game is great – but it's the relationships that make the difference. And then you balance that with that facts that determine the consequences when life situations come up. And you just have to try to be fair. You can't worry about what the outside world might think about something, because they're not inside. They don't know the bonds. And you just do your best."
It's more than Xs and Os now. How prepared were you to take on these social issues and life situations when you took the head coaching job? Did you expect this kind of stuff as a part of the total package? (Peter Schrager)"That's a great question. I think you expect … Probably in any job you don't know what to expect, but you expect the unexpected and you do your best, and hopefully you're prepared."**
John, does it feel like the team and the players have been under siege from the media because of the constant questions? (Jerry Coleman)"It really doesn't. Maybe it feels that way from the outside-in. I feel like our guys have just … I wouldn't use that term, I guess. I think it's part of the business. Our guys have done a good job. It's a family relationship, and we do our best."
John, the trick play the Browns ran yesterday with QB Johnny Manziel, were you aware that was an illegal play and why didn't the referees call it? (Stan Charles)"Thank you for bringing that up – I was waiting to comment on that. (laughter) *Thank you. I *thought it was an illegal play. I was yelling that it was an illegal play. I think I even went like 'this' [throwing flag] across the sideline to my friend Mike Pettine."
You interviewed Kyle Shanahan – you could have had that kind of thinking. (Stan Charles)"We have that kind of thinking. We have trick plays. But they're legal. *(laughter) *And I asked about that, why it wasn't called and the officials – Bill [Leavy] – came over and he was very gracious and he said because it was outside the box. It was outside the 32-yard line. So, they thought it was outside the 32-yard line – turned out that it was not – it was inside the 32-yard line, so therefore it was illegal. So, in my press conference afterwards, I was just like, 'I thought it was illegal, but I was wrong, it was legal.' Well, it turns out I was right. It was illegal! *(laughter) *That's just the way it goes."
John, [CBS analyst] Mike Carey said during the game that it wasn't legal because his shoulder pads weren't parallel to the line of scrimmage. Is that accurate that that would make it illegal anyway? (Steve Davis)"Mike would know that better than I would. I just know you can't be standing on the sidelines in a hideout-type of a play in the bench area. Now if it's down in the 10-yard line where the bench isn't, then the defense can see him. But when he's hiding in the bench area, they don't know if he's really on the field or not. Especially when he's a foot off the sidelines, so it's a deception play."
Speaking of Mike Carey, he said that they got it wrong on your [Joe Flacco goal line] challenge – that that was a touchdown. It certainly looked like it was a touchdown to all of us watching on television. Did that influence at all that you lost the ability to use a challenge later in the game on the TE Jordan Cameron play, where it looked like it might have been a fumble? (Steve Davis)"That's a really good question. It would have been a factor, but we knew that we couldn't win the Jordan Cameron challenge. We knew that was not going to be a catch [and] fumble – that was a clear incomplete pass to us, so there's no reason to challenge that. I know we would not have won that challenge right away. But yes, losing a timeout was an issue, and when you guys on your radio show later in the season bring up my record for challenges, I hope you will count that on the ledger of 'should-have-won the challenge.' *(laughter) *For the record, because we should have won that challenge, right?"
WR Jacoby Jones, he just looks like he's having a little bit of a rough time just bringing in some of these passes. What are you seeing from Jacoby in terms of fundamentals? Obviously, he's a proven player, so it just seems like it's something that's uncharacteristic for him. (Aaron Wilson)"It's a good question for Jacoby. I personally think he's just pressing a little too much. I think he's just trying too hard to make a play. He wants to make a play so much, instead of just letting his talent flow. Like that one [yesterday] – you run through that catch. Just run through it, make the catch. He started shortening his steps and extending his arms a little early, and then he inevitably pulls his arms back in. He's going to make those plays. I have confidence in him."
It's not just Jacoby though. There are a lot of receivers for some reason who aren't catching the pass. Is that something that when you see a trend like that, do you get guys on the JUGS machine a little bit more? Is there any adjustment you make, or you expect their confidence to come back at some point? (Jamison Hensley)"We do work on it. We challenge guys in practice, we have our DBs covering them, 'look-team' guys really challenge them. A contested catch is a tough one. I don't know if we had a lot of dropped passes yesterday – maybe you could count them up for me." (Reporter: "I'm talking about the season…") "We had the first game … The first game is where we had a bunch of drops. And since then we've improved quite a bit – really in the second half of the first game we improved quite a bit. But you're right – we expect those guys to make those plays and we have to chase that. And they know they have to make those plays."
Did you get a chance to see the Carolina Panthers play last night? (Bruce Cunningham)"I did." (Reporter: "What did you think?") "I watched them more on tape than on TV. What do I think of them? I think they looked a lot better the first two weeks than they did last night. They were probably pretty disappointed in how they played last night. They're physical. They want to run the ball [and] it'll be a big challenge for us. They're going to probably watch the tape and think they can run the ball a little bit on us; I expect to see toss-sweeps based on what they saw the Browns doing. So, we're going to have to get that defended. Cam [Newton] can throw the ball. He's a big, strong guy, plus he can run. We can't be rushing by Cam Newton; you have to keep him in front. Their defense is very salty, very talented, a bunch of high [draft] picks, great front seven. That's about as far as I've gotten right now, so yes, thanks. That's our challenge."
Does anything surprise you about offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and the job that he's done? (Stan Charles)"Just that he's even better than I thought. Gary is better than I thought. He's an excellent play-caller [and] I love the offense that he's built. I love the fact that he always [wants to] get a little bit better. He feels like we're just scratching the surface with what we can be, and I agree, and so do all the players."
At the end of the game, the Browns twice needed a first down to pretty much put that game away. Twice you forced them in three-and-outs when they had been very successful with drives. Is that a change in defensive strategy, guys stepping up? Because there was a conspicuous difference at the end of that game. (Gerry Sandusky)"Probably all of the above, but I think we did a great job adjusting. We called in a couple different defenses than we had been calling, and we got a different look over there to the tight end side than we had been getting. And our guys did a much better job of basically knocking their offensive line back into the backfield. And we controlled the edges better. So, stepping up – it was both. It was defensive adjustments, and it was guys stepping up."
You've seen how explosive Steve Smith Sr. can be, both verbally and on the field. As he gets ready to play his former team, you would have to imagine there are some feelings inside of him. Will you talk to him about controlling his poise? (Jerry Coleman)"Sure. My advice to Steve – Steve is probably watching this right now at home – my advice to Steve would be, 'Shock the world. Surprise everybody. Don't even say a word the whole game – go into a shell!' *(laughter) *But I don't think he's going to take that advice. I think he's going to be himself, and Steve knows how to control his emotions. He's going to be fired up, but he knows how to focus it the right way."
John, is there a greater feeling now after this game that you'll have three running backs and have even greater flexibility with what you can do with your backfield? (Aaron Wilson)"Yes, that's the plan. Three backs that can all play a role – absolutely. That helps us and it makes us stronger, you're right."
The AFC North – no one has lost a game outside the division yet. Characterize this division, and how good is the AFC North this year? (Peter Schrager)"I said it already: I told you what I thought, and I think that it's just going to continue to be proven. [It's a] very physical division, and every one of these games proves it. These games, they are really physical."
You've talked so much about how bonded your teams have been through the years. After the Ray Rice situation, will you now look at your players any differently? Will you take different interest in what's happening at home, outside of this building, with your players now? (Aditi Kinkhabwala)"If I did that, I'd probably be saying that I didn't take any interest before. No, it'll be the same. We'll care about them just as much and love them just as much, and we are … I'll say this: Personally, I'll be a lot more interested in that societal problem that I really know nothing about, and I've learned a lot about it in the last five, six months. I'll be way more sensitive to that – domestic violence. That's something that I read about it, and knew it was a problem, but didn't give it much thought. And that's all changed for me, personally."
John, S Matt Elam was on the short end of three plays yesterday: A couple long ones, the pass interference, the play where he forgot to touch the guy down. Now that you've looked at it on film, could you give us any insight on kind of what happened with him? (Steve Davis)"Just poor plays. Those are poor plays, not just by Matt, but by the whole group. As coaches, we take that personally. We feel like we didn't do a good enough job preparing guys and we have to do a better job – all of us – making sure we get better."
Did he somehow think it was college and he didn't have to touch the guy down? (Steve Davis)"I'm not sure. It's just one of those mistakes that you really can't explain. It can't happen again, and it won't."
You mentioned pushing the line back on those last few drives. NT Brandon Williams had as much success as we've seen so far. What did you see on tape? (Jon Meoli)"Brandon played, I don't know, almost 50 plays, because they were in the heavy run groupings, and he played his best game. That Alex Mack is a pretty good center, and Brandon more than held his own in there. So yes, he proved himself, but again, he's just scratching the surface. He's going to be a very good player." In Steve Bisciotti's press conference, he indicated that the ESPN story was based on sources close to Ray Rice and indicated that he thinks Ray's people are lying for Ray's advantage. Do you believe that? And also, how do you feel about allegedly being misrepresented in such a national publication? (George Lettis)"I don't really have any thoughts I'd want to share right now on that. I'm not really interested in going there right now."