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Transcripts: John Harbaugh Monday Press Conference

JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE: WEEK 8 at carolina

Opening statement: “OK, good to see everybody – really appreciate you guys being here. We’re hard at work. Coaches have gotten the film graded, we’ve had our staff meeting, and we understand where we’re at, and we’re looking forward to getting the players in tomorrow. A lot of the players have been in today working on themselves, as far as rehab and weightlifting and things like that. Many guys have seen the tape, but we’ll present the game to the players tomorrow and move on from that quickly and get right into Carolina. That’s our process, and we’re hard at work with that. With that, what questions do you have?”

I know a lot of people were still talking about the kick [missed PAT from K Justin Tucker]. By watching it on film, could you tell, was it really wind-affected? Or, what do you see as the problem why it didn’t [succeed]? (Jamison Hensley) “No, we talked about that with [specialists coach] Randy Brown last night and with [Justin] Tucker last night. I think I was asked the question, ‘Did you talk about the kick?’ And then it came out: ‘Did you talk to Tucker?’ Just to clarify, I talked to ‘Tuck’ in the locker room after the game, talked about the kick with him last night. There are a lot of things that go into it. There are a lot of technical parts of it that go into it. The wind was definitely a part of it, but it’s a missed kick. You can talk to Tucker about it if you want. You’re not going to understand what he’s talking about anyway. (laughter) At the end of the day, it’s a missed kick, and we have all the confidence in the world in ‘Tuck.’ We love him. He’s going to go to work hard. He’s going to come back. His confidence is not going to be shook at all. I don’t know of anybody that bats 1.000 in their career. Show me that person. I know of one person who batted 1.000 in their career in their life. So, we understand that, and we move forward.”

Would it be practical for K Justin Tucker to, during the week, to go down there and kick at the stadium? (Todd Karpovich) “They’ve done that before. They’ve done that plenty. If we’re going to start questioning ‘Tuck,’, the best kicker in football, with his process and his work ethic, I guarantee you, nobody works harder at it than those guys work at it. If anybody is concerned about that, they shouldn’t be.”

I think you were asked about it yesterday, but after looking at the tape, any other, stronger, different considerations at the end … Some of the geniuses out there thought that you should have gone for two instead of knowing that K Justin Tucker was going to miss that extra point, which has never happened before. What do the numbers say about that? (Jerry Coleman) “The numbers say to put it into overtime. That’s what the analytics say, and it’s a clear choice. That’s something we talk about before the game. We have a Saturday morning meeting where we go through all those factors, and we had decided that we would put it into overtime if it came to that. But, I had thoughts about going for two. I was asked that, and I thought about it. Your gut sometimes talks to you, and you make the decision at the end based on that, but, in the end, I decided to go with what we talked about doing, so that’s what we did.”

P Sam Koch mentioned after the game that some of the stadium renovations have resulted in different wind patterns. Is that something you guys have discussed as a staff, or is that something that is accurate in your mind? (Jeff Zrebiec) “Of course. It’s different, but nobody knows it better than our guys know it, and they’ve been kicking down there. But, the wind was … What was it gusting up to yesterday?” (Reporter: “Fifteen or 16 [miles per hour].”) “It was at least that high. It’s hard to replicate that every day of the week, go down there and practice when you get 15-mile-an-hour winds down there. They were down there pregame. Both kickers got a lot of kicks in pregame. That was the tough end, and the kick was missed.”

Can you tell us a little bit about what happened with the timing of G/T James Hurst’s injury, and whether you guys considered bringing up another lineman from the practice squad? (Childs Walker) “No, I don’t think there’s any reason to do that, to talk about it. It is what it is. It was late during the week. It wasn’t anything that was new. It wasn’t like he got hurt in practice. It was just a lingering thing that got worse instead of getting better. That happens.” (Reporter: “Did you guys consider bringing up another player, though?”)“We didn’t have time to. But, what would have been the benefit of that?” (Reporter: “More depth?”) “Just looking at the numbers, what would have been the benefit of that? And who would we have cut to do that? How would it have helped us in the game? Even in hindsight, it’s kind of a … It’s not a smart question. It wouldn’t have been a consideration, because we didn’t need the extra guy in the game. If we would have needed the extra guy in the game, if we would have been stuck with four linemen, then it would have been a valid question. Sometimes you take a little bit of a risk, but you would have had to release somebody on your team that you probably would have lost off your roster. So, I think we did the right thing either way.”

Are the injuries with G/T James Hurst, with CB Marlon Humphrey, the normal course of things that happen during practice? (Jerry Coleman) “No, they were … Marlon was in practice. James was in a game.”

Back into the injuries, the O-line played without G/T Alex Lewis as well. Were you happy with the way the offense performed overall? (David Ginsburg) “Absolutely. Absolutely. Thanks for the relevant question – appreciate that. Those guys played very well. Did they play as well as the senior would have played? I don’t know, but they, for a couple of freshmen that were going in there, I thought they acquitted themselves very well. And ‘Boze’ [Bradley Bozeman] even played through a little calf deal he had and gutted it out, so he showed a lot of courage there, too. I thought Orlando [Brown Jr.] played solid football. Both of them can be better. Both of them will learn from it. I think they’ll both get a lot better because of the game experience they had, the speed of the game and all of that, so it was a positive in that sense. Our offensive line was not a negative at all in the game. They played well.”

Two of your losses, your last two losses, total by four points. When in close games, in your time you’ve had, does it come down to ... Is it execution? Is it some luck? What does it take to win close games? (Jamison Hensley) “Both of those things. You have to make a closing play somewhere along the way.”

CB Jimmy Smith kind of shouldered some blame after the game. How do you evaluate his performance? (Aaron Kasinitz) “I thought a lot of guys … That’s one thing I love about our team: the character of our team. The kind of guys we have, it gives me a lot of optimism and excitement for the future, because I just think we have guys that take responsibility. Every one of us, including myself, and every coach and every player, the first thing that we do – all of our guys do – is they look at themselves and say, ‘What can I do better?’ So yes, Jimmy could have done plenty of things better; that’s the guy you asked me about. And if you could put any other name in there, they would have said the same thing, and they could have played better. But, I thought as a team, I thought our players played well, I thought our coaches coached well, just not well enough to win this game at this time on that day. So, we’ll fight to win the next one.”

When you have two challenges early in the game like you did, you won the first one, the second I understand, because it’s a potential turnover, how tough is that, though, as a coach, to make that decision, knowing that if that second one doesn’t go your way, that you’re going to play 50 minutes or whatever it was the rest of the way without having a challenge? (Luke Jones) “Yes, first of all, we’ve talked about that rule. The rule should be changed. You shouldn’t have to win both challenges to get another challenge back. That’s been talked about, and that’s been just dismissed by the powers that be, who knows why. Maybe they can explain it to you in some way that would make sense. But the other thing is, we never challenge it unless we think we’re going to win it clearly. When we looked at the replay, both points of the ball were moving. It wasn’t like one point was moving. It doesn’t have to be the ball just moving to lose control, but when both points of the ball are moving, that’s loss of control. So, we still feel strongly that we were right in challenging that, and that would have given us another challenge back.”

Do you think, looking back, you would have challenged the QB Drew Brees extension on fourth down as well, had you had another challenge? (Ryan Mink) “Absolutely. You have to at least get close to the line of scrimmage. It’s not like you put the ball across the plane of a goal line. You can’t put the ball across the plane of the first-down marker – it’s got to be forward progress. Absolutely would’ve challenged that. The other thing: You’d like for them to get it right the first time – that would be the ideal thing.”

How do you think the defense played against one of the best quarterbacks in the league? (David Ginsburg) “I thought they played well. We’re going to look at it both ways. Our guys played hard, they played well. We’re playing really well. Give the Saints credit – we do that. We recognize how well they play. That was a really well-played game across the board. It was played at a very high level. It was played at a high-level chess game, it was played at a high-level effort and a high level of execution. Anybody that watched that game should be [satisfied]. If you’re a football fan, you should feel good about watching that game. You should feel like, ‘You know what? I watched a heck of a football game.’ [It was] two good teams playing at a really high level, and they won the game. As we said last night, we tip our hat to them. They won the game. We would’ve like to have been that team that did that. But our guys played very well, and we’ll chase perfection. We can play better. All the little things that we learned from that game, all the details that we learned from that, that we can take to the next game, is what we are aiming to do – to take those things to the next game and improve. That’s what you have to do. The next game won’t be the same game, but many of the things we learned in this last game that we can apply to the rest of the season, we’re going to try to do that and make the game a positive in that sense. We become better coming out of the game going forward.”

A couple of the defensive players after the game said that they gave up too many rushing yards in the second half. What did you see? (Ed Lee) “I would agree with our guys on that. We don’t ever want to give up any rushing yards at all. They had a really good scheme in a sense that they were going to put Taysom Hill out there and run all the read-option stuff. It was really creative. They played him at every position. He played quarterback, running back, tight end, wide receiver – he played every position. So, you have to mark him in all those spots, and they bled some yards on us that way. It wasn’t like they were running the ball up and down the field. How many did they have?” (Reporter: “134.”) “OK. So, it was a good game. It was a good running game for them – but it wasn’t like they gashed us. I thought they did a really good job and something they needed to do [that] they felt [was best] against our defense. I’m sure every team we play will feel that way. If they can get the running game going a little bit, that kind of keeps the pressure at bay. That’s what you always want to do. A good offensive coach is always going to think that way.”

When you look at the Panthers, do they do a lot of stuff to deliberately take advantage of QB Cam Newton’s ability? Or is a lot of what he does with his mobility more improvised? (Childs Walker) “Let me get back to you on that. We can talk about that more on Wednesday, probably. I’d have a better chance to look at them.”

Another big game for WR John Brown. Was he one of the guys, that when you have your Florida [offseason] summit, that popped up early on your radar that you wanted to grab when free agency hit? (Jamison Hensley) “I don’t really remember that coming up in that particular meeting. But he was a guy that in the process of free agency was always on the radar. Yes.”

How important is it to get TE Hayden Hurst involved? He had that one contested play that got smacked out of his hand, but how big of a priority is it to get him involved moving forward? (Jeff Zrebiec) “It’s important to get Hayden involved going forward. He’s a first-round pick, talented guy. He’s practicing really well. He’s a rookie – that’s the other side of it – and he missed a significant portion. We just have to keep bringing him along. I think the reps in practice, the reps in the game – kind of what we talked about with Orlando [Brown Jr.] – will be really beneficial for him. I expect him to play well. He’s very determined. I would agree – it’s important for us to have him rolling in our offense.”

What’s the biggest factor of determining how many times you use QB Lamar Jackson in games? (Jamison Hensley) “To me, the main things you think about … You start with the gameplan. You see if there’s a place in the gameplan for those plays. There’s always going to be a place for him – but to what degree? That kind of determines how many plays are in, and how much you want to invest repping those plays in practice, because those plays take time to practice. Then of course, [in] the game, Marty [Mornhinweg] has to make the decision about how much he wants to call, when it comes up and whether the situation comes up to make it the best. It’s really nothing written in stone. I think it’s just like anything else – it’s more art than science. I think as much as possible, within reason, if that makes sense – because we have a quarterback who’s playing at a high level … Joe [Flacco] is playing at a very high level. I don’t want to lose sight of that. We try to do the best we can to put both of those guys in there in ways that help us score points and move the ball and things like that.”

You guys had some success with the wide receiver sweeps carrying the ball. What worked for you guys on those plays? (Aaron Kasinitz) “The thing about the wide receiver jet sweeps you’re talking about are timing and controlling the edge. The only thing that really stops them in their tracks is [if] you have an edge player that runs up the field and stands right in front of him, and he’s coming across there. You set him up with different blocking schemes and different actions in the backfield. They have a lot of responsibilities at defensive end and outside linebacker, in terms of stopping different plays, that don’t entail running up the field. So most of the times it’s kind of a surprise tactic. If they know it’s coming, they’re going to stop it. But you also use that to camouflage other plays, so you run the jet-sweep-fake and you run other plays. If they want to run upfield, that creates cutback lanes and things like that. That’s all part of … It’s just a play. It’s just another play that creates misdirection for the defense. The other part that’s important is blocking the perimeter. There’s somebody out there that’s in a support position that you have to block. A lot of times those guys will go chase the play down. Nick Boyle has been out there once or twice, Maxx [Williams] has been out there quite a bit, Willie [Snead IV] has been out there a few times, and Chris [Moore] has been out there a few times blocking the perimeter. They’ve done a pretty good job of that.”

When you talk about QB Lamar Jackson, do you also have to think about the long-term development picture with him? Or can that not be as much as a factor during the season when you’re game-planning? (Childs Walker)“I think it’s that. I don’t think it’s as much of a factor right now. He does extra work during the week with James [Urban, quarterbacks coach], from the long-term development part of it. But really now, we’re just getting ready to try to win games.”

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