JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "OK, good seeing everybody – really missed you guys. *(laughter) *It's great to see you. It is, actually, it's good. You guys happy to be back? Players were back today; coaches were back today. We had the coaches out Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday after we did our work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The players were out after they worked on Monday. It's good to have everybody back. We got a good workout in today. Guys are feeling reenergized, so it was a good, positive day. It's like coming back to school – everybody was happy and excited to be back. They were excited about the workout. The players took some time off. We got away and emotionally recharged a little bit, but also physically recharged. I'm not sure you realize … You don't realize how exhausted you are until you get a chance to take a deep breath and relax. The next thing you know, you're like, 'Wow, this has really been helpful.' So everybody gets a bye week. We had ours this week, and we hope to make the most of it going forward for the rest of the season."
**Obviously, the purpose of the bye week is to relax and recharge and get everybody reenergized, but the fact that this year the bye week was the latest you've had since you were here, did it feel more like a relief when you finally got your time off than maybe a standard October bye? *(Joe Platania) *"We had more weeks under our belt, so hopefully, maybe it did feel more needed at that point. Our guys did a good job of pushing through. I thought we played hard and well right through to the end – which is what we asked our guys to do – which is challenging when you have a bye this late, and they responded. They responded over the course of the week by taking care of themselves and doing the things they need to do to be professionals and not be concerned about the other things, but be concerned about getting themselves right for the stretch run. So, I was happy with that."
John, Titans TE Chase Coffman, it looked like it was an intentional act where he takes out your assistant coach, Tony Coaxum. They fined him $30,000 – did not suspend him. What was your take on the league's response, and what happened there with that incident? (Aaron Wilson)"It's really difficult to have a response to the level of punishment. I know the league, they have protocols, and they have standards and histories and things like that they look really hard at. We don't ever really question that part of it. That's in their purview. I was told it wasn't intentional, so I'll take them at their word on that, and we move forward."
John, you had Tennessee coming out of a bye, and that week you said they should be favored because they're the team coming out of the bye. Sometimes, though, coming out of a bye you're sort of flat – the Redskins yesterday for example. How do you prevent that, and how could you explain how a team could come out so flat after a bye? (Dave Ginsburg) "That's a good question. It's a challenge. I'm not sure of the dynamics in every different situation, but boy, we better not get into that situation. We're going to have a tough environment. We're playing on Monday Night Football. We're playing in New Orleans. They're coming off two loses. They're a very proud team, very well-coached, very talented – great quarterback, aggressive defense, one of the most aggressive defensive coaches in football and one of the most aggressive offensive coaches in football in Sean [Payton] and Rob [Ryan]. We're going to have our hands full, and we better be ready to go. I like to believe that our guys understand that, but we'll find out Monday night. I believe they do understand that."
What kind of challenges does QB Drew Brees pose for the defense? (Todd Karpovich) "[Drew Brees is] very unique as a quarterback. He's one of a kind. He's the classic West Coast operator. You think of the guys in that offense – Joe Montana-type guys that didn't have the size, but got the ball out quick, made the reads quickly, quick decisions. He's really uncanny in the pocket. He has an uncanny ability to keep a play alive in the pocket, or outside of the pocket and find someone to throw to, or just get rid of it. He takes very few sacks. He holds the ball, but he takes very few sacks. That's a gift. [He is] one of the all-time great statistic quarterbacks in the history of the game. [It is] going to be a big challenge for us."
John, does it help in the preparation process when a team you know so well is the team that [New Orleans] played most recently? Knowing that it was the Bengals, knowing that you know what they do, does that help in sort of preparation for the Saints? (Jeff Zrebiec) "That's a good question. There is probably some familiarity there. We know what we're looking at on the one side of the ball probably. It's good to compare a little bit, because you've seen that. That's one of the advantages of the cross-division games. We see a lot of those games against teams in our division when we play outside of our division."
John, maybe it's my imagination, but it seems this season there has been a wider range of performance. You see a situation like the Bengals where they have a game where they look just terrible, next game they look terrific, and a lot of teams with tough records putting up big, somewhat surprising performances. No. 1, do you see that, too? And if you do, does that make it harder to prepare week to week if there's this range of performance? (Peter Schmuck) "That's a great question. I tend to think that it has been that way pretty much every year, maybe we just kind of forget. I don't know. It would be really interesting to go back and look at that and see if it's different. I have a little bit of a theory on the big scores. In some ways, maybe the rules are swung a little bit toward the offense and made it more challenging. And the offensive skill players are so good that if you get a guy or two hurt on defense, you're really at a disadvantage. Maybe that leads to some of the scores, but some of these guys are just playing at a really high level as well. And then teams come back the very next week and win and win by a lot. It'd be a great study. It'd be interesting."
Quick follow up: Is there any possibility that the expanded Thursday schedule has an impact on momentum week to week in the NFL? (Peter Schmuck) "I don't know. I'm sure it's a possibility. I'm sure it's something that they'll probably look at. They study that stuff pretty hard, but I don't know."
John, when you have a bye, do you look at your team solely and then find out, "OK, now," internally what you do better, or do you really prepare for the teams that you're going to be facing? Is it more of a look ahead, or maybe an introspective type of thing? (Dave Ginsburg) "We did both. We looked at our opponents and just tried to study the challenges that we're going to be facing – most specifically New Orleans, but also who is ahead. But as much as that, or even maybe more than that, we looked at ourselves. We did crosschecks and things like that, all the things that we normally do in a bye week to try to understand how we've been calling games and how we've been trying to attack people, and what's been good and what hasn't been good, and what guys do well and what they don't do as well, and try to be our best down the stretch."
John, when [Ravens offensive coordinator] Gary Kubiak spoke to us the middle of last week, he was talking about the last three or four weeks how the offense hasn't played to a level that he thinks it is capable of. What areas would you really like to see get cleaned up, and what do you think is sort of the cause – I don't want to say struggles – but some of the numbers that aren't as good as it was earlier in the season? (Jeff Zrebiec) "The big-picture stuff – I do believe Gary hit on this – but the turnovers is where it starts. We were better at that this last week. You have to be aggressive and you have to make plays at the same time. You can't turn the ball over. You have to find a balance where the big plays out-shadow the turnovers by a wide margin. Third down has been important for us. You go back two weeks ago, if we convert on third down, we're a whole different offense up there in Pittsburgh, so that would've been big for us. And that's something over the last few weeks that has not always gone our way. Scoring touchdowns in the red zone, we've been up and down on that. When we do that, we're pretty effective. And making big plays. Big plays are an area that … We have a lot of playmakers. We have really good playmakers pretty much at every position, and those guys want to make as many plays as they can. That, oftentimes, is the difference."
John, did you get a chance to see what [Patriots RB] Jonas Gray did last night (199 yards, 4 TDs)? And when a player does that, whether it's here in Baltimore or they move on elsewhere, is that a selling point for your practice squad guys to continue to put in that effort every week? (Luke Jones) "Yes, that was great to see. Jonas, he was here [in 2013]. We became pretty tight, actually, because he's from Detroit, and his mom brought some food over when we played the Lions last year on Monday Night Football. She was great. Some Gold Star Chili … It might not have been Gold Star, but it was chili dogs from Greek Town. Cheese, onions, beans – the whole nine – so I'll always appreciate that. *(laughter) *But we were disappointed to lose Jonas last year when we lost him. We really thought he had a lot of upside. He felt like that was an opportunity that he wanted to pursue, and obviously, it's paid off for him. So, I wish him nothing but the best, but I was happy for him last night to see him do that. That was great to see."
Maryland-Michigan, who do you got? (Joe Platania) "Maryland-Michigan? (laughter) Woo! May the best team win. How's that?" (laughter)