JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement:"OK, good to see everybody – appreciate you guys being here. Just as far as the injury update – so you guys can get some of that injury stuff – Danny Gorrer, [it was] confirmed that he has an MCL and a PCL tear. So, he'll get surgery. He'll be out for the season. Torrey [Smith] does not have any torn things in his knee. He has a sprain, so we'll just have to monitor that day to day and see if he makes it to the game. He made it to the last game. He didn't damage it any further, but he just wasn't able to be 100 percent. But, we all appreciate him gutting it out and giving us what he had. He showed a lot of toughness there in that situation. We had an MRI on Crockett [Gillmore]; there's no damage in his back. It's just muscular, which is really good news for us. We'll try to work him back in, and hopefully he'll be there for us to practice this week and/or play in the game. He'll play in the game if he's ready to go. Anybody else? I don't think there is anybody else to speak of." *(Reporter: "[Anthony] Levine?") *"Levine is in the concussion protocol, so we'll see how he does this week and keep our fingers crossed. But that's unpredictable, as you know. The biggest thing about the game – [I] just made a note here – our dominant players get a lot of credit and rightfully so. And they deserve it. It is worth noting that they really stepped up in this game. You start with our quarterback Joe [Flacco]. Steve [Smith Sr.] on the offensive side. The offensive lines – Marshal [Yanda]. And other guys played very well also – Justin Forsett. On defense, Terrell Suggs [was] just a dominant force [with the] pass rush and run. Elvis Dumervil, [was a] dominant force out there on the field. Daryl Smith was a dominant force on the field at linebacker. And the next tier of guys that played exceptionally well and really stepped up. The leadership from Chris Canty and the way he played really needs to be mentioned. Then guys stepping in for injuries, or guys stepping up and playing at another level on the defensive line and secondary. It was really great to see across the board. Owen Daniels … I'm going to miss somebody, but Owen Daniels had huge plays for us out there on the crossing routes and blocking. He blocked extremely well in the run game. [I am] just proud of all of our guys [and] the way they ramped it up in a December football game [and] played the kind of football you have to play in December to be a factor in the race and to have a chance to make the playoffs."
**Playing off what you just said [about] the way guys continue to step up – considering a lot of the off-field injuries, suspensions, you are 8-5 and still in it. Is the way this season is going, does it surprise even you? I know you try not to be surprised by anything, but does it surprise even you the way things have gone? *(Joe Platania) *"I'm just happy with the way our guys are responding to everything. Our assistant coaches have done a tremendous job. I look at our guys and the way they've been developing guys. The hard work that you put in every single day, whether it's extra meetings you have with guys at night or what you do in the offseason with guys or in training camp in developing guys who nobody really knows about, knows who they are, [is very beneficial]. I saw an article, an article somewhere came across where a guy said, 'A human being named Phillip Supernaw caught a pass.' I just had to chuckle. Philip Supernaw is a football player! He has been in our program for a long time, and there's nobody that works harder or has greater enthusiasm for what he does, and he's a darn good player. And our coaches have been doing a great job working with him. Brian Pariani works with the tight ends and does a great job. So, that's really rewarding as a coach to see your guys do that."
In terms of players stepping up, one person who played the most he has all season is DT Timmy Jernigan stepping in on the D-line. How did he do in that increased action this week? (Garrett Downing)"Timmy Jernigan played really well. He was really explosive and really powerful. He really dented the interior of their offensive line, as did Brandon Williams and all the guys in there – Chris Canty, as I said. He really was a factor in there and a force in there with more reps, yes."
How did Asa [Jackson] do his first game back? He played a lot of snaps. (Aaron Wilson) "He played a lot of snaps, and for the first game back, you'd have to say you're very pleased with how he played. He was good and solid. He'd get a little over-reactive sometimes. He jumped a few things and got a little over anxious – he'd be the first to tell you that – but that's a good thing, because he was moving around so well. He'll slow himself down a little bit this next game, but he played well. Asa did a good job."
John, was there an issue with the communication? I've never seen QB Joe Flacco go to the sideline this much. Was there some sort of malfunction there? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Yes, we always have trouble at Miami for some reason. We always have trouble down there with interference from radio stations and whatever is going on down there. Hopefully that will get fixed someday, but it's been going on for years there. It must not be something that can be dealt with. But he was crackling the whole time, [offensive coordinator] Gary [Kubiak] was, and we couldn't get our plays in and we couldn't hear from the press box. Finally, we got Gary on a wire in the second half, which made his communication better, but it was really no better back to Joe. So, we were old-schooling it. We were running plays out there and shuttling plays with players back and forth. It was challenging."
A lot of people are talking about the guts you showed in going for it on fourth-and-1 yesterday. That's nothing new for you; you've done that in the past. Did you feel like that was a momentum changer in the game yesterday? (Jerry Coleman)"It just seemed like it was really important to stay on the field right there. We had an opportunity, and it was a yard or less. That was an opportunity to get a first down and stay on the field. And it was hot and it was one of those games that was a little bit of a war of attrition there at that point in time, and I just believe in our guys. The credit goes to the players. Marshal Yanda – I just watched the tape – Marshal Yanda, man, he came off the ball. So did Jeremy [Zuttah], so did 'K.O.' [Kelechi Osemele], and Eugene [Monroe] knocked it out of the ballpark, as I said last night, Rick [Wagner] and then Joe [Flacco] got nice and low and got it. So, when you have confidence that your players will get the job done, it's easy to make those decisions."
QB Joe Flacco has had so much success with the quarterback sneak. Is it just because of his size, his length that makes it? Or is there something else that when you watch film that makes him good at converting that? (Jamison Hensley)"Joe is a big, strong guy, and he is tough and he is courageous and he is willing to slam it in there. Joe does not fear. He's not shy for his physical well-being, and that's always been part of Joe. And he trusts those guys in front of him – he just gets behind them and they try to move. There are times when you've got to be smart; there are times when people load up against you for a quarterback sneak, but they had other things to defend there, so they weren't loaded up against the sneak. They knew they had to defend Justin [Forsett]; they had to defend the whole line. So, Joe has been pretty smart about when he runs it and when he doesn't."
WR Kamar Aiken, he seems to have a knack for getting open. Just what about him, as a receiver, [has helped him] develop to the point where now he's making plays? (Clifton Brown) "He's worked really hard. That's the main thing. But he also has strong hands. Kamar is a strong catcher. He's willing to put his body between a ball and a defender – he has the body to do it – and he has really good body control, and he has catch radius; he made some catches all around the radius [on Sunday]. His biggest trait is he's really a strong-handed catcher."
**As far as cornerback, with the couple of injuries that you're dealing with, does it mean increased snaps for CB Rashaan Melvin? Would you maybe have to add somebody, as far as corner? Just basically, what could be the next step here? *(Jamison Hensley) *"It definitely increases snaps for Rashaan Melvin. That's why he's here, that's why we picked him up. And he's had a couple weeks of practice with us now, and he's done a good job. So, I'm excited about him. You feel for Danny [Gorrer], and that gives me an opportunity to comment on Danny: Danny came in here and just did a heck of a job, and your heart goes out to him. He's playing better and better every week. He's playing as a starter and he played really well. He's played well from the beginning, and he was only getting better. I just could see the disappointment on his face getting on the plane and in the locker room after the game and just how crushed he was, because this was a great opportunity for him. But it's not one of those knee injuries where it's going to be … It's going to be tough to get back from, but he can come back stronger than ever. And he'll be in our program doing that, so he's going to come back strong, and he has a really bright future. But here's an opportunity for Rashaan. I'm sure he's ready to take the bull by the horns, and he's excited for it."
John, when you had that stretch early in the season with Ray Rice, and then things have kept happening, did you have to talk to the players, or did you just realize early that this is a resilient group that you're working with that can overcome injuries, distractions, the loss to San Diego – things like that? (Dave Ginsburg) "Yes, that's it – the second part. That's the answer. That's it. We have a resilient bunch. They're mentally tough; they don't get caught up in the noise; they don't get easily distracted. We say, 'Turn neither to the left nor to the right – eyes straight ahead.' We have a bunch of very mature men and some young guys that are heading in the right direction because of the mature guys around them that are leading them and showing them the way. So, the second part that you mentioned, to me, that's it. That's the key."
So, you've not had to give locker room speeches or any inspirational…? (Dave Ginsburg) "You always communicate with your team. There are always conversations going on to the team right here in this very room or in one-on-one or group settings. Throughout the course of the day, those conversations take place. But we have the right guys to deal with things like that. It's not even a focus for us. It's just all of our focus is on Jacksonville, on our next game, our next challenge and being the best football team we can be. We've had our share of disappointment, and those experiences hopefully have lent themselves to us learning from them and becoming better and using them to make ourselves better, as opposed to allowing them to bring us down."
John, in terms of penalties, [they were] way down from last week, but [there was] still some pre-snap stuff. Is there a common thread to it all, or is it just crowd noise or maybe guys getting eager about the snap to try to get a jump? (Aaron Wilson) "[Guys were] too eager to get off the snap. There were some things going on in the offensive line that always go on that we have to deal with. We can't be lured offsides by anything. You have to understand what your opponent is trying to do. That's a chess game out there, and there's nothing wrong with that. We just have to … There is cadence and there are hard counts and there are all those things that are good stuff that teams use, and our defense cannot be jumping offsides. We figured it out, but it really contributed to their first couple drives – big time. And then the other area, special teams, it's just … We work way too hard on technique and fundamentals to be having fouls on special teams. I've seen the same guy throw a guy to the ground in a vice now two weeks in a row. He's not going to be out there. He's not. So, that's just the way it's going to be. We cannot afford that. You don't block a guy in the back. You're more disciplined than that as a football player. It's too important to our football team to do something like that that we all know better than and we work too hard not to do."
Hey Coach, regarding TE Dennis Pitta, we have a guy on our show, Steve Davis, who had mentioned a few weeks back that he had heard that Dennis' career might be over because this was his second hip injury and second hip surgery. Is there anything you can tell us about Dennis' future, and what's the update with him and his status? (Jerry Coleman) "I've asked a lot of questions about that of the doctors, our trainers and Dennis, and everything I've been told … And I have to be honest with you, it was surprising to me, because my assumption would be like, 'Wow, this is twice in a row. It's going to be tough.' But they say it has no bearing on the future. It heals 100 percent. Dennis can play again. Dennis has told me he wants to play again, and of course, if he wants to play, he'll get every opportunity to play if the medical people clear him. And I've been told, to this point, that they see no reason why he wouldn't be cleared if everything goes according to plan. So, that's all I know about it. I don't have a degree in hip mechanics or whatever; maybe your colleague that you're referring to does." (Reporter: "I don't know.") (laughter) (Reporter: "I'll have to check.") *"There are a lot of things that get said that the 'expertise' might be in question." *(laughter)
How about ILB C.J. Mosley's game on Sunday? Was this another one of his better games where he kind of [has] an all-around kind of game where he rushes the passer? (Aaron Wilson) "C.J. [Mosley] played well. C.J. played really well, and he got better as the game went on. All of our guys had to get a feel for their offense early on, and once he got a knack for what they were doing, he really made a lot of plays – very productive. Both he and Daryl [Smith] were very productive inside."
John, you have a three-game sprint going on here to see if you're going to keep playing. Do you kind of like where you are right now? (Bruce Cunningham) "Absolutely. We could sit there and say, 'Hey, we wish we'd be another game or two better,' and we could say, 'We're happy we're not another game or two worse," because everything in the NFL seems like it comes down to the wire, and it's a play here or a play there. But we're pleased with the fact we're in the hunt, that we control our own destiny. You can ask for more, but boy, it's a great accomplishment to be in that position right now. It's just our job to make the most of it, and our guys are very aware of that. They really are. Our guys are really tuned into the fact that it's in their hands, and it's our responsibility to get the job done."
That being said, it won't be difficult to motivate them in facing a team that only has two wins this year in Jacksonville coming in on Sunday? (Jerry Coleman) "There are probably two kinds of people when it comes to preparing for a football team – that's those that look at the record, and those that look at the tape. And those that look at the tape recognize the challenge that's in store for us. So, we're going to have to be at our very best to win any game in this league, and that is especially true in December and especially true against a very young, highly-motivated football team that plays extremely hard and has a lot of young talent."
John, as you head into these final three games, do you focus at all on winning the AFC North? Do you focus solely on winning that? How does the team approach its goals? (Dave Ginsburg) "The approach is just to win the next game. All the other things take care of themselves. Our approach simply is to be 1-0 this week, and that's what we have to get accomplished."
Yesterday there were three more long runs in the fourth quarter. That's becoming a trend in those games that you end up putting away. What does it say about … Is it the line? Is it the backs who are able to kind of close out? What does it say that you guys are always able to break those long runs? (Jon Meoli)"We haven't closed out every game in the fourth quarter, so we feel like that's something that has been a point of emphasis for us to finish – to finish runs, to finish blocks, to finish series, to finish in the red zone, to finish games in the fourth quarter. So, we were definitely able to do that yesterday, and it was because of the line and the running backs and the wide receivers. Our wide receivers have been blocking really, really well – all of them. Steve [Smith Sr.] is probably spearheading the cause there. He has had some phenomenal blocks. Marlon [Brown], Torrey [Smith] – not as much yesterday, because he had the knee – but Torrey, throughout the course of the season, Kamar [Aiken] – all of our guys. Jacoby [Jones] had a heck of a block, a couple blocks. On the one catch that [Phillip] Supernaw had, [Jacoby Jones] was out in front of them there on the goal line. So, all of our guys have done a great job. But the offensive line and the running backs are obviously where it begins."
With the running game, how did RB Justin Forsett come out of this? He obviously played well in the fourth quarter. Did he seem to come out fairly unscathed? (Aaron Wilson) "Yes, Justin [Forsett] seemed good. He came out of it in good shape. Lorenzo [Taliaferro] had a little issue with his foot and ankle area. He has a sprain in there. [The question] made me think about that. I didn't mention it before. So, he'll be day-to-day this week."
John, going back to that penalty question, what do you mean by putting somebody in a "vice?" What do you mean by that? (Jeff Zrebiec) "The vice is the two guys that block the gunner in a two-on-one situation, and there are certain rules there in terms of how you can block those guys. And one of the rules is you can't … You can actually grab him when they're in the vice and hold him in the vice – that's part of the rule. But what you can't do is you can't take him to the ground. Sometimes guys will fall to the ground, and you have to make it clear that you're not responsible for that, and that's a gray area. But when you take a guy to the ground, that's a foul, and we've done that a few times. And a few times is a few times too many."