JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "OK, thanks for coming out, and just a couple of things I wanted to say before we started. It's tough to start without 'Joey P' [Joe Platania] asking the first question, so Jerry [Coleman] we'll give you the first [question]. You want the first question?" (Aaron Wilson: "Joe has a question.") Joe has a question? Oh, OK, well there you go. (laughter) Let's do it." (Jamison Hensley: "But it happens to be about injuries.") "See, very clever! (laughter) Very clever. That's a brilliant move. Well played, very well played by all of you. I see this has been planned." (Aaron Wilson: "[Joe] has a real question.") "OK."
Joe Platania normally asks the first question. I spoke to him about an hour ago, and he's curious about OLB Courtney Upshaw and your thoughts on Courtney's contribution to this team making the playoffs and how he has been playing lately. (Aaron Wilson) "Courtney Upshaw. Great question by 'Joey P,' and that's one I don't mind answering. *(laughter) *Courtney has played great. When he got the penalty … It's so funny, he and I had a conversation on the sideline when he got the penalty. He was adamant that he got tossed into the quarterback, and I tended to agree with him. And Gene [Steratore] and I respectfully disagreed with one another about that one. But, he just wants to get to the quarterback. He wants to get to the quarterback, and every time he gets there it seems like they throw the flag on him and most of those have turned out to be legal hits. But he's just working really hard as a pass rusher. He's a tremendous run defender anyway holding the edge [and] doing all the dirty work. He's just a very good football player. I love having him around. As far as his work ethic, he's right back up in that corner in every special teams meeting. He's a part of all those things. [He is] just a true pro in every sense.
"I was going to mention a couple of things about the game: The fourth quarter with the crowd – I just think that was something that was really a memorable, awesome experience for all of us in Ravens Nation. That fourth quarter – the way our guys played, and the way the crowd got behind the guys, and the energy between the crowd and the team was just a really powerful thing and something I'm going to remember forever. I want to compliment our fans on that and thank them and just relive that for just a second. The other thing, I was asked [about] this a little bit last night and decided to mention something a little about it before we got started … Just along the lines – I think Gary [Mihoces] asked it actually – but along the lines of the season and making a point about our players and coaches [and] the way they handled things throughout the season and how proud I am of them and our fans should be of them. Through some of the adversities that they faced off the field and on the field – whether it be off-the-field issues that came up or the high number of injuries to really good players – that guys stepped up and have overcome to get us to where we are right now and going forward. [Not only] how guys have played, but also how they just moved on to the next thing, have neither turned to the left nor to the right. The credit goes to the coaches, the coordinators and the position coaches that were leaders in their rooms. They've done a tremendous job. The leaders on our football team – our veteran leadership especially – and our young guys who have taken the lead from those guys and just staying pointed in the right direction and moving forward every single week no matter what happens … They deserve a lot of credit for that, and I wanted to mention that."
John, picking up on what you just said about working through crises – looking at it from your perspective, would you say that you've developed a philosophy over the years how to deal with that, or do you deal with every situation differently still? How do you deal with that? (Childs Walker) "Probably if I sat down and wrote it out, I'd probably be a little more eloquent about it. But generally speaking, the idea is to have empathy for the person involved in the situation – whatever it might be – whether it is an injury or a personal situation and try to work them through as much as you can. One great thing about being a head coach at this level [is that] you're dealing with adult problems. They are young adults sometimes, and even up through older guys, all kinds of different 'crises,' as you put it, that come up in people's lives that you do have an opportunity to get involved with on a personal level, and that can be challenging, but it can be rewarding. And at the same time, taking the opportunity through what we do every single day – whether it's have a great practice or focus on your next opponent or your next challenge, not looking to the left or to the right, looking straight ahead at the next task at hand and not getting caught up in some 'civilian affairs' when it comes to taking care of our business on the field. I think our guys have done a great job of that."
How much stronger does that make you feel now heading into the playoffs that you have gone through those things and come out the other side? (Ryan Mink) "You do. You feel forged a little bit. We feel like we've been forged in a lot of different fires – daily and weekly fires that have come up, and our team is stronger because of that. The old Viking saying that we used to have on T-shirts in college, 'What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger,' there's probably some truth to that. Our guys are strong right now. We're very mentally tough, and that's a good thing going into the playoffs."
John, did you see the photo in the Detroit Free Press? (Aaron Wilson) "I did. I was sent that about 40 times today already. Yeah, that's not the guy. That's the wrong picture. Whoever was doing the editing on that … "
**Any thoughts on the way things ended with Jim [Harbaugh parting ways with the San Francisco 49ers], and is the trip to San Francisco in the preseason now off next year? *(Jerry Coleman) *"The trip to San Francisco in the preseason? Boy, that's a great question. Can I reserve that for another day, the answer to that? I think it is safe to assume the trip to San Francisco in the preseason is off. I think it's safe to assume that."
Your thoughts on what Jim Harbaugh did in those four seasons there, and what they accomplished? (Aaron Wilson) "I couldn't be more proud of what they accomplished as a team. I think [Jim Harbaugh] as a leader … It was pretty obvious and evident in that locker room after the game how those players feel about him and how those coaches feel about him. It is pretty evident and obvious that all the unnamed sources out there got their facts wrong even though some of them are still standing behind it, which is ludicrous. That's a locker room that loves one another, and that was easy to see. So, what he has accomplished speaks for itself. Not just him, but the players and the coaches there, what they've accomplished for the last four years. Even this year, I think in the last 12 years this is their fourth-best record, and he has been there for four years. But not just that, the way they played hard right down to the end, it speaks for itself."
John, what about your opponent this Saturday? [The Steelers are] certainly a team you know. These teams have clashed in the playoffs. Is it nice to have a familiar opponent, even though you are going there again? (Dave Ginsburg) "I don't know if you could ever categorize it the way you phrase it, that playing the Steelers in Pittsburgh is 'nice.' That's probably a word I wouldn't use. (laughter) It's a great challenge. And I say great challenge in the sense that it's a challenge that we do ... We love this rivalry. We love being a part of it. We've said that many times before, and I believe they feel the same way about it. It is just going to be another one of those great moments in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry that we are looking forward to. It's another playoff game there. We'd like to win one of those one of these days in their place, and we're going to do our darnedest to try to pull that off Saturday night."
Is there something that stands out about the [Ravens-Steelers] rivalry to you? Because you've been in some rivalries from college to the pro level, was there something about this rivalry that maybe stands out to you? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, the physicality, first of all, and the intensity – those two things. Every play – whether it's a playoff game or not – is played at that level. Those two things stand out."
How did DT Haloti Ngata look today as he came back to work, and is there an update on DT Timmy Jernigan? (Aaron Wilson) "No update on Timmy. I haven't heard anything yet from our trainer other than it's not a season-ending injury. I guess that is an update. It's not a Lisfranc, so there's an opportunity possibly for him to get back Saturday night. It'll be close, it'll be tough, but if he responds really well in the next two days, he actually could get back and play. There's a great opportunity, therefore, for the week after, so he'll work hard to do that. It's a deep position for us fortunately, and with Haloti [Ngata] coming back, it really helps us a lot. Haloti looked good. It looked like he was in good shape. His weight is good. He has been training really hard from what he told me, and he looks that way. He's really appreciative of the opportunity to come back and make a little statement here in the postseason."
A lot of the players yesterday were talking about how it's now 0-0 and that's the best thing about the playoffs. Is that kind of rejuvenating? (Bruce Cunningham)"Yes, it is. It's exciting. It's great. You put a stop to the season now in the sense of, 'OK, our record is what it was. It was good enough to get us in the playoffs,' which is the most important thing. It's a great accomplishment, but it's all equal now, and it's a new season. It's the tournament, and we're all equal now."
Is there a sense of pride when you have three teams from the division and being the only team in the NFL that can say that they have three teams in the AFC North that are in the playoffs? (Garrett Downing) "I guess there is. [We] don't really think of it that way as much, because we're so focused on our own team and our own situation. That sense probably applies more to us getting in [to the playoffs]. But the other two teams in our division are very good football teams. We know that first hand, because we played them twice this year, and we play them all the time, and we study them all the time. So, we have great respect for all the teams in our division. Going back to the beginning of the season, it's not a surprise. It's a great division."
Do you toss out the earlier games this year to a degree because they were so long ago? I mean, the last time you played [the Steelers] was early November. A lot has transpired since for both teams. (Jerry Coleman) "Well, in the sense of studying you don't. In the sense of studying our opponent, we put a lot of stock in the games we play against [teams in the past]. Any previous game you play against any team you have to put a lot of stock into, because they're going against your schemes. We look at that pretty closely. For any predictive value, sure, you throw it out. It's a new game."
**Coach, any concerns again with the slow starts again in the first half of the football game and now going into the playoffs and going up against the Steelers? *(Bill West) *"Sure. Yes. Slow starts, third downs, touchdowns in the red zone – those are all things that, offensively, when you play anybody – especially when you play Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh – those are things you really need to do well at, and we need to do better at those things if we expect to come out of there with a victory."
John, you've done this a lot of times now – led a team all the way through a season and ultimately ended up in the playoffs. Is there a comfort or an assurance there now that maybe wasn't there six years ago, or does it still feel similar? (Childs Walker) "I don't think you draw any comfort or assurance from that. The fact that a lot of these veteran guys can point the way is a good thing. So, they'll lead, they'll explain to the guys what to expect a little bit – the younger guys – because they have been there before, and that's a positive."
Does T Eugene Monroe have a chance to get back Saturday? (Jeff Zrebiec) "He does. I would say it's a chance. It's at least 50-50. We're pointing for that, but we'll see how it goes. We thought James [Hurst] played well. [We] really don't feel a problem with James playing in there at all either, so it's a real plus for us."
John, as far as DT Haloti Ngata, do you have to activate … I mean, can he practice for a certain period and you don't have to activate him, or do you know what's the procedure with that? (Jamison Hensley) "I have to be honest with you; I don't know the exact day or anything like that, but we're going to activate him if we're going to play him. What day that would happen to be is up to [general manager and executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome]. I'm guessing we'll do it right away."
When you talk about DT Haloti Ngata's shape and getting back into it after being off for a month, and being at the playoff level, is that sort of a different level that he'll have to be at, as opposed to just coming back in Week 11? (Jerry Coleman) "That'd be a good question for him. He's been through it enough; he's a veteran. He probably understands that for himself better than anybody. I'd be interested to hear what he thought about that."
John, 10-6 would've been good either way – make the playoffs or not – but what does it mean to make it again six out of seven times? I guess it says something about the organization, the players, whatever, to go six out of seven? (Dave Ginsburg) "It does. It says a lot about the organization. First and foremost, [it] starts with [Ravens owner] Steve Bisciotti, and you work through the organization with [Ravens president] Dick [Cass] and [Ravens general manager and executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] and [Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations] Kevin [Byrne] and everybody in the marketing side. You take [Ravens head certified athletic trainer] Mark Smith or [Ravens equipment manager] William Sheridan, guys who have been a part of this thing forever; [Ravens assistant general manager] Eric DeCosta … You can just keep naming names. Those are the foundation. Those are the guys that are constants, people that are constants here that just do a great job every day. And to me, that goes a long way, and those are unsung heroes a lot of times in what we're trying to accomplish. And then I'll go to the veteran players – guys like Joe [Flacco] and Terrell [Suggs] and Haloti [Ngata], even though he wasn't here the last four weeks; off the top of my head, Marshal Yanda … But guys who have been here through all those seasons you're talking about, it speaks to those guys and our leadership."
And how about yourself? I know you don't like to talk about yourself, but you have to feel a sense of pride to make [the playoffs in] six out of seven [seasons], and to get back. I know it hurt you [and] disappointed you a lot last year, and here you are back [in the postseason]. You have to feel a personal sense of pride. (Dave Ginsburg) "I feel really happy for the guys that have a chance to play and for what we've been through this year. And, as I said last night, really as a coach, you really do take it year to year, week to week, day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute, as we saw in the football game. You really do. You're riding on that train with those guys through all those valleys and all those peaks and all those twists and turns and all those tunnels, and you're looking and you're literally [saying to yourself], 'What is that light? Is it the end? Is it light at the end of the tunnel, or is it the train coming from the other end?' If it's the train, we'll smash into it anyway. I just feel like those guys came out the other end really well. I'm happy for them and proud of them and excited for the opportunity to walk with them through this next challenge."
[Do you have] any comments to the critics out there [saying] you got in lucky, Kansas City helped [you] out and you're [going to be] one and done? (Bill West) "Are you trying to make me mad? Get me fired up? (laughter) I might use that with our guys. That'd be a good motivational speech for our guys. The critics never go away. The thing about the critics is they say the same thing. It's the same refrain. It's just like a parrot – you just keep hearing it. Week-in and week-out, year-in and year-out, it's the exact same story. And it's good, because they have cover because they can go either way. No matter what happens, they have a nice little storyline, but you hear it year after year and week after week. Everybody in the league, every sport, you keep hearing the same refrain, and after a while, it's just noise. You just chuckle about it. [It] doesn't mean too much."
Did you reach out to [Chiefs head coach] Andy Reid, though? (Luke Jones) "Absolutely, I promised Andy dinner. He responded very favorably to that. (laughter) He's looking forward to his dinner. It probably won't be cheap. (laughter) The great thing about that, just to honor the Chiefs and the game they played, from what I saw of the highlights, they came through in some amazing situations. [That] just speaks to the character of that team. It speaks to Andy Reid and the kind of coach he is, his staff – [Chiefs defensive coordinator] Bob Sutton, [special teams coordinator] Dave Tope, [spread game analyst/special projects coach] Brad Childress, all those guys on that staff that we know – just [a] phenomenal job. Sometimes we don't acknowledge how tough it is for everyone [else because] we look at our own situation all the time so hard, [but] everyone in this league fights week-in and week-out. It's just a great league; it's a great sport. It was a great victory for the Chiefs, and we're happy they got it."
Were you able to talk to [Chiefs head coach Andy Reid], or was it just text messaging? (Jamison Hensley) "It was more text messaging, yes."
John, you said yesterday when people were asking you about what QB Joe Flacco had to say at halftime, you said what you also said about, "Let's not play tight; let's go for it." Do you think maybe the first half guys were still feeling for it a little bit and there was a little nerves maybe not knowing what was on the line? Or do you think it was a matter of Cleveland and how well they were playing? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I don't know, that's a good question. It's hard to make a determination and say, 'Hey, it was this or that.' But I was kind of thinking about the Rocky movie … Was it Rocky II or III with Mr. T?" (Reporters: "III.") "III, Mr. T". (Kevin Byrne: "Clubber Lang.") "Clubber Lang gets up in Rocky's face and he says, what'd he say? 'I promise you pain. I'm bringing pain, pain, pain' – something like that. And what did Rocky say?" (Reporter: "Go for it.") "He said, 'Go for it.' That's kind of what was on my mind." (laughter)
John, you have some veteran players that haven't been in the playoffs with you, like RB Justin Forsett and TE Owen Daniels. Do you think that there's a culture here – WR Steve Smith Sr. – that it kind of makes it – I'm not going to say "easier" – but they seem, they play like they've been here a long time, but they haven't. Do you think that speaks to what the players … When you come here, you have to know what's expected? (Clifton Brown) "Probably so. It's interesting that when we bring guys in … I like to believe that we bring the right kind of people in here, but almost every guy we bring in – Chris Canty would be another example, on top of the guys you mentioned – that fit us really well. And they kind of do, they seem like they've been here. They take a leadership role like they've been here their whole career. That's a real testament to the people that come in. It's also a testament to the clear values and expectations of our organization and our program, and they can see right away, 'Hey, this is what the Ravens stand for, this is the expectation for a player here.' And they're the kind of guys that have been looking for that and appreciate those particular values and really want to be a part of something like that. When you've been in another organization or team where that's not quite the way it is and you come back to a situation that you can really appreciate, you want to make the most of that. And that adds, really, to our leadership situation here, because they can tell those other guys, 'Hey, it's not like this everywhere. This is a great thing and you need to get on board with this.' So, it can be a real positive."