HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "Thanks for coming out. First of all, before we get into the injuries, I want to talk about East Carolina a little bit: Not clarifying and not apologizing – because some of you guys want to take that the wrong way, as we've learned in the past – [but I'm] just making the point that the point was missed by a few. I have the utmost respect for East Carolina, as evidenced by the fact that when I was in Cincinnati, they kicked our butt on a regular basis. [They are] great athletes. What are you saying? *(Aaron Wilson: "I went to school there.") *Aaron went to school at East Carolina. Pan the camera down there at Aaron Wilson. As did Vonta Leach and a number of other great players. A few pretty good quarterbacks came out of there, too. Great program. We've got good friends down there in town still that we've met on our trips to North Carolina. So, I'm telling you, North Carolina is a great state and East Carolina is a great program. I think about Cincinnati and Virginia Tech and East Carolina and Southern [Mississippi] and those teams that were playing in that conference at that time, those teams have all become big-time programs now. It's a great accomplishment. The reference was to the Buddy Ryan statement, OK, and to the questions about the NFL and how tough it is in the NFL and those kinds of things. So, is that cleared up? Did I do an OK job with that? Not that great, actually, but I did my best.
"Injuries: Marshal Yanda tweaked the knee a little bit and tweaked his ankle a little bit. So, he's moving around. The MRI's are all positive, nothing there. Bobbie Williams had an ankle, nothing on the MRI, a sprain. We'll see. We'll probably give him some rest during the week some time and try to get him to Sunday. Those are the only two things that I think were really significant injury-wise."
**John, I'm sure you've seen Chuck Pagano's post-game speech yesterday. Even before his diagnosis, what about him behind the scenes that we didn't see makes the guy such an inspiring guy? *(Joe Platania) *"Chuck is a great person. He's a great coach. He's all heart, Chuck's all heart. He's a guy that you believe in. He believes in his players, he believes in the guys he coaches with. You can see it in the team, the way that team is playing over in Indianapolis. We actually showed the clip to our guys today in the meeting, which was really kind of neat. Chuck's a fighter, like you said. We're all proud of him. We're proud of the way they're playing there and everything, and it was a neat moment. It was neat for all people who are football fans out there to see that clip and see some insight into Chuck Pagano."
John, Jah Reid got a little playing time, and I just wanted to see how he did. And also, what were your impressions of Dannell Ellerbe and Courtney Upshaw? (Aaron Wilson)"Jah played well. He played 10 or 15 snaps, different positions in there, and he played well. He did a nice job. It was the first time he's really taken any extended time out there, and he wasn't overwhelmed at all. That's what you look for in a young guy, and he wasn't, and he did well. I thought Courtney played very well. Courtney was a force on the edge there, especially against the run, and we moved him inside a little bit – you may have noticed that – and he did a nice job in there, too, in the nickel package. Dannell played well. He's got a couple thumb issues. He's got casts on [his thumbs], so it makes it a little tougher for him to use his hands. But, he was playing without thumbs, and he played well without thumbs. The rest of them played very well. I thought all of those young guys did a good job."
DeAngelo Tyson got a lot of time out there in the game yesterday. How has he progressed, and do you see him playing an active role going forward? (Jason Butt)"I think he will. He is getting better. He was good, and other times he wasn't as good, like most young guys – especially in the trenches in there because it's such a fight in there. Sometimes you get the best of them; sometimes they get the best of you. There were times when it went both ways, but he's been better every time he's played, and he's doing well."
Was there anything in the game yesterday that you and the coaches worked on during the bye week that you saw come to fruition yesterday that made you feel good? (Drew Forrester)"There were probably a number of things. I thought we did a better job tackling. That was something that was really important, and on defense, we tackled better. We had more guys around the ball. We did a good job of taking on blocks up front, getting our hands on offensive lineman, getting off of blocks. Our gap control was a lot better across the board. We were a little more coordinated up front with some young guys understanding their responsibility and the defense. We set the edge well. But, there were other things that need to be better, too. So, it's a work in progress."
Dean [Pees] was up in the press box yesterday. What went into that decision, and is that something you plan on doing going forward? (Jeff Zrebiec)"We do plan on doing that going forward. That was Dean's idea. That's something Dean talked about after the game down in Houston. He'd actually brought it up with me a few weeks before that, thinking maybe he'd be a little more comfortable doing it that way. There are a lot of different ways to do it, but I think he feels good up there where he has a little better view on everything. He can see what's going on and make some corrections and make some adjustments without having to have it communicated. We've got some other guys who have been on the field. [Inside linebackers coach] Don Martindale has been on the field a lot of times in his career, so he went down on the field and did a good job of relaying the signals in. Of course, [secondary coach Teryl Austin] 'T.A.' and [linebackers coach] Ted [Monachino] have always been down there. So, it worked really well yesterday. The communication was very good."
What strides has Dannell Ellerbe made this year and stepping into the role that he is in now? (Garrett Downing) "Dannell played well last year. He is a guy that has had a lot talent all the way through. From a professionalism standpoint, he has just made tremendous growth. He has really become a serious student of the game. He works really hard at it. Obviously, he has been working with Ray [Lewis] and Jameel [McClain]. Those are two very serious guys, and Dannell has really grown as a player that way. To me, that's the biggest improvement. He's always had the talent. He has become a really good technician, and he is playing at a high level. He has never not done well when he has been put on the field, and now his role continues to be expanded, and he continues to do well."
John, the roughing the passer penalty on T.J. Ward, Cleveland's safety, on the blitz, after having the chance to watch it a few times, what did you see on the hit? He took issue with the penalty. (Aaron Wilson)"It was helmet-to-helmet. Oh, yeah. It was helmet-to-helmet – no question. Without question."
Can you take me through the end of the first half? Your last possession, why did you choose not to milk the clock a little bit there? When you threw the ball three-straight times with about 1:30 to go, they take the ball back over there. (Stan Charles)"We thought we had a chance to get the first first down. I want to get the first first down and see if we can get the drive going. Milking the clock? No. Not in that situation. *(Reporter: "Milking is the wrong word. Wouldn't you want them to have less time?") *Yeah, but they have timeouts, too. They can use the timeouts. I want to get the first first down whatever way we have to. Off the top of my head – I'm not thinking about the play calls right now – I'd have to go back and look at that. You can ask me again Wednesday. We can look at that. But, just from a general philosophical perspective, out thought right there was to get three points, and we felt we could do that. You get the first first down, and you're rolling. I wasn't going to use that timeout until it was time to kick the field goal. That was the thing we were talking about doing. We weren't thinking about not trying to extend that lead at that point. It didn't work out. It ended up going the other way on us, but it wasn't the thought process to be conservative right there."
Haloti [Ngata] is obviously playing through a lot of pain right now. What did you see from him yesterday?* (Matt Zenitz)*"I thought he played solidly. He played solidly. You're right, he is not 100 percent. He has the shoulder and the knee a little bit, but he is fighting through it. He is playing well."
Do you anticipate limiting him a little to help him recover as much as possible leading into the latter part of the season? (Matt Zenitz)"You take that day by day and week by week. We'll just have to see. We need to win every game. Every game the division championship is on the line. So, we'll just have to take that day by day and week by week and see where we're at."
John, I know the offense struggled to move the ball a little bit in the second and third quarters, but on the three scoring drives, did you see things there that you think you can build on going forward, not even just on the road, but in general? (Matt Vensel)"Oh, yeah. You try to look at the whole thing in context, and those are three very encouraging drives, obviously. It seems like if we get the first first down, we're in business. Then we go five other drives, and we don't get the first first down, and you try to look for reasons for that. You're talking about a few plays here. You're talking about five drives, no first downs, and usually it's five issues – one on each drive that kept us from getting that first first down. We were in third-and-10 too much. We didn't run the ball. We tried to come out and run the ball, and they stopped us. They did what they did, and they played better than us. Then we couldn't convert on third down like we've done at times this year. So, those are areas we have to get better at. The things that we can do well that you are saying we did do well, those are definitely things we can build on. But, we're not as good of a football team right now as we intend to be or as we need to be. We have a good record. We're very pleased with where we're at. I'm proud of our guys. That was a tough game. It's kind of interesting, sometimes we don't maybe give the opponent quite enough credit all the time. We're so introspective, and we should be, but going into this game, there was a lot of talk about Cleveland being a team on the rise and [how] we were going to struggle with Cleveland. I heard a lot of people say that. The game kind of went the way it always goes. Isn't it usually a seven- to 10-point differential with Cleveland? That's what it always is. It's a tough ball game. So, I'm really pleased with the fact that we won, the fact that we are 6-2 in the first half of the season. By the same token, we're not the team that we need to be. We're not as good as we need to be. We need to be better at all of those things. We need to be better on third down. We need to run the ball more consistently. We need to protect our quarterback more consistently. We need to throw and catch better. That's just on the offensive side. All of those things on the defensive side need to continue to get better or we're not going to be 6-2 in the second half. We're going to have to play better. That's our charge, that's our responsibility. We have to go to work on that, and that's what we intend to do. We need to."
John, does Joe Flacco's completion percentage, below 60 percent, start to concern you and the drops as well? Obviously, it concerns you as a coach, but is that a number you want to see go higher? (Mark Zinno)"Oh, yeah. We talk about being closer to 70 percent as a goal. That's where we want to be. We don't want to be around 60 percent. We're capable of being better than that. That's kind of what we're talking about in the second half of the season that has to improve."
With Bernard Pierce, you guys have talked about wanting to get him more involved. He responded to the opportunity. What are your thoughts on where he is now as a rookie and where he is going? (Aaron Wilson)"I think the world of Bernard; I think the world of our rookies. We have a lot of good players there. Bernard has some skills, and the fact that if you have a one-two punch in there at running back, it sure helps you. It changes the pace a little bit and it gives Ray [Rice] a chance to breathe. It's going to make Ray better in the fourth quarter of the game or in the fourth quarter of the season. That's something that is going to be really valuable for us going forward."
You've got several Pro Bowl quarterbacks coming up on the schedule. Have you seen growth from your secondary, and did you see it in the Cleveland game specifically?* (Ryan Mink)*"We did. We did see growth. We did a better job. It's not just the secondary, it's the whole coverage package. We did a better job matching up routes underneath, for the most part, and yet there were a number of routes that we could have matched up better. So, there are a lot of coverages that we're talking about. We just have to keep building on that, continue to build on the discipline underneath and how we match routes, eyes, what we're seeing, what windows we're looking through. We covered very well, except we let a couple routes get wide open just because we got our vision off of where it should have been a couple of times. It's tough in a game. You're competing and trying to find a way to make plays, but you need to do it through your responsibility."
You said following the Houston game you felt like you could have run the ball more. Did you feel like you were committed to the run, and despite all the three-and-outs, did you still have that sense to say, 'Look, I still want to run the ball to try to get yardage and first downs that way'? (Mark Zinno)"It can't be a blanket statement. To me, it's a good point. We need to be able to run the ball, absolutely. That's kind of our identity. We want to be a physical football team; we need to stop the run. But, we have to stop the pass, too. We have to rush the passer, too, and we have to be able to throw the ball, as well. The truth is it's going to take different things in different games to win. I hope we are building the capability to be an up-tempo offense. To me, that's something that Joe [Flacco] has done a great job of driving and our guys have responded to. And even when we were huddling yesterday, it was a faster tempo than sometimes you've seen in the past. So, we developed the ability to play faster. We have to be able to throw the ball. We have to be able to complete the passes at the rate that you are talking about, and we have to be able to make big plays down the field. We've done that at times with some consistency, and other times we have hit droughts. All of those things tie together. So, I'm saying yes to everything, but the fact is you have to be good at all those things to win games."
Is one of the things yesterday when you had the first couple of drives that worked well, it happened in Kansas City, you started off running the ball well, as well as in Houston, and then it seems like other teams adjusted defense. Is it an improvisation thing that maybe you guys have to adjust to because of other teams adjusting to you guys when you're not making the second adjustments or is it something else? (J. Michael)"We looked at that, and specifically looked at that this morning. It was not about adjustments. We made adjustments; they made adjustments. It was really more about making a block here and there is really what it boiled down to. I think at times, like I said after the game – and it turned out to be true after watching the tape – for a stretch they played a little better than us. They came up with a couple of plays, and then when we didn't hit a pass or two we couldn't get a drive going, and it allowed them to come and play a little heavier on us than we wanted to. If we could have converted, got them on their heels a little bit, the run game would have opened up. So, it wasn't so much about an adjustment. We just didn't execute well enough to convert a first down to get ourselves going. Then as soon as we did that – as soon as we hit the play-action-pass to Anquan [Boldin] – we were off and running again. I'd say probably in this game it was more about execution than adjustments, really."
John, you were asked after the game if that play from Anquan [Boldin], I think just the whole drive in general, if it served as kind of a spark or a turning point going forward. Do you believe something like that, being that it provided decisive points in such a clutch moment could be something that you guys could build on or something that you could look back on? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Yes, I think so, but it's not the priority. You could say the first two drives were the spark. It's not like we've gone the whole season and have done nothing, and then all of sudden, we got one drive. But, it was the spark to win that game. If you look at the six victories, that's probably happened every one of those games. The truth and reality is you have to do something like that in every game to find a way to win games. There just aren't that many blowouts. I'm all for blowouts, as long as we are the ones doing the blowing out. We were on the short end of one two weeks ago, and that wasn't so much fun. Blowouts are tough to come by, so there are going to have to be plays that are going to have to be made and it's going to come down to – we all know this – three or four plays that are going to make the difference in a game. If you make them, you win. If you don't make them, then you usually don't win. Then you have two or three games that are blowouts during the course of the season. It seems like it goes that way for every team."
I know in terms of numbers like that, point at the quarterback and solely attribute that to him. How much more is it a combination of factors involved in the struggle? (Matt Zenitz) "Yes, it's always a combination of factors, absolutely. Every part of football is, because it's an 11-man game. There were a few drops; you alluded to that. You catch those balls and we're off and rolling a couple of times. There were a few probably misreads. There were a few pressures. It's a team sport. We have to do better across the board. I had a long talk with Jim Caldwell [quarterbacks coach] about it today. It was a good conversation, and basically, it's what we all believed to be true. We just have to keep working. We just have to practice. We just have to get out there and execute and work hard at practice – put a good plan together and then work on it. Then [we must] go out there and compete, throw the chips out there and see how they fall. We have the men for the job. We are going to work hard and improve."
Just in terms of the receivers and tight ends, how would you access them now through first half? (Matt Zenitz) "The tight ends can be more productive. That's something that they are working really hard. Wade Harman [tight ends coach] is doing a great job coaching them, but I'd like to see a few more plays out of them, and I know they feel the same way; they want to see a few more plays. [I] talked to Ed [Dickson] about that and I talked to Dennis [Pitta] about that. Those guys are fully capable of making spectacular catches. So to me, they can make every catch. We need those guys to be a big part of it."
John, through that dry spell, how hard was it for you to stay patient with the game plan when things weren't working? Just talk about perseverance, because it was a great counter punch. You took the lead and then came right back down and took it right back. (Mark Zinno) "It's funny. It kind of gets lost in all the talk we are talking about things that we have to get better at is the fact that we had to win that game. We did not turn the ball over. We had no major negative plays of our own that cost us the game. So many times in the NFL you lose the game as opposed to winning the game. I thought our guys, first and foremost, didn't lose the game. Then they found a finer way to win the game, as you put it, with the counter punch. It took a lot of patience. It took a lot of patience on the part of our team. It took faith. We talked about that last night – our defense having faith in our offense that they were going to figure it out, our offense having faith in our defense that they were going to figure it out when they were struggling. And they did. Yes it took some patience, but I was proud of the fact that we were able to pull that off."
Can you assess Torrey Smith's performance up to this point in the season, and is he where you hoped him to be at this point in his career? (Matt Zenitz)"He is. I think Torrey is way ahead of where most people thought he'd be. To me, he's right on schedule. I was a Torrey Smith guy – I'll take full credit. *(laughter) *I was a 'glass half full' guy on Torrey. He's becoming a route-runner, and that's the one thing that people said he wouldn't become. He's becoming a guy that can make spectacular catches, and that's another thing that some of the naysayers said he couldn't do. But Torrey is a special guy. One thing we need to do is get a few more guys on the field. Anquan [Boldin] and Torrey are doing a great job, but let's get Jacoby [Jones] out there a little more, let's get Tandon [Doss] out there a little more. That's the same thing we're talking about with Bernard [Pierce] and Ray [Rice]; let's keep those guys a little fresher, because Torrey and Anquan … I mean, they'll play every play. They'll go until they can't, so we keep mixing in. We've got some playmakers, and we can mix them in a little more."
With Jacoby Jones, is it a matter of his special teams duties? Does that kind of limit what he can do at wide receiver, or is that not really a factor? (Ryan Mink)"Not a factor. He can do all of that."
John, you don't really get to brag much about your punter Sam Koch, but he did a great job yesterday not only flipping the field, but keeping the ball away from Joshua Cribbs. (Drew Forrester)"Right, the thing he did is, we were backed up so much there in the second half that he did a great job of driving the ball out across the 50- [yard line] – which is hard to do in that kind of wind [and] backed up like that – but also the fact that our punt coverage team was tremendous. To cover those punts coming out of your own end, when the returner is catching the ball and coming downhill on you, is really difficult. When you're a punt return team, that's a huge advantage; you feel like you're going to drive that ball down into field goal range right with the punt return. So, I was really proud of those guys. I thought our special teams – our coverage on kickoffs, too – was just outstanding."
What have you seen from Cary Williams lately? I know he had gotten some criticism earlier in the year. (Matt Zenitz)"Cary and I, we have a very strong relationship, and he's a guy that I really believe in. Cary is a competitor. Cary is a fighter. Cary wants to do well so badly, and he's kind of an emotional guy, and that's one of the things that I love about him. He's done a great job of focusing that emotion and that energy on playing technique, where you've got to do everything exactly right. You've got to play with so much discipline out there. He's got great skills, so to me, he just keeps getting better, and I'm proud of him."
When you say the team is not as good as it's going to be … Is Jimmy Smith a guy that can be a difference-maker as this season goes on? (Stan Charles)"Yes, Jimmy Smith can be a difference-maker as the season goes on. He made plays yesterday, he's physical, and he's another guy that's only going to get better the more he plays. He didn't play that much last year, and he's starting to play more regularly now. So, you talk about Cary [Williams] … Jimmy is another guy, to use the term loosely … I'm an old corner; if you can even call it that. People at Miami of Ohio would probably say you couldn't. *(laughter) *But I love those guys. Those guys are on the island, man. It's a tough position to play; they're always scrutinized. And we have two very good corners."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was in town over the weekend for a charity event. Did you have a chance to talk to him before you left for Cleveland? Or, have you gotten any answers to your injury report question [from last Friday]? (Kris Jones)"No. No. (laughing) *I have tremendous respect for Commissioner Goodell, and we have talked on the phone many times about different things. I have the utmost respect for him – I really do – I think he's doing a great job. He did not ask me about that other thing, and I guess he's not going to now. But I'm probably going to stay out of that conversation from here on out." *(laughter)
Do you expect Ray Lewis to be in the building at all, or have you talked to Ray? (Jeff Zrebiec)"He's doing well. He probably won't be in the building for a little while. He's got a protocol he's following, and I can tell you this, he's got the best doctors in the world – to my understanding – working on his triceps. So, I fully trust Ray with his rehab right now; I know he's doing everything he can to get back.
"You know, I was really hoping for a question that I could answer with, 'Gobble, Gobble, Turkey Talk.' *(laughter) *And you guys didn't give it to me! I need some 'Gobble, Gobble, Turkey Talk,' you know?"
Any chance you'll be your brother for Halloween next year? (Kris Jones)"That's 'Gobble, Gobble, Turkey Talk.' Who makes a better John – Jim or John, you think? I look better in the Ravens stuff than Jim, don't I? *(laughter) (Reporter: "They were talking about your neck a lot.") *My neck? Did they? They mentioned the neck? That's been the one thing I've had over him all these years." *(laughter) *