Transcripts: John Harbaugh Monday Press Conference

JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE: WEEK 13 at falcons

Opening statement:"Good win – just got through watching the tape, meeting with the coaches, and we'll move on now to the next game, the next challenge. Excited about that, going down to Atlanta. Obviously, it's a very, very difficult place to play – very explosive offense. Coach [Dan] Quinn does a great job running that defense along with their defensive coordinator and coaches, and we have our hands full. We'll get started on those guys now, and we'll get ready for next week."

When you watched OLB Matthew Judon yesterday – I don't know if you've had a chance to look at the tape – and saw what he accomplished there … We were still trying to figure out if [three-straight sacks] ever occurred before in the NFL. If not, have you ever seen something like that on three-straight plays where the quarterback has gone down, and you were the beneficiary of it? _(Jerry Coleman) _"I've never seen that. I don't know if it has happened against us. I don't think it has, but sometimes things do come in bunches, and you sit there and look at all the different situations and reasons why these things happen, or reasons why they don't happen, and try to analyze it. And, a lot of times, there's no answer other than, you just have to keep working hard. Things kind of come in their own time. Matt has done that. He's playing his best football the last three weeks, and to see it come together in three plays is interesting, to say the least. But, it was very opportune for us. We needed it right there and are sure glad he made those plays."

Some of OLB Matthew Judon's teammates said that they thought maybe he was pressing at the beginning of the year. Do you have any sort of diagnosis of when he's not playing at the level you want him to, what may be behind it? (Childs Walker)"I probably have my theories, but you're probably better off to ask him. He's in his own head more than anybody, but we coach our guys. We coach them up on what they're doing, how they're doing it, if we have some theory. But, we're not amateur psychologists. We just try to look at the football and try to keep it about football. We talk to our guys all the time about that. Keep it simple. We're not trying to make it about everything it's not about. Make it about what it is about and what's important, and it's the football. Try to look at that and see how we can execute better and become better."

At what point in the week will QB Joe Flacco see the doctor to determine whether or not he has clearance? (David Ginsburg) "He'll be seeing the doctor today, so we'll have some guidance on that. How long does it take to type, 'Joe is seeing the doctor today?' I hear all the typing, there." (laughter)

You've been pretty clear that you're not going to be committal about the quarterback decision during the week. Theoretically, if you wanted to play both QB Joe Flacco and QB Lamar Jackson a substantial amount in a given week, would that be too difficult in terms of game-planning, or is that a possibility? _(Childs Walker) _"We'll just do whatever we think gives us the best chance and try to use all of our players the best way we can, so everything is on the table in that sense. That's pretty much the answer."

QB Joe Flacco wasn't able to play because he was injured, right? Is that correct? (Jerry Coleman) "I think that's pretty well established." (Reporter: "Do you believe in the theory that a player shouldn't lose his job to injury in sports?") "So, we're going to go back to junior high clichés, now? I stand up here and say some cliché and get ripped for it by some of you guys, but you can throw a question cliché, and I'm supposed to dive into that world? We'll do what gives us the best chance to win, period, end of conversation. Whatever gives us the best chance to win, that's what we're going to do. And we like all of our guys. We love our players. We pretty well have established that over the years, as well, so we're going to put our guys out there [in] whatever way, whatever figuration, combination we think makes us the toughest team to play against and makes us the best football team. That's it."

Obviously, the running game has been vastly improved over the past two weeks. Is part of that about RB Gus Edwards? Is part of that about the alignment that you have when QB Lamar Jackson is the quarterback? _(David Ginsburg) _"Both of those things, plus, I think our offensive line is blocking really well and tight ends are blocking really well. Watch Nick Boyle. That's a big part of it. That should have been in your multiple-choice question right there. I did that with my daughter, too, a lot of times when she was younger. She's on to me now. You give her two choices, and she thinks those are the only two options, but she's 17 now, so she figured out there are other choices and other options." 

Along those lines, how pleased were you to get RB/WR Ty Montgomery involved to the degree you did and how productive he was after halftime? (Luke Jones) "Very pleased, very pleased with Ty and getting him involved, as you said. I thought he … He's a very versatile player, as we've said, and he's proven that. Only his second [active] game here, so to get him out there to that degree in his second game here is really a great job by our coaches, by [running backs coach] Thomas Hammock and Marty [Mornhinweg] and the game-planners, Greg [Roman, assistant head coach/tight ends coach] and those guys. I was really pleased with that. It was a big plus for us."

When you go over analytics and figure out what keys were bigger than others, where does time of possession, do you figure, rank, as far as being able to win? (Jamison Hensley) "I don't remember exactly where it ranks, if it's in the Top 10 or not. I think it's a factor; I don't think it's the factor."

I'm not sure how much experience you have with managing a quarterback who has a hip injury, but it seems pretty rare for players at that position. With QB Joe Flacco, is it just a matter of pain management? Is it mobility? What are the concerns that you have for that injury with a quarterback? (Jonas Shaffer) "My understanding with that injury is the biggest criteria is the protection of the hip, the hip's ability to protect itself. It has to be strong and stable in terms of all those things. Like I said, there's no big tear in there that I'm aware, that they told me, but the hip has to be strong and not agitated for Joe to be able to protect himself. And, that's the concern, is just Joe's safety with the injury, and that's why it's an opinion. That's why the doctor has to decide. It's not like a hamstring or something where you say, 'It's this degree healed,' or not. They just have to look at it and say, 'OK, it's good.'" (Reporter: "Is it just a matter of not wanting to put him out there when there's a possibility of re-injury?")"Yes. Yes, a dislocated hip, that's fair, right? We don't want that, so I think that's kind of what we've been saying all along."

Without being cliché … I'll stay away from the cliché words. (Jerry Coleman) _"I think I answered your question _very clearly. Is this the same question?" (Reporter: "No.") "Oh, OK. (laughter)Worded differently?" (Reporter: "I'm not going to ask you who the starting quarterback is, but I do believe, and the fans do believe, it's a big deal who it is, and there seems to be some division. That's not any of your concern. What I'm wondering is, is this the first time you've dealt with something like this, this type of … I'm not going to use the word 'controversy.' How about 'discussion,' over who the quarterback is, this intense?") "Yes, sure. I was coaching defense and special teams and different positions, and I never was a head coach before I got here. We haven't had this type of a situation since I've been here as a head coach. So, at quarterback, yes. At other positions, no. We've dealt with this at other positions many times, this similar situation, and that's why I approach it the way I do. I don't have some rule. You approach it … The priority is being the best football team we can be, putting the best group out there we can, given the situation, whatever it is. So, I'm not locked into any of those things. I don't have something that says [this is a] 'quarterback is different' kind of a mindset. I just want to put the best team out there. Keep it simple."

How do you think S Chuck Clark did when S Tony Jefferson went down? _(Todd Karpovich) _"Chuck played well. Thank you. He did. He played really well. He was on point, made a number of tackles, was in great position. Young safety in some of the deep coverages, especially the split-safety stuff where the spacing is so important, his relationship on the deep routes, he was in excellent position, and yes, that's a really good point. He played very well for us, and if Tony can't go – and Tony is a notorious quick healer; he healed quickly last week – then I think Chuck is a very solid player for us back there and will play well."

When you make a decision as big as the starting quarterback, I know you try to treat it the same, but do you try to seek more advice? Do you talk to players more often, or is it the same thing?_ (Aaron Kasinitz)"I don't think I need to get into all of that. I've got my way of doing that. It's always collaborative, always ask a lot of opinions, but in the end, it's a decision. There are opinions and there are decisions. You make a decision based on what you feel is best. I don't think there's anybody in a better position than the head coach. I feel very, very confident that I have a good handle on it, understand the team and what we need to do when the time comes – which is not here yet. I don't think you start making these decisions until you get to the bridge. I'm not crossing the bridge until we get to it. I think that's a pretty good cliché, pretty apt. So, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it, and I'll be ready to make that decision when the time comes – yes, with all the input from different people that are involved that have a stake in it. So certainly, that's part of it. Does that answer your question pretty much?" _(Reporter: "Yes, does that change because it's a quarterback compared to another position?")"No, it doesn't change because it's a quarterback. That's a good point, because I think all these decisions are always made with input, absolutely."

RB Alex Collins has missed practices periodically throughout the season with a foot injury. Is this something that he has to manage the rest of the way? _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"Yes, I think so. Eventually those things heal. It's not like a bone break or anything like that."

G Marshal Yanda explained, with some humor, the situation with concussion protocol. Your thoughts on how it was handled, and if you had any reservations on why he was taken off the field?_ (Jonas Shaffer)"I think that they saw something upstairs. We don't really question that at all. We have trust and faith that they have the best interest of the players at heart. I think they did the same thing with Derek Carr. When they see something upstairs, they're going to do it. I understand Marshal, the players' [reactions]. He knew there was nothing there, but he doesn't want to come off the field – especially in a critical play like that. But it's like we explained to him at the time. Clay [Martin, referee] came over to me, and he said, 'You know, it came from upstairs. Could you say something to Marshal?' _(laughter) I'm like, 'Why? You can't?' I didn't say that. I just said, 'Marshal, it' from upstairs. You know? There's no choice here.' I guess that's the kind of passion you appreciate in your guys, and you appreciate the league taking the steps they need to take to protect the guys. It's just part of the game right now, and it's a good part of the game."

TE Hayden Hurst had three catches yesterday. Have you seen him making strides before all that came together? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Yes, he's been doing well in practice; he really has. He's done a good job. He's kind of a guy … He hasn't played a ton of football, so the more practice he gets, the more reps he gets, I think he really clicks in on stuff. The throwback was covered; they did a good job of covering the throwback. They covered the throwback better than our defense covered the throwback, so you give them credit. Yet between Lamar [Jackson] making a great throw on the move, and Hayden making a great catch – and having the distance to get the first down and having the awareness, to have the depth to get the first down – was just a really big play for us."

Everybody was excited for CB/RS Cyrus Jones to make a big play at home. Had you been pleased with what he's been giving you, in terms of handling the ball cleanly and generally having positive plays since he's came in? (Childs Walker)"Yes, that's the thing: He had been doing a great job of really solidifying, as far as the ball security part of it, back there – and that's where it starts. You have to have that. You have to have a punt catcher before you have a punt returner. We recognize his ability. He's very talented – everybody in Baltimore knows that from his days at Gilman [School]. But to see him break out, and to see the punt return team block the way they did without the penalties … You know, that's the toughest thing about special teams, especially punt return. The speed and space on that play, and the geometry that's involved to not have a penalty, is really challenging. I know it frustrates people. It frustrates me more than anybody. But to have that so cleanly blocked without a foul was a great job. We had two other plays [where] we didn't do it as well, and I wish we would have. So, you try to keep chasing the details on that. For Cyrus, yes, that is a great, great story to see that happen. The fans were in to it; they were excited for him, too." (Reporter: "Did you know it was clean the whole way, or were you looking for a flag out of the corner of your eye?") "I saw it clean. I saw it. As soon as he caught it, I could tell we had some room. I have a lot of experience watching these plays from the sideline, so I could see it was blocked – or going to be blocked. Then you just hope that everyone makes good decisions, and they did. When he got to about to the 40-[yard line], I knew it was done. It was fun. It was a big play, big play."

Did you have the same amount of confidence when you saw OLB Terrell Suggs holding the ball out [returning a fumble for a touchdown]? (Jamison Hensley)"Have you seen the 'Wired' [Ravens Production program] yet?'(laughter) Well, at first, I saw him going to pitch it, and I'm going like, 'No! No! Don't do that!' Then I saw a guy. There was a guy coming, and he was going to pitch it to Jimmy [Smith]. Then they had the defender coming … Was it [Marcell] Ateman? I think he's coming, [and] Ateman can run; he's a wide receiver. I'm just thinking, 'There's no way "Sizz" [Suggs] is going to out-run him.' Then Jimmy tracks back and bumps Ateman off, right? So, all's well that ends well."

With looking at the TE Mark Andrews catch, do you think that could've been a touchdown had he not turned around? Or, do you think he was going to get caught? (Jerry Coleman)"Rashaan Melvin can run. He's a super-fast guy. If he could've weaved a little bit, maybe. He would've had to shake him off, though, probably from behind. I don't think he was going to out-run Rashaan Melvin at that point. I'll give it to Rashaan. We had him here; he's a very good player. It's a nice play – that's a hard guy to bring down full-speed like that. I thought he made a good play."

There were a couple times in the first half where it seemed like QB Lamar Jackson was pointing to his helmet. Was there a problem with technology? Was he having trouble with the headset in his helmet? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I don't think there was a technology problem in that one, but there are communication problems sometimes, and time runs out on you sometimes. Those are things that we continue to improve at, both players and coaches and all of us working together. You always have those things, it seems like, to some degree. But we burned too many timeouts in the first half. We burned one on offense, one on defense, I think, and then I didn't want to burn the one on the big play. If you're looking back on that [in] hindsight, you go down there and … They wind the clock fast. They could've reset it. They took some time to get the ball spotted, and we felt like we'd have a little more time than we did. But, we're going to have a no-huddle, hurry-up play ready there in that kind of a situation to make sure we play off. I could've called a timeout there, but I didn't want to not have the ability to challenge before the half, and when you run out of timeouts … I felt like, 'Well, five yards at the 12-yard line, we'd still have the same opportunity to score from the 12 than we would from the 7. So, let's go ahead and take the delay.' That was a decision there, but you don't want to be in the position. You want to have those timeouts. That's not a time management issue, that's an operational issue. That's operational in terms of getting the defenses called, getting the right personnel on the field, hearing the play, everybody hearing the play, communicating, those kinds of things. We can do better at that."

How much do you think the time of possession, long drives and an ability to possess the ball are helping your defense? How much could that be a factor to you guys moving forward if you can continue that? (Cliff Brown)"The best defense is a good offense; the best offense is a good defense. It's a team game. Hopefully your special teams can make some plays like they did yesterday. I think time of possession … Like I said, I don't know what it factors in terms of the importance level. There are a lot of important things, and you can certainly win without winning time of possession. But man, it makes a difference. Moving the chains, getting first downs … Hey, we'd like to be quick-strike, too! We'd like to have some lightning strikes and score some points that way, because in the end, it's points that matter. I think it's great for your defense not to have to play a lot of plays. That keeps them fresher, keeps them faster, puts pressure on the offense to force the issue sometimes, a little bit. That's big – when your opponent, the opposing offense, has a lot of plays; that's tough on your defense."

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