Head Coach John Harbaugh
John, you've got a lot of veterans on your defense. How do you know when to rest guys or push certain guys? Is it a communication thing between you and them? How do you read that? (Mike Preston) "It's probably a communication thing more than anything. When we had the longer training camp practices, you'd probably keep a closer eye on that and watch them move around a little bit. But even if you did, an older guy probably needs to get off his legs a little bit more – fewer reps, a little more rest. Our guys did a really good job all through training camp of doing all the extra stuff with recovery. We have a recovery protocol that we put in place that they really did a great job with, so it seems like it helped those guys, too."
Everyone has expectations when you come in. Does this offense really support everything you knew about Gary Kubiak and then on paper with your talent? (Morgan Adsit)"I'd say yes. It's where we were hoping that it would be this far along. They've done a good job of learning it. It's been taught really well by all the coaches, led by Gary. Proof is in the pudding. We'll see when we go against a defense that's playing for real, but so far, so good."
John, I know each game carries the same weight – there's 16 of them – but as a coach who's been doing this for years, is there something about Opening Day that strikes you as exciting? (Mark Viviano) "There is. We talked about that with the team a little bit today. It's kind of like the first hit in a game or of training camp when you come back. There's anxiety and excitement, but there's anxiety until you get that first hit, and as soon as you get the first hit, the game is on and you're playing. It's a little bit like that with the opener. You get out there and you play the first game; you get the first hit in the first game. [When] we get into the first game, the season is on. Until then, you just can't wait to get started."
What's it been like having everybody out there practicing? It's got to feel comfortable getting ready for this game right now. (Pete Gilbert) "It's good to have guys out there practicing. The more guys you have practicing, the better practice you have. The numbers always help a lot."
Even though RB Bernard Pierce only has one previous start, just being around the system and being around him, is there a comfort level when he has step up for a coach to have that confidence in him? (Jamison Hensley) "Bernard is a good player. That's the thing – we took him as high as we did for a reason. He has talent, he's tough, and he works really hard. We've all seen him carry the ball at his best, and we just want to see him be his best. He's done a really good job."
QB Joe Flacco
On the Ravens' loss at Cincinnati in the last game of the 2013 season: "It's tough to look back and say that I, and we, didn't feel very confident going into that game, because we had a lot riding [on it]. We always feel pretty confident, but they got after us a little bit last year, and we didn't play very well in that final game. I think we're ready to go. It's the beginning of a new year. [The season] hasn't started yet, but that's going to be the start of it this Sunday, and we're excited and we're confident. We're going to go out there and we're going to have the nerves just like we always do on Sunday afternoon. It's going to feel good."
On how excited he is to open up the offensive playbook in the regular season: "I think we ran all of our [plays in the preseason], but the biggest thing is game-plan specific things, getting back to preparing for a week and having to react to all the little nuances in a game plan that you're putting in strictly for [the opposing team]. And you have to be able to come out here during practice and translate what you've heard for the first time, and in some cases you have to translate it very well here so you feel confident doing it in a game. You have your base plays, but there [are] probably 20 plays that are game-plan specific, and you have to be able to operate those at just [as] high of a level as all the other plays, and I think that's what's exciting about game-planning and it keeps everything fresh and it keeps you excited for the games, too."
On what he attributes to the Bengals' previous success against the Ravens: "They're a good team and they've been a good team. They've always had a good defense. I think when we aren't successful against them, we allow them to get comfortable and do what they like to do. They get after the quarterback, they stop the run game, they get into some of their looks that they feel comfortable playing in and throw offenses off. And when we've had success against them, we've gone out there and worried about us and played our game and executed, operated quickly. We're confident that we're going to do it our way and focus on us, and that's all we can do."
On whether the Ravens are motivated this Sunday because they're facing a division opponent: "I think any home opener you're pretty motivated to go out there and win a football game. I think any division game, you're maybe a little bit more jacked up, because the crowd will be and all that. But all [of] these games are so meaningful. It's tough to be more amped up for one than the other."
On whether playing three division games in a row heightens the importance of starting the season strong: "The feeling is [heightened], yes. But we're worried about this one and that's it. At the end of the day, you play your division opponents two times each [year]. It doesn't really matter when [the games] fall. They all have the same weight at the end of the day. So, all we can do is focus on this one and take on the other ones as they come."
On how ready RB Bernard Pierce is to be a featured back: "[The media] has seen Bernard [Pierce] for a couple of years now, and he's a good running back, especially when he's healthy and feeling good. I think he's ready to go. I think all [of] our guys are ready to go. I have a lot of confidence in them, obviously in running the ball, but even more so in standing back there and protecting and doing all the things that don't quite come as naturally for those guys."
On why he has started well in season openers: "We lost last year. I think we have been fortunate enough to start in front of our home crowd a lot and play some good games and get those guys into it. We have good training camps. We've had a lot of talent on this team, so we've won a lot of football games. I don't know if it's anything about preparation, but I think that might have something to do with it, because you are coming through training camp where you might have a tendency to lose your legs and things like that. But we tend to be pretty fresh on the opening week, and it's probably somewhat due to that preparation all throughout camp. It's not just the last week, it's the last month [and] what have we been doing to build up to this game."
On whether this is the most versatile offense he has had: "I don't know how to describe it, but I think the biggest thing for us is to be good at doing the little things, the base things in this offense and coming up with little things to throw defenses off here and there. But I don't know how to describe it. I don't know if versatile is the word, or what not, but I can tell you that I feel very comfortable in it. I think all of our guys feel very comfortable running it. I think, for the most part, it's translated to the field, and we have to make sure we continue to do that and continue to get better and better each week."
On whether preseason success carries over to the regular season: "If you make it. It's all about how you play. When we go out there and play well, then yes, we're going to say it translates over, and that's what's going to happen."
On the Bengals' new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther: "I know Paul [Guenther] has been there for a while with Mike [Zimmer] and been in this defense, so I'm pretty sure that he's very comfortable with it and he has learned it from the guy that was there before. So, [the defense] should be pretty similar, pretty much the same. But at the same time, he is his own person and he probably has little different takes here and there on things, and it should be interesting to see what we get Week 1."
RB Bernard Pierce
On if he is feeling 100 percent and ready to play:"Of course, of course. I'm good. I would say the concussion last week was minor. I started practicing the week after and am full throttle now."
On how it feels to know that he will be getting the start:"It's a good feeling. But you know, we always have to prepare to be starters. [It's the] 'next man up' mentality, so when you're needed, you have to be ready to go at all times."
On how excited he is, going into this first division game, to showcase his play:"Correct, correct. I'm as excited as I can be. At the end of the day, I can't really over think it. I just have to make sure I stay mentally locked in and focused, because this could possibly be my only shot. So, I've just got to make it count."
On why he feels that it could possibly be his only shot:"Because this league, like I said, it's the 'next man up.' If you can't handle the load, somebody else will."
On if he feels that people make too much out of his history with injuries, calling him injury-prone:"Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. I tore my labrum and my rotator cuff. I would say that's a pretty significant injury. And, I caught a helmet-to-helmet [hit] last week, so I would say that you can't prevent that. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but I think, matter of fact … No, I know I'm pretty durable."
On how motivated he feels to show, after last year's troubles with the run game, this year's run game against a good defense:"I would say we're definitely confident, as an offensive whole. It's definitely going to be exciting to see what this offense does in the first week. Like I said before, all we can do is just keep getting better in the run game. So, we'll see Sunday."
On why the new offensive blocking and scheme fits him well:"I would say it's more of a one-cut system. That's where I fit in, in between the tackles. [I'm a] big back, pretty fast, I think. It's just making the best of it."
On how important it is to put last season behind him:"That was last year. It's the same thing, like if you won a Super Bowl last year and you didn't the next year. It's just pretty irrelevant."
On what he experienced with the minor concussion:"It was just dizziness, a little sensitivity to light. Besides that, everything was … My balance was good, I was sleeping well and everything, eating and all."
On if he had ever had a concussion before:"Yes I have. And those were not the symptoms. (Laughter) It was definitely more severe symptoms than that."
On if he is worried about protecting his head in this Sunday's game:"You can't. My whole take on it is, if you have an injury or something is lingering, if you think about it and protect it, somebody is bound to point it out and somebody is bound to attack it. So, just put it in the back of your head and go."
On if RB Ray Rice's suspension served as a motivating factor for him:"Honestly, no, because like [head coach John Harbaugh] says, [it's the] 'next man up' mentality. So I never practiced as though I was a No. 2 or No. 3. I always practiced [so that] if I get a role, I'd be able to take that role and master it."
On if he sees the first two games as an audition for a starting role:"You can put it that way, but I just … It's just another game to me."
On what FB Kyle Juszczyk brings to the table and if he has ever seen versatility like his:"I really don't think so, I really don't think so. He definitely has a knack for this system – as fast as we've already installed it and been through it – he's definitely, I would say, an X-factor in the offense. He catches the ball, he blocks, he does it all. And, he's definitely smart. He gets everything done that the coaches and we ask him for."
On how he and FB Kyle Juszczyk complement each other:"What do you want me to say? He blocks and I run?" (laughter)
On if this is as good and ready as he's ever felt entering a season:"Definitely. I feel good. They make sure I had to do everything that was asked of me on the field and when we leave, I just make sure that I take care of my body to the best of my ability. And [I'm] back here every day to go to work."
On if his current weight is the weight he plans on carrying throughout the season:"Right now, I would say I'm at a good weight. Maybe, come December, I might want to put on maybe two, three [pounds], but nothing too heavy. I feel good, I feel light on my feet. I feel agile."
ILB Daryl Smith
On his training routine and how he's changed it over the years:"You definitely have to watch what you're eating, especially now, for me, because I'm older. While I'm training, [I eat] a lot fruits and vegetables, cut back on fats and making sure I'm getting my sleep in at night. That's one of the biggest things – put your work in, eat right and make sure you get your rest."
On the Ravens having a veteran presence and prepping their older bodies to play defense:"We laugh and joke and talk about it, but we all do some form of whatever it is for us to be ready to play. [We] try to express that to the young guys and see how fast they learn it. You'll learn it one way or the other."
On how he would describe the AFC North:"[It's a] tough division – physical and with the teams that are in it, starting with us and Cincy, Pittsburgh [and] Cleveland – it's just a smash-mouth division, and we have to be able to come out and play physical and also be able to run the ball and throw the ball. It all comes down to who executes the best and makes the most plays at the end of the game."
On how important his communication to younger players is:"That's what we're working on now during the week. When we get into the game, it's easy. We try to put ourselves out here in practice doing the most difficult situations – whatever it may be – because it's going to be loud Sunday. We have to be able to talk about our game. We can't have any miscues with communication."
On if there's something special about the opening game each season:"Every game is special, and every first game is special. It's the start of a new year, and everybody wants to start off 1-0, and everybody can't. Everybody is out [with] their best players in and trying to play their best to get to 1-0. It's going to be an exciting game. [It will] just come down to who makes the most plays, and who makes [fewer] mistakes."
On what it's like defending a player like Bengals RB Giovani Bernard:"Everybody [needs to] get to the ball. When he catches the ball or when they hand it off to him, we have to have all 11 [players] on him. He probably will make the first man miss or outrun him, but if everybody is running to the ball, we'll overwhelm him. That's it."
On what he's most impressed with about the Ravens' new offense:"We're going to run the ball this year. As a defense, you love to hear that. They're going to run the ball and play-action off of that, and we've always had guys that can run and take deep shots with Joe's [Flacco] big arm. If we get the run game going and we're able to run and pass, it's difficult for any team to stop."
OLB Terrell Suggs
On how he feels with the regular season approaching: "Well, Sunday will get here in due time. We have to take advantage of every opportunity we get to be the best team we can be come Sunday. So, we know [the Bengals] are going to come in there fired up, ready to play. Everybody [is] pretty much over training camp and preseason, and everyone is pretty much ready to go. We're going to utilize these days and get the most out of it."
On why he thinks the team is ready to go: "You finally want to have the hits count. You get after each other and then you get after teams in the preseason, but you're not going to see them during the regular season with the exception of the Saints. You want to get the season going. You use your opportunity of training camp and you've used the opportunity to get better as a team, then you're looking forward to the season. Last year, I'll be totally honest with you, I felt like we ran out of time. I felt like we needed one more game, or an extra week in training camp last year. That first week crept up on us really fast and you can see it. But I think this year this team is more prepared, and we took advantage of our time in training camp."
On the difference in himself last year compared to now: "I guess we have to wait and see Week 1. Last year, we were all still coming off that emotional high of the Super Bowl and it was short-lived. But this year, we're coming off an 8-8 season. I think the sense of urgency is definitely heightened, and we're ready to get back after it and get back to playing some Ravens-style football around here."
On whether there is more pressure on the defensive line because of injuries on the secondary: "The sense of urgency, it never changes if you're a true front seven. Andy Dalton, he has showed … They're the division champions, they're the defending division champions, and he has shown that he can lead his team. So, if we already didn't have a sense of urgency, then we're hustling backwards, we're not prepared to play. So, it didn't heighten just because we had some guys out between camp. The objective never changed. And we know we're getting those guys back, but until we do, the play still stays the same and we're going to play some good, Raven, disciplined football."
On the Ravens' continued success against Bengals QB Andy Dalton: "This is the NFL. The good ones don't allow you to get in their head. We've had some success against a lot of quarterbacks in this league, and somehow, someway, they still manage to find a way to beat us sometimes. The good ones never really let you get in their head, and I don't think we're even close to doing that with this kid. He shows that he can be a premier quarterback in this league – make all the throws, especially with the weapons he has. He's doing a good job of utilizing them. It's our job to make sure they don't have too much fun on Sunday."
On which player they are going to have to shut down most on Sunday: "How do you pick just one? I think if you do that, you're setting yourself up for failure. You have to stop the Cincinnati Bengals as a team, as a whole. You can't just say, 'Oh, we're going to key in on A.J. Green,' and then they run it for 200 yards with their running back. They have weapons everywhere. They have a very good passing duo with the tight ends also. They can do some things on offense. They're a talented team. We realize that, and we're going to address all of them. We're not keying in on just one player."
On what advice he gives to rookie LB C.J. Mosley heading into the regular season: "'Strap [your] helmet up. Let's go.' This is a division game. In my opinion, we have the toughest division in football because all four teams only play this physical style of play that we do. But I think C.J. is ready. He got a good dose of it from our own offense during training camp, but I think he's ready to go. He can feel it just from the guys around him. I tell him to strap it up and be ready to go. Hydrate: It's going to be hot on Sunday."