HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH
Opening statement: "[It's] been a good morning working on evaluating the game in terms of what we can do better and really where we're at and then going to work on the [Cleveland] Browns and getting ready for that huge game here on Sunday. We're excited about it, and we're just getting started on this version of it. We know the Cleveland Browns. They know us, so you have to start way ahead of where you might be in terms of shared understanding of our opponent. We have a lot of work to do, and we're looking forward to it. [We] can't wait for the game to happen on Sunday. What questions do you have?"
Why has QB Lamar Jackson's efficiency taken a big jump this year?*_(Jamison Hensley)_* "I think we're getting better on offense right now. We have a lot of work to do still. There are so many things that we can be more efficient at. Just talking to Lamar [Jackson], I know he feels that way. Everybody on offense feels that way. It's really just more of a function of where are we at, where are we standing in terms of stacking our development and improvement and then the ability to make sure that we keep getting better, because there are just so many areas that we can continue to improve [and] be more precise on in every area of our offense. That's what we're working on."
How impressive was RB Keaton Mitchell's running between the tackles and his yardage after contact?*_(Luke Jones)_* "It was really great. The guys are so excited for him. He's a guy that has just been working every day. He has a great attitude. He's definitely [a] very talented guy – we all knew that. You guys knew that when you saw him in practice and in the preseason games. Just [to] finally get an opportunity at this point in time [at] midseason already, he finally gets a chance and makes the most of it. It's a guy that we were talking about making sure he got some chances and got some touches. It was something we were all hoping would happen, and I thought [offensive coordinator] Todd [Monken] did a good job of making sure it did happen. Then, to see him take off like that, you couldn't have predicted that. Like you said, between the tackles, breaking tackles, those kind of things – that was really great."
Do you envision RB Keaton Mitchell to play more and more now, assuming he is healthy, and getting more reps?*_(Brian Wacker)_* "Sure. I think we have … Those three backs [RB Gus Edwards, RB Justice Hill, RB Keaton Mitchell] are going to be all playing a lot. Now, you have three healthy backs. We haven't had that a lot. I'm sure there'll be a rotation. They worked that out. Sometimes, it's by certain scheme. Sometimes, it's by who's hot. Sometimes, it's by who's tired. With running backs, it just depends."
T Ronnie Stanley said RB Keaton Mitchell is so different than the other running backs that it allows for the offense to be more dynamic. In what ways do you see Mitchell's role changing what you can do on offense?*_(Giana Han)_* "I think it adds another dimension to it. The plays are the same plays. We're always finding ways to run the plays in different ways, because you have to, or a defense gets onto you at this level. But, the dimension is probably a good way to say it, because it's just a different style. It's just a different guy running the play. It makes it different for the defense. The timing of it for the defense, finding where the ball is at – all those things are different with each back. It's nice to have different types of backs, I think."
What is the biggest difference in S Geno Stone's play from when he stepped in last year to right now?*_(Cordell Woodland)_* "Players grow. Geno [Stone] was a really good player last year, too. He played really well last year. The ball's finding him. He's finding the ball. I guess, probably, all of it goes together. Maybe the ball's being pushed in his direction for some reason. Maybe, quarterbacks are taking some shots downfield to try to make something happen sometimes with that [pass] rush. I just think it's all complementary, but to make the plays, you have to be a playmaker. One thing, to your point, and I think is a really good point, is Geno [Stone] has established himself as a playmaker this year, and that's really great to see."
They say, 'You are what your record is.' Do you feel like the team has played at an elite level against some of the best in the NFL?*_(Jerry Coleman) _*"Well, yes, at times, and at times, we haven't. But, it's really not a measuring stick against the other teams. It's really not at this point. It's irrelevant that way, because it doesn't matter until the end. What the standings are now are not important. It's what the standings are after the last regular season game that matter. Our guys really understand that, I think. That's something that we're focusing on one game at a time. What really matters is how we compare to ourselves from the week before, and that's what we're working on."
Does the AFC North guarantee that you never have to worry about your team getting complacent? As good as the team has been, every team in the division would be in the playoffs right now. Does that always light the fire?*_(Childs Walker) _*"It's really awesome that we have such a great division, and I'd be really disappointed if we didn't. It would be just terrible if everybody was not a good team in our division." (Laughter)"That's my best answer. We respect these teams. This is a great division. There's no doubt it's the best division, it's proven. We know the teams; these teams are real. When you're in this division, you have to play them twice a year, you understand them, it's not just this year, so we understand that. They all understand it, and everybody knows what's going to happen when we all play each other."
You guys have not trailed very often this season, is this team being deprived of anything in any way by leading as much as they have?*_(Jonas Shaffer)_* "My mom always says, 'Get the lead, keep the lead.' I'm going to stick with that. Mom's advice is always the best advice."
The rest of the guys on the offensive line have played at least a season with each, but G John Simpson seems to have seamlessly found his way., What have you seen from him, and how has he been able to transition and fit in so well?*_(Melissa Kim)_* "That's a great point, he has – John [Simpson] has really fit in great, and the [offensive] line is cohesive, and it's getting more cohesive. We have a lot of cohesive still to grow into, too. I can tell you that; they'll tell you that, [with] pass protection and run blocking. And they work on that so hard every day. [Offensive line coach] Joe [D'Alessandris] does a great job. [Assistant offensive line coach] Mike Devlin does a great job. But the guys themselves do a great job. They're welcoming one another, but the bottom line is John's playing well, and when you're playing well, you tend to fit in. He had to earn the job. He's transformed himself and his career a little bit. He made some technical changes, technique-wise, to his game – both run and pass blocking – and it's paid off big time, so it's just great to see."
Alot of players talked yesterday about how they wanted to root for one another and playing selfless football. How have you seen that camaraderie in the locker room progress and develop over the course of the season?*_(Kyle Barber)_* "It's really great. It's what you want as a coach, and I've seen it in the locker room from the beginning, but it is something that's dynamic – it grows and evolves. It's a living breathing thing; relationships always are. Then you see it in a game like that, you see evidence of it, right? That was what you guys saw; that's what we all saw. That's fun, [and] that's what you want. I guess you can call it chemistry or whatever, there's a lot of words for it. But really, I like that. I'm happy about it. It is the heart and soul of a team, and we can build off that."
You have two divisional games coming up in a span of five days within each other. Does the Bengals game affect how you guys prepare for the Browns game considering how close the games are together?*_(Cordell Woodland)_* "I'd have to say no. That's a good question and a fair question, but we have to take care of business. First things first, we have the Browns, and we have two division games in five days. That's our challenge and it's going to be all about the Browns, and that's it. When the Bengals game comes up, it will be a short turnaround, but then it'll be about the Bengals at that point."
We saw defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald get a game ball for the defense. We've talked a lot about this defense this year, but what are his fingerprints on this defense? What does he specifically bring? How has it changed in the last year or so?*_(Bo Smolka)_* "Mike [Macdonald] is a great coach. We talked about that when we hired him. He's been here for a long time. He's a really good guy. The players like him. The [defensive] staff is really great, too. All those guys have really worked together. They understand teamwork. They understand that working together, everybody has good ideas, and they're all used, and they all support different ideas and things like that. All the things that you think would be givens that aren't in human nature. Those guys have done a great job being an example for the players and all that, so I'm really proud of that. It's just day to day. It's day to day trying to get ready for the next game, teaching [and] coaching. Mike does a great job of that. The guys do a great job of that. It's really what we're all about. We've played how many games now, nine? So, we have a lot of games left, and we have one big one coming up Sunday, and that's really where our thoughts are on."
A popular topic in the locker room after the game yesterday was that a lot of players are getting fined for things they don't believe are fine worthy. Does that cross your desk at all? I know there's nothing you can do about it, but I know you talk to your players, and you have a leadership council. Has that been discussed? And do you think it's kind of gotten a little out of control with when and how much players are getting docked?*_(Jeff Zrebiec)_* "Every now and then, I'll make a call just to understand it, because the guys do talk about. And we're coaching these things, so we want to understand how the league views it. [We] also understand that there is a process that is in place to take a look at that, so it's not just one sided. It's not like the NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association], where there's just a judge, jury and executioner. It's the NFL, and there's a Players Association that has an opportunity to create some fairness, which is good; that's the way it should be. So, they'll challenge those fines, and a decision will be made, and then you move forward; that's just how it works. That's collective bargaining, and it actually works out really well."
There is obviously a lot of good blocking that goes along with rushing for nearly 300 yards. But C Tyler Linderbaum's effort on RB Keaton Mitchell's 60-yard run; what was your reaction to that? And in a general sense with Tyler, how have you seen him grow from Year One? He was already pretty darn good as a rookie.*_(Luke Jones)_* "First of all, the effort that Tyler [Linderbaum] showed was funny, and it's not the first time. But [it's] not just him; a bunch of guys [were] running down and getting blocks. That's part of what you're talking about with the guys playing for one another. And then Tyler, yes, he grows. He keeps it simple, man. He's very, very talented, and he's very tough, but he keeps it simple. He works on being a great center every single day, and it's what he thinks about. So, we don't have to worry about it, because he's got it covered. He does a great job."
Speaking of blocking, TE Isaiah Likely had a really good game, and it seems like his blocking has really improved. He also got involved in the passing game. How important is it for him to emerge in that way?*_(Ryan Mink)_* "Yes, it's great. Isaiah [Likely], he's such a great guy, but also, I can read his body language. And he doesn't even realize it, but he's an open book, and he gets down when he wants to do stuff. He wants to make plays. And sometimes I tell him, 'Bring the juice, man. The plays are coming.' And he does. And to see it pay off, that's really awesome.
"One thing I also want to mention is Kyle Van Noy. [I] didn't get a chance to mention him last night. How about the swing of events that he led at the end of the half, right? [It] probably flipped the game or broke the game in a way. It kept them from getting back within one score. [It was] just crazy good pass rush right there. And then Broderick [Washington] jumping on that ball ... So, side note: Kyle was awesome." (laughter)
It would be tough to get through one of these Mondays without an injury line of questioning. Two parts: Is there no issue with QB Lamar Jackson today? Though I could be wrong here, when you mentioned some guys that could be returning off of Injured Reserve, I don't think you mentioned OLB David Ojabo. Is there any update on where he's at?*_(Jeff Zrebiec)_* "Yes, [David] Ojabo … I don't really want to make an announcement on that, but there is a … Yes, we'll have an announcement soon on that." (Reporter: "And Lamar is completely fine?")"Lamar [Jackson] is fine."
Is it anything serious with CB Kevon Seymour, who was the only guy who left the game yesterday?*_(Brian Wacker)_* "[Kevon Seymour] was … Nothing on the X-rays or on the exam this morning. I think he went to an MRI this morning, which we haven't … I haven't heard about the result back on that. It looks OK, but we'll see. It may be day to day this week; we'll see."