SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR CHRIS HORTON
Opening statement: "[It's] good to see everyone today. I hope you guys are all doing well. What a great week for us to just come out here and really just focus on us. That's been the message to our group. It's just, 'Let's figure out a way, this week, of how we can help ourselves and get better at things, which we're going to need to do in order to make some plays this postseason. Our guys are out there working [in] all six phases [of special teams] – field goal, field goal block, punt, punt return, kickoff [and] kickoff return. We get this opportunity, so again, our focus is mainly about us right now. Questions?"
How much do you like having WR Devin Duvernay back on the practice field? With the way WR Tylan Wallace and RB Justice Hill have stepped up, do you have depth and good options in the return game for the playoffs?*_(Luke Jones) _*"It's amazing to see [Devin Duvernay] back out there. I'll tell you this; I think you guys know how I feel about him. I know how our team feels about him, and I know how the guys outside feel about him. He's a heck of a player, and just to have him back out there running, it just goes to show to what we do fundamentally across the board with the depth of having Tylan [Wallace] back there, coming out there, making that play against the [Los Angeles] Rams and scoring that touchdown [on a punt return in overtime] and having Justice [Hill] out there versus [the] Miami [Dolphins] and popping that big [kick] return. It just goes to show, for all 11 guys really, our depth of putting a guy back there. If we block the play the right way, we can create those big plays. Are we excited to have him back? Of course."
What are traits, besides speed, that make a great kick returner?*_(Adam Kilgore)_* "A good kick returner [has] I think [No.] 1 speed. Speed, for sure, is everything, but you have to have some vision. You have to be able to find the hole when it's not there and a guy that can break some tackles – a guy that can break through some arm tackles – but really just a downhill, vertical guy. He has to be a guy that makes great decisions holding onto the football. We talk about that a lot. It's very important for any of our returners. That's first and foremost – a guy that can protect the ball. So, [it's] all those good things."
You and defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald both started as coaching interns. What do you remember about being an intern with him, and what was it like for you at the beginning of your coaching career?*_(Jamison Hensley)_* "Honestly, at the beginning – I'm going to speak for myself here – but we didn't know. We were just two young guys just trying to figure out our way. We got the opportunity here when the Ravens were starting that [coaching] intern program. Mike [Macdonald] and I shared an office, so we got to kind of get to know each other a little bit throughout the course of the year. I was still on defense at the time, so I had not yet moved to special teams at the time. I was still working on defense. We just got to know each other. We sat in that office together, broke down plays and drew [play] cards for the scout team. As the season went on, as a young guy, you don't know what's next. We're sitting in the office like, 'Hey. What's going to happen? Are we even going to be back here? Do we need to go find another job?' All those things, they come into question. This place – it's stability. It lets you be yourself. [If] you come out and you do a great job, you stick around. Here it is, 10 seasons later, and I'm standing up in front of the podium as the special teams coordinator. It's been great just to watch what Mike has done. We talk about it all the time of where we've come from to where we are now. It's just been an amazing process of just putting your head down, going to work and those things will pay off for you."
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE MACDONALD
Special teams coordinator Chris Horton talked about what it was like to come up from the intern level and really grow as a coach in this organization. When you reflect on all that time that you've spent here under the culture head coach John Harbaugh has created, and if you do become a head coach one day, what do you think you've taken away from that to sort of get you there?*_(Childs Walker)_* "There's so much. We're so fortunate and lucky to be around, first of all, the organization. The organization, when you think about it, it's made up of people, and the alignment that comes from the top here when I was an intern and [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] being the general manager and starting with him, starting with [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] [and] now working with [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] – really everybody throughout the building. Then ultimately, [head coach] John [Harbaugh] and the person that he is, and the leader that he is, you just have great role models that you look up to and that are high integrity [and] high character individuals and just phenomenal leaders. So, they're easy guys to follow. If and when that opportunity presents itself, obviously you want to model that behavior after them."
How do you balance the interest that you're drawing from other teams with your task from your current role?*_(Shawn Stepner) _*"This is the first time I'm going through it, so not a lot of experience to draw off of, but the way the schedule sets up, you just have to deal with the way it's structured. So, right now this week, there's a lot of work that we're getting done here in the building, not necessarily for future opponents – there's some back work being done behind the scenes – but our focus right now with our guys is to try improve and really stay sharp and ramp up and make sure we're on our 'A' game come next weekend. So, when we're here, that's what we're focused on and then fortunately, I can try to compartmentalize it and work on the Zooms and things that happen at night, and I'm doing those at my house."
What does it say about the Ravens organization and this staff in particular this year that there's so much interest from other clubs around the league in these coaches, yourself included?*_(Shawn Stepner) _*"Well, like I referenced earlier, it's about ... We have phenomenal people here, and the organization and the team has helped us put us in these types of situations [and with] all these coaches, you understand what type of talented people that we have. So, I'm excited for the coaches that have opportunities that definitely deserve it – phenomenal human beings, great leaders, great coaches – so you're rooting for them throughout the process, and I think that also, we all understand that there's a mission here involved as well. So, we're all laser sharp focus on the goal at hand, and we all know that's it obviously starts with next weekend."
Just to clarify, I guess the rule is you're not allowed to talk in person until after January 22nd? But you've talked to teams on Zoom? Have you already done that?*_ (Jeff Zrebiec)_* "Yes."
It's one of four different teams now that you can play next weekend, but you've played all those teams. How does that help in terms preparation knowing that you can't put together an elaborate gameplan, but you do have some working knowledge to go off of?*_(Luke Jones) _*"There's different things going on when you play a team twice. So, you have to have an understanding of what the thoughts were going into the game, and a lot of times, there's path dependence involved and how they've operated going into that game, too. So, variables change – things like that. But you try to have a great process after you play them to kind of debrief and figure out, 'Hey, this is how we played them. This is how we should've played them. Next time we have to think about these things.' So, we have that information available. Our guys are doing a lot of work right now behind the scenes. Like I said, a lot of the focus right now is ... It's not easy to prepare for four possibilities, so as it starts to come into focus and over the weekend, now we can kind of sit down and go full steam ahead going into it next week."
Does ILB Roquan Smith have a certain ability or knack to make the teammates he's playing around better, and if so, how does that kind of manifest?*_ (Adam Kilgore)_* "Absolutely. It's a secret sauce and there's magnetism to [Roquan Smith] that guys gravitate towards him naturally. He always has great energy. You can't help being around a guy like that, that plays the way he plays with the passion that he has and not be attracted to that. In the way he plays, in terms of just getting to the football ... If you're not playing with him, then it pops out on tape, and the guys realize that. Obviously, just a tremendous leader all around, so the guys respect him just for how he operates."
How much did you converse with head coach John Harbaugh about the opportunities and vacancies and leaned on him?*_(Jerry Coleman)_* "Well, we had an interesting plane flight going to and from Houston the other day. We had a great conversation on the plane, and [I'm] just very thankful for his support that he's given to me and probably to the other coaches as well. So, he's been awesome."
What was the experience like on Monday night for you at the College National Championship game. Obviously, we talked to head coach John Harbaugh about it, it's his family. It's your family in a way, too, so what was that experience like?*_(Childs Walker)_* "It was phenomenal. It was a great [and] phenomenal experience. Something that we laughed about, however the story was going to play out with the plane and everything, but it's something that we'll cherish for a long time. There's s a lot of work that goes into it and dedication that goes into getting to that point for the team and you realize when you're in the stands that the families are involved too – the wives, the children, friends of coaches, things like that [and] all the fans. It was pretty cool to see it come full circle. Obviously, we were on the field afterwards just to ... The joy that everybody had and seeing the whole process through was a special time for sure."
You don't watch a lot of football games as a fan anymore. What was that like?*_(Adam Kilgore) _*"I haven't been in the stands in a long time, but it was cool. I had a beer. It was good." (laughter)
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR TODD MONKEN
How do you structure practice when you do not know your upcoming opponent?*_(Jamison Hensley)_* "Improve the Ravens' offense – that's what you're trying to do. When we had a bye week [during the regular season], the guys had the week off, so there were a lot of things we were able to improve on from a coaching staff standpoint [like] self-scout, who we want to be moving forward, utilization of personnel – all those things – but we didn't have the players here. Fast forward five or six weeks later, you have a chance to work on things somewhat from a game-planning standpoint, but more about us. The way we protect, the way we pass set, the way we run routes, how we structure things, how we do it better – to me, that's what this whole week's about."
What have you seen so far in RB Dalvin Cook?*_(Kevin Richardson)_* "We're excited to add a talented player [in Dalvin Cook] to our roster. I agree with what Coach [John Harbaugh] said yesterday, 'We look at him more as a potential weapon than just someone that we've added to the roster.' Now, [it's] about catching him up to speed in terms of terminology and what we call things, but it's not hard. We just have to continue to 'rep' him and see where it goes from there."
What are the traits that QB Lamar Jackson has that's allowed him to thrive and succeed in having the keys to the offense making calls at the line of scrimmage?*_(Adam Kilgore)_* "First off, [Lamar Jackson's] highly intelligent. He understands what you're asking him to do and what you're allowing him to do and when the situation presents that. That's probably as much as anything, and he's embraced wanting to do that. Not every quarterback wants that. Not every quarterback wants that on their plate and be empowered to change a play at the line of scrimmage or to put themselves out there where now they make the decision to change something at the line or protection. It starts with him. He's diligent. He's intelligent. He's certainly more than capable of seeing things – what the defense is presenting to him – and how he can get us into a better play and get us into a premium play."
What are the standout traits in head coach John Harbaugh after working with him for almost a year?*_(Childs Walker)_* "Consistency. I think if you said [John Harbaugh's] day-to-day approach, his positive energy, his connection with the team – I've never been around anybody like that in terms of whether we've won [or] whether we've lost in terms of his approach. I think that allows you, when you have a season as long as we do, in terms of sustaining for the long haul."
How do you balance taking part in head-coaching interviews with other teams and game-planning with the Ravens for the postseason?*_(Shawn Stepner)_* "It's not hard, because I'll be able to talk about [coaching interviews] at a proper time when it comes up. The bottom line is we have a chance to do something special here. Our team and our focus is on this week, where we're headed, finding out this weekend who we're playing [in the Divisional round] and then coming up with a great gameplan giving us the best chance to be successful next week."
What does it say about this team this year that there is so much interest in you and other coaches on staff for coaching vacancies around the NFL?*_(Shawn Stepner)_* "It says a lot about the organization. It says a lot about our players. It says a lot about our coaching staff. You don't do it alone. You have to have a great staff, great organization and a great team [with] players that believe in the plan and are able to execute it at a high level."
What has stood out to you about QB Lamar Jackson's leadership this season?*_(Ryan Mink) _*"Lamar [Jackson] is another one that, in what I've seen over the course of the year, that does a great job in terms of balancing success and disappointment and coming back to the office [and] coming back in the building with a great frame of mind. He has a great way of compartmentalizing some frustration, competitiveness, success, disappointment – all of the above – that comes from playing in the NFL and walk in the building with a smile on his face and [saying], 'OK, let's go to work.' That's a unique trait, because it's hard for what we do – for all of us – handling success, handling disappointment and then walk in the building saying, 'What's next?'"
RB DALVIN COOK
On joining the Ravens:"It presents everything. Obviously, the situation speaks for itself. These guys put in the work to have the first-round bye [and] to be sitting at the No. 1 seed. So, for me, just come in and give everything I've got. These guys put the hard work in already, so, for me, lay it all on the line for these guys. They [already] did the dirty work, so now it's time for me to just go help these guys any way I can. So, for me, it's a new breath of air, for me, new opportunity, a great opportunity, and I'm loving it, man."
On how he fits into this running backs room:"I fit right in. First off, we've got a great room. [Melvin Gordon III], Justice [Hill], Gus [Edwards] – all those guys – they're great. They've been great since I got here. And when you look at the dynamics of the room, I think I bring everything to the table, added to what those guys bring to the table, which is a lot. You've been seeing it all year with those guys. And with the O-line we've got, I think it makes everything better. We've got some guys up front. We've got some dudes up front that are ready to lay it on the line. So, I'm just happy."
On how close he was to signing with the Ravens in the summer:"I was close. It was really close. I'm close with 'L' [Lamar Jackson], Zay [Flowers], 'Snoop' [Tyler Huntley] – all those guys. It's just a Florida thing. It's the Florida water; it's just what it is. But it was really close. To answer the question, it was close."
On if Baltimore was his only opportunity after clearing waivers:"It wasn't the only opportunity for me, but when this door opened up, I was the first one to walk in it. It was a no-brainer for me, man. I couldn't pass up playing with 'L' [Lamar Jackson] – playing with all those guys – 'Snoop' [Tyler Huntley], Zay [Flowers]. Like I said, I'm close with all those guys. So, to get the opportunity to play with my guys, man, it opened up, and I'm right here in front of you all."
On how motivated he is to prove that his numbers from this year aren't an accurate reflection of him:"Yes, obviously ... I feel like that's why I'm in the situation I am [in]. Me, I'm a man of faith, and I feel like I got put in this situation for a reason. I'm not trying to prove nothing to anybody; I'm just going to be me, to be honest, and that's what got me to this point in my life. So, I don't listen to the naysayers, man. I block the noise. My legs [are] still here, I'm still me, I'm still Dalvin; it's just for the world to see it."
On what he's looking forward to the most with playing alongside QB Lamar Jackson:"Really, just going out there [and] playing ball. For me, I don't watch so much of it on TV; I'm just like, 'Why can't I be a part of that?' Do you know what I'm saying? And for me, knowing how 'L' [Lamar Jackson] is, knowing how he operates – [he's a] competitor – I want to be in the backfield with somebody like that. We're just playing ball. It's like we're back at home – back in South Florida – playing ball. So, it's going to be a great experience for the both of us."
On if he expects to see some carries in the playoffs:"I don't expect; I'm going to earn my rights. Like I said, these guys put in the work all year. I'm going to earn everything I get. I appreciate Coach [John] Harbaugh so much. You guys don't understand; he's a great a person. And for me, I'm just going to work my tail off [for] every opportunity that [will] come my way. I'm going to give it my all for these guys – [give them] everything I've got. So, for me, I'm going to earn everything I get, and I'm going to just lay it on the line for these guys."