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Transcripts: Press Conference (1/25)


Opening statement:"Good seeing everybody. [I] appreciate you being here. [It was] a good practice. The guys were into it. [It was] a beautiful day. The weather turned out good. The fog finally cleared. Once the fog cleared, we were OK. We weren't sure – it took a while. But, guys were high-spirited and focused. We're happy with where we're at. [We] still have plenty of work to do before we play on Sunday. What questions do you have?"

Have you congratulated your brother, Jim, on coming back to the NFL after being named head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers yesterday?*(Morgan Adsit)* "I have, and my thoughts are, 'We play them next year.' [My brother Jim and I] are looking forward to all of it. I'm just very happy for him. [I'm] proud of him [and] excited for him. [I'm] excited for his family. My mom and dad told me that he called back in the evening, and he found out that all of his kids starting with Eddie [and] Katie had their bags packed already. They were ready to go. They're excited, too. It's going to be great. It's well deserved. I'll say this – the [Los Angeles] Chargers just got themselves one great coach."

What makes rotating your offensive tackles work?*(Kyle Phoenix)* "It's a good question. Probably the biggest thing is we have good players capable of doing it. Pat [Mekari] and Daniel [Faalele] step in there and play very well. It's not normal. I understand that. It's not something you see very often, but we're able to do it. It started with the nicks that the guys had at tackle between Ronnie [Stanley] and Morgan [Moses]. It's been good for us. It's something we found, and we're happy with it."

Is rotating offensive tackles a strategic advantage knowing the differences in their size and play style?*(Kyle Phoenix)* "It might be. We haven't really thought too much about it. We want to run the plays and have the guys go in there and execute to the best of their ability. Everybody plays their way, so get the job done your way."

If your brother, Jim, comes to the AFC Championship on Sunday, do you expect him to be wearing Ravens gear?*(Jerry Coleman)*"That's a great question. I actually thought about that. Will Jim [Harbaugh] be wearing Ravens gear if he comes in for the game this weekend? I don't know the answer to that. We may have to require it, perhaps." *(laughter) *"It's a good question."

QB Lamar Jackson showed emotion in the victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in 2021. Was that win a big hurdle for him to get past a team like that? When he approaches the AFC Championship game against them, do you see that same mentality in him as facing a team to get to where he wants to go?*(Morgan Adsit)* "I think it's always part of all of us. We all want to accomplish the next thing. That particular game [against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2021] is one that was a good memory for us, and we're proud of it. It seems like it was a long, long time ago. This game coming up is the immediate challenge right in front of us. Really, that's all we're really thinking about. All the other things are part of it, but [we're] not focused on those things right now."

Does it look like TE Mark Andrews will be able to play on Sunday?*(Jamison Hensley)*"Mark [Andrews] practiced – he went through the whole practice. We'll just see on all those things, how they go and if guys are ready to go."

If TE Mark Andrews can play, will you find ways to play him and TE Isaiah Likely at the same time to exploit the Chiefs' defense?*(Cordell Woodland)*"That's just a great way to ask the question. [It was] really creative." (laughter) "Really, it's just going to be ... You have to get through practices, and you have to come back the next day [feeling] OK. So, if I stand up here and start telling you [that] guys are going to play, and then they don't play, you're going to be looking at me like, 'Well...' I'm steering you the wrong way either way. Like I said, I made a vow. I'm just not going to get into it. I'm not a doctor. I don't make predictions about who's going to play, but all the guys who are active and then the receiving corps – all the guys will have a chance to get out there and make some catches. I'm rooting for all of them. I promise you that."

Is CB Rock Ya-Sin's injury something that could sideline him for Sunday's game?*(Jonas Shaffer)* "I don't know yet. We'll have to see."

Can you use your AFC Championship game experience for this week, or has too much time passed?*(Adam Kilgore)* "I guess you can in a sense of the perspective of the opportunity and how far you've come and the opportunity to go further and how valuable that 1-0 [in the postseason] is right now. That 1-0 is really valuable. You've made it valuable, because of all the investments that you've made going into it. This particular 1-0 is a bigger benefit than 1-0 maybe the second or third week of the season, even though that was a really important 1-0. Our guys understand that, but that's just intuitive. I don't think you necessarily had to have played in one of these to know that. We're just focused on the game itself, the opponent, our responsibilities, our assignments, our techniques and try to be as ready as we can to play a good football game."

Who gives a better pre-game speech – you or ILB Roquan Smith?*(Cordell Woodland)*"[Roquan Smith's] the best. Well, he's the best now. Him and Ray [Lewis] would probably be the better comparison. At some point in time, that would be really interesting [to] have a pre-game speech-off between Ray and Roquan." *(laughter) *"You could sell that." 


On what went wrong on the Texans PR-TD in the Divisional Round game:"Everything we do always starts with giving guys punt direction. When the ball didn't go where [our players] expected it to go, pretty much all 11 guys at that point, there was a breakdown. That ball got to [Steven] Simms pretty quickly, and he was able to split us right up the middle. It was just a combination of everything going wrong at the same time. When those things happen on those plays, you just kind of go back and look and ask, and say, 'Hey man, we have to defend this play better.' Regardless of where that ball is, we need to make adjustments a lot quicker. That's really what happened on that play."

On if the team is prepared for poor weather given the conditions of the last two games:"You know, I would think so. We have had the opportunity to play in some of these games with weather. We just have to go out there, no matter what the conditions are, and we have to do our best to execute at a high level. Every team is going to be at the same vantage point with the weather, but I think we are pretty prepared for it, and I think our guys will be ready to handle it."

On what it feels like to have K Justin Tucker as the kicker if it comes down to an opportunity to kick a game-winning field goal:"With Justin, the one thing you know about him is he is always ready for the moment. These situations, this guy lives for. He prepares for daily. On Sundays, when the lights are at their biggest stage, he shows up. If his number is called, and that is what we need, I think he is going to go out there with all three of those guys [LS Tyler Ott and P/H Jordan Stout]. It starts with the snap, then the hold, then the kick. Having him around is obviously a luxury."


This late in the season, is it a bigger challenge facing a team that you have not seen yet before?*(Gerry Sandusky)* "In some ways [it is]. In some ways it is. You're starting ... It's a normal week, I guess is the best way to put it. It's a normal week of [preparing for] someone you haven't played and then getting up to speed with who they are. In some ways, that way or in another way, you're like, 'OK, we're not playing someone that really knows us, in some ways.' They have the same issues we do. They haven't seen us before, other than maybe some crossover tape."

What impresses you most about the Kansas City Chiefs' defense?*(Jeff Zrebiec)* "How they do it collectively. I mean, what a great job they've done collectively. Their coaches – and I know a number of those guys – they're outstanding coaches. They have outstanding players. They're very disruptive. You have to have – how do I say this ... Whatever you're going to run, you better have the answers for what they're going to give you. They're certainly ... And it isn't something that's a game or two. When you're fourth in the league in yards per play [allowed], and I don't know how many games they haven't given up 20 points, but you can see it on tape – how hard they play, they tackle well, they're well-coached and they are very disruptive."

We've heard QB Lamar Jackson's perspective on the adjustments you guys were able to make at halftime in the last game and head coach John Harbaugh's perspective, but what positive changes were you guys able to make at halftime?*(Childs Walker)* "We just called it better, [and] we executed it better. That's really what it was. It's always that, in my mind. You look back at certain calls that you would have done differently, possibly, but then, also, there were things that, [like when] everybody [is] taking turns, it doesn't allow you to stack plays. That's really it. Some of it was getting the ball out, some of it was just execution, and sometimes it's just momentum. You get momentum on your side, which to me started off the second half. The kickoff return, [to] get it out of our hands to Nelson [Agholor] and then the big play by Zay [Flowers], they get you fired up. It eliminates some of the anxiety, and then, when we got down there, we scored touchdowns. That's the other big part of it. You're able to separate. I think about the [Week 17] Miami game when it was there in the balance, and they kicked a couple of field goals, and we got a touchdown on a 75-yard play. [We] got the ball back and got that fourth down, and we scored touchdowns. All of a sudden, you gain some separation there when you're able to score touchdowns. And to keep their offense off the field, that was big. [We were] running the ball, getting the ball out of our hands and controlling the game."

You used the word anxiety. As you put together your game plan, and you think about your plays calls, do you factor human nature into it? There's going to be a higher level of anxiety to start a championship game?*(Gerry Sandusky)* "Pretty much every game, we think of it the same way – how we want to start the game and try to start fast. We've been pretty good at that. I don't know where we rank, but we've been pretty good at starting [fast]. We've had some games [where it was] not so much, but [we were] trying to get Lamar [Jackson] off to a fast start and us off to a fast start. You get the lead, but I feel like that's maybe every game. You have a little bit of anxiety at the start of the game, so [I] try to get the guys comfortable."

When you guys as a team are going up a quarterback like Chiefs' QB Patrick Mahomes, does that impact you, your offensive gameplan and how you may call the game at all?* (Cordell Woodland)* "Not really. As the game goes, it might, in terms of where you're at, but not initially. I get where you're going with it in terms of the anticipation of whatever, [like] maybe they're never out of a game, or they're [always] able to score. Sure, all of those things are part of it, but until we get to that point, we're more concerned with each drive we have [and] what we have to do offensively."

I know you are hoping that TE Mark Andrews will be healthy enough for Sunday. Has TE Isaiah Likely's emergence since Mark has been out made you rethink how those two might fit together on the field. I know you guys haven't played with a lot of tight ends, at least passing snaps.*(Jonas Shaffer)* "Sure. I think all that figures in. How well [Isaiah Likely]'s played and then, leading up to each [week] – like last week – or leading up to this week, how Mark [Andrews] has practiced, that all leads into ... [It's] at every position really – who's healthy, how do we anticipate that fitting into our gameplan, how can we incorporate them."

Can you draw on the experience from the past two years of calling plays in the College National Title game and calling plays in high-leverage situations?*(Chris Bumbaca)* "I don't know about that. It has felt like every game we've had has been high leverage. I don't know. It's the NFL. We've had a lot of games this year that it felt like [that] at some point in the game. Very rarely is it not that way. Last week, [it] felt like that at halftime and the second drive; that's high leverage. When we got to the back end of the year, and being on the road at San Francisco and Jacksonville and playing at home against the Rams, you're going to have a number of those. So, I don't know if I can draw back from the last couple of years, per se, that would be any different than the games we've played this year, but I understand, again, where you're going with that. Again, it is what it is. [We've had] a lot of big games; this game just happens to be one of them."

Along those lines, I don't know if we've ever asked you; did you and defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald ever talk about your coaching against each other in the College Football Playoff in 2021?*(Jonas Shaffer)*(laughter) "Yes, a little bit. [We were] just joking around a little bit once when I was interviewing. It was kind of an awkward conversation." (Reporter: "Because of the score?") "It would be the other way, too, for me. They were really good, but we had a generational defense. All of those guys were ... There were a lot of first-round picks on that [roster], and they were just starting to get really good on offense. Then, next year, we were a lot better, so it's just like I said; sometimes you're ... They did a great job – holy cow – because they got so much better on defense, and they did it, coaching wise. [That's] why they got to that point, but we were pretty good as well. But, yes. We don't really talk about it too much."

Head coach John Harbaugh was asked about the ongoing rotation with the tackles. Was that kind of something you did by necessity that's turned into something better you could have imagined?*(Childs Walker)* "I think somewhat. I think somewhat. [It's] taken a little bit of the pressure off those guys. It was already happening in practice. It was already happening where you're having a hard time getting through all the reps in practice, so those guys were already getting reps, so it just became more natural to allow that to occur in the games." 

Did you have a tough time talking the offensive linemen into doing the rotation, because linemen don't like to come out of the game?* (Mike Preston)* "You'll have to ask those guys, to an extent. I don't mean that from a negative standpoint. I think in critical situations, that would be true. I think that would be. I think in some scenarios, I think they enjoyed having a little bit of a break with their body, because it was happening during the week anyways, to an extent. You'd have to ask those guys whether they were frustrated or not. I know last week, in the second half, they went, and that was the anticipation – try to get through the year. We thought there was ... We needed to get them to the back end of the year, is really what happens. We needed to get them to the back end of the year."

Is it easier to make halftime adjustments versus in-game adjustments?*(Kevin Richardson)* "I don't even know what to say. When it works out like that, it's like, 'Holy [crap]. That was a great halftime adjustment.' I don't know. We just played better. We just executed better. We got a few plays that kind of got us going. Momentum is a powerful thing. When you're moving it [on offense, and] you're getting stops [on defense] ... You're making adjustments during the first half. Now, you are collectively as a staff talking through things – what you want to get to [or] what we haven't gotten to. That's a little easier to take a breath. I know there has been ... It wasn't like even in the second half that we weren't talking. Does that make sense? It's ongoing. Halftime is a part of it. What you do in the week is a big part of it. What you're doing during the game is a part of it. What you want to get to is a big part of it. Momentum is a big part of it, and like my wife says, 'I don't know why you just don't call the plays that work. It just seems that simple. Why would you call anything but the plays that work?' I said, 'You're right, honey. As usual, you're right.'"


Have you thought about going up against your old boss [Jim Harbaugh], next season since he is now the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers?*(Kevin Richardson)* "No. I haven't. I actually didn't even know who you were talking about as you were asking the question." (laughter)

Can you describe ILB Roquan Smith's leadership and what he has done to lift up the rest of the defense?*(Ryan Mink)*"[It's] tough to find a place to start. [Roquan Smith's] the guy we look to. When we need something to be said, he knows what to say and when. I think what's unique about him is what shows up on the field has backed up all the talk. When you play this style of football he plays, it's contagious. The guys see it, and it pops off the screen. We talk about expectations and playing like a Raven – that's what it is. You don't need to explain it. You just show it, and the guys understand it."

As you prepare to face Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, where do you begin with trying to figure out how to take away what he does well?*(Gerry Sandusky)* "It's a long list of the stuff that [Patrick Mahomes] does well. It's a great question. If we had the answer [and] if the answer was out there, they probably wouldn't be in this game or have the consistent success that he's had. Hats off to them and the type of player that he is. He's an ultimate competitor, so we have our hands full. It's a great challenge. There's things situationally, obviously, that you feel like that we do well that you're going to want to be able to exploit given those certain situations. But, you're right. It's a lengthy list, for sure, of all the things that he does really well."

Does it help your defense prepare for QB Patrick Mahomes by facing QB Lamar Jackson in practice every day since training camp and OTAs?*(Shawn Stepner)* "Probably. When you're thinking about training camp, and you're scoring practice and practices get competitive and the cadence of the play becomes longer when [Lamar Jackson's] able to hold the ball. Sometimes, we think it's a sack but 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] says it's not and [to] play it out. Of course, those are things that you have to be able to adjust to and play the extended plays. I wouldn't put too much stock into that. We have so much time where we're spending apart and on 'look' teams. I would say that our backup quarterbacks do a great job every week of studying the [opposing] quarterbacks' mechanisms and how they operate and where they like to go with the ball. Shoutout to those guys."

Yesterday, ILB Roquan Smith called you a 'mad scientist,' and players said big things are coming for you in the future. How do you view that, and what do you bring to a team if you become a head coach?*(Chick Hernandez)* "It's humbling. It's flattering to hear that. As a coach, you're just trying to put your guys in spots where they can be successful. That's the viewpoint. That's why we do what we do. When they have success, you have success. That's what we're trying to do here. That's why all this is here. That's why you guys are here. That's what's rewarding to us. When you hear things that your players feel like you're helping them have success, that means a lot. But, like I said, it's a team effort. There's a lot of information that has to be cultivated and broken down and then deciphered and then given to them at the same time. I'm in charge of organizing it and making sure it gets them the right way and ultimately making the calls on Sundays. To answer your question, yes it feels great that we're helping our players have success, for sure."

Do you go into the game on Sunday expecting the Chiefs to make calls at the line of scrimmage to target certain defenders like they did in the AFC Divisional against the Buffalo Bills, or will you see something different from them?*(Childs Walker)*"The great thing about [the Chiefs'] offense is it looks like they carry a lot of volume, but it's similar concepts packaged differently, which I think any good scheme is going to do. You can't run every play known to mankind all the time. Eventually, you have to keep it in your wheelhouse. They do a great job of hiding what their intents are. Obviously, they know how to attack coverages. They do a great job of scheming up routes. We'll see things that we haven't seen presented early in the snap that you're just going to have to play your rules out. Hopefully, they're in position to make the play, initially after it's snapped, and then if the ball's extended, be able to attach the guys and corral the quarterback."

What has the organization's investment at the inside linebacker position done for the way you have shaped this defense?*(Noah Trister)* "I assure you, I have zero to do with how we invest in any penny that goes into the salary cap. We love having great players that play great football and play the way we want to play. It's our responsibility as coaches to put them in spots where they can go be successful. Given the decisions that we made, we'll go coach them up and get them ready to roll. Yes, absolutely. You look at the middle of our defense – throughout the whole defense – but the middle of our defense, especially, are great players. They deserve a lot of credit for forcing the ball out on the perimeter which is one part of our philosophy. They're just fun guys to work with, for sure."

We have heard other players say they play their rules out like you have said. Does it warm your heart to hear them say that? Does it show that your message has gotten through?*(Childs Walker)*"It tells me they know what to do, which is good." (laughter) "Where do you go stand? Where do you look at? When that guy does something, how do you know how to react to it? Those are your rules. To me, if it's clear on what your expectations are and how to do what we expect you to do, then you can go play fast. You can go play the right way. If they know what their rules are, then that's definitely the first step to be successful."

What did the Chiefs do to put stress on the Bills' defense in the Divisional Round? How well are you equipped to defend 12 and 13 personnel packages that they ran?* (Jonas Shaffer)*"Anytime people are changing personnels on you, you have to make the decision on how we're going to match it with the people that we're going to put on the field. Without giving you the answer of how we're going to do it, those are the decisions you have to make, and then where are the stresses of the calls you're going to have to make. A lot of times, it's going to morph and evolve over the course of the game. After you make a decision, you see how they make their decision you're playing off one another as the game starts to unfold. We have an initial plan on how we're going to play it, and obviously it'll evolve as the game starts to declare itself."

How valuable and exciting would it be to get a versatile CB Marlon Humphrey back?*(Luke Jones)* "It'd be great to have Marlon [Humphrey] back. You think just about the season he's had. It's had a lot of adversity. He hasn't had a ... It's been different than his experiences in years past. If he is ready to come back, it'd be awesome just to see it and be back and feel like he can contribute physically on gameday."

How do you decide when to run cornerback blitzes? Is it a high-risk, high-reward play? Can you share much about those decisions?*(Hayes Gardner)* "I've spoken to our pressure philosophy in the past. It's a team rush mentality. Even when we're rushing four, we want the illusion of pressure a lot of times and just have the threat of blitzing off one side, blitzing off another side, coming up the middle, double edge or bluffing out of there. We want that threat to be at all times. In order to have that threat, you have to do it, so guys aren't just calling your bluff all the time."

How unique of a skill is it for your defenders to get to their depths and make it difficult for opposing quarterbacks to throw in the intermediate part of the field? How important could that be on Sunday knowing the Chiefs like to target TE Travis Kelce in that part of the field?*(Jonas Shaffer)*"You try not to show your intentions until the ball is snapped. Again, going back to rules and how we want guys to play things – it's just playing disciplined football. Understand where your 1-11 fits in the whole puzzle, and then trusting that the guys around you are going to do it. I think what you see on tape and over the course of time – if you keep doing it right, it's hard to find the right spots to matriculate the ball down the field. That's the whole idea."


On how he's approaching the game and what kind of advice he's providing to his teammates this week:"I think it's the same thing it's been all week. When [we] were 3-2, 5-2, 5-3 – whatever it was, it was the same message that [we've] had all year; it was to be 1-0, [and] it was extreme focus on the details. I think everything is just heightened a little more this week, as far as your preparation, as far as ... It's not like you're doing anything different; it's just about, 'How can you approach it and be better?' 'Tuck' [Justin Tucker] talked today about, 'What stone can you unturn?' Like, what little thing can you focus on, whatever it is? And I think that's the most important thing – is just finding something to hone in on and continuing to be great in your preparation and continuing to be a pro. Stay locked in, stay having fun and just get ready to play."

On if strong defense can spark the offense:"I think it's been like that all year for us. When I first got here in training camp, I was like, 'Man, this is a tough defense.' It's a tough team that you're going to go against every single day in practice, and it's shown each and every game. The defense is the driving force of why we're at where we're at. As an offense, when you sit back there, and you have the confidence that the defense is going to get the job done, it makes our job a little easier. So, we definitely rely on them. Knowing they're going against a great opponent ... You're going against the former champions, [and] you're going against a dynasty that is ... They've been phenomenal. The numbers and all that speak for itself. So, we know that we have a heavy challenge ahead of us, and I think everybody in here is excited about it."

On if it's been hard to not allow himself to not look too far ahead:"No, it is what it is. It's in front of you. Do you know what I mean? It's about manifesting, [and] it's about believing in that. And it's right here; this is what you work for. Everything that's happened in the season, everything good or bad, like, it just doesn't matter. Do you know what I mean? It's about one game. It's about being 1-0 one time to earn yourself an opportunity to play in the game that every kid who plays football dreams of. So, I don't think it's any bigger than anything. It's just about how big you make it in your own mind, and I think everybody here is confident in their approach. It is crazy to think [that I] played in the Super Bowl, won the Super Bowl, took a whole year off and now you're back in the situation of playing in an AFC Championship. So, it's truly a blessing. I'm extremely humbled and thankful for what God has blessed me with – with this opportunity – and I'm excited about it."

On what stands out about the Kansas City Chiefs' defense:"I mean, like I said earlier, they're the champions, and they're back in this position again; it's just the way that they do things over there. And I really liked what Lamar [Jackson] said the other day – that to be a champion, you've got to beat the champion. Like, that to me was very strong. It was very powerful. And we know [that] we're going against Pat Mahomes, the Chiefs, [head coach] Andy Reid, this defense; they've got great corners over there. Like, we know it's a tough challenge, and it's just about us staying within the Ravens – not so much what they can do. You prepare for them, but it's more about what we do over here and the way that we do it. So, like I say, it's going to be ... It's just a blessing. It's like, really, a tremendous opportunity, and these are the games you dream of, and we're just all excited about the opportunity."

On if playing with ILB Roquan Smith sometimes feels like he's playing with a modern-day LB Ray Lewis:"Yes, I've seen that. I think ... I'm in a different perspective of like comparing someone to someone else. Like, [Roquan Smith] is a modern-day Roquan Smith, in my opinion. Do you know what I mean? Like, Ray Lewis is an all-time great, [and] he did phenomenal things; he's a man of his own, like Roquan is a man of his own. But I understand completely what you're saying. To have somebody like that – who's a leader, who brings that intensity and tenacity – I love it. He's one of my favorite teammates I've ever had in my entire life. On and off the field, he's just a great dude, a tremendous talent, and [he does it] with a respect to his own. Like, he's building his own name and his own legacy. And hats off to Ray – that's a big bro of mine – but it's just about Roquan Smith [and] the things that he can do. So, I love having him on this team. He's a guy you want on your team."

On why ILB Roquan Smith is one of his favorite teammates:"[Roquan Smith] as a person; the energy he brings every day, the way he checks on each and every person; he says, 'What's up?' to everybody; he daps everybody up – 'You good? You solid? Everything?' We spend a lot of time with each other, and you can choose to use this time however you want. We can walk by each other in the locker room and say, 'What's up?' [and] keep it friends or keep it associates – or whatever you want to call it. But when you choose to make a brotherhood, you truly check on your brothers, and that's the ... And he's a fun guy. He's a good dude off the field. But it's more so [about] what he brings to this team on the field as our leader. You can't hate on the man. I love him. He's great with his speeches. He reads the dictionary every night to try to and look for new words – and things like that – to use."* (laughter)* "So, he's a great guy."

On if he's ever sensed pressure affect QB Lamar Jackson:"I don't think so. Like, 'Ro' [Roquan Smith] was saying, 'Pressure busts pipes, [and] we're in the diamond-making business' [and] all that. Like, I don't feel that Lamar [Jackson] feels pressure. And it's [that] just certain people encounter certain moments in their lives where they're like in their flow state – it's their time – and I feel like it's [No.] 8's time. He's just ... You can just see it in his eyes, you can feel it in his aura [and] his energy. So, I don't really know about pressure. You've got to ask him. He's got a bad stomach, but I don't know if [he feels] pressure."* (laughter) *"But other than that, he's solid, man. He's locked in. Like I said, I really just feel like it's his time."

On what he remembers from his first FaceTime conversation with QB Lamar Jackson after signing with the Ravens:"Oh, [Lamar Jackson] didn't like me back then." *(laughter) *"No, like he just ... It's hard to get a vibe of somebody over FaceTime, and he was in a different point of his life. But the relationship that has formed from playing a whole year [together] and just everyday encounters, like, you just see why people love him and why people gravitate towards him. It's probably been like that all his life. Do you know what I mean?"

On what it means for him to be a part of the team bringing Baltimore its first AFC Championship at home since 1971:"I think it's everything. When I first came here, just the way that Baltimore embraced me, as a city, culture – all of that – [there's] a lot of pride in that. I take pride in myself – for one – but when you're a part of something, and you can feel it, and you can feel that love, like, it makes me want to put on, and it makes you want to make them proud. So, to be able to have the opportunity where an AFC Championship comes through 'The Bank' [M&T Bank Stadium], I don't think any of us in here hold it lightly. I'll always say ... Like, we always know the task at hand, and it's just what we want to do for the city. You want to be able to put on; I know I do, for sure. I love the culture, [and] I've enjoyed every single moment of this year. And it's just about, now, finishing the opportunity that we started and what we have in front of us."

On how loud he anticipates M&T Bank Stadium will be:"Loud. They better be 130 decibels – or whatever it's called." (laughter) 


On the effect that ILB Roquan Smith has on a football team:"[Roquan Smith] is a great leader [and] a great guy in the locker room. [He] always has energy every day, and he shows it every day, from every day in practice all the way until the game. He's been the same guy every day."

On ILB Roquan Smith's pre-game speeches: "They're pretty cool. I enjoy them. I think it sets the tone for the way the guys approach the game when they start. It's good to have that energy out there. You need it. It's much needed, and he's going to have to continue to do it throughout the rest of the year."

On what his early plays last game did for the confidence of the defense:"We're going to need it again this week. We've got to be dominant in the run game. It's always good when you can stop the run and make a team one-dimensional – not just sit back there and pass. It's going to come down to the [defensive] front again this week, going out there and dominating the run game, and we're up for the task. That's what we've got to do, and I hope we can get that done this week."

On the challenge of facing Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes:"Like they say, [Patrick Mahomes is] a Hall of Fame quarterback [who has] won two Super Bowls already in his first six years. [He's] one of the best quarterbacks right now in the league, and he's been that since he came into the league. So, it's another challenge for us. We have to come prepared, like we've been doing this week, and try to get after him up front and put him in tough situations."

On if there is any doubt that defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald can be a head coach: "No, [Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald] definitely can [be an NFL head coach]. I've been saying this since I got here; Mike Macdonald is the smartest D-coordinator I've ever had. He puts guys in the right position. He just goes in and studies film and breaks it all the way down, and he leaves no ... [There's] nothing that we haven't seen going into the game, [where] he hasn't put us in [that] situation throughout the week, and that's what makes us a special defense. It starts with him, with the gameplan, and [the coaches] put it together, [but] you still need the guys to go out there and execute it, too. So, we buy in during the week and go out there and do what we've been coached [to do] all week and try to execute the gameplan during the game."

On why he's been able to succeed this season under defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald:"I was going to succeed, regardless, this year. I put a lot of work in this offseason. Like I said, from the start, I worked my tail off to be here this year. And I told some of the guys when I got here, 'It doesn't matter what team I was playing for this year; I was coming to play well.' And I told the guys, when they picked me up in the airport ... I said, 'You're probably going to get me for a steal this year. I plan on playing great and just being out there on the field.' As long as I [could] stay out on the field, I knew I was going to play well. That was never my problem – playing well. It was just [about] being out there – available – and healthy. So, as long as I stay healthy, I feel like I'm going to have good games."

On how defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald presents information: "[Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald] makes it so we know certain situations – like, in [shotgun and] certain downs and distance – [and that] we really know the play when we're out there. You know [that the offense] isn't going to pass it on second-and-3 or something like that, so we're going to try to stop the run and try to get them behind or something. On third-and-long, we know they're going to pass, so we'll get in passing situations. He just knows what to call throughout the game, and the guys have been playing so well together. We just feed off each other [and] execute the gameplan, and it's been working."

On how he would describe Chiefs RB Isiah Pacheco's running style: "[Isiah Pacheco] runs mad. He runs very mad, but I don't care about that. We're here to win a game. He's a great running back, but we're a great defense, like we said before. We have to just come and do our job. We've got great guys out there, and they've got great guys, too. Like I said, it's going to be a slugfest, and we've got to get ready to throw punches."

On what LB Ray Lewis and S Ed Reed will add to gameday: "[It adds] energy. Growing up, I was a fan of [those] boys when they played here [and] that defense, especially, when Ray Lewis won it. Just to see those guys around, it's definitely going to give you some energy – just a little tingle through your body – [knowing] the boys [are] out here. They'll have some more eyes on you this week. The whole world is watching, so we just better be prepared, or [we'll] get embarrassed, and I don't think we want to go out there and get embarrassed, so we're going to play hard."

On what stands out about playing for head coach John Harbaugh: "[Head coach John Harbaugh] makes it about the players here. He cares about what we think, how we feel and how we want to go about the weeks. That's big when it comes down to your head coach – [when] they take into consideration what the players feel like – and he makes it all about us. That's why we give him everything we've got throughout the week and on gamedays. So, we just buy into what's going on here."


On the magnitude of the moment and how he keeps himself focused:"I just go day by day. I follow the vets' leads, and I just go out and play football. I don't try to make it too big or too small, I just try to stay neutral and come out and do what I do."

On the importance of the veteran presence of guys like WR Odell Beckham Jr.: "It just makes you a little bit more comfortable, [play with] more confidence because that's somebody that's been there. 'Nelly's' [Nelson Agholor] somebody that's been there. Coach Greg Lewis is somebody that's been there. So, just having guys in your room that have been there and experienced that magnitude of a crowd and hype makes you a little bit more comfortable, like you know what you're going to get and how the game is going to go."

On how much fun he is having this year: "Super fun, super fun – the most fun I've ever had." 

On if there is anything specific that has made this year the most fun he's ever had: "Honestly, just being around the guys. Going out on the field and just enjoying it. They make me comfortable out there, and we go play."

On what he is expecting from QB Lamar Jackson in this AFC Championship game: "I'm expecting the same thing he's been doing – [he's the] MVP. He's the MVP, and he's going to go out there and do what he's got to do. I know he's locked in, and once he's locked in, everybody around him is locked in. And the defense is going to go out there and play good, so I feel like we're going to be alright."

On what he sees from the Kansas City Chiefs' defense: "They run to the ball, and they play hard. They play hard and they've got a good thing going on their defense right now. It's going to be a fun game."

On how he plans to attack a player like Chiefs CB L'Jarius Sneed: "I'm just going to play my game. I'm going to do what I do every game – go out there and play and not worry about anyone else. Focus on my team winning and try to get something done."

On if the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium was louder because of the playoff atmosphere: "Yes, you couldn't tell? Houston noticed it, too! They got like seven penalties just from not being able to snap the ball or jumping offsides ... We've got the best fans in the country, I think. 'The Bank' [M&T Bank Stadium] is hard to come into because we've got grit, the fans have grit, and we're going to go out there and play hard."


On how his calf is doing:"It's doing good."

On wearing an Ole Miss shirt:"This is for my guy [Ole Miss head coach] Lane Kiffin. I wanted him to be the new 'Bama [Alabama] coach. I told him [that] he should come to 'Bama, but then like an hour later, they already hired the new coach. But I still rock with ... Lane is my guy, but I still bleed crimson. I still bleed crimson."

On the challenge of facing the Chiefs and QB Patrick Mahomes:"I don't know why I was thinking about this on the field, but I feel like the Chiefs – over the years – are the [professional] football version of Alabama. It's like, every year in, year out, they might be like, 'Oh they're not looking that good. They're not this.' They're still 'that team.' They're still the team to beat. Whether they're losing, [or] whether they're winning, they're still the Chiefs, and they're the team to beat. They're Super Bowl champs, and for us to beat them, it's going to take everybody firing on all cylinders. [Patrick] Mahomes, I think him and Lamar [Jackson] ... I think those two quarterbacks are ... It's those two quarterbacks and then everybody else. So, we're playing one or two of the best quarterbacks ... The two best quarterbacks in all the world are going to be on the same field, and so, we're facing one, and they're facing the other. I think it will be a really good matchup."

On how seeing QB Lamar Jackson in practice can help prepare for QB Patrick Mahomes:"It's good to see that. I would say that the biggest difference is nobody is going to touch Lamar [Jackson] in practice. We try to stay pretty far away from him. But obviously, Lamar is a lot faster than [Patrick] Mahomes. But [with] Mahomes, it's like what he's able to do [and] how he's able to evade pressure. I was telling some of the guys, 'When you come off the blitz, Mahomes will pump fake you,' and I was telling them about my own experience, and I had a really good hit – QB hit – on Mahomes a couple years ago, but the tragic part was [that] he threw a touchdown before I hit him. So, he does a lot of things with the ball. Obviously, what he can do ... When I started seeing him in the offseason, practicing running backwards and throwing the ball, I knew [that] the league was in trouble. So, the stuff he does on the field is pretty crazy. But I think we've got ... We've gotten some pretty good looks at it, with Lamar, but obviously, it'll be a little different when it's live bullets."

On if it means a little more to try to beat a team that's been on top for a while:"Yes, it would be huge. I'm just super excited to hopefully get out there. It's been ... To beat [the Chiefs], for this city, for the fans, it's been electric. I feel like the fans, they always talk about, 'This moment. This moment. This is our year. This is our year.' And to finally get here [and] to be able to have it in M&T Bank Stadium, in front of our fans, in our home colors, it's a really exciting moment. I was texting with [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] last night, and I was ... 'Harbs' [head coach John Harbaugh] always says, 'Don't peak too early, and [Eric DeCosta] almost had me peaking too early – just getting too excited for the game. But it's just really special. All the things about it – the defending [champions in the] Chiefs, [Patrick] Mahomes, our fans – it's so many things aligning. I think it's just going to take everyone's best foot forward to beat this team."

On how painful it's been to not be able to play in critical games late this season:"It's been rough. I've been kind of trying to just stay positive through it. It's definitely not been ideal for me, but I think the best thing that's kind of really helped me get through it is ... Honestly, what's helping me get through it the most is just seeing how the guys are playing on Sundays. I obviously watch the defense a little closer than the offense, because I know what's going on, on defense, but the way those guys have been flying around, it's been ... It's really been inspiring to see that you can have the [comfort] to just shoot your shot, and if you miss, there's 'Ro' [Roquan Smith] coming, there's 'PQ' [Patrick Queen] coming. There is so much, just ... It seems like the defense has just been flying around [like] crazy, and I think that's something that's really changed since we added Roquan [Smith] to our [defense]. He runs to the ball like ... There is no one ... It's not even like a debate; no one runs to the ball the way Roquan Smith does, and that's literally been contagious. It's actually been contagious to everybody on the defense – how everyone's game is elevated since he's come [and] since he's been our leader on defense. And so, that's really what's been keeping me going, man. It's like, I've got to do whatever I can to get back out there, because the way these guys are playing, I just want to be a part of that."

On if his availability is going to boil down to how he feels on Sunday:"Yes, I usually let all that happen with 'Harbs' [head coach John Harbaugh] and the medical team and then go from there."

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