Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, good to see everybody – appreciate you guys being here. Just one announcement, everybody probably saw it: It was Marlon [Brown] with IR, which I think Jamison [Hensley, ESPN.com] … I think Jamison had asked the question last time. It probably was anticipated. We brought up Sheldon Price [from the practice squad]. Part of that was the fact that a team had come after Sheldon to put him on the roster off of our practice squad, so that also motivated the move to bring him up. And he has done a good job and deserves it."
Coach, looking at the fact that your guys have continued to play, there are some other coaches or other teams where they quit on their coach. What does that say about your players and your relationship with them? (Turron Davenport)"It says a lot about our players. I wouldn't even for one second think that that would happen with our guys. We have a lot of character. We have really good leadership in the locker room. I had a chance to talk to different guys – Marshal [Yanda] and Matt Schaub – [and] had a conversation about this yesterday. The job that they've done behind the scenes in the locker room – conversations that I'm sure they've had that I don't know anything about – obviously, they've done a very good job with that."
John, when QB Ryan Mallett came here, was there any talk at all about what he had done at Houston, some of his disciplinary things, or did you figure that he was going to be an exemplary player here? (Dave Ginsburg) "As far as his issues?" (Reporter: "Yes.") "There was a lot of talk about that. It was mostly done with Ozzie [Newsome] on that side of it – Ozzie making a lot of calls and doing a lot of homework and a lot of research, and then Ozzie sharing with me what he had found out. We just decided from a risk-reward [standpoint] – and where it seemed like Ryan was at with conversations that Ozzie had with Ryan and then with his representatives – that it was worth the risk, so to speak. And I think the risk is still out there. We all have those issues – every player, every coach. There are always things that can happen, but you would hope and pray that Ryan is to the point in his life where he has realized there are things more important than the things that were bringing him down before. He has an opportunity here to turn things around, and it'll be up to him to do that."
**Coach, in Week 17, you never know what you're going to get with teams that may have already clinched and maybe rest starters, but you guys get a team that has a lot to play for. Do you like that going into this game knowing it's going to be pretty much a game as if it were any other game? *(Brent Harris) *"Yes, that's how you expect it to be. It's very rare over the last eight years – here anyway – that we've ever really had very many situations where the other team hasn't had anything to play for. There have been a few; it's just so rare. [The Bengals] obviously have a lot to play for. They're playing for the potential bye. Things could fall their way where they could get the bye, and I'm quite sure that it's going to be very important to them to win the game."
Does it make it any different for you guys in prepping knowing that? (Brent Harris)"No, because that's how it always is. We always play teams that have everything to play for. It would be … If it was the other way around, I think it would be more unusual."
QB AJ McCarron, what have you seen from him on film? Obviously, he's a little different quarterback than QB Andy Dalton. [I am] just curious of your thoughts. (Cliff Brown) "[A.J. McCarron is] a little different. They run the same offense, basically. Dalton has probably proven to be … I'm not sure about McCarron in terms of his running ability. He has gotten out and run once or twice. Dalton is really a danger outside the pocket. [McCarron] has done a really good job of throwing the ball. He has made some nice throws. He has proven that he can make the throws. We had [McCarron] here for a visit when he was coming out [of college]. I said something to him, and he kind of looked at me cross-eyed a little bit like, 'What the heck are you talking about?' I made a comparison to him and Drew Brees. I felt like when I watched him play, he reminded me a little bit of Drew Brees. I think he wanted to say, 'Yes, but I'm 6-3. Drew Brees is 5-11 and 7/8, maybe.' (laughter) *Drew Brees and I are like eye to eye. *(laughter) I said, 'No, I'm talking about your accuracy and your decision-making,' and how quick his release is. He really has a quick release. His accuracy, his decision-making at Alabama, were really good, and you see that with the Bengals so far. Plus, I would say this, too: Hue Jackson does a great job. He has done a really good job of building the offense through the years. [He is] very creative, causes you all kinds of problems with formations and different creative plays. Obviously, the quarterbacks benefit from that."
John, how interested were you in QB AJ McCarron? Obviously, you had some interest in him by bringing him here, but how seriously did you consider him? (Jamison Hensley)"It's hard to say exactly how serious. It was serious, because he visited here, and he was on our draft board. He, obviously, was taken before we were willing to take him. Did he go in the second round?" (Reporter: "Third round.") "Third round. We were looking at him really strongly."
John, have you talked to QB Joe Flacco recently, and is there any doubt in your mind that he'll be ready for training camp, or is that up in the air as well? (Dave Ginsburg) "I guess you never say never, but everything I've been told is he's going to be ready for training camp – 100 percent ready to go. The key with all these injuries is that they get the most out of every day, but there's never a setback. If you don't have a setback, then it should be fine."
John, you talk a lot at the end of every season about how young players need to get better. How do you feel ILB C.J. Mosley has come along in his second year? He's a Pro Bowler, Rookie of the Year candidate [last season]. It seems like he has been a little more under the radar, but I'm wondering about your assessment. (Jon Meoli) "C.J. has played really well. As far as the accolades and all that … Obviously, there were things that … People were probably more aware of him this year. He played very well. He has played a lot better the second half the season than the first half – as has our defense as a whole. C.J. has a great career in front of him. The other thing that has showed up a couple times that is probably under the radar are some of his leadership things that have come up. It's just conversations here and there, things that he has asked other players to do, that far exceed his years in the league. Even though he's a soft-spoken kind of guy, you might not expect that. He has shown a lot of leadership this year. [I have] nothing but high praise for C.J. that way."
To that point, you mentioned the whole defense improved in the second half. Is there anything specifically you ascribe that to? Is it cleaning up the big plays? (Jon Meoli) "We played with a lot more discipline and a lot more effort, and we cleaned up some of our schematics. There were some things that were built into our system that we had to re-evaluate and look at and make more operational. Sometimes the plane is a little unwieldy, and there are a lot of knobs and controls and things that have to be executed. We created a little more autopilot into the system a little bit – if that's an analogy – and allowed our guys to play faster. We actually asked them and demanded that they play faster and harder, and they played with far more discipline with technique and with assignment. Now, we had glitches through the second half of the season here and there – especially [against] Seattle – and I think the jury is still out for Sunday, because we're playing a very explosive offense. But, we expect to play at the highest level. Statistically, we've been one of the best defenses in football for the last nine games, so we expect that this week."
I don't know if your ears were burning last night, but on Philly talk radio, you're at the top of their wish list and fans' wish list for the Eagles' job. Is that flattering? (Jamison Hensley) "Is it flattering to be talked about on Philly talk radio? Usually not. (laughter) *No, it's not even part of the conversation. I hope it's flattering!" *(laughter)
Will it be part of the conversation, John? (Mike Preston) "No. It won't be part of the conversation."
Last week, there was a lot of trust in CB Shareece Wright allowing him to be one-on-one at times with WR Antonio Brown. Can you talk about how he has come along and gotten settled into this defense? (Turron Davenport) "That's a really good observation. He came in the San Francisco week, got here Monday, on the red-eye Tuesday morning, was thrown into the meeting room and thrown onto the field as a starter and played a pretty darn good football game except for what, two plays? Two plays where he lost technique. It wasn't assignment; it was technique. Much was made of a certain conversation on the sideline. The thing about Shareece is – and I've always loved this about him – this guy is a humble, hardworking, confident, but good-hearted guy that wants to be really good and wanted to be in Baltimore from way back even when he was coming out [and] who has a great relationship with Jimmy [Smith]. He has done nothing but worked his rear end off to do everything we've asked him to do technique- and assignment-wise, and it has showed up in his game. As a coach and a player, that's so rewarding to see that."
Coach, I just saw as the players were walking off the field, they have a new t-shirt – it looks like – "Guard Your Heart" [on it]. Can you explain that one? (Ryan Mink)"No, we'll get to that later. There are a lot of layers to 'Guard Your Heart,' and it's something we've been talking about all year with our guys. The other [t-shirt] was 'Faith and Guts' that they got before the game. Some of you in the media sometimes make fun of my t-shirts, not to point anybody out. (laughter) There's some depth to that stuff. It's a t-shirt in the end, but it's also cultural. I just think the guys have done a great job with a lot of aspects of this season, and that sort of expresses it a little bit."
**John, [there was] a lot of talk [about] how QB Ryan Mallett has handled coming in here, being in the building 24/7. How important have the other guys been? Because when he left Houston, there was not good talk about him as a teammate, but he was harping on the fact that, "All these guys have accepted me, taken me in, helped me." How important is the support he has gotten – especially from the guys in the quarterback room – been in him getting comfortable here? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"Really great observation. He told me right away how good he felt about the locker room and how the guys – and the atmosphere and the environment – was and things he has probably expressed. But the quarterback room has probably been – you're right – the most important part of that. As we've said before when we talked about starting him last week – and we talked to Jimmy [Clausen] and Matt [Schaub] separately – both those guys wanted to play, but both of them were right away willing to do whatever they could to help Ryan be successful. To me, that's probably the key, as much as anything, to his success. I'll say, too, Jimmy had the same kind of success, as far as when he came in and played. That goes back to Matt, and obviously, to the job [quarterbacks coach] Marty [Mornhinweg] and the coaches have done."
**With TE Crocket Gillmore out and TE Nick Boyle's suspension, TE Maxx Williams has gotten some significant run at tight end. How have you seen him progress this year, especially in the last couple games when he has been the lead guy at that position? *(Jon Meoli) *"I'm a Maxx Williams guy. I really think Maxx is going to be a good player. Maxx isn't always the prettiest athlete – and I think some people like Maxx and some people don't, athletically – but the guy can run routes. The guy can catch the ball. It's really amazing, because he's a really young guy physically, but when they hit him, it's not like he's bouncing off of them too often. They're bouncing off of him most of the time. He has some natural sturdiness about him that you like in a tight end. All the guy does every day is come to work and wants to be the best he can be. To me, he's going to be a really good player in this league. And I would say the same thing about the other two guys you mentioned, too."
OLB Elvis Dumervil
On whether he is excited about WR Steve Smith Sr. announcing that he will play next season: "It's OK. (laughter) That's my guy! Obviously, I'm sure anybody who bleeds black and purple is excited. I'm excited for him to try to come back and get his body in tip-top shape like I know he will. [He is an] emotional [and] good leader, great teammate, great player. It's great news."
On when he knew WR Steve Smith Sr. would not retire: "I just found out today. (laughter) We'll go one more year standing next to each other [at the podium]. It'll be awesome."
On OLB Za'Darius Smith and DT Timmy Jernigan letting their personality show in between plays: "You have to play with emotion however you play – within your skin [or] whatever makes you comfortable. Timmy is a high-character guy as well. Obviously, 'Z' [Za'Darius Smith], he plays with his feelings on his sleeve. He has been doing a great job running to the ball, making plays, knowing his assignments. Guys playing hard for each other – that's what it's about on defense."
On how he weighs personal performance versus team performance: "I only have six sacks, so it's something I need to work on and use that for motivation in the offseason. [We] did some good things. [There are] some things that we can definitely work on. But I think as a group on defense, I think we're starting to gel the way we've been practicing all year. It was kind of cool to see it happen in a game. I think we're heading in the right direction, so we're looking forward to this week [and will] continue to prepare and get ready for a great Cincinnati team. We have a lot to prove for us and try to head into the offseason in the right direction. We're excited."
On his increased workload this season: "I feel great. I feel awesome. You love football. You love the game. You love going out and putting it all out on the table. That's why you prepare in the offseason. I worked extremely hard this offseason. Things happened the way it happened for an unfortunate reason with [Terrell] Suggs, but I'm glad I worked out that hard to be able to take the workload. I did have help [from] a bunch of great guys, great teammates. The coaching staff put me in a situation to try to be productive. Things didn't go the way we wanted it to go, but you know what? I think I've learned something from this season. It makes for this next offseason to be even greater to get ready for next year."
On the defense's improvement in the second half of the season: "The moral victory we don't try to hang our hats on, but we will say we're headed in the right direction. We're not proud, but we're excited for where we're heading and seeing the glimpse of that against a good team – against a great offense – in Pittsburgh. It's something where you're excited about going into the offseason, and we're trying to finish that with Cincy."
On whether it will be a big plus to end the season with a win: "Absolutely. I think it'll be a great team effort. It takes three phases of the game to try to get a win like we did last week. We just come out collectively as a team and do what we try to do and try to get better. I think we'll have a good chance."
On whether it means anything to play spoiler to the Bengals' playoff chances: "Spoiler? That's a great question. I think I've never … This is my first time, so I really don't know how to answer that question. We'll see. Like I said all along, we will finish strong, and we will finish. You can book it, you can count on that – however you want to categorize it. We will finish strong."
On OLB Courtney Upshaw becoming a free agent after this season and possibly playing his last game as a Raven: "He's a great teammate, great guy. Obviously, that's just not my lane, unfortunately. I'm just a player. I don't make those kinds of decisions. I'll tell you one thing: He's a great teammate. He's a great player, and I hope to see him back."
QB Ryan Mallett
On what the last couple weeks have been like: "It has been a grind. But coming in that room that we have – with Matt [Schaub] and Jimmy [Clausen] in there – has been really … It has been really good, as far as communication and them helping me develop into this new system."
On how special Sunday's win was in terms of his career accomplishments: "Since there's not many, it has been pretty good. (laughter) Hopefully, there's more to come in the future, but it was pretty good. It was a great feeling after the win, so hopefully we can go get another one this week."
On the trust the Ravens have in him: "Being able to bring me in through everything and let me prove myself – [with] what I've done and what I'm becoming – is awesome for me. Then to be able to come in and start – after how many days it was – it was big for me. I just wanted to make sure I played well."
On whether this is a fresh start for him: "Yes. It's something new for me. I'm out of the old regime – I guess you could say – of the [Bill] Belichick [coaching] tree, which is not a bad one, but I'm out of it now. So, it's good to get something new. It makes me work a little bit harder now, because I don't know everything about the system. So, it has been good."
On playing "free" last Sunday as the starter: "I think we did a good job with the game plan with coach [Marc] Trestman and [quarterbacks coach] Marty [Mornhinweg] getting the package together, [and it] suited my strengths. Hopefully we do the same thing this week – we go play fast, we run the ball well, throw the ball well, catch, run, tackle, hit – do all that stuff you have to do to win football games."
On how important it was to start the game fast: "I think it was big. It set the tempo for the game early. In the third quarter, we came out a little flat on offense. I don't think we scored, so we'd like to fix that a little bit. But starting the game off with a drive and scoring, it set a tempo for our offense for the day."
On whether he can share the conversations he has had with general manager/executive vice president Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh: "No, sorry. That's in-house."
On whether the off-the-field issues are behind him:"Whatever happened, happened. It was put out a certain way, so whatever … I'm not worried about it anymore. I'm a Baltimore Raven, and I'm going to do what I can to help this team."
On the risk-reward factor in signing him: "I guess one thing you can say we talked about was everybody gets a second chance; it's what you do with it. It's my second chance, so I'm trying to take it and run with it."
On how the Bengals have statistically given QB Joe Flacco trouble in the past: "Well, my name is not Joe. *(laughter) *They are statistically a very good defense. They have a lot of athletes all over the secondary, defensive line, linebackers, so we're going to have to play well. They come downhill. They hit you. They cover. We have to be technique-sound and do our jobs."
G/T Kelechi Osemele
On WR Steve Smith Sr. announcing his 2016 return:"I'm not surprised at all about that. He's not the type of guy to go out like that. Obviously, we can't wait to have him back. I know he's going to come back in the best shape of his life, and he's going to dominate, because that's just the type of person he is."
On if he expected WR Steve Smith Sr. to return before his season-ending injury:"Yes, I knew as soon as he [Steve Smith Sr.] got injured he was going to be back. That's just Steve. That's not what he came here to do. He didn't come here to go out like that."
On QB Ryan Mallett leading the huddle against Pittsburgh, and if he is surprised by how well Mallett performed:"He adjusted well. I was surprised at how quickly he picked it up, even in practice, but he's an extremely confident guy. So, yes, he just went in there, and he commanded the huddle, and he did his thing."
On if there is additional motivation to end the Bengals' four-game winning streak against the Ravens:"There's motivation every week to win football games." *(Reporter: "Nothing because of the streak of four losses to them?") *"No, we just want to go out there, be aggressive and just dominate."
On playing left tackle:"It's been going well. [Offensive line coach] Juan Castillo has done a great job getting me ready every week. I really feel like [general manager and executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] did a good job of encouraging me; the guy is a visionary. He watched a lot of film. So, I was confident that he was confident, and it's just been going well." *(Reporter: "Can you talk about that, him encouraging you? What do you mean by that, just conversations with him?") *"Just him letting me know that this wasn't anything random, that he knows what he's doing. He just told me that he has watched a lot of film going back to college and just the practice reps I took here. And hearing that and having the experience, prior experience in college and stuff like that, obviously, that's going to give a player confidence."
On if there are any thoughts about this week being his final game as a Raven:"This is the last game of my season. That's kind of how I'm taking it. I'm going to finish and play to the best of my ability. Obviously, we want to go out there and win, and obviously, I want to go out there and dominate like I always do. So whatever happens, happens. That's outside of my control, but obviously, I'm going to go out there and play to the best of my ability and just let the cards fall where they do."
On conversations with general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome in regards to remaining with Baltimore:"Yes, I think they did [go well]. He [Ozzie Newsome] was really positive about it. I was positive about staying. I think we've done great work here, and obviously, working with someone like that, you want to stay; you want to be around a guy like Ozzie. Like I said, he's just exceptional in the front office, and you know you're going to have great players around you. [There are] just nothing but fighters here. Everybody plays like a Raven. It doesn't matter what the record is, everybody just goes out there and fights, and that's what I like about this team. So, talking to him, he kind of seems like he's on the same page. We'll just see what happens. I know if we can get a deal done, we will."
On playing next to G/C Ryan Jensen:"Oh man, it's been great. It has made my job a lot easier, having a guy like that on the inside. He's just physical. [On] inside moves, he's looking to take somebody's head off, so that's always good. When you go out there on Sundays, those are the type of guys you want backing you up. It's been great. I look forward to it. Hopefully we're playing together for a long time."
CB Jimmy Smith
On WR Steve Smith Sr. announcing his 2016 return:"I kind of already knew he was coming back. (laughter) So, it's great. It's a great addition – not addition – but it's great for him to come back. It's a great, tremendous leader for us, and obviously, we know what type of player he is. That can only help us."
On if he can share when WR Steve Smith Sr. told teammates he will return:"No, but it was a while ago."
On the locker room effect of WR Steve Smith Sr.'s return:"In the midst of this? [During the] season, you don't really think about it too much. You kind of figure just the type of player Steve is, and he's like 50 catches short of 1,000 catches. You just didn't feel it in your gut that he was going to [retire]. So, it was no big surprise, but I feel like in the locker room, we're kind of more focused on what we've got going on than him coming back immediately."
On the defense's improvements during the season's second half:"I think it's just people paying attention to the technique, and we let a lot of big plays happen early in the season, some technique and just effort and hustling and things like that. I feel like those are the things that we cleaned up after the bye week, and that's showing up in our play now."
On if the defense's improved play provides encouragement for next season:"I don't know the true statistics on it, but I know we were [ranked] like [No.] 29, 30 or something deep in there. And now we've jumped 10, 12 spots. So, it's huge for us. Obviously, we're going to build off of that, and at the same time, we know what we're capable of. Going forward and next year, we know that at least this is the beginning of what we're going to try to do next year."
On the Bengals having four-straight wins over the Ravens:"Did they?" (Reporter: "Yes.") *"Are you sure? *(laughter) *Was it four? I wasn't part of that." *(Reporter: "You've had the Steelers' number, but you haven't been able to find it with the Bengals.") *"Is the rivalry switching? I don't know. I don't know, because I kind of hate the Bengals. *(laughter) *That's just the way it is this year, but no, they have; they've gotten us. They're the bully right now. We've got to go fight back. We've got to win this game." *(Reporter: "That's extra motivation to end that streak, you think, in a game that otherwise doesn't have playoff implications for you guys?") "Yes, no playoffs, though. We're definitely going out to ruin anything they've got going on."
On the significance of finishing the season with two-consecutive division wins:"That would be a nice gift for us going into – or being in – 2016. To be 1-0 at the beginning of 2016 would be great."
On his individual performance against Cincinnati in Week 3:"You're going to bring that up, too?" *(laughter) (Reporter: "How do you kind of approach it?") *"I don't know. It was that game. That was a long time ago. I played another game. I've played A.J. [Green] plenty of times, and I've had my wins; and he has had his. So, we're going to go out and battle again." *(Reporter: "How do you stop A.J. Green?") *"With my hands and my feet."
On QB A.J. McCarron and the Bengals' offense without QB Andy Dalton:"It's different, because he [A.J. McCarron] is not Andy [Dalton]. He's very accurate, though. I haven't really seen a whole lot from him, to be honest with you, but from what I've seen, he's an accurate passer. I know he knows the system. He has been there for two years. So, we can expect the same type of plays that [we would see when] Andy would be in there, just with his own 'oomph' on it, I guess."
On OLB Courtney Upshaw's offer to buy him a steak dinner:"That has not [been settled]. I thought I wanted a steak dinner, but after I re-watched the play, I think I needed more." *(laughter) (Reporter: "What are you thinking?") *"I've never ... That type of play is the play that every corner always dreams of. That's the first time that's ever happened for me. Even in practice, that's never happened. So, it was just one of those ... I don't know what I want. Maybe some new rims for my car, I don't know. *(laughter) *I'm not going to buy them; I know that."
On CB Shareece Wright's impact on the pass defense:"I think, for me at least – I might be a little bias, because he's my best friend – but I feel like he came in, and obviously, the first game was rough for him. But since then, he has kind of showed his technique, showed the player that he is, the type of player he can be, and hopefully we can keep him around. But he came in, and he has done a lot for us, and he has the left corner spot right now. [It is] kind of reminiscent of high school days when we used to go down, shut it down in high school. So, hopefully we can go out and do that again against Cincinnati."
On earning the Ravens' Media Good Guy award, for being exceptionally cooperative, consistent, pleasant and accountable with reporters this season:*(applause) *"Thank you; I appreciate it. I really do. I don't really have a speech."
G/T Marshal Yanda
On being named 2015 Team MVP, as voted by local media members: "It's a good honor, that's for sure. Obviously, we all work very hard out on the football field as athletes, and we all want to be great at our job. It's nice to be recognized. You understand that you don't get there alone. Obviously, football is the ultimate team sport, and I feel like it's all of us together as a group out there wanting to be great with the coaches pushing us hard and the players when we're in individual [drills], guys working with us. It's a team sport, and I feel like I'm a part of the team, but it is nice to be recognized. You just keep on grinding, keep working hard every day."
On how much pride he takes in being a durable player: "I think that sometimes guys can get a rash of bad luck. Sometimes those are bang-bang plays, where all of a sudden bang, you're out. A guy rolls up on your leg, and you can be out. I've had some luck involved with that, and then also, I've also played through a lot of stuff, too. I feel like football is a sport where it's not *if *you get hurt, but when. You're going to get hurt no matter what in this business. It's part of having to play through injuries, because your team needs you and because they need production out of you. You owe it to the guy next to you. I owe it to Joe [Flacco] to be out there and do my job to keep him clean. Those things go through my head all the time. I've always been the ultimate team guy that wants to be out there. I never want to let anybody down – the coaches and the players. That's how I go about it each day."
On QB Ryan Mallett's first start as a Raven: "I thought he did an outstanding job. Obviously, Ryan had a lot of confidence, and he went out there and played a good game. We tried to keep him clean as much as we could, and he did a very good job. We're all happy with his performance. The stats don't lie, and he made a lot of big plays in the passing game. That definitely helped out the run game, and it kind of all complemented each other. Congrats to him on an awesome game. For coming in there 12 days [ago] and playing the Steelers with everything on the line, that was a huge performance by him."
On how much pride he takes in winning an MVP award as an offensive lineman: "[It is about] the attitude of offensive linemen, just the daily grind of the guy that doesn't get the recognition, which that's fine with me. I've always been the guy that I'm happy to be out there and playing in the NFL and being able to compete with the best in the world. I'm happy with being out there and to say that I can stand out there with those men. It's neat to be recognized, but like I said, it's one of those things where I've always been happy and relished the opportunity to play in the NFL. Every Sunday, I'm thankful that I get to go out there and take the field and be a part of that. That never leaves me, and I think that also helps me play at a high level consistently, because that's what's important to me, and that's what I think about."
On WR Steve Smith Sr. announcing that he will play next season: "Somebody asked me that before, and I started off by saying that Steve Smith is an outstanding player and an awesome teammate, and I love the guy. I was going to respect any decision that he made, because he doesn't have anything to prove [with], obviously, how many games and snaps he has played. I would respect his decision no matter what. We're very happy to hear he's going to come back, because if you're in a war, there's no better guy that you want on your sideline with you in that war than Steve. I'm fired up about it, but like I said, I respected whatever he was going to do. If he was going to retire, I was going to be happy. If he was going to play for us, I was going to be happy, because he has earned that respect over the years playing in this league."
CINCINNATI CONFERENCE CALL
Head Coach Marvin Lewis
On changes to the Ravens' defense since Week 3:"Well, I think they've, obviously, had some injuries they've had to overcome at different spots in the secondary, and as a group, [they are] kind of playing and playing together now. Over the last eight football games, they're 4-4, and this is a group that, defensively, is so explosive up front. [They have] big, strong men up front and really good, athletic linebackers."
On the Bengals' interest in QB Ryan Mallett when QB Andy Dalton was lost to injury, and if Cincinnati worked out Mallett:"No, we didn't work Ryan out." *(Reporter: "Did you talk to him at all about potentially adding him?") *"I think they spoke with his agent, but he was already, I guess, committed to go back to Baltimore. He had already worked out for them, and I think Ryan was committed to go back to Baltimore."
On CB Shareece Wright:"He has got talent and ability, and I'm not going to sit here and critique another team's players, all right?"
On if Cincinnati's defense seemed tired in the second half against Denver, and if that is a concern during a short week:"No, I didn't think we were tired at all, actually. [As a] matter of fact, we felt – I felt – really good about where we were that way, and we've just got to be sound and make some plays at critical moments. And as far as the short week goes, we're well aware of that, and we'll adjust accordingly."
On if Baltimore's victory over Pittsburgh put the Bengals on alert:"As I said, regardless of ... This is a division football game in a very tough, physical division, year-in and year-out. So, we know this is a football team that has been 4-4 over the last eight weeks. We know they'll be ready to play, and we've got to play good football to have an opportunity to be successful."
On why Cincinnati has had success in its four-straight wins over Baltimore:"Every week is a new week and a new game. So, we're going to get ready, prepared, and we've got to go play great, sound football this week in order to have an opportunity to win."
QB AJ McCarron
On how he feels entering practice this week:"I feel good – just taking it day by day like always and just preparing."
On his pre-draft visit to Baltimore:"It was a great trip. It was pretty cool to just see their facilities and meet the coaches and get to talk to a lot of people and see some old teammates. And yes, it was definitely a cool trip."
On if he remembers John Harbaugh comparing him to QB Drew Brees:"Yes, I do remember that. We were sitting in his office, at his table, and he told me that. So yes, it was definitely a huge compliment, and [I am] very thankful for it. But Drew Brees is Drew Brees, and I don't know how close I am to that level, if any at all. But yes, [I am] very thankful for the comment, though."
On the Ravens' defensive improvements since Week 3:"I feel like they're playing hard. They're playing extremely hard and really believe in each other and are playing fast; and you can see it on film. So, it's always a great challenge for us, and it's always a great game between us two. And it's going to be fun."
On competing against former Alabama teammates OLB Courtney Upshaw and ILB C.J. Mosley:"It's going to be fun playing against 'Up' [Courtney Upshaw] and C.J. [Mosley], two good dudes, great players, and it'll be pretty fun to see them on the other side of the football for a change. And it'll be an experience for us." *(Reporter: "Have you ever been hit by either one of them? What do you expect?") *"I don't know if I have. I know I haven't [been hit] by C.J. I'm not sure. I can't remember, for real, but it's going to be, like I said, a great challenge for us as a team. And we're just excited to get back playing." *(Reporter: "Are you going to try to work out a handshake agreement with them to take it easy on you, or what?") (laughter) *"No, I doubt they'd do that; it's football. So, we're going to go out and play for our teams and our organizations, and afterwards we'll talk."
On Ravens CBs Jimmy Smith and Shareece Wright:"They have done a good job of playing the ball. I thought they did a really good job, especially [in the] Pittsburgh game, and [they] seem to be playing great with each other and really have some momentum. So, like I said, it's going to be a challenge for us as an offense in the passing game. We've just got to prepare hard and get ready to go."
On if Baltimore's upset victory of Pittsburgh put the Bengals on alert:"No, it's the Baltimore Ravens no matter what. So, I don't think them just winning a game or losing a game does anything to our mindset. Our mindset is control what we can, and go out and play our game, and then leave it at that. We know Baltimore is a great team and a great organization. We just have to be ready to play."
On the effect this week's game has on playoff position and momentum for Cincinnati:"It's always big, like you said, to have momentum going into the playoffs, and then when it comes to the bye, we have to take care of our business. And then, whatever happens, happens with other games. But the only thing we can worry about is what [game] we're playing in, what we can control, and go from there."
On WR Marvin Jones as a vertical threat and his role in the offense:"Yes, Marvin [Jones] is an unbelievable talent. He's not just great on the deep ball; he made some really good snags all over the field. But he's a huge part of our offense, along with 'Mo' [Mohamed Sanu] and A.J. [Green] and Tyler [Eifert] and everybody else, the backs. So, he has been a great player for us all year long, and hopefully we can keep improving."
On if he will line up at receiver in a wildcat formation:"I don't know. I might go for a deep post." (laughter)