Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "Good to see everybody here, and I appreciate you coming on. What questions do you have?"
With the virtual team meetings, has that become your new normal? Or do you feel these virtual meetings will never be normal? (Jamison Hensley) "It's definitely something we're comfortable with. We have a system now, so we understand how to do it both virtually, and then if we need to really spread out in the building. Those are two of the options that we have, and we've used them both again this week. So, there are really no hiccups with that right now."
The words used yesterday by offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Don Martindale to describe your matchup with the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick was 'chess match.' Is that a good way to describe your meetings with the Patriots? (Todd Karpovich) "I don't know. I don't play much chess. I'm not that good at it. I just don't have the time, I guess. I have an app on my phone. I want to learn how to play it better. My brother [Jim] and I go at it. Neither one of us are very good, but he did beat me the last time. When my dad [Jack] had surgery for his heart – he had open-heart surgery; he had a quadruple bypass – we were there with him and stayed with him all night. At about two in the morning, we had a little flashlight on the chess board, because we got a chess board from the kids' playroom when they had a plastic one. We were at the foot of his bed, and we started arguing about the chess game. My dad woke up, and he thought it didn't go well – maybe it didn't go the way it was supposed to go. He told us if we could shut up, maybe, and we looked over, and his blanket was off of him, and he was like, 'Could you just help me put my blanket on me, and quit arguing with one another?' (laughter) We were pretty ashamed of ourselves.
"What was the question again – the chess-match question?" (Reporter: "Going against Patriots head coach Bill Belichick – the rivalry there and staying ahead of each other.") "I don't know. There's a lot to it. There are a lot of layers to this whole thing. It's football, and there's the personnel layer, there's the scheme layer, there's definitely psychologies involved with it, there's a lot of physiology, obviously, involved in it – in terms of that – and then you have health and different things. So, there's just a lot that goes into it. That's what I love about it. And when you go up against a Coach [Bill] Belichick-coached team, you're going up against the best. There's no team that's going to be better coached. So, we look forward to it, we recognize what a challenge it is, and we're going to try to do our best."
We saw yesterday that RB Mark Ingram II did not practice. Did he have a setback? Was he able to practice at all today? (Jamison Hensley) "He practiced today – correct."
There's been so much attention on the play-calling and the offense after QB Lamar Jackson's comments. Do you agree with offensive coordinator Greg Roman, and that happens and that's pretty common – with defenses calling out the play or knowing that? Or does that whole thing concern you? (Jeff Zrebiec) "No, that's definitely part of it. We do the same thing. We study our opponents. That's what you do. You study, you look for everything you can get, every tip you can get. There's formation tips, there's split tips, there's down-and-distance tendency, there's play-caller tips, there's stance tips, there's motions tips. I'll tell you, there's about everything you could think of – we look for it – and sometimes you find tendencies, and sometimes you don't. Normally a tendency has to be a very high tendency; we kind of have an 80% threshold on that for us to really count on it, because you start thinking you see something, and you think you know, then it's something else. And you have to take into account that the opponent probably understands their tendencies as well as you do, so it's not too often that you can expect to know something about them that they don't know about themselves at this level. There are many layers to this whole thing. I do think with no crowd out there you hear a lot more, which is so interesting. You've really got to do a good job with your audibles and your at-the-line stuff, because people study that stuff, as well. We have to be careful in terms of if we call something at the line, is it something that they're going to have going forward? So, those are all things that you look at really hard, and I'm sure our opponents do the same thing. It's nothing unusual at all."
In that same vein, with QB Lamar Jackson calling audibles, is that something that you guys have advanced in? Have you given him more leeway to make calls at the line of scrimmage, or has it been pretty static since he's taken over as a starter? (Aaron Kasinitz) "It's really more game to game. We've done it. Some games we do it more; some games we do it a lot. A few weeks ago, we did it a lot. Other games, it's kind of normal. So, it depends on the offensive coaches and what [offensive coordinator] Greg's [Roman] gameplan is and really what we're presented with defensively. Obviously, any quarterback is going to grow in that area. The younger you are and the more you grow and progress, the better understanding, the better feel you have and the more things you see. Those are things that Lamar [Jackson] is going to grow in, just like every other quarterback does as they go. A guy like Philip Rivers, he's really great at that. He's probably the same every week in terms of what he uses at the line. So, that's something that we'll just kind of see where that goes. But it has to do with not just the quarterback; it has to do with the defense, and it has to do with the plays you want to run – whether they're needed or not. That's all part of it."
You guys have almost double the amount of forced fumbles than anybody else in the NFL. Does it just come down to being aggressive? Why do you think that is? (Jamison Hensley) "I credit the players. Our players do it. Of course, it's something that we coach, and we do drill it, but you've got to give the guys credit. The guys are the guys doing it out there. And we never want to sacrifice our tackling for punching the ball out, certainly, so, that's not the easiest thing in the world to do when these backs, and wide receivers, and tight ends are running the way they do. So, for Marcus [Peters] to get that one out last week, I thought was a real credit to him. For guys to be running to the ball – pursuit is a big part of that too, because it doesn't really mean too much if you knock the ball out and nobody's there to recover it. The fact that our guys run to the ball very well is also a big part of that. So, I think they deserve all the credit for that."
DE Calais Campbell and CB Jimmy Smith – what do you think their chances are of playing this week? (Jamison Hensley) "They're low. Calais [Campbell] for sure is not going to play. Jimmy [Smith] we'll have to see. [He's] not practicing. We'll just have to see how it feels. I would not be afraid to play Jimmy if he felt good enough. We'll just have to see where that's at. Calais will not be playing."
ILB Malik Harrison
You played more than you ever have last week against the Colts. What did you learn about yourself and your progress from watching the tape and studying how you played? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I'm just getting better every day. When my number is called, I'll be able to go out there and [not] skip a beat when I'm out there."
Obviously, you played well on defense. But how rewarding is it to do what you did on special teams? As you probably were told when you came in the building as a rookie, special teams is sort of a requirement to getting on the field. How have you come along in that area, and what kind of step forward was Sunday? (Jeff Zrebiec) "From Day One, [special teams coordinator] Coach Chris [Horton], he was hard on me. Starting with the Zoom meetings, he said this was going to be a big role for me – special teams. Just like at Ohio State when you come in, you have to take special teams just like you take your defensive snaps or offensive snaps. It's just as important as playing offense or defense."
I know it probably seems like a whirlwind, but just from when you first got on the practice field here this summer to now, where do you feel like you've made the most strides? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Just the game is slowing down more to me. Just the reps and how hard we practice out there, it's just slowed down. I've been able to [make] strides like I did last week."
Who has helped you this season, and what have the veterans said to you about playing against QB Cam Newton? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "The veterans, every week they help the rookies and everybody, just giving us little tendencies. They've played against him, so they're just telling me little things I need to watch for and the little things I need to watch on film."