Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, good seeing you guys. I appreciate everybody being here. Good practice. Crisp, a little crisp outside. It was a little cooler today, so that was good. It's football weather. Guys are in good spirts. So, what questions do you have?"
DT Brandon Williams yesterday missed for non-injury related. When we were out there today, we didn't see him out on the field. Is there any update on Brandon? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, he had a personal excused absence today."
The Eagles, they're third in the NFL with 18 sacks. You've played some pretty good pass rushing teams already with Washington, Houston, Kansas City and Cleveland. Do those games sort of help you going into this game as far as you guys being able to start being prepared? (Todd Karpovich) "Sure. All of those teams that you mentioned have been challenges with really good fronts and really good four-man rushes, especially. This is no exception. They have just a bevy of guys who can pressure the quarterback. They're very aggressive. [Defensive coordinator] Coach [Jim] Schwartz does a great job with teaching those guys up front in terms of getting up field and attacking the offensive scheme. So, yes, we're very aware of that. It's a big challenge for us."
How has G/T Tyre Phillips come along? As you've developed all these young offensive linemen that you guys are developing, how important is it or invaluable is it for some of these younger guys to keep getting these game reps? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, that's the thing – [there's] nothing like learning on the job. Sometimes, you don't have the luxury. Sometimes, guys aren't ready for that. Sometimes, they have players in front of them who don't give them an opportunity to do that. Yes, to your point; it's very, very valuable. He's playing well enough to deserve to be in there as well, but the young guys have gotten opportunities. I'm sure they'll continue to do well when they get their chances, and he's done well."
At this point, is WR Chris Moore more of a roster-decision or is it still a health-decision with him? (Jeff Zrebiec) "No, it had been a health-decision up until last week. He still had some hamstring tightness last week, but he seems healthy. So, he's a possibility to be active in this game based on the numbers."
I know you're not necessarily the one who is dealing with trade deadline stuff, but you mentioned before the season you thought it would be tougher for a lot of signings and stuff like that with the COVID-19 regulations. Do you think that will also factor into the level of activity we see at the trade deadline? (Aaron Kasinitz) "That's a good question. I guess I really don't know, because I don't think much about it, but I don't think so. I wouldn't think that that would impact the trades as much. It's a one-time thing; you're not bringing guys in for tryouts and things like that. There's not really that many trades anyway. I wouldn't think so, but like 2020, you never know. We'll see."
TE Nick Boyle
So much has been said about how defenses are playing you differently. TE Mark Andrews and QB Lamar Jackson have talked about it a bit. From your perspective, where do you see the biggest differences to how defenses are playing you guys? (Jeff Zrebiec) "We never know what we're going to get each week. Each team has their own little wrinkles they want to put in to try to stop us, because we can attack them so many different ways. From what I see, I think a lot of people are kind of loading the box up, doing different things to stop our run game [and] stop our QB-driven game, by maybe having lower defenders who are supposed to be deep, and just trying to really take that out to stop that, because the run game is very multidimensional, and it can attack you in a bunch of different ways. So, that's what teams are really keying on to stop us."
How different is that than last year? That was the first time you guys really had this grand debut of what you guys were doing on offense. Was it more consistent in terms of what you were seeing defensively? (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes, even last year, teams were trying to stop our run. I think it's just more of a consistent thing this year. And when you really look back at it though, all the teams, they can do whatever they want; they can load the box up, do whatever they want. At the end of the day, our plays will still work as long as we execute our plays, as long as we do what we need to do. And I think that's really the end of it. Like you said, last year was kind of a breakout thing, and teams still tried to stop our run, and we were still running the ball on them certain ways. This year's just a little bit more consistent seeing them try to stop it."
So, obviously, you're a premier blocking tight end in the league. I don't think there's anyone better than you. Would you tell us how you got to that point in your career? Also, tell us a little bit about you and TE Mark Andrews' relationship? (TE Mark Andrews) "That's an interesting one. So, about blocking; I've always been a blocker, because in high school, I played in the triple-option offense, and I was forced to block. I probably had like seven catches my senior year of high school. So, it was engraved into me by my high school coaches to block, block, block, and that's how I earned my job. And the second part of the question; I think we have a very good relationship. Sometimes you can get annoying. Sometimes you need to grow up a little bit. But I love coming to work and seeing you every day. I think we have a really good relationship, and I think we have the most fun in the building and have the best bond – the strongest bond – in the building, for sure." (Reporter: "No doubt. Love you, brother.")
How has the loss of TE Hayden Hurst in the room affected you guys in the room and on the field? Obviously, this offense has moved a little bit towards throwing more to the wide receivers with Hayden not being there. How does it affect the offense overall? (Ryan Mink) "Yes, of course we miss Hayden [Hurst]. Mark [Andrews] and I, we were all so really close when he was here – from a relationship standpoint. We were always together around the building, always making jokes, attacking other people and whatnot. From an offensive standpoint, we're doing well without Hayden, but do we miss Hayden in the sense that he's a really good football player? We do. He's a fast player, he's a physical player, and he can do a lot of special things. And he's going to do great, and he's doing great in Atlanta. But I think we can find people who are here to step up and fulfill what he left."
You guys do a good job of sheltering yourself from what fans and the media are talking about, but do you kind of chuckle that you're 4-1, and it seems like all the questions are around what's wrong with the offense? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, everyone is going to have something to say, and you have to get used to that being part of this business. It's really hard for outsiders to come and say and critique what is wrong with your team when they're not in the meetings, when they're not at practice, when they're not around you 24/7. But I get it; that's their job, and they're supposed to know about football, and they're supposed to diagnose everything and tell you what's wrong. But realistically, we know where we're at. We know what we need to get better at, we know what we're doing well, and we know what we need to improve on going forward. And that's the most important thing; is that we know what we need to do. And for other people, when they say, 'This is not that,' I don't think that worries us at all. I don't think we think about it at all. We just think about what we need to get better at."
Relative to everything you just said about TE Hayden Hurst not being here, did you anticipate you'd be more a part of the receiving offense? How do you feel you're progressing in that category? (Mark Viviano) "Yes, like I said before, I think I've always been a pretty good receiver. How much I'm going to receive in the game? I don't know if it all depends on the gameplan, because when my parents ask me how many balls I'm going catch, I can never tell them; I can catch eight balls, I can catch zero balls, I can catch two balls. And you never really know how it's going to pan out until you get into the game, until you see things [as] the way they are. So, I think I'm always a good receiver. I'm always improving, I'm always learning from Mark [Andrews] – everything he does in the receiving game. But it's hard to predict and tell how much you're going to participate until the game is over, because every game is different, [and] every way you play the game will be different depending on the score. So, there are just a lot of variables there."
Do you feel like you're blocking even better this year and that you continue to evolve as a blocker? (Ryan Mink) "Oh, yes. I think I'm getting better as a football player every single year. That's the whole thing, especially from a blocking standpoint; the more years I get, I'm able to see, diagnose defenses, see things faster [and] make faster decisions, which helps out my blocking. Running his plays, being under [offensive coordinator] Coach [Greg] Roman, in this run game, knowing this stuff like the back of my hand, keep studying, keep getting better, I see these looks more and more, faster and faster, and it allows me to react faster and do better at my job. And so, yes, I do think I'm being a better blocker. I'm having a more controlled approach, while still being powerful and moving people out of the hole."