Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement "OK, good to see everybody here. I appreciate you guys being on board. [It was] a good week of practice, [and we're going up] against a very good opponent – divisional rivalry, home game. Our guys are very focused. We've had a good week. What questions do you have?"
How do you think QB Lamar Jackson looked today, and will he be playing on Sunday? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, he was 100%. He was good. What happened was, Wednesday, his knee just didn't feel … It just felt sore. He just felt like he needed to try to rest it a little bit. Between him and [offensive coordinator] Coach [Greg] Roman and [quarterbacks coach] Coach [James] Urban and [head certified athletic trainer] Ron Medlin, our trainer, we just felt that was the best course. So, that was what happened Wednesday. Then Thursday, he was ready to go, but he got sick. His stomach was really bothering him, so he had to go home. I don't know if he ate something bad or what it was, but we all get something like that periodically. So, that's what that was. It was just kind of strange timing on that whole deal, but that's what happened. So, he's good to go."
You said on Monday that you thought you were in a good health situation; I guess you didn't "knock on wood" after that. Looking at that injury report, do you feel that you could probably declare anybody out now, or do you think guys are getting healthier going towards the Bengals game? (Jamison Hensley) "Right. I think we're pretty good. For this time of year … Tyre [Phillips] turned out … He may not be able to go. We'll see if he's out or not after today, but he hasn't practiced all week – young guy like that. Look, I think we have pretty good depth in there, so we'll have to make a decision about that depending on what [head certified athletic trainer] Ron [Medlin] says today. But he'd be the one guy I would say that might not make it. Off the top of my head, I can't think of anybody else that wouldn't make it. I know the injury report will be out shortly. If I'm forgetting somebody, you guys can remind me, but I think we're in pretty good shape. [Derek] Wolfe was there. He practiced all week. We talked … You know what his situation is. You know what happened with Wolfe, right? Did we talk about that Wednesday? No?
"Wolfe got flagged for symptoms. So, his wife had been traveling, and they both got sick, so our docs held him out and away from the team there. He didn't have COVID-19, but they held him out for symptoms. So, that's what happened on that one. So, he's good to go. We could get [Justin] Madubuike back. That's another one. We possibly could get him back. He practiced all week."
You're 12-12 against the Bengals. You've had some tough battles against them. Is it the familiarity between you two that keeps these games close, or is it just one of those divisional rivalries that always seem to play out in close games? (Todd Karpovich) "If you look back … You're talking about since 2008, right? They had some really good teams. They've had some really good teams. And even a year or two when they didn't have good teams, they've found a way to beat us. Sometimes it was A.J. Green. It was with Tyler Boyd three years ago, right? Who could forget that? So, yes, it's both. It's a great rivalry. They always have a lot of talent. They play really hard. And they had a stretch where I think we might have won not very many of them in a period there when they were winning the division. So, we have great respect for the Bengals for the way they play, for the talent that they have, for the way they're coached. I think they're doing a great job there as a coaching staff. I think [Bengals head] Coach Zac [Taylor] is doing a really good job. You can see what they're building on both sides of the ball. [Bengals assistant head coach/special teams coordinator] Darrin [Simmons] does a great job on special teams – always has. They're always a top special teams unit. And we know what this means and what this game means to both teams. So, yes, to your point, we understand this rivalry, and we're ready for … We're just going to have to play our best football. That's what we're going to have to do."
I know you're not committing to whether he goes or not on Sunday, but is there an excitement to see DT Justin Madubuike in a game, just because it seemed like he was really flashing, and he was really kind of stacking good days before he had the knee injury in training camp? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, of course. There is [excitement] with all these rookies. You just have to balance out when you put them out there [versus] what they're ready for, because you do want them to be successful when they go out, and you want them to help the team win. That's a coach's responsibility – to make sure they're ready for what you ask them to do. Although, I will say, this class has really done a good job. They've gotten themselves ready to play, across the board, as you've seen with a lot of these guys. So, the answer to that would be yes."
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said that DT Geno Atkins is going to play Sunday. What kind of an impact and factor does that make? (Jamison Hensley) "It's a major impact. Geno [Atkins] is a premier defensive tackle – has been. Has been in that system for many, many years. They play the same basic system that they've played for years and years in terms of their front. And he's unique. So, it's a big factor."
You made a roster move yesterday. Can you explain cutting S Geno Stone and is that CB Khalil Dorsey's spot, because he's out of the "free reverts to practice squad?" (Jeff Zrebiec) "Right. Yes, that's exactly what it is. Khalil [Dorsey] is a corner[back]. We need corners. Geno [Stone] definitely is going to play. There' no doubt in my mind that he'll play. We'll see if he clears waivers today. Hopefully, he will. And he wants to be back on our practice squad, and this is a unique year that way. So, we continue to prepare Geno to play. It's the NFL. It's a roster move. Sometimes you have to make those moves to get the guys active and up and different things that you need, and that's what we did."
When QB Lamar Jackson misses two days of practice – or any player does – do you do anything to make up for that? Is there anything different about walk-throughs or anything like that, because he missed a practice? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Yes, you do. You don't bring the whole team out and do all the walk-throughs again. I think it's more mental, probably, and he'll spend time with [quarterbacks coach] James [Urban]. But he was keeping track of the gameplan all week. The reps – of course, you always want the reps, but sometimes you can't always get the reps. So, it probably stands out more with a quarterback than other positions. But we'll just keep rolling, and he has a lot of reps stacked up, and he'll go play the game the best he can. I'm very confident that he'll play well."
Back to DE Derek Wolfe – so Sunday was the elbow and Wednesday was the possible COVID-19 symptoms? And we've seen just how much this can wreck stuff. Was this just kind of a "hold your breath moment" for the franchise with how everything has gone in Tennessee and New England? (Jonas Shaffer) "No, it was Saturday when he had the symptoms, before the Washington game. Nobody really thought that it was COVID-19 related. It was just an abundance of precaution, I would say. I respect our doctors for doing that. That's what we need to do. There are going to be times this year when guys are just going to be kind of a little sick, and if it comes up late like that, you don't have the chance to … Because he continued to pass tests the whole time, and still has. But sometimes you're just going to have to say, 'Hey, we're just going to have to play it safe here,' and that's what we did. It was over the weekend that that happened."
To your knowledge, is the plan still to have 250 family and friends in the stands for Sunday, or has that changed? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I don't know. I'll have [senior vice president of communications] Chad [Steele] look into that and let you guys know."
I know QB Lamar Jackson always wants to practice. Was it a situation where he understood, or was it a kind of thing where you had to say, "Hey, this is the safe course here?" (Jamison Hensley) "He was sick. He couldn't practice yesterday. He was just too sick to practice."
S DeShon Elliott
We've talked to you a good bit, and there's a lot of expectations for this season, especially your first year as a starter. I know this is general, but how has it gone so far? Through four weeks, do you find yourself more comfortable and more confident each week? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I'm learning. I'm pushing myself to be the best I can be. I'm very hard on myself, so I feel like every week I'm not doing enough [and] I'm not doing enough for this team. So, hopefully, eventually my hard work will pay off. I'm just trying to work every day and get to the place where I want to be in life. Right now, I don't think I am where I need to be. Eventually, I'll get there, hopefully. We've only played four games – it's a long season. Those first four games are basically like the preseason, and I haven't played football in a long time. I'm starting to find myself a little bit. As this year goes on, I'm sure I'll play better and better, but it's coming along."
There's been a lot of talk about how teams have been getting you guys a little bit with some of the shorter passes and screens. What do you feel like you guys can do as a group to kind of lock down on those plays? (Childs Walker) "We're a team that's always going to pressure you, because that's how [defensive coordinator] Coach [Don] 'Wink' [Martindale] is. All we have to do is get off blocks, take our angles to the ball and give max effort every play. Eventually, we'll be fine. I feel like our first four games, just like I was saying, we're just getting our feet under us. We'll be OK. I feel like we'll get better and better each game, each week. We all put the time in. We work hard. So, eventually we'll knock that out. We're not really too pressed about that right now."
I wanted to get your impressions on QB Joe Burrow? It doesn't seem like they've hit on the deep passes, but he's been really good with the short and intermediate stuff. (Luke Jones) "I think that boy has a fantastic arm. He's very smart, great talent, tough, fast for the type of quarterback that he is. He's going to be really great in this league, and he's building. I've been watching a lot of his film; he's going to be really good. He has the pieces around him with Joe Mixon in the backfield; he's a super-fast back who is really powerful [and] very physical. Of course, he has A.J. Green on the outside. He also has Tyler Boyd and even the other receivers on the roster. They have a lot of talent; we just have to be able to contain them. If we can do that, we'll be fine."
That's sort of what I was going to ask, but what kind of challenges … They seem to have a diverse group of wide receivers – a slot guy like WR Tyler Boyd and the physicality on the outside with WR A.J. Green and WR Auden Tate. How challenging are some of those matchups going to be? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It's the NFL – every week is going to be a challenge. They have great receivers. We have great defensive backs. We have a lot of money invested in some of the back end. (laughter) So, I feel like, hopefully, we've been working hard like they've been working hard. So, we're going to see what happens, but I'm sure we're going to do what we've got to do to get the job done."
I wanted to ask you about CB Jimmy Smith. We've seen him move all around the defense. What kind of value does he bring? And being a defensive back yourself, how difficult is it to play those different positions? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Jimmy [Smith], he's an old-head; he's the OG. He's been here for a hot minute. He knows a lot about football. He knows the schemes. He knows the playbook, obviously, well; he's been playing the same playbook for a while. So, for him to be able to show us that he can move from corner to safety to other positions is even better. He's brought a lot of value to this team, especially with our depth purposes [and] especially with the fact that we don't have as much depth as we usually do in the defensive back end. I know I can depend on Jimmy. I know he can do his job. I know he's going to make plays, so we don't have to worry about 'Jimbo.' 'Jimbo' is a great player. Obviously, you all know that; you all have been covering this team for a long time." (laughter)