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Transcripts: Ravens Media Availability 12/28

Head Coach John Harbaugh

Opening statement: "OK, good to see you guys – appreciate you being here once again. We're excited about the win – very proud of the effort and the outcome. It's nice to be proud of both of those things for a change. Looking at the tape, our guys played well. They played winning football. In the end, it came down to the fact that we didn't turn the ball over, and we controlled the football. Those are probably the two major parts of the game. All the things that go into doing those things, our guys did really well. Now our focus is on Cincinnati. They play tonight. We haven't played them for a while. We know them well, because they are in our division, but we haven't played them for a while. We're really going to work on Cincinnati to make sure we understand them and try to put the best game plan we can together and go win a football game on Sunday."
Has it been advantageous for you to have a backup quarterback – or backup quarterbacks – similar in body type and playing style to QB Joe Flacco rather than someone like QB Tyrod Taylor who was rather dissimilar?(Joe Platania) "I don't know about advantageous or not – the way you put it. I think it's good to have good players as backup quarterbacks. Tyrod – because you mentioned his name – is a really good football player. He has proven that so far in Buffalo as a starter. He was good to have as a backup. He never really had a chance, because Joe stayed healthy, so we'll never know how he would have performed. But now we have guys who are more in Joe's style – as you mentioned – and that's where we're at."
John, you talk about these last couple of games building momentum. How much is the play of a lot of the younger players … I know you were asked this a little yesterday, but looking at the tape, how much does the play of the younger players make you feel good heading into [the offseason]? Guys like DT Timmy Jernigan and how he has played the second half, and obviously, OLB Za'Darius Smith and how he has come on.(Jeff Zrebiec)*"Yes, I'm optimistic. I don't feel like I am a half-full guy, so to speak. I like to think that I can see reality most of the time. I'm excited about the core of our football team. We have a lot of good football players that will be here when OTAs start and when the offseason program starts. Their challenge is going to be can they get better between Monday and when the offseason program starts in mid-April. Are they going to be the same player, or are they going to fall off? Are they going to be actually better football players – better shape, bigger, faster, stronger, trained up [and] go somewhere to work on your technique, because we are not allowed to do it here – and be better? That's really what they have to do, those young guys. There will be a bunch of guys that will be fighting for spots on this football team in starting spots and backup spots and special teams positions. There will be a lot of competition for those spots. And then who we add through the draft and free agency … We're not going to lose many guys. It's not like we have a bunch of guys that are going to be free agents this year. So, we have some key guys, and that'll be interesting to see how that plays out. But I am excited, yes."
John, yesterday against Pittsburgh, the amount of times you dropped a lot of guys – a majority of guys – back in coverage … Watching how the defense played – how you played against the offense – and the amount of guys you continually dropped in coverage, was the game plan or the emphasis to not allow big plays? Was that the overriding theme? (Jamison Hensley) "It was. Yes, absolutely. We were mostly in a four-man rush. We brought five less than [that] – you can count them on one hand – and we brought three even less. It was basically a four-man-rush game plan. We ran a few stunts [in the] game – not many, just a few basic twists. [We] let the guys rush, and we played coverage. We played a myriad of coverages. We played a myriad of combinations on their receivers. Our guys did a really good job of sorting out the formations and getting the combinations right, making sure we had the double teams where we wanted them. I think our players did a great job of that, and they deserve credit for executing it. Our coaches did a really good job of putting it together and coaching it up all week."
Along the lines of younger players, what have you seen from RB Terrance West in the last month, and is there anything specific you'd like to see him improve on, maybe, at the start of OTAs and camp? (Cliff Brown) "Terrance is young, so everything he can improve on. It's going to be one of those across-the-board deals. But the thing I like about him is he really has a great … He's born to be a running back. He's 225, 230 pounds, 5-10, 5-11 – whatever he is – and he has quick feet. He's explosive. He can really bend and run behind his pads. He loves running the football. He loves playing football. He's into it. I would expect that he'll be a guy that really goes to work in the offseason and try to improve. He can be a really good player."
You mentioned RB Terrance West's body type. Does he carry weight well, or can he get lighter or quicker, or that's not an issue with him? (Cliff Brown) "He can get lighter and quicker or [be] the same and quicker and more powerful – all those things. He's going to mature. He's still young. He's going to mature physically. He's going to get stronger. The next couple of years are going to be his wheelhouse as it always is for running backs. It depends on how hard he works and how hard he trains, really. But I really expect him to do that."
You talked about this a little yesterday also, but can you expound upon the amount of work you saw QB Ryan Mallett put in last week and the professionalism that he showed. And not only him, but for QB Matt Schaub and QB Jimmy Clausen to come in and help him along the way. (Ryan Mink) "I would just compliment them again on what they did – all those guys. The hours they put in were really at the end of the spectrum as far as how many hours they put in and the quality of hours. But, you can ask them exactly the details of what it all entailed, and they'd probably give you a better answer than I could."
If you get a win Sunday, you finish the season with two victories over division rivals. How much weight does that carry into the offseason? (Todd Karpovich) "You want me to weigh it? I don't know. It's always tough to evaluate exactly what it means. But I know one thing: It's a lot better than the alternative, to your point. Like I said the other … I think I said it a couple days ago, but I've been talking to the team this way for about, well, ever since we were mathematically out of the playoffs. We're not looking to end here and then have to build from there to there once we start OTAs. We want to step off up here somewhere – as high as we possibly can. Let's step off up here. Let's get as good as we can get as a football team. The goal doesn't change that way, whether you're in the playoffs or not in the playoffs. We need to play the best football we can play, because it's a journey. It's not over. It just keeps going. Life goes on. We are a football team; we're a family. Every single person – every single part of us – has to get as good as they can get, because we'll be playing games soon enough, and there's no reason to not be as good as we can be over the last part of the season. So yes, winning those games, it's definitely a measuring stick of how good a team that you are."
John, do you have an update on WR Marlon Brown, because he has missed so many weeks in a row? It's kind of that time of year where you almost expect guys to go on IR if they've been out that long. 
(Luke Jones) "I'm not sure why Ozzie [Newsome] didn't put him on IR, really. It would be a good question for Ozzie. He probably just didn't have a roster move to make, would be my guess. But [Marlon Brown's] back has just not responded. He has had back spasms, then they found … I don't know what it was exactly – whether it was a little bit of a disc issue or something in there – and they kept trying to get him back. And then about two weeks ago, I could just tell he wasn't going to get back, so I kind of gave up hope, and I think he did, too. He just knew it wasn't responding. He's going to have to take the offseason and get it right – whatever that means. There's no major blown-out back or anything like that, or we would've put him on IR whenever the injury happened. But, it was kind of like one of those things where we thought we could get him back, and they tried different things, and it just didn't really respond."
How disappointing has it been – because you lost WR Steve Smith Sr., you lost WR Breshad Perriman at the beginning, and WR Marlon Brown is a guy who had been productive for you a couple years ago – just to not have him, No. 1, to produce for you, and No. 2, for him to continue to develop as a player? (Luke Jones) "Marlon [Brown] is one of my favorite guys, and he works really hard at it, has a great attitude and, to my eyes, is very talented. But, it just hasn't worked in the last two years like we all expected after his rookie year, especially how Marlon expected to continue to improve. It's going to be a really important offseason for him, and it's going to be a critical season for him when he comes back."
To that point, with WR Steve Smith Sr. getting hurt and WR Marlon Brown being injured as well, it seems like there has been a ton of opportunities for wide receivers that weren't even in the frame – WR Chris Matthews, of course, yesterday. WR Daniel Brown has had some [success]. What does that mean for the future, just that position specifically? (Jon Meoli) "All the guys that aren't in the team picture, you're referring to?" (Reporter: "Well, no.") "You said the frame. I figured you meant the team picture." (laughter) (Reporter: "I don't think they were in that either.") "Well, it's exciting in the sense that we have numbers. I think we have a lot of numbers of some valuable, talented guys with upside. The guys you mentioned are great examples of that. So, that's what I was saying before. It's going to be really interesting when we come back. The competition level is going to be high; it's going to be on, and as a coach, you love that."
John, in terms of – we've talked about WR Kamar Aiken and his productivity – how much toughness has he shown you as well as a receiver? (Jamison Hensley) "That was never in question, Kamar's [Aiken] toughness, because we'd seen him here since he got here, doing it on special teams and on offense. But, to take it to the level he has taken it … You talk about durability, which is a struggle, it's a struggle in this league – ability, durability. What's more important? You've got to have both. If you're not out there, what [does] your ability mean? You have to be playing in the end. All the guys realize that, and here's a guy that has been ... He has been hit in the head more times, probably, than any receiver in the league, and it hasn't been called, alright? So, he doesn't get protected. He bounces back up, and he's back out there; and he shows up the next week. It's just impressive what he has done this year, and I'm proud of him."
Did you make it out OK yesterday? Do you expect everyone that played yesterday to probably be available for the Bengals game? (Jeff Zrebiec) "We did. [Head certified athletic trainer] Mark [Smith] gave me the good news. There's good news and good news: We won the game, and nobody is getting an MRI [magnetic resonance imaging] today, for the first time all year."(laughter) (Reporter: "Really?") "That's pretty good." (Reporter: "Especially after a Steelers game.") "Right, exactly. That's probably pretty rare."
I didn't get a chance to talk to him, but last week T Eugene Monroe walked into the locker room, and he appeared to have a pretty big contraption on his shoulder. Did he wind up getting surgery? (Jeff Zrebiec) "He did. He had shoulder surgery. I think he had – I'm going to say – a labrum tear. I think it was a labrum tear, maybe two labrum tears, that he had repaired."(Reporter: "Will that effect [anything] on his timetable at all in the offseason?") "I think it's a pretty quick recovery. It shouldn't be an issue, from what I understand."
To that point, I think this is going to be – if the same offensive line starts on Sunday – it'll be the longest stretch with one unit of the whole season. (Jon Meoli) "How long will it be?"(Reporter: "*Four games.") *"Oh, OK, we're veteran." (laughter) (Reporter: "How have you seen that group come together? I know on the left side, 'K.O.' [Kelechi Osemele] and Ryan Jensen seem to make a lot of ...") "Right, you're referring to the O-line, OK. They played well, 'K.O.' and Ryan on the left side. The whole offensive line played exceptionally well in this game. You're talking about a really good front we're going against, pass rushers and* run defense, one of the top fronts in the league. And our guys ... Ryan [Mallett] had some protection there. He got hit a few times, got hit in the knee one time – I don't know if you guys noticed that – and that was really it the whole game. He really had a lot of breathing space, and that's a credit to the offensive line. 'K.O.' was 'K.O.,' and he's starting to get a feel out there for offensive tackle. He got beat inside a little bit – he'll tell you, probably – because that's just recognizing the defense and understanding what happens when somebody moves up or somebody moves back, what the other does. And he'll learn that. And Ryan Jensen – man, this guy – what he gets beat on one week, he cleans it up the next week. [He is a] smart, tough, very aggressive player. John [Urschel] played his usual game, and he has become a very steady force in there. Marshal [Yanda] is lined up over 91, [Stephon] Tuitt, who is a very physical player, and they really had quite a battle against each other all day. And I thought Marshal played like he always does. He just battled like he always does and had a lot of wins. And then, Rick [Wagner] probably played his best game of the year. It seems like he has had all kinds of banged-up things. He has had ... His knee has been hyper-extended. He has had all the bumps and bruises, but this guy never, ever says he can't go. I don't know what it would take. Let's not find out. But he seems like he was a little healthier this game, and he really played well. So, as a group, yes, it was excellent. It was an excellent game by those guys."

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