Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, good seeing everybody – appreciate you being here. [It is] a little later than normal, so we are going through a day. We pushed it back a little bit. [We were] game-planning last night – through the night, basically – and this morning. We just had our walk-through, and we'll have a rep practice here – more of a walk-through tempo – from 6-8 [p.m.], and that's our plan."
When it comes to wanting to get better at everything as soon as possible, does it start with any one thing, maybe the running game?(Joe Platania)* "It starts with everything as it applies to each group. Football, it's a big game. The running game wouldn't apply to the defense, wouldn't apply to the special teams. Every position takes the things that they need to work on and tries to build on the good things and improve on the things they need to get better at."
To touch on the running game, you have four starters back now on the offensive line and RB Justin Forsett is back. It looks like everybody that made the run game successful last year [is back]. When you watch film, what has been the biggest difference from last year to this year?(Jamison Hensley)"That's so hard to answer and to make comparisons. We just have to get better at what we're doing all across the board. That's part of the process of a football season. You try to improve from one week to the next, from one day to the next, one practice to the next and improve where you need to get better."
You were asked this yesterday, but a short work week, is that maybe a good thing in that you guys can just focus on football, no thinking about what has happened in the past?(Dave Ginsburg)"You do like to get right back at it, there's no question about it. Win or lose, really, but especially when you lose, you want to get back at it and get a chance to redeem yourself, and our guys are excited about that."
Playing off that, you have quite the busy stretch. You've got practices right here, two-straight practices. I guess you have to cram a lot into this. Wednesday is your walk-through, and then you're traveling. That's, really, not much time to get ready for the next game, but maybe, that's a good thing.(Dave Ginsburg)"That's how it works on Thursday Night Football. Everybody gets to play a Thursday night, and you are right back at it Monday. You have a short turnaround, and you're ready to play Thursday night."
Coach, what's it going to take for OLB Jason Babin to be active and get on the field?(Jerry Coleman) "What's it going to take? When [Jason Babin is] ready, and when he's going to give us the best opportunity to win and the way the numbers work out."
Has it just been a numbers game, basically?(Jerry Coleman) "Yes, you only get 46 [active players], and you only get so many at each position, and you try to do the best you can with those numbers."
You are going against QB Michael Vick this week. You have somebody on staff with quarterbacks coach Marty Morhinweg who is pretty familiar with him. Will you tap into his knowledge?(Jamison Hensley) "Oh, yes. Of course."
Is it a good resource to have, especially on a short week?(Jamison Hensley) "Of course. Of course it is. We all have a pretty good knowledge of all the players in the league – at least the guys that have played a lot. Michael Vick has played a lot of football. [If you] go back to the 2004 NFC Championship Game, I had a chance to play against him. I saw him close up and personal there, running around, making plays. He has been one of the premier players in the league for many years. I have a lot of respect for him. [He is a] fine quarterback. He brings unique talents to the table, and those are things we have to prepare for. But really, the preparation is for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their team is intact, [with] all the things that they do, all the players that they have. That's what they revolve around, is who they are as a football team, and now he becomes a piece of that team that we have to be aware of."
John, is there something you can take out of the first three games that lets you know that this team can come back from an 0-3 start?(Dave Ginsburg) "Yes, there are all kinds of things. I'm not going to sit here and unroll my list. I'm not going to unroll the scroll and start reading them off, but we're a very confident football team, and we feel like we can overcome any adversity. We have before; we will again. I don't care what walk of life you're in, you're going to go through tough times. You're going to go through adversity. You're going to walk through darkness, and you have to know [that] you have to keep walking. What's the old saying? When you're going through hell, keep going. That's what we're going to do. We're going to keep going. We're going to find a way out. We will come out of this the other way. What we want to be able to do is look back on it and be proud of the way that we conducted ourselves. That's what you have to do in hard times, and that's what we plan on doing."
Fans around the country, when they hear Baltimore-Pittsburgh, they know they're going to be entertained by that. Especially with the state the team is in now, do you relish the chance of getting in front of the whole country to let them see that maybe things aren't so bad?(Joe Platania) "I don't know about all of that. That's kind of an outside perspective on it more than an inside perspective. We don't really take an outside view of it, because we're on the inside. We take an inside perspective. Our focus is on the fact that we're playing the football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which is obviously a game that we love to play in, because it's so tough, and playing there is even tougher. We understand that, and we look forward to it, and it's going to be a big challenge for us."
John, you mentioned it's a confident team. I know QB Joe Flacco and WR Steve Smith Sr. both mentioned yesterday that maybe some of the younger guys need to learn some of that confidence or believe that they can win. Is that part of the process of younger guys and would you agree?(Mark Viviano)"Yes, I do. I think that's always part of the process. It's guys learning how to compete, learning how to make plays in critical moments. It's part of the process, probably, in anything, but certainly in football, and we have guys – young guys – capable of doing it. That's why you keep pounding the rock, you keep coming to work. I told the guys, 'We stand on a foundation of a lot of hard work, a lot of good work that we've put underneath ourselves. That does not disappear.' I think we've been within a whisker – a play, really – of winning all three of these games in each one of these games. That doesn't count for a hill of beans when it's all said and done and you look back, but it does count for something going forward. We understand what kind of football team we're capable of becoming, but we haven't been good enough to get those things done, so we have to get better. Basically, we're being told, 'Hey, I want to make sure you understand that you need to get better [and] how much better you need to get,' and that's the way we look at it. You're right, it counts for the young guys, but it counts for all of us."
Coach, CB Jimmy Smith seemed to take the loss as hard as anyone yesterday. Where do you feel like his confidence is at? Have you spoken with him since the game ended yesterday, and where is he at? (Jerry Coleman) "Yes, we spoke, and I talked to most all the guys – pretty much – as much as you can in a short period of time. Jimmy [Smith is] a really good football player. What you talk about is the trade. You talk about the craft. You talk about the things that apply to playing the position and coaching the position and all that, and [those are] the things we've has been focusing on."
John, a couple of DBs the last couple weeks – defensive players – have talked about miscommunications. It's kind of a … I know they haven't played together that long. Is that an issue – because they're a bunch of veterans back there – or is it something that maybe could be simplified, maybe simplifying things? (Jeff Zrebiec) "We talk about all that stuff, for sure. It's never as simple as one thing, one word. I think that label – that term that you use – is one that it's simple to lay it out there, and it kind of covers everything. But we're just not playing those coverages as consistently the way they need to be played. There are certain things that need to be played certain ways that you decide and determine that you're going to play them that way, and they don't always get played that way consistently. When you become really good in the back end, it's because you played those things consistently well together, and to play them together, you have to be on the same page about the way you're playing them. So yes, we look at ourselves as coaches, we look at ourselves as players, and we look at what we need to do to play it better and more correctly the next time. But the bottom line is they weren't played right. They weren't played well in the instances we gave up the plays, and they have to be played better, and that's what we go to work every single day to try to improve."
John, the penalties. How do you approach … Obviously, they know they're not supposed to do them. Is it technique? Are guys trying to do too much? (Cliff Brown) "It's mostly technique, and some of it is trying to do too much. Some of the penalties are … They were all pretty good calls. You can't line up at corner and jam somebody in the facemask. You can't do it. That's pretty much … That's a head-scratcher there. Holding – that gets called, doesn't get called, but they were justifiable. 'K.O.'s' [Kelechi Osemele's] penalty, he said he got his hand caught in the facemask there – his thumb. Really, that's just something that we work on, technique-wise, as far as the way we punch people. So, every one of them is a different type of a scenario, but the bottom line is that there's way too many of them, and they have to be cleaned up. We've never been a highly-penalized team here recently, [including] last year, [and] we weren't in the preseason. It's something we have to do a much better job at."
John, when you're [coaching] … There were 22 penalties. You guys had 13. Cincinnati had plenty, as well. Can you feel the rhythm of the game affected by so many stoppages like that, or does that not matter to you? (Mark Viviano) "It matters. It really matters … It matters for your defense. I appreciate it when they [the opposition] get called for a penalty – I like that rhythm. (laughter) When we get called for a penalty, it is a rhythm I'm not really fond of. [When] you get backed up, you can only overcome it so much. We overcame some penalties yesterday, but it is too many. We don't need any penalties, and we coach really hard to play the game the right way, play with proper technique and to do things very carefully the right way, and that's something we're chasing. We have to get better at that, because those are yards that we don't need to forfeit."
John, you've had a lot of different starters on the defensive line so far. Do you feel like that unit responded well after the game in Oakland? (Jon Meoli) "They played better than they did in Oakland as a group, and I also believe they're capable of playing even better than that. We expect our front seven to be dominant, and we have the guys to do it. They're just the men for the job, and that's what we're looking for."
Just having seen WR A.J. Green., is WR Antonio Brown similar? Completely different? (Mark Viviano) "Completely different, [but] similar in the fact that they're both great players. Completely different in playing style, I would say. I really, really have high respect and really love both of those guys as players, as much as you can when you have to play against them twice a year. Antonio Brown is a guy I've known for a long time. [He's a] Mid-American Conference guy, so we've always kind of chuckled about that. I got to know both of those guys at the Pro Bowl this year, which was fun, but it is not as much fun playing against them in a real game as it is the Pro Bowl. So, he's a guy we have to keep our eye on. He's a guy we have to account for. He [and] Le'Veon Bell, obviously, are their two premier guys, but even the other guys [are very good]. Markus Wheaton does a great job in the slot. [Darrius] Heyward-Bey is doing a really good job with the outside stretching the field; he's a heck of a blocker. [They have a] pretty good backup running back, if you want to call him that. He [DeAngelo Williams] has had a great career, so they've fortified themselves there. Tight end [Heath Miller] – he has been there forever. I'm so impressed with him. I was going to say I'm so looking forward to when he retires. I guess that's a compliment, right? I am so looking forward to when he finally retires, but he has just been a great player for so many years. It gets to the point where you really respect a crew, and we're looking forward to the challenge."
OLB Elvis Dumervil
On the importance of the team's attitude this week: "I think we all want to remove ourselves from the situation. So, it is a good thing we get to play Thursday night in a good rivalry game in our division. We're looking forward to going to Pittsburgh."
On his first Ravens-Steelers game two years ago and the physical nature of the rivalry: "I think this is the best rivalry in football, and it was one of the reasons I came here, as well. I think it was very exciting to be a part of it. I think the first year, I kind of realized how physical the game is, and I think [it is physical] in the whole division. I kind of altered my whole training to that. So, it is a physical game, and we'll be physical. It is a smart game, too, so we've got to make sure we know who we need to cover and who we need to rush at and just anything schematically. [These teams have] good coaches."
On defensive adjustments in preparation for QB Michael Vick rather than QB Ben Roethlisberger: "Coach [Todd] Haley is a great offensive coordinator. They have talented players, good offensive line. It is a good team. I don't know. I'm not an offensive coordinator, so I couldn't tell you. All I can do is receive my scheme and go out there and play football."
On facing a running quarterback like QB Michael Vick as a pass rusher: "I better get to doing some more gassers. (laughter) We have all seen what [Michael] Vick has done in this league. He has been a great player. [I have a] tremendous amount of respect for him as a professional. I've never played against him." (Reporter: "Really?") "Yes, so I'm excited to go against him."
On if he changes his approach when rushing a left-handed quarterback: "Somewhat. It is a craft to everybody – left-handers from right-handers. So yes, you've got to do a lot more studying, see how I want to attack it." (Reporter: "He won't see you coming, I guess.") "I play both sides, so we'll see."
On what CB Jimmy Smith has meant to the team when he's been a good corner: "He's still good." (Reporter: "What do you say to a player? He was obviously pretty distraught about how he played yesterday.") "Jimmy [Smith] is one of our best corners. He's one of the good players on our team – great guy, great teammate. Some days you give up plays, some days you make plays. That's just the National Football League, and I wouldn't want to take any other corner but him."
QB Joe Flacco
On how difficult it can be to get other players involved on offense when you have a proven receiver like WR Steve Smith Sr.: "It's not. You work all week – and obviously your game plan is to get everybody involved – but come Sunday, you do what you have to do to win football games and at least try to win football games. Shoot, there have been games where I've had 19 completions, and we've won games. And I had 19 completions to other guys other than Steve [Smith Sr.]. It just looked kind of crazy that it's 13 of them, [that] I had 13 to Steve. But I think when you are going to have a good amount of completions, there's going to be times when your top guy ends up having a significant amount of those. Obviously, we want to get other guys involved, get their confidence going and all that stuff. But like I said, when it comes down to Sunday afternoon, you have to do what you have to do to win a football game, and it just happened to work out that way."
On if playing night games at Heinz Field feels differently than playing there in the daytime:"Yes, night games definitely feel different there than day games do. But we haven't played very many day games there – maybe two or three of them – and this will be [my] eighth year [playing at Pittsburgh]. Early on, I liked it just because it was new to me, and I wasn't really sure about the game and everything and hadn't played, really, there before. But with the types of games we've played against these guys, [there are] a lot of memories. It's fun to go up there, it really is. I have a blast. If you're on this team, and you don't just jump at the opportunity to go play up there, then there's something wrong with you, because it really is a lot of fun. It's one of the best atmospheres there is."
On TE Maxx Williams and TE Nick Boyle having to possibly play without TE Crockett Gillmore:"[It is] big. They're going to have to go in there, and they're going to have to do a handful of things for us. But the biggest thing those guys have to do is just go in and play within themselves. They can't try to do too much. They just have to catch the ball, run block – do the simple things. When you're a young player – even when you're a veteran player – it's all about doing the fundamental, simple things right. If they can do those – if they can concentrate on those little things – then they'll do just fine. Everything else will take care of itself. Their athletic ability – their talent – will take care of itself and put them … It'll allow them to make the plays. But, they have to do the simple things right first and not try to do too much, because that's when they can get kind of out of control and be caught in positions that they don't want to be in."
On whether Pittsburgh's defense looks different this year on film: "I haven't had a chance to look at them too much, yet. There's different personnel over there. Obviously, not some of the … From a couple years ago until now, they've changed it quite a bit, and some of the familiar faces that have been stable over there aren't there anymore. But for the most part, they're doing the same kind of things, playing the same kind of things. We just have to make sure we stymie what they're good at, which is stopping the run, getting after the passer, stuff like that. It's traditional stuff like that, but there are different faces."
On whether the rivalry this week will be different without key players like OLB Terrell Suggs and QB Ben Roethlisberger: "Yes, it's definitely different – I would think especially for a fan. I think it's still going to be one of those types of games. Obviously, I think it's a little bit different when you're coming into the league – and you've been used to watching these guys play – and now all of a sudden, you're playing against them. But when you're one of the guys that has been playing in it for a few years, you start to lose track of that a little bit. But I'm sure a lot of the guys that are young still have a pretty similar view of what this game is, and I know I do. It doesn't change for me. I know some of those [players] aren't out there. Shoot, I'd love to have Ben [Roethlisberger] playing in this game and going up against him for another time. It's just not that way, but it's still just as important. It'll be just as fun, just as big of a game."
On if WR Breshad Perriman is making progress: "I don't know. I don't want to start jumping to conclusions or guessing when [Breshad Perriman] may be back or when he may not be. I honestly didn't get to do too much with him last week. I know he was out here going through a little bit of stuff, but I have no idea how he feels and what's actually going on. I didn't get to throw to him. It's not something that I'm going to worry about until I know for sure that he's coming back. Just tell me when he's coming back. Other than that, don't really bother me with it, because it's not something we can worry about at this point."
On whether he thinks about quarterback matchups before games: "I just think it's good for the game. It's good for football. It's good for the rivalry. You got everybody's team the way they really want it, and I think the fans feed into it more. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about. It's going out there [and] playing the game at full strength and putting on a show for the fans and trying to battle your tail off to win the football game. As a competitor, it's always nice to face guys that you've been going against for a while. You never like to see somebody injured, either, and have to sit out. Hopefully everything is going well with [Ben Roethlisberger], and he'll be out there as quickly as possible."
On whether being 0-3 makes it difficult to focus on the next opponent: "We've had bad records through five games, six games. We've lost three games before in a row. There's definitely, I think … If we're not mentally strong enough – if we're not mentally tough – then there's definitely a better chance at 0-3 to slip into a bad mode. It's definitely a slippery slope. We were 9-2 the year we won the Super Bowl. We lost three in a row [and went] 9-5, but it was easy to stay positive in that situation, because we knew if we won one more game we were going to win the division and get into the playoffs. In that situation, it was easy. When you're winning games, or when you've won enough games and things are going well … For the most part, things kind of got rough that year, too, if you remember, but it was still kind of easy to look ahead and say, 'We have to win one game.' Now it's going to be a little bit tougher – or it's going to be a little bit bigger of a test, I think – for us this year, because we're 0-3. If we win one game, it's not like we can say, 'Win one game, and we're in the playoffs.' It's win one game, and we're 1-3. Big deal, we're 1-3. So, I think that the biggest thing for us is going to be to keep our attitude right, because if we don't do that, then we're going to have no chance. If we do it, man, the fact that we're 0-3 right now doesn't mean anything. We have 13 games left. We just have to keep our attitude right, continue to believe that we're a good football team, and we have to go out there and reel off some wins, and it all starts this week."
On if he finds himself being a more vocal leader: "I don't know. It's tough to say I'm more vocal or less vocal. I am what I am. My biggest thing is to keep confidence up and go out there and lead by keeping my head up and keeping my chest out and showing guys that I still believe we're a good football team, and that I believe in you, I believe in you, I believe in you. (points and motions hand) We're doing things right. We just have to put it all together. I think we feel that way. We just have to make sure that we continue to feel that so that we're not going into these games with our head held low and expectations not as high as they should be."
CB Jimmy Smith
Opening statement: "I appreciate you guys yesterday for understanding I was a little emotional [after the game.] I was a little emotional, and I appreciate that you guys have a job to do, so I really appreciate that."
On the importance of having a short-term memory in the NFL, especially with the WRs Pittsburgh has: "We're already on Pittsburgh, so all eyes are focused on what they've got, what they bring to the table. It's going to be a very tough matchup, even without Ben Roethlisberger. Michael Vick is still very capable of running the offense. So, we have our hands full."
On where yesterday ranks in terms of tough days for him: "I took the loss as a loss. It wasn't so much that I was just so down on myself, it was just a loss. I didn't play as well as I wanted to, so all of that affected it."
On how he shakes it off and moves ahead: "Just like this." (shaking his arms and shoulders) (laughter)
On what the group has to do to get back to playing the way it expects to: "There are times when we're playing at a high level, it's just we've got to be way more consistent. It's minor techniques – even though they're huge plays – it's a minor technique that we're missing or that we're not completing. So, it's not even the calls; it's things we have to fix and clean up, and we'll get that done."
On the touchdown by Raiders WR Amari Cooper and why he has seemed to struggle in some of those passing situations: "I've just got to be a little bit smarter in situational football, and I guess in a couple of those I kind of relied on my ability and not my smarts. And I should have been a lot smarter in those situations."
On if it is realistic to press on almost every single play: "It's realistic, yeah, but it's almost impossible, because there are just teams' motion and stacks and bunches, and they're just not going to let you do what you do best all the time."
On how the group can get back to tackling better as a whole: "Tackle. There's no formula for that. That's just effort and will and something we've got to improve on."
On if his foot injury from last year is on his mind at all: "People come back from injuries; they play. Until this season is over, I'll never talk about my foot."
On if it's tough to be as confident if you get beat on a couple of plays: "I don't think my confidence is shaken, because obviously, I still go down and I try to play the game I want to play. Obviously, you don't want to give up big plays, but my confidence comes in my preparation, and I prepare. I study harder than most people, I would say. So, my confidence isn't going to shake just because a play has been made on me."
On if he feels like the secondary is close to coming together as a unit: "Absolutely. Like I said, it's minor things. If you really, really know football, and you see what happened in the game and you're like, 'Oh, it's just a slight … You're supposed to turn inside on this and certain plays don't happen …' So yes, you're right in a sense, but they're big plays, so it seems like it's a huge problem. But in reality, it's simple coverages that we need to be perfect on."
On if it's more of a technique thing or more of a coverage issue: "Both. It's technique and communication. Not necessarily even the communication – sometimes just seeing the formation and recognizing what you're supposed to be in. It's minor things like that."
On if that helps with the pre-snap communication: "Yes, absolutely. There's just no excuse for not communicating. We've just got to iron those out."
On going up against a playmaker like Steelers WR Antonio Brown: "Oh, Antonio Brown, he's a very, very tough competitor. They give him the ball all the time. You watch film and they wait until he gets open to throw him the ball. We're going to have our hands full chasing that jackrabbit around."
On if he looks forward to an opportunity to go up against a player of Browns' caliber: "When you lose three in a row, you're looking forward to any chance you can go back out there and show what you're made of. This is a great opportunity on a Thursday night against a tough team at home to show what the Ravens are made of. I expect us fully to go out and do that."
On if there is a level of surprise to be standing here at 0-3 right now: *"I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't be a little bit surprised. But when you go back and look at the things that happened, you can't be surprised, because we're the ones that did it. We're a play away from being 3-0, and we're obviously sitting in this position because we didn't make a few of those plays."
Transcripts: Ravens Media Availability 9/28
Head Coach John Harbaugh