Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "[It's] good to see everybody. I appreciate you being here. A couple things: J.K. [Dobbins] does have a season-ending knee injury, as was reported by many of you. So, that's a disappointment, especially for us for J.K. – our hearts go out to him. It's very challenging, because he worked so hard. He was so prepared, and he was so ready to go this year. [He] was so excited to go, and he was such a big part of our plans. Like any injury, which happened and will happen, throughout the course of the NFL and different teams, you just have to approach it and overcome it. It's adversity. We'll have to deal with it, and we will. We have the players to do it. We have the team to do it. Our guys are excited today, again, to practice, and I have full confidence in the rest of the running backs that are here to pick up the load and to do a great job for us. So, that's where we're at with that. Trace McSorley is back practicing today. He was out there, so that's a plus for us. [SVP of communications] Chad [Steele], anything else these guys might want updated on?" (Chad Steele: "They'll obviously ask.") "OK." (laughter) I'm not even going to … I'm not going to go there. Taking questions, not taking questions – you know, the national scene? I'm not going there. Alright, what questions do you have?"
Along those lines, how is CB Jimmy Smith progressing? (Luke Jones) "Good, but not as good as we initially thought. It turned out to be a little more serious than we initially thought. So, he's not practicing this week. [I'm] very hopeful that he'll practice next week. He'll be back, if not next week, [then] very early in the season. It just didn't come around as quickly as I think they thought it was going to in terms of his ankle. But it's an ankle sprain, just a little slower recovery than they anticipated."
We asked you a little bit about RB Ty'Son Williams on Saturday night. Given the news about RB J.K. Dobbins, do you think he'll get a real opportunity to kind of show what he can do early in the season? (Childs Walker) "Yes, Ty'Son [Williams] … If you do the math, he's there. He'll be out there playing. He'll be doing it, and obviously, he's ready to go. He's practiced every day, and he's excited about his opportunity."
Where do you think RB Ty'Son Williams is as a pass catcher? We haven't seen a whole lot of that thus far. (Pete Gilbert) "[He's] good. He's done a good job. He hasn't really dropped any passes out here. He's good in pass protection. He can run routes. Yes, I feel good about him that way."
I've heard a lot of people say, "Oh my gosh, why did they play RB J.K. Dobbins in a preseason game?" What do you say to those people? (Bo Smolka) "It's a fair conversation. We played Lamar [Jackson]. We played Mark [Andrews]. We played the starting offensive line. We played the whole offense for nine plays; I think it was. Those guys played for no more than 23 plays the whole preseason – that's what J.K. [Dobbins] had. Some teams play their guys a lot. I watched certain teams, you know who they are, [and] they've played their starters every single game extensively. A lot of teams in our division have done that. Great teams in the AFC [and] teams that we're competing against in the AFC have pretty much all done that. But there are other teams that don't play their guys at all; they don't play their starters even one snap. We are probably as close to that as we've ever … I know we're farther down that road than we've ever been; we played our guys so little this offseason. It's just been how we've done it. But any time a guy gets hurt, you ask yourself those questions."
I know RB Gus Edwards has clearly been a big part of what you guys have done for a few years now, but how excited are you about the potential for him to handle a little bit more of the workload? (Luke Jones) "I'm excited. Gus [Edwards] has handled big parts of the workload ever since he's been here. It's not like … The way we run our offense, we want to roll [running] backs. We want to play multiple [running] backs. We have a lot of carries; those guys do a lot in the offense. So, it's not like there's going to be one running back that takes all the reps for us. So, we need three [running] backs active every game, and we're going to need a [running] back or two on the practice squad that's ready to go. So, that's kind of how we operate."
You mentioned that you like the guys you have [in the running backs room], but is that a position where you still kind of look and see what's made available tomorrow? There are going to be a lot of running backs that hit the waiver wire. Are you going to kind of monitor that and see if there's anything out there that you like? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes … You know, that's true for every position. It's not like there's any position that we're not going to be looking for an opportunity to improve. Obviously, that's a conversation because of J.K.'s [Dobbins] injury. I would say I'd be surprised if there was a [running] back that became available that's better than what we have for us. But if that were to be the case, or some veteran out there made sense, I'm sure we would do it. Whatever we can do to make our team better, we'll do."
We haven't asked you about TE Nick Boyle in a couple weeks. With having to cut down to 53, what's his status? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Nick [Boyle] is ... He's getting close, but he's not ready to play yet. So, [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta] will figure that out. I don't anticipate him being ready for the first game, but I do anticipate him being ready early in the season. So, that's where we're at with that – just straight up front. We'll go from there."
Knowing what you know about RB J.K. Dobbins, can you talk about your confidence in his ability to attack this rehab and come back stronger next year? (Ryan Mink) "That's the thing about J.K. [Dobbins], he's just the hardest worker, and he's the most passionate guy. He will be ready to go next year, there's no question about it. He'll be ready to roll. He'll probably be ready to roll in OTAs, knowing how he gets after it and the timing of this. I'm not worried about long-term J.K. at all. Like his agent [Zac Hiller] said: There's nobody tougher than him, there's nobody more passionate than him, and there's nobody that will work harder than him. So, yes; he'll be just fine."
WR Marquise Brown, we haven't seen him out here since the second practice [of training camp]. Any thoughts about him returning to practice soon? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, he'll be practicing today. So, we'll see how he does and how he looks. He's excited."
Do you consider the competition at left guard to still be open? Is it G Ben Powers for now based off of what we saw Saturday night? Where is that? (Childs Walker) "We have pretty much a plan locked in right now in our minds. We're probably going to leave that [at that], because I don't know exactly how it'll play out in terms of reps and all that. But we have a plan."
I guess we'll see in a little bit, but have you guys started to make cuts? Or is that something you're waiting for much closer to Tuesday at 4 p.m.? (Jeff Zrebiec) "We've made a couple. I don't mind … [SVP of communications] Chad [Steele] should talk to [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta] to see if he wants to share those. I don't want to speak out of hand [or] out of turn."
Were you part of the Michigan Little League growing up? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, absolutely. Of course." (Reporter: "Is there pride [since they just won the Little League World Series]?") "There's a legacy there. It's kind of like the preseason win streak – once a part of it, always a part of it. So, absolutely. They beat Ohio. So, that was … Well, we grew up in Ohio, too. So, we had roots in both states. We were winners either way." (laughter)
Were you out at Caves Valley Golf Club this week? Did you get a chance to go to the BMW Championship? What were your impressions of that? (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, I was out there yesterday with [my wife] Ingrid. We had a great time. We walked the course for about two and a half hours. We holed up right at the 16th tee and the 15th green. So, you got to see that turn right there. We were there for a long time. We got to see a lot of people come through. We got up to 16 and watched that. Then we rushed home to beat the crowd and beat the traffic. (laughter) But we got home in time to see the six overtime periods. What do they call them in golf? Do they call them overtime periods?" (Reporter: "Playoffs.") "OK, six playoff holes – we saw them all. It was very excited. You know what I was rooting for? I was rooting for another playoff hole. That's what I was rooting for – just keep them coming, man." (laughter)
Quarterbacks Coach James Urban
With QB Lamar Jackson, some people have talked about how his throws are a little bit tighter. Was there anything done mechanically or anything different, whether it's the way he throws it, hand placement – anything like that – that led to this? (Jamison Hensley) "We've been working very hard on his mechanics – from feet all the way up. We've talked a lot, specifically, about some particular throws. It was showing up a little more on some types of throws versus others. So, we've done a lot, and it's mostly been him, just putting in the time and the hard work of getting there. We're chasing that consistency. We're much improved; we're still chasing it."
Can you talk about his offseason training and the plan you guys put in place for him and the people he worked with? (Ryan Mink) "Yes, we just said, 'OK, we're going to go after this aggressively. We're going to have a plan. We're going to work through the plan, very systematically.' I don't know any other way to do it – I really don't. There's no magic potion. I know everybody wants to hear, 'He worked with me, or he worked with [Tom House Sports'] Adam [Dedeaux]. Or he did this, or he did that – none of it.' It's all cumulative. It's all systematic. It was all a plan to just work – that's all it is, really – just work. 'Here's how it should feel. Here's how we want it to feel. Here's how we want you to have your feet.' And then, do it over and over and over again. His approach has very much been, 'OK, we're going to attack this thing.' So, that's what we've done."
Is it easier for him to work on the fundamentals now that he doesn't have to worry about learning the offense or focus much on thinking where everyone's got to be? (Pete Gilbert) "It's just an evolution – that's all it is. I think I said before, Michael Jordan could drive, and then he learned a jump shot. So, that's kind of how we've approached it. He's not going to stop driving the lane. Michael Jordan didn't stop driving the lane; he just learned how to shoot better and more consistently. So, we're just learning how to, more consistently, throw the ball – and more accurately. So, to answer your question, sure, there is familiarity with the offense, but the offense is ever-evolving. We're not going to look the same as we did last year; we're not going to look the same as we did against Washington. We're going to keep evolving, so there are constantly things that you are learning and working on, but our focus – one of our great focuses – has been on improvement of consistency throwing the ball."
Do you think it's been any harder for the quarterbacks to get ready with so many of the front-line receivers missing over the last few weeks? (Childs Walker) "Well, you certainly want everybody to be healthy. You don't want to miss anybody, but we haven't let that hinder what we're doing. We're focused on our mechanics. We're focused on establishing our timing of throwing the ball. Hopefully, we get those guys out here pretty quick and get to throwing with them again, but our focus has not been who we're throwing to; it's been more on how we're doing it."
I know the silver lining of QB Lamar Jackson being out early was all the reps that QBs Tyler Huntley and Trace McSorley got. Where have you seen Tyler Huntley make the most progress, over this summer alone? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It's just one of those things. … Every time something comes up, he gets that experience, and he is a fast learner. It's very important to him, and he works very hard at it. So, when a new experience comes up – and there were many in the game … Despite that he says, 'Dang I wish I would have,' or 'I could have,' or 'I could have done that a little bit differently.' … So, once he gets that, he learns. That's why you've seen such great growth, in my opinion, because it happens one time, and then that's in the can. We're on to the next thing. He's a fast learner."
You've gotten to know QB Lamar Jackson over the years. When he hears things like, "Teams have finally found a blueprint for him," or "This is the year when defenses catch up." How much does that serve as a motivating factor for him? (Jamison Hensley) "I would say he's one of the most motivated people I've ever been around – inherently motivated. So, does that add fuel to the fire? I don't how much fuel to the fire you really need. I mean, he's a highly motivated young man, who wants to achieve great things, and he works very hard at doing those things. So, doubt him, believe in him, think he's great, think he's … I don't know that he cares much about other people's opinions, other than people in this building."
Offensive Line Coach Joe D'Alessandris
With T Ronnie Stanley going out there and having 10 plays, how close do you feel he is to being the Ronnie Stanley that you've seen in the past? (Jamison Hensley) "His progression is going to continue to get better, leading up to Game One. So, I think that was the beginning. [In] 10 plays, we're able to see him produce, how he can maybe correct some things, make it better, and he self-evaluates himself pretty well, too. So, we've got some nice progression for the next 14 days, leading up to the opener."
We saw G Ben Cleveland finally get out there and get some action on Saturday. How do you think he did? (Childs Walker) "Yes, that was good. [It was his] first time [seeing game action], unfortunately, with what happened Carolina week. It happened, but he made the best of it this time, and he moved around, found people to hit and did some things pretty good. So, he's another one that's in this growth pattern."
Can you sense the offensive line starting to build that chemistry? I know the left guard position is still to be determined, but for the rest of those guys, do you feel that chemistry starting to work? (Ryan Mink) "Yes, the more we work together – that's the biggest thing. And right now, we've had to take care of some guys – manage them. So, I think as we get closer to the game time, hopefully, we'll be able to interact more with each other as a group and try to build more unity that way."
How much do you enjoy having a little bit more time between the final preseason game and Week One, to get that cohesiveness? (Pete Gilbert) "I think it's great. It's two weeks of preparation. And I'm sure we'll give some time off to the guys, when they need their break, but we're able to still progress and make some improvement, and I can still call it growth."
Obviously, you have options internally, but would you say the swing tackle role is sort of up in the air a little bit, or is that settled in your mind? (Jeff Zrebiec) "No, it's not settled. I think that could be determined as time goes on – just to weigh how the O-line plays out – when we find our five starters and go from there."
I know we asked you about T Alejandro Villanueva transitioning from the left side to the right side earlier in the summer. Now that we're at the end of the preseason, how do you think he's progressing in his comfort level? (Luke Jones) "I think he's working at it every day, and he's getting better at it every day. And as I told him, I said, 'You've been a left tackle all your life, and now you're transitioning. You're developing new motor skills, and it just takes a little while.' But he's diligent as he's working at it, and you see progression coming on with him. So, I see good things happening for 'Al' [Alejandro Villanueva] down the road with us."
As someone who has done things one way for as long as T Alejandro Villanueva has, is it just a constant dialogue between you and him about what he feels comfortable doing and how to kind of re-learn things? (Jamison Hensley) "Right, right, and it's repetition. It's doing it. It's getting what you see from your eyes, that's transmitted through your neurological system, that's transmitted to your muscles, and that's called development of motor skills. So, the more you do it, the better they become at it."