Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, good to see everybody. I appreciate everybody being here with us. We had a workday today. We're continuing to begin our preparations for the Steelers, and also for the rest of the season. We understand what the challenges are, and we're looking forward to attacking those challenges. So, what questions do you have?"
Do you feel like you guys are maybe in a better place than you were a week ago? Not just because of the rest, but you've added a pretty solid player on the defensive side, and maybe you can just return with a fresh attitude? (David Ginsburg) "We had a really good couple of practices last week and workouts – I think that helps – [and] good meetings. Certainly, the guys getting a chance to heal up is a plus, and then adding a player like Yannick [Ngakoue] is a huge, huge … It's a big positive for us. So, we're excited about all those things."
In [executive vice president & general manager] Eric DeCosta's statement, he mentioned that the team knew DE Yannick Ngakoue very well. What do you recall from maybe studying him before the draft or following his career or anything like that? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Yes, I just remember watching him on tape in Maryland. [He's] a very explosive player, playmaker, a really athletic guy; you remember that. It's kind of been a while now, but I guess I remember him [more] in the league – having seen him on tape a lot and going against him and stuff. [He's] a heck of a football player."
We saw that WR Dez Bryant is scheduled for a workout. Is there anything that you can tell us about the plan for Dez Bryant? Obviously, there's a lot of interest, because it's Dez Bryant. Is there anything you can tell us about the plan for him here? (Jamison Hensley) "No, not really at this time. If we sign him, we'll make that announcement when it happens and just kind of go from there."
You'll get some more fans back in the stadium this week. Can that make an impact for you guys, and how exciting is it to have some more noise for a home game? (Todd Karpovich) "Yes, the noise in 'Philly' [Philadelphia] wasn't really too much, and we'll have fewer fans than they had, so I don't really know what impact the noise will have on it, but it will be nice to have people there. It's great for our fans, and it's great for us – a little interaction, it's nice. It's just a much better environment. I hope it builds and grows. I hope more fans are allowed to come in as the season goes along. That would be my hope based on whatever needs to go into making those decisions. But, hey, it's going to be a good thing. Playing the Steelers, that's kind of what we're focused on right now."
Talking to DE Calais Campbell, he said that QB Ben Roethlisberger is playing the best he's ever seen him play. What do you see from Roethlisberger this year? (Shawn Stepner) "Yes, I see Ben [Roethlisberger]. We've played against him many, many times for many years now. [I've] seen him on the field, [and] I've seen countless, countless hours of him on tape. I've done countless breakdowns [and] have played against him numerous times. I know him fairly well, because he's a Miami of Ohio guy, so we have that in common, and we sometimes talk about our team. But [I have] great respect for him. He's playing at a very high level. I think their offense is … It's kind of his offense. It's built around him – for him. It certainly has been for many years, but they've also tweaked it. They've also advanced it. They're doing some different things than they've done in the past, which has been obviously very effective for them."
Some of the rules and regulations are a little bit difficult for us to figure out, but if all goes well, do you expect DE Yannick Ngakoue to be on the practice field Wednesday? Or is that still too early for that? (Jeff Zrebiec) "My understanding is that he should be on the practice field Wednesday. Yes, if all goes well. So, that's what we're preparing for. He's been in Zoom meetings with the coaches, learning the defense and the gameplan, studying for the game, so we expect him to be practicing this week starting Wednesday."
I know you touched on the injuries last week, but I don't think DB/LB Anthony Levine Sr. came up. That was the first time he's missed a game in eight years. So, how's he progressing, and do you think that the week off will help him be able to play this week? (Luke Jones) "Yes, he needed the time off. He'd been fighting through a strain – a midsection strain for weeks – and really just gutting it out. So, hopefully, the time, the rest will give him a chance to get right. We'll just have to see. It'll probably go into the week here. We were targeting for him to be back for the Steelers game. We'll have to see how it goes."
We talked about QB Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers' offense, but this defense of the Steelers is getting a lot of attention. What do you see from them – in general terms? (Bo Smolka) "Well-deserved [attention]. They're one of the top defenses in the league, statistically, and it shows up on the tape. Their front is as good as any. We got a chance to know those guys a little bit – in the Pro Bowl even better – with T.J. [Watt] and [Cameron Heyward]. They're dominant players. They're wrecking-ball-type players. You have to account for those guys. And not just those guys; [Stephon] Tuitt is playing great, [Bud] Dupree is playing great. Vince Williams is always a guy who you have to account for. [He's] coming downhill – a very disruptive player. The kid from Western Michigan [Robert Spillane], who I take a little bit of interest in, because my dad coached there, and I met my wife there. Spillane is really a good player. They didn't drop off really much at all. To lose a player like Devin Bush is a big deal. Love him – coming out of Michigan and everything. I've followed him his whole career. That Western Michigan linebacker [Spillane] looked really good as well. Their secondary is playing like they always do, very aggressive. Mike Hilton; man, this guy, he's in the opponent's backfield pretty much every play. So, it's a Pittsburgh defense. They run the same schemes they've been running. They run it very effectively. [It's] a very aggressive defense. We have a lot of respect for them."
When we just talked to TE Mark Andrews, he basically said, "These are the weeks and the matchups that you live for as a high-level player." Do you sense that level of excitement all around the building as you get rolling this week? (Childs Walker) "I really haven't put a gauge on it too much. It's kind of that way … Our guys are excited every week. Every week is big. Every week is important. They all really matter, but this is the Steelers. We've never shied away from saying that it's our rivalry game. On our side of it, we've always considered it to be that. We have a lot of respect for them, and we know what kind of game we're in for. We understand what type of a game this is, and we're looking forward to it."
DE Yannick Ngakoue hasn't dropped into coverage a whole lot in his career, but with his athletic skillset, is there any concern at all about him doing the kind of stuff that OLB Matthew Judon, OLB Tyus Bowser and the rest of those guys do? (Jonas Shaffer) "No, we'll just plug him in. We'll have to look and see what he understands, and takes to, and stuff like that. We always do that. But we'll run our defense, and we'll plug him into our defense."
Are you optimistic about RB Mark Ingram II's status for Sunday? (Jeff Zrebiec) "We'll see. It wasn't a major injury by any stretch, and it's just a matter of how he feels as the week goes on."
TE Mark Andrews
I know it was quite a different Bye Week for you guys. There was COVID-19 testing, and you couldn't go out of town. Could you just fill us in on what your week was like? (David Ginsburg) "It was a good week. We practiced Tuesday [and] Wednesday – got some good practices in. And then Thursday, I went out with Orlando [Brown Jr.] and Ben [Powers] and went fishing, so we had a good time doing that. And other than that, just chilled and relaxed. [With] all this COVID-19 stuff, just being smart, just keeping the bigger picture in mind. But it was good. It was good to have this week off and get ready for this back half of the season."
Did you get tested every day or every other day? How did that work? (David Ginsburg) "Yes, you get tested every day still. So, still doing that."
I know you try to focus on one game at a time, and every game is equally important, but is there a different feeling when it comes to Steelers Week? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, when you have a rivalry game like this, this is one of the best in football. So, there's nothing better. We know the type of game that it's going to be. It's going to be a 'Dogfight.' They're going to be ready to go, [and] we're going to be ready to go. This is what you live for right here. This is a big game in our division, and obviously, this means a lot to both teams. So, I know we're going to have pride out there and do our thing."
Being on the Bye Week and knowing that the Steelers are playing while you're off, were you watching them? And if so, what impressions did you get from their defense? (Daniel Oyefusi) "Yes, I did watch. They're a very talented group. They're a team that's kind of hitting on all cylinders. They don't make many mistakes. We have a tough game. Obviously, we all have to be on our 'A' game. So, this is going to be a good test for us to see where we're at, and I know all the guys are excited for this one. This is something that we've had circled on our calendar for a while."
How much does a trade and bringing in a Pro Bowl player [Yannick Ngakoue] get the attention of the players in the locker room? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It's huge. Obviously, we all trust what [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] is doing, and I think it's exciting to be able to bring in a player of that caliber to this defense and into what they're already doing; that's a scary thing. I know [defensive coordinator Don] 'Wink' [Martindale] is going to have plenty of ways to utilize him and get everyone moving around. They're a special group – our defense is, right now – so just trying to keep that train rolling. I know that guys are excited about all the acquisitions that went along this last week."
There's been a lot of talk about some of the inconsistencies in the Ravens' passing game. What do you see as some of the challenges from the first part of the season? And what do you guys have to do to get it going over the second half of the year? (Todd Karpovich) "We just have to continue to do it – you know what I'm saying? So, there's a lot of things that – maybe a miss here and there – little things by everybody. So, there's a lot of positive going forward. You look back at the first half of the season, and you see some of the stuff we did in the pass game, and it's not as bad as everyone thinks it is, and it's not as great as it was maybe last year, but we're right there. We're getting there. I know everyone has a lot of trust in each other. We're all working super hard, so this last half of the season is going to be really big for us, and I'm confident in our ability to throw the ball, as well as run the ball."
The Ravens are bringing in WR Dez Bryant for a workout, and it sounds like if everything goes well, he'll be signed to the practice squad. What would it be like to play with WR Dez Bryant or even be on the field with him? I'm guessing you saw him a few times while you were in college. (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, that would be cool. Obviously, that's kind of like on 'OG'-type guy. He's been around the league for a long, long time. He actually followed me on Twitter a year or two ago, so I'm excited to meet him, and I'm excited to [be] around him hopefully, and just learn. Obviously, learn everything you can from a guy like that, just because they've done it, and they've been there, so it's super exciting for me."
Do you feel like a little bit of a break and time off was good for you guys from an offensive perspective – when some things were frustrating at times – just to get away from it and kind of say, "Alright, here's the second half of the season; let's go play the way we know we can?" (Ryan Mink) "Yes, obviously, any time you take a break during the season it's good, and it's healthy for the guys to just kind of separate the season and break it up. But like I said before, we're so close, and we're there. I think this is going to be a dangerous last half of the season. It's going to look different; we're going to hit on plays. And again, the coaches have trust in us, and we have trust in the coaches, and that's all you really need as an offense. So, we're all 100% in on this, and there's nothing that matters more than winning, and right now, we're doing that."
Along those lines of the offense not being quite there but being close; do you think of someone like WR Miles Boykin who has been open downfield on some shots, but for whatever reason just hasn't been able to convert them? (Jonas Shaffer) "Everyone's working hard, like I said before. There's not one guy doing anything wrong. There's a bunch of plays I could throw up by myself that I need to make that I didn't make. So, it's going to start hitting. It's going to start working. Like I said, really the only thing that matters is winning, and we're doing that, and we're playing good ball. So, there's a lot of positives looking forward, and we're going to build off those."
Can you sum up how difficult it is to do TE Nick Boyle's role? What he does for the team, what he's asked to do; as a fellow tight end, how challenging is it to undertake the role he has? (Jeff Zrebiec) "You can't even put it into words. That guy is a … He's a beast. That's it. The guy's just a beast. The stuff they ask him to do, and that he does, and how he does it, there's no one better. So, he's a guy that's extremely undervalued. It's time he gets the credit he deserves."
DE Calais Campbell
I'm wondering what you did on your Bye Week, whether it was productive in terms of just maybe taking a rest, getting away from it for a little bit, even though you really couldn't go home, and getting psyched up for the second half? (Dave Ginsburg) "I'm such a football fan that I don't really have to get too far away, but I sit back and watch movies and stuff and let my mind wander a little bit. I watched a lot of tape by myself and kind of studied myself and stuff like that and the team. I tried to look forward a little bit, but it was a great Bye Week."
What have the conversations been like with DE Yannick Ngakoue over the past couple days? (Shawn Stepner) "They've been great; we talk probably once a week already. He's like a brother to me. So, being able to have him on my team, it's going to be fun again. We used to have a lot of fun together competing and pushing each other to get better. Being able to have him as a teammate again, I'm excited about it. I feel like we're going to … He's going to help us win a lot of ball games."
Just as a follow up, did any of the conversations since he was acquired lead to you guys talking about what you guys could do on the field together again? Or kind of the future here in Baltimore together? (Shawn Stepner) (laughter) "Most of the conversations were really just excitement. It was really just about how great this organization is and how great it is to have him on the team again. I feel like … You don't even have to talk about it for me. When we talk to each other, I know what his standard is. I know the way he plays the game. He's going to come with a lot of passion [and] a lot of heart. He's going to go out here and he's going to make his presence felt."
You obviously had some big-time battles with the Steelers and QB Ben Roethlisberger when you were in Jacksonville. When you watch him in particular on film from this year, does it look like he's back to being kind of the same old Ben? What do you see? (Childs Walker) "It's the best I've seen him. He's always been great, but he's locked in. He's getting rid of the ball fast, making great reads, getting the ball to his playmakers [and] still throwing the ball well down the field. You have to love what you see on tape when you watch him. He's a great player – Hall of Fame worthy. He's a lot better player overall. He's always been great, but they're rolling. So, we have our hands full. I'm looking forward to the challenge. He's a great challenge. He's definitely up there with the best to do it."
I know after the Eagles game you said you've heard this idea that you're not a Raven until you play the Steelers. I'm curious if OLB Matthew Judon or some of the longer tenured Ravens have talked to you about what this week entails leading up to this game? (Bo Smolka) "Yes – Matthew Judon, Pernell McPhee [and] Brandon Williams, I've been hearing it from everybody really. Jimmy Smith … You could tell that this game carries a lot of weight. I'm a football fan. I've been watching football all my life and have been playing it long enough to know this is … There's no bigger rivalry in sports, in professional sports, in my opinion, than this matchup. As a football fan, I've watched it from afar for plenty of years; I'm happy to finally be in it."
Along those lines, obviously, you're watching tape of the Steelers' offense, but is there any desire to prove or show people that the Ravens' defense is the best defense on the field come Sunday? (Ryan Mink) (laughter) "Every time we touch the field, we have a standard. When we're out there playing defense, we want to be the best. Honestly, we watch what they do, and we know that they're great. Their defense is special. They have playmakers all over the field – guys who show up. We're cut from the same cloth. They're definitely a worthy opponent on both sides of the ball. We take that. We look at that and say, 'OK.' We smile and say, 'Alright.' We're going to be competing against their defense, too. At the end of the year, we'll figure out who the best defense is, but they're definitely a worthy opponent."
I see you've got the "Bring Your Own Energy" t-shirt on. When you get to the stadium, there's actually going to be some fans there, for the first time, in the numbers of thousands. It's not going to be a full house, obviously, but what do you think of that energy? Will it make a difference, especially when you're playing a rival? What do you think? (Mark Viviano) "I hope so. I hear that this stadium, when it's rocking … When it's full capacity and rocking, this stadium is special. I've been in it on the other side, so I remember it being special. [I remember] Ray Lewis doing his dance and seeing the whole stadium come alive – I can't wait for those days. But at the same time, just having any fans in the stands is going to be special. It's going to be great. As a defensive player, I feed off of energy. I need that energy. Even when we played against the Eagles last, they had a few fans there and you could feel the difference. So, we'll have a few more than they had. I can't wait, man. I love having fans in the stands and bringing the energy. Now, I'm still going to bring my own energy, but getting a little bit from the fans definitely makes a difference."
What does it say to you when you see an organization be as aggressive as the Ravens in getting, especially, this defensive talent? Last year, you weren't here, but they traded for CB Marcus Peters, then they traded for you. They trade for DE Yannick Ngakoue. What does that say for a player on this defense when they do something like that? (Jamison Hensley) "It really says that [executive vice president and general manager] Eric DeCosta is really good at his job, first and foremost. (laughter) I think a lot of it comes down to that we're going to always try to improve the roster to be able to win. The goal is not just to make the playoffs; the goal has always been to win a Super Bowl. I feel like we have the pieces in place, and if we can add a piece here and there to make it even better, great. I'm excited, because I know as a pass rusher and as a run stopper, but just as a defensive lineman, anytime you can get more dogs on the field at one time, they have to kind of pick their poison of who they want to stop. Really, we just take turns making plays – it definitely is special. When I think about our front office and I think about this team, this organization, the Number One goal is always to win a Super Bowl. They're going to do everything in their power to try to help us [and] help our coaches help us get in position to win."
This isn't a football-specific question, but I wanted to get your take. Your former teammate, RB Ryquell Armstead, there was a report that he's been hospitalized with the coronavirus. I'm curious if that changes your perspective as a person or as a NFLPA representative? (Aaron Kasinitz) "We all knew that was a possibility, statistically speaking. It's scary. It definitely puts things in perspective. I've talked to him, because we're pretty good friends too, just through text and stuff. He sounded like he was in pretty good spirits and he felt pretty good with where he's at right now. So, that definitely helped me out a lot, because I was worried about him. You hear the reports, but man – this is a serious thing we're dealing with. We're going through the process and have the protocols to try to be as safe as possible, but it really is scary that it can hurt you real seriously. You don't know how many people and when. I try my hardest not to catch it – so many guys around the NFL have – but for it to be severe and harmful to one person is kind of too many. You just have to go through the process. I try to follow the protocols and try to be as safe as possible."
You mentioned this a little bit earlier, but the depth that you guys have up front. In your career, you've been a guy that's typically played about 80% of defensive snaps. You're down this year, not for any wrong reason or anything. But adding DE Yannick Ngakoue now to that group that's already pretty deep, how much fresher and how much more beneficial is that as you guys get into the second half of the season and then into January? (Luke Jones) "It's going to be crucial. I feel like to win a Super Bowl, it's a long road. You have to play a lot of games and you have to play great in a lot of games. So, when you have a rotation and [can] really be able to move well … I feel like if I could play 40 plays, full speed every play, and we can just rotate and all of us are all kind of around that 40 to 45 range, we're going to be a tough team to beat. When we have to play 70 or 80 plays, there's going to be a lot of bad plays in there. So, that rotation is huge. I feel like you want to send waves at them; go out there and go as hard as you can for as many plays as you can go, come out [and] catch a breath, then come right back in and just take turns sending the waves at them. That's when you'll be at your best, especially when that second wave is just as good as the first. Our coaches said they want me and [Derek] Wolfe rotating in a lot of situations on third downs. I feel like when I come out of the game and Wolfe comes in, I can take my time. I can get as much water as I want, I know I don't have to rush back in." (laughter)
We all know what kind of pass rusher DE Yannick Ngakoue is and what he's been able to accomplish. How does he fit in from a personality standpoint? I mean, a lot is made of his competitiveness and kind of the chip on his shoulder that he has. How will you think he will fit in on the type of defensive mentality that you guys have? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think this place is perfect for him. You think about what it means to be a Raven … I kind of embraced that, and started really learning about it, and started researching the guys that came before me. I hope this really works out for him here and he can be a long-time Raven, because this place – it really is special. And what it means to be a Raven, he possesses that. He loves the game of football. He's probably one of the hardest working people I've ever met. He watches a lot of tape. He's always first in line running sprints as hard as he can. [He] gets to the ball. When they say lead the league in effort, he's definitely going to be an effort guy. You see it when you watch his tape, he's a high-motor guy. This coaching staff here, this organization, they're going to allow him to be himself and to flourish. So, I feel like this is going to be a great place for him. I'm really excited for him. Like Tony Jefferson told me, 'I'm excited you get to be a Raven.' That's how I feel for him, I'm excited he gets to be a Raven."