Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, good to see everybody. I appreciate you coming on board with us here. [I'm] happy about the win. It's been important to win these last few games, and we were able to do that again yesterday. Obviously, we still have another one that we have to win. So, we're still in the process of trying to finish this thing out the right way and get into the playoffs. We're happy with the fact that we do completely control our destiny, but we haven't given that much thought. We just have to take care of our business, and that's what we're trying to do. [We have] a very tough opponent coming up in Cincinnati. We know them well. We play them a lot, and they're playing their best football of the season, really, by far. So, we understand the challenge and we're preparing for that as we speak. What questions do you have?"
Over the past three seasons, your teams have had the best record in December. What's kind of the secret to having good teams this late in the season? (Jamison Hensley) "Well, we've won games, so I guess that's what the secret is to the record. There's a lot that goes into it, probably. It's not that we're not aware of that, [and] it's not that it's something that we don't feel good about, because we do feel good about it. But it is the most important time of the year to win games, and there have been years when we weren't able to finish it out in the end. So, we're just focusing on that right now. We're not really looking back and trying to figure out the big picture. It's something that we emphasize a lot, but we just need to win this next game, and that's what we're focusing on right now."
The NFL fined you guys $250,000 for COVID-19 violations. Do you think that was heavy-handed? Or are you at least glad they didn't take any draft picks away? What are your thoughts on that fine? (David Ginsburg) "I really don't have any opinion on that. We respect the League's process and the discipline process. We accepted the discipline. [Ravens president] Dick Cass made a statement on that. We'll just leave it at that; that's our position on it."
I know how you always like to talk about how you're not looking at the scoreboard and, 'Our team is only worried about taking care of our business.' Did your team watch the end of the Dolphins-Raiders game together? How disappointing was it to have that outcome before having to play the next day? (Stan Charles) "We did not watch it together. It was kind of late, and people were trying to get their rest before the game. I know some people did watch it, because in the morning I heard some guys talking about it. Other people didn't [watch it]. We didn't have it at the hotel, actually. So, you had to watch it on your device, or whatever, which I didn't have, because I didn't know how to get it. I'm not signed up for any of those apps. So, I always regret that later when I want to watch something, but then I never take the time to get signed up for anything. (laughter) So, I didn't have the ability. It's probably just as well, because you really hate to … To your point, you hate to spend too much emotional energy on other teams [and] on other games. We talk all the time with our guys about night games [and] not getting emotionally invested in games. So, you really have to save your emotions for your game in this league; it's really important to do that. Obviously, our guys were able to do that, but I'm sure some guys did watch the game. Obviously, we were rooting for the outcome to go the other way."
I know you're not going to get into a situation where you're criticizing or commenting on another coach's decision. What's your philosophy, late in the game, about whether to score the touchdown, or stop before scoring a touchdown? (Stan Charles) "As far as clock management? I think you have to look at it in a couple different ways. We actually have a lot of scenarios that we study very closely on that; game probability, win probability and things like that. Our philosophy really would be to go with most of those scenarios and those win probabilities. I think you have to play the numbers correctly on that one. Sometimes it's a gut [feeling.] But we were in a Christmas game a few years ago against Pittsburgh, you probably remember. We scored a touchdown, but we scored with about 1:50 left. They were able to go down … The clock was running down, and they were out of timeouts. They threw the pass, and if we had stopped them, we would have won. He was able to get the ball across with the 'immaculate extension,' I think they call it now. So, that's one of those ones where you understand the idea of running time down, running time down and trying to eat up as much clock as you can, to not give these great offenses a chance to come back on you. So, yes, that's something that you definitely think about. I don't think I have a philosophy. I do have an opinion about that game and what we would have done, because it goes into our scenarios, but I'll just leave that for further discussion. Although, I don't think it was the wrong move, per se, what they did at all."
Your running backs have been extremely productive in the recent weeks. How much was how you guys handled the situation with all your backs early in the season … How much were you thinking about having these guys fresh at the most important time of the season? Did that go into the thinking early? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Well, I think that was part of the benefit of it. It wasn't really the strategy, in a sense, [or] the Number One thing. There's always a lot of factors. But the fact that we had three guys running well was a plus for us. We were able to get those guys active and get them up. It's something we probably ... We'd rather have that now. We'd rather have Mark [Ingram II] up, rather than not. But also, there's benefits to this, too, in terms of Mark's health and his freshness as the season goes on. So, you just kind of have to play it out the way it presents itself. It's good to have depth, especially at that position, if you're a running offense."
Another running back question. More and more in the last month or so, we've seen two 'backs in the backfield together. Or one like RB J.K. Dobbins lined up in the slot, he comes across and RB Gus Edwards becomes more of a blocking 'back. It worked really well yesterday. Do you recall when those types of schemes were conceived? Was it as early as … Because I don't remember seeing much more than a month ago. Is that something that you adjusted to midseason? (Bo Smolka) "We've always had it; it's part of the offense. That personnel group has been in the offense for a long time. We're using it more now than ever, certainly. Those plays are in the offense – it's just how you group them. It just was part of the evolution, a little bit, of what we've been talking about doing; what you do and what builds off the next thing, in terms of building things and kind of growing throughout the season. I think our offensive coaches, [offensive coordinator] Coach [Greg] Roman and the rest of the guys, have done a really good job of being creative with those groups and those 'backs and different guys in different settings. It's caused … It's put people in conflict. It's put defensive position players and coordinators in conflict, and that's what we always try to do."
Does RB J.K. Dobbins' speed make that personnel grouping possible, with the ability to threaten horizontally, that maybe last year's team didn't have? (Jonas Shaffer) "The comparisons, I really haven't thought that way. It's definitely a plus to have [J.K. Dobbins] and have him … He's playing great and all that, but I don't know about the comparison part of it. I think it's a big plus for us, sure. You try to build your offense around what guys can do and what they're capable of doing. We have to keep chasing that. You can't stay the same in this league. As soon as you start staying the same, people start stopping you. So, we always have to keep building on it and kind of moving the shells around as best as we can."
You were able to get DE Calais Campbell back in the lineup after he's been in and out. Just how beneficial was that? And really, just the combination of him and DT Brandon Williams on the interior, what does that do for your defense? (Daniel Oyefusi) "It's a plus. I thought Calais [Campbell] played well. It's good to see him getting healthy again, and I think he'll be even better as we go forward. Brandon [Williams] is playing at a high level. Derek Wolfe is playing at a high level. Justin Madubuike had another really good game; he keeps getting better every single week. Justin Ellis is playing really well. Those guys all did a great job in the game. So, we have some depth in there. Certainly Calais, he's one of the best ever. It's great to have him back, and it makes a difference."
You had all six of your sacks in the second half yesterday. Was that due to any major adjustments at halftime? (Todd Karpovich) "It was a combination. We called a few things that we didn't call in the first half. We were able to get him [Daniel Jones] to hold the ball a little bit more based on the coverages that we played, a little bit, in the second half – we played a little more 'man.' Our guys executed some of the pressures really well, and we had a couple great one-on-one rushes. The Matt Judon rush on the left side there was as good as you're ever going to see, and there were others. So, yes, probably a combination of all those things."
Yesterday, WR James Proche II was inactive for the first time. Was that a numbers crunch with WR/RS Chris Moore up? And I'd like to know your impression of WR Devin Duvernay as the punt returner, and will that be potentially something Duvernay continues in both roles? (Bo Smolka) "Right, it was a numbers crunch. James [Proche II] has done a really good job back there with that, and the other things he's done, too. It's just you get to the point when you start getting healthier that you have to make some choices, and we felt like we needed the help in terms of the gunners, and the vice guys, and the kickoff coverage and all that, also, on special teams. So, it was a special teams decision, there. Devin [Duvernay] did a really good job. We have other guys who can do punt returns too, in the depth. But sure, it gives us more confidence. He's been doing it in practice, and we felt good about it. And to see him be able to do it in a game and conditions when the pressure is on, that was a big plus."
What has TE Eric Tomlinson brought to this team filling in for TE Nick Boyle? That was a big loss for you guys. How has Eric stepped in? (Ryan Mink) "That's a really good point. Obviously, he came down from the Giants, and that was a big game for him [in] that way. But he really stepped up, and he has. We need that. That's something that … Everybody knew Nick Boyle was such a centerpiece in our offense. And then, to be able to find Eric [Tomlinson] and have him now, as he kind of grows into the offense and gets a feel for what we're doing [and] have such a good game … He really blocked well. He was really a focal point in the blocking part of our offense. So, he's been a big plus for us, and I'm sure glad he's with us."
We saw G/C Patrick Mekari, DE Yannick Ngakoue and WR/RS Willie Snead IV come out of the game. Can you say whether those guys suffered anything serious, or are they all options this week? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I would just say that there's nothing that's a season-ender or anything like that. It's all going to just kind of come down to day-to-day and possibly game-time for some of those guys. Everybody is in kind of a different spot. The same goes for the guys coming back off the injuries; they're all right there. So, it really, truly is just going to be a wait and see kind of a thing with everybody. I probably wouldn't tell you anyway, but that's where we're at with all those guys."
C Matt Skura, obviously, stepped in at center yesterday. I just want to see what you thought of how he played and how important it is to have the luxury of a lot of guys on your line who can play multiple spots? (Cliff Brown) "Right, yes, 'Joe D.' [offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris] has done a really good job of creating that with the guys, and the guys have done a really good job of working hard to be able to move around, because when you get injured, you have to be able to move guys around. And for Matt [Skura] to do the things he was doing … In the same game, he was out there playing a tight end and doing some blocking stuff from the perimeter. And then, [for him to] bump right in and play center was what you expect. It's what you expect from Matt. He's a good player, a really good player, and he played very well."
We saw the 'Finish' shirt QB Lamar Jackson was sporting last week. When you came up with the slogan, was your thought behind it to finish the regular season, or were you thinking finish February? (Donna Jean Rumbley) "All of the above. Finish games, finish plays, finish practices, finish weigh-lifting sessions, finish meetings, finish conversations, finish press conferences. It's really just everything. It's every little thing that leads to the bigger picture, like you say, whether it's finishing the season or finishing out all the way. But right now, it's focusing on the Bengals and finishing everything that we need to do to play well in this game."
DE Jihad Ward was active yesterday and had the first sack, as well. He's been a healthy scratch a few times this season. Just how would you evaluate him in his second year with you guys? (Gabby DiPaula) "[He's done] a great job. He's a guy who you'd like to have active every single week, and just because of the way it shakes out numbers-wise, we haven't been able to do that, especially when we're healthy again. He's definitely a very quality player. I think he's a starting-caliber playing in the National Football League; he's proven that when he's played, and he did again this game. The sack was indicative of that, but also the way he played run defense and all the different things he did in the game. The pursuit is always just an A-plus with him. So, I'm always happy with 'Haddy.' I think he's a great player, and again, I'm really glad he's on our team."
The sixth offensive lineman that you guys have used; I think you used it more often yesterday than in the past. Why is that more effective on certain circumstances than just having an extra tight end? (Aaron Kasinitz) "It's just the body. It's just a bigger guy. Obviously, it doesn't give you quite the passing threat, but in those situations … And you do have some plays off of that to just keep them honest, so they can't completely over-sell to the run. It gives you just another guy who's a 310-315-pound guy, like Matt Skura is, to block. And he can block with those down blocks or the reach blocks or the base blocks. A tight end certainly could do it, but they'll put a big defensive end out there and mismatch your tight ends. So, sometimes you want to put in a guy who matches up with him. Or sometimes, some of that can overpower a smaller defensive end. It becomes a matchup kind of an idea."
I'm fully well aware that this question might be better suited for Ravens president Dick Cass. We saw head strength & conditioning coach Steve Saunders on the sideline. Does this mean his suspension is over, and this is all behind you? What's his status? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Right, he's back. He's back working. He came back last week. So, you see him working. Yes, beyond that, I really have no comments on it. It is what it is, and we never do comment on internal discipline at all – whoever it might be. And we're just moving forward."
On Saturday's telecast of the Dolphins-Raiders game, the analyst mentioned how Raiders TE Darren Waller was discovered by the Raiders working out before a game when he was on the Ravens' practice squad. And the analyst said that over the last few years, executive vice president Ozzie Newsome had the practice squad players stop working out before the game in front of other people and scouts. Is that anecdote true? Did that really happen that way? (Stan Charles) "It did. That's how it happened. I don't know that we've really got a policy that we don't work guys out [before a game]. This year, we can't do it because of COVID-19; it's not allowed. But in certain circumstances, we learned a little bit of a lesson there. Darren [Waller] is not a guy we were trying to hide. I think everybody knew who he was. Certainly, those scouts knew, or should have known, who he was based on he had played in the past; he'd been on special teams. We were trying to get him up [to the 53-man roster]. We had a number of tight ends that year, and he was coming off some of the things that he was dealing with in his life, and we were working through those things with him. He's a guy we're really proud of. I have a great relationship with Darren. I had a great relationship with him when he left, and it would have been great if he had stayed. It's not like we didn't try to keep him, but he just felt like he had a better opportunity out there at the time. Looking back on it, I sure wish we would've been able to keep him. But [he's] a great guy, [I'm] happy for his success, and yes, that's a true story."