Transcripts: Ravens Practice (10/4)


Opening Statement: [It's] good seeing everybody. I appreciate you all being here. [It was] a good practice [and a] warm day. The guys worked hard through it, and we're focusing on the challenge that's right in front of us. It's a tough challenge, but we're excited for it. Obviously, it's a game that we look forward to every year. What questions do you have?"  

What is it like when you see a lot of players that were out due to injury back on the practice field? (Jamison Hensley) "It's good. It's good to see guys out there practicing. Different guys are in different stages. As the week goes on, in terms of all the different guys, we'll see where they're at for Sunday. But it is good seeing guys get back out." 

What have you seen from CB Marlon Humphrey so far? (Brian Wacker) "Well, he's been working super hard. It's one of those things where it's just a matter of the healing process in there taking place in the bone or whatever. So, it looks good. We'll see what happens. We just have to see how it responds to the workload – that's the main thing right now."  

TE Eric Tomlinson is back on the team. Is his main assignment to be one of the blocking tight ends? (David Andrade) "Well, there's no doubt that Eric [Tomlinson] is known for that. That's kind of his thing – he can run routes [and] catch the ball, certainly. He's a veteran player, a highly-decorated tight end in this league who's kind of known as a really good blocking tight end. So, he was available, he was excited to come back, and we can put him into that mix and see where we go." 

QB Kenny Pickett said he was ready to play on Sunday. What have you seen from him on film, and what are you expecting out of him?_ (Kyle Barber) _"We have a lot of tape on Kenny [Pickett], obviously [we've] played him, seen him on tape all the time. Obviously, he's an excellent quarterback in the system. They've fitted the system to him, it seems, like always. We're looking forward to the challenge. That's what it's going to be. We expect him to be out there; he says he's going to be out there, [so] we expect him to be out there. It is what it is. You find out … We had the same situation last week [at Cleveland], and it didn't go that way, so we'll just see where we're at [on Sunday]. But obviously, Mitch Trubisky is a heck of a player, too. We'll be preparing for the Pittsburgh Steelers offense." 

You have three straight road games. From two back-to-back division games to an international game, do you have to shift things like player sleep cycle, nutrition, focus on anything differently, or do you just stay day to day? _(Gerry Sandusky) _"We have a plan, but we can talk about that next week. That would be better."  

With the way ILB Roquan Smith made a splash in this defense last season, is there something unique that stands out about him even with all the great linebackers you've coached? (Kyle Goon) _"That's a great question. I would say yes. I don't think you could possibly stand out in this craft as a football player unless there's things about you that are very unique. Sometimes it's the simplest things and just being great at those things – that is unique because the simplest things are sometimes the hardest things to be consistently great at, and that's one of the things he does. He's relentlessly chasing every detail of his craft, and he does with an enthusiasm and a demeanor and a confidence that you pretty much … You respect it when you see it, that's for sure." _(Reporter: When he arrived, did you feel like he was changing the culture of the defense or the linebacker room)"Yes. Certainly, adding to it. A great leader brings it to the culture. The culture is a lot of things, and one of the things ... It becomes a mix for all the parts, all the pieces in there, and sometimes there can be a catalyst. And I think he was a little bit of a catalyst [last year] for us that way, just the way he operates, and that's good – that's what leadership is." 

Former Ravens WR Steve Smith Sr. said he had to wait a year. Did ILB Roquan Smith jump right in? (Mike Preston) _"But you know Steve Smith [Sr.] didn't wait a year." _(Laughter)"He might have said that. I recall him jumping right in. And yes, 'Ro' [Roquan Smith] was the same way; he jumped right in and was just 'Ro' just like Steve was Steve. And one of the great quotes that Steve Smith Sr. has is, 'I was born a Raven, I just didn't know it until I got here.' That's pretty good. We appreciate that."  

We saw S Marcus Williams was listed as having full participation in practice last week, but he didn't play in Sunday's game. Are you looking for something specific this week to give him the green light to play? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"[I'm] just looking for him to be ready. It's a lot of factors involved with that, and we'll see as we get along in the week – how he looks, how he feels and whether or not he's ready, and if he feels like he can perform, and he's going to be safe."  

Do you feel like RB Melvin Gordon III gives the team another boost, and where does he fit in? (Jeff Zrebiec) "He certainly has. He played very well. Obviously, that catch [in the Cleveland game], the run – he's something. We really appreciate it. It's what we thought he was going to be when he came in. He's been all that and more. And now we have to figure out the roster gymnastics of all that right now. Also, that combines with the injuries and things like that, so Eric [DeCosta] will be working on that and trying to do the math on that." 

This team has one of the best defenses in the NFL at not giving up the intermediate throws. I know the emphasis at the line is obnoxious communication in the backend. Have you seen that play out beyond the practice field and on gamedays?_ (Jonas Shaffer)_ "Oh, yes. That's something that is a staple. That's a staple principle in football and in life. Maybe not obnoxious in life, but certainly obnoxious on a football field when you have 75,000 fans screaming their lungs out to try and impede your communication, and that's what we have to be able to do. The guys have done a really good job of it, but we can get a lot better. It's [through] Week 4, so Week 5 is another chapter. You have to better than you were than the week before for sure, so that's what we keep chasing." 

With WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman being back on the field, how does that change the dynamic for the team versus when they weren't there? _(Brian Wacker) _"Well, it's two more really good players, in terms of what you can do, what they're capable of doing, the fact that you have some more guys out there who are fast and talented than you had previously. I think it kind of speaks for itself. Specifically, you find out when you get there. That's kind of how it goes. You have to play the games on Sunday to really know the answer to a question like that." 


On how it feels to have his teammates back on the practice field from injury: "It feels great. Obviously, some of these guys that are coming back are special players and can help this offense. It's exciting to be able to have all those guys back and be full throttle [and] watch these guys make plays. We talk about Lamar [Jackson] and the type of player that he is, and you surround him with the other guys outside like that, that's special."  

On how it feels to specifically have WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman back:"Those guys are ball players; they're 'dawgs.' They know how to go up and get it, make big time plays when it matters and when you have guys like that in a game like this, you're able to rely on them." 

On how he sees the group keeping the momentum against the Steelers this time: "Elite focus. Being able to … We talked about being lasered in week by week. Obviously, the Ravens-Steelers game is one of the best rivalries in the world, and if you're not ready for a game like this, what are you doing? But for us, being able to focus out here in practice knowing what to do, visualize the moment and make the plays when they come because it's a week-by-week basis. We just have to keep on stacking, keep on going. If we do that, we'll be the team we want to be."  

On what are some characteristics of a Steelers type defense and what makes them so talented: "You talk about what kind of team that they are. The defensive front is obviously physical [and] tough, all those things you expect from a Pittsburgh defense. At the end of the day when you have two teams like this, and you have that rivalry, it's something that you always have to bring your lunch because it's a tough game. No matter if the team is doing really well or not, it's going to be a good game."

On his touchdown catch from QB Lamar Jackson in the back corner of the end zone in Week 4 against the Cleveland Browns and if it was one of the best throws he has seen:"It was incredible. I felt like it was slow-mo when it was in the air – just the placement of it, the height of it, the spiral. It was an incredible ball. He's [been] making throws like that over and over and over and over. It's just nice that people are seeing it, and for us, it's just being there for him and making plays when they matter." 

On if he relishes being in a competitive mindset and having such a laser-focused goal:"I think it's about getting better. As a team, you want to be able to progress and peak at the right moments. This league is so tough, because there's so many good players [and] so many good teams. You take just one little step off, that's a chance for someone to take your spot or someone to beat you no matter what it is. [It's about] taking onus on yourself to be a pro and take it week by week and focus. Elite focus is everything in this league." 

On if he sees the same competitive mindset and laser-focused goals in LB Roquan Smith and what stands out about him:"He's such a special player. You don't see guys like that many times. The way he sees the game – he's very smart, he studies a lot of film. He looks at a formation, and he knows exactly what's coming. You talk about a [former Carolina Panthers All-Pro linebacker] Luke Kuechly-type of deal – guys that are super vocal, able to lead. He has that fire that I haven't seen from very many people. He has that elite focus. He's able to do it at such a high level. He's been a blessing for this team – for this defense – and a catalyst for what we can be." 

On if he feels 100% after his quad injury from earlier in the season and what the difference has been for him health wise:"I feel great. I feel ready to fly around. I think you see it week by week being able to move around, and [I] just feel good to be back, be healthy and get back to myself." 


On having WR Odell Beckham Jr. and WR Rashod Bateman back at practice: "It's wonderful. [There's] a lot more speed on the field – have a vet out there. [I'm] looking forward to it." 

On if having WR Odell Beckham Jr. and WR Rashod Bateman back at practice changes the dynamic of the offense, his confidence level and having more options to throw to:"Like you said, [it's] the option part. [There are] more guys on the field getting open. It's a harder job for me, because those guys want the ball as well. There's only one football on the field. That's pretty much the problem for me, but it's a good problem to have." 

On if he is seeing defenses changing their approach to defending the deep pass since air yards per attempt are down league-wide with not as many deep ball completions: "I believe in this day and age, there's a lot more speed on the field. A lot of offenses in the NFL are making defenses play off [coverage] a lot more and just making sure nobody beats them over [the] top. That's pretty much why that situation's happening right now – not a lot of deep passes or a lot of air passes down the field right now." 

On what stands out about the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense every time he plays them:"It's a different one out of the [Cleveland] Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals. This one is like … The atmosphere is different. It's more intense, more aggressive. Even in practice, guys [are] just getting pumped for this game. That's about it." 

On how much he attributes the Ravens' red zone success to new schemes and formations as well as finding a comfort zone with the other offensive players:"I believe it's just taking our time when we're in the red zone – not trying to rush anything. That's just given us so much success right now this season. We just need to keep it going. They're talking about that for too long, but we just need to stay where we're at right now – stay focused, locked in when we touch the 'black' zone." 

On how TE Mark Andrews' intensity and focus affects the offense:"That's great to have. I love when Mark [Andrews] is locked in. He gets on other guys to stay locked in – even myself included. [It's] not him getting on me because I'm locked in, but just him getting on other guys – keeping them focused, because it's any given play. We're trying to score on offense. We're just trying to drive the ball down the field and put points on the board. So, for us staying focused helps us out a lot." 

On the challenge that the Pittsburgh Steelers represent and if there is anything he can point to for why the Ravens have not put up the numbers offensively against the Steelers compared to the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns:"I don't know. I just said that, too – 'It's different when we play the [Pittsburgh] Steelers.' Hopefully, it's a different outcome this season. I don't know what it is, but hopefully it's different right now." 

On what it is like going up against LB Roquan Smith in practice:"I had to go against Roquan ... Well, I call him 'Rohan.' 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] called him 'Rohan,' and I just kept the name. Going against 'Rohan' in practice is like in a game, but [I'm] not getting tackled. He's communicating to the guys, 'Oh, this might be coming up.' I'd say he's a great studier, because he calls out plays – not ours, but he's calling them out when I'm watching the scout team go up. He's a great linebacker, and it helps us out a lot." 

On how LB Roquan Smith affected the team culture when arrived in the middle of last season: "I think our defense allowed a certain amount of points to be scored – probably like 13 points or something like that. That's the effect he had – just barely [any] points being scored on us. Everyone was playing fundamentally sound – speed to the ball. He's like a [former Ravens linebacker and Pro Football Hall of Famer] Ray Lewis for us." 

On if going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers feels more physical than other games he plays in against other teams:"I believe every game is physical. I don't even know – I've probably played the [Pittsburgh] Steelers [only] three times, so I really haven't ... I don't think I've played my best against them yet, but I don't know. We're going to see [on] Sunday." 

On how much he likes getting his number called as a runner in the red zone:"[If] the defense gives us the look for me to run, or my number's called, and whatever it's going to take for us to get in the end zone, I'm going to do it. I'm going to try to do it at least 100 miles per hour. If the defense gives us that look, that's what it'll be." 


On if there's any extra feelings when playing in Pittsburgh this weekend: "Yes. Anytime you join this organization, and they talk about this game, it's the game that defines you and makes you a Raven. When I was on their sideline, my rookie year, [Steelers head coach] Mike Tomlin was looking at me [and] yelling at me, [saying] 'You're not a Raven. You're not a Raven. You're not supposed to be there. You're not one of them,' so every time I play them, it's something personal." 

On if that stuck with him:"Yes. It definitely did. It definitely did. I don't care if he was joking. I don't care if he was serious. At the end of the day, I'm on your sideline, and you're telling me I'm not a Raven. It's kind of disrespectful." 

On if that is his mindset every time he plays the Steelers: "Yes, because at that point, it's like … I've never even told you anything. He's just coming at me, so from that point on, it was just … It is what it is." 

On if he's ready to even the record and get a win against the Steelers:"Yes, definitely. [I'm] sitting at 1-5 versus them. It's not a good record at all, and we're looking to change that. That's been the talk, is trying to catch back up on them on that record. Obviously, all of those games were decided by very few points. We know where we went wrong in those games, and that's what we're leaning on now, is just correcting our past mistakes." 

On if ILB Roquan Smith goes into a different headspace on gamedays:"It's hard to tell with Roquan [Smith]. Roquan is like that every day. He really doesn't change, but [on] gamedays, he definitely [has] a little more intensity. You get the same talk that you get every day, but it's different, a different intensity." 

On whose idea it was to give CB Marlon Humphrey the silent treatment on his Instagram Live following the victory in Cleveland: "It was mine." (laughter) "Roquan [Smith] was looking at me. He was like, 'Marlon [Humphrey] is going to come on his live. What do you think we should do?' And I was like, 'Let's not talk to him [to tick] him off a little bit.' So, he was just sitting there steady, trying [not] to talk, and it was so hard not to laugh, but as soon as he walked away, we busted out laughing. It was so funny (laughter)." 

On if that bothered CB Marlon Humphrey a little bit:"Yes. It definitely [ticked] him off. It definitely did." 

On how he's feeling a quarter of the way through the season:"[I'm] still trying to improve. I feel like [with] my game, there's another level to unlock. I feel like we are just getting started. I'm just trying to be great. I'm trying to come in every day and focus on getting better one day at a time. I'm not trying to look too much into the future even though there [are] goals that I want to reach. I'm really just focused on [getting] one percent better each day." 

On what he's seen from OLBs Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy that stand out to him:"With [Jadeveon] Clowney, you really see the intensity that he plays with every play, the aggression that he plays with, how physical he is [and] how fast he closes in on the attack point. With 'K.V.' [Kyle Van Noy], it's just how smart he is. [He was] coming in the first day knowing exactly what to do on all his jobs, talking about certain plays that he was about to see [and] just how well he communicated the first time he was out there. So, it's two different things that you get from both of them, but you still get a concept of things they do well, and just seeing those two guys, two guys that I looked up to playing the sport, just watching them do what they do and be great. [I'm] just trying to follow in their path." 

On what he thinks the perception was of the secondary and what he feels like they've shown over the past few weeks: "We knew our guys can ball. When you look at the outside world, the outside world was looking at obviously Marlon [Humphrey] and Marcus [Williams] going down, but we had faith in the guys that we have. We wouldn't be here if we knew they couldn't play [well]. Any time we step on the field with our 11, we know we have faith in each other." 

On how it feels to have guys veteran players back on the field after injuries:"It's definitely a confidence boost, but at the same time, we're going out there with the same gameplan, doing the same thing we've been doing and just try to up it a notch. Getting those guys back is a huge plus, but like I said, the guys that we had in there, I feel like we did good with them, and I feel like they stepped up to the plate. There's not going to be [any] drop off at all." 

On what he makes of the quarterback situation in the AFC North:"It's just a tough division as a whole. You look at every position. Every position has great players, and I think that's just what makes each game so tough. Minus the rivalry, each position is just loaded with talent. When you look at each player that's in the division, you look at the quarterback and the talent that is around the quarterback that makes them better, so all the quarterbacks in our division are great quarterbacks. They are obviously on the teams for a reason, starting on those teams for a reason, and they have the guys around them that we have to go play against every day. I honestly think it's the toughest division in football, honestly, if you ask me. Yes, that's how I feel." 

On if the locker room knows the magnitude on if they beat the Steelers, they sweep all the AFC North road games:"Honestly, we're just trying to be 1-0 this week. We're not really looking too much in the future. We're focusing on getting one percent better. Like I said, it's tough to go in [Pittsburgh]. You look at my record [vs. Pittsburgh], that's what I'm focused on this week, just getting better as a player, getting better on the defense, looking back at the past things we did wrong and just getting better from those things, so that way we can go in there and get this win. [We'll] start talking about the future at that point." 

On if the way Steelers RB Najee Harris runs adds to the rivalry and the physicality of this game:"Any time you're playing a great player like [Najee Harris], you want to try to get after him. Obviously, when he goes, their team goes, and when you shut him down, their team shuts down. The biggest focus is definitely stopping [No.] 22." 


On what Raven-Steelers games are all about:"Honestly, it's a rival, and I think it's the best rivalry in football, if you ask me. And just knowing over the years, since the Ravens [have] been an organization, just how physical the games have gone year in and year out … And I remember [from] last year; you're not a Raven until you beat the Steelers. I carry that over into this year, as well. I feel like this season is a totally new season, so I'm not a Raven this season until I beat the Steelers. That's my mindset, [and] that's me going through my preparation week in and week out. I take great pride in being a Raven, so I want to make sure I earn that right, as well." 

On how he imparts his intense focus on the rest of the team:"Honestly, I don't think any guys need any pep talks for this week, because [we know] the Steelers dislike us, and we know that they're preaching physicality over there, as well, and we're preaching something very similar to that. We've just got to go out [and] do our jobs to the best of our ability. And I feel like, with intense focus, we're going to have that week in and week out. We just know [that] it's going to be a hostile environment. But, hey, it's nothing we haven't done before, and it's nothing we can't overcome, regardless of what goes on over there. But I have great intentions when we go over there for sure." 

On having the opportunity to begin the season with three consecutive divisional road victories:"Oh, it's definitely a great setup to start the year off 3-0 in the division. But at the end of the day, it's just the next game up, and it's Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh. We wouldn't like it any other way, [and we're] excited to go over there and put a show on for CBS and for the world." 


On how joining a defense with prominent players, such as ILBs Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen, has made the learning curve easier for him:"They've helped me a lot. Those two [Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen] in particular, they're probably playing the best linebacker … I said last year [that] it was my little brother, Fred [Warner] and [Dre] Greenlaw of the Niners, that was the best duo. I think these two might be the best this year. They're playing really, really good football. They're making game-changing plays. And being able to come [onto] a defense that they're already doing that in, hopefully, I can contribute somehow, some way and beat them to the ball, because they're so good and so fast getting to the ball. But honestly, everybody has been really good. It's always fun to be on the field with another Kyle and play with somebody like [Kyle Hamilton], and playing with somebody like [Jadeveon] Clowney, too. I think he's gotten … His narrative has been what it has been in the past, and he's come here and been nothing but a team player and has played really, really good football. And unfortunately, he's missed a couple sacks, but hopefully, he can get those things, so now he can get that national attention he probably deserves with his game [and level] of play that he's been playing [at]." 

On the process of signing during the week and appearing in a game that Sunday:"I don't think a lot of people could do that, but that's just my opinion – to be able to come in and make some plays right off the streets. It's not easy to do. And I pride myself on always making plays. No matter where I go, I feel like I make plays. I'm confident in my play, and [the Ravens] were confident enough in me to put me in that position. I think it was really awesome – the communication that we both had – to get prepared for that, from the coaches. Coach 'Weav' [assistant head coach/defensive line Anthony Weaver, defensive quality control] Matt [Robinson] and [outside linebackers coach] Chuck [Smith] did a really good job individually with me on getting me ready, and they deserve a lot of credit, because those guys are really good coaches. And then [head coach John] Harbaugh having trust in me to put me out there and make some plays; it was awesome, and I feel very happy with that opportunity. And [I'm] happy that the guys rallied around me, too, because it takes everybody. I don't necessarily know everything I'm doing, but guys [are] able to point me in the right direction or help me out here and there to get the job done." 

On if he was hoping to end up in Baltimore:"Yes, I would say so. This is … Yes, I would say this was probably my No. 1 choice, just from the visit I had back in July or whenever that was; it went really well. And [I'm] just happy to finally settle here. Everything happens for a reason. It works out. So, it's meant to be." 

On what appealed to him about joining the Ravens:"Everything – the coaches, the players, just how well the organization is run. And then always having a chance to win each and every game; that's always exciting. Not everybody can say that. But I'm excited that this team is playing the way we're playing. And we have such a higher ceiling we can reach, and hopefully, we can always get there by the way we play each and every week."

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