Transcripts: Ravens Practice (8/30)


Opening statement: "Alright, [I] appreciate everybody for being here. Thank you for being here. That culminates what we're going to do [for] preseason now. Everything we do starting Monday is going to be game related. Obviously, we're working on some gameplan stuff out here the last three days, as well. I was happy with what we did the last three days. We have the roster pretty well organized. There are some ongoing gymnastics, so to speak, that we'll be involved with until we finalize it. Throughout the course of the season, things are ever-changing, evolving, revolving – that's how the NFL works. What questions do you have?" 

You have talked about the difficulty of those conversations when you have to cut a player before. What is it like on the flip side to tell undrafted players like RB Keaton Mitchell and OLB Malik Hamm that they made the team? _(Morgan Adsit) _"Yes, thank you for that. It's awesome. You have an opportunity to tell guys they made the team like those two young guys that maybe necessarily … I would say they were hoping to but, didn't necessarily expect to, and then they make it. Also, guys that made the practice squad. There are guys making the practice squad who were just thrilled. That was their goal, and that's their foot in the door. Yes, those are really fun. There's a lot of hugs. There are a few tears sometimes. There's a lot of laughs usually. It's not a bad day. It's a good day, because you're just involved in people's lives that way. I cherish the day as a coach, and you're right. That probably makes it. That tops it off." 

What is your philosophy behind the fourth quarterback with regards to the new league rule where a team can activate an emergency third quarterback to the active roster for gameday? (Brian Wacker) "There's a lot with that question. There's a lot involved in that. I think you'll see that unfold here today [or] tomorrow what our plans are going to be. I'll just leave it to that, but we have thought all that through. Obviously, Josh [Johnson] had a heck of a camp [and] played really well – all through practices was outstanding. The last two games, he couldn't have been any better. We love Josh, and we'll just let it play out here the next 24 hours or so." 

In your opinion, what separated the undrafted players RB Keaton Mitchell and OLB Malik Hamm from the rest of the competition? _(Rocco DiSangro) _"There are a lot of things involved. I don't think you can put it to one specific thing. Sometimes, it's just opportunity and need. Sometimes, it's what they can bring to the table immediately that your team just happens to need. I'd say that's part of it, but they earned it – every single guy. We just told these guys, every guy out there standing in that circle coach and player, star player and guy who made the practice squad for the first time they all earned it.' What goes with that and the reason they earned it is because they understand that now you have to earn it every day. You have to continue to earn it every single day, and I'm confident they'll do a great job of that." 

There is a lot of anticipation of what the new offense will look like. Do you have a feeling of what the offensive identity will look like? (Jamison Hensley) "Well, we all have an understanding of what we're trying to do. We have an understanding of what the vision is. We've been working hard [at] communication. We all understand how it's built and how we want to operate. So, we're going to go out there and do our best – put our best foot forward, and we'll see what happens. That's why you play the games. You have to go play the games. All the talk is talk. Then, you go play the games and see where you're at. Once we play the first game against the Texans, we'll have a much better idea of where we stand." 

What did you see in CB Arthur Maulet that led to having him be on the final roster? (Kyle Barber) "It was tough for Arthur [Maulet], because he had the hamstring [injury during training camp]. That was tough, and he was pretty upset about that when it happened and really all the way through. It was not a great hamstring. It was one of those ones that takes a while to heal, but he's back now, and he had done so much … He had done all the right things before that happened, and then we knew him as a player coming in. He was the kind of player that we're looking for. So, he's back out there today doing that. You guys saw him at practice. We're excited to have him on the team." 

You had some difficult roster decisions to make, especially with the offensive line. Were you happy with how the team was able to get most of the players who were waived back after they cleared waivers to be on the practice squad? (Childs Walker) "There's a lot of strategy that goes into it, and you have to extrapolate a little bit in terms of what might happen or what might not happen and try to keep as many of the players that you want – as many players as you can. We were able to do that in the O-line to your point, for sure. We were able to keep all those guys, and that was good for us. We're really happy. Sam [Mustipher], to your point, probably … The key guy there being Sam, right? For him to still be here and be prepped for providing us depth at center like he does – that kind of a player – that's a huge win for us." 

Does the roster cutdown feel any less dramatic, because you know you can bring 16 players back on the practice squad now? (Bo Smolka) "I don't know about the drama part of it, but it's a big advantage to have more practice squad players. It's a great move by the NFL. More guys get a chance to work. More guys get a chance to develop. More veteran players get a chance to stay and continue to play. Their number comes up so fast, because I think we try to make sure guys are healthy before they come back, so now practice squad guys are moving up and playing. [I] just told those guys, 'You have to be ready to play on Sunday. Your mindset when you come in on Monday is that you're playing on Sunday. That's how you have to think, because it's going to happen like that when it does.' So, I would say, yes, it's a great thing. I'm really happy about it. We like coaching guys. It's good to have more guys to coach." 

TE Travis Vokolek was a nice preseason contributor. Were you surprised that he was still available after he cleared waivers to add him on the practice squad?_ (Brian Wacker)_ "No, I wouldn't say surprised. I think there was a chance, but we're just happy to have him back. More than anything, just happy – pleased. He's a young, good developmental tight end. He knows exactly what he has to work on. [He's] very smart – just [a] very self-aware guy. We're thrilled." 

Where did you see G Ben Cleveland make strides and what ultimately earned him a spot on the final roster after being heavily scrutinized over the summer? (Jeff Zrebiec) "The biggest thing with Ben is that he was able to be out there every day. So, yes, he made the strides and not just in one area – pretty much across the board. In the past, he's been in-and-out, in-and-out with different kinds of injuries. He stacked all those days in training camp, and then turn on the game film when you watch it. He played well, and he blocked people – run and pass [situations]. That's the bottom line. All the work he put in – it showed up in the games and he played well." 

Is losing CB Kyu Kelly on waivers to the Seattle Seahawks the risk in the game of who to release or sign to the final roster sometimes? (Jamison Hensley) "It's hard to bat 1.000. Really, I think some of that goes with the fact that we had the injuries to the corners, and we needed to bring in some veteran corners. That squeezed our developmental opportunities out just a little bit. We were hoping to get Kyu to the practice squad. I'm sure he would've come to the practice squad. He was very happy here, but what an opportunity for him to go to Seattle and be on the 53 [-man roster]. I texted him. [I'm] really happy for him, and we'll be pulling for him." 


On if he had a formal conversation after making the 53-man roster:"[There was] no formal conversation. [I'm] just honestly blessed because I didn't play [in] any preseason games. Like I said, I'm just blessed to be here. Obviously, I'm a tough guy. I kind of fit the scheme. I like the way the defense is set up. I think I'm going to thrive in it, so [I] just can't wait to get out there and play, honestly, [to] see another [opponent] color." 

On how ready he is to step into the role if called upon:"Corner, I don't think they're going to put me on the outside. I think I'm going to be based more at the nickel [position], on the inside; that's where I make my money at, obviously. I'm ready to go to Week One. Whatever they need me to do, I'm going to come out of [these few days off] and get ready to do it. So, I'm just grateful for the opportunity and getting ready to play and see another color."  

On if the hamstring injury was frustration:"Yes, it was definitely frustrating, and that's what I was talking with [head coach John] Harbaugh about. I'm just grateful for them to, honestly, believe in my talents and the way I play. I learned the playbook pretty fast. It's pretty simple. I'm a downhill guy, an aggressive nickelback, so I think I fit the scheme perfectly. I'm just ready to obviously show my skillset and help this team be successful this season." 

On if he had any preconceived notions on the Ravens because he was a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers: "Being from the other side – formerly being in Pittsburgh – I just saw how hard these guys [were] working [and] how hard it was to beat you guys. The culture … That's what I wanted to see, what the culture was like, just looking at it from the opposite side. It's everything and more. I love it a lot here. You guys take care of your players, and you guys trust your players. You trust vets, so I'm just excited to just be here and put on the black and purple now." 

On if he thinks that the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers are built similarly or value the same things:"Yes, absolutely. [The Ravens are] hard, smart and tough. They don't want any players that make mistakes. You have to be smart, you have to be tough as nails, and it's the AFC division. The AFC North is tough football. We thrive on hard, smart and tough play. [There are] some similarities, but it's a little bit different." 

On what went into the decision to ask the Steelers to let you go and test the market fairly late in the free agency process:"I wouldn't say fairly late, but just knowing my skillset, [and I] know what I can bring to the table. I was just trusting that my work in the offseason and the work that I put in ... Obviously, I'm a vet [in] Year Seven. I just wanted a little something to … A little security [and] just to feel comfortable. I think I earned that, and Baltimore gave me that which was surprising that it was a rivalry team, right? So, obviously they believe in me, and that just shows … That just makes me feel good about the work I put in in the offseason." 

On his first reaction when the Ravens called:"Honestly, it wasn't any reaction. I'm a guy that bounced around a lot in my career. I'm an undrafted guy, just ready for any opportunity I had. When they called, I was familiar with this division. I had some pretty good success against the Ravens when I played at Pittsburgh. Now that I'm here, I'm just focused on just being better every day, getting heathy and helping this team win. That's all I'm about right now, just being a team player and just helping where I can." 

On if he wanted to stay in the AFC North:"Honestly, [I go] wherever God puts me. I'm just grateful for the opportunity, like I said. I work hard, you know? As long as I'm on a roster, helping a team and being successful, that's all I can ask for." 

On if he's excited to play against the Pittsburgh Steelers, his former team: (laughter)"It's circled on my calendar for sure." 

On if seeing how much time and devotion the Ravens put into special teams confirmed what he suspected from the other side: "Yes, 100 percent. We start everything [at] 100 miles per hour with special teams when we start practice, so that just shows that it's really special here. A lot of teams don't do that. They wait. They kind of put it on the back burner, but special teams is part of the three phases of a successful team. It all has to work hand in hand, so [the Ravens are a] smart team." 


On if there was a sense of relief when he made the 53-man roster or if he thought he was fine:"No. [It's] always a sense of relief when they put that out. In this business, you never know. So, I definitely [am] very blessed and very honored to be here and be a part of the roster for sure."  

On if he has been playing his best football this training camp since he's been here:"For sure. Over the past couple of years, I've really just grown as a player, [and] as a person, and I've really gotten to understand what the game is like and really just lock in this year and know what I had to do coming in. And I just feel better than ever." 

On what he did to change up his game coming into this offseason: "Obviously being in the league the past two years, you get an idea of how things work, how the game is played, how much faster the game is played, [and] how things are run. So, coming in, I knew what I had to do in the offseason. So, I [worked with] a new trainer. I worked with Chad Marr – Marr Strength out in Frisco [Texas], he has a new facility now – but just kind of switching up little things like that. [I worked with] my old high school receiver coach, getting drills in earlier on in the offseason. [I was] just doing stuff and knowing what type of shape I had to be in and knowing how much work I had to put in to come and perform during the season." 

On was it stressful in the offseason seeing the names of the wide receivers that were being added and looking at the roster and seeing how little spots there would be: "Oh, yes, always. You see them bringing guys in. You know obviously that means there's only so many spots left. So, that's always a little bit stressful, but I also look at it as a challenge. This game is all … everything is competitive. It never hurts to come out and compete. So, that was a good thing for me to be able to realize that and come out and know what I had to do and just come out and compete with everybody." 

On how big of a factor was special teams was when it came to the decision of him making the team:"I think it was a huge factor for me. I'm very honored to be able to be on such a great special teams program just like the Ravens are. That was a huge help for me. Obviously, I'll continue to take pride in that and being on all special teams and just keep it going. [I'm not going to] change anything from what I've been doing. I've been on special teams since I was drafted here, so I plan to continue that throughout my whole career." 

On whether he trained this offseason for his special teams or individual development: "That's kind of more for an individual thing especially with certain positions that you play on special teams. But [it] definitely was a factor I knew going into it I needed to probably step it up there for sure and just keep working at it and keep doing what I was always doing. So, I knew going into it ... I don't know if special teams is a thing that a lot of guys really work on in the offseason. But it was a thing I definitely knew that I had to be great at to make the team for sure."  

On if he can be proud to be a guy who makes his way through the NFL and all he's known for is special teams: "For sure. Like I said, there's three phases of the game. Special teams is one of those phases. So, it's just as important as offense and defense. I would be just happy to be on the field at all. That doesn't matter to me – offense, defense, special teams – as long as I'm on the field playing football and just competing, I'm happy."  

On what it's been like sharing a meeting room with WR Odell Beckham Jr.:"It's crazy. So, yes, it's crazy. So, when he first arrived here, it was kind of like, 'Oh wow. I remember watching this dude growing up, and now I'm his teammate.' So, it's crazy definitely being teammates with guys like that and being able to pick their brains and see how they work and just hearing their past experience and learning from them."  

On what he has learned from WR Odell Beckham Jr.:"[I've learned] just a few things, just football related, how we run certain routes and stuff like that. So, it's crazy, last year we actually had a route called 'Odell.' So, it's crazy to actually have him here and be like, 'Alright that's his route,' so, we ask him how he runs that and different things he does versus different looks. It's awesome to have a guy like that on our team. (Reporter: Was it a slant?)No, it's kind of that in-zone corner [route], I guess you can call it [that]. We call that kind of an Odell route. So, it's good to kind of be able to pick his brain about that route. (Reporter: What was the route called?)We call it kind of an in-zone corner route." 

On what's the dynamic with all the guys on the team: "It's great. Obviously with guys like 'Nelly' [Nelson Agholor] and having Odell [Beckham Jr.], those older veteran guys, it's pretty great. I feel like the meeting room is fun, but we're focused at the same time. We're getting in doing what we're supposed to do, learning what we're supposed to be learning, and we're also having fun. So, it's really good to have those older guys like I was saying earlier, just to be able to pick their brains [and] having that knowledge of just reading defenses and just reading corner plays and stuff like that. So, it's great to have those older guys." 

On if there was a conversation on if he made the team: "So, there was actually nothing said. So, I figured if nobody said anything, I figured I was good. (Reporter: Were you looking at 4 o'clock?)I was. I was waiting. I sat in my car and waited until [the clock] hit four, and I said, 'Alright, I'm good.' Then I drove home, so I was good. (Reporter: Were you parked here?) I was. I was parked right outside."  

On what it is about this offense that makes it able to get locked in and get a good start on the season as it has done in the past with QB Lamar Jackson:"It's great. The guys that we have on just the whole team in general, we can do great things. So, I think having everybody locked in, everybody really focuses in, and knowing what we have the capability to do this season, I think we're going to be great. We're going to be awesome."  

On if offensive coordinator Todd Monken's Oklahoma State roots helped strike up a rapport with him: "A little bit, yes. You know, we can go back … He was there before I was there, but he definitely brings up some stories or some things. A lot of the coaches that were with [Todd] Monken were there when I was there, so when I was there, all the coaches that coached with Monken were still there. So, it was great to talk to them a little bit and get an idea, because before, when he first got hired, I talked to them. They were telling me, 'Monken is a great guy. Get to know him. He's awesome.' So, it's nice to have that Oklahoma State love back in this building." 

On if offensive coordinator Todd Monken's arrival was part of the reason he feels like he's playing his best football:"I would say just the want to throw the ball has kind of helped. Also, I feel like it ties into Oklahoma State, as well. We were an air raid offense, so I feel like bringing in a guy like 'Monk' [offensive coordinator Todd Monken] and knowing that that's his intention has definitely made me want to step it up and be like, 'I want to be a part of an offense like that, and I want to be a part when we're throwing the ball down the field as receivers are just making plays.'"

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