HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH
Opening statement: "[It's] good to see you guys. We're into the … We just finished the second practice of our rookie minicamp. It's been great to get back on the grass. The guys are excited to be here. The coaches are excited to coach. We had good meetings. We had two good practices, and it's just a good plus. We like the guys. We're just getting started. I feel like they're getting hit with a firehouse right now, in terms of information and expectations, but they're handling it very well. They're great guys. Really, it's just the time to put the work in and go from here."
Could you just talk about what you've seen from WR Rashod Bateman so far in two practices, just your first impressions? (Ryan Mink) "First impressions are very positive. He's a no-nonsense guy. He has a nice demeanor about him. He's a quick learner. [He's] everything we thought he would be, in terms of the athleticism and the skillset. That's usually the case, but not always the case. What you see is not always what you get, and you don't know until you get them out there in, really, the first rookie minicamp. I would say that he is as advertised from a talent standpoint."
I saw you out there working with WR Rashod Bateman and WR Tylan Wallace on punt returns. How exciting is it as a coach in rookie minicamp to have these guys be sponges and absorb all the knowledge they can get? (Kevin Richardson) "Exactly right. Those aren't guys that did a lot of punt returning, as an example, in college. And yet, they came out there and they were sponges. They picked up the technique that the coaches were coaching them. I came over and tested them a little bit today, as you probably saw, and they did a good job. So, it's good to see they pick things up quickly. You never know. Devin Duvernay had not done a lot of punt returning in college. and last year, he ended up taking a lot of reps for us and doing a nice job, along with James Proche [II]. So, you never know."
I'm just wondering your thoughts on the schedule, since it's come out [with] the stretch of all the home games with the bye week and that weird thing at the end with Cleveland where they get a bye week and then you get Cleveland again? What are your thoughts after looking at it for a few days? (Kirk McEwen) "I tried not to think about it after looking at it, because it gave me a headache to try to figure it all out. It was quirky, to say the least. I guess we had … Two years ago, we had an every-other kind of a deal. So, it's probably our turn to get the crazy one, and we did. There are a lot of crazy turns in there. I'm sure some teams are happy with their circumstance; you mentioned the Browns. I'm sure other things are in our favor, so that's just kind of the way it works. All those home games in a row are different. All those road games in a row are different. So, we'll just have to take it as we get there."
How pleased were you guys to be able to bring in T Alejandro Villanueva to kind of address right tackle, but also to give you depth knowing that T Ronnie Stanley is coming back from a serious injury? (Luke Jones) "We are very pleased for all the reasons you mentioned. He's going to play really well on the right side. He'll play well on the left side if required. He just adds to our offensive line. He's a very good player. He's a tremendous person. He's a veteran. He knows how to play. He knows how to get himself prepared to play. He's been in the trenches. He's an upgrade for us, and I'm really excited to have him."
You guys added two wide receivers [WR Rashod Bateman and WR Tylan Wallace]. You added a huge guard [G Ben Cleveland] on that line as well. Have you spoken to QB Lamar Jackson to kind of get his reaction to … Obviously, you addressed offense. Have you gotten the chance to talk to QB Lamar Jackson and see his reaction to the Draft? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, we've texted. Lamar [Jackson], I would say, is a short texter. So, yes – I've gotten his thoughts, but it's the brief version. But he's excited. He's ready to go. I think Lamar, as much as anything, is thinking about doing what he can do so he can be the best that he can be, and then as a quarterback, work all these other guys into it from a chemistry standpoint. So, he's excited. He can't wait to get back, and I can't wait to see him here."
Going back to the schedule once again, I saw that you guys are going to be home for over a month with where the bye week falls. The fact that you're home for over the month, including the bye week, is that one of the best portions of the schedule? (Jerry Coleman) "Sure. You know you have to pay the price for that. 'Pay me now, or pay me later.' So, it's just a strange, different kind of a deal, and we'll just have to cross all those bridges when we get there. But that's the first time I've seen that. Maybe it's happened before, I don't know. That was one that caught my attention right away."
OLB Odafe Oweh, I know, obviously, is an extremely talented guy and very versatile. I was just curious about your approach with the coaching staff to teaching him, because you want him to play fast, but he has a lot to learn. Just how do you approach not only this rookie camp but in training camp bringing him along? (Cliff Brown) "You're right about that. That's part of the art to the whole thing – we want him to play fast. We could put a period after that. Let's do that. And if we're going to make a mistake along the way – I think it goes for really any rookie – make it going full speed. We want to play 100 miles an hour, so let's do that. Then we'll work back from there, in terms of our assignments and responsibilities. He's also a very smart player, and he picks things up quickly. [He has] a nice demeanor. You saw him out there today; works extremely hard. So, I do think he'll pick things up quickly."
You know we couldn't let you go without an injury question. We didn't see TE Ben Mason or TE Jake Breeland out there. Are there any updates on them not being there? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, Jake [Breeland] is not back yet from the knee [injury]. He's working on that. I spoke with him; he's here in the building. I couldn't give you a timeframe on it. I kind of think he'll be there for training camp. I have to … Maybe the next time we get together I can answer that one for you, but [he's] not ready to practice yet and be cleared. Ben [Mason] had trouble with his feet yesterday. He had just a bad shoe situation and really had some legitimate problems, in terms of tearing the skin off his feet. So, that'll grow back quickly, I'm sure. (laughter) So, that'll grow back quickly, I'm sure, and he'll be OK. He goes hard. He went so hard yesterday [that] he tore the skin right off the bottom of his feet."
What is the key to get the best evaluation done in this minicamp? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "Great question. The key is just to kind of take a deep breath as a coach, because you're so excited to be back and you want to get the guys moving, but there are only 25 guys here. It ends up being a teaching camp. So, the best thing to do is really teach guys. Maybe we're in the evaluation stage to the degree that we want to see how they move around and, in some ways, see how quickly they pick things up. But more than anything, this is just a preparation camp to get these guys up to speed so when the vets come in, they have an idea of what they're doing, and they can go out there and be part of it and belong. That's the biggest thing about this camp. So, we try not to get too deep into the evaluations just yet."
What would your message be to the guys as they depart Sunday? What are your instructions to them as they leave? (Jerry Coleman) "Well, the good thing is they're not going far, because they're right back Monday into the Phase 2 Football School aspect of it. We talked to them today about stacking days, stacking drills, stacking meetings, stacking plays [and] stacking weight room reps – one thing that builds of the next. Try to get 1% better every day, as a symbolic type of way of expressing improvement, and see where it takes you. Don't get too [high or low]. Keep it simple. Keep it about what's right in front of you. One of these days, you're going to look back and see how far you've come, and you'll be amazed."
WR RASHOD BATEMAN
Head coach John Harbaugh just said you're as good as advertised. People talk about how you are very pro-ready coming into the NFL. Do you have certain goals in mind for your first year? (Jamison Hensley) "My goal is to be the best I can be for this team – whatever that may be. Like I said the first time, whatever Coach Harbaugh needs, whatever this offense needs, I just want to be that weapon and that person for them."
How did it feel to go out in rookie minicamp and make some plays? I know you have high expectations for yourself. Does it feel good to get out there and actually make some nice, big plays when you're up against your new teammates? (Garrett Downing) "Yes, it definitely feels good. It just feels good to be back on the football field 100% healthy. Due to my last college season, I wasn't 100% healthy. So, just to be back out there having fun, it's a blessing. I'm taking it all in. So, I'm having fun with it – definitely."
How important was it for you to get signed quickly? You didn't mess around. You got it done, and it shows everybody else that if the first guy is in, everybody else should follow suit. (Kirk McEwen) "It just kind of happened that way. I had no talk and no 'ands [or] buts' about it. It just kind of happened that way."
You're coming in with a reputation as a very polished wide receiver who's very good at route running. Can you talk a little bit about the NFL coaching and whether you do sense, "Oh, OK, this is another level of detailed work that I'm going to have to kind of get adjusted to?" (Ryan Mink) "It's just details that you've got to work on all the time. Coming from college to the NFL, there are some things that you've got to learn. The feels are very different, so I'm just getting adjusted to that – different landmarks and things like that. So, right now, I'm just learning to pick up the playbook, just learning my adjustments and fine-tuning my details."
Did you feel an extra sense of pressure, being a first-round pick, when you were out on the practice field today? (Gustavo Salazar) "No, my job is to go out to perform no matter if I was a first-round [pick], to seventh-round, to wherever. I have high expectations for myself, so my job is to go out and to perform anyway. I put that standard on myself, so every day I go to work, that's what I look forward to doing."
We saw you out there catching punts. When was the last time you actually played special teams? (Kevin Richardson) "I caught punts and kickoffs every single day in practice, but I was never used on special teams."
I know QB Lamar Jackson isn't around here these days, but have you guys had a chance to communicate at all? And what has been your reaction to watching him play over these past few years? (Jamison Hensley) "Me and Lamar [Jackson] have not connected yet. I'm pretty sure he's busy, and I'm busy with rookie minicamp and things like that. But Lamar is Lamar. I grew up watching him. I watched from afar. I watched him do what he does. It's a blessing to be his teammate. I'm just excited to get to work with him, so I can connect with him, learn how this offense goes, and hopefully, we can chase a Super Bowl and just continue to be us."
When you played in Minnesota, you were obviously the No. 1 weapon and all defenses kind of catered themselves to stopping you. How much do you think it's going to help you to be in an offense where obviously there are going to be a lot of weapons around you? (Cliff Brown) "It's not about that. I'm not focusing on being the No. 1 weapon. Like I said in the previous question, I want to be the best receiver for this team. This team deserves that, and this team has earned that. So, whatever Coach Harbaugh needs from me, whatever Lamar [Jackson] needs from me, whatever the offensive coordinator [Greg Roman] needs from me, that's my job. I'm just looking forward to doing that."
On that note, how much are you looking at yourself and saying, "I really want to get up to speed fast so I can be a big part of this offense, and I can help the team win and be among these top weapons for Lamar [Jackson]?" Are you putting a lot on yourself to kind of learn quickly so you can make an immediate impact? (Ryan Mink) "Your job, no matter who you are, is to pick up the playbook and learn the playbook as fast as you can. So, yes – I am doing that. When I get my opportunity to play and put it on the field, that's what I'll do."
OLB ODAFE OWEH
What has been your biggest takeaway, from these last two days, of being in the NFL? (Jamison Hensley) "It was great. It's a lot of hard work, which I pride myself on. It's a lot of seeping in information, trying to be able to pick up things fast and then be able to do it fast on the field, as well. The tempo is obviously different. Practice is game-tempo, and walk-throughs are like practice-tempo. So, it was a great adjustment. I love the way it's going right now, and I can feel myself getting better."
On that point, you're relatively newer to football than a lot of prospects coming in. Do you feel yourself making rapid improvements, and where do you see yourself already? Where do you see a difference in the NFL and where you see yourself growing? (Ryan Mink) "Yes, I'm obviously relatively new, but it's just really encouraging, because I've been playing for five years, but I'm making plays out there [with] an NFL team. It feels good, and I feel like … I came from a 4-3 defense, and I'm playing outside linebacker. So, I'm picking it up pretty well, and it's making me feel good about my versatility and what I can do, and I'm just seeping in more and more information, and I'm getting it right now. So, it's a good start."
What are your thoughts on the last couple of weeks – sneaking into the first round and now hearing the world call you by your given name? You've gone by your middle name for so long and now hearing your name come out of everybody's mouth, and also getting to work at 1 Winning Drive. The last couple of weeks must have been a whirlwind. Take us through it a little bit. (Kirk McEwen) "In my mind, I feel like I went right where I was supposed to be. I don't feel like I snuck into anything, but I feel like Baltimore is my home, was where I was supposed to be, where God wanted me to be. So, that's that. But in terms of my name, it feels good, because I'm starting a new chapter, and I'm just going by my first name, which I haven't gone by since, probably, I was like seven years old. It feels good to start new and just work hard and really try to flip the script and prove a lot of doubters wrong."
You talked about learning things in an earlier question. Can you talk about the work that you're putting in off the field, in terms of just learning the playbook, film study and just trying to learn the mental side of the game in addition to what's happening on the field? (Garrett Downing) "It's just a lot of repetition and studying. I'm not in school anymore; I actually, technically, am. It's academics with football, so it's just a lot of studying. Outside of watching film with your positional coach, studying the installs with your positional coach, you've got to do the extra, and that's what I've been able to do, and I've really seen the dividends – just being able to study it, watch extra film, watch on the film the technique on what I could do better, and it's helping. People say that all you've got to do is study, and it's true. You've got to study and put in the extra work, and that's what I've been doing."
What have you learned the last two days being here at rookie minicamp and getting a taste of what it's going to be like being a Raven? (Gustavo Salazar) "Every day is a day when someone is trying to take your spot. You've got to work hard; you've got to suck up anything that's ailing you. It's your job at this point, and it feels so good. In college, it was always like a side part. You were trying to get your academics right, and then obviously, you were playing collegiate football. But it feels good to try to hone in on your craft and perfect it every single day. So, that's probably what I've learned the most with the Ravens organization – that they pride themselves on trying to perfect your craft, and I'm doing that every single practice, every single second of practice. And outside of practice, I'm in here early, and we leave late. So, that's probably what I've learned the most."
At Penn State, when you go to practice, you may have about 100 guys on the field. Now you're practicing with the Ravens – of course it's rookie camp – and there's only about 25 guys on the field. How has that adjustment been? Have you adjusted to that volume of players on the field? (Kevin Richardson) "Yes, it's always what I've wanted. It's more individualized, and it's more focused on what you've got to work on. With me, in our group, it's me and Daelin [Hayes], so every single practice, each of us are getting better, because it's just me and him. We're taking all the reps. It gets tiring, but it's just so good, because we're learning how to play when we're fatigued, we're learning how to think when we're fatigued. It's different in college – you have a lot of guys behind you, and you try to teach them as well as perform on your side. But here, you're trying to get better, you're trying to help the team win. So, it's just really more individualized and really more detailed on the little things."
You talked about how much you like to study the game and how you haven't played it for a long time. I was wondering, are there players who you study closely? I know you were with LB Micah Parsons and DE Shaka Toney at Penn State, but are there players who you study that you try to model your game after? (Luke Jones) "Yes, but … I would have said it before I got drafted, but I'm not going to say it now. I don't want to … They're my opponents now. They're people I'm trying to play against and stuff. I have a few guys – probably three."