SATURDAY (7/28) TRAINING CAMP TRANSCRIPTS
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement:"First of all, from the Ravens, we'd like to give a special salute to Sgt. Jason Patrick DiDomenico. He served three combat tours in Iraq. He lost his life serving his country this past week, and his service is right now, as we speak, in Catonsville. His family reached out to us. He was an amazing Ravens fan. Our prayers are with Kristy and his two children, and our hearts go out to them, for sure. We have a lot of respect for our military and for their family. Thank you very much."
John, as expected, we've seen G/C Matt Skura and OL Alex Lewis both taking reps at center. How do you think that competition has gone to this point? I know it's still early, but what have you seen from those two? (Luke Jones)"They're both doing a good job. I'm not so sure I'd call it a competition right now. We're just trying to find the best combination. Probably, that's a better way of saying it. Matt is playing very well. Alex is playing very well. How do the pieces fit together? I think they're both doing a good job."
You guys have long talked that you're going to play the best five offensive linemen. How much does OL Alex Lewis' versatility help you in that regard? (Jeff Zrebiec)"It does help. It helps tremendously. You have Alex, who could probably play either guard, [he is] learning how to play center, and played tackle in college. And, he has played tackle for us here already. James Hurst is another one that has amazing versatility. We're teaching Nico Siragusa how to play center as well, and 'Shak' [Maurquice Shakir] is in there practicing at center. This early part of training camp is going to be a big part of that. Probably, [when] we get to the Rams and then to the Colts, for sure, we'll start honing in on what we're going to do."
You're in the locker room with 91 guys, and you're establishing a community, building a team. Is it tough to strike a balance when, by Sept. 1, unfortunately, it goes down to 53 men instead of 90, 91? How do you strike a balance? _(Kyle Barber) _"That's a great question, and I think that's a really good observation. Because you really are, I like your word, 'building a community,' a family. One thing we say, and one thing we not just say, we walk this walk: Once a Raven, always a Raven. You come here, and you buy in to what it means to Play Like a Raven and measure up the standards, the high expectations that go with being a Raven. Then, you become a Raven forever. It becomes a family. Our guys understand that. They're a part of that. And then the competition – even within a family, there's always competition. It's going to be fierce, but I think if you talked to players that have left here, they would say the same thing about what it means to be a part of this locker room and be a part of this organization. It's not hard to strike. It's not as hard as you would think. It's one of the beautiful things about football. It's one of the amazing things about this sport. It's one of the amazing things about training camp, especially a tough training camp, in terms of what … I'll tell you, people that have never gone through a football training camp and never been through two-a-day practices, it's really hard to understand what that's really all about. I don't care what level. If you've been in junior high football, and you've gone through it, you get it. You understand it, and it's probably unique to every other sport. It's hard to explain, but I think it's a great observation."
Just a day off for OLB Terrell Suggs and S Tony Jefferson? (Luke Jones)"A number of guys had a day off, and then the other guys, a few other guys have, as I said, minor things that they're dealing with."
John, it seems like QB Joe Flacco and WR John Brown specifically have found a connection on the deep balls. Why do you think that is, and how do you think Joe is going to develop with the other receivers? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _"The offense is just coming together in a lot of ways. We did a lot of good things today. The deep balls the last two days to John Brown from Joe, like you said, have been really good, really important for us, and we're seeing that across the board on offense. All the guys are making plays, and our defense is being forced to break passes up and defend passes. The ball is not really hitting the ground on its own too often, and that's what we expect at this level. It's good to see it happening."
In the absence of RB Kenneth Dixon, RB Mark Thompson and RB Gus Edwards have both stepped up. What do you like from those two? _(Kyle Andrews) _"I like both those guys. You mentioned both those guys, and they're very big, physical players. They take the ball and get north. They're very conscientious. They're quiet guys, all three of those guys, and they want to … They put their pads down and go north and south, which is what we like. It's going to be a really interesting battle with our young running backs."
Offensive Line Coach Joe D'Alessandris
There are a lot of guys moving around on the front line. Is that something you're able to do in a seven-week training camp, where you have a lot of time to experiment? Or is that just a necessity? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think it's two-fold. Sometimes you're dealt circumstances that you have to try to get your linemen to play positions so you can practice. Then there's that one word called 'opportunity' for many of them – where you check and see if they can play that position, how they can handle that, and then if you see they start handling it pretty good you start giving them a little bit more reps. Some of it may not, you maybe say, 'OK let's hold off and we'll keep you at one position.' But versatility is important in this league, as you all know. Usually you have seven to dress on gameday – sometimes eight if you're lucky, really lucky – so your linemen have to be cross-trained pretty much."
How do you want your linemen to handle RPOs? (Ed Lee) "I think it's just all ball. I came up years and years ago. RPOs are nothing but old-fashioned veer offense. That's all it is – it's reverse thinking of doing it. You used to front out and do it, now they look out the backside and do it. The line is blocking for the line. You design the play to block the play. They know that's going to take place. All the other mechanics take place with the quarterback and all the other stuff."
We know T Ronnie Stanley is going to be at left tackle and G Marshal Yanda is going to be at right guard. Are the other three spots still in question?_ (Jeff Zrebiec)_"I think right now we're in this ... That's why they call it training camp. I don't know what's going to happen by tomorrow morning. I just don't. You have an idea of who are going to be your so-called projected players and starters, but that could change overnight. The same thing could happen during the season. A player could get ill that evening, and what we thought was going to be our starting lineup at kickoff at 1 p.m. may change because of his illness. But I think we have some guys. The good news is we have some nice depth, and now we're trying to see who's going all fall in place by the end of training camp."
What have you seen in OL Alex Lewis in playing center?_ (Ryan Mink) _"The good news is, I think he can [play center]. I think he's smart enough to do it. He likes to do it, he wants to do it. So that's encouraging, [because] some people rebel. He doesn't. He's grasped every opportunity and said, 'You know what, give me a chance and let's see what I can do with this.' So that's good and that's a good thing for all of them. And really, all of them have that same mindset."
Could you discuss the progression of T Orlando Brown Jr.? In your estimation, is he ready to be an NFL starter?_ (Bo Smolka)_"Orlando has done a very nice job here. I think having James Hurst next to him has helped him also. I've got to give credit to James Hurst when they're out in the field working and communicating. I think Orlando has made a big jump. If you go back, he's been a left tackle his whole career, and now he's a right tackle. That train of thought has to change, from the mechanics all the way down. So what his eyes and what his brain tells him what to do, it goes through the central nervous system and tells his body how to activate those muscles. That's all part of a new learning curve for him. I think this young man is doing one heck of a job at this point in time."
Will there be a point in time where G/T James Hurst might need reps at right tackle in practice if he's ultimately going to be right tackle? (Ryan Mink)"Oh yes. That has already taken place, and we will continue to see how that will continue to move forward as we see how our players continue to grow."
How is G Nico Siragusa coming back from injury? (Don Markus)"For having a limited offseason program, I think he's doing a very nice job. He's playing two positions, and his growth is continued growth. So, each day he's growing and developing, and that's where we are at this stage."(Reporter: "Physically, he looks OK?")"It appears to be – yes."
Ideally, how soon would you like G Marshal Yanda back out on the field? (Aaron Kasinitz)"There's no [way] I control that. That comes from the training room. When it's all cleared form the front office, then we'll start working with him."
G/T Alex Lewis
Opening statement: "Hello, hello! It's like karaoke night." (Reporter: "What's your go-to?")"I sing Wild Cherry's 'Play That Funky Music.' That's my go-to. It's a good one." (laughter)
On playing different positions and where he feels most comfortable: "I love it, man! I'm back out on the field playing football again. I don't care where they put me at – center, guard, tackle, tight end, quarterback. I'm [going to] play some football."
On how good of a quarterback he is: "I'm terrible – that's why I'm not there."(laughter)
On the biggest adjustment in playing center: "When you play center, you become essentially the quarterback of the offensive line. It's very important that you're making the MIKE I.D., you're telling both sides what you're doing. You have to think really hard. It's got to become second nature, because you have to do it within a matter of two to three seconds. Boom – we're hiking it – we got quick cadence. You've got to get up, get set, and let's roll."
On the versatility of the Ravens' offensive line: "It's great to have versatility across the offensive line. The offensive line in the trenches – it's a tough position. Injuries are 100 percent up front; they're going to happen. So, if we've got guys who are versatile, and we can get in there a rotate, we're not going to skip a beat if a guy goes down. We're going to throw in our guys in there, and we're just going to keep rolling. We're not going to think of it, and guys will be ready and cross-train for it."
On how important this season is for him: "The last years have been frustrating, but this season is important. We want to get back to the playoffs. I've never been the playoffs. We want to come out and show people that we're here to compete, we're the Ravens and we're going to 'Play Like A Raven.' We're going to come out hard and hitting hard. We're excited for it. I don't really think of it as a big year; I think of it as every other year. I'm just going to go out there and do my job and think nothing else more."
On how exciting it has been to see the productive passing game:"It's great. To see these deep balls to [John] Brown, to [Michael] Crabtree, [Chris] Moore ... We have weapons all out there. You can see Joe [Flacco], he has high energy. It's fantastic. It shortens the play drives for us big men up front. It makes it a little bit easier. We love it. When the offense is rolling and it's hot, everybody's hyped to see Joe back there leading the way. It's exciting stuff."
DE Brent Urban
On how he feels returning from the Lisfranc injury and getting into training camp:"I'm feeling great. It's a blessing to be out there with my teammates and coaches. I really missed the game, obviously, being out for so long. Thankfully, camp starts a week early, and it gives me a period to acclimate to everything — the movements, pad level, all of that kind of stuff again. I think that preparation is going to really help me moving forward and just give me a little extra time to take the little steps I need instead of rushing into it."
On how frustrating his injury was in light of his increased role on the team and his impending free agency last season: "It was tough – definitely was a crappy thing that happened. At the end of the day, I'd rather go down playing well than playing poorly. I guess that's the one positive I can take out of that, where I was playing the best football I've ever played, honestly. I know where I can take it, and I have a watermark now where when I come back, I know where my body needs to be and what I'm good at. I guess it was helpful in a way. Obviously, the timing was poor, and I was just really coming into my own, but there's a watermark there now, and I know what I need to do in order to get there again."
On if he's experiencing what CB Jimmy Smith called a "nagging" feeling with the Lisfranc injury: "It's one of those injuries … I've had a lot. I don't think it was as tough as the knee, honestly, because you still need to strengthen your hips and all that kind of stuff. It's nagging in that it just stays sore. You just feel it. At the same time, the strength component stuff, it doesn't really affect me as much, which is nice. Being inside, I still feel like I have my power. Jimmy was helpful, where I would be in there every day with him. He was in the training room as well, and kind of let me know what to be prepared for and what to work on. [It] seems like a nagging injury. I'm not a stranger to injuries, and I feel like I can still fight through it no matter what."
On how much he wants to play in the preseason: "I want to get out there. I've gained confidence out on the practice field, where I've done positive things, and I feel good about it. But, I really want to get in there and get a little bit of game action to have my confidence at an all-time high. It's been awhile, and I feel like I need those live reps to really get back to where I was."
On if he does anything differently in the preseason to avoid injuries: "It's tough. My injury was really kind of a freak thing, where someone fell on me. It's not so much something I can prepare for. I've been through so many injuries where I really know what to do, as far as flexibility. I'm a tall guy. I've got to work on flexibility, or else I'm going to have a bad time out there. So, I do as much injury prevention stuff as I can, given my history, obviously. It's also helpful having guys in that locker room where they've been through major injuries and had great careers — [Marshal] Yanda, 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs], Jimmy — where I've just watched them and how they've dealt with injuries. I'll even look around the league at guys like J.J. Watt and see how they've handled these injuries and come back. I honestly feel prepared, and injury prevention is just a huge part of every offseason for me."
On his thoughts on a more physical practice today: "It's great. It's been awhile since I've seen live blows out there, so it's fun. It's fun to get back out there and see where I'm at. It's been all positive for me. I've had a great time out there. It's a lot of fun. I'm just happy right now."