Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, good to see everybody. I appreciate you guys being here. [It's] a beautiful day, obviously – not a beautiful night last night. Everybody OK? [Everyone have] power? No trees on the roofs or anything? (Reporter: "No.") Great. Our hearts go out to those who had that deal up in New York and everywhere else. So, what questions do you have?"
After today, do the players … They get three days for a little mini break. Do you have a message to them as they head off to their little mini break? (Jamison Hensley) "No, not really. I'll tell them to be careful, be safe and smart, I'm sure, when we break after practice. But our guys generally do a good job of that. We expect them to do a good job of that. It's time for business, of course. Whatever type of time they take to be with their families and just get the batteries charged right up is great, but the season is imminent."
Along those lines, with the old preseason format, you guys would have played your last preseason game tonight, and you still would have had roster stuff this weekend. Now that you've been through this preseason and the new format, how did you like it? (Luke Jones) "I like it. I like it a lot. [It's] much, much better. It's much better for everybody. Yes, it's a plus."
With the 17-game season, do you stack practices the same? Or do you alter it a little bit to get guys off their feet? (Todd Karpovich) "No, we're keeping it the same [with] the same practice format [and] the same reps that we've always had."
I know every year you need young players buy-in on special teams to occupy roles. You've lost a couple special teams players, whether it was to injury or they're not on the roster. How important this year are the young guys? How much are you going to have to lean on some of the younger players on special teams? (Jeff Zrebiec) "You do every year. It's not like we've gone in there with some loaded veteran special teams group every single year. I guess I can go back and compare, but I don't feel like it's a lot different than any other year. I like the guys. I like the young guys, [and] I like the old guys. I like where we're at with special teams. I look forward to seeing how they do. It'll be highly competitive. The [assistant head coach/] special teams coordinator for the Raiders, Coach [Rich] Bisaccia does a great job. He's been around forever. We're just looking forward to all the challenges this year."
I know T Ja'Wuan James is on NFI and wouldn't be in play until later, but how is he progressing? I know earlier in the summer you had said you thought there was at least a chance he could be in play later in the season. (Luke Jones) "I don't think that's changed. It's kind of early to make any kind of prediction about timing and stuff like that, but he looks good. [He's] walking around. He's in the meetings and is very much a part of everything. So, that's where you want him to be right now. [He's] a great guy, a very likeable guy [and] a hard worker. So, we'll just see what happens."
Outside Linebackers Coach Drew Wilkins
Opening statement: "It's great to see everybody. I'm excited to talk about this outside linebacker group. They had a great training camp, and we're ready to go."
With OLB Odafe Oweh, I think we all kind of knew about his pass-rushing skills. How has he developed in defending the run, early downs, things like that? (Jamison Hensley) "We couldn't be more pleased with where he's at right now. And the thing that he has that not a lot of rookies do is he's got that sense of urgency. He understands [that] we have big expectations for him, from Week One. This isn't a project. This is a guy who's going to come in and play for us right away. So, whether it's the run game, whether it's executing the defense, whether it's his one-on-one pass rush, whether it's two-on-two games, whether it's anything that he needs to do to execute highly in our defense, he needs to be there now, and we feel great about where he's at. [With] that sense of urgency, every rep matters, every day matters.
"I had a chance this summer to go watch that Orioles prospect, Adley Rutschman. He's got three years to get ready; we've got three preseason games. (laughter) So, we're going to hit the ground running right now. He knows that. He's going to take every single rep seriously, because that's going to get him ready to go."
We talked a lot about OLB Jaylon Ferguson this offseason, and we know defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale's enthusiasm for him. If you can point to a couple specific things where you feel like he's a better player this year than last year, what would they be? (Childs Walker) "He's gotten so much better in every facet, but the thing you love about him, that you can take to the bank, is he's going to set a dominant edge. Any time there's run at him, he's knocking that back. He's playing with great hands, he's able to shed and make plays, and we saw that all camp. That's grown from Year One to Year Two to Year Three. He's always been a great, physical player, but he's taken it to another level. He's executing our pressure package at a high level, and he's improved as a rusher. [When] you get to this Year Three, a guy like Jaylon [Ferguson], that's sink or swim, and [when] we went down to Carolina, he looked like Michael Phelps. (laughter) He was swimming all over the place, so that was exciting to see. He's taken that next step."
We haven't seen OLB Justin Houston in the preseason. What are your impressions of him, and how will he be ready for the season? (Todd Karpovich) "I couldn't be more excited to see him ready to roll Week One. He came in here, and he's a Raven from the jump. He's always played like a Raven. He plays tough, [and] he runs to the football like he's a rookie. Obviously, you guys have seen the pass-rush success he's had over the years, but he's also a great run player, and he's great in coverage. Early in his time in Kansas City, he was really their SAM [linebacker], so he had to drop a lot. So, from Day One, he knew what he was doing at that position, as well, and it's just great to see. He leads by example, first. So, you see that first – that he's a dominant player; he's a dominant pass rusher – but then the other great part about it is he wants those other guys to really come along, so he's helped them tremendously. He has so much knowledge, but he also is generous with that knowledge and his time, and he wants those guys to come along. As a coach, you appreciate that, too.
"Something that Coach [John] Harbaugh talks about is, 'Principles are written in stone; methods are not.' We're always looking for new methods. So, if you get a guy like that in here – just like when we had Elvis [Dumervil] and 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs] in here – those guys can inform how you teach your technique. Maybe, 'Hey, if you get this block, this is what Justin [Houston] does. If you get this one, this is how 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs] played it.' All those great players have so much knowledge at the position, and as a coach, I'm eager to learn that from him [Justin Houston], because he's got 97.5 more sacks than me." (laughter)
I think we've all been impressed by what OLB Daelin Hayes has shown with his pass rush. I'm curious, when you look back at his Notre Dame tape, why wasn't he a more prolific sack-artist? I know you guys don't put a whole lot of stock into raw sack stats, but why was that not a huge part of his game? (Jonas Shaffer) "I think with him [Daelin Hayes] in college, it's like with Tyus [Bowser] – what you see here – they used him in a lot of different roles, and that plays right into our strengths here, if he can do all those things. So, when he did get one-on-one opportunities, he made the most of them, but they also weren't afraid to drop him in coverage, weren't afraid to have him as a run player [on] first and second down. So, he wasn't just a 'DPR' guy – designated pass rush guy – like some of those guys you see in college. He did it all, which really prepared him for this level. He's done a great job learning the SAM [linebacker] position [and] attacking what we're doing on defense. The sky is the limit for him, as well."
How beneficial is it to have OLB Justin Houston here at the same time you have two rookies who are going to make an impact, in OLBs Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes? (Kyle Barber) "I think that impact even extends even beyond just football technique and helping them. You see him [Justin Houston] after practice, taking those guys [Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes] over to get a little extra work in. But it's that expertise he has on every stage of a football career [that] allows him to walk those guys through what the expectations are in their rookie year [and] how those guys can handle things that will be thrown at them their rookie year. He's got so much wisdom beyond the game that that really helps those guys. Those two rookies [Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes] … With him [Justin Houston], 'Phee' [Pernell McPhee], Tyus [Bowser] – all those guys that have lived through different stages of that NFL life – those guys can convey that to those rookies. They're in a great situation to learn from them."
With OLBs Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes, every stage is a different step, like rookie camp to training camp. Now, the regular season is different. Getting to know them the last three or four months, how do you think they'll react to the big stage, and do you think where they come from, as college players, will help them with that? (Cliff Brown) "Yes. I think the biggest thing for them – the thing that we're emphasizing with both those guys – is we want them to play fast, early on. There are going to be mistakes, and we'll learn from those mistakes, but play fast, and don't let that same mistake beat you twice. It's like Ted Lasso says, 'You've got to be a goldfish. Have a 10-second memory.' You've got to move on to the next play. Take a deep breathe, and then give us greatness on the next play to make up for it."
Who do you think is going to be our future OLB Matthew Judon? (Ximena Lugo Latorre) "With all the guys that have left here over the years … It's a fair question, but with all the guys who have left here, we don't really try to say, 'OK, hey this guy is going to be that guy.' That's kind of the beauty of this system. We've got the best defensive coordinator in the NFL, because he doesn't say, 'OK, this guy needs to replace that guy.' He's looking to just put the best 11 out there in any situation. So, if a guy brings a different skillset, he's going to work with that skillset, and he's so smart and so creative – 'Wink' [defensive coordinator Don Martindale] is – that he's going to figure out, 'Hey, if we don't have this, well, what does this guy bring us instead?'
"I always joke around with 'Wink' [defensive coordinator Don Martindale]; if he was a contestant on Chopped, he would win, because every ingredient he's got in his basket, he's going to use it, he's going to make the most of it, and you've seen the results over 'Wink's' [defensive coordinator Don Martindale] time here."
(Reporter: "I ask you that question because you mentored OLB Matthew Judon, and he was a really good outside linebacker. So, who do you think will follow his footsteps?) "I think honestly, it's … Everybody has a chance to be great. Everybody in that room has a chance to be great, and they all recognize it. The veterans recognize that the young guys could be great; the young guys recognize the greatness of those older players. So, I think that whole room is really coming together. We love where we're at, and we love where we're going."
We've talked to defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale a lot, and he's mentioned the pressure packages and your impact on them, as well. I know you're not going to give up any secrets, but how much fun is that during the week, when you guys start working on certain pressure packages, and drawing stuff up and installing it. How rewarding is that part of the job? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think every coach on defense would say the same thing – whatever their area [is] that they study. It's a blast working with 'Wink' [defensive coordinator Don Martindale], because he's so open to everyone's ideas. He's an unbelievable leader in the sense that he wants everybody's opinion, and he demands excellence from everybody's work to get that opinion out; to study it to the best of their ability, and then, 'Hey, this is something that we can attack,' or 'This is an area where they're weak,' or 'This is something that we're good at.' So, that's kind of the environment that he has on defense with the staff. I mean, you couldn't ask for a better defensive coordinator to go to work with every day."
I know a lot of people focus on sacks, in terms of edge-rush production, but what do you guys look at, in terms of the bigger picture and quantifying stuff, especially? (Jonas Shaffer) "Coach [John] Harbaugh actually talked about it … Our No. 1 ingredient to winning games, playing winning defense, is execution. I've probably said it five times already, that word – execution. That's what we look for. So, it's not necessarily, 'Hey, are we just going to send four rushers, get one-on-ones and get those sacks?' When you look at the last [preseason] game we had, there were winning rushes, but they got the ball out. Or on third down, we're all geared up to go, and they run screens or quick game. Ultimately, you look at the stats sheet after that, that team was 1-of-11 on third down. So, it's about executing the total defense. It's about getting to the football, in any situation [and] playing with that max effort. Those sacks are going to come, and they are going to come in bunches for guys. But it's about … If we execute the defense, we believe strongly that what we're doing on defense is going to get the job done. So, you've got to be selfless to play in this defense, [and] you've got to play as hard as anyone in the league is going to play, but those results speak for themselves."
OLB Daelin Hayes
On how he'd describe his first NFL preseason and training camp experience: "That was the hardest six weeks of my life. (laughter) I'm just going to keep it honest with you. No, it was fun. I had a great time. I mean, you talk about the Raven brotherhood and the price that you have to pay day-in and day-out, it's real. It's real, man. That was something, like I said from the time I first was drafted here, this was my childhood favorite team; it means a lot to me. It means everything to me to be out here with the vets, to be out here with the coaches, to be out here in this organization [and] to be able to put it all on the line day-in and day-out. So, just keeping that perspective each day, [like] when I woke up at 5:45 [a.m.] to get here. (laughter) When your body is hurting and stuff is tough, you have your rookie year adjustments and whatnot, just keep that in perspective – that gratitude [and] that excitement. I just carry that with me in my heart, day-in and day-out. So, it was a great time, but it was hard. It definitely was hard."
On what was the biggest adjustment to the NFL game for him: "For me, it's just … I always was able to … I dropped a lot in college, but the SAM position, really just learning the ins and outs of NFL schemes, route concepts and just continuing to learn the game from that off the ball SAM 'backer spot, as opposed to being a defensive end, I'm always on the line. So, just taking all that information and continuing to grow day-in and day-out with it, learning as much as I can from 'Ty Bo' [Tyus Bowser]. Watching him, I firmly believe 'Ty Bo' [Tyus Bowser] is the best dropping outside linebacker in the NFL. When we go into our film sessions, I'm in class with like eight of the best professors at football, whether it'd be [outside linebackers] Coach [Drew] Wilkins, 'Phee' [Pernell McPhee], 'Ty Bo' [Tyus Bowser], Justin Houston, we all are learning from each other, day-in and day-out. So, just keeping that perspective, keeping an open mind and a growth mindset and just wanting to go out and be better than I was the day before."
On how he's built his pass rush moves over the years: "With pass rushing, you just want to be true to who you are. I learned a lot from Justin [Houston]; we talk about the steps and whatnot, but that was one of his biggest things with me, he was like, 'Be who you are. Master what you're good at.' I think that that's really been effective for me thus far, understanding my strengths and just being able to have an impact on the quarterback, I think, has really been awesome."
On whom he is on the field: "People always got on me about my pass rush, but man, I always took that personally. I always … People used to play my athleticism or something like that, but bro, I'm athletic. (laughter) Like you all see when I'm dipping, I'm down here with it. (crouches down) So, I just want to continue to hone in on that and just continue to grow day-in and day-out, like I said, with every aspect of my game."
On his relationship with outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins: (laughter) "I laugh, [but] that's my guy. Coach Wilkins is my guy. From the time we get here … Coach [Wilkins], he's probably one of the most brilliant football minds I've ever been around. Just the information he gives us to give us the upper hand is really unlike anything I've had before. So, I really appreciate him. He's a funny guy, sarcastic guy, quick on his feet [and] witty, so I definitely appreciate it. I love Coach [Wilkins]. I love being coached by Coach [Wilkins] day-in and day-out, and I look forward to being coached further down the line."
On how much it's helped him to come into the NFL with OLB Odafe Oweh: "I think that has been the biggest blessing of this process thus far. That's my twin. We always are joking. When we're going through all that stuff … From the time we were drafted, to rookie minicamp, minicamp, OTAs, training camp, any time we were having a down day, or we were just in that funk or whatever, we're picking each other up. If it's a day I'm down, 'Dafe' [Odafe Oweh] is always there to pick me up. If 'Dafe' [Odafe Oweh] is down, I'm there to help him out. Just learning and growing together, I think that it's been an awesome resource for each other. So, it's been huge. I'm very thankful for it."
On if he's always had the flexibility to bend: "Yes, like I said with what Justin [Houston] was telling me, just being true to who I am and finding what works for me. That's always been something that I've had, but this offseason, I was really able to refine a couple moves that were really utilized to make me more effective than I was when I was in college. Obviously, like I said with [outside linebackers] Coach Drew [Wilkins], that's something that we work [on] day-in and day-out. We work the triangle bags. Everything is about dipping, ripping and getting our toe pointed to the quarterback. So, that move is just a culmination of so much hard work and dedication this offseason to really perfecting that and just using it as a tool in my toolbox."
On if the atmosphere of practice has changed as they begin to ramp up for the regular season: "Yes and no. In the sense that from the time we got here, there's always been a real sense of urgency as far as what's expected, the way that we practice and what's our culture. So, in that sense, no, it hasn't really changed. But we have eased up on the legs a little bit. (laughter) So, from that every day two-and-a-half-hour practice, it has. I was doing a kickoff yesterday, and I was like, 'Oh.' (wiggles his body) I started opening up like, 'Hold on. I feel my legs coming back.' (laughter) So, it's been great to have those couple days just to get our feet back."
On what it means to him to be on the 53-man roster: "Man, it's a dream come true. I'm so grateful. I'm so … It was crazy yesterday. I was talking to 'Veen' [Anthony Levine Sr.]. We had a conversation, and I was like, 'Dang, I guess you don't do that on the Ravens.' He was like, 'No, bro. We don't do that.' He was like, 'You're a Raven.' It was like at that moment, hearing that from a vet, it was surreal. Just to be a part of this brotherhood, earned every day. Nothing has come easy. Just to earn the respect of the vets and earn the respect of the coaches and to be out here and to be a part of this organization is truly a blessing. I'm super thankful for it, and I'm excited to go earn it every day. I'm about to go earn it in about 30 minutes. So, [I'm] just excited and can't wait to see what the future holds."