Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, good to see everybody here. I appreciate you being here. We're preparing … [It's a] quick turnaround preparing for a big division battle against the Browns. We're excited about it. We'll be practicing here shortly, and that's where we're at. What questions do you have?"
Every day, it seems like more and more guys are coming off the COVID-19/Reserve list. You pretty much have your full squad essentially back. Even though it's 2020, do you feel this is getting back to normalcy after what you guys have gone through over the past couple of weeks? (Jamison Hensley) "I'm not sure. Normalcy? (laughter) To your point, I'm not sure what that means. I don't think anything will be normal, quote unquote, again. Maybe that'll be for the better in many ways. Maybe we'll find ways to improve through all of this. So, we're just excited to have the guys back. It's good to have them out there, and we're looking forward to getting ready to play the game."
I wanted to see how DE Calais Campbell got through the game? It looked like at a few different points that he was battling. He only played around 23 snaps, which is not his normal workload. (Luke Jones) "He got through it healthy. He was coming off of COVID-19/Reserve, and then he had had the calf strain previous to that. So, I think just with time, he should continue to get better and better. He'll be working on it this week."
I was wondering, you played the Browns a very long time ago. What have you seen that is different now that you're going to see them in the rematch? They're 9-3, obviously; are they better than what you saw in the season opener? (David Ginsburg) "I said after the season opener that that was a good football team, and a lot of you guys just rolled your eyes, as I recall. (laughter) So, it was pretty easy to see where they were going and what they were building. Yes, they're a good football team; they were a good football team then. They came out the next week and proved they were a good football team. They're running their system – the system they've installed, really, [in] all three phases. They've stuck to it, and they've done a good job with it."
After the game, you mentioned that when you'd get the chance, you'd talk to WR Dez Bryant about his positive test. Have you had a chance to talk to him? How is he doing? (Kevin Richardson) "I have. He's doing as well as can be expected. He's a guy that cares; he sacrificed a lot to leave home and leave family behind and those kinds of things. He's a family man and has kids. So, I think he's pretty hurt by it. [He's] not mad at anybody, but just the circumstances. I think he's a little stunned by it [and] surprised that it came up. That's where he's at. So, I think he's trying to work his way through it right now."
Back to Cleveland for a second – when so many head coaches have failed there over the years, what is it that head coach Kevin Stefanski is doing that's different or special that's making him [succeed]? (Kirk McEwen) "That's not for me to say, as an opponent. We just … We play them. I think Coach [Kevin] Stefanski has done a great job. [Defensive coordinator] Coach [Joe] Woods has done a great job, and [special teams coordinator] Coach [Mike] Priefer. All their coaches have done a great job. They've been building this team for a long time. There's a lot of really high draft picks on that team, to be honest with you; [there's] just a ton of them. So, they have a lot of good players, and they're good guys. They play hard. They're competitive. They're tough. But they've always been that way. So, I'm just not going to fall into that narrative. We played them last year, they were tough for us. We played them two years ago, they were tough for us. We played them five years ago, they were tough for us. Ten years ago, they were tough for us. Yes, there are a lot of wins in there, but there are a lot of tough, hard-fought wins, too. So, I just have never gone that way, and I refuse to be drawn into that comparison-type of a deal, because I've never acknowledged it in the past."
Getting back to WR Dez Bryant really quick. Do you think when he's cleared, he's an option for you guys? Or is he considering … I know he said on Twitter at some point that he might be done for the year. Do you expect him to be an option for you guys when he comes off the COVID-19/Reserve list? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I know the COVID-19/[Reserve list] is 10 days, and that's where we're at with it. I could never speak for another person. Because of the Twitter stuff and all that, that's something that you'd have to ask him. I don't have any answers to that, [and won't] speak for somebody on all that. But that's what we would be planning for, certainly. He's certainly an option – he's a part of our team. I was really happy with his progress and how he was practicing. I was excited for him to play in the game – really excited. I saw him before the game, and we were both fired up for the game. He was super fired up for the game and excited. So, I think that's why emotionally … I don't think it's hard to understand why it would be such a tough thing emotionally, especially where he's at in his career. I think we could all put ourselves in his shoes on that, for sure. I'm very sympathetic towards that and understanding of it. Ultimately, people make decisions for themselves, and that's what they have to do. But from my standpoint, absolutely; the answer would be yes to that."
With QB Lamar Jackson, you saw in the last game and kind of what he's done throughout his career … On fourth down, he's keeping the ball, and he's trying to get the first down. Even when you're up by 10 late in the game, he's still trying to get that touchdown. Does that kind of describe his fearlessness? Is that just kind of the competitiveness and fearlessness in him? (Jamison Hensley) "Absolutely. You guys know him as well as I do; you've seen every game he's played here, and that's who he is, for sure. So, he's always going to try to score. He's always going to try to get the first down. I don't think it's a revelation, but it's certainly his personality and his style and all of that. That's who he is; he's a big-time competitor. He wants to do well every time they take the field, and every time he takes the field. And if he doesn't do well, he's not very happy about it."
Along the lines of that fourth-down run, a two-part question: Is there a name for that concept that you guys have used to such great success? I've heard it called an inverted veer, power-option. Do you guys have a terminology for that? And just that concept in general, why does it put so much stress on defenses the way that you guys run it? (Jonas Shaffer) "There are a lot of different types of plays we run along those lines that cause conflicts for the defense in our run game; you hear the defensive coordinators talk about it quite often. So, it has a concept name. There are different plays within the concept that have different names. There are different ways that we formation it and motion it [and] set it up. Basically, the pitch phase becomes the [running] back, and the dive phase becomes the quarterback. So, inverted is a good term; we don't use that term. I'll let you ask [offensive coordinator] Greg [Roman] that question; he can decide if he wants to answer it or not. (laughter) I'll leave that for him. But it's definitely one of our concepts. It's one of our good concepts, and it's a really tough thing to defend – for sure."
Talking about QB Lamar Jackson still – it seemed like when we talked to him after the game, he said, "It almost felt like I had been away for a whole year." It was obvious the joy that he felt in being back. Did you feel that that was contagious to some degree, across the team? (Childs Walker) "Yes, I think so. I think for all the guys that were out, sometimes, you don't realize how much something means to you. And I think these guys do realize how much it means to be playing in the National Football League, but the day-to-day, you don't realize how much it means to you until it gets taken away. Even something as simple as the weightlifting; I heard the guys excited about getting their lift in – the guys who were away. (laughter) They're normally not talking like that, because that lift is not easy. So, practice [and] playing in the game, for sure, I absolutely think that that's true. It's a good shot in the arm for anybody when they miss something like that, and they get to come back and do it again."
We're going to talk to RB Gus Edwards here in a little bit. He seems to be a guy who takes advantage of every opportunity and every rep that he gets. Can you just talk about if you see that sort of work ethic in practice and how he's a guy who is so determined to make plays for you guys? (Todd Karpovich) "That's a good term. It really is a good term – determined. That's how he is; he's been that way from the first day that he got here. His demeanor really hasn't changed. He's a straightforward kind of a guy [with his] work ethic, personality [and] professionalism. He has a lot of talent. Yes, I would say it hasn't changed one bit. That's who he is."
I also had a RB Gus Edwards question. He's had a lot of big games in November and December. He's had six 100-yard games in November and December. Can you talk about what he brings to the table as a physical runner this time of the year? Also, it seems like he's as elusive as he's ever been. He had some shifty moves there the other night against Dallas. (Cliff Brown) "Right, you saw that. Definitely, that's something he's been working on as part of his game, for sure – to make tacklers miss on the second level. He's already tough to bring down, just because he can run through an arm tackle, as well. So, I think that's a great addition. To see that, it was great to see. He brings a physicality. He's a downhill runner. He's a downhill runner, even outside. So, I don't want to say he's just an inside runner, because he's not. But his style, it really puts stress on the defense going that way, and then he works off of that. So, that kind of describes him really well, I think, what you said."
G/C Bradley Bozeman is your Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee for the Ravens. Can you just talk about what that means for you presenting that award every year to one of your players? And also, Bradley, and what he does off the field and how meaningful that is? (Shawn Stepner) "It is. First of all, the League doing this and the way this thing has kind of evolved … Of course, we have the [Walter Payton] Man of the Year in the whole league [who] came here this year from Jacksonville, Calais [Campbell]. You guys are around players. Even any athletes, or entertainers, or anybody, I guess … Sometimes people wonder – I do – I wonder what people are like in their behind-the-scenes, so to speak. I think it's really great for all of us to see who these guys are behind the scenes. You get to see what they do and what they care about; Bradley [Bozeman] being one of those guys, and his wife [Nikki]. Bullying kind of hits us all close to home with the fact that we all have kids. We see it. We hear about it. We've all been kids before – we know how it works. Sometimes, adults are the worst bullies in the world, but that's kind of a unique one. For him to be involved in that, and then drive all over the country together in their RV and distribute the meals and all the different things that they've done, I just think it's cool. As Bradley says, his wife is definitely the driver and the organizer … I think he's the driver of the RV, [and] she's the driver of the creativeness and the charity. (laughter) The whole thing that the NFL does is really powerful and awesome. It's fun to be a part of it."
When you guys played the Browns last, I think QB Lamar Jackson probably had his best statistical game passing. What clicked in that game? Is there any sort of benefit having to go back to watch that to when he was throwing the ball really well? (Aaron Kasinitz) "We go back and watch it, really, a lot. We do always in all the previous games, especially against our division teams; you get a good feel for how they like to play you. So, we've watched that a lot, and there is a lot of benefit to it. We'll try to do the things we can do to try to move the ball and score points, whatever way it is. Some of that will have to do with how they play us, and some of that will have to do with how we play [and] how well we play. So, that's really what it boils down to. But we'll be trying to throw it, we'll be trying to run it. We'll be trying to do all different things within that that we can do to try to score as many points as we can – that's really the challenge every week. Every week is a different week that way. So, we always try to do that. This week won't be any different that way, and hopefully, we'll be successful with it."
Is there any chance you get CB Jimmy Smith back for Monday? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Sure. Yes, I think it'll … [We're] kind of watching how he progresses this week. I don't know that he'll be practicing today, but going forward in the week, we'll see. He wouldn't have to practice to play, but I'd like to see him practice if we can. We'll just kind of see how he feels with it."
QB Lamar Jackson
A popular narrative after the Cowboys game was that you looked like you were having more fun than you've had for much of the year. Is that accurate? And has there been times this year when maybe football hasn't been as fun as it's been in the past for you? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, I did have fun coming back. I was out two weeks. I missed my guys. Most importantly, it's [a] win or go home [mentality] for us right now. So, we're just going out there and just putting our all out there on the line for one another. That's just joy for me. And like I said before, being around my guys, being back out there … Being away for two weeks, it felt like a whole year. It's just a joy – joyful day and joyful time for me."
Looking back to that Week One game against Cleveland, the passing game was firing on all cylinders. What do you take away from that game, and how will you carry that into your big game on Monday night? (Luke Jones) "We were focused coming off [training] camp; going against each other so much throughout camp, knowing we've got a divisional game against a great team. The first game, it was like, 'Man, we've got to go out here and just focus on our assignments. Everyone do their job.' And that's what we did. We drove the ball down the field, we scored points, and that's what we've got to do this Monday – same thing. Just focus, everyone do their assignments, and I feel we'll be good. That's a great team we're playing against."
When you wave off the punting team, is there something that goes into that? Is it just a feel for you, or is it inside of three yards? And has Coach Harbaugh ever overruled you waving off the punting team? (Kirk McEwen) "Yes, he did wave me off before like, 'We're going to go ahead and punt it.' But just during that drive – I think it was first down – I missed a snap, and we lost yards. We were driving the ball, and I missed the snap. I'm like, 'Man, I just put us in a bad spot.' J.K. [Dobbins] recovered the ball for us, we moved the ball, Luke [Willson] caught the pass on third down to make it closer for us, and I just told Coach [Harbaugh], 'We've got to do something.' Because I felt like, if it wasn't for that loss [on the fumbled snap], we would have been closer, [and] we would have been still going. That little stop, that little mishap I had, I was like, 'Man, we've got to do something right now. I don't want to kick a field goal, and I don't want to punt it.' Well, we couldn't punt it, but I didn't want to kick a field goal, so I was like, 'We need to go for it.' Coach [Harbaugh] let us do us, and it came out a success. The offensive line did great, and that's what it was."
COVID-19 knocked you out for a game, but no hit has ever done it. Do the hits ever really affect you? (Jamison Hensley) "It's a grown-man game. You're going to get hit no matter what. Sometimes, I'll be on the ground and might get hit, but it is what it is. I signed up for it. That's what it is. Just, I hope I get protected sometimes by the refs. But I love the game, so I'll be good. My adrenaline is rushing, so sometimes I don't really feel them – feel those hits."
Your three longest runs this season have all come up the middle. Why is that so successful for you – when you have that option to just take it right up the gut and score? (Jonas Shaffer) "That was the play-call, and knowing what the defense was in at that time, that's just the best play for that system for what the defense has out there. And like I said before, the [offensive] line just does a great job. We just read it out, we get the look, and we just take advantage of it, [and] we just score points off that – that's all."
Did it feel almost like the start of a second season? In that Cowboys game, you guys had a bunch of guys come back. Did it feel like you were almost starting anew? (Ryan Mink) "To be honest, yes, it did. It does feel new – just like you said. Just coming off the [reserve/COVID-19 list], and like I said, being away from my guys, because we're so used to being in the locker room around each other – bonding. We haven't been having that; we've been doing virtual meetings and stuff like that, and we're not getting our chemistry like we should be. We have to stay away [from the practice facility] most of the time, so when we see each other, or when I saw my guys out there on Tuesday, it was like, 'Man, we've just got to knock this rust off and get going. We've got to start now. The season is ending soon, so we've just got to finish.'"
I know you were talking about that Week One win over the Browns earlier. What's the benefit of going back to watch a game when you played very well, as opposed to maybe watching a game when you struggled? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I don't really look at the good things we did; I just want to know how they're going to play us – stuff like that – to make the game easier for us the next time we play. I don't really care about the success we had. That game is over with. We can't do anything about that game anymore. Just like a loss – you can't do anything about it anymore. So, I don't really dwell on that game. I just try to see what we can try to catch the defense on, just to take advantage and score points – that's all."
Have you had a chance to reach out to WR Dez Bryant? And how important is it to get TE Mark Andrews back in the fold? (Kevin Richardson) "I hit Dez [Bryant] up after the game, because we really wanted him out there. We know it was his former team, [and] we know what he wanted to do against that team. He wanted to score, [and] he wanted to compete – that's what he came to us for. I wanted him out there, because I just wanted to get him the ball just to make him do his thing. But it is what it is. We can't do anything about it. And you asked me about Mark [Andrews]? It's wonderful to have Mark back. Like I said before, '[He's] top two, [and] not two.' That's my guy, and I just can't wait to play Monday."
When you're going through what you were going through during that delay, and you know all your teammates who were going on the reserve/COVID-19 list, were you communicating with other teammates who may have also tested positive to talk about symptoms and see how everyone's doing? How did that go down? (Jeff Zrebiec) "A little bit. We were [communicating], but most of the time, I was asleep. I told you all, I was tired. COVID-19 had me tired. I was trying to rest to get better, so I could come back as fast as I can. I wasn't really trying to talk, to be honest."
You mention every week at this point that it kind of feels like win or go home. But does this week in particular have a big-game feel to you? (Childs Walker) "Every game is a big game for us – every week – just like Tuesday was. It's [a] win or go home [mentality]. We're not really trying to look at anyone like, 'Oh, this team. Oh, we're alright here.' Every game is important to us. Every game since the beginning of the season."
RB Gus Edwards
Everybody knows you run with a lot of power, but it looks like you have also gotten more elusive this season. Do you feel that way? How have you been going about making that happen? (Cliff Brown) "Yes, I feel a lot faster and elusive. It was a big part of my offseason program. I wanted to be better in and out of my cuts."
Congratulations on a great game – seven carries, 101 yards. That's like 14 yards a carry. When can you start feeling the defense wear down? Is it somewhere after halftime? Late third quarter? They just get tired of seeing Gus Edwards coming at them. (Kirk McEwen) "I think the defense played hard all game long, but it's a lot of credit to the 'O-line' [offensive line]. The 'O-line' really came prepared. They brought their toughness to the game and they showed how physical they play."
Would you say the team is feeling a bit more relaxed and a little bit more excited – especially with what you guys went through these last couple weeks? We just talked to QB Lamar Jackson and he seemed like he was in really high spirits. (Aaron Kasinitz) "Yes, we're excited. We got two of our leaders back. We got Lamar [Jackson] back last week. A lot of guys are coming back. We're getting Mark [Andrews] back. I think Mark [Andrews] is practicing. [Matthew] Judon – I think [is practicing] – I don't know. But [Matthew] Judon has been back in the building. So, we're excited. We're excited to be having some of our leaders back. Fresh off a win – it feels good to win. We've just got to keep that up."
On that note, did it seem like QB Lamar Jackson was having more fun in the Cowboys game than some of the earlier games this season? (Ryan Mink) "Yes, it seemed like on all my runs when I broke, he was right there. When I turned around, he was just excited. He was running down the field. He was cheering his teammates on. He was real vocal on the sideline. You could tell he missed the game through that practice, and then through the game. He was just excited. You could tell he was just having so much fun out there."
I know [running backs coach] Matt Weiss missed the past couple games. Do you have an update on how he's doing? How are you guys [running backs] keeping up with him? (Jonas Shaffer) "Coach Matt [Weiss] is doing good now. He's feeling good. He's been back in the building with us since last week; he was there for a couple of practices. Like I said, health is first. I'm just happy that everybody came back from this thing healthy, and it's great having all the guys back in the room. Now, we're just waiting on Dez [Bryant] to get back healthy."
Obviously, you have a lot of running backs. There's a lot of competition in the backfield. You're not guaranteed to have more than, maybe, a few carries per game. How much pride do you take in going out there when your name is called and maximizing your opportunities, much like you did against the Cowboys on Tuesday night? (Luke Jones) "It's really what's expected in the building. With all the 'backs that we have, with the rotation that we do, you come in there fresh and you have to make a play when your number is called. That's the team standard here."
Do you feel like you get stronger and your game gets more impactful in December when it's cold and teams don't want to see a big body 'back like you coming at them? (Ryan Mink) "I think that's when our team gets stronger. We have a physical team, physical offense, physical defense. We have to use that to our advantage in the cold weather when guys are less likely to want to tackle, when their mentality is not there. We're at a vital point in the season for us and we've got to keep on going. We've got to build off the win that we had last week."
DT Brandon Williams
Obviously, it's been a great couple of weeks for DE Derek Wolfe – your teammate there in the middle. Beyond what he's done on the field, what kind of person is he, what kind of friend, and what kind of teammate has he been as you've gotten to know him? (Jonas Shaffer) "Derek Wolfe has been an amazing teammate [and] an amazing friend. We don't stay too far from each other, so before all this craziness was happening, we got together and hung out a little bit. But the dude is amazing. Like his last name says, he's a 'wolf' – all he does is hunt. And when we were out – me and Calais [Campbell] – he stepped up in a major way. He continued to hold down the defensive line, and he continued to just be a leader out there. And pretty much, he's doing exactly what we brought him here for. He's a prototypical Raven, and we love him for it."
What about the other guys like DT Justin Madubuike, DT Broderick Washington and DT Justin Ellis? All these guys have been stepping up since you and DE Calais Campbell have been down a little bit. What can you say about them? (Kirk McEwen) "Big props to 'Jelly' [Justin Ellis], big props to [Justin] Madubuike – it sucks he got COVID-19, but he's back now, and he's ready to get after it. These guys have been stepping up in a major way. Broderick [Washington] – the guy's got raw talent, and he's honing his craft in every day, and you can see it just getting better. 'AC' [Aaron Crawford] stepping up in a major way against the Steelers. The game didn't prove what I saw, but he definitely stepped up in a major way. So, I'm happy to see what he's done and what he's becoming to be as a player. All the guys are doing well. They're definitely stepping into a role, and that's a big testament to [defensive line] Coach Joe Cullen, because he's teaching them every day. [It's] a next man up situation. So, when I went down, when Calais [Campbell] went down, when things happen, they're ready to step up whenever."
People say all the time how players get in a routine, and you guys are men of routine. Has it been difficult with the odd schedule of games – playing Wednesday, Tuesday and now Monday? How has that changed your preparation for that game, and has that been kind of difficult to adjust to? (Jeff Zrebiec) "The only preparation that changes is just which day we're going to play. Football is football, and we're ready whenever. It doesn't matter when we play. Obviously, we've got to roll with the punches. That's what we signed up for in this season of 2020. We're expecting to expect the unexpected all the time. So, we're ready for anything."
What has impressed you so much with this Browns' running game? I know you played them in the season opener, but even watching them throughout the season, what has impressed you the most about it? (Jamison Hensley) "They've got two pro bowl running backs, they've got a great offensive line, and they play as a unit well. Right now, they're doing everything right. They're doing what they need to do to win. And from seeing them since we played them, until now, they've definitely come into their own. They're a good team, they've always been a good team, and they're showing it."
When you watch QB Baker Mayfield on tape from recent weeks, do you see a quarterback who has come into his own to some degree? Has he clearly evolved this season? (Childs Walker) "Oh, definitely. If you look at some of the past games, he's not throwing those 'willy-nilly' throws or interceptions like in the beginning of the season. He's definitely come into a complete quarterback. He's definitely leading his team – like he's supposed to – at the quarterback position. So, him and the team and the whole offensive front are looking very well as a unit since the season has gone on."
Since QB Lamar Jackson became the starting quarterback a couple years ago, you guys have really rolled through the regular season until these last couple weeks. What's kind of the mindset now? How has this new group of guys reacted to some of the struggles? (Aaron Kasinitz) "No change in mindset – business as usual. Like I said before, when me and Calais [Campbell] went out – next man up. You saw 'RGIII' [Robert Griffin III] come in; I'm praying for him to get better. You saw guys step up. And that's what it is. There should be no drop off if anyone should go out at any point in time. That's how we practice, that's how we prepare. So, thankfully, we have Lamar [Jackson] back. Thankfully, we're getting guys back day-by-day with all this craziness, hoopla going on. But like I said, it's business as usual with the Ravens in 'The Castle.' We're going to continue to fight, we're going to continue to push forward, and we're going to continue to finish out this season."