Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, I'd like to wish everybody a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah. [It's] my favorite time of the year. Christmas Eve is, personally, my favorite night of the year. So, we have much to be thankful for [and] many blessings as we navigate this crazy year of 2020. So, I just wanted to wish everybody peace and joy and great blessings. OK, what questions do you have?"
We saw QB Lamar Jackson wearing his "Finish" t-shirt yesterday. With how everything is and how you know how you have to finish the next two weeks, have you seen more of these guys wearing their "Finish" t-shirts on Zoom meetings recently? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, we gave them out a few weeks ago. They have been wearing them; they like the t-shirt. I think some of it is the message – Lamar [Jackson] does seem to be conscious about that. We have another one that they've gotten recently that is kind of a symbolic one, also. You'll see that one soon, I'm sure. But I think it's more about how the thing fits; if it feels good, they like to wear it, too. But certainly, finishing not just games, but games, drives, series, quarters, halves, weightlifting sessions, plays, reps – everything. Finish everything; that's something that's very important."
They changed the rules in the last couple of weeks, I think, involving interviewing assistant coaches. Does that impact … You always like to see your guys get other opportunities, but obviously, you're in a very important time. Have you heard anything from different teams wanting permission? How do you feel about that rule in general? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I don't really have an opinion on it – I don't know. We haven't had any requests yet. It seems like it's kind of an odd time for guys to be preparing for the most important part of the season to take time to prepare for an interview, but we'll see. We'll cross that bridge if we get there when the time comes. Certainly, as you said, I'm very supportive of our guys getting opportunities."
Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton
Overall, how have you been impressed with the decision-making of your rookie returners? Because sometimes, when you have first-year players, you have one or two hiccups throughout the whole year. How impressed have you been with their decision-making – as far as when to catch the ball, when to return, when to do the fair catch, things like that? (Jamison Hensley) "It's just one of those things that we talk about early on when a rookie first enters into our camp and into our team. We just tell those guys we want to be efficient. And there are certain things that … You don't have to return every ball. We want to return the balls that make the most sense to us – the ones that are going to get us the most yards. So, we just kind of look at it in that way. Our guys have done a great job – both Devin [Duvernay] and James [Proche II]. You would think these guys are veteran guys with how they go out there and how they handle themselves. I've been very impressed with what they've done, and they're doing a great job. They're both at the top, and they're getting yards, and they're getting effective yards, and they're efficient, and they're protecting the football. They're doing everything that we ask. So, very pleased with those guys and what they're doing."
Obviously, the two head coaches in this game are both former special teams coordinators. When you look at your franchise, how do you think the Ravens are different because of John Harbaugh's background on special teams? (Aaron Kasinitz) "That's a great question. When you think about 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] and where he's come from, and kind of how he came up, he started through special teams. So, I think his idea of knowing how to build the program and what it takes, and what you're looking for – the type of player you want. We say we want to be physical, [and] we want to be fast. And I think that's how – if you look at our team – that's how we build. So, I think that background goes a long way when you become a head coach."
Earlier in the week, WR/RS Chris Moore was activated, officially, to the 53-man [roster]. There's been a lot of talk about him all year – partly because he's dealt with some stuff and some injuries. Why is he so important and so vital to what you guys do on special teams? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It's simple – you just turn on the tape and you see No. 10 [Chris Moore]. He pops up; he pops off the tape. I think whenever guys are – the opponents are watching him – they're talking about him in their meeting rooms whenever he's out on the field. So, just the whole idea of what he does, how he comes out, how he approaches the game, how he practices, how he goes out and plays – it's huge. He's valuable. Yes, we've missed him this entire year due to his situations, but if we can get him … Like I've always said, we're going to be fired up to have him whenever we can get him playing."
How rewarding is it to see K Justin Tucker and LS Morgan Cox get honored with the Pro Bowl? Obviously, it's kind of become 'old-hat' for those guys. But, does it ever get old for you to see those guys get the recognition that they've earned? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It never gets old; it never gets old at all. I think any time you have those types of players on your team … We want to see all of our guys make the Pro Bowl. It just says, 'Hey, you guys are playing to a level that your peers actually respect you, they see you, and they're voting you in.' But it also goes to some of the guys that don't make it. When you think about Justin [Tucker] and Morgan [Cox], and those guys continue to make it [Pro Bowl], let's not forget about Sam [Koch]. Sam has been outstanding in his career, and he hasn't been named in there. So, it's just one of those things. All three of those guys have played at a Pro Bowl-level. Only so many guys can get picked, but I'd like to give credit to all three of those guys, because all of three of those guys are playing at a high level. Also, you talk about some of our core guys that didn't make it. You know what, let's just keep playing ball. I just tell those guys, 'You just keep playing ball and your time will come. As long as your putting good stuff on film, people will respect it, other opponents will see it.'"
DB/LB Anthony Levine Sr. has played through some injuries here, I guess in the past couple weeks. What does he mean to your special teams [unit] as a leader for those young guys? (Todd Karpovich) "[Anthony] Levine [Sr.] is ready to go. Anytime he's out there on that field, he's going to be ready to go. I don't have any question about if he's hurt or not. If he's on the field, he's ready to go. And he's a great leader for those guys. Again, we have other guys who have stepped into that role that are leading now. For example, Chris Board, Jordan Richards – all those core guys. Justice [Hill] – he's even taken that leadership role. All these guys – L.J. Fort … We have other leaders on that team. So, [if] we happen to be missing him [Anthony Levine Sr.] at some point, we've got guys that can step up and get these guys playing at a high level, just like No. 41 [Anthony Levine Sr.] does for us."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Opening statement: "I'd just like to start out by offering my sincerest condolences to the family of Kevin Greene; his wife, Tara, Gavin and Gabrielle, his son and daughter. I had the great fortune of coaching and working with Kevin Greene a long time ago. He was a shining example of hard work, passion, dedication [and] teamwork. He had a great Hall of Fame career. He was a great player, but also a great husband, a great father [and] a great friend. [He was] a tough guy to workout with. I used to workout with him; I had a hard time, usually, walking the next day. I'm sure he's found a gym up in heaven, and heaven is a better place. Rest in peace.
"We're getting ready to play this Giants team. As far as their defense, [they're] extremely talented and have a lot of high draft picks in the defensive front. They're excellent players. They're playing at a high level. They're really coached well. They do a lot; [they're] a very multiple defense, both in their front and coverage. Statistically, they're doing really well, but really, all you need to do is turn on the tape and look at it. They have one of the most instinctive linebackers, [Blake] Martinez. They have a really good secondary, with [James] Bradberry, Logan Ryan and those guys back there. So, we have our work cut out for us. The guys are really focused in. We just had a great walk-through. Any questions?"
With QB Lamar Jackson, we only get to watch a little part of practice. During the week when you're watching him at practice … Is there any kind of barometer from when you're watching him in practice where you're like, "OK. He's going to have a really good game?" Or you can say, "OK. He's going to have a good game, but maybe not one of his best because of the way he's practicing?" (Jamison Hensley) "I think that's a good question. That really kind of goes to every player, really. You want to create an environment and practice as if you're playing a game and build those habits. So, that's really what we … I think Lamar [Jackson] has grown quite a bit in that area, and there's still room to go. So, that's something we definitely want to continue doing. But as far as having a crystal ball, I think you definitely get a feel for things. I think how we go out and play … Really, it's not just him; it's all the guys around him supporting him, making plays for him [and] blocking for him. Football is the ultimate team sport. The more we can practice like we play, and have that mindset, the better off [we are]. That's a good question."
We talked to RB J.K. Dobbins last week. I had mentioned to him something about hitting a rookie wall, and he said that he's used to playing long seasons in Texas and at Ohio State. Do you manage rookies any differently? What's been the key for him? He seems to be getting stronger every game. (Todd Karpovich) "I think every person is different. Just because they have a jersey and a helmet on, they're still a person. I think the more mentally tough [and] disciplined people who have the ability to have present-time consciousness and focus on the moment, as well as having the discipline to see ahead and understand that one day leads to the next … I think the more guys grow into that as a professional, the better they are in terms of consistency, day-in and day-out, week-in and week-out, through the entire season. So, it really comes down to each individual person. I think these guys are doing a good job. J.K [Dobbins] is doing a good job. He's young. He's a rookie, so there's room for improvement in every area – just like any rookie in this league. So, that's what we're trying to do today – get a little bit better today."
Another rookie, WR Devin Duvernay, hasn't gotten quite as many snaps these last couple weeks. With him specifically, what are kind of the decisions that go into how much to use him and what different ways to use him? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Each guy is different. Sometimes, it just plays out that way. Sometimes, some weeks you get more reps than others, based on how the whole thing fits together. I think everybody is kind of tied on the same string. So, if somebody has a tweak or an injury of some kind, other guys are going to get more reps. If they're not – if they're healthy – they'll get probably less. And then, on how the game gets called, based on how it's going … Every week, we like Devin [Duvernay]. He needs to keep coming, and every week is different. So, we'll see how it goes this week."
When you go up against a team like the Giants who haven't actually played any top-notch tight ends, but the ones they have played against have had success against them, does that play into your gameplan when you guys set out? (Kevin Richardson) "I think everybody looks at that type of thing. Once you look at those kinds of analytics and statistics and tendencies, then you look at the film and try to figure out what builds these tendencies [and] what builds these percentages, et cetera. Why are they completing more balls to this position? Why are they giving up more in this area in the run game? All of those things. So, you want to build that kind of understanding, and figure out how you can attack it with your personnel and your team. I definitely think that we have some tight ends that we really like, obviously. We're going to try to make plays at every position, really. A lot of that comes down to how the defense chooses to play in the passing game; if they're going to play a certain style, then you might be able to hit more underneath routes. If they're going to play a different style, you can hit more deeper routes – that kind of thing. We have a lot of respect for their defense; they're playing well."
With WR Marquise Brown – and I'm talking about pretty much for any player – if they're going through a time where they're not playing as well as they would like to … When he catches an important pass like he did against Cleveland, in your experience, can a big play like that really propel a player for the rest of the season? Can it really give a boost and get a guy out of what they think is a slump? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, I definitely think so. A play like that is like hitting a grand slam in the ninth inning; you're going to be feeling pretty good about yourself as you're trotting around the bases. Talking to Marquise [Brown] in the locker room after the game, he was disappointed. Even having made that big play, he was disappointed. He knows he can play better than that, and I think we saw that last week. I think over the course of time, success breeds success. That's why every play is so important, and one play leads to the next. It was great to see him come out last week and play the way he did; we're going to need that."
We asked head coach John Harbaugh after the game Sunday if the offense has found its identity, and he said, "I think that remains to be seen." Is this the kind of offense, with how it's performing – the level and the style – that you kind of imagined what a fully functional offense would look like? (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes, I think we're playing well right now. I think since Lamar [Jackson] has come back from his bout with COVID-19, I think he probably is playing better than anybody in the league, when you really look at it. So, I think that he's a huge catalyst for that. But getting back to it, it's all 11 people doing their job. I don't think we've arrived at an identity yet, or a final outcome; there are more chapters in this book. So, we're trying to chase it. [We] chase getting better all the time. When you look at what an offense is supposed to do, our guys have been doing it recently. It's something that we need to keep building on and understand that it's a week-in and week-out thing. It's a consistency that really breeds greatness this time of year."
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Opening statement: "First of all, Merry Christmas to everybody. I can't believe it's Christmas already, number one. It's that time of year. And I know this has been a trying year, and I just wanted you guys to know that I appreciate the tough times [and] tough spots that you guys have been put in doing this all virtually. It's just sort of … Basically, like I told the players; 'Just control what we can control, and let's move forward.' I want to wish a Merry Christmas to you and the fans of this great city. And I know they're not in the stands, but we can still hear them, as well. Happy Holidays, and here we go."
It doesn't seem like the Giants have officially said QB Daniel Jones is playing, but it seems like it may be trending that way. When you're preparing a gameplan not knowing who is going to be the starter, is it a different challenge? Or, because the offense is so similar, it doesn't really matter? (Jamison Hensley) "It's a challenge because of the way [Giants offensive coordinator] Jason [Garrett] has prepared both those guys. And it is a different offense; one might throw it quicker than the other, one might hold it a little bit longer – whatever you want to say – but it's still the Giants' offense when it comes right down to it. And they have two quality quarterbacks there; I think the first-rounder [Daniel Jones] is playing like a first-rounder, and to have Colt McCoy be his backup, I think they've done a nice job of having a backup with him. So, it's similar, but it's not – to answer your question."
You've been getting a lot of head-coaching buzz lately. Obviously, with your experience last year, do you have any expectations in the process? I know you have your plate full anyway, but do you have any expectations in the process? And what you went through last year, can that help this time of year? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, going through the process last year, number one, surely did help. The thing that gives me the advantage of going through the process last year and going into it this year is I know I'm going to be myself, because I love the job that I'm at, the culture that [head coach] John [Harbaugh] and [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] and [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] and [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] [have built]. [The culture] that we've built here is outstanding, and I know what I want to see when I get into those opportunities. A lot of people go into those opportunities, and they want to win a three-hour interview; I want to win three Super Bowl trophies. So, I'm going to make sure that it's the right fit, and I'm just going to be myself, because that's worked out OK for me so far. It's one of those things that, it's exciting to be looked at. I understand why we're looked at, because, number one, it's all about the players – always has been, always will be – and it's about this organization. People are interested in people in this organization. It's a humbling experience, but yet it's also an exciting time, as well. It's one of those things that I don't think that you need to worry about until the end of the year. When it happens, it'll happen. We'll just see where we go from there."
OLB Tyus Bowser is now tied for the team lead with three interceptions. Can you just talk about his development in pass coverage and how he's become a complete linebacker this season? (Todd Karpovich) "Yes, he's an outside 'backer, pass-rusher first. The whole process of four years is coming to fruition right now. He's always been good in coverage, and with the way we used him this year, he's had the ball come to him right at the right time. And it's not always on third down; it's first and second down, as well. But it just talks to the value of Tyus Bowser and what he can do. To be able to rush the passer and also drop in coverage, that's a talent, and we really appreciate it. He's just one of those pieces. He and Matt Judon are two chess pieces that you have, especially on third down, that people don't know if they're rushing or dropping. And there have been others, as well – same thing with 'DBs' [defensive backs], same thing with defensive ends and everything else. But those two have really excelled in third down, and they basically run the show out there on third down. It's been great."
With OLB Matthew Judon, he hasn't had quite as many sacks as he did last year, but it's his second trip to the Pro Bowl in two seasons. Obviously, he's doing a lot of things well. How has he progressed or grown his game, even since last year? (Ryan Mink) "I think he's become a complete football player – on all three downs. He's a very intelligent player, too. He tries to play [it off] like he's not, but he is a smart football player. And every year you get that experience, the game slows down for you more and more. I just think the world of him. It's the same thing like I was talking about with Tyus [Bowser] before; he's so unselfish, and he's just as happy when his teammates have success than when he does, and that's rare in today's world, period. That's what I appreciate and respect most about Matt [Judon]."
How do you keep your players' chemistry flowing with all of the changes on the roster every week? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "That's a good question. I think that's a credit to [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta], for the guys they bring in. He looks for tough, smart football players, and once they get here and they see how we are in the defensive room and how we are as a team, and that all comes from [head coach] John [Harbaugh]. I think it's really easy to keep a chemistry flowing. So, that's a credit to the personnel and to the head coach, as well."
I know a lot of factors go into who's up and who's not on gameday, but with you guys having six outside linebackers, all of which contribute, how difficult is it if the decision comes down to DE Jihad Ward or OLB Jaylon Ferguson? That seems to be what's happened in recent weeks. Is that a tough call for you guys? And how tough is to not have both those guys up? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It's tough, because you like the way both of them are playing. Other factors go into it, as well, like you said before – on special teams and everything else that can go into that decision on who you want to have up. Last week it was [Jaylon Ferguson]; the week before it was [Jihad Ward]. And we'll just go and see who has the best week of practice, where we're at on special teams, and I think that's how the decision comes out there with that. And who is playing well on the defensive line, as well, because of Jihad's versatility."
A couple years ago, when you rebuilt some of the defensive playbook and language in there, has that helped this year, specifically, when you're doing all the virtual stuff? Have you noticed the simplicity of that paying off more so than last year? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Without a doubt. Thanks for asking that question. When [head coach] John [Harbaugh] charged us to redo the playbook, and to simplify the verbiage of the playbook, and have reasons why you're calling different things, I think it's easier to teach for the coaches, and it's easier for the players to grasp. And you've seen that, really, for the last three years when you put people into this defense. We're really happy with it."
Closing statement: "Thanks guys. Once again, Merry Christmas. Be safe, stay healthy."