HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH
*Opening statement: *"OK. [It's] good to see everybody. [I] appreciate you being out here. [It was the] first day in pads, [an] exciting day. Guys had a lot of fun. We got a little bit better. [I] can't wait to see the tape, so what questions do you have?"
S Geno Stone left about 10-15 minutes ago with an apparent ankle injury. Can you comment on that? (Jonas Schaffer) "No, nothing really to say. It didn't look too serious. We'll get some more information as we go here."
What kind of things are you looking for once the pads are on with G/T Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu?_ (Bo Smolka)_ "Well, this is the first time – when the pads come on – that it becomes a physical contest, a football contest in that sense. So, you don't have that before you put pads on and get into these drills that are – though they are not 100 percent live by any stretch – they are still going to be physical contests. You just want to see how he [Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu] holds up and see how he competes."
What did you make of the first day with pads? (Cordell Woodland) "It was a good practice, from just being out here, seeing it live and I thought the guys did a good job. It was a clean practice. Guys did a nice job, also, of taking care of each other but still being physical and playing fast. Then ... I'm sure we have a lot to work on."
What have you seen from NT Michael Pierce?_ (Kyle Barber)_ "Right. Well, yes. You know obviously, to your point, I think [Michael Pierce] had a really great start to training camp. Michael Pierce has really expressed himself out here the way he does, with physicality. Today we put the pads on, so he had a chance to do it a little more for real. He looks great doing it. I think he's in really good shape, and [he's] excited to play some football."
What have you seen so far in camp from QB Tyler Huntley?_ (Jamison Hensley)_ "Tyler [Huntley] has done a great job. I think from Tyler ... What I've seen from Tyler is he's been on point. He really has. He's been on point every day. He's stacked days in terms of attention to detail and fundamental execution, and that's what we were looking for. He's doing a good job."
We saw DB Brandon Stephens taking first-team reps in the slot. I know you had said earlier in the summer that he might be more safety this year. Is he a real candidate to be the main nickel? (Childs Walker) "Yes. Oh heck, yes. It's a competition, especially for that spot. They all … All those guys want it. So, we'll just see how it goes the next few weeks."
WR Nelson Agholor had a nice touchdown and he's looked pretty good over the course of the spring. What stands out to you about Agholor and how he can help this offense? (Garret Downing) "Well, yes. It's really the same thing we have been talking about already. He's a pro. Nelson [Agholor] knows how to play. He's a big, rangy receiver like you saw there when he made that catch. He runs routes really well. He's a hard worker. He knows what he's doing, and I'm sure glad that we have him."
With CB Damarion Williams back out there today, you have a lot of young corners. How important is this camp for that position to develop the coach's confidence in these young guys? (Gerry Sandusky) "Well, that's exactly it. I mean you have to establish yourself at some point, right? At some point in time as a player, you have to establish yourself as a 53-man roster [spot], as a viable, consistent contributor and then as a starter and then as an established starter, and then [you go] from there. Those guys are on the first leg of that journey."
It's crazy to think that this is TE Mark Andrews' sixth training camp here with you guys. What has really stood out to you about what makes Mark Andrews great? What separates him from the others? (Jamison Hensley) "For me what I see, the physical talent is pretty clear, but what I see is the competitiveness. He's a Pitbull competitor. He really is, and that's what I appreciate about him the most."
With the offseason continuity between ILB Patrick Queen and defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, inside linebackers coach Zach Orr and ILB Roquan Smith, what do you think that will mean for him as he goes into his contract year? (Jonas Shaffer) "Well, I think the sky is the limit for Patrick [Queen]. My expectations for Patrick are for [him] to have a stellar season, and it's only been affirmed by the way he's practiced, the way he's carried himself. He's in a contract year and all that kind of stuff. Sometimes guys get distracted, and he has not been distracted at all. He is locked in on the mission ahead. You appreciate that, and it's showing up in the way he's playing every day."
What have you seen from ILB Trenton Simpson as he's developed early in this game? (Ryan Mink) "Exactly. He's a young player, so he's further … He's a rookie in terms of learning the defense [and] learning special teams. But, yes – the twitch, the ability to cover ground, to go from point A to point Z, B [or] anywhere in between – he's shown the ability to do that. He's got a great attitude, and he works really hard."
We've seen the defense ramping up with pads on, but how about the offense?_ (Kyle Barber)_ "The offense is coming together. We're less than a week in. The first couple of days you look at, and you're like, 'Boy, they have a long way to go,' but you can travel far as long as you travel together, and they're doing a good job of that. I feel like we've made some big strides on offense the last few days."
What have you seen from the defense from a communications standpoint? Do you think they are louder? (Melissa Kim) "Communication … We have two words we talk about with communication, football communication. We use the word gregarious, and we use the word obnoxious, and we want both of them out there. We actually start with obnoxious, and then it can go to gregarious. A loud defense is usually a great defense because it's a confident defense. It knows what it's doing, and it's on the same page. I really feel like our guys are working very hard with that, and they've done well with it."
What have you seen out of ILB Roquan Smith each day during camp and during the offseason? _(Brian Wacker) _"[Roquan Smith] is in great shape. He just brings it every day. It's nothing new for him. That's just how he's wired. That's who he is. He is all football. He's all in, every moment of every day, and you appreciate that. And he brings everybody with him, but everybody is with him anyway. It's not just him. Marlon [Humphrey] is the same way. Marcus [Williams] is the same way. We've got the young guys up front with the same mindset. I feel really good about the group that way. He knows the defense better. He's in a place now where I think the defense is really starting to … The pieces are starting to fit together for him really well."
ASSISTANT HEAD COACH/DEFENSIVE LINE ANTHONY WEAVER
You lost DE Calais Campbell, and he's not here anymore. But how would you describe this group up front collectively? (Jamison Hensley) "Wow, I think we have a veteran-led group. It probably starts with Mike Pierce, Brent Urban, but the guys who are going into their fourth years – Broderick Washington, Justin Madubuike – they're hungry, they're champing at the bit. They want to … We obviously miss Calais [Campbell] – we love him – but they want to show that they can, not only pick up the slack, but do more. So, I'm excited about where the group is heading. I love their work ethic. I just love their attention to detail. I think it's going to be a fun year."
What is your sense for what NT Michael Pierce wants to get out of the rest of his career at this point? He was here last year but had the injury. Where is he in your mind right now? (Childs Walker) "Mike [Pierce] has been working all offseason. He's been here the entire time. And behind all the adversity is a blessing and a lesson, right? So, you get hurt, you're disappointed, but all that time, he's just gotten work. So, his goal is to come out here and completely dominate – win a Pro Bowl [nod]; prove that he's worth every dollar he's been paid – and he's got the ability to do all that. So, hopefully, God willing, he can be out there for all 17 [games], and if he is, he's going to help this defense an awful lot. I'd love to play behind him if I was [No.] 6 [Patrick Queen] and [No.] 0 [Roquan Smith]; the guy eats up two gaps."
Do you sense a chip on NT Michael Pierce's shoulder because of what happened last year? (Pete Gilbert) "Without question. Mike Pierce loves the game of football; he loves the Baltimore Ravens. So, him not being out there absolutely killed him. And he just wants to go out there and light the world on fire, and I think he has the chance to do it."
DT Justin Madubuike had a career year last season. Do you see him making even bigger strides from last year to this year? What do you see from him? (Ryan Mink) "Yes. 'Buike' [Justin Madubuike] … You guys have talked to him; he's kind of quiet. He's not going to give you a bunch of long answers. But that guy loves ball, and all he does is work. You see a guy, who, now has started for three years – two, three years – could have a sense of entitlement, [could] think he's arrived, [but] he doesn't feel that way at all. When you go out there and watch him, he acts like he's going to get chopped tomorrow. So, because of that mindset he has, he can absolutely get better and improve on a year ago."
For some of those interior guys, it seems like the pass rush skills come in Year Four, Year Five. Why do you think that learning curve kind of is the way it is, and how do you see that tracking for guys like DT Justin Madubuike and DT Broderick Washington? (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes, I think a lot of that just happens through pre-snap identification. As a rookie, you're just trying to come in and learn what to do [and] where to go. As you progress in your maturity, as you gain more experience, once you know that [pre-snap identification] now you can look at some of all the other extraneous things happening. You can hear protections, slide calls, [and] know when to take advantage when you do get that one on one. So, I think that's probably why that happens. It's that maturation of having been in the scheme, knowing the system, where now you can take some graduate-level steps and see all the other stuff happening around it."
I noticed that OLB Tavius Robinson called an on-field stunt to loop over the lineman. What rules exist that allow players to set up their own games on the field, as opposed to those that come in from the sideline? (Ken McKusick) "We obviously go into games with plans, but we try to empower our guys as much as we possibly can. We give them as much pre-snap information as possible. Hopefully, what we've seen on tape holds true, and then they have opportunities to call that in those games. Obviously, from our perspective, we're trying to exploit space in the protection. And if they can identify that and tell us that off the field, 'Hey, call what you want,' and let's take advantage of it."
We saw DT Broderick Washington have a really good year last season. What do you think went into his growth as a player? (Cordell Woodland) "I don't know that there's a person in this building that works harder than Broderick Washington. That guy … Just … If you even look [at] his body from when he got [here] to how it is now, he looks completely different. You talk about a guy that's taken every bit of coaching and then some – it's him. So, I'm not surprised by any of his success, and I would expect more."
With DE Calais Campbell's departure, how do you plan on filling his nearly 400 pass-rush snaps from last season? Who are the candidates to fill those snaps? (Kyle Barber) "Yes, we'll see. It's probably going to be a by-committee approach. We're missing Tyus Bowser, who's not out there right now. He's going to take a bunch of those. Justin Madubuike … It will probably be a little bit different, right? Calais [Campbell] was out there; he was kind of a finesse rusher. We have some guys that can power the pocket in Mike Pierce and Travis Jones. So, it's definitely going to be a by-committee approach, but I think we can attack [it] in waves, with complementary pieces that'll be change-ups to the offense, too, which could be fun to watch."
What do you guys want to see out of DT Travis Jones? (Jonas Shaffer) "From Travis [Jones], you want to see the same progression that we saw with Broderick Washington. He [Broderick Washington] comes in his first year; there were some things he struggled with, [and] a lot of that was from a technique standpoint. It was the exact same thing with Travis. It's important for him to get all these reps in the preseason, as much as he possibly can – repetition is the mother of skill – and hopefully, through that, he can build that foundation and then allow his God-given ability to take off. So, hopefully, God willing, we see the same thing we saw out of Broderick."
In the past, we've seen NT Michael Pierce and DT Brandon Williams out there at the same time. Is that something we could see from DT Travis Jones and Pierce this year? (Ken McKusick) "Yes, that can definitely happen. A lot of that is based on opponent and scheme and what we're going to see. Obviously, if it's a heavy run team, you can definitely see that package. Or there are maybe just a couple soft guys inside that we want to mash, and you can see them out there, too. But I would not rule out that combination at all."
NT MICHAEL PIERCE
*On relishing the first padded practice: *"Yes, it was fun, especially for me. Missing those last two years, it was fun to get the pads on [and] try some new stuff that I've been working on with [outside linebackers coach] Chuck [Smith] and [assistant head coach/defensive line] 'Weave' [Anthony Weaver]. For linemen, especially nose guards and 'D' tackles, the 'shells' as we call them, those soft pads, don't really tell much. That's where you get to see the young guys who you think can make the team and all that kind of stuff. For me, it's about trying stuff and just making sure I add some different things in my repertoire going into the season. I had a blast today, man."
On if he approached anything differently to get ready for this season after injuries the last two seasons: "Yes, certainly. Obviously, [I] started rehab. I came here, didn't miss a day of OTAs. [I] just stayed in there with the training staff. They got me back strong, got me back healthy relatively quickly. [I'm] just doing the things I need to do every day. [I] took up hot yoga. I was talking to somebody over there. I go to The Mine and do hot yoga each and every Saturday, probably like twice a week. [I'm] just being more flexible, more stretching, dialing in with [director of sports nutrition] Sarah [Snyder] in nutrition. [I'm] just doing all the little things that you can, especially as you get older in this league. You start to notice different things in your body. [I'm] just investing in myself, making sure I cross off every little thing that I can to make sure I can be here and durable for the next 17, 18, however many weeks we've got."
On if he has a chip on his shoulder because of his previous injury history: "Oh, certainly. [I was] undrafted, fought my way from the back to be looked up as a leader on this defense and on this D-line. It's more than I could've ever dreamed of or imagined. Just to have that opportunity to lead those guys and play next to 'Brody' [Broderick Washington] and 'Buikes' [Justin Madubuike] and everybody is a blessing in itself. It's about proving who I am and just earning that each and every day, and then when the games come, putting it on film every week."
On if he has noticed a difference in how he is moving and feeling during this first week of training camp: "Yes. For me, when you miss those OTAs and stuff, or you miss tons and tons of reps throughout the season, you can get a little rusty. But, for now, I hit the ground running [during] OTAs, [and I] came out here, started effecting the quarterback right away. That's something I've been working on the past few years. The past two years, I've been doing really well. [I] just had those seasons cut short. I feel good. I'm moving well. I'm affecting the quarterback. Obviously, playing the run well. I feel good in my pass rush, and I've just been really, really drilling that stuff with [outside linebackers coach] Chuck [Smith] and those guys this offseason. It's been paying off pretty well, and the pads will keep telling the story."
On if the focus for the defensive line was to set the tone during the first padded practice: "Yes. Here, Haloti [Ngata], 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs], Brandon [Williams], we can go on and on. Those guys set the tone each and every Sunday. Mike [Macdonald] and the staff have done a really good job of just reminding and drilling us through that each and every day. They show little clips of different things. We just chop things down, work things out as an organization from 2000 on. It's a standard that you have to reestablish every year, and I think we did a good job of that today. We have a long way to go. It's just about doing that every day and making sure each and every team knows when they play us, we might not have a $100 million guy [on the defensive line] or whatever the case may be but when they play us, it's going to hurt. So, that's the thing."
On if he tries and sharpen the skills of some of the young offensive linemen on the team: "(Laughter) I don't look at it that way. I just make myself hold up to the [defensive] standard. I think it's more so about helping those guys along as well as just not succeeding against them. We're all on the same team at the end of the day. If I may hit a move that works, if they have a question or something, I'll definitely talk to them. I don't hold too much back on them, but that's just for me making sure I'm where I need to be but also bringing them along and helping them with anything that I may beat them on or anybody else may beat them on. It's kind of like an 'iron sharpens iron' kind of thing that we use here. I think they're doing really well, doing really well."
*On if the young offensive linemen have asked him a lot of questions: *"It depends. If I get them on a couple moves, the same type of thing every day, yes, then they'll say, 'What was that' or, 'How do you see that' or, 'How do you fit that and different types of things like that.' For the most part, we kind of just leave each other to ourselves. 'Coach D' [Joe D'Alessandris] does a great job of coaching [the offensive line] up. I don't hold too much back on them. As we get closer to the season, we'll start talking more. But right now, they're pretty amped up, and they've got to stop me like I have to beat them. I think right now we kind of just keep it even."
On the high-energy players on the defensive line like Odafe Oweh and Justin Madubuike and if that's important to a defense: "Yes. We had those guys like Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott and Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. You need those energetic type of guys. You failed to mention 'Ro' [Roquan Smith]. 'Ro' will talk to you, especially if he gets a good hit on them. Marlon [Humphrey]'s energetic. I'm kind of the even kind of guy out of everybody. It's awesome to have those guys, because even when I may not be having a good stretch of plays, those kind of guys give you a lot of energy and keep things moving. I definitely enjoy playing next to all three of those guys."
On his emotional cycle last season and if there were days it was hard: "Oh yes. Definitely. For me, not only being out that season before just seeing how well we were playing and just to see [and] watch those plays two years in a row. [I was] like 'Dang, I could've made that play' or, 'I could've helped Trav [Travis Jones] on this.' Just missing the locker room in general is tough. You definitely have a swing of emotions, especially when you go through surgery. You don't get to travel. You're kind of just in rehab, sitting in there, hours and hours a day. At the end of the day, [I] didn't want to give up on my career, obviously. I just take that in stride. We've seen a lot of people do a lot of amazing things here, missing time and then come back – Ronnie Stanley comes to mind. He's back playing at an All-Pro level. We don't have time to really get down on yourself if you want to keep playing. You take it on the chin and line up for next year."
ILB PATRICK QUEEN
*On if things change when the pads come on: *"You have to be more physical. I think that's the main focus of today. Even if you mess up – mess up 100 percent – being physical. So, everything else we can correct in the film room, in the classroom, but the main focus of today is just come out and get past Day One, set the tone and just look to get better from there."
On wanting to set the tone as a defensive front: "I think it was good. I think it could have been a lot better. [There were] two runs that weren't explosive runs, but it was still like a 7-yard run. So, eliminate those two that we had, [and] I think it was an overall good day."
On approaching a contract season and if he's involved in it: "At the end of the day, I get to play football in the National Football League, so that's a blessing in itself. I talked to [head coach John Harbaugh] and talked to [general manager] Eric [DeCosta], and everything is good and selling right now. I'm not focused on the contract; I'm just looking to play ball. At the end of the day, I get to go out here and play football [and] make my mark at what I want it to be. I'm not stressing anything. I'm just going out there having fun with my teammates, having fun with my coaches and just getting to play ball."
On if he's having conversations with RB J.K. Dobbins about his contract situation: "I think everyone's situation is different. I know J.K.'s faith is strong, we both trust in God to lead us in the right direction, and wherever that direction may be – ours are totally different right now. His situation is different than mine. J.K. has been hurt before. I think he's seen how scary that side can be. So, I think he has his own perspective on things. I have my own perspective on things, and I think at the end of the day, you have to respect our decisions. Everybody on the outside has views of how we should feel, how we should do things, but at the end of the day – like I said – he's been in this situation before, so I can see where he's coming from."
On if he had someone he could lean on for advice during his contract dispute: "[It was] really myself and God, just praying. Everybody around me was pissed, but I was pissed myself, but at the end of the day ... I get to go out here and play football in the National Football League. Too many people don't get to do that. Like I said, my faith is strong. I believe in God for what I want, and at the end of the day, I'm just going to come out here and give it 100 percent effort for my teammates, for my coaches, for my family and just be the best player I can be and try to get better."
On if there's unfinished business from last season: "Most definitely. I think that's the whole thing about our standard here; we don't like to leave stuff on the field. We definitely left some plays on the field last year, so now we're all just coming back. Like I said – the other day – we're just trying to communicate better. All [of] our plays last year that we messed up on were communication errors, so we all understand that. That's why we're coming out there, you see everybody talking. We're all flowing together. Everything is clicking right now. So, it's definitely unfinished business."
On if the ups and downs he went through have given him motivation to get better: "Yes. Coming into the league, a lot of people know I didn't play that much in college, and switching positions from college to the league, playing Mike [Middle Linebacker] is a very difficult task. Just being able to switch from my first year to midway through my second year and learn a whole new position was a challenge [in] itself, but I think I kind of found a common ground in which I needed to be prepared for knowing both positions. I think when I first learned Mike, I was just learning my position, and that what really messed me up – not knowing both positions – and that would have helped me in a defense itself just knowing both. It would have been a whole lot less mess ups and stuff, but I think that's actually helped me now. So now that I know both positions, it's way easier just being able to take my time and play football."
On if he's still scratching the surface on the type of player he'll be: "Yes, I definitely haven't even gotten close to the player I can be. Everybody around here knows it. I think people around the league know it. That's why I'm out here just trying to get better, trying to compete [and] trying to just master my craft. I think when I do that, the whole league is going to be on notice."
On if he took any motivation from the national champion LSU baseball team: "I definitely did. [The] boys were out there balling. [They] went [and] won it. Dylan [Crews] is right down the street, so whenever he gets up here with the Nationals, I'm going to go up there and catch some games, most definitely."
On if he could have gone Division I in baseball: "[I] could have, most definitely. I was actually talking to some schools. I had some schools reach out. I definitely could have [gone] that route. I should have [gone] that route. I should have tried to do both, experiment a little bit, but I think it all worked out."
On if he has any personal goals for the season: "Personal, not really, [but] just to up every step that I had. I want more tackles, more picks, forced fumbles, sacks, whatever it may be. I just want to up each category that I had."
On how good the run defense will be this season: "It can be great. We all know how good we can be. All the guys upfront have already been in the fire, every single one of them. We know what the standard is. That's why I said, the 7-yard runs, we know we're better than that. So, at the end of the day a team might get seven yards, but the [more] you can limit and just get better off of that … holding a team to less than 70 yards a game, that's just stuff we need to build on."
On DT Michael Pierce being able to play most or all of the season: "He's definitely going to knock people off the ball. [It's] hard to get his hands on them, but when he gets his hands on them, he can do whatever he wants. That's a guy we just can't wait to see go to action."
On if he sees a chance for a 1-3 technique opportunity to line up with DT Travis Jones like he did with DT Brandon Williams earlier in his career: "I would say yes and no. There was not a Justin Madubuike to take those kind of reps when we were there. I think we had traded Timmy Jernigan, and that was kind of more of a need thing. Now, Travis [Jones] is an amazing player. If you watched any of his reps – I don't want to date myself or anything – he probably looks stronger than I am. [He's a] big guy, physical, kind of reminds me of Brandon [Williams], but he has some really exquisite move skills. So, I don't know how much, maybe in run situations, but we've got 'Buikes' [Justin Madubuike] there, and you're not really going to take a lot of reps away from him. We have a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things. Not only him, but 'Brody' [Broderick Washington] as well. That'll be hard for teams to gameplan. Just some different fastballs and stuff like that. But yes, I definitely look forward to playing at least a couple runs with Travis for sure."
On if he can tell the improvements C Tyler Linderbaum has made in pass protection: "Yes. You can tell he's very, very technically sound, but he can anchor a lot better. I don't know if he gained a little weight or not, or [if he's] just getting stronger as he's growing. He's definitely gotten a lot better. Like I said, I don't know if … I don't watch Big Ten football a lot. I'm from Alabama, so I'm an SEC fan. He's definitely gotten a lot better. Like I said, technique-wise he's always sharp, but just like those grown man things, dealing with those grown man moves, different hunt moves and all that king of stuff, where he just needs that muscle, that girth and that anchor. He's definitely anchoring a lot better."
On how it's been like working with outside linebackers coach Chuck Smith and if he thinks he's added to his pass rush repertoire: "It's been awesome, man. I actually went to [outside linebackers coach Chuck Smith] in 2018, and he gave me some things, I just failed to put them in at that time. But having him here and just bringing a different perspective. Coach 'Weav' [assistant head coach/defensive line coach Anthony Weaver] has been awesome, but like I said, those guys are obviously specialists for a reason. He's done a great job not only with 'Jabo' [David Ojabo] and 'Dafe' [Odafe Oweh] and everybody, but us over at the D-tackles. My one-on-ones [in practice], I lost two of them. I don't normally lose a lot of them, but it's just trying new things and just figuring out your body and what works for you. I've been getting around the passer a lot just changing my stance and different things, so he's definitely put a lot of things in my brain as well as everybody else. And it's just about finding those two or three things, like a changeup, obviously, from a bull rush from a nose guard position. So, he's just been a godsend for real, and I think that will pay off for sure."