WEDNESDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: WEEK 3 vs. BRONCOS
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement:"OK, good to have everybody here – appreciate you coming out. Beautiful day! It stopped raining! High-fives to everybody down in North Carolina, all the responders and everybody doing an amazing job. We have a lot of friends down there, personally, and everything's OK with all of our friends, so shout-out to them. Man, people do an amazing job in this country with those kinds of things, so we're proud of them. What do you have?"
Any similarities between Cincinnati's passing offense and Denver's? And how has Broncos QB Case Keenum, his role, changed from quarterback of the Vikings to now? (Mike Preston)"That's a really good question in a lot of ways. I guess the biggest similarity is that they don't want to get sacked. They get the ball out quickly. That's a carry over to what they do in Cincinnati, what they did in Minnesota last year. Bill Musgrave has always been like that. You track back to Oakland, I think would be the other comparison, where Coach Musgrave was at before with Derek Carr. They want to get the ball out quick, on time, on rhythm and to completable passes. That's kind of what they do. They combine that with a really good running game. I think they do a good job of scheming. They're kind of based … They have packages that they put together, not as much RPO, not as much of the read-option, though it's in there. You have to be prepared for it, especially in critical situations. But, those are probably the similarities that you draw between those three or four offenses that you're asking about."
With so much talk about where you can hit the quarterback, how do you teach your players exactly the correct way, from your interpretation? _(Jamison Hensley) _"The biggest thing we try to teach our guys is that we're not so much hitting the quarterback as we're tackling the quarterback. The tackling rules are very similar. The quarterbacks have more protection, certainly, in a passer-type posture, so we recognize that. We know what the strike zone is. But, the head is very similar now to … What it was for a quarterback, it's similar for everybody now. We want to tackle the quarterback. We don't want to … When you tackle a guy, you're not going to lift a guy up and dump him on the ground. You're not going to drive your body into the guy and try to create an injury, and that's the type of thing that you're trying to get out of there with the quarterback, because he's not protected. So, we try to tackle the quarterback. We're not trying to shove him to the ground. We've been penalized for that once. And, we're not trying to drop our helmet and hit with the crown of the helmet. That's dangerous to the tackler anyway. We're basically trying to tackle the quarterback and do it within the rules as it's stated with the defenseless-quarterback-type of situation."
What did the Bengals do to neutralize the pass rush in the first half? (Ed Lee) _"They got the ball out quick. We talked about it. I think Mike [Preston, _The Baltimore Sun] asked the question. They got the ball out quickly. We had pressure on the quarterback in the sense that we were pushing the pocket to him. We got our hands up. I think we had five or six batted balls. Those are the things that you try to do against those kinds of passing attacks. And when he holds the ball, you get to him. If the ball is going to come out in two seconds, you're not going to get there. We want to get there. We want to get sacks. Some of it has to do with coverage. We opened up a little bit, opened up some of the receivers a little bit in our zone coverages more than we wanted to, and gave him some quick throws that allowed him to get the ball out quickly. We want to try to force those to be tipped balls, interceptions, or he has to hold the ball and take the sack. So, the coverage and the pass rush go hand in hand."
You mentioned, though, about ILB C.J. Mosley, that the pass coverage is one of the tougher things to adjust to. Now that you have a week of preparation, assuming he's not going to play – if he's not going to play, how does that help you? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _"Anytime that the guys who practice the whole week, and get the practice reps, play in the game, I think that's a plus. If those linebackers … If C.J. doesn't play and those linebackers get the practice reps this week, then that will be a big plus, certainly, especially with young guys. But, all those guys are in their meetings. They know how we're playing stuff. Some guys have more experience than other guys, and that's just how it works. The next guy has to be ready to go. Whoever plays, plays, and they need to play well."
Special teams coordinator/associate head coach Jerry Rosburg and other coaches have talked about just how valuable it is to have LB Albert McClellan during training camp, where he's helping out some of the young guys. Now that he is back with the team during the regular season, what benefits does he give you guys, having him in the locker room and out on the field as well? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"Just what you're saying. He's a veteran player. He's seen a lot of plays. He's always been a leader on special teams, in terms of coaching the guys. I thought he did a great job of coaching the young linebackers. Our young linebackers did a really good job on special teams. Punt protection is the toughest thing. If you look around the league, you'll see rookies, second-year guys in punt protection that have no clue what they're doing. I think our young guys [are] probably the best group of linebackers learning that part of it, processing punt protection, that we've probably had here in a long time. And, a lot of that goes to Albert. Albert coaches those guys up, but then Albert gets let go in favor of those guys. Crazy! It shows you, A) what type of person he is, but it also shows you kind of the dynamic in this league that fans would appreciate. There's a lot of unselfishness that goes along. There's a bond. There's a brotherhood. And, even if it's going to cost a player a spot, he still wants to do everything he can to help the young guy grow as a player. So, that's the type of thing that a guy like Albert brings. Plus, he's a good player. He knows how to play. He knows the schemes, and he can help us."
I think the Broncos have the best third-down – it's early – but third-down defense. Is that just a product of OLB Von Miller and their personnel, or do they do something scheme-wise that helps with that? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _"They do good stuff scheme-wise. They're not the most complicated scheme. I like their pressure package. It's a lot of man pressure. They bring the 'backers, they change up whether they're hugging, whether they're – we call it 'rat,' whether we're helping out underneath – whether they're peeling an end to take a back or not. They change all of that stuff up. But they try to add quickly. They try to bring four, but no, it's five; five, but no, it's six. And, they get there as quickly as they can and put pressure on you and then cover tight for, hopefully, a short period of time, I'm sure is what they're thinking. That's probably what they've done best on third-and-3-to-6."
We know what WR John Brown can do as a receiver. We've seen it out there. When we talk to him, he's very quiet. Is he as unassuming when you've seen him around the guys and just off the field? (Jamison Hensley)"He's a humble guy, but he's very confident. He's a lot of fun to be around. Is that what you're asking?" (Reporter: "Yes, but he just seems very unassuming when he's around us. Very quiet.") "Not as quiet. Not as quiet in our rooms, no. (laughter) He's a lot of fun. Smart guy. I'd say you're probably not seeing the whole 'Smoke' [John Brown]. 'Smokey,' he's a pretty fun guy to be around."
How much is dealing with Broncos OLB Von Miller a team effort, because he moves around a good amount, right? He doesn't line up in one space. (Jeff Zrebiec) _"Normally, he's over there _(points right), if you're on the opposite side looking at it. So, we know he's over there, but sometimes he's in there, over the guard, sometimes he's over the center, sometimes he's over the guard, sometimes he's over there (points from right to left). So, we always have to know where '58' is. But, it's not just '58.' '55' [Bradley Chubb] is pretty good, too – was drafted pretty high. They have four legit pass rushers who are edge pass rushers, and they put them all out there at the same time, at times. All that being said, it comes back to '58,' just like you're saying. We have to know where he is. We'll have a plan for him. Some of these teams are blocking him one-on-one, and they're doing it, most of the time, with success, but then, all of the sudden he wrecks the play. So, that's the problem. We're not divulging the plan. We have a plan, and… (crosses fingers) (laughter) I trust our guys. I think our guys are going to be ready. We have a lot of tough guys, smart guys, and that's the plan."
Speaking of young linebackers, LB Kenny Young, he seems to be a guy who, for a young guy, doesn't get paralyzed by everything he's trying to figure out. Is that what you've seen, that he's a young guy who can kind of process things quickly and just plays, rather than overthinks? _(Cliff Brown) _"That's a great observation He's a smart guy, so he doesn't get overwhelmed by a mistake. He can understand what the mistake was and apply it to whatever the principle of the defense was supposed to be. You try to apply the principles of the defense to the concept that you're facing. 'OK, how does this defense fit that play, and then therefore, what are you supposed to do?' You can't memorize how to play every play, so you try to apply. Over time, players have seen those plays so many times, they know what to do. It becomes part of just their memory banks. It's ingrained. Young players don't have that ingrained yet. The thing I like, he's not intimidated by that. He'll listen to you. He'll acknowledge, and he'll put it away and hopefully not make that mistake again, but he's not scared to make a mistake. And, he's willing to play fast even if he does make a mistake. And sometimes, some of the plays you see him making, he might not be perfectly where he's supposed to be, but that willingness to play fast overcomes it, and you go make a good football play."
People talk about a three-down linebacker. Is there a potential for him to be that as he develops? _(Cliff Brown) _"Absolutely. He can definitely be on the ... He could be on the field all three downs now. The more he learns, obviously, the more he can do that. But, I would say he has that potential, yes."
WR John Brown
On if he anticipated catching a TD pass in his first two games as a Raven:"Yes, it's exactly what I anticipated. I just want to continue making the plays and be able to help out as much as I can."
On how good it feels to be contributing to the team: "It feels great. I know what I can do. Most people had doubts about what I could do because of injuries, but I just want to keep rolling and focus on me, and focus on the team, more than anything."
On finding his place in the locker room:"It feels great, and especially coming to a place like this, I was welcomed with open arms. Dudes I had never seen before speaking [to me], making me feel like I was at home. And, I was ready for a fresh start, so once I got the fresh start, I knew the plays were going to happen."
On what he saw on the tape of his two contested catches against Cincinnati: "Just concentration. They had a safety – he actually made a good play on the ball but he kind of misjudged it. But, it was all about concentration to me, just focusing on the ball and knowing where I'm at on the field."
On if he loses sight of the ball with defenders in his face."Yes, you lose sight of it. But once you focus … I focused this offseason on distraction drills. Once you know where the ball is, even if the guy comes with the distraction, it'll be right in that same area. It was just a great throw by Joe [Flacco], actually. (Reporter: "And you just hope it hits your hands, basically?") "Yes, that, yes." (laughter)
On if his first two games were validation for what he thinks he's capable of doing: "I don't feel like I did as much as I know I can do. I'm just taking it one day at a time. There's a lot of football left to be played, and I can make a lot more plays, so I'm not too happy about what I did. I just want to keep rolling and try to make more plays."
On why he feels as though the best is yet to come:"Because, it's just the beginning. We still have a lot of learning to do."
On how much an effective running game helps receivers: "It would help us out a lot, especially with the play-action, being able to throw balls down the field. So, it would help us out big-time."
On if he's surprised by the smaller presence of the running game in the first two contests: "I'm not too worried about it. Like I said, we're all learning, and we're still trying to get the process going. It's a new week. That's all I can say. It's a new week, and we'll get it right for sure."
On RB Alex Collins' ability to catch as well as gain extra yards in the run game:"He is amazing with the ball in his hands. Sometimes, it's like you're sitting there watching it on TV, but you have to focus in and try to grab a block. But, the things he does, it's amazing. He's going to continue doing what he's doing."
On if RB Alex Collins reminds him of anyone:"Yes, he kind of reminds me of David Johnson. David Johnson, those short passes, break them into something big."
On the pressure on the offense in second-and-long to make a significant gain:"It puts a lot of pressure on us just to focus, not even get put on those situations. But, when we have the weapons that we have, we can do anything. We can get the first [down]. We can get explosive plays."
On how he would describe the confidence of the offense: "The offense is pretty confident, and we just have to continue playing."
On how he would assess the plays that include QB Lamar Jackson: "It's pretty good. It's hard to stop. If I was a defensive guy with two quarterbacks on the field, it would be something hard to stop. But, they're doing a great job of using Lamar and having Joe Flacco on the field at the same time."
QB Joe Flacco
On brother, Tom Flacco, winning CAA Co-Offensive Player of the Week for Towson:"Yeah – it's been cool. It was a big win for [Towson] against Villanova. I was never able to beat them, so it was good for him."(laughter)
On if he sees where Broncos OLB Von Miller lines up or if that's not part of his pre-snap read:"There are good players all across this league – and he's one of them. He's very disruptive, but that's going to be taken care of by the guys up front, our backs, everybody. It's all hands on deck, and we'll have a plan for it. We don't have to worry about it too, too much every single play we get up to the line."
On how much getting the running game on track relieves some of the pressure on him:"I think it helps everybody. I think it helps our team, just because I think we have good backs, and when you get the ball in those guys' hands, good things happen. From the course of … Just from the standpoint of helping out a quarterback, I think when your offense is operating how you want it to operate, and how you plan on it, and what you game-plan for, everything is going a little bit better. We definitely want to get those guys going a little bit. We've played in two, kind of, unique games. But getting those guys going is definitely to my, and our, advantage as an offense."
On if it's a focus to get RB Alex Collins more touches going forward:"Once again, I think it's one of those unique circumstances. I think a lot of the times when we're in those situations, 'Buck' [Javorius Allen] is on the field, and if there are any checkdowns, he's the guy getting them. I think when you look at directly his touches, that's probably a lot of the reason for it. But I mean, yeah come on, we want to get the ball in Alex's hands. He's a playmaker, man. He's dynamic. You can just see him breaking tackles on a couple little checkdowns that he's not even scheduled to be anywhere near those plays. When you have a playmaker like that, and we all know what he can do with the ball in his hands, you definitely want to find ways to get him the football – and we're aware of that."
On if he believes that the offensive is feeling confident after the Cincinnati loss: "It was a tough game, and we have to play better. But for the start … You can definitely tell why it's better to get off to a good start here in this league. It's really just good to play [well early]. You really just have to play a good 60 minutes of football all the way through in order to win in this league. We did a lot of good things after that start, and I think it shows a lot about our team the fact that we were able to get back into that game. It shows a lot about what we were capable of doing. We executed a lot better after the first couple series. So, we just have to keep that in mind moving forward. We don't have to try to do too much. We just have to be out there each doing our own individual job – not trying to do too much and just doing what we're asked to do. I think everything will take care of itself."
On if he has found a consistent key to getting a fast start:"We always go into the game with a very fine-tuned plan with what we're going to do in those first couple drives. It's all about just going out there and staying the course and executing the simple things. If you just take care of the simple things, and like I said, don't try to do too much as an individual player – just do your individual job – then it usually takes care of itself, and you do get off to a better start. Not shooting yourself in the foot with penalties and stuff like that also helps."
On how he would assess the wrinkles that QB Lamar Jackson has added to the offense:"It'll be interesting to see how defenses will start reacting to us and things like that. I know Cincinnati – I don't know if it was planned or what – they brought somebody right off of him and disrupted a play a little bit. Overall, I think they've had a positive effect. We just have to continue to make sure it happens that way."
On the key to being more productive on first down:"That's been so far this year?" (Reporter: "So far in the first two games.") "It's tough to answer that question probably off the top of my head without knowing exactly what we've done. If we're throwing the ball, it's just get a completion. A lot of the times, teams might back off. If you have to take the checkdown, checkdowns usually get five to 10 yards on a first-down play – simple things like that. If we're running the ball, we just have to move forward. I think we haven't had … When we've been running the ball in the first two weeks, they've been unique situations. So maybe they've pinned their ears back and gotten after us a little bit. But it still just goes back to executing your part of the play and everybody being on the same page with that."
On if he gains more of an appreciation for having a consistent K Justin Tucker, seeing teams miss field goals this past weekend: "You guys are going to make me talk about Justin? He doesn't need any of that. (laughter) I mean come on, we all know that Justin is a great kicker and you can't take that position for granted. They play a huge role in the outcome of these football games. We know nobody is going to be perfect, but Justin is definitely a big advantage."
On if he is surprised with the level of connection he has with rookie TE Mark Andrews: "I think he's done a great job so far, because we haven't had a lot of work together, and he hadn't taken the bulk of the reps throughout training camp – just because Hayden [Hurst] was getting so many of them. The fact that he's been able to come in and do what he's been doing with the few amount of reps that he's had, has been pretty impressive for me. It's definitely developing into a better and better connection because of the fact that he's been able to go in there and catch the football and be in the right spot. The biggest part of it is catching the football. He's doing a great job."
On if he has empathy towards defensive players, regarding the confusion of where they are able to hit quarterbacks:"Yeah, I do. I'm in the team meetings when we're showing all these rule changes and all the different things like that. I don't want to get into my exact thoughts on the whole thing, but I definitely have some on them. Listen – this is football, man. We all sign up to get hit, and we all sign up [knowing] that you might get hurt. That's what makes this league a little different than any other professional sports league. We're not really putting our life on the line, but every time we do go out there, we are putting our career on the line. That's what makes football a little bit different. I think that's what makes it interesting to watch. It's a violent sport; it's meant to be that way. I definitely have feelings for those guys who are there, because not only are they penalizing people and affecting outcomes of games, but they're also taking paychecks away from people, and they're acting like it's no big deal. It is a big deal. It's a lot of money – for anybody. There are a lot of issues with it, I think."
On if he approaches referees after a big hit:"It's very rarely – maybe when you're looking for a call. It's just not … You just don't really think about it gametime. You're just trying to execute the play and do all that stuff. I don't have time to worry about whether they're going to call a flag on me or not. That's what my family is up in the stands for, I guess. I don't know." (laughter)
On if the grit he has for the game is due to playing in the AFC North:"I think everybody who plays in this league has a certain toughness about them when they go take that field. Playing in this division for as long as I've had, up against the defenses that we get to go against week-in and week-out and dealing with all the different elements, I think it's impossible to not gain an edge from that. We've played against hardnosed, tough teams every year, and it becomes a part of who you are a little bit."
On if he takes pride in his ability to take a hit but continue to complete the play, and if that's an indication of his health: "Probably. I think every quarterback takes pride in being able to stand in the pocket and deliver when you're under siege a little bit. You're not going to be able to make a living of it week-in and week-out. But, that's why you have those big guys up front for. They're doing a great job. You understand that week to week, you're going to go against guys that are really, really good at their position, and you're going to have to do that. Quarterbacks – they're the least tough guy on the field. So, when you are given your chance twice a game, you better stand in there and make the throw."
OLB Terrell Suggs
On where he and NFL defenders are able to hit a quarterback: "I was told to be political, so you have to gently lay a guy down. Just gently lay them down, caress them and all of that." (Reporter: "Bed time story?")"Yeah, you know, it's our game today."
On how much the game has changed since 2003: "Tremendously. Everybody is in concussion protocol. I can't remember a game where I was in concussion protocol. We just blinked it out. 'Get back in there, kid.' But, that probably explains a lot now though. It's whatever we have to do."
On if he has had to change the way that he plays:"Not really – no. No, I haven't, and I'm not going to either. I only can be me, so I can't. I'm not going to change the way I play. I'll just take whatever's coming."
On if he's ready for the Broncos' offense:"Good man – you're getting right back to football – I like it! Yeah, 2-0, 2-0, and they're rolling. We have to defend our home field. You don't want to have any AFC losses, and you damn sure don't want any AFC losses on your home field. We definitely … That's definitely going to be a big priority with us."
On what the Bengals did to neutralize the pass rush:"Oh man, I don't know. You're still on that game? We've moved on. You can watch it. They did a good job – good balance of run and pass. So, I don't know – bad day at the office. [Forget] it. We're moving on. We're on to the Broncos."
On what makes the Denver running game so challenging:"They play really well together. They have a quarterback at the helm that they believe in. In this game, confidence is 95 percent of it. So, when you have confidence in your team and in your guys that you're playing with, it's going to click – it's going to look good. They're playing really well together."
On if it'll be fun to see Hall of Famer Ray Lewis be honored at the game:"Oh yeah, it's definitely [fun] to have the Maximus of Baltimore in the arena with you. That's definitely going to fire us up; that's going to be awesome."
On his thoughts on bringing back LB Albert McClellan:"We call him 'Bert, The Demagogue.' It's good to have one of your Ravens warriors back out there with you. It's good, and we're glad to have him back."
On what he has seen from LB Kenny Young:"I just like that he's a young dog. When you have a young dog that can run like he can run and just go, everything else can be corrected. We like you if you can just go and run and go make plays and go wreak havoc. Everything else can be coached. We like that kind of dog in him."
On his appreciation level for K Justin Tucker's consistency:"I have to give him a compliment? (laughter)We love 'Tuck,' OK? We're glad he's consistent, but he knows what we're going to do to him if he starts to be inconsistent.(laughter) But yeah, it's good to have a reliable kicker."
DT Brandon Williams
On the key this week going up against the Broncos:"The key is just getting back to Raven Football, doing what we do. Also, just kind of getting out there and going at it – just going and giving everything we've got. That's what we have to do."
On what it means to get back to "Ravens football" this week:"Just little things: going out to practice, we had that short week, just getting back to our routine, getting back to our Wednesdays, getting the pads on. Today's our big run day, so stopping the run first and foremost. We'll see where the week goes from there, and you know, get everything in order for this weekend."
On what has made the Broncos' running game so effective: "I think the offensive linemen have good play. They play well as a unit. They've got [Gary] Kubiak [Broncos senior personnel advisor and former Ravens offensive coordinator] there, so they've got the Kubiak system. But I feel like they have a good scheme and they get off the line."
On if he noticed anything after the possessions that made a difference after ILB C.J. Mosley left the Bengals game:"No matter who gets hurt, the next guy just has to come in, and you have to ball out. That's how we practice; that's how our coaches coach. So, we have to come in, get back to that, and the young guys have to step up."
On NT Michael Pierce: "He's doing great things. He's going in there, not letting the defense [drop off]. When I come out, it's a new rotation. Nothing falls off. He comes in and does the same kind of work. We have that kind of play mentality. We gel that well together, and that's how we can just play off each other."
On how he maintains perspective after two games in and coming off a loss:"Just take it one week at a time – that's all you can do. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Right now, we're working on the Broncos, and that's what we're worried about."
On what the Bengals did to neutralize the pass rush and how to change it for Sunday: "We weren't getting to the quarterback. They were getting it out quick, and we just have to find a new way, find a better way. Keep our rushers rushing, keep our defensive front stopping the run, and our secondary taking care of the pass. That's what we're going to continue to do."
On if he anticipates a lot of five-step drop-back options vs. Denver:"We anticipate it all. We anticipate everything. We're looking at what they got, and just doing our football and doing our work."