WEDNESDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: WEEK 7 vs. Saints
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement:"Good to see everybody – app
Was it cool to see OLB Za'Darius Smith get honored for, really, the way he's been playing all season, but particularly for the way he played on Sunday [by being named AFC Defensive Player of the Week]? (Childs Walker) "Yes, absolutely. Za'Darius has done a great job. I love the way he's playing. I think he's a big part of the whole, and all the guys are playing really well together. So, it's a team effort. And, all the guys take pride. We all do, when one person gets an honor like that. I think we all feel like we're a part of that, so to see that happen and to see it happen for Za'Darius, who works so hard, is just a great thing."
There was a moment postgame when OLB Za'Darius Smith was up at the podium. He was talking about how hard he worked, and he kind of looked back at you. I'm not sure if you remember that, just talking about his own progression. What do you think that that moment meant to him, kind of sharing that with you and everything that you guys have been through? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"It's pretty cool. You have a lot of conversations, and you build a lot of relationships up, the player-coach relationship, and of course, Joe Cullen has done a great job with 'Z' [Za'Darius Smith], and 'Wink' [Don Martindale]. As a coach, your goal is to see your players do well. The idea is that you want to see them thrive and do well, and I think for youth coaches out there, high school coaches, college coaches, pro coaches, it's all the same. That should be the idea. You're not hoping that the player doesn't do well. It's not about anything negative. It should always be about building them up and helping them be their best, and to see someone like that be that excited about his success and to be some small part of it, that's what coaching is all about."
This is going back to the Titans game a little. Did you ever get … Did you ever hear from the NFL why that wasn't reviewed, the interception, or was it reviewed, the S Kevin Byard interception of QB Joe Flacco? (Jeff Zrebiec) _"Not from the NFL, I did not hear anything about that. Didn't ask, to be honest with you. It doesn't really [matter]. It's not worth our time, usually, to ask too many questions, other than the fact that they just missed it. They missed one a little on the … They probably should have reviewed one quicker for the Titans, too. Off the top of my head, I couldn't explain it, but there were two plays that they could have looked at quicker in two-minute [situation]. It forced coach [Mike] Vrabel to call a timeout to get it reviewed. So, that probably shouldn't have happened either, so it goes both ways. Sure, we would have liked to have them take a look at it. During the game, I asked, and they said they thought it was pretty clear, but obviously on review, it wasn't, so thanks. But the answer is 'no,' I didn't get anything from the league." _(laughter)
WR Willie Snead IV, the restricted free agent route is not one that the organization has done a lot. Were you involved in the signing of him? What do you know about it? (Bo Smolka)"I'm taking all the credit for it! Absolutely, I take all the credit for Willie Snead. (laughter) No, I knew Willie back … We knew him from the draft, loved him at Ball State. Most of these guys you know all the way through, because you evaluate them in the draft, but he's always been really one of the favorites around here. And then to have the chance, the way that things kind of fell together, to bring him here, was something we were just thrilled [about], because he fit us so well. Then, to see that you were right, and all of us – Ozzie [Newsome] was all for it, Eric [DeCosta] was all for it, Bobby [Engram], Marty [Mornhinweg] – to see all of that come together and him play so well to be exactly what you thought you were going to get, is very rewarding. So, we have to keep building on it, keep getting better."
Third-down conversions with him in particular. In the last couple years, you've been lamenting with us that you need that guy to catch a ball, even a yard shy, and make a move and get the first down, do whatever it takes to get that first down. When you say, "That's what we wanted," is that what he's done? (Pete Gilbert) "That's exactly it. That's exactly it – the chain-mover receiver. He can go inside or outside, but man, he makes some – they call them, scouts call them, 'blood-area' catches. That blood area, in that area right there in the middle, is a pretty cool term. And that's where he thrives, and some other guys, too. I'll tell you, Mark Andrews had a big one, too, and got open against man coverage, so I think we've added those pieces. 'Crab' [Michael Crabtree] can go inside, John [Brown] can go inside, too, so all those guys can do it, but those guys that go in there, and that's what they do, are pretty valuable."
Is there anything that WR Willie Snead IV can offer regarding how to attack that offense and QB Drew Brees? Or is Drew Brees enough said? (Shawn Stepner) "Everybody has a way of doing things. Of course, we have those conversations, but I always think that that's a little kind of much ado about not that much. There's something to it, yes, but we all study each other inside and out. Saints study us, we study the Saints, just like every team. It's part of the chess game."
That change in surface, a dome team coming outside, slowing down the two-headed monster, is there anything to that? (Kirk McEwen) "That would be great. That would be great. You'd have to ask them that question, but we can be hopeful."
ILB Patrick Onwuasor had two sacks on Sunday. Were you surprised by his ability to penetrate or take advantage of the situation as it unfolded? _(Ed Lee) _"Not surprised. He's a very quick player, quick reactor. He can really run and accelerate, and then we ran some pressures, and he added on to some things from a coverage standpoint – rush-the-cover-type rushes that he's just good at, because he's so fast and aggressive."
It's pretty rare for teams to sack QB Drew Brees a bunch. Is that because he gets rid of the ball? Is that because of the offensive line? What do they do well in pass protection? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _"All of those things. Offensive line is big, physical, they latch on and do a great job that way. Of course, Drew gets it out. He knows where he's going. They scheme up open players pretty quickly. That's part of what Sean [Payton] does, so all that stuff goes together."
You can play four safeties. You can play four corners. You have so many multiple pass-rushers. How many multiple looks. Does the depth allow you to show so many multiple looks, and how difficult do you think it is for offenses when they're trying to get what you guys do on defense? (Jamison Hensley) _"I don't know. I hope it's difficult. That's a good question for them, but it's week-to-week. We've been in here, right here you guys have asked me why we can't get any pressure in other games, so it's week-to-week, it really is." _(Reporter: "But as far as different looks, does the depth allow you to do a lot more different looks that you feel that maybe, even in years past, that you were able to do?")"No, no comparisons. It's just, we have a lot of good players that play fast, and those are the guys that we look for when we scout. We want guys that are aggressive and like football on defense, and we have a lot of guys that fit the type of guys we like."
You mention that, and a lot of the defensive players are the same as they were last year. Are they faster? Is it a faster scheme for them? It's mainly the same players. (Bo Smolka)"Players grow. Players get better, and the system is well-built and well-put-together, and they've done a great job of studying from Day One and really … They don't come in here and waste any time. They come in here and go to work. They have from the first day of OTAs, made the most of the time in terms of learning the defense and communicating. Communicating is a huge thing, and it will be at a premium in this game, because the guy [Drew Brees] across there in their offense is communicating really well, too. We're going to have to be about two steps ahead of where we've been just to keep up with them."
Is everything with G/T Alex Lewis still heading in the right direction? (Jeff Zrebiec) _"Yes. I guess I would label it, for lack of a better term, to go back to an old term, would be a pinched nerve. So that just, that kind of heals. That can heal like that _(snaps),or it can take a little bit of time, so he's really day-to-day, is really the best way to describe it with that kind of injury." (Reporter: "Do you expect him to practice today?")"I do not expect him to practice today."
Since we're through Week 6, do you have any updates on the PUP guys or K Kaare Vedvik? (Aaron Kasinitz) _"Kaare Vedvik, he's not PUP, I don't think. NFI [Non-Football Injury], so I don't really have an update on that. I don't think we can bring him back. I'm not sure of that rule." _(Reporter: "You can't.") "Can't bring him back, so he's done for the year. The other PUP guys are progressing. All those, what, two or three guys are in different … We also have Injured Reserve guys that can come back, too, so I assume you're asking about those guys, as well. Different guys are in different spots. I don't really have an update until it would be Week 6 or Week 7 when they can come back, then that's probably the best time for an update. But I could say that they're all progressing just as we expected. They're in good shape, and we're going to have some options with those guys, so that's going to be a big plus for us."
What do the Saints do so well defending the run? It's not just yards total. Yards-per-carry as well, they're No. 1 so far this year. _(Pete Gilbert) _"Well, two things, probably: First of all, they play it really well. They have a very good front. They play square. They use their hands. They're just very well-coached, technique-wise, and the linebackers can really run, and they do. They're a pursuit defense. [Kurt] Coleman, No. 29, is flying all over the place. No. 24, Vonn Bell, is flying all over the place, so they fly around really well. Then, the second thing [is] they're committed to stopping the run. The way they built their defense, their coaches have done a great job of setting up eight-man fronts and different types of blitzes with corners and safeties and things like that to disrupt the run. So, I'd say it's the players and the coaches."
QB Joe Flacco
On what it has meant to have WR Willie Snead IV available to connect with over the middle:"Some of those things are crazy how they work out, but I can tell you one thing: Willie, come Sunday, he's ready to play, man. He's one of the toughest guys I've played around – just in the few games I've played with him so far. It's always great to have those guys out there with you."
On if Snead IV has no fear in the middle of the field:"Yes, like I said, he's one of the toughest guys [I've played around], just in the six games. You can tell he's a tough player, really kind of loves to be put in those spots."
On building chemistry with WR Willie Snead IV:"You guys always ask these questions. When you have good players and you have guys that want to work at it, then it comes naturally. Come gameday, hopefully all the work you've put in just shows up and those guys get open. I think that's the biggest thing – those guys finding the holes, running everything at full-speed, having no fear, just playing confidently; all that stuff goes into it. All the work that we've put in for sure goes into it. Without that, we can't make it happen. But at the same time, there's still a big element of just going out there on Sunday and playing confidently and being tough and being mentally confident and ready to go."
On if he has had a chance to speak with G/T Alex Lewis and the relief of knowing Lewis' neck injury is not serious:"We've seen Alex around here. Obviously, anytime something that looks as serious as that is, or could've been, you're definitely hoping for the best. I know I got home and my wife had recorded it on her phone, and my parents were asking me about it, making sure he's OK. So ,I know everybody is worried about that kind of stuff when we play this game. To see him walking around and doing pretty well is definitely a good thing."
On QB Drew Brees:"I think so much is made about guys that are undersized playing in this league. It really just comes down to guys that can play, having the talent, having the drive to work as hard as he does. He's just a good quarterback. I think talking about the height that he has and everything like that, it's one of the things he had to overcome, I guess in terms of how you guys can put it or how people talk about it. But the bottom line is, he's a really good football player. The other part of that is he works really, really hard at what he does. He deserves everything he's gotten."
On if he has a list of quarterbacks he enjoys watching: "I don't know, not necessarily. There are a lot of guys that are fun to watch. There are a lot of offenses that are fun to watch. It's like when we play a Thursday Night game or when we have our bye week, I don't plan on necessarily watching football, but I usually sit down in front of the TV and plan on watching two minutes or don't plan on watching anything, and the games somehow come on. I end up sitting there for the rest of the day watching football. It's just one of those things [that] it's fun to watch. I think there are a lot of fun offenses, and a lot of people are slinging the ball around the field these days that it's really just cool to see what they're doing and how they're doing it."
On how teams have defended WR John Brown differently the past two weeks:"Cleveland matched him a little bit, and they played tight man [coverage]. Tennessee does what they do. I think both defenses … I wouldn't say they switched up anything that's out of the norm for those guys. I think [it's more about] maybe the way they called their defense based on what they have in for every given week. They make sure they account for him not hurting them big. I think he still did a great job. He made a big third-down conversion for us and still had a couple other passes like that. You're not going to have 50-yard completions every week, especially when teams are aware that that can be an explosive part of the offense for you. I wouldn't say they've done anything specific, besides maybe pay a little bit more attention to the fact that we have him."
On if he looks at the Saints game as a potential shootout where he'll have to play a big role:"I think it's just natural as a fan of football to think certain things like that. I don't really look at it that way. I'm not sitting there saying, 'Man, I have confidence in our defense.' I just let them go out and do what they do. They prepare all week, just like they will this week. They'll prepare all week to go out there and play really good defense. That's the same thing we'll do on offense. We have so much to worry about on our side of the ball, just as they do, that we're just worried about going out there and putting out a good day on offense. As long as we can do our part, everybody can do their individual part, then everything else will take care of itself."
On if it changes the way they game-plan knowing they're up against a great offense: "I think when you get into the game, and certain situations come up, then yes. The play-caller may be affected in certain ways, but you'll have to talk to Marty [Mornhinweg, offensive coordinator] about that. As far as I'm concerned, we're going out there and trying to put up 50 points every week. It shouldn't really matter."
On if WR Willie Snead IV ever talked about things the Saints did offensively that the Ravens could employ into their offense: "To be honest with you, no, not really. I think a lot of his work ethic … I don't want to speak for him either. I know that he's a really hard worker and that he understands things. Maybe he got a little bit of that from New Orleans – but I also don't want to discredit him and just say he got it from New Orleans. He may have had that his whole life. But I would assume that being there a little bit has definitely helped him out. I don't think he's really brought it here and brought certain things up like that."
On if WR Willie Snead IV advocated for the passing camp over the summer: "I don't know if anybody is really like, 'I really, really, really want to do this!' (laughter) But yes, you know that he's down to do it. You know what I mean? You know that he's going to be fully bought in to whatever it is that we're doing, for sure."
On if WR Willie Snead IV's mindset rubs off on teammates: "There's no doubt. This is a physical, tough, hard-nosed game. When a guy comes in and is able to impact the game the way he's been able to do it, and with the toughness he's been able do it – even if you watch some of his downfield blocks – it definitely gets guys going. There's no question about it. That's what this game is all about at the end of the day. We have a handful of our guys on the offensive side that are like that, and he's been making the most of those opportunities. I think all of our guys [do]. None of them take a play off, none of our guys on the outside. I think when you watch them, if you're able to watch them on film, they all get after it in the run game, they're all blocking, turning upfield as their passes are caught. So, I don't want to discredit our other wide receivers either. Maybe it hasn't quite shown up as much, but they're doing a ton themselves." (Reporter: "That No. 5 doesn't do a whole lot out there [as receiver].")"Me? No, no. He's not doing much out there.(laughter)I will not … Hey, there's been a time in my life … And there are … When you've got to do it, you've got to do it. But at the end of the day, I think we're doing enough other stuff in those plays that I don't need to be as big a part of it."
On why there has been a high number of batted balls at the line of scrimmage:"Yes, I know. James [Urban, quarterbacks coach] had me out this week working on batted balls, and I'm kind of laughing at him and getting mad at him at the same time. It is what it is. It's something we'll continue to pay attention to as the year goes on. There's some that you can't prevent, but at the same time, you have to look at it for what it is, and there has to be a reason behind it. We have to get better, and we have to correct it."
On what the batted ball drill looks like:"[James Urban] is standing there with a bag in his hand that goes up to 12-feet high – unrealistically high for anybody's hands."(laughter) (Reporter: "Are you working on awareness?")"Well, have you ever seen the drill where Ben [Roethlisberger] just doesn't dodge the balls, he just lets them bounce off of him when it hits him? I did that one time last week. I just threw the ball, and I hit the bag on purpose. It's just like, I get your point. We got it." (laughter)
OLB Za'Darius Smith
On receiving the news that he was selected as AFC Defensive Player of the Week: "It feels great, man. It's big. I know when I first found out I called my mom, and she was already looking at it. But I called her, and she was trying to congratulate me and was like, 'Who would've ever thought that a guy playing high school football would be where he's at now and making so many goals.' I was telling her, 'Ma, this is a good self-goal, but my main goal is to get us to the Super Bowl, to help get us to the Super Bowl.' To say that – we're focusing on the Saints, Week 7. That [performance] was last week, so hopefully I can come out here and do it again.
On if his mother encouraged him to pursue basketball rather than football: "Look – she's going to be upset about this, (laughter)but she didn't want me to get hurt, a mother being a mother. Ladies, you probably know. It was something that I told myself I wanted to do. I saw a future at it. I kid you not, man, I'm here now talking to you guys at the podium."
On how he was able to pursue a career in football if his mother wasn't a fan: "She sort of figured it out. After the AAU Basketball of growing up, that it didn't work out. I didn't have any scholarships how I wanted to have them – top schools. So, I told myself, 'I don't care what anybody says – I'm going to go out here and try football.' I kid you not, my coach that year, coach Ben Blackmon … I hope he's watching this. He gave me the opportunity to go out there. He said, 'I'm going to let you come out here, but you have to ask all the seniors that have already been playing that are in my class.' So to this day, if it wasn't for those guys, I wouldn't be here today talking to you guys. I just want to appreciate those guys for saying 'yes' for me to come out and play football. It's a big one for us this week; you know who we have – Dree Brees and the Saints. It's going to be a big one going against a top team like them guys. I think it's going to be a nice run this week."
On if he is worried that the success of the Kentucky football program is overshadowing his own: "That's a good one! (laughter)When I first signed to Kentucky, I thought it was going to be the way it is now. But, coach [Mark] Stoops – it was his first year, my first year. He had to bring the guys who he wanted to recruit in. I'm just glad that program is on big success right now and winning. I'm happy for them. I will forever bleed blue."
On how much pride he takes in doing the dirty work of his position and finally getting some of the recognition:"I'll say it like this: Coach John Harbaugh and Dean [Pees, former defensive coordinator] when he was here, they wanted to see me succeed and be great at football. They knew it, too, that I didn't play that much, but they knew what I could do and what was best for me was the pass rush and getting after that quarterback. I'm just glad that everything is starting to work out and hard work is starting to pay off. I can this: I'm going to keep working and keep going with what I have going."
On what he can attribute to the defense's dominant performance: "I would just say sticking together. From game to game, week to week, everybody has mistakes, and we have learned from our mistakes. Coming out here to practice and fixing those things, I feel like that's one of the main points."
On how a defense can still hold an offense to an average of 12 points per game: "That's a good question. You might want to ask the defensive coordinator that. No, I'm not going to go into that one. Next question." (laughter)
On how much momentum the defense can take from the Tennessee performance leading into the next game: "I just feel like it's a week-to-week thing and we have to stack them. They say we had 11 sacks – that's big for a defense. But going into this week we have to continue to do the same thing – get after the quarterback, just make some plays and fly around and have fun."
On if this year being the last in his contract has been on his mind: "I was talking to one of my teammates … Who was it? Nick Boyle. He came in [the league] with me, same year 2015. I was like, 'Nick, bro, it doesn't even feel like four years.' He was like, 'Yeah man, I know. It just felt like yesterday we just got drafted and came here.' But coming into Year 4 – it's big for me. I just feel like it's my opportunity to really make that big name for myself and continue to help this team go to the Super Bowl."
On how critical the inside pass rush is this week:"We all know that answer. On the back end, to make the quarterback hold the ball you have to be in good what? Coverage. Coverage guys will do their jobs, and we have great eyes back there. Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, name everybody – we have a lot of guys to really make that happen. If he could give us three to four seconds, hopefully we'll get after the quarterback."
On if QB Drew Brees uses his height as an advantage: "First off man, Drew Brees is a great quarterback, been in the game for a long time. I was in middle school [when he was drafted]. So for him to do the things he does, that's amazing. But to answer that question – as a defense, we're just going to go out there and give it all we've got and go against a top offense this week."
On his postgame press conference where he thanked head coach John Harbaugh for his recent success: "It meant a lot because … To go back to another story, it was right before I came here, and I took my visit. He was telling me, '"Z," you're going to be great. You just have to keep working and keep your craft and keep going with it. You can be great at this game of football.' I kid you not, man, I'm starting to see it. I guess everyone else is starting to see it, too."
On if he's happy the NBA season started:"Yes sir."
WR Willie Snead IV
On if there's extra incentive facing the Saints this week:"No, this is another team. I have to approach it that way just to stay focused. From the dynamics and everything, I'm just coming in here focused and ready to win another game."
On if it was difficult to be positive for him last season:"Yes, it was definitely hard. It was definitely a transition as well, because the first two years, I was involved, and I was doing a lot more, but last year, I had a bunch of stuff going on, and it piled on. And, I think, just the injury itself didn't help me to going out there and performing very well, and that just led to the coaches not trusting me as much or going with a different gameplan. So, it was frustrating. But, I always want to be a great teammate, always want to be a great locker-room guy, because at the end of the day, we were winning last year, and that was a great feeling to go to the playoffs and go as far as we did. It was definitely challenging, but it just challenged me in a different way to be a better teammate."
On what gives him the "guts" to be in the middle of the field on a third-down play, knowing he will get hit: "I think the key is just knowing what's going on in there, knowing that there are going to be people in there. But like I said before when I first got here, the timing that I wanted to get with [Joe] Flacco comes down to third-and-18 like that – him trusting me to be able to throw it across the middle off the linebacker's ear, that's all timing. And, to be able to catch the ball and roll up the field, that's just film and studying and knowing what they like to do in that situation. If you go in there blind, you're going to get knocked out, or it's not going to be pretty. So, I just take that all into film study and just timing with Flacco."
On when in his career he knew he wanted to be the trusted third-down guy:"Since I was in high school, when I picked up a football. I always wanted the ball in my hand in those types of situations, because that's just the type of player I pride myself on being – a clutch guy, move the chains, just being one of those guys in the locker room that's just, you can count on me. I picked up most of that slot stuff from Marques Colston my first year with the Saints. I never played a lot of slot before I got to New Orleans, and he taught me and just taught me how to watch film and know what to expect in those situations, so I definitely give some credit to him. But at the end of the day, I'm a playmaker, and I pride myself on making those types of plays."
On if he felt doubted throughout his career:"Absolutely. Just coming from … I played high school ball in Michigan, and the talent up in Michigan compared to Florida, where I'm originally from, is just totally different. People just doubted me coming out: 'He's a great player, but he's not playing anybody.' In college, it was [that] I left too early. [Then it was that] I wasn't ready to leave to go to the NFL my junior year. And then this year… Not this year, but in the NFL, it's just like, 'Is he fast enough to separate? Can he make those plays in clutch situations?' I've always taken it to heart, and I've worked at it, and I remember all those things that people were saying about me: 'He's not good enough, there are always question marks about him,' this, that and the third. But little do they know, they're just fueling all of everything that I need to be able to go out there and compete. I've always been doubted, but I've always used to it my advantage."
On how to defend QB Drew Brees:"To defend Drew Brees? If he knows what you're doing, or what you're going to do, you're going to have a long day. I think disguise is going to be huge with the offense, because they do have a great offense. Drew Brees is one of the best. You guys know that. But, I think the way you get him off his game is you have you bring pressure. You have to mix it up, and you have to make sure that he doesn't know what you're doing, like I said. I think that's the biggest thing. But other than that, he's going to make the throws. He knows where guys are supposed to be, and he's going to play until the end, until the fourth quarter when there's no time left."
On if he saw Saints edge rushers get frustrated with how quickly QB Drew Brees gets rid of the ball:"Yes. 'Cam' [Cameron] Jordan is a funny guy, man. He's definitely exciting to watch, and he's a [great] locker-room guy, and he was the one that was mostly getting to the quarterback, and he was always getting frustrated or something like that, because Drew always knows what's going on. It's kind of hard to beat him, because he's always a step ahead, but they do have great pass rushers. The Saints do invest in their D-line, and it's paid off for them. So, I just think with Drew Brees, we have to be on it, and I know our pass rush is going to get there. They've shown it time and time again, and this is just going to be another opportunity to show everybody that we have the best defense in the NFL."
On where he got his work ethic:"Definitely my father. He instilled that in me early in my career, even when I was in middle school, just working hard and being the hardest worker on the field. And then, when I got to high school, he coached me in high school, and he didn't let me off the hook easy. Those long drives home from practice or a game, you're talking to him, and he's a tough guy. He put it on me a lot of times, and I take coaching pretty well, for the most part. But, I think the hard work just comes from being doubted a lot in my career, and just knowing that I don't have the physical abilities like John Brown to run by everybody, or Michael Crabtree to be big and strong to be able to make those great plays that he makes. I have to work just as hard as everybody else to stand out."
On how he felt when he learned of the contract offer from Baltimore:"I was completely emotionally excited. I was just ready to get here. I think last year just left a really bitter taste in my mouth, with the organization and how everything was handled, but I was just really excited for a new opportunity. I knew about the Baltimore Ravens. I grew up watching Ray Lewis, and to be a part of this organization was just a breath of fresh air at that time. And, I just really wanted to come here and impact and just have those opportunities I did before, even more, because I'm proven now. I put in time in this league, and I made plays, and I just wanted to go somewhere where I'm wanted and that I can go out and help my team win."
On any text exchanges with former Saints teammates this week:"No, not yet. Ted Ginn [Jr.] texted me. He's just really happy for me, that I'm here and I'm balling out. Mark Ingram, we always text because he lives up the street from me in Florida, so we're always talking. But, I'm going to text guys sooner or later and let them know, 'Hey, I need that jersey,' especially, maybe Drew [Brees]. Hopefully he gives it to me, but we'll see. (laughter)Those guys, I love those guys. That was the hardest part of leaving. You build so many great relationships in three years, and that's the worst part when you leave for another team. You'll always want those relationships to last, but at the end of the day, it's a business."
On his ability and desire to block, and the attention he got from the offensive line for blocking two players at once on Sunday:"Those guys are awesome, man. I definitely pride myself on blocking. I always tell the O-lineman, if I wasn't playing receiver, if I was like 300 pounds, I'd be playing O-line, for sure. (laughter)Even in high school, I used to pass-set just for fun, just to kickslide. I love to block. I'm just a physical player. I played defense in high school, so physicality is what I'm attracted to. I like to hit people. I like to get physical, but it's all about being smart in those situations and just knowing who you're going against, because there were a couple times when I ran into a D-lineman, and it's like… (sighs, laughter) I don't want to do that too many times. It's fun."
On if there's an adjustment for New Orleans to play outside:"Yes, I think the coldest game we played last year was when we went up to Green Bay. It was around this time, actually. It was wet, rainy, and they have grass fields. I think the biggest difference is just adapting to the environment, knowing the wind. How cold is it going to be? Is the grass going to come up? Is it a good surface? Over there, they emphasize practicing outside, because in New Orleans, we practiced always inside, indoors, because of the dome and everything. But when we had the grass games, we would go out on the grass. So, they just made an emphasis of deeper cleats, the [longer] studs, or something like that. But we don't really make a big deal about it. It's just knowing your footing and the environment that you're in. Just know what's going on around you."
On if he'll change his hairstyle before Sunday's game to not reflect Saints gold:"No way. I want the blonde to show. I'll have something ready. I'm excited." (Reporter: "Something different?") "Something different, maybe. We'll see. Sunday is far away from now. I have time to think about it. I'm just focused on today, getting these reps in the next couple of days, just preparing to have a great game, great gameplan and just take care of business on Sunday."
On if working with QB Joe Flacco and QB Drew Brees in the offseason is beneficial:"Absolutely. It goes, like I said, the third-and-18. That's all timing, man. We practiced that route all last week, and just the timing of it and it's just like … We're not perfect yet. When you're with Drew, he's been in the system. He's been doing it. I don't know if, per se, Joe has been doing that in the past with the other receivers. I don't know. I wasn't here, but I know when I've been here, Joe has been open to it. He wants to do it, and 'Crab' [Michael Crabtree] has been coming along and John [Brown] and everybody. That stuff pays off dividends. And, you can see, Drew is throwing for 400 yards a game, and he's the leading passer in the NFL. That stuff happens because he put in the work before and after practice and in the offseason. When you do stuff like that, it pays off big."
OLB Terrell Suggs
On the upcoming game against the Saints: "They're the kind of explosive offense that gives you nightmares. It's going to be a good, fun game. We get to play football against one of the premier quarterbacks, the premier offenses with explosive pieces. I think it's going to be a good NFL game."
On if QB Drew Brees' specialty is getting the ball out quickly:"Yes. That's why he is who he is. It's definitely going to be a task there, but we're up for it. It's going to be … Like I said, we like this game." (Reporter: "What do you mean by that when you say, 'We like this game?'") "I mean it's going to be fun. We're playing their explosive offense. We get the chance to compete against as good a team there is. We get to play at home for once. We've been on the road the last three weeks. It's going to be … We like it. It's a good, exciting game is what I mean."
On if playing at home after a three-week road game stretch is something that's discussed amongst the team: "I mean, that's kind of the feel – like, 'Oh, we don't have to travel.' It's good. We don't have to travel. We get to play in front of our home fans, so that's going to be exciting. It feels like it's been forever since they got the opportunity to see us play."
On what has been special about the defense this year: "I would definitely say the maturity of our young guys. We have a tremendous amount of depth. Our young guys are coming into their own, so that's definitely an exciting piece."
On if they're excited it's the No. 1 Saints' offense against the No. 1 Ravens' defense:"Uh, no. This is the NFL, and this is kind of an offensive-driven league, passing league. No – that wasn't exciting, but thanks for bringing that up once again."
On if the length of QB Drew Brees' playing career automatically earns him respect: "He's been here longer than me, so I won't be the old guy! But definitely, I mean that just goes to his experience. He's mastered his craft. He's not showing age, so he's just one of those ferocious, deadly quarterbacks in our league."
On if the old adage of "defense wins championships" still rings true in an offense-driven league: "Last year's Super Bowl would beg to differ – that was [41-33] or something like that, very high-scoring game, 1,000 yards passing or something like that. I don't know. It's a change of tide. It's not very good, especially for me being a defensive player. I hope it's still true. I don't know the answer to that question."(Reporter: "Do you think this team bucks the trend that way though, about using defense as its calling card?") "No. We don't think so. We're trying to be a great team in all phases, not just defensively."
On if he's proud of OLB Za'Darius Smith's recent success: "Absolutely. But we're going to be even more proud of him when he continues to play well. We have to be consistent on this team. It's early – we're six games in. We want to continue to do things well, not just only in Week 6 and Week 7."
On what has been the key to the Ravens' success against QB Drew Brees: "Luck."
NEW ORLEANS CONFERENCE CALL
(with Baltimore media)
Head Coach Sean Payton
What do you see from this Ravens defense when you watch the film? (Ryan Mink)"I said this to our media yesterday morning – I think a couple things: There's a confidence level, obviously, they're playing with. I think that the talent level is outstanding, and they do a great job with their scheme in their base 34 front and then their sub-packages. They give you a lot of looks. But the safeties do a great job with disguise; I think the corners are playing well. When you watch them play, you can see the confidence level they're playing with."
As QB Drew Brees continues to hit these milestones, does it allow you any opportunity to step back and appreciate the duration of what he's done? Or is it hard to do that in the middle of the season? (Childs Walker)"I think it's harder to do that when you're right in the heat of it and you're playing. I know this, and I know his response will be the same: What's most important for him is winning. I think guys his age, and there's been a few, are playing to win a championship. Obviously, the staying power, the durability, his ability to week-in and week-out perform is something that's hard to begin to appreciate. It's not about necessarily yards to him, it's about accuracy, it's about scoring, it's about doing what it takes to win games. I think that's what drives him."
WR Willie Snead IV talked about how he had a good relationship with you. How tough was it for you to see him leave this offseason? _(Ryan Mink) _"It's always difficult, especially when you talk about a guy like Willie. I felt like we had kind of invested and all of a sudden began to see this player in training camp – I can remember, we were practicing against the Patriots – and watching him stand out even in special teams. He's highly intelligent. He has fantastic hands, he's savvy, and there's so many things he brings to the table. He played a lot of good football games for us, and yet it's kind of the business we're in – sometimes the difficult part of the business we're in. And yet, it's great to see him doing well and doing the things I'm sure a quarterback like Joe [Flacco] appreciates. He's fantastic when it comes to blocking. He's a football player, and that's the easiest way to describe it. He seldom does the wrong thing on the field. He's very smart. There's a toughness element to him you appreciate. He's one of those guys that you just love coaching."
In your estimation, what went wrong last year with WR Willie Snead IV and why he couldn't get on track? (Ryan Mink)"I don't know if anything went wrong. He was recovering from an injury, so I think that was the initial setback. Then as the season progressed, it was harder to get him on the field. But it certainly wasn't anything relative to his makeup and personality. He's a coach's kid – those are all outstanding [attributes]. A lot of it had to do with his health to start the season, and then trying to work his way back into the lineup."
You mentioned how many different packages the Ravens use. How does your process of preparing for a defense change when they rotate players so often? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _"That's a great question, and I think that there's a nickel package and obviously a heavy safety package. Then, there's the base defense, and so, just understanding, first separating base from sub, you start there, and then you try to look at things that can help you relative to what they're doing. But, I think the one thing that you see is great disguise from [Eric] Weddle and [Tony] Jefferson, and then especially when you're at home, you can hold those looks longer with the silent snap count. On the road, maybe you can't hold them as long just because you have more of a … The offense has more of an advantage with the snap count, and you get into those looks a little quicker, but they do a great job on the back end. Their front is extremely tough to handle. Obviously, they are, by far, ahead of everyone, relative to pressures and sacks, and last weekend, shoot, that was impressive."
As an offensive guy, do you sort of get particular joy from matching wits with a smart, creative defense like that? _(Childs Walker) _"Yes. Listen, this game has still always been about blocking, tackling, ball security, and I think it's no different in a game like this. I think you want to be sound with your scheme. You want to have a plan going in, and I think what's most important is your execution of what you're doing. So, it can look great in a meeting, but you have to be able to execute it on the field. So, there are certain things you stick to, because those are your core principles. But, the turnover margin will be huge in a game like this. The situational football relative to third down and relative to red zone, and obviously the kicking game [are important]. That's one of the areas that, look, John [Harbaugh] and I were together in Philadelphia, and Jerry [Rosburg] and those guys have always been at the top of the league with special teams, so that's another challenge unto itself."
Going back to the pass rush, OLB Za'Darius Smith had three sacks Sunday. From what you saw on tape, what made him so effective as part of that Ravens' pass rush? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"He can get on an edge quick, and they give you some looks where he gets isolated on a guard, sometimes outside. He's one of those guys that has really good changing-direction strength, and I think that, man, hopefully … One of the keys, obviously, is not getting into those third-and-longs as much, where they're in their heavy pass-rush mode. But he was outstanding."
How eager were you guys to bring TE Benjamin Watson back when you got the opportunity to do so? _(Ryan Mink) _"You guys have probably gotten to know him really well. First off, he's fantastic, relative to being a leader. He's also someone who is experienced and has really good savvy and awareness to what you're trying to do, both in the run game and the passing game. Oftentimes, you know a player well, and he's one of those guys, I feel like, from his time here and certainly seeing his film there in Baltimore."
He's still among your leading receivers down there. At his age, is that at all surprising to you when you look at the stats? _(Ryan Mink) _"I didn't know that, and yet, he's one of those guys that does a lot of things well. He has really good savvy and understanding of coverage. Certainly, Drew [Brees] has a really good feel for what he's getting route-wise from him, and he's made some big plays for us."
There has kind of been a little bit of a storyline around here: The Ravens are the only team QB Drew Brees hasn't beaten. Is that something you knew or that you've talked about? (Aaron Kasinitz) _"No, I can't recall. Drew and I have been together this whole time. I don't know how many games we've played now in a rotation. I think it's been three or four, but we haven't done well. And John [Harbaugh] and those guys, they've had some really good football teams. Obviously, you have to look closely at what has kept you from winning those games. Clearly, it's every four years, so the teams are different. But shoot, I still hold the sting of a Super Bowl when I was a coordinator at the Giants, and if we were still playing, I don't know if we would have scored." _(laughter)
QB Drew Brees
On not having won against the Ravens in his career, and if a win would have any special meaning:"Yes, they've always been a great team historically. I feel like every time we've played these guys, especially when you look at the defenses over the years, going back to when I first played them in 2003, I was with the San Diego Chargers, and it was Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. And then I think they drafted [Terrell] Suggs that year, and obviously, he's the ageless wonder. He's still playing at such a high level deep in his career, and man, he's been doing it so well for so long. I'm obviously aware of that, that they are the only team that I haven't beaten, but they've always had a great team."
On playing with WR Willie Snead IV and his strengths: "Man, I love Willie. He was a tough guy. He was a guy who could do a lot of things for us. He was obviously a great blocker. He was such a steady receiver. Man, he's so reliable, really a great route-runner, a technician. I think we had developed a great rapport, had a lot of trust, just from the time on task that we had together. I love the road that he traveled, coming in an undrafted free agent and just kind of working his way into the starting lineup and really became a mainstay for us. Unfortunately, he didn't play as much last year as I think that we had all kind of hoped. He kind of battled some injuries and different things, but [he is] one of those guys that I thought I was going to be playing with for a long time. And then, next thing I know, Baltimore makes him a great offer, and he's up there. So, I wish him nothing but the best. I think he's a true pro. He was a great player. He was a great teammate."
On WR Willie Snead IV wanting to exchange jerseys with him after the game: "Absolutely. He's a stud, man. I love Willie."
On why his relationship with head coach Sean Payton has worked well for so long:"There's just a lot of trust and confidence there, and great communication. Sean and I have been together for 13 years, so we've watched this offense grow and develop and evolve and, obviously, been in a ton of different football games together. I feel like there's so much communication between us throughout the week. Obviously, making sure that we're seeing the same things, making sure that we're anticipating the same things, and then, by the time that gametime rolls around, I feel like we've discussed just about every situation and are kind of ready for whatever the opposing team will throw at us."
On how impressed he has been with the Ravens' defense:"Very, very impressed. There's really no weakness. They do so many things well. They're really a talented group of players when you look at their front, their linebacking corps, both their outside 'backers and their inside 'backers, and then, obviously, their secondary as well. I really have a ton of respect for these guys. Look at every facet of the game, whether it's defending the run, the pass, getting pressure on the quarterback, their pressure packages, situational football; they're just good in every facet of the game."
On if he noticed anything specifically from the Ravens' 11-sack performance against Tennessee:"Just that they have a lot of really good pass rushers! They're all over the place, and I think that's just something we have to be aware of, making sure that we're spot-on with our scheme and what we're doing, making sure that the ball gets out on time, making sure we're doing good things in the back end in regards to getting open. But yes, it's a formidable defense. It's a formidable pass rush, that's for sure."