Transcripts: Ravens Wednesday Zoom

Head Coach John Harbaugh

Opening statement: "Great to see everybody. I appreciate you guys being with us – for sure. The regular season is about to begin, so we're very excited about it. We're playing a division rival – the Browns. We've had many years of very tough games against Cleveland, and we expect the same. We understand they have a new coaching staff – a very talented coaching staff that's had a ton of success in this league – a very creative coaching staff. [They have] a lot of talented football players, guys that we know well that we've faced over the years and have much respect for. So, it's the opener – a lot of unknowns – and we're excited to go play."

I'm wondering, nobody's played 16, 18 or more weeks in a row. There's no bye built in this year. If so, what changed? And does that make getting a first-round bye in the playoffs – since there's only one team that gets it – that much more important? (Kirk McEwen) "I haven't even thought about that, to be honest with you. That's a good question. Probably so – maybe. I don't know. It's a good question. That's not really at the forefront of our mind right now."

When you talk about those unknowns, the Browns made a big advancement in their tight ends in the offseason. They have four on the roster. I don't think they used them that much last year. Is that the sort of in-game adjustment you're going to have to deal with, because you haven't been able to see any preseason tape? (Todd Karpovich) "It's part of the preparation. It's a big part of the system that [Browns head coach Kevin] Stefanski comes from. I know he's very much a believer in multiple-type personnel groups – certainly multiple tight end personnel groups. They also kept a fullback with the four tight ends. So, they're going to be in a lot of different types of groupings, and they don't just go with heavy-type plays out of those groupings. They'll put the big guys on the field and spread them out and throw the ball all over the place, as well. They'll also spread you out with their three-wide receiver packages and run the ball quite a bit. That's in the system, and it also makes sense with the personnel the Browns have. They have, of course, No. 80 [Jarvis Landry]; we have a lot of respect for him. He's a fabulous blocker – moving around in motions and inside the box there and doing different things. So, they have a lot of capabilities and a lot of versatility with their personnel."

How does it feel to finally prepare for a game with the Cleveland Browns? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "It's exciting. We're looking forward to it. It's a rivalry game. We've had many knock-down, drag-out football brawls with this team and this organization. So, we know what's at stake. It's an AFC North game. We know what kind of game those games generally are. And it's the opener – with the unknowns."

RB Mark Ingram II is in his 10*th* season. Have you been impressed with his work ethic and his ability – or agreeing – to share the workload with the other three guys in this group? (David Ginsburg) "He's just a pro. He's one of the best backs in football – at least. He's really just proving himself. He's always been a high-pedigree, premier player his whole career, and that hasn't changed. We felt that way when we played against him, and we feel even more strongly about that now that he's on our team. And that character part of it – as you mentioned in the second part of your question – is second to none."  

When you look at how much you can sort of impose your will, or which side of the ball can play a little more "backyard football," is it easier for the offense to do what the offense wants to do, and does the defense have to be more reactionary? Or is there a way that a defense can dictate before they do anything? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "Yes, it's both. Most teams try to dictate the tempo and the schematics of it as much as they can. They try to create advantages for their side of the ball as much as they can, I guess, which would be defined as 'dictating' to the opponent as much as possible. It's probably easier said than done, [because] everybody has good schemes and smart players at this level. But you try do it, nonetheless. And their offense in Cleveland is certainly geared that way – the way they're organized with all the misdirection off the Y-zone play and all the different runs that they can put in there, as well. That's definitely the way they're organized. So, it's going to be a big challenge."  

What's been your approach to film study so far? Obviously, there's a new regime – new change in leadership – in Cleveland and really no current film, per se, at least from the preseason to look at. (Bobby Trosset) "Yes, we've looked at everything we can; we look at everything we have. There are no preseason games, so obviously, we couldn't look at those, so you go back, and you look at, of course, Cleveland tape from the past – our games and other games. And then you also look at tapes from all the places that the coaches who are now in Cleveland have been. We try to study all that and try to put it together as best we can."

Is there any talk about the Browns coming in last year and what happened? And I know what happened afterwards in terms of the way the season went for you guys, but do you guys discuss that in any capacity – about what happened with the home game last year? (Jerry Coleman) "The Browns came in and dominated the football game in so many ways. They played winning football, they ran the ball on us, they stopped the run, they played a great football game, and they beat us handily. So, we're certainly aware of that. You always remember those things. And I don't want to put it in any category of revenge or anything like that. We don't really … We're moving forward, but we understand how good they are, how talented they are and what they're capable of. And we've certainly seen it firsthand in a way that you just expressed."

The Ravens and the NFL have done such a great job with COVID-19 so far. Does all that work make you appreciate the potential for the country of ours to get through this and return to normalcy? (Jonas Shaffer) "Oh, it absolutely does – no question it does. I'm an optimist, and I think the country is doing a good job, as well. If you look at the numbers – at least that I'm reading – I'm very optimistic. I think people try to do the right thing. And it's nothing that we can't overcome – for sure – and get kids back to school, people back to work and paychecks flowing again. That should be a major goal for all of us."

QB Lamar Jackson

You're on the cusp of starting a new season. How would you assess your training camp, and just how ready are you to start playing games, finally, since there was no preseason? (David Ginsburg) "It's been great. It started off slow, just getting used to the COVID-19 [protocols] and stuff like that. As the days and weeks went on, I feel like we prepared well, we were coached well, and I'm pumped. I can't wait for Sunday."

Just going back to last year, you obviously opened the season in an incredible fashion. What do you think allowed you to have such success last year in opening the season? Does that translate at all to this year? (Garrett Downing) "Just great preparation before the game. We had a gameplan, probably, two weeks before after our final preseason game. We just wanted to beat our opponents ahead to the punch to go out there and do what we do. I'm looking forward to the same – not, probably, the same result, but a big game [with] this game coming up."

When QB Michael Vick set the quarterback rushing record, he thought no one would be able to ever beat that record – it would stand for all time. Now that you have the record, do you feel that's a record that will never be broken, that you'll keep it for the rest of time? (Jamison Hensley) "I don't know. [There are] a lot of great players up and coming, and I'm still playing right now. So, you never know. You never know."

Do you feel like when you think back over your career, have you ever gone into a season facing greater expectations than you guys are facing this year? And does that have any effect on the way you go about your business? (Childs Walker) "If I did, I don't really recall. I go into every season looking to go out there and play football. I really don't care about the hype or what people expect. I expect for myself and my teammates to go out there and produce and win games. So, I don't know what to tell you." (laughing)

I'm wondering, what do you see when you look at the tape of Cleveland? CB Greedy Williams and CB Denzel Ward in the back, DE Olivier Vernon and DE Myles Garrett up front – they're pretty formidable. (Kirk McEwen) "The four guys up front are fast, physical guys, finesse type of guys. The cornerbacks are great corners, great young corners. We just have to see when the game comes."

What do you think about Texans QB Deshaun Watson getting rewarded with his deal and what that may mean down the road for you? (Jerry Coleman) "[It's] well-deserved, especially for Deshaun [Watson]. What he did for the Texans organization … [He's a] great player, great guy. But me, I'm focused on winning games right now. I don't really care about that right now. [When] it's time to talk …" (answer cut off by next reporter's question)

Now that you're going into your third year, do you really feel these rivalries and, kind of, all that they mean to Baltimore and to the players and what not? (Ryan Mink) "I felt the rivalry my rookie season, so definitely. Definitely. I watched some of them growing up, so I definitely know what it means to be in this type of rivalry."

What's the film study been like so far? Are you harping more so on the first time, the loss last year, or are you taking something from both games last year? (Bobby Trosset) "Both sides, the loss and the win. They have a new coordinator [and] new guys on defense, so we're just going to have to see when the game comes."

I know you've talked in the past about kind of wanting to be like QB Tom Brady, being able to see the field and make adjustments. How have you grown in that aspect of the game, in terms of the pre-snap stuff from your previous years to this year? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I feel like I've grown pretty good. I do it in practice sometimes. I see things, and then I go back and talk to my coach, [quarterbacks] Coach [James] Urban, and I let him know what I see. I feel I'm getting very comfortable as the weeks and years go on."

The last two MVPs won the Super Bowl the following year – QB Tom Brady and then QB Patrick Mahomes. Were you aware of that and any thoughts on that? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "No, I didn't know the past two MVPs [won Super Bowls the following year]. I knew about the last one. But, hopefully, the third one will be me." (laughing)

It's been since January that you've stepped on the field for something real. Do you feel the angst for that? You're almost there, but the anticipation and the excitement, how do you handle that and kind of rein it in in getting ready for Week 1? (Pete Gilbert) "I feel we're there right now, but we have to take it a day at a time. Coach [John Harbaugh] always talks about not peaking too early, so we can't do that. We just have to keep getting prepared for the game and keep getting better each and every day. Four more days until the game, so I feel we'll be ready."

RB Mark Ingram II

This is your 10*th* NFL season upcoming. In relation to, maybe, your rookie year, how does your body feel? In terms of your mind, how excited are you to get going leading this running attack that, last year, set an NFL record? (Dave Ginsburg) "My body feels great. I've just been doing a lot to make sure my body stays strong, stays explosive – lots of rehab, lots of treatment, lots of pre-hab. Just making sure my body is physically in order. Mentally, I feel great, I feel sharp. I know my assignments; I'm comfortable in my second year in the offense. Mentally and physically, emotionally, I feel great, and I'm thankful for that in my tenth year – I'm blessed for that in my tenth year. In order to lead the rushing attack, we have a great group of guys in the running back room. We have a great offensive line, great coordinators. We broke the record last year, and we're trying to improve, we're trying to get better. We'll be doing everything we can to try to top that mark this year. It's going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication, a lot of executing. But we're looking forward to it."

For all the preparation you've been through, obviously, nobody is prepared for a season quite like this. What unknowns are lingering before you guys take the field on Sunday, if any? (Mark Viviano) "I feel the main thing is the main thing. We just know that we need to execute. We know that we need to know our gameplan through and through. We need to know the ins-and-outs of it – the adjustments we need to make if we get certain looks. I think everybody is focused on that. We need to go out there and make sure that we're mentally, physically and emotionally prepared to play 60 minutes and fight 60 minutes against a tough divisional opponent. I think the unknowns are there are no preseason games. So, nobody has had any live tackled action, other than practice when we've had it. I think just with no fans, I think everybody is going to wonder how the gameday atmosphere is going to be without fans, and stuff. But the main thing is the main thing. We've got to stay focused. We're focused on going to prepare ourselves to play our best football and win the game against a tough divisional opponent here on Sunday."

Just going back to your point about no fans – we know that on gameday, you're somebody who brings the energy and brings that emotion. Do you feel like you're going to have to bring it to another level, because you won't be able to lean on the fans for creating any of that atmosphere that we're used to on gamedays? (Garrett Downing) "Yes, I feel you've got to bring your own energy, for sure. I think without there being fans, it's going to be something like a high school scrimmage. You guys usually get off the bus and you usually meet a team on their field, or they meet you on your field. There weren't that many fans, but pads were clacking, whistles blowing, and making plays. I feel like the energy that you get from the fans … I feel like our team, the offense is going to have to be rooting the defense, the defense is going to be rooting the offense. Both offense and defense, we're going to have to be rooting the [special] teams. We're going to have to make sure we keep our energy, keep everybody up. There are momentum swings throughout the flow of the game. Just to make sure we're keeping everybody up, keeping everybody energized, and keeping that positive attitude. I think that's going to be huge."

You've been one of QB Lamar Jackson's biggest fans, I think. How do you see him, sort of, carrying everything moving forward going into this season, given all the expectations that you guys are facing? (Childs Walker) "He's the man. He handles outside noise and adversity great – the outside noise, the outside critics, or the outside people that try to do anything. He doesn't pay attention to it. He stays focused on the task at hand. He's focused on trying to be the best quarterback he can be, the best player he can be, the best leader he can be, and he does a great job of it. I feel like he's lightyears ahead, right now, of where he was last year. He's just going to continue to improve. He's going to continue to get better. He's going to continue to be more confident in his abilities within the offense – knowing the offense, knowing the ins-and-outs, the adjustments within the offense. He's just continuing to grow. It's special to be able to see it, because I feel like he's a million times ahead of where he was at this point last year. We're looking forward to it. He's just a good dude, a great player, and someone that everyone in this organization loves because of who he is and what he stands for."

You look back at last year's game against Cleveland when they came to Baltimore, and that was the turning point of your season. Because after that, you guys went on that incredible run. What do you take away from that game? Is there anything from that game that helped prepare for this week? (Pete Gilbert) "They came in and they had a great game versus us that day. They ran for a lot of yards. We let some big plays happen on defense. We turned the ball over on offense. Didn't capitalize on some opportunities in the red zone on offense. Just not being able to hurt yourself. You can't turn the ball over. You've got to limit their explosive plays, their big plays. Obviously, you have to limit their run game with [Nick] Chubb and Kareem Hunt. They have two good backs over there. You have to limit them and not hurt ourselves. So, I think those are a few of the big takeaways we got from our first time that we took the loss last year."

You mentioned their run game. Is there any desire on your part to prove, 'Hey, we set the NFL record and we have the stronger run game,' in a battle of two offenses that have really good running attacks? (Ryan Mink) "Of course. The Ravens rush the ball [and] it's way deeper than just a battle between the running backs. There are some battles within the battles. Obviously, we want to prove that we're the best running back room in the league. I always have a chip on the shoulder and a burning desire to prove that I'm one of the best running backs in the league. That's something that never leaves me. That's something that stays at the forefront of my mind. Winning a battle within a battle. Proving that we're the best running back group on the field. We respect [Nick] Chubb and [Kareem] Hunt and the Browns and their run game, but we believe in our room, we believe in ourselves and our ability to be able to be the best. We'll strive to prove that week-in and week-out."

DE Calais Campbell

Last year, Browns RB Nick Chubb ran for 165 yards and three touchdowns against the Ravens. But it's safe to say, with you and DE Derek Wolfe and ILB Patrick Queen and a different defense, you're looking for a different result this time – and obviously – in your favor? (David Ginsburg) "Yes, obviously … Nick Chubb, I think he had like 1,500 yards last year. He's a great running back. He has good vision – big, strong, fast guy – and he runs hard. So, we have our hands full. But I do think that this is a game where you have to stop the run. It's a division game. It's definitely … [It's the] first game of the season. If I'm a coach, I'm going to see how the guys' tackling is going to be, so I'm going to run the ball at them downhill and see where guys' tackling is. So, we expect to see a lot of runs. They're a great running team. They're a great team – very talented team. So, we have our hands full, but I think we're ready for the challenge."

You've been in the league so long, but nobody has ever experienced a preseason like this – a training camp like this. How different is the anticipation, excitement level – all that stuff – on a Wednesday before the season opener? Is it even more-so this year? What do you think? (Shawn Stepner) "Yes, I feel like this year is definitely so unique. All the preparation to get to this point; you're not even sure if it's going to happen. So, here we are, and just trying to lock in and find a way to get off to a fast start – win the first ballgame. It's definitely a little different, but we have to control that excitement that we're finally here and just kind of take it one day at a time and prepare to go out there and out-execute them."

How excited are you about your debut as a Raven after long practices, COVID-19 test, etc.? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "Yes, I'm very excited to actually get back to playing football. It seems like it's been so long since I played in a football game. Even in the preseason, even though you don't play much, and you are just kind of out there in the environment of playing football, it's kind of a nice feel just to get back to the game. But this is going to be … I'm very excited. This is going to be a great time. I love the game of football. I'm a big fan of the game, and I just can't wait to get back to being out on the field and competing." 

In this year of protocols, are there any pre-game protocols and in-game rules of engagement that are going to be different – in terms of how you deal with officials or other players? You're going to be blocking and tackling. Are there going to be things that you're going to have to keep in mind that have to be different? (Mark Viviano) "Yes, I think they're trying to limit our interaction as much as possible. So, it definitely will be different, but not so much to a level where it should affect our game. After the game, we're not supposed to have our post-game handshakes and 'congratulations' and all that kind of stuff – no trading jerseys and stuff like that. But it's just another thing we'll adjust to. Part of playing the game of football is being mentally tough enough to adjust to whatever circumstances, and it's just kind of rolling with it. We've already had so many adjustments to the season, so those are minor compared to all the other things we've done."   

You've been in the league 13 years. Cleveland has named rookie T Jedrick Wills Jr. a left tackle. What can a wily veteran do to a guy who hasn't played a down in the NFL? (Kirk McEwen) (laughter) "He's very gifted. There's a reason why he got drafted and they put him in a position. They feel very confident about him. He's a talented guy. Obviously, I hope that my experience pays dividends going into this first game, especially with not having a preseason or a whole regular offseason program for a rookie. We have the same thing with Patrick Queen. They have to grow fast. They have to get out there and just get into the fire. You hope that they will develop and mature fast and go out there and be playmakers. So, I'm hoping my experience will help me along the way, but he's definitely a great talent, and I'm eager to see what he has."  

With the COVID-19 situation; I'm sure in your role with the NFLPA, you must be really impressed by how players have handled everything. As the season gets going, where is your biggest fear? Is it players not holding up their end of the bargain? Is it society not doing its job with social distancing? How would you kind of assess the risks? (Jonas Shaffer) "I think the biggest thing is just staying focused. Obviously, things are going well now, and that doesn't guarantee that things are going to go well in the future. During training camp, it was a lot easier for guys to stay focused, because you have longer days. But now that we're kind of into the thick of things and getting back into our regular routine, you have a lot more time to yourself to figure out what you want to do to be a professional, [and] you do worry that some guys might not handle it as well. But I think we have a great protocol and system in place to try to keep us as safe as possible. And all we can do is go out there and give it our best shot. I have faith in my guys that they care about their health as much as I care about mine. At the end of the day, it's a calculated risk that I signed up to take, and hopefully things go well, [and] we can finish the season. You take it one day at a time. We're rolling with it. [We'll] see what happens."

Since you weren't a part of the team last year, you can watch that first game between the Browns and Ravens and sort of take a dispassionate view. What do you think actually went wrong with the Ravens' run defense? And what do you think you bring that makes sure that doesn't happen again? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "If you look at the first game and then you look at the second game, it was kind of fixed in the second game. It's football. They have a very talented team, and Nick Chubb found some creases and made some spectacular plays. You have to just take your hat off to him. That was a great day for him. That's football; it's going to happen sometimes. I think the reason why I'm here, and the reason why Derek Wolfe and Patrick Queen are here, is because we play that zone scheme very well. And it should be a great challenge. They [The Browns] have a new coach [Kevin Stefanski], a new system, but they're going to do things that play to their strengths, which is that kind of system in that first game [last season]. He [Nick Chubb] got those edges, and he's a tough tackle for anybody, especially our DBs [defensive backs] and our linebackers. So, as a D-line, our goal is to try to get him stopped before he gets going. We have to try to make him go sideways and not downhill. And if we do that, I think we should be successful."

After your first offseason with head coach John Harbaugh, what are your strongest impressions of him? (Childs Walker) "He's a great coach. He's all about information, communication, he's passionate about the game of football, and he listens to the players. I think the coolest thing is, we have our committee meetings, and [there's] a lot of real conversation going on, and he's very receptive to … He's encouraging us to have ideas and where we can do things and help our team be better. The result is he wants to win football games, and I'm on the same page with him. So, whatever we have to do to prepare to go out there and out-execute them and start fast, he's all about it. So, I think he's a great coach. I'm happy to be playing for him, and hopefully we'll go out there and start off with a bang this year."

BROWNS HEAD COACH KEVIN STEFANSKI

(Conference Call with Baltimore Media)

Obviously, going against the Ravens and QB Lamar Jackson, from your standpoint, what are kind of the unique challenges not only in trying to have a game plan to try to neutralize him, but also trying to replicate him as far as scout team and preparing for him as well? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, it is a challenge. He's a great player. He's dynamic. He was the MVP of the league for a very good reason. You try to replicate it in practice. I know some teams will use, maybe, a wide receiver at quarterback in given weeks. It's something that we are mindful about, and our guys will be prepared, but he presents a lot of challenges."

Going with all the protocols as far as COVID-19 and things like that, I'm sure you've gotten used to, at least, going to your stadium and what the … Have you gotten specifics on what it's going to be and how different it's going to be being on the road and in traveling as well? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes. It's going to be different, obviously. On the plane [and] on the bus wearing the N-95 [masks], not really hanging out with each other on the plane, which was a big part of traveling prior. Being in the hotel will be very unique in terms of … You're really sequestered there. So, we'll see. It's going to be the first road trip and then a bunch of other teams this weekend, so we just have to get used to it, because that's what it is."

The Ravens are really hoping that WR Marquise Brown, their second-year wide receiver, takes a jump this year. What do you see out of him? But also, do you try and project early in the season when you're going against an opponent, do you try and project whether Year Two players will look different than their rookie year, if that makes sense? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Yes. I think around the league, you always see that jump from Year One to Year Two for a bunch of good players. He's a really good player. He's explosive. He can take the top off the defense. They're going to try to find ways to get him the ball in space. I think he's a very special talent."

T Jedrick Willis Jr. is, obviously, a rookie. He's coming in [and] had no preseason games. This is a new situation for everybody, and he's rewarded with DE Calais Campbell. What have you seen from Jedrick in camp? How do you prepare a guy like that for what he's about to face in Week One with such a veteran player? (Andrew Gillis) "I think when we took Jedrick [Willis Jr.] we were excited about a lot of things: his physicality, his make-up, his athleticism. And then as the offseason became what it was, we just had to be smart about how we went about installing our system to him [and] teaching him different techniques. He's got [Cleveland Browns offensive line] Coach [Bill] Callahan working with him every day, I think every minute of 25 hours a day. He's working very hard in his craft. There are no easy games. There's no easy matchup in the NFL. And certainly, Week One with the players that the Ravens have, it's going to be a challenge."

With T Ronnie Stanley at left tackle … We're kind of continuing our tackle theme right now. What has impressed you and what has stood out about him on tape when you watch him? (Jamison Hensley) "A complete player, really sound football player. I think that whole front, that whole five starting unit, [are] big and physical. They really match the scheme that [Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator] Coach [Greg] Roman has implemented there. But Ronnie's [Stanley] just a very, very good player."

One of the things that Coach Harbaugh mentioned when we talked to him, is he praised Browns WR Jarvis Landry's blocking ability, and how that could be used in your offense. Is Jarvis healthy – with the hip? I know he was dealing with that. And how would you describe him as a blocker? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Jarvis [Landy] is looking good out there. And as a blocker, so much of it is 'want to,' and he definitely has the 'want to.' He has the will to do it. He's tenacious. He played defense in high school, and you can see that coming out of him. He's a very gritty football player."

When Browns executive vice president, football operations & general manager Andrew Berry was hired, us here in Maryland certainly were paying attention, being that he's a Bel Air, Maryland native. What's that partnership been like so far? Is it clicking on all cylinders, and how have things been? (Bobby Trosset) "[It's] going really well. Andrew [Berry] is a good man. You mentioned, [he's] a Bel Air, [Md.] native. He's very smart, obviously. He's a great family man [and] enjoying, really, starting to build our football team, and he's done an outstanding job. I think his leadership is evident in everything that he does. He has a great staff supporting him. So, I can't say enough good things about Andrew."

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