Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, good to see everybody. I appreciate you being here. I'm sorry for the later time. We are on somewhat of a short week here, so we adjusted the schedule just a little bit. Dealing with the snow out there, I hope everybody drives safe. You know what you learn in Michigan when you grow up? When you start tailing out, to straighten the car out, you don't turn that way, you turn this way. So, if your tail goes this way back behind you [motions left], you come back that way to straighten it out [motions left]. Just wanted to make sure everybody in the Greater Maryland area understands that with the snow. So, what questions do you have?"
Coming off of such an emotional win, and as you pointed out, it's a short week, have you addressed to the players about what probably doesn't need to be said … That you have to move on quickly and move past and focus? I don't know how hard that is coming off of such a big win. (Jamison Hensley) "I know the players understand that. These are professional players, and they understand that to make the last win matter, you have to win the next one. Otherwise, you just negate the last win. And that's how it works, even with a big win like that. No matter what the circumstances are, you have to win the next one to make it advantageous for you in the win-loss column. So, we do know that."
I love how you said that your team has the hearts of lions. When you win such a great game, like on Monday night, how much is really mind, and how much do you think really is heart when you win a game like that? (Donna Jean Rumbley) "I think a lot of it is [heart]. I think I said, also, the Browns showed tremendous heart. That's just football. It was two teams that really wanted to win the game going at it and giving it everything that they had. For our guys to prevail, it says a lot about a lot of things. But like anything else, sports or anything else, so much of it is how you think and how you respond to adversity. Our guys did a great job of that Monday night."
It was announced this afternoon that three of your wide receivers landed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. What's your reaction to that? How does the team move on now? Is there a, 'Not again,' kind of mood? What's going on there? (Bo Smolka) "That's contact tracing. So, we don't have any positive tests with those guys; hopefully, we won't. You see it all around the league; guys are put on that list for that reason. So, there's just a lot of that out there. They won't be able to practice for a few days, which is disappointing, but it is a reality of what we're dealing with this year. So, we'll just have to deal with it. We're hoping and praying that they don't turn up to have it."
So, as far as you know, if they continue to test negative, they'll be options for Sunday? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes. Correct. It just depends on staying on schedule with the testing."
Looking ahead to the Jaguars, their rookie RB James Robinson already has over 1,000 yards. I think he's the fastest undrafted rookie to go over 1,000 yards in 13 games. He's not a big guy, but what have you seen from him as far as the running style? (Todd Karpovich) "Yes, he's a very tough runner. He's kind of a downhill guy. He's very powerful, quick and has good vision. He breaks tackles – that's what he's done such a great job of. They're committed to running the ball, with [head] Coach [Doug] Marrone and [offensive coordinator] Coach [Jay] Gruden down there. [They] run the ball, play-action pass concept [and] drop-back passes in there. They're doing a good job with it offensively. Their offensive line is doing a nice job blocking. So, there's a reason for it, and I think he deserves a lot of credit for that."
Watching FB/DL Patrick Ricard on film from Monday, it seemed like he was taking a defender out on almost every run play when he was blocking. He's obviously been valuable for a while, but do you feel like he's stepped up even more with TE Nick Boyle out? (Childs Walker) "I do. I think that's a great observation. There was a little bit of an opening there for him to fill, and he did a great job of it. We needed him to. I'm sure he'll continue to do it, because he's never [steered] from any challenge yet since he's been here and look where he's at now. So, yes, he's a big part of what we're doing."
How is CB Jimmy Smith doing with the shoulder injury? And just in general, he's had so many nagging injuries this year and he's played so well. How tough has it been to see him continue to go through this? (Luke Jones) "It's tough. He's really … I just know he's frustrated with it. He wants to play. He's really been pushing himself back on the field every time. It seems like he just keeps coming up with these things. But he and I talked about every now and then his rookie year, in 2012, when he had the groin [injury] and the sports hernia-type of stuff. He was so frustrated with that back then. Someday, he'll tell you the story, the conversation we had, but what we talked about came true. He was a huge part, obviously, of winning the Super Bowl. Sometimes, you just have to be patient through these things. Just keep dealing with them, fight through them and good things happen, especially with these injury things."
Last week I asked you about this year versus last year, and you said even when you're winning, every week you're aiming for different things, not necessarily to get into the playoffs or playoff seeding. Do you coach differently when there's less margin for error? When your backs are against the wall, is there anything about your approach that is different than let's say a year ago, when you're playing for a No. 1 seed as opposed to making the playoffs? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "Not that I'm aware of. I'm thinking about it, and I don't think so. I think you coach with urgency every single week to try to put your team in position to play the best that they can play; it's really that simple. You want your team to play the best that they're capable of playing and become the best football team that they can be. So, you're always pushing for that, really, no matter what. I think the record kind of doesn't matter as far as how you approach it as a coach in that sense."
During Monday's game, I think there was a point where you had three different corners go down with injuries – CB Jimmy Smith, CB Marcus Peters and CB Davontae Harris. How do you address that going forward in terms of this week making sure you're covered there? Could some of those issues affect how many of those guys you leave up and stuff for the game? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, no question. We only had four guys up, and then we had three hurt, as you said. So, that was definitely something we were scrambling with there. We did it that way for a reason. We wanted to go a little heavier up front with the offense that we were playing against and what we thought we might get. So, yes – it could definitely affect how we do it this week. It's a similar style of offense, but we'll have to make those decisions come an hour and a half before the game on Sunday. We're talking about it now. So, that's definitely something that you take very seriously every single week when you decide who your roster is going to be at game time."
We saw WR Dez Bryant came off the Reserve/COVID-19 list. How did he look today, if you got a look at him? Do you expect him to be a full-go these last three games? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Yes, he looked fine. He looked good. I think he'd been running and stuff like that. Dez [Bryant] is a really hard worker. It wasn't a full-speed practice, so I didn't see him in that sense. But he's excited to be back, and I expect him to be [as] 100% as he can be going into this game."
G/T Tyre Phillips has started the last couple of games at right tackle, but G/T D.J. Fluker has ended up playing a lot more. What are you seeing from Phillips? I know it's a new spot for him; he was playing guard earlier. But what have you seen from those two guys just trying to figure out that position, so to speak? (Luke Jones) "Yes, I think they're both doing a good job. They complement each other just a little bit, and it's working pretty well for us, really. I feel good about both of those guys. D.J. [Fluker] is more of a veteran guy, and he's playing out there at tackle. I think he enjoys playing out there at tackle. For him to be able to play a lot of the game, but then to get back off it and then we kind of throw a little change of pace at the defense in terms of the style of play with those two guys. It's not a bad thing to do at all. Tyre [Phillips] is a young guy, so he's learning. You don't want to … If you don't have to out there, especially at tackle, if you don't have to put him in too challenging situations where they can kind of hone in on him, I think that helps him, too. So, it's worked out well. They're both playing good football."
You have, in your career, had players that faced their former teams. I'm thinking of WR Steve Smith Sr. facing the Carolina Panthers. This week, both DE Calais Campbell and DE Yannick Ngakoue are facing their former team. Do you ever sense a difference when it's a situation like that? And in those two guys specifically, does it feel any different? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "Well, it's probably different with different guys. Steve Smith [Sr.], I definitely sensed a difference. (laughter) We all probably remember that one. He was excited. From the first day he signed here, he started talking about that one. And then he had the famous quote on the sideline after the game, which he and I still laugh about. I haven't really noticed anything with Calais [Campbell] and Yannick [Ngakoue] yet, but I know they'll be excited to play. They respect the heck out of the Jaguars. They speak very highly of the coaching staff there and the players there. So, I feel like they'll be excited to play, and obviously, they're going to want to put their best foot forward."
How much influence did you have in the new rule where if a player tests positive for COVID-19 after inactive players are official, you now get to add somebody? (Jamison Hensley) "About the same influence that I have in every new rule they make in the National Football League – that much. (Showing a zero with his hand) But I do think our situation they thought about, and on gameday [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] certainly tried to make the case that they should bring a guy up. Maybe they got caught off guard with it and just decided to go the conservative route, but once they thought it through, it does seem like the right thing to do. So, kudos to them for making that decision."
Everyone is talking about this Cleveland game being the game of the year. You've got to move on to the next game, but on the trip home or at any point, have you thought about the craziness of that game and appreciated what it was? Or you just don't have time for it? (Bo Smolka) "You think about it. You don't have time for it, but you still do think about it. You have to. I just felt very grateful to be blessed to be in that game, and to have that be something that you'll be able to look back [on]. I know we all did. [It was] kind of a 'walk together' [for] both teams in a great football game like that, [and] one that will be watched for many years to come.
"You might notice, these are my best glasses here, right? But I don't wear them in the game, because they get stuck in the headphones. So, I've got these other ones I wear that I can take on and off more easily. So, after the game, I was talking to [my wife] Ingrid. She was excited, but she did mention that she didn't want me wearing those 'dorky' glasses anymore. So, all I could think about was (laughter) … When I watch this 20 years from now – it's going to come on the NFL Network – and all I'm going to be thinking about is those 'dorky' glasses I was wearing. So, thanks honey." (laughter)
As far as COVID-19 goes and the way it's impacted some of your guys, how different have you seen it impact them? Because it seems that it's completely different for everybody. (Jerry Coleman) "It's a great question and point. Really, in my limited experience with it now with these guys is that it hits everybody differently. From an athletic standpoint, every single person has a different combination of symptoms and to different degrees when you ask them. And then, when they come back, different in how they feel. Some guys are like, 'Yeah, I'm great. I'm fine. I feel 100%.' Other guys are like, 'Eh, this, or my wind, or my legs, or I'm still coughing, or I still have a runny nose.' That's part of it – for coaches too, who have come back with it and even people in the building. So, yes, I do think it hits people differently. If you're asking about Lamar [Jackson], I don't know if it's related to that, but for the record, it was definitely cramping. It wasn't the kind of cramping people are saying it was. Where does that come from? (laughter) It's just crazy. His left arm … His finger started to cramp first and [quarterbacks coach] James Urban was telling me about it. Then, his right arm kind of started cramping a little bit. He was fighting it off and still playing. And then, his legs started cramping. And he had to go out there for a series, and it was just kind of overtaking him a little bit, and they had to get him in and try to get that taken care of. So, who knows – it's that, it's the nutrition, the diet [he might have had] for two weeks? He said he hydrated, and we have people who monitor that, so he did hydrate quite a bit. So, it's kind of a mystery – yes. I think the doctors are trying to figure all that stuff out, too."
RB Mark Ingram II played only one snap on Monday. As 'team-first' as all of those guys are, is that a little bit difficult with a guy who's as respected as Mark is? And did you feel the need to talk to him about it at all? (Childs Walker) "I appreciate the question. It might be more difficult for me sometimes as it is for them, but guys want to play. And I feel bad about that, because sometimes we get asked about that, and really, sometimes it's not so much part of the plan; it's just the way it goes. And it was going well, those guys had kind of a hot-hand, and you just kind of decide to stay with it. In our minds a little bit – not that we actually planned this out, but as the game goes on – it's like, [let's] stay with that, and if Mark [Ingram II] gets more rest, which makes him better later, that might be better for us in the long run, too, and you just kind of get through the game, and you do it that way. So, he could've played a lot; it wasn't how we organized it. But I did talk to him afterwards – just briefly. And he's telling me, 'Don't worry about.' He's like, 'I get it, Coach. Don't worry about it. I'll be there when called upon.' And he's in great spirits, and he supports the guys, so you appreciate that about a guy like him. Mark is a great running back, and he's going to be a huge part of what we're doing going down the stretch here, and I think he's a real pro."
With QB Trace McSorley going on Injured Reserve, what are you seeing from QB Tyler Huntley and his development, as it looks like he'll be your backup? And to follow up on that, how has QB Robert Griffin III been progressing, because I know he's not eligible to return for another week? (Luke Jones) "I think Robert [Griffin III] is progressing well. I have to confess, I haven't gotten daily reports on that, because he's been on the IR [Injured Reserve] list. So, I'm sure I'll start learning as we get closer to him coming back – where he's at. I haven't heard of any setbacks. Tyler [Huntley] has been doing great. He's been practicing every day, in every meeting, working really hard. He's improving. He looks good. So, he'll be our backup quarterback in this game, and he'll be ready to go if called upon. So, that's a good thing. Trace [McSorley], it looks like is about a three-weeker, so that was a positive for us. [I] didn't know that after the game when you guys asked, and that was a good thing. So, that's where we stand with it."
It looked like QB Baker Mayfield alluded a couple sure-thing sacks on Monday. Defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale said last week that you guys have been playing a lot of teams with some quick passing games. With those factors and with the guys going onto the Reserve/COVID-19 list, has that made evaluating your pass rush difficult? And where is it right now after you guys got off to such a great start in that first half of the season? (Jonas Shaffer) "It's a good question. We don't really evaluate it and give it a grade in the sense of … That's kind of more offseason-ish. We're just trying to get it better. We're just trying to improve and create more pressures, create more sacks. And that was a big factor in the game. Him [Baker Mayfield] getting out a few times and making those plays was something we didn't want to allow him to do, and he did it. And now we're facing [Gardner] Minshew [II], and he's similar. He gets out of the pocket and tries to extend and make plays. So, it's going to be an opportunity for us to answer that question right away on the field. That's the only place we can really answer it. So, we'll go to work on that and try to be better at that – really, a lot better at that – this week. And it's going to be very important to give us a chance to stop those guys and win the game – for sure."
Were you concerned about the field on Monday? And was there any talk with you and the Browns or you and the league afterwards? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Our only concern – from the standpoint that it was a little slick – [was that] I wanted to make sure that our guys were in the right shoes. So, even through the first half, we were putting guys in different shoes, and especially, of course, Lamar [Jackson]. To be in the right shoes was something that we wanted to make sure we had done. I don't know how much real experience Lamar has in some of those northern fields, really. And Cleveland is a unique place, just like Pittsburgh is a unique place, this time of year [with] those natural grass fields. Green Bay is like that – in the winter. Although Green Bay's was frozen, I think, the time we played on it. It's just different. So, no, there's nothing with the league; that's just the way it goes. That's that part of the country. There was grass. It was fine. It's just slick. And that's something you have to adapt to as a football player."
The last two weeks, QB Lamar Jackson's numbers tell us that he's played significantly different. I asked him about this earlier, and he said it was just missing time. Could it be that simple? Is it just that easy – that he missed time, he missed his teammates – and he's come back, and he's suddenly better? Or is there some sort of schematic difference that's helping him? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "He says he feels better. That's great – I'm glad to hear that. I don't know the psychology of it; we just look at the football part of it. And what you try to do through the course of the season is you try to address and work on everything. So, you work hard at the fundamentals, at the details, and then, you try to apply it to the team that you're going to play and put the best game out there. So, the big, macro-observation, it's really not the time for that right now. We don't have time to look at that right now. We just want to look at it from the inside-out and try to help our players have the best game that they can possibly have this week. And for him to have the success the last two games is a real plus, especially coming off of what he came off of – pretty unpredictable. But he is a great player, and you expect a great player to play great. But guys don't always play great. It's a tough game, and there are a lot of great players on the field. So, to have that, that's just been big for our football team, and we need to keep building on that. That's the one thing I do know; we just need to keep building on that and play our best football this Sunday."
QB Lamar Jackson
I know we're on to Jacksonville, but back to the Cleveland game … After you've had some time to process it, just how special was that game for your team [and] for you, and specifically that fourth quarter in the final couple minutes? (Shawn Stepner) "I feel it was very special, because we're trying to get into the playoffs right now. So, it was an intense game. It's a division rival. It came down to the last second. Two tough teams going back and forth. Guys [were] putting it all on the line. I feel like, like I said last week, all phases just put their all out there on the field. It came down to the last second and we ended up with the walk-off field goal from 'Tuck' [Justin Tucker]. It was just incredible. And right now – I was just talking to Pat [vice president of public relations Patrick Gleason] about it, our PR guy. It really didn't hit me yet. I look at it like it's another game, because we're trying to fight to get somewhere right now. But it was definitely one of the best [games] I've seen and participated in."
The last two games, you have played markedly better than before you went on the [Reserve]/COVID- list? What's different? What has changed? What's working so well? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "I said it when I came back – it felt like I was away for a long time. I missed the game; I missed being out there with my guys. Watching my guys out there against Pittsburgh, knowing what we would've done, it was like we got to get back to us playing football – how we play football here at the Ravens. It's just been great. We've just got to keep it going."
Have you been surprised just by the reaction that you've gotten on social media from coming back and the whole comeback? Has that surprised you at all, how fans have just been amazed by you coming back out and rallying the team in the last few minutes? (Jamison Hensley) "Are you talking about the story they keep making up? (laughter) I guess, because I was cramping. I was real-life cramping. My hand, my throwing arm [was] cramping, my forearm [was] cramping, my fingers [were] getting stuck together. My coach [quarterbacks coach James Urban] could tell it – I'm over there on the sideline getting mad. 'Kev' [assistant certified athletic trainer Kevin Domboski] can tell you; 'Dr. Curl' [head orthopedic surgeon MedStar Health Leigh Ann Curl] can tell you guys – when I was in the back, I was like, 'Man, I've got to get back out on the field.' I was going through it. I was ticked off. And then, my guy 'Trace Money' [Trace McSorley] got out there and helped us out. He drove the ball down the field. I'm mad at the result of what happened, but he helped us seal the deal, and 'Tuck' [Justin Tucker] finished it off for us."
If I could just follow up – if QB Trace McSorley didn't get hurt … You ran out when you saw Trace get hurt. If Trace didn't get hurt, would you have rushed out at that point? Or do you think you would've even returned? (Jamison Hensley) "I was actually getting stretched [out]. And then, when I saw it was third down, I was getting up. So, I'm watching it, but it was like … I was already, probably, going out. If I'm not mistaken, I think I was probably already going out, still. I don't even think it matters – I was still going out regardless. I was just … I had to do it."
You mentioned QB Trace McSorley – he's on IR [Injured Reserve] now. So, we'll probably get QB Tyler Huntley being your backup. We didn't get to see Tyler, because there was no preseason. What can you tell us about him – being around him these last couple months? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I don't want to tell you all anything about him. I don't need you all hyping it up. (laughter) I know what he's capable of doing. We're trying to keep him under the radar as much as possible. You all are going to have to see for yourselves. (laughter) He's like that; he's definitely like that."
Just on QB Trace McSorley – talk a little bit about the job that he did to fill in for you? And then, I'm sure you also saw the video of him celebrating the touchdown as he was walking off the field, kind of limping off the field, and celebrating the touchdown that you threw to WR Marquise Brown. Just what did he mean, and what did you think of that video of him? (Garrett Downing) "It was a crucial third down that he converted hitting Willie Snead [IV] on one of those terrific throws. Trace [McSorley] put it on a dime. He did one of those with how he hit Willie. [He] converted the third down. He drove the ball down the field with a lot of poise. He just helped us out a lot on offense, because without him being out there, we didn't have another true quarterback out there. We were going to have to go with Willie. So, it was just hats off to Trace, and the offensive line, and those guys for helping out."
Can you put into perspective how much FB/DL Patrick Ricard means to what you guys are able to do as far as a running offense? (Childs Walker) "He means a lot. 'Pancake Pat' – he's always getting him a pancake in. I feel like he's got one in every game this season. If not one, [then] two. He's tremendous in the run game, pass game, and all. He catches passes out the backfield, stuff like that. Pat [Ricard] is an all-around fullback; he's not just a fullback label. He can do it all. He helps us out a lot – passing and running."
This time last year, you were romping, and now, your backs are against the wall. Every week is must-win. What's the difference? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "Like you said, every week is a must-win. So, it's no time to lack. We've just got to be extremely focused in each and every game. It's going to be intense each and every week for us. We're trying to get somewhere, so we're going to have to play our best each and every game. Each and every game for us is a playoff game right now. So, we're going to have to do that."
When you have those big emotional games, how tough is it to … Because I know everybody wants to say, 'Hey, you've got to push it back. You have to think about that next game.' But as a player, how tough is it to get past an emotional win like that? (Jamison Hensley) "Being honest, we can't dwell on things like that. That's just like the losses we had – we couldn't dwell on those losses, we had to move forward. Like I said before, we're trying to get somewhere. So, we can't just be sitting back like we just won the Super Bowl, because we didn't. We just won a tough game in the NFL. Like they say, it's any given Sunday, but it just happened to be Monday for us. We've just got to keep going, keep stacking and staying focused."
RB J.K. Dobbins was on earlier and he said that this team looks to you and follows your lead, because you're the quarterback, and how you play, and who you are. Are you comfortable with that? Have you gained greater confidence in having that role with this team? (Mark Viviano) "For sure. Those are my guys. Those guys are my brothers, and I've just got to play my part. Like they say, they look at me to lead. So, I have to do that each and every Sunday, practice, [or] whatever."
WR Marquise Brown had a couple of drops against the Browns, and then he catches that big touchdown pass at the end. Has this been a frustrating year for him? Have you seen that? Are you trying to get him more involved in the offense over the last three games? (Todd Karpovich) "We just have hiccups sometimes. We're humans at the end of the day. But like you said, he caught that touchdown for us to help us seal that game. Some people probably wouldn't have gone back to him. I don't know why, because he's been making tremendous catches for us all season. Just like the one he caught last week against Dallas when we had that tremendous catch. He didn't have any drops that game, so I wouldn't change my mind against him any other game. [He] just happened to hiccup. I guess he saved his hands for the right moment, I would say." (laughter)
You talked about a little earlier, and you've said this before about how when you were on the [Reserve]/COVID- list, it kind of gave you a chance to think about things. And you talked about just getting back to the way you played football. Did it also hit you … Was there just a point where you realized that, despite all the expectations with the team and on you, none of that stuff matters anymore? Did that weigh you down a little earlier in the season, and when you get to this point it was just like, 'Just forget it – we need to get to the playoffs?' (Jeff Zrebiec) "No, I don't really look at stuff like that. Like I said, I just go out there, play football, and have fun. But just from being on the [Reserve]/COVID- list, like I told you guys before, I just missed the game. I just had to get back out there. It felt like I was away from it for so long, and it was only two weeks, and I'm not used to that at all. I haven't heard of anything like that – knock on wood – but it was like, 'I need to get back out there, because we need to get back rolling.' That's all it was. I'm back and I'm having fun with it."
With the cramping, do you think that was anything related to you coming back from COVID-? Have you ever had that cramping before? Do you think it was related, this time, to having COVID- just recently? (Jamison Hensley) "Probably – probably because of the body heat, then we were running in the cold. It was so cold out there. That probably had an effect as well. But I can't call it."
DE Calais Campbell
I guess I can start with the obvious one. What are your emotions like as you go play a team you played for for a long time? Is this kind of a game you've thought about for a while? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think the biggest thing for me is this is ... For us, this is a must-win, playoff football-type of mentality, because we're in the hunt for the playoffs. You can't let a game like this go and expect to go to the playoffs. So, first things first, I want to win to make sure that we give ourselves the opportunity to go to the postseason. But naturally, being a competitor, you play on a team for three years, you know all the guys. I'm looking forward to the matchup. I've been in contact with a bunch of the guys over there, just because in football, you develop a brotherhood and friendship. So, a lot of those guys I'm real, real tight with. So, it's going to be fun competing and talking trash along the way and having some fun with the old team."
Tell us, how is the calf doing? Did you feel better on Monday than you had the previous week? Does it feel like it's coming along? (Childs Walker) (laughter) "It's a process. You hate to get injured. Nobody feels good this time of year anyway, but the week before, it definitely hurt a little bit more. This week, it held up a little better. I'm still making progress and still have some room for improvement, but I felt like I was able to go out there and try to help the team win. So, I suited up and did the best I could. I definitely didn't play my best ball, by any means, but I feel like I was able to affect the game and try to give the team a spark. It's a big game; we really wanted to get that 'W.' So, I felt like I could add some value. Hopefully, it will continue to get better and continue to get to that 100%, so that going forward … This game right here, I would love to be at even better than I was last week. So, just keep making progress as the week goes along."
The team went 0-3 without you in the lineup when you were ruled out. For a guy who's been pretty durable throughout your career, was it pretty frustrating on the sideline watching those three losses? Did you see anything when you came back that you thought you could improve? (Todd Karpovich) "Anytime you have to watch your team play [from] the sideline, it's frustrating. Especially when the team loses, knowing that you feel like … I personally felt like I could make a difference. Just the energy and getting guys together in certain situations, the special situations to make sure we're focused and locked in, that kind of leadership quality that you can't do when you're not in pads, it's kind of hard. So, that was probably the biggest thing. You never want to be on the sideline watching; you want to be out there. I've always considered myself a very durable and dependable guy, but you can't … Injuries happen; it's just part of the game. You do everything you can to get back as fast as you can and as healthy as you can, without risking re-injury. That's the biggest thing. I felt like with me, I would've loved to come back earlier and made a difference, but it just didn't feel good enough. Even now, I watch the tape and I'm like, 'OK.' (laughter) Anytime you play … That's one of the rules I always say; no matter if you're hurt, whatever you're going through, if you step on that field, you have to be the best version [of yourself]. You have to be able to sign your work. Nobody is going to say, 'Oh, that guy is kind of hurting, so …' You have to be able to sign your work. So, every time you decide to play through something, there are no excuses. You have a job to do; you have to get it done. It felt good to get these last couple of 'W's' after losing three [games] straight. My mindset is even though I'm not 100%, roll my sleeves up and try to help my team get a 'W,' because these games are crucial. It feels good to scratch out these past two, and hopefully we can keep it going."
Obviously, you were Walter Payton Man of the Year last year. G/C Bradley Bozeman is the Ravens' nominee for that. How deserving is he of that? And what are your thoughts about Bradley as the nominee? (Garrett Downing) "I was very excited for him. Just watching him this year and seeing some of the stuff he was doing, I knew he had a good chance, because he was doing a lot of stuff in the community. I'm new to the community and new to the team, and I'm just trying to find my way around as far as doing stuff in the community and stuff. I started asking questions trying to figure out the lay of the land, and you kept hearing his name come up and the stuff that he was doing and where he was at. You just knew that he was really involved in the community doing a great job off the field. Obviously, on the field, he's been playing great for us. We're running the ball. We're the No. 1 run team out there. And the way he run blocks, he's downhill creating space and moving guys off the line of scrimmage. It's fun to see. So, he's very deserving. He's a great guy. I know that he's going to represent this organization and that award very well. It's cool, because when you get nominated, even if you don't win it all, you get a pretty good check to do more – to be able to help more people and stuff. He's a really good guy. I'm very proud of him."
I have two, kind of related to a couple weeks ago. First, you talked about being 100%. What about post COVID-19? Do you still have any symptoms from that or any lingering effects? Or do you feel like that's 100% behind you? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "COVID-19, it's something that's probably going to bother us for a little bit more. I felt way better, from a standpoint of just COVID-19, this week than I did last. That first week back, it was brutal. I tried to make sure that the other guys that are coming back this week understood that it's going to be different. It's an adjustment. You're not going to be yourself. You're going to feel a little weaker, and you're not going to have the wind that you normally have. But the second week, I definitely [had] a lot more progress. I felt a lot better against the Browns. I'm hoping that I continue to improve like that this week, because there are definitely some lingering effects. But I feel a lot better today than I did last week at this time."
Everything that you all went through, especially prior to that Steelers game, and then how tough all of the replacements and call-ups played against the Steelers … Do you feel like that had any galvanizing affect afterwards? What we've seen the last two weeks, do you think watching those guys play meant anything? Or is that making too much of it? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "I knew that this team was going to fight. We have a very talented and hard-working crew. We have a team full of guys who are made up of hard-working, blue collar, whatever it takes to get the job done type of guys. So, I won't say that them playing hard against the Steelers and almost winning without so many of us and having to deal with all the COVID stuff really … I expected that. I didn't expect anything different. I wasn't surprised. I knew that the team was going to fight and try to win the ballgame. It was just an opportunity for more guys to get on the field and show what they can do. So, all it did was create more confidence and belief in our depth and the guys we have in this locker room. The mental toughness over that whole situation, not knowing when you're going to play and who's going to be available and all of that stuff … All that does is it builds mental toughness and the belief that whatever we have to go through, we know we can handle it and still go out there and find a way to give ourselves a chance to win the ballgame."
I know in the league, there's this 24-hour rule where you don't let that win linger beyond a day. But from your experience, how tough is it to go from that emotional game that you just won on a short week to playing a team that everyone expects you to beat? (Jamison Hensley) "I think that the hard part is it's hard to win in the NFL, period. To go and play Monday Night Football at 8 p.m., and then get home at three o'clock in the morning on that emotional high, that next day you have to really … You have to have a day off, so you don't come in and you don't do meetings and stuff like that, but you just take your 24 hours. We stay at home; we talked about it shortly today in our virtual meetings, and then we move on. This is the NFL. This game is just as important as the last. Even though it's not a division game, it's still a game that is 100% necessary for us to get to where we want to go. So, we're focused and locked in. The outside world and what the expectations are, that's for you guys. For us, this is a game that we see as a must-win. We have to lock in and play our best football, because this team, like any other team, can beat anybody. They can go out there and put up 30 [points] and dominate any opponent. It's the NFL. It's hard to win in the NFL."
I want to tap into your veteran experience and something you have a personal tie to. It was just three years ago, you were on a Jaguars team that beat the Ravens 44-7 in London, and you played in the AFC title game that year. Three years later, the Jaguars are 1-12. Could you speak to what that says about the fleeting nature of things in this league and how nothing really is guaranteed? (Mark Viviano) "From a standpoint of football, when you get the opportunity, you have to take advantage of it, because you never know when it's going to come again. That's kind of the … Being on that team and going to the AFC Championship game, we're up 10 [points] with five minutes to go, or whatever … It's just like, you have to find a way to win that ball game, because in this business, the only thing that's guaranteed is change. You're going to have new teammates; people who were there are going to be gone. It's just how it goes. You have to take advantage of the opportunities when they come. That's why I try to make sure that this team understands that this opportunity to go to the playoffs, to win these next couple of ballgames, really this next ballgame, to have an opportunity for the next couple [of games], it's so crucial. You don't get this opportunity all the time. You have to earn it, and we did. We're in a position … We put ourselves in position to have a chance and make these games in December matter. That's a big first step, but our only goal is to hoist that [Lombardi] trophy at the end of the year. So, we have a long way to go. It's a lot of hard work, but everything we want is right there in front of us. So, we have to take it one game at a time, one day at a time and earn the right. Because for most of the veterans … We have a lot of veterans on this team, [and] they understand that the windows [and] the opportunities are short-lived. You have to take advantage of them when they're there."
I know you've gone through COVID-19, and you've gone through an injury. How would you assess your play or grade yourself so far in your first year with the Ravens? Are you anywhere near your goals that you set becoming a Raven? (Kevin Richardson) "I think that the beginning of the year started out [with] getting the feel for things, [and] I really started to find my groove. I felt like I was starting to play some really good football, and then I hurt my calf. The last couple of ballgames, they weren't my best ballgames. But at the same time, I'm out there trying to find a way to help my team win a ballgame, and we won the ballgame. So, I felt pretty good about where we're at. I feel pretty good. I feel like I'm going to continue to improve, be able to play and be able to go out there and help the team win some more ballgames. So, where I'm at right now? I really wish that I would've been healthy the whole season and could've played all the ballgames. But I feel pretty good about this team and my effect on this team, on the field and in the locker room, but really, even with my play. A couple plays here and there I wish I could have back, for sure. But I feel like this has been a great year. It's been a great place, and honestly, I feel like the best is yet to come. I can't wait to see what the future brings. I feel like these next couple of weeks, and then hopefully going to the playoffs, you're going to see my best ball come out of me."
I was just wondering, what's the defense's mindset this week after back-to-back games probably giving up more yards than you guys had wanted to? What do you say to your teammates about QB Gardner Minshew II going back as the Jaguars' starter? (Ryan Mink) "First things first, we definitely know we could play better on defense. We didn't play our best ball, but that's OK. We got the 'W,' and that's the No. 1 thing in this business. Never forget that – the only thing that really matters is the win, no matter how you get it. There are going to be some games where you might have to win 6-3, and there are some games where you win 47-42. So, it goes the way it goes. But our defense, we're very confident and we understand who we are. We just have to get back to playing our ball. It's the grind. It's one day at a time, communicating and getting back to the fundamentals. I'm very confident that we're going to be just fine. With Gardner [Minshew II], he's kind of very similar to Baker Mayfield. He's a playmaker. He knows how to extend plays, and he finds the open guy. He brings a lot of excitement [and] a lot of energy. He's got a lot of swagger. He's a football player. I think that's one of those things that's kind of underappreciated, but [there are] just some guys who are just good football players. [They] find a way to make plays in the football world. If you look at him, he doesn't really look the part, but he goes out there and he makes things happen. He's a warrior. He's a competitor. So, I know the guys are going to be ready for a great challenge that he's going to bring. We're going to try to contain him, make it hard on him, and go out there and win this ballgame."
RB J.K. Dobbins
How many times did you re-live that Cleveland game, particularly the end, over the last couple days? (Shawn Stepner) "Yes, it was a crazy game – something you cannot make up. That was nuts. [It was] one of the best games I've ever played in. But like you said, it's time to move on to the next week. I'm that type of guy. We got that win – a very emotional win, a crucial win – but now it's time to keep it going. We've got to just focus on the next opponent, because we cannot sleep on them. They're a good team, and we just have to be on our 'P's' and 'Q's' for this next game, as well."
How fun is it to run behind FB/DL Patrick Ricard? When you watch the film, it seems like he's taking out a linebacker or even a defensive end on almost every play. (Childs Walker) "Yes, [it's] definitely fun. He's a Pro Bowl guy for a reason. He's a good friend of mine, [and] he has my back. So, it's fun running behind him, and every time he makes a good block, hopefully, I can make a good run to reward him with that. So, it's amazing. It's a blessing to run behind him."
I know that you go into every game expecting to run and impose your will. But when you're facing a Jaguars team that hasn't had much success against the run, does that make you more excited? Do you feel like there's more things exposed or more holes to be had? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "I treat it the same. I treat it the same. I treat each opponent the same. I respect all of my opponents I go against, because it's any given Sunday – anything can happen. They can come out, and they can be playing lights out on defense, and we don't have a hole, no run – none of that. So, yes, I'm excited to play against them. I'm always excited to play against all my opponents. But you never know. Hopefully, I can make some good runs, and stuff like that."
There's a lot of talk about players hitting a rookie wall when playing an NFL schedule. How are you feeling physically? (Todd Karpovich) "So, at Ohio State, I at least played 14 games a year. And then, in high school, in Texas, we have 16 weeks to go to the state championship. I've always played long seasons, so I don't feel like I'm hitting a rookie wall. My body feels fine. I take care of my body. So, it hasn't hit me yet – I don't think. Does it look like it in my play? I don't know. I don't know what the rookie wall is, so you all have to let me know." (laughter)
There's so much attention recently about RB Mark Ingram II's role and him not getting the carries that he got in the past. What has he meant to you, and how have you seen him kind of stay upbeat and positive and be a good teammate, despite the fact that he probably doesn't have the role that he would like to have right now? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, Mark [Ingram II] is like a mentor to me. He's my big brother. He's still going to play as hard as he can – no matter the role. That's with all of us – no matter the role. [Whether] we get one carry, two carries, 40 carries, we're going to play our hardest, and that's for each other. We just want to win the game, and I'm pretty sure that's what he's thinking. He just wants to win the game. He keeps me up mentally. Sometimes I can be in a place mentally, [and] he's going to come talk to me. And [it's] my job to help him, too – mentally – and things like that. We're brothers. So, one week, it might be him getting a lot of carries, doing great things like he does. He's a great player. And then, one week, it might be Gus [Edwards], one week it might be Justice [Hill]. That's just how it goes. We just want to win the game, though. We play for each other."
Around training camp, you said that you're not the most patient guy when it comes to a lot of things. How has it been with the amount of carries you've gotten? Are you satisfied with the workload, or would you want some more carries? How has it been for you? (Jamison Hensley) "It's the coach's decision to give me the ball, and it's my job whenever I get the ball [to] do what I need to do with it. So, I'm just playing out the year. Whenever my number is called, be ready. So, of course, I would like to have more carries and all, but that's normal, I feel like. But I want to win the game. That's all. One carry, two carries, 80 carries, 50 carries – let's win this game. I don't care about all the other stuff. Let's just go win the game. That's what I'm here for."
What has it been like to watch QB Lamar Jackson these last couple weeks? Have you noticed a change just in his performance? And if so, is that contagious for an offense? (Morgan Adsit) "Oh, [it's] definitely contagious. He's a leader. He's the quarterback, he's the heartbeat of the team. So, when we see that, we've got to step our game up, too, to be right there with him. And just seeing what he can do these past few weeks has been amazing. That's the guy you hear about. That's the guy I heard about when I was in college [and] coming out of college – the MVP. He's an amazing player, and I'm glad I'm playing with him."
How is QB Lamar Jackson different? Does he have anything different in the huddle when he's playing like this? Is he any different on the sideline? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "No, I think he's the same. I think he's the same guy. He's always the same. He always wants to lead, wants to make plays [and] always has that killer instinct in him. So, I don't see any difference in him outside of his play. Even with his play, I see a guy that is amazing at doing his job. So, I haven't seen anything different. I see a guy that's the same. [Reporter: "So, he's not smiling any more? He's not joking any more? Nothing at all?"] "Oh, I mean, we joke around – we're brothers – but when it's time to get down to it, it's time. It's all business with him."
I see you always go out for warmups really early, and you're just bouncing around, having a good time. Can you explain how you prepare for a game? What gets you psyched up, and what's going through your mind when you're getting ready for a game? (Ryan Mink) "So, when I get ready for a game … It's just a blessing for me to even be able to play this game that I love. There are a lot of people out there who don't even have legs or anything like that. So, I appreciate the blessings that I've been given to play this game, and I don't take it for granted. So, going out there, it should be like a party. You should be wanting to play. You should be excited about it. You should be passionate about it, because not everyone gets to do it, and I'm pretty sure everyone would want to do it. So, that's how I see it. I just see it as a big blessing. And any time I get to play … When I was out for COVID-19, that was like the worst time. I was mentally like, 'Man, I wish I was out there helping my brothers win the game.' There was nothing I could do, and that made me realize even more [that] I still take some things for granted. And I cannot do that, because it's really a blessing to be able to play this game."
How are you feeling since being back from the Reserve/COVID-19 list? Did you feel any symptoms? (Aaron Kasinitz) "No, I feel normal. I feel great."
What challenges do you see against the Jaguars? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "I see a discipled team, a team that's going to go out there and play as hard as they can. [I see] a bunch of guys that are just hungry, and they want to play. They just want to play football and play hard. So, that can be challenging. We've just got to go out there and play our game."
How did having fans in the stands – especially Browns fans – play a role in how hard you played? (Donna Jean Rumbley) "There were more fans than I thought there was going to be at that game. But that's like my second home, so it was like a homecoming a little bit – even though the fans don't like the Ravens. It was still heartwarming. It was good to be back in Ohio, and the fans made it fun. It was fun. It's always good to have fans in the stands. I wish we could have fans in our stands. It's fun when they're there."