Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, good to see everybody. I appreciate everybody being here. We're in our mid-week through the preparations; the first practice is coming up here Wednesday. We're in our routine and preparing for the New England Patriots, which is always a big challenge. What questions do you have?"
Whenever you have faced the Patriots, it's always been QB Tom Brady at quarterback. How different do you think it's going to feel going against the Patriots with a different quarterback? (Jamison Hensley) "I don't know how it's going to feel. We've played against Cam Newton before, obviously. The last time we played against him, he had a very good game against us – we remember that. So, that will be the challenge. He's an excellent quarterback. [He's] a very aware player, very talented, [has] a great arm. [He] can beat you with his legs, as well. So, that's our challenge this week."
I know you worked out some defensive backs – what did you like about CB Tramon Williams, and how do you like the fit there with him coming in? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, [he's] a very experienced player. He was, really, in very good shape and he moved well, which is what you look for [in] a veteran player like that. He's played a long time. We're very happy with the fact that he's got so much experience. He's played all the coverages that you can really play. He's done everything you can do, defensively, in this league. So, we feel like he'll make a pretty smooth transition into our schemes and the way we do it. He's a very smart guy, very motivated and very determined. [He] wants to play, so we're excited about that."
Along those lines, we haven't asked you lately about CB Anthony Averett, but I know he was a three-week minimum. Do you have any longer-term prognosis for his return? (Bo Smolka) "No, I don't. It's just until he gets back off of that minimum, and then the doctors tell me he'll be ready to start practicing. We don't talk too much about it. I don't think it's anything different than what it was going to be; I'm not aware of any setbacks. So, that's kind of on the back burner right now."
The fact that you had CB Marlon Humphrey test positive and guys had to go into quarantine … The fact that he's back and there were no more [positive] tests, did you feel some kind of validation about the way you guys approached it and have gone through it? Is that satisfying? (Pete Gilbert) "It most definitely validates the fact that, I think, we're doing a great job with the protocols and that guys are very conscientious about it. We had numerous guys wearing masks on the sidelines. We spread the benches out [from the] 20 [-yard line] to the 20 [-yard line]. When guys took the field after the game to shake hands, they all had masks on. We had guys masked up in the locker room after the game, when we were coming together to talk after the game and then on the plane and the busses. That was this past week. And then the week before, according to the protocols that were in place there, I felt like we did a good job. So, yes, it is. It's something that we take very seriously and we're working hard at."
Two-part question on CB Jimmy Smith: One, have you ever seen him play better all-around football than he has for the first eight games this year? And two, what would you say is sort of the key to the trust that you and he have built over the years? (Childs Walker) "He's playing great football. I think he's played a lot of great football here, for sure. He's one of the best corners in the league; I've always said that. I think he's playing to that level this year. The key to the trust? I don't know. That's something to think about. We've had a lot of years together – his whole career, ever since he came in. I spend a lot of time with the secondary, anyway, and the corners a lot. So, we've had just many conversations about football, but also about family, all the things. Jimmy [Smith], he's been a guy who … We've just valued each other's input and advice in that way. That's a relationship that I really value very highly, for sure."
It's unusual to see the Patriots at 3-5. What do you see when you look at the tape? Is it scheme? Is it personnel? Bad bounces? What is it? (Kirk McEwen) "You really don't look at the record when you look at the tape – you look at the tape, and you look at the scheme and the players and how it relates to what you're trying to do. It's a very big challenge, because they have a great coaching staff. They always find ways to scheme up their opponents [in] different ways; we have to try to anticipate that. Especially with what we do offensively, which is different than what a lot of people do. They have very physical players on defense, for instance. They have a physical offensive line [and] downhill running game, with a really good, young back. It's a big challenge. Their special teams are as good as anybody in the league."
You were talking about the secondary in New England. They have two quality players back there with CB Jason McCourty and CB J.C. Jackson. Would you call that the strength of their team? And what kind of challenge do they pose for you guys as far as throwing the ball downfield? (Todd Karpovich) "Well, they have more than two quality corners and players back there; they have a whole group. That's a very good secondary, very well-coached, very coordinated. They work well together with the front and each other – I think that's a mark of a great secondary. They also are ballhawks. They're very aggressive attacking the ball at the catchpoint; that's something we're going to have to be very conscious of and very aggressive towards. They've got 10 interceptions so far this year – that's to your point. It's definitely a great part of their team, and I think it's something they focus on."
With QB Cam Newton and QB Lamar Jackson, with their ability to run as well as throw, how much impact do you think they've made in, maybe, changing the way people look at NFL offenses? (Jamison Hensley) "That's a great question for the observers. For you to dive into that and look at that, I think, is really a very worthy project." (laughter) (Reporter: "You don't have any insight in it though?") "Not at this time."
Is RB Mark Ingram II getting closer and could he be an option Sunday? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, and yes."
The defense has played extremely well with the fewest points allowed in the league, yet there's been a lot of changes and injuries, and you've brought some guys in. Despite all of this, how proud are you with the way that defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale has put together this unit to be as effective as it is with so many moving parts? (David Ginsburg) "I'm proud of everybody there. But we're eight games in, and we have eight games to go; I don't think you start looking in the rearview mirror at this point in time. But they've done a great job. [Defensive coordinator Don] 'Wink' [Martindale] has done a great job, as you mentioned, and the whole coaching staff and all the players as a group. We try to play complementary football, so it's a team effort. That's how we look at it, but really, our focus is going forward."
QB Lamar Jackson
I think I saw somewhere that, maybe, at one point, Patriots QB Cam Newton reached out to you? Can you tell us anything about what you guys talked about? Did he give you any advice, or anything like that? (Jamison Hensley) "He reached out to me … Like what? I don't know. What do you mean?" (Reporter: "I thought he might've … I thought I saw somewhere that he got your number from [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] and he talked to you, or something? I don't know – that's what I thought he said somewhere.") "No." (Reporter: "OK, then I'm mistaken. Sorry about that.") "On social media, he [Cam Newton] hit me up. Yes, he hit me up on social media." (Reporter: "Did he say anything to you? Was there anything like that?") "Not really, not really. Just game recognizes game. He's the 'O.G.' He's superman."
The offense looked so good in the second half of Sunday's game. You guys were really clicking. Do you feel like that could be, kind of, a sign of things to come or momentum booster for this group? (Garrett Downing) "For sure. The first half – the plays were called [and] they [the plays] were not doing anything for us. We couldn't do anything then. In the second half, coach [offensive coordinator Greg Roman] drew the plays up, and we just went from there and our offense was just clicking on high cylinder. It's just coach called the plays, and we're going to make it work."
What suits you so much about up-tempo? What do you enjoy most about going up-tempo like you guys did in the second half? (Jeff Zrebiec) "The defense. It's about formations and stuff like that. Getting the best look for the defense on their side of the ball. When stuff like that happens, when we go in 'warp' situations, they can't sub in and out. They can't put their guys where they need to be. So, it just helps us out a lot, because all of our guys know what to do on certain plays."
How do you feel like the offense is clicking this year? Obviously, you guys are still winning a lot of games, but the numbers seem to be down compared to last year. (Ben Volin) "We're doing pretty good. Like you said, we're winning games, but it's not where we want to be. I feel like we should be throwing for a lot more. We've got the best running backs in the league. I feel like the passing needs to be stepped up a lot. Our guys are always making tweaks and stuff like that, but those guys need the ball in their hands. We've got to call the right plays for those guys to get the ball in their hands. We should be fine on offense. The first week, we played the [Cleveland] Browns, when we were throwing the ball out the backend. We were throwing the ball downfield, and stuff like that. After that, it's just like … We haven't been doing that."
Do you notice defenses are playing you differently this year after they got some film on you from last year? (Ben Volin) "No, not really. If anything, the stuff we see on film against drop-back quarterbacks, they'll do something different. They might not show what they did last week. They might show something different. That's all. They change it up a little bit."
You guys were down to the Colts in the first half. What was the conversation like at halftime among yourselves? (Kevin Richardson) "We've just got to score points. That's what everyone is getting paid for on offense – is to score points. And our defense did a great job; they scored the first points for us. We just have to do a good job of driving the ball down the field and punching it in. The second half, that's what we did."
Throughout your career here, you've done a good job of using your athleticism to avoid big hits. But what you can't control is when the other team might hit you late – as happened at Indianapolis. Have you looked at that play that they got penalized for? Your thoughts about that? And your thoughts about a guy like a teammate in CB Marcus Peters who ran out there, and guys out there wanting to protect you? (Mark Viviano) "Yes, for sure. I appreciate that from my guys. I'm going down … And it's not like I'm trying to make him miss, or something like that, and he's doing that. If I'm going down, I'm giving myself up. The ref made the right call. That's how I feel."
You talked a little earlier about Patriots QB Cam Newton. How much did you watch him? Was he a player who you, kind of, always respected that he was a mobile quarterback that could run and beat teams with his legs? Obviously, in a different way than you do, but he ran a good amount. (Ryan Mink) "I've watched Cam [Newton] since Auburn. Everyone in the country did. Everyone knew about Cam – 'Superman' – doing his thing. And a lot of us looked up to him. He's a mobile quarterback. He does his thing. He won the Heisman. He won the college [football national] championship, won MVP, went to the Super Bowl – stuff like that. I followed him a lot. Wanted to get to where he's at, and now I'm here. Now I've got to play against him. Just can't wait to do that."
I know you guys would love to blow everybody out. But is there anything beneficial about losing a tough game to Pittsburgh, coming from behind to beat the Colts, being in some of these tougher games this year, instead of ripping off so many victories in a row? (Kirk McEwen) "Sometimes it's meant to be that way. Like you said, we were blowing people out last year. We got to the playoffs and they caught us off guard, because they were a physical team. We weren't scoring points, they jumped ahead on us, [and] we just couldn't find ourselves. This year, we've been having games where we're battling it out with teams. Certain situations are happening for us. So now, I feel like, when we get into another situation like in the playoffs [last year], it'll be different for us this time around."
I think last year your Sunday Night Football debut was against the Patriots. What did you take away from that game? Is there anything from that one that will help you get ready for this Sunday-nighter with them? (Pete Gilbert) "We've just got to watch more film on the game from last year. Seeing what they're doing to other quarterbacks. Seeing what they're defense is doing to other teams. That's all."
The next four out of five games are all primetime games. Is there anything different, or extra preparation for that? What's the feeling from the team for that? (Gabi DiPaula) "No. See, we just do what we've been doing. We don't put that in our minds that it's a primetime game. It's just another game at the end of the day. Because if we win that game, it probably won't even get blown up, but if we lose that game, it's going to get blown up. So, we don't go into the game thinking like that. We go in there thinking we're going to play football [and] we're trying to come out here with this victory. That's all."
Obviously, the offensive line had to make a lot of changes due to the injuries. How do you think the guys who've had to step in – like G D.J. Fluker [and] G/C Patrick Mekari – are doing? And your feelings about that unit going forward down the stretch? (Clifton Brown) "Our guys did great. They stepped in. Orlando Brown [Jr.] hasn't been playing left tackle – you know he's been our right tackle. He got in and did his thing – and 'Fluke' [D.J. Fluker] as well. We've got Pat Mekari in at guard now, who stepped in for Tyre [Phillips], and he's been doing great. I feel our line is doing pretty good. We've just got to keep stacking and keep getting better."
TE Mark Andrews
Tight end or bulldozer? I'm referring to your block against S George Odum on QB Lamar Jackson's 9-yard TD run. (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "Yes, it was fun. Obviously, [I'm] just trying to make a play and help Lamar [Jackson] get some space. I've been working on my blocking, just trying to take the mindset and learn from guys like Nick [Boyle] who do that every play. [I'm] just trying to be a good tight end, and that's what it's all about. Being a complete tight end is being able to do things like that."
What's rubbed off more – your pass catching on TE Nick Boyle or his blocking on you? I thought that was you with the 21-yard catch that Boyle had on Sunday. (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, he's been doing a great job. We both help each other out. Obviously, Nick [Boyle], he's a complete guy. I've said it from the beginning; his receiving ability is really just underrated. That was a great catch, and it's awesome to see him be able to catch those balls and make those plays, because he's an incredible player."
What was the key in the second half to your turnaround? Was it going up-tempo? Is that sort of how you guys want to play going forward? (Todd Karpovich) "Yes, 'G-Ro' [offensive coordinator Greg Roman] and everybody – our whole staff – did a great job of kind of switching up a little bit of what we were doing. Obviously, we've got a big playbook, and we can run a bunch of things. Being able to up the tempo a bit caught them off guard a little bit, and it was great to see. We were able to move the ball, pass the ball, run the ball. Our offense played really good in the second half, and it was fun to see all of us just clicking. And obviously, [we're] looking forward to continuing that."
You haven't seen the ball as much as receiver the last few weeks. Is that just something that happens naturally maybe when there is more defensive attention on you? Is it something that you get stressed about at all? (Childs Walker) "No, there's no stress for me. For me, the most important thing for me is winning. And I know defenses, obviously, are keyed in, and that's fine, but I'm just trying to help this team win any way I can. There's no stress for me. I know what it's all about. I know my abilities. I know what's going on. So, there's nothing you're really stressed out about. I'm just trying to help this team, do whatever I can to win, and if I get balls, I get balls; If I don't, that is what it is. I'm just trying to, again, help this team."
To that end, when you hear Bengals S Jessie Bates III say, 'We know where [QB] Lamar [Jackson] wants to go; it's either No. 15 [WR Marquise Brown] or No. 89 [TE Mark Andrews].' What does that do to your preparation – if anything? Do you just prepare the same way, or do you have to go about it a different way? (Kirk McEwen) "Yes, teams and defenses have come at us every game with a little bit of a different gameplan, and obviously, a lot of guys in the middle of the field are eyeing me and stuff like that. But I've been seeing it for the last two years. I've been getting double teamed – it is what it is. In training camp, I get double teamed by [defensive coordinator Don] 'Wink's' [Martindale's] defense, so stuff like that gets you ready for the season. So, I'm battle-hardened; I'm ready for that, I'm ready for all the attention, so that's going to help other guys get open."
The offense in the second half looked about as good as it has all season. Do you feel like that could be a momentum builder rolling from one week to the next? (Garrett Downing) "No doubt. You saw the way we came out in the second half, and it was just clicking. Obviously, guys are making plays, people are flying around. The fast pace – catching the defense a little bit off guard – is a great change up for us. We do a ton of great things, and 'G-Ro' [offensive coordinator Greg Roman] does a great job of scheming up defenses and making mismatches – especially in the run game. So, that, to be able to complement with our pass game, it was awesome to see."
With QB Lamar Jackson running and taking probably more hits than any other quarterback in the league, why do you think he has always remained so durable? (Jamison Hensley) "That's a tough question. Obviously, the type of athlete that he is, there's not many guys like him. You look at maybe a [Arizona Cardinals'] Kyler Murray, him, those guys are so athletic and so fast that they're able to kind of dodge hits at the last second just because of their athletic ability. When you're going against a guy that's a lesser athlete, you're able to kind of move away from hits and stuff like that. So, he does a great job of maybe taking an angle at the very last second that allows him to not get hit as hard as he would if he was just standing up."
How impressed have you guys been with T Orlando Brown Jr.'s transition from the right to the left side in replacing T Ronnie Stanley so far? (Andrew Gillis) "Orlando [Brown Jr.] is a natural-born left tackle; that's where his home base is. So, when you think about even when he got to the league, he had to make that transition to playing right [tackle]. And I know for him, it was a little different – being able to make that transition. So, just being able to see him play left, it's like he never missed a snap. He's been playing some great ball and really doing a great job on that left side. It's been fun to see."
When you had mobile quarterbacks at Oklahoma, guys like Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray would use their legs to extend plays; maybe not do the kind of quarterback-driven run stuff that you have in Baltimore with QB Lamar Jackson. Is it interesting to you how many different ways there is to use a mobile quarterback and have a productive offense in this modern age of football? (Jonas Shaffer) "It is. I think in the last maybe, 5-10 years, it's definitely grown. Just being able to have that versatile quarterback, it allows you to do so many more things. It really makes it hard for a defense to gameplan against you, just because when you have a mobile quarterback, they can extend plays, they can make plays with their feet. It's really an all-around thing. It's incredibly hard for a defense to stop that, and obviously, having a guy like '[No.] 8' [Lamar Jackson], who's the best in the world at what he does, that's unmatched. He's an incredible player. It's a blessing to be able to play with him."
To see QB Joe Flacco have success on Monday night, I imagine that was a lot of fun for you to watch? (Pete Gilbert) "It was. When you see Joe [Flacco] go out there and doing his thing, he's throwing the ball around … I've obviously got a ton of love and respect for Joe and what he's done. Obviously, playing with him for my rookie year, I know the type of guy he is, I know the type of player he is. He throws an incredible ball; he was slinging that ball around. It was fun to see."
Do you feel like you're still getting as open as you were last year? Or do you feel like it has been tougher for you to get open given what defenses are doing? (Ryan Mink) "I feel like I'm always open. That's a mindset that I have. Even when you're covered, you're not covered; that's a tight end mindset, and so I just have to keep on going. Obviously, there's a lot of different guys, a lot of different pieces on this team that we're spreading the ball to, and that's only going to make this team better. I'm not worried about the catches. Like I said before, I'm just trying to help this team win and do whatever I can to do that."
DE Derek Wolfe
The defense is always changing – you have DE Calais Campbell, you get a couple guys in – but still remains effective. What do you think about this defense that you've joined, and do you think defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale has done a great job given all the changes that the defense has undergone? (David Ginsburg) "Yes, I think [defensive coordinator Don] 'Wink's' [Martindale] defense is built for a rotational defensive line, because you have to do a lot of 'dirty work' on this defensive line – eating up double teams, staying nice and square, getting some knockback and allowing those linebackers to come through and make plays. But our young guys have stepped up. Broderick [Washington] and Justin Madubuike, they've both done a really good job of listening to the coaching, listening to Calais [Campbell] and I, 'Big Baby' [Brandon Williams], giving them every kind of pointer that we give them. They're like sponges; they take it all in. So, it's fun to watch those guys develop, and they're both going to be really good players."
Even in Year 10 for QB Cam Newton, how much do you have to still respect his rushing ability and him as a runner? (Jamison Hensley) "He's a big-body guy who can move, so you have to tackle him like a [running] back. You have to be aware of him at all times. People forget that he won the MVP not too long ago; that wasn't that long ago. So, he's still got it. He's still a good football player. I have a ton of respect for him. I've played against him a bunch. So, we just have to respect what he can do with his legs."
Coming over from Denver, how hard was it to assume a leadership role, and is that something you feel you can even quantify? How tough was it to come in and assert yourself? (Kirk McEwen) "I wouldn't say it's tough. I don't really have to assert myself. I just give my opinion where my opinion is needed [and] my coaching where my coaching is needed. I try to show my work ethic every day on the practice field, and I think when young guys see veterans playing hard, practicing hard, and then they see it transition into the game, that's a good example for those guys. So, I just try to set an example, and there's a standard around here in Baltimore, so I just try to live up to that standard every day."
What have you learned over the last couple weeks as a team about dealing with COVID-19? Especially as cases rise, has anything changed in terms of outlook or protocols in your mind? (Pete Gilbert) "No, not really. Obviously, we were in that intensive [protocol] last week. So, it was a little bit different. We had to switch up our meeting rooms, and get some more space and stay away from each other a little bit more, but for the most part it was just … Around here, like I said, there's a standard, and nobody really cares what you had to go through to get to the game; they only care about the results of that game. So, it really doesn't matter what you had to go through during the week – who had to sit – because the other team isn't going to feel sorry for you, so we can't feel sorry for ourselves. We just have to keep on rolling."
How are you feeling now at about mid-season? How much more comfortable are you in your role, and how much do you enjoy being a part of it? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I'm used to taking all the workload. That's how it was for eight years in Denver – I was counted on to be out there the majority of the snaps. So, coming in, and being a guy who doesn't have to take that whole workload, it makes it a lot more fun, because the snaps that I'm out there, I'm feeling fresh. I feel good. I'm not tired. I'm not getting worn down. During the course of a game, when you have Calais [Campbell] and I rotating on you … I can't speak for them, but I'm assuming that's probably … They're probably looking at it like, 'It's going to be a long day,' as an offensive lineman. And then we have these young guys who come in that are strong, powerful guys. So, I love my role, and I think it's perfect for me, especially at this stage of my career, and my age, and the injuries that I've had, the wear and tear on my body. It's really nice knowing that I can come out of the game, and there's not going to be a drop-off."
Just along those lines, if DE Calais Campbell is not able to play this Sunday, how much more does it put on you and the other defensive linemen to kind of pick up the slack? (Ryan Mink) "Yes, you have to. That's just the way it goes in this league. It's a violent sport; people get hurt. People have little nicks and injuries that they might have to sit out for a couple of weeks. That's not a big deal, because … Obviously, losing a guy like Calais [Campbell] is … That sucks, because he's one of the all-time greats playing the defensive line, and his leadership is unmatched. He's the ultimate professional. I think I do have to step up. Last week, when he went down, I was like, 'Well, I have to be more vocal now,' because he's normally the vocal guy. So, I have to be more vocal and keep these guys locked in a little bit – not be annoying, but just kind of get it in their minds what's really at stake, what's going on here and speaking up. I'll definitely step into that role for this week, and then when he comes back, I'll step right back into my role."
He's been around for a couple weeks now. I wanted to get your thoughts on DE Yannick Ngakoue and what he can bring to that front for you guys? (Luke Jones) "You can't say enough good things about that guy. That guy is a freak athlete. He's got a nose for just getting to the quarterback and making plays. He's got quickness. He wants to be a great teammate. He wants to run games. He wants to help other people make plays as well. So, he's all in. All he really wants to do is win; that's all he really cares about. That's the kind of guy you want to be around."
How much fun has it been to be a part of this defense with the turnovers they create and the points scored? (Jerry Coleman) "You know, having an offense that … I know that a lot of people are kind of trash-talking our offense, because Lamar [Jackson] was the MVP last year and they broke records last year. But our offense is putting us in really good position as a defense. Obviously, a couple turnovers here, a couple turnovers there – that's going to happen. We have to respond on defense and keep them out of the endzone. But it's been … I'm having a blast. It's so much fun on gameday just knowing that you have a great offense out there that can go score points. You just have to get the ball back for them, and they'll go score for you. It's a ton of fun."
For the past several decades, the Patriots have kind of had a mystique about them, being the most consistently successful team. Without QB Tom Brady, and with the team having a losing record, do you still feel that? Does it feel like a Patriots game? (Aaron Kasinitz) "It's still a [head coach] Bill Belichick-led team. So, you have to respect them and give them the respect they deserve. You have to play hard against them, because they play hard. They're a well-coached team. They work well together. That team has always been a plug-and-play type of offense. Their defense has always been that way, as well. So, you have to definitely give them their respect. They're still a good football team, and you still have to go out there and bring your best, because they're going to bring their best."