Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, I want to thank everybody for coming on. We appreciate you being here with us. First of all, I just want to congratulate David Ginsburg on his announcement that he'll be retiring after 30 years as a sports reporter. We have a lot of appreciation for you, David, and respect for you. You've done a great job for so many years, and you will truly be missed. Hopefully, you won't be too far away. So, congrats. Any comments? Do you want to make any kind of statement?" (David Ginsburg: "I do want to thank you for the sentiment. It's been a pleasure covering you, and I'm glad you're a good coach, because I didn't have to do any coaching searches since 2008 – always a pain. I also just want to say I'm doing the Marshal Yanda, getting out before they kick me out. But the next time you see me, I will not have lost 45 pounds. I'm going to continue to be eating like an offensive lineman, but thank you very much. You made my job easier, and I really appreciate you so much for taking my big picture questions that I know you love. They aren't comparisons, but big picture ones are what I do. So, thank you so much for your sentiment." (laughter) "Outstanding. We love you. We love you." (David Ginsburg: "Thank you.") "We have a couple more weeks. Hopefully, we'll stretch this out just a little bit." (David Ginsburg: "That was my plan. I chose February 14 so I could make the Super Bowl run with you guys, and then have an extra week to cover the aftermath.") "Outstanding. Alright, what questions do you have?"
I know the whole focus, of course, is winning in Cincinnati, but QB Lamar Jackson can do something that's kind of record setting. He's 92 yards rushing away from getting 1,000 yards. No quarterback has every had two 1,000-yard rushing seasons. When we talk about things like this, is this a reminder of what kind of a special and unique talent Lamar Jackson is? (Jamison Hensley) "Probably so. I didn't know that stat; that's great. Good for him and the guys. Obviously, as you said, it won't be the forefront of our thinking at all. But Lamar [Jackson] is a special person. He's a talented guy of course. He's in the process of improving himself, making a name for himself and building a career as a quarterback in the National Football League. I think all of us - players, coaches, the organization, fans, writers … It's cool to be a part of it. We're proud to be a part of it and try to help every way we can. He's a guy that we really appreciate."
Looking at the Bengals, specifically QB Brandon Allen, he's gotten progressively better each week. He threw for 371 yards on Sunday with two touchdowns. They're also running the ball better. What have you seen from Brandon now and kind of the revamped Bengals offense here? (Todd Karpovich) "They've been pretty dangerous all year. You look back going into our game, they had a lot of success early in the season. They put up numbers. So, it's not really surprising. They do a good job in terms of as a coaching staff, and in terms of doing the things that their players do well. I think they've organized the offense now … It's within their system still, but they've built it around what Brandon Allen can do and what he does well. They're running the ball well. The ball is out quick. They're running some 'RPOs' [run-pass options] and some quarterback driven things and taking their shots. So, they have three really great receivers, and an up-and-coming, developing tight end who's really playing well. I think the offensive line is doing an excellent job with the Zone run blocking and all the little variations they run off of that. It's obviously been very successful. They're playing well."
The fact that the Bengals have won two in a row, and I know that you'd be trying to get your team to play hard anyway, but does that help you sell the fact that this is a dangerous opponent in a must-win game for you guys? (David Ginsburg) "I don't think I have to do any selling at all to our guys. Our guys watch the tape. They know the Bengals. We always have tough games against the Bengals – win or lose. I believe our guys always play hard, regardless; it's just a matter of how well we play. This is going to be a big challenge for us. It's a division game on the road. It's a tough place to play, always. We have our hands full, and we have a lot to gain. So, we're just trying to go to work and be as focused as we can and play as well as we can."
When you think back to the week after the second Steelers game, you guys are 6-5, looking at the finishing stretch ahead. Was there any tweak to kind of the big picture message? Or was it really just stay the course, week to week? (Childs Walker) "There are always tweaks, I guess, [that's] the word you used. There's always … The message goes with the events and the circumstances. It just tries to parallel the reality of the situation. We're pragmatic about everything. We understood the situation we were in, what we had been through the last few weeks before that. We were trying to climb our way out of that situation. So, the guys did a good job of that. They understood how challenging it was. They tried to keep the focus on the football and keep it simple and play as well as we could. That seems like a long time ago right now, honestly. We're just trying to focus on what we have in front of us, right now, at this point."
The Giants had three offensive plays in the first quarter. It's tough to score when you don't have the ball. Is that as close to perfection as you can get? (Kirk McEwen) "Well, yes – big picture in the first quarter, it probably is. We got off the field quickly on defense. We got the ball first, had a long drive and got off the field. [We] got the ball again and had another long drive. So, that definitely is what you're looking for from a production standpoint."
As you go back to the middle of the season, going through the losses, and the COVID-19 outbreak, and then coming back and playing so well since that, does that … Going through that adversity, how much stronger does that make you now as you get ready for Week 17, and I know you certainly hope, for weeks beyond that? (Pete Gilbert) "Well, we're about to find out. I think we're always a mentally tough team. I think our guys … [It's] because we have mentally tough guys. We have character guys, and it's just the way we're built. It's the way we operate around here day to day. So, it's really to be expected, but we'll find out to what degree based on how we play the next few weeks."
QB Lamar Jackson has obviously had really good numbers these past couple weeks, but you and other coaches often talk about how the passing game isn't just one guy. What are the factors that you find to be most important for Lamar to get into the kind of groove he's been in lately? (Aaron Kasinitz) "There are peripheral factors in terms of the run game and in terms of how people decide to defend us, and then there's just execution, really. I think we've done a good job scheme-wise, but the concepts have all been within our package and have been there. I think the coaches have done a good job of game-planning, but really, more than anything, it's just execution. You try to get precise. The passing game is about timing, precision, accuracy, route running, catching the ball, recognition of coverages and then winning one-on-one matchups. So, all of those things … Protection, obviously. It's just a lot of factors that I think everybody … You follow the game; you know what those things are. It's just a matter of doing those things well."
We've seen the offense kind of change from week to week. What's impressed you about the way that offensive coordinator Greg Roman has kind of adapted the offense over the course of the season? (Daniel Oyefusi) "I think everything he's been doing – and all the coaches have even doing – is trying to just find ourselves and what we can do well. Also, in terms of what people are doing against us and counteracting those kinds of things. And then there's growing in terms of execution; coaching the techniques and the assignments and all the little things that go with it. Football is a big sport. There's a lot going on in any given play in football. [There are] a lot of elements to it; you're chasing all those things at one time. I think all of those coaches on the offensive side ... All of our coaches across the board have done a really good job of that."
Just going back to QB Lamar Jackson for a moment, the local media voted him team MVP today. There's pressure for every player on the field, but the quarterback is a different animal. For him to come back from COVID-19 and just the way he's handled that, and to also be playing his best football this season, how proud are you to have seen him do that? (Luke Jones) "[I'm] very proud. He's a guy that I'm always very proud of. He's a guy that can look tough situations squarely in the eye and try to figure out a way to overcome them. He never gets too down about anything; he's always upbeat, and he always works hard. So, those are the things that you appreciate about him."
We're going to talk to S Chuck Clark here in a little bit, but it looked like he really had a strong game against the Giants, particularly in coverage and with a tough assignment of TE Evan Engram. Can you talk about Chuck's play this season and his ability to matchup with tight ends? (Ryan Mink) "Yes, he's done a good job. That's one of the toughest jobs there is, because [of] the tight ends in this league. Evan Engram being one of those guys, and Drew Sample, this week, is an emerging tight end in the passing game, for sure. So, that's a big challenge for any safety, and then all the other things that go into that job; tackling … He's the play-caller, [so he's] getting the defense lined up. There are calls that both he and DeShon [Elliott] have to make in terms of how we play certain coverages in certain looks as the formations are presented; the spacing, the angles. All the stuff that goes back to playing safety, and then just the simple thing of being able to cover a really good player like that with those kinds of skills. He's done a heck of a job. I'm very impressed with what Chuck [Clark] has done all year."
QB Lamar Jackson
Congratulations are in order for you. The local reporters here in Baltimore have selected you to be the Ravens' MVP for the 2020 season. This is the second straight year you've won the team MVP. I didn't know if you had any kind of reaction to winning the award for the second straight year? (Jamison Hensley) (laughter) "I appreciate that. I appreciate that. You know I always tell you guys; I feel like that's a team award. We've been through so much adversity this year. We hit humps and stuff like that, but our guys just find a way to pull through and keep fighting, especially for this playoff run. We have a great opponent in front of us this Sunday. Hats off to our whole team, because it's a team award to me, to be honest."
You just mentioned the adversity. Do you kind of feel like you'll always look back on this as a crazy season with COVID-19 and everything else? (Childs Walker) "When the year gets brought up, yes – I'd say so. But I really don't want to think about the year once it's over with, to be honest. (laughter) There's been a lot going on this year. I really don't want to think about it when 2021 comes, or the other years."
We're coming on two years since Greg Roman officially took over as offensive coordinator. How has your relationship with him grown? What's it been like kind of building this offense from the ground up and then growing it more this season? (Daniel Oyefusi) "Our offense is still growing. We [were] putting in new plays this morning. It's come a long way from my rookie year and when I ended up starting and stuff like that. Coach Greg [Roman] has been doing a great job drawing it up, putting his Xs and Os on the board and stuff like that. He's been doing a terrific job. We just have to keep it going and keep the defense on their toes when we're out there playing, that's all. He's been doing a great job at that."
When the Bengals played you guys the first time this year, it seemed like they brought 'DBs' a lot from the edge. What do you remember about their defense that they employed to try to stop you guys and your running in particular? When you watch then on tape, has that kind of played out the rest of the year? Or was that just a QB Lamar Jackson and the Ravens thing? (Jeff Zrebiec) "They've been dicing it up. They've been doing a great job on defense all year, I would say, from the looks of things to me. I don't know about everybody and how they feel, but to me, they've been doing a great job this year defensively. Teams, when we go out there and play them, it'll be totally different from what we watched on film or what they usually do; that's what it was again with Cincinnati. But we'll have to see Sunday, because it's always different coverages, different blitzes, different everything when we get out there on the field. So, we'll just have to see."
Does it feel any different going into Week 17, knowing that you don't have to get help from another team? That if you win, you're in, and that's the only focus you need to have? (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, that's been our focus the whole time. Like I told you guys before, I never really cared about the other teams losing or winning for us. Our job is to focus on the task at hand, and that's winning. For us, we still want to win out. It doesn't really matter about the teams losing, and stuff like that. We want to win. That's why we play the game, and that's just us."
I know your focus and your whole goal is to win Sunday's game, but you could also make history. You're 92 rushing yards away from another 1,000-yard rushing reason; no quarterback in NFL history has had two 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Would that hold any significance for you, if you are able to accomplish that? (Jamison Hensley) "Being honest, I just want to win Sunday and come out of the game healthy. That's all I really … It doesn't really matter about any records being broken, or anything like that. I just want to win to get in the playoffs."
When you came into the NFL knowing, obviously, how dynamic you are with your legs, did you think that you would be a 1,000-yard rusher in the NFL? (Ryan Mink) "Being honest, I did it in college before, so I didn't ever doubt myself. And it wasn't really on mind, to be honest, that I'd be running for 1,000 yards, either, give or take. I really didn't think about that, to be honest. (laughter) I didn't."
I'm curious about your leadership style going into a big game. Do you think it's better to remind everybody of the stakes and how important it is, or do you think it's better to keep everybody loose? And how do you go about doing that? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Our guys are dialed in. We didn't win a Super Bowl; we're trying to get there. And our job is to focus on the task at hand, like I always say, and that's what we're doing here. Nobody is peaking, or nobody feels like we've done anything, because we're still fighting. We've got to keep that focus going. We can't go to getting out of our element."
What has made RB Gus Edwards a better receiver in the air-attack? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "He's just open. (laughter) He's just open. He's there when we need him, or when I need him, I should say. And [when] he gets the ball in his hands, he just does what Gus [Edwards] does, and that's run uphill, and that's what he's been doing. So, he's just got to keep it going. We don't want to talk about it too much, because now everybody is going to be keying on him. We don't need that." (laughter)
S Chuck Clark
The last time you guys played the Bengals, you guys looked like you were going to have the shutout. They kicked a field goal down 27-0 to kind of take away your shutout. Is that something, as a defense, that you remember going into this rematch? (Jamison Hensley) "Every week, that's one of our goals. If we can shut the whole offense out and not give up any points, then our chances go up to win, for sure. So, that's definitely something we're definitely taking to mind."
You had a good game covering TE Evan Engram, specifically, against the Giants – which is a tough assignment. Can you talk about covering tight ends, how tough that job is, and how much you relish it? (Ryan Mink) "It's definitely a week-to-week matchup. Certain guys are a lot faster than others, and certain guys are stronger than others. So, it's definitely a different task going into different weeks [with] what type of tight end you're dealing with. Whether it's a guy that can really go and stretch the field, like last week playing against [Evan Engram] from New York [Giants], or playing against a different guy that's a bit stronger and a little bit more route-savvy, an underneath-runner."
What's the mood of the team? Does this season feel different? Last year, you rode a wave into the playoffs – 14-2. Even rested guys in the last game against Pittsburgh, and won. This season, you're not resting anybody in the last game. You're scratching and clawing to get to the playoffs. Does it feel different? (Kirk McEwen) "No two seasons are the same. Last year, we won 12 straight [games] and we knew where we were at. And this year, it's a little bit different. It really makes you look back and look at [how] every game counts, and every game is important, because had we won another one in our previous couple of games, [it] might be a bit different situation. We're cool where we're at. We're ready to get it out of the mud, and that's all we ask for – is an opportunity to be where we're at right now."
Does going through the adversity in the middle of the season that you faced [with] losing four-of-five [games], and having a COVID- outbreak – does that make you stronger now? Are you better for having gone through that as you get ready for this game against the Bengals? (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, it definitely makes us stronger. I think from just the virus side of it, it just shows us how much more locked in [and] how much more focused we have to be as far as proceeding with the protocols with the virus, just so we know that the rest of us who didn't get it can stay healthy and we don't lose anyone going into this run."
When the team is 6-5 and going through that adversity, how much does head coach John Harbaugh and his message … How much do you feel that helped the team kind of stay the course, and be to the point where you are right now? (Jamison Hensley) "I feel that coach [John Harbaugh] did a great job during that time. We were all at home on Zoom waiting for the next thing. What would be next? What's the message? Where are we going from here? And I think coach did a good job of keeping us all grounded, knowing that we would all eventually overcome the situations that we had, and be able to get back out there and go win football games to be able to put ourselves in position."
Hate to bring up bad memories, but you guys played the Bengals in Week 17 in 2017. And obviously, that one was kind of one of the more disappointing losses in franchise history. You were one of the few players on that team that's still here. What do you remember about that game? Do you expect that to come up at all this week? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I don't think we really mentioned that game at all, period. But I do, personally, remember that game. It's the same situation that's ahead of us right now – fighting for a spot in the playoffs. Same team, not the same field, but it's something that's definitely in the back of your mind. But we keep moving and we deal with the task that's at hand this week. The game that happened three years ago has no control on this one."
For you guys, you've kind of been in the situation where your backs have been against the wall for a little while now. Do you feel like it's kind of been a playoff mode to a certain extent for this team knowing that you had to kind of climb your way back into the playoff mix? (Garrett Downing) "Yes, that's been our mindset on all sides of the ball – offense, defense, special teams. Since about that second Steelers game, we all said that every game is a playoff game from here on out moving forward."
Two years ago, when you guys were striving for that playoff spot, QB Lamar Jackson, obviously, was a big storyline. Last year, it was an easier coast to the end of the regular season. Is there a different kind of leadership that you noticed from [Lamar Jackson] in 2018, this season, then in 2019? Do the circumstances of the season dictate the kind of leader you have to be in that role? (Jonas Shaffer) "He's definitely stepped up and he's made huge strides from where he was. I think he's realized it, personally, what went wrong in the past – and we have, too. And we all know where we've got to be better as a group, to make the group effort to get to where we want to ultimately go."
RB J.K. Dobbins
QB Lamar Jackson has had a great season, but ever since he came back from his 10-day quarantine, his numbers have been up. What do you think happened? Why is he so much better after coming back from that and dealing with that? (Jamison Hensley) "I wouldn't say he's so much better, because he's still the same player that he's always been the whole year. I think things just started clicking. We figured everything out. He's been great all year. His numbers are still great. That boy has been playing ball since the beginning of the year. I think things are just clicking even more now for us."
When you think back to the week after that second Steelers game – you guys were 6-5 looking ahead at the finishing stretch – what was the conversation within the team? What was the sense of what you had to do? And were there any doubts about whether you could get back in it? (Childs Walker) "I don't think we had any doubts – none of the guys in the locker room think like that. So, I think we knew what we had to do. We knew it was crunch time. We couldn't slack off, we couldn't mentally be unfocused, we couldn't do any of that. We knew it was time to lock in, and just go on a run, so we can have a chance, give ourselves a chance, and here we are. Now, we're playing a Cincinnati team that's … They're playing good ball, and they've got a lot of momentum, and so, we've still got to lock in. We've got to stay locked in and just keep doing what we know we can do."
Is this how you envisioned things? You seem to be the lead back. I know everybody is getting the ball, but is this how you saw yourself – coming in as a rookie and being the lead back on the Baltimore Ravens? (Kirk McEwen) "I didn't know. I didn't have any expectations. I just told myself that I'm going to go in, work hard, keep my head down and be the player that I know I can be. And I know that I can play decent. I'm not saying that I'm that good or anything, but I know I work hard, and I try to perfect my craft as much as I can. So, my expectation was to come in and play. I'm not going to pull the rookie card and say, 'Oh, I'm a rookie. I'm just going to wait this out [and] be patient.' That's not me. I want to come in … As soon as they drafted me, my thought process was, 'Let's go in here, let's get better, and I'm going to find a way to get on this field and help this team win as many games as possible – get us to a Super Bowl, if that's possible.' And that's just what I've been doing."
In Week 5 against Cincinnati, you had one carry; it was a good one – 34 yards. But now, where you are in terms of the opportunities and the growth? Did you think back in Week 5, and wonder how you were going to get to the point where you want to be, and where, obviously, you are now? (Pete Gilbert) "That's a process. You've got to mentally stay locked in. I must tell you, that was one of the growing points of my career, because I've always been able to work so hard and be able to play right away. So, that was such a process for me, but I always saw it as just keep learning, keep watching film, keep learning things to do to get better, even though I was only getting one carry. That carry that I got, I made my mind up that I'm going to go hard. One carry, 100 carries, 30 carries, 40 carries – I'm running the ball hard and trying to make a play when my number is called. That's just the mindset I had, and here we are, today."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman lines you up in the slot, he has you in the backfield with RB Gus Edwards, and you have rushed for over 200 yards as a team three of the past four weeks. How key has that been for you guys – showing teams different looks and having that success on the ground? (Todd Karpovich) "It's a testament to Gus [Edwards] and how versatile he is. He can block, [and] he can run the ball well. He can do a lot of things, and that guy is a good player. So, that's just a testament to him, and then coach [offensive coordinator Greg Roman] for being so creative. He has a great mind. And whatever they tell me to do, I'm trying to do it the best I can."
Going back to the learning process that you had while waiting for your opportunity, a little bit; how much better prepared do you think that made you now – having the chance to learn behind the guys and kind of wait your turn to a certain extent? How much more prepared do you think you are now, knowing that you are getting a larger share of the pie, so to say? (Garrett Downing) "I definitely think it prepared me a lot for the long run. It was just, a young guy like me, impatient, ready to go, and that taught me how to have patience. That taught me to just be locked in all the time. Because you think you're locked in, and then, say you're not doing what you expect yourself to do, [and] you're not meeting your standards, that teaches you how to just be mentally locked in. I got mentally better – so much better. I feel like I'm so much better mentally. And the game comes; that comes to me. That's natural. I've been playing for a long time, so that comes naturally. But doing that, that helped me so much. I must say, it did help me so much. And I think I'm pretty fresh right now."
Your playoff berth is on the line if you can beat Cincinnati. That's a team that has just four wins. I'm wondering, in your first year in the league, what you've come to understand about the opposition, and those teams out there – even one that has just four wins – and what you expect in a game against a division opponent who really has nothing to play for, because they won't make playoffs? (Mark Viviano) "So, I used to hear the term or the saying, 'Any given Sunday.' And what I've learned is this is the pros. Everybody is a pro. Everybody is good in this league. And so, you can't look at records, really, because, as you can see, teams have not good records, and they're still beating teams that were maybe undefeated for a while, and things like that. So, you can never just look at a record. You've got to just play your game, stick to who you are, and just keep doing what you do; that's what I've learned in this league. Because, like I said, you've got teams that didn't win until like two weeks ago, beating teams that were undefeated."
Going back to you lining up in the slot, and motioning, and taking the handoff; how much of an adjustment was that, from a repetition standpoint, to get the timing down for that? And what do you like about that compared to lining up as a conventional running back, so to speak? (Luke Jones) "Shoot, I like to see myself as an offensive weapon. You put me out there in the slot, [and] I might go out there and look like one of the good receivers in this league. No, I'm just kidding. But it's definitely great to do – just mix it up. It just shows that I can be versatile, just like that's what I want to do. I want to be versatile – line up anywhere. And I want to be a smart player. So, you've got to be smart to know the formations, and stuff like that. So, that's just what I'm trying to do – keep expanding, and just keep doing things that they ask me to do."
As you talk about having to wait your turn a little bit; conversely, RB Mark Ingram II has been inactive the last couple of weeks. What has he been like with you guys, as he's not been active the last two weeks? From the outside looking in, he appears to be, still, that mentor and leader in that room, despite the fact that he's not playing. (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, Mark [Ingram II] is an unbelievable guy – a big brother to me. A guy that, like I said before, once this game is over with, which it will be someday, hopefully, not soon … He's going to be a guy who I'm still going to have a tight relationship with, because he's such a great guy. Like you said, he still texts me every day. He's still happy for me every day. He actually helped me with the process, mentally, teaching me things to do to help me be mentally prepared, to stay locked in. And he's just an amazing guy. I'm glad he's on my team. No matter what, he's my guy."
I know, during the game, the trainers were looking at your chest a little bit. You wanted to run right back on the field; I think they had to pull you off a little bit. How are you feeling, right now, going into this last game? (Jamison Hensley) "I feel 100%. I was just kind of tired. I've got to say, I was just kind of tired. I had to sit down a little bit."
I know you got the Ravens' rookie rushing touchdown record Sunday. You seem like a guy who really 'smells' the end zone, and I just want to know how much pride you take in not only being a guy who is, obviously, fast, but can get those 'dirty' yards near the end zone, and when you have a chance, you can knock it in? (Cliff Brown) "Yes, I take so much pride in that, because I'm not 6-3, 250 [pounds]. So, people kind of want to label me as a 'scatback' or something like that, but no, that's not me. I can get in there and mix it up with the big guys a little bit. I can be a little powerful, and that's why I say, I just try to pride myself on being an offensive weapon – not just a running back, but an offensive weapon. I can do things that people may not know I can do. So, I just like to keep showcasing that, and I take pride in that – being able to do more than just one thing, two things."
Happy New Year, Feliz Año Nuevo. [If the Ravens advance to the postseason], do you have a preference as to who you play in the playoffs? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "No, I don't have a preference, as long as we get in there and just do what we know we can do. Honestly, I appreciate you whenever you come in and speak Spanish to me. I love that. I love that. Somehow, someway, we've got to figure out a way to teach me Spanish, so I can speak it fluently back to you, because I need to learn it. Can somebody please set me up with somebody who can teach me how to speak fluent Spanish? You've got to help me out here. Can somebody do that for me, please? I would love that." (laughter)