THURSDAY AVAILABILITY: Week 9 vs. new england
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Opening statement: "You had the bye week; you had a chance to reflect back. I really like the direction that we're going. We're playing with a lot better fundamentals, knock-back at the line of scrimmage. Our eyes are in the right place in coverage. Our leverages and angles of the football have improved immensely, and most importantly, our tackling has. Obviously, we had a rough stretch there, and there's a focus on making sure we do everything right. I'm excited [about] where that's going."
With all the attrition and the turnover on defense, has it kind of forced you to make more adjustments than you would normally make mid-season, or, like you said, was it really just about getting those guys in the right position and getting them focused on their roles? (Daniel Oyefusi)"It's a little bit of everything. It's a little bit of everything, you just mentioned, as far as, you have new guys, new additions that come in, and they're playing really well. Yes, you make adjustments. That's part of coaching. It's a little bit of everything you talked about. But the basic thing is, it's football. It's the things we talked about here for the last three weeks. It's fundamentals. It's tackling. It's angles of the football. It's leverage and just playing good football."
How much harder has it been for you and your staff, as compared to last year, getting all these new guys up to speed, making the changes after some tough games? (Ryan Mink) "We had tough games last year, too. And we had to make some changes last year. Every year is different in this league. Every Sunday is different. It's part of the profession. And it's a tribute to the players, actually, that we have here. I told the defense today, it's like this city. It's a blue-collar city – the guys that come in here work hard. Some of them, like Josh Bynes, just came off the couch and weren't expected to do much and are playing really well. For us, as long as we keep that focus and handle the series of events, you'll see some good things to come."
You mentioned ILB Josh Bynes. When you signed him, was the idea of him playing a lot of time? At what point did you say, because he started that game against Pittsburgh, at what point did you say, "He's going to be the guy."? (Jamison Hensley) "Due to injuries and everything else, he had to be the guy in the middle. I say injuries, but it was just what fit us best for that week. All these role players that we have, that we've talked about before, it changes from week to week what role they play and how many reps they play and on down the line. Plus, we had the advantage, because I was with Josh [Bynes] here earlier, so I knew what he was about."
You've talked very highly of OLB Pernell McPhee. What do you think the keys are to move forward after his injury? (Aaron Kasinitz)"You saw Jaylon Ferguson in the Seahawks game. He played a lot of plays, and we weren't disappointed at all. As a matter of fact, the entire front of the Seahawks game, led by Brandon Williams, they were phenomenal up front. So, now you have to say it, after so many: It's the next man up. We lost some leadership there, but he gave us everything he had. And everybody knows that. [Pernell] McPhee did."
When you think QB Tom Brady, when you hear the name, what goes through your head? (Bo Smolka)"Tom Brady. Obviously, this is a game … You have the great players that talk about their legacy. I talk about, in our room, the history of the game. Respect the history of the game. It's historic. Tom Brady is historic in what he's done with Coach [Bill] Belichick and Josh [McDaniels, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach]. It's phenomenal, what he's done and all the accolades he's achieved. So, I imagine it's the same thing as when they were looking across the field and they saw Ray Lewis. They saw 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs]. They saw Ed Reed. I imagine it's that same thing. But as we know, history changes, and there are different guys and different roles. But one thing that's been there for a long time has been Tom Brady."
You mentioned the playing time distribution. Last year, CB Brandon Carr led all the cornerbacks with about 85 percent of the playing time on defense. With you guys getting healthy there in the past couple of weeks, is that the kind of distribution you'd like? Obviously, CB Marlon Humphrey has shown himself to be a guy who could run every down, but is there a sweet spot that you would like to hit with these cornerbacks and not be on the field every play? (Jonas Shaffer)"OK, OK. We're not going to talk about that with the sweet spots. I'm not going to say anything to give away anything of what we're doing. We might have 10 DBs out there. We might have eight D-linemen. Sometimes, hopefully, we'll see."
A couple of weeks ago, OLB Pernell McPhee actually brought up the Patriots from last year, kind of referencing how they had a sluggish start to the year, and they kept getting better and better and better and then, in their playoff and Super Bowl run, the defense was really a huge engine. He said, "Hey, we can be like that. We can just continue to get better." Is that something that is overlooked, that a defense, over the course of the year, no matter who you plugged in, "Hey, you can just continue to get better over the course of the year."? (Ryan Mink)"No doubt. We talk about it every week. Get this much better, get this much better, get this much better. The thing that impresses you about New England's offense is the precision of it. And it really doesn't matter who they lose. They put their players in the best position possible for them to succeed. What they do the best is where they put their players. Josh [McDaniels] does a great job with that. But the precision of their offense is what's impressive to me. Hopefully, you strive to get that, defensively, to answer your question about our defense, is where you were taking that, right? Hopefully, we can be the same way as we go on."
CB Marcus Peters obviously made the big impact in his debut. Were you impressed at how quickly he was able to get acclimated and adjusted and play so much and make an impact? (Garrett Downing)"Just imagine this, is for him to come cross-country, to come here, for, what, three days, two-and-a-half days? And then, get back on a plane and fly back out there. Who would have jet lag? I know all of us standing around here would have jet lag. So, for him just to do that, and then go in the game and play the way he did, that was a great trip for us. You could really feel them come together there, because you're there for two days, and we spent a lot of time together. I know that game meant a lot to Earl [Thomas], but it meant more to his teammates that we played the way we played for Earl. So, that was a pretty cool thing to see." (Reporter: "So, you could kind of feel a unifying element over the course of those two days, more so than any other road trips?")"I think you can, like I said, because it's longer. Maybe that's why, just because it's a longer trip out there. So, I think you could say that. That's fair."
With CB Marcus Peters, I know you've only had one game and a couple weeks of practice with him. Are there certain players, when they're playmakers, that just have a certain knack for making those plays? Or is there something even beyond that?_ (Jamison Hensley)_ "There's definitely a knack. There are those few players that just have that spectacular trait of, 'You got him.' It's one of those deals. So, it's more of a knack than anything else. I'm impressed with his football smarts, his awareness, his anticipation. But the football smarts are, just like I said beforehand, 'Lie to me if you don't know the package.' He knew the package. He's a smart football player."
How much are you looking forward to ILB Patrick Onwuasor coming back, and do you feel like his best football might be ahead, particularly if he's back at that spot where he was playing last year? (Cliff Brown) "Without a doubt. I'm looking forward to seeing 'Peanut' [Patrick Onwuasor] get back out there. That's going to help us. That strengthens our defense. There will be roles for everybody that dresses, especially for this game, because they do such a good job of showing you something they haven't shown or things like that. So, everybody that dresses will be ready to go on that field."
You mentioned OLB Jaylon Ferguson playing a lot. It seemed like the Seahawks ran at him a good amount. How did he fair in that, and have you seen a light click with him at all? (Aaron Kasinitz) "Just like I said before, up front, we played really well against the runs, especially against that offense. Look what they were doing beforehand. What did he [Chris Carson] have, three 100-yard games in a row before he played us, and then went back out after he played us and had, like, 97 [yards] against Atlanta or something like that? So, if they want to run at Jaylon Ferguson, good. Please do it."
One of your assistants, defensive line coach Joe Cullen, thought DT Brandon Williams played his best game since he's been here. He's kind of a guy that doesn't usually get a lot of attention. Did you share that opinion of him in Seattle? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Without a doubt. He's played a lot of good games, and he doesn't get a lot of attention because being a run-stopper isn't sexy in this league anymore. Everybody wants sacks. But all the stats prove that when he's on the D-line for us, we play better against the run. Just look at the difference between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, and both of those teams can run the football, obviously. So, we're glad that he's healthy, and we're glad he's back."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Opening statement: "Thanks for coming out. We're getting ready to play this Patriots team. The numbers speak for themselves. Their defense is playing at an outstanding level, if that's a strong enough word. When you look at them in all the different categories you might break things down into, they're either at the top or near the top in just about every one of them. They play great team defense. The front is disruptive. The secondary I think has about 40 years of experience. They're playing at a high level. The linebackers are very, very versatile guys, to say the least. They have the size and strength of D-linemen but also the athleticism of linebackers. So, schematically, they do just about everything. They can play this front then change it into that front [and] back to this other front. They can blitz. They can play coverage. They can rush three. They can rush eight. So really, it's a big challenge for us. We're really, really excited about it. We're deep into it. The game is not for a few days, so we still have some more time to get ready, and we're really looking to have a great Thursday today."
You mentioned there are a bunch of statistics that the Patriots are so good at. One of those is turnovers, obviously. What have you seen on film that has helped them create so many turnovers? (Andrew Gillis)"I mean, just a really good defense. It's unbelievable, really, when you watch the tape. The way they've gotten [turnovers], they're always in the right spot. It's really just a function of team defense, opportunistic. I think the secondary's ability to go up and track balls, tipped passes – it's a lot of different reasons. [They] punch the ball out; we saw that in their last game. So really, that's kind of what's leading the charge for them right now, those turnovers, so that's definitely a priority."
Bill Belichick is known for taking away what another team does best. Do you find yourself, different from other weeks, having to predict what that approach will be from him and then adapting your gameplan accordingly? (Garrett Downing)"Yes, he's definitely well known for that, so I think he definitely – if there's anything obvious or whatnot – I think you can bank on it at some point. But they could also mix it up, too. So, I think you have to do that every week, but especially this week. I think, really, their success starts with their front seven and how they destroy blocks and build a wall. If you look at the Super Bowl, they just completely wrecked the game. And there's probably a lot of opinions on what happened and this and that, but you have to block that front seven. They have really physical guys up there, and that's where it starts."
They have four guys with [at least] 4.5 sacks. Does that make it harder to control their pass rush? It's not just coming from one or two guys. It can come from anywhere. (Cliff Brown)"Oh, definitely. I think they're very disruptive pass rushers – sacks, quarterback hurries, tipped passes, being able to feel how a game that they might be running is working out, like one guy covering for another, all those things. But yes, they have very capable pass rushers, whether they blitz or play it straight. They're doing a lot of all-out blitzing, so our scout team is having a lot of fun this week just letting it rip on all the blitzes. They have a lot of different ways they can create pressure."
QB Lamar Jackson mentioned yesterday that he doesn't really know when it's going to be a game where he will throw a lot or run a lot. As you kind of find your forward in a game, what leads you to deciding how this offense is going to have to operate? Do you rely on what you learned from studying tape that week? (Jonas Shaffer)"Well, I think so. We want to go in there with a lot of options, and I think we've kind of built things that way. And you'll kind of get a feel for how things are going, and you might try to do something early on and then change it up later and then do something that maybe looks like that but really isn't. That's one way to do it. There have been a few games this year where I told them early in the week, 'Get in shape this week.' But you just don't know. You just kind of see how the game unfolds. A lot of their games, I mean, jeez, it's been like 17-0, 24-0 like eight minutes into the game. So, out of, whatever, eight games that they've played, how much film is really valuable? A lot of it is what you would call 'playing-with-a-huge-lead' type of plays, but we'll see how it goes."
I think there's an unusual amount of excitement for this matchup, particularly your offense versus their defense, outside of the building. Have you felt that inside the building as well? (Childs Walker)"Oh, we're very excited about the challenge. We're looking at a really good defense, a really gooddefense, and they play really well together from the front to the back. That's what you want to be going against. That's who you want to compete against, and we're just preparing day by day, step by step like we always do. And I'm sure there will be just an electric atmosphere out there on Sunday, and everybody will be jumping out of their skin to play. But there's a lot of work left to be done this week before we hit the field, so that's really what we're focused on. But [we're] very excited about the opportunity."
I know different play-callers – some have meetings with their quarterbacks or whatever. What methods have you used to get input from QB Lamar Jackson? And has that changed as he's grown in the offense? (Aaron Kasinitz)"Yes, we just talk, you know? [We] might talk in the hallway. I might grab him in the cafeteria, during the walk-through, on the field, in the meeting, everywhere, really. [We] just communicate all the time and everywhere. Definitely, I think feedback on what we did yesterday in practice when we watch film and kind of talk through things, that's very important. Really, all the way down to what cadence we're going to use, what personnel groupings, how we want to do certain things specific to that week; it's very important, very important."
Going against Bill Belichick who is known for his defensive schemes, do you anticipate seeing something different from him against QB Lamar Jackson than you've seen previously? (Ryan Mink)"I just think you have to anticipate all the different things they've shown on film or in their past. So, when you consider all those, there is a lot to consider, and that's one of the benefits of building up a body of work. People are forced to consider all the different approaches you've taken throughout the years, because it's in the system. We're ultimately focused on us and our improvement and our preparation, but there's going to be 11 guys out there, and we have to figure out how to attack them."
TE Hayden Hurst hasn't necessarily gotten a ton of targets, but when you look at the numbers, I think he's caught 70 percent of them. Whether it's him or any other pass catcher that you have, when you see that kind of success, that efficiency, is there a tendency to maybe want to expand on that a little bit more and get him a little more involved? (Luke Jones)"Yes, I think that goes for everybody, not one guy in particular, and a lot of it depends on how the defense plays. If they're going to double this guy, then the ball has to go somewhere else. Those are the kind of decisions you have to make, and then you have to be ready to make adjustments in-game if somebody breaks a shoelace or whatever, that kind of thing. So yes, definitely, everybody on our offense is extremely important, and the opportunities they get will kind of be dictated on how the defense plays."
Going back to when you were in San Francisco, you had success particularly when you went up against the Patriots with QB Colin Kaepernick running. Do you take anything from that game? Are you able to apply that at all this week? (Garrett Downing) "I think you consider everything. You really consider everything and move forward, but that was a long time ago."
I was talking with your former center in Buffalo, C Eric Wood, yesterday, and he mentioned that you are kind of proud of your days as a powerlifter back in college. Do you think that informs in any way the type of offense you like to run? (Jonas Shaffer)"Perhaps. (laughter)I don't know. I can't answer that. What else did he say? Next question, please." (laughter) (Reporter: "I wonder how much weight you were putting up?") "I could throw it around back in the day, a long time ago." _(laughter)
Last week, defensive line coach Joe Cullen said that there aren't many tight ends left in the NFL like TE Nick Boyle, in terms of a pure blocking tight end or a tight end that can block as well as he can. What kind of an asset is he to your offense? (Andrew Gillis)"Nick [Boyle] affords us the ability to run certain plays that you probably wouldn't run with other different types of tight ends. I think he's an ascending player. I think he's getting better every year, and he definitely gives us a chance to leverage the defense a little bit at times, just because of his skillset. But, he's also a very dependable player in other areas. He can do a lot of things well, and he's just really focused on continuing to improve. But he's a huge asset for us in a lot of different areas of what we do."
Special Teams Coach Chris Horton
Opening statement: "Thanks everyone for coming out today. Coming back off of bye week, our guys have done an outstanding job of preparing themselves for these last couple of practices that we've had. We're just really looking forward to getting ready for Sunday Night Football."
John Harbaugh was clear about the reasoning for why CB Justin Bethel was cut, but how much pressure does put on the younger special teams players to step up and assume bigger roles? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Obviously, Justin [Bethel] was a big part of what we did this offseason, and bringing him along, he's an outstanding player. But really, before we brought Justin in here, we had good players. We had good players on our team. So, those guys are still on our team, and they'll step up into those roles, and they'll go play as well as we need them to play. But obviously, Justin, he was a huge part of what we did here."
Are you expecting Bill Belichick to scheme something up special? Do you have to be more aware? They blocked a K Justin Tucker field goal, I think, three years ago with a guy jumping over the center. Do you have to be really alert to him scheming something up in terms of that? (Ryan Mink)"I think when you play a team like New England, they do a really good job of trying to find things out about each phase. So, we'll continue, we'll go out, we'll do what we do, and we'll just put it on our guys to go ahead and play with good fundamentals, execute great field goal protection, and I think we'll be OK."
K Justin Tucker was named Special Teams Player of the Month in the AFC. Beyond him with LS Morgan Cox and P Sam Koch, can you talk about the precision and the level of detail all three of them take to make K Justin Tucker so accurate? (Jamison Hensley)"Obviously, it all starts with the snap and the hold and then the kick, right? So, just like you're saying, a lot of that is on all three of them. Justin [Tucker] does a great job of making those kicks, but again, it starts with Morgan [Cox] snapping the ball back there, making sure it's over the spot. Then it starts with the hold, making sure the ball is at the proper angle. All those things play an effect, and then Justin goes out there and he kicks it. Congratulations to him, because the guy works so hard. He's so hard on himself, and that's why he's named Special Teams Player of the Month. It's because of all those things he does on the field with Sam and with Morgan."
I know LS Morgan Cox, P Sam Koch and K Justin Tucker strive for perfection, but how close to perfection do they really have this operation? They've been doing it for so long now. How close is it to perfection – what they do together? (Jamison Hensley)"When it's not perfect, I think we notice it, right? So, those guys, they go out there and their only job is to be perfect on every play. It's like every player. You want to be – you have to be – perfect, try to be perfect on every play. But their job specifically is to be perfect. It has to be right. If it's not right, you'll see a lot of things like some of the other kickers across the league. Because if it's not right, they tend to miss field goals, and then when it's not right here, you'll see Justin [Tucker, and] he'll be upset. So, it has to be right."
It seems like DB Jordan Richards was kind of a replacement for CB Justin Bethel. What can you tell us about him? What kind of guy is he? (Aaron Kasinitz)"Jordan [Richards] is a great guy. [We're] just getting him here, and he's been around this league for awhile, and he's been a special teams player. Now, obviously, his role in what he does for us is going to be different than what Justin [Bethel] did, because they're two different players. He'll form another role for us, and he'll be a good player for us. He'll go out and he'll play for us, and he's going to play for us."
He's not eligible to play for a couple more weeks, but did CB Iman Marshall distinguish himself as a special teams player over the summer when he was healthy? And is he a guy – obviously, you're not making the decision whether he's activated in a couple weeks or not – but is he a guy you think could help you guys on special teams? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Oh, definitely. When he was out there, he's a physical guy. We want physical guys. He can run. But my job right now is to make sure when he is out there [that we] just kind of get him caught back up to speed. He has missed a lot of football. So, it's just [that we need] to kind of work him back in there, give him an opportunity so he could go out there, and he can compete when the time is the right, and if that does happen."
S Earl Thomas III
On what the atmosphere will be like playing against the Patriots:"That's why you prepare, so that you can go out there and have fun and dominate. Hopefully, that's what happens. The black on black jerseys are going to be fire. The fans are going to be fired up. It's going to be at night, at 8:30. I'm very excited about it. Everybody in this locker room is excited about it."
On if he has gotten better at managing injuries as he has gotten older:"Yes, as I've gotten older, I've gotten better at understanding my body, listening to it and just trying to get my best chance on Sunday to go out there and fly around."
On if he looks at this Patriots game as a measuring stick to evaluate the Ravens: "I feel like every week is a measuring-stick game, but this is a game where we can go out there and make another statement, just like we did last week."
On what stands out to him about QB Tom Brady on film: "It's more of his overall body of work. You understand what you're going against. And then the O.C. [Josh McDaniels], they all work really well together. So, it's going to be a challenge. We know that, but we're ready for it. We're going to accept it."
On how he thinks the defense has improved despite injuries: "All the players that we're bringing in, they're coming in and they're making plays. They're executing. They're practicing just like they're going to play in a game, and it's working out for us really well."
WR Willie Snead IV
On his recent contract extension:"I was really excited, to be honest. I want to be here in Baltimore, and now I'm going to be here for another year, for sure, which is a great feeling. It just allows me to focus on football now and really finish the year strong."
On if he was hoping he would receive a contract extension: "Yes. It's always there, especially when you're in the last year of your deal, just figuring out what you're going to do next year. But when they contacted my agent, I was really excited. I was just curious to see what it was going to be. The deal was fair, I believe, and I just know I'm going to be here for another year. I'm grateful to have that, grateful to be here, and blessed to be able to play football with this team."
On if his extension came together quickly or if it had been in the works: "They had been in talks all season, training camp, now. So, it's been ongoing. But they just wanted to come to a common ground and get what's fair, so I think that's what they were able to do. I'm happy. I'm just happy to be here."
On his thoughts going into Patriots week: "It's going to be a great game. I'm excited. I have my whole family here. The atmosphere is great, first night game in the stadium against the undefeated Patriots. Tom Brady is the quarterback. The stage is set for us to be great. We just have to continue to do what we've been doing the last couple of weeks: play our brand of football, be physical, play great defense and take care of the ball."
On what makes him a good fit for the Ravens' offense: "I believe I'm a very versatile person. I can block. I can catch. I can run routes. I can do whatever the team needs me to do to win the game. So, in this offense, they ask me to do a lot. When I'm in there, I can do a whole bunch of things. I can do all of those things I just mentioned. But just being that versatile player that they need me to be, I think that's why I fit in so well."
On how important it is to have continuity around QB Lamar Jackson: "That's the most important thing, because when I was in New Orleans, that's all we had with Drew [Brees], just that camaraderie, that trust. That's what gets the passing game going. That's the trust that the quarterback needs. So, when I got here, Lamar [Jackson] was the guy. Just continuing to build that … It's only Year One – well, a year-and-a-half – with him. He's just continuing to grow, and every week, we'll get better with that, because we're always spending more time after practice, and we have all these walk-throughs, so he knows what to see and what he's expecting. That's definitely important for him and for us."
On how he sees himself as a mentor to the young receivers: "It's scary, man. I remember when I was the rookie, and Marques Colston was my guy. Now, I'm the guy, and it's only Year Five. For me, it's just to be myself, not try to be somebody that everybody expects me to be, but just to be me. That's how I got where I'm at, and that's why guys respect me. I'm a humble guy. I lead by example, and I try to do the best I can every day. If I can continue to do that the next couple of years and watch these guys grow with me, I guess I'm doing my job pretty well."