WEDNESDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: PANTHERS – WEEK 4
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "Good to see everybody; appreciate you guys being here. You'll get the injury report later, although, we do have one announcement to make: Eugene Monroe has a minor surgical procedure that is going to be done today at 4 o'clock. So, he will be out for some number of weeks; I don't know how many. I don't think it is going to be on the long end, but that's something we are going to get cleaned up. It came up last week, and it came up in the game also. That's what I have on injuries. I have a note that says 'Steve Smith' here. Oh, Steve Smith, I'm going to be asked about Steve Smith. *(laughter) *OK, thanks, that's a good tip. That's why Kevin [Byrne, senior vice president of public and community relations] is the best. You want to ask me about Steve Smith?"
**Have you talked to Steve Smith Sr. about -- and can you share -- what this game means to him on a personal level? *(Pete Gilbert) *"Not that I want to share."
**Can you talk about how Steve Smith has helped the team in terms of leadership and catching footballs – that is on and off the field? *(Dave Ginsburg) *"He's obviously – if you've been watching us – to everybody, it has been pretty obvious as a football player what he's meant to us. He's made plays. He's a fiery competitor. He's been a leader. It's a young group of receivers, and he's had an impact on those guys. But he hasn't done it in an overbearing way. He's just been himself. He knows we have a good group of guys who've been here before, and he's respected that and he has fit in really well."
**Where does that leave you at left tackle? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"Next man up, like it always does."
Is that [rookie T James] Hurst? (Jeff Zrebiec)
"That's the depth chart. It's pretty straight forward. It's obvious."
QB Joe Flacco
On T Eugene Monroe missing a few weeks due to injury: "It's definitely going to be different for us as an offense. [Eugene Monroe is] obviously a guy that has come in and played well for us. To not have him is going to be different, but it's honestly something that I try not to pay too much attention to. I think [James] Hurst is going to come in, fill in and do a great job. And that's all I can really do is go back there and have confidence that we're going to do everything in our power to play well, and [Hurst is] going to play well. And I have all the confidence in the world in him."
On losing TE Dennis Pitta for the season due to injury: "It's tough, obviously. It's a shame. I have not had a chance to talk to him yet with what's going back and forth. The only communication I have had is through my wife with his wife to keep an update on how he's doing. I really want to leave him alone and see him at some point towards the end of the week and see how he's doing. But, it's obviously a tough situation. But football-wise, we have to move on, and we have the guys to do it. We'll have a bunch of guys come rally together and play football like we always do. Like I said last week – in terms of distractions, and dealing with things like that – going out there on Sunday, it will be a time to forget about things like that and go play and react."
On whether the team is better equipped with talent this season to replace TE Dennis Pitta: "I think we're a little bit better on the offensive side of the ball, so that if anybody happens to go down, we have guys that can fill in and take their place. Not just for Dennis [Pitta], but anywhere. So yes, I feel like we have some guys out there that are going to … They're not going to necessarily make up and have to play any extra, but they're going to pull their weight, and the guy that comes in for them is going to do the thing that he does well, well. Kyle [Juszczyk] has developed into a guy that can catch the ball, and do a variety of things that will help us out."
On whether there is anything that has surprised him about WR Steve Smith Sr.: "I don't know. I would say, 'No,' I guess. I don't want to shoot down your question. [I will] try to come up with something. I think we all know what Steve is, personality-wise, player-wise. He makes it very known what kind of personality he has, and he makes it very known what kind of player he is, because he goes out there and plays so well every week. So, like I said, I don't really want to say, 'No,' but that's it."
On whether he will involve WR Steve Smith Sr. early on in the Panthers game: "No. If I pay attention to that maniac on Sunday, who knows how I'm going to play? (laughter) He's going to want the ball – probably every single down – and if I don't get it to him, and I pay attention to how he reacts to that, then I'm going to be in trouble, and I'm going to feel bad, and then we're not going to play the way we should." (laughter)
On whether he has noticed a difference in WR Steve Smith Sr. this week in preparing for the Panthers: "No. It's still early in the week. So, the closer we get to Sunday, who knows? Who knows?"
On whether he will see a difference in WR Steve Smith Sr. on Sunday: "[The media] has seen him for a couple weeks now. Can he be much crazier than he is at certain times? *(laughter) *He catches the ball, he's going to let people know how good of a job he did right there, and I don't think this week [is] going to be any different. Obviously, he knows a lot of the guys over there, so I'm sure he has talked some trash in one-on-ones for the last handful of years with all the guys over there. So, he'll probably pick up right where he left off with all of them."
On his confidence in the offense despite key injuries: "All of it. I think we have a lot of guys. Good offenses aren't made up of one guy here and one guy there. They are made up of a collection of guys that play physical, play fast and can do a lot of things. And I think we have that. When you put together a team, you have to account for things to happen. It's football. Guys get hurt, and you never know how long they're going to be out. So, like I said, when you're putting together a team, you put it together with the thought process that things like this are going to happen, and we have to be good enough to overcome them. And I think we have the ability to do that."
On the Ravens' running game: "I think our guys are running physical. Our offensive line is getting better and better each week of getting guys down, playing physical, pushing them off the ball, creating the holes for those guys. So, I think we're getting better and better each week. I think [the running game] is here to stay, and it's here to get better. I think we're going to do nothing but improve on that front."
On the benefits of running the ball with three running backs: "It's pretty cool, and they have different styles, too. They all do their own little thing well, and they're all running the ball really well right now. [We have to] keep it going, keep them flowing, keep getting each one of them in the game and getting them touches. Right now it's working out really well, and I think it's a good formula. I think it'll be able to keep these guys fresh. And if at some point down the line we do have to deal with injuries, and things like that – like we had to this week with Bernard [Pierce] – then we're going to have those guys that have the confidence to step in there and play very well, because they've had all those game reps. So, the more guys that we can get back there, and the more guys that we can get touches and get their confidence level up, the better it is for us in the long run."
On quickly developing a connection with WR Steve Smith Sr.: "It's tough for me to … I always try to always answer that chemistry question with receivers. When you have a guy that runs routes and is in the right place and gets open, it's tough not to have chemistry with him. I keep saying that when you put together an offense, guys are supposed to get to certain spots, and they're supposed to get open. And based on the coverages, there's usually a guy that probably has a little bit higher percentage to get open than the other. And as long as I'm going the right place with the ball, and guys are winning when they should and beating man coverage, then they're going to get their touches. Steve is good at doing that. So, it's not very tough to … My job is to hit people when they're open. So no matter who it was, if they're getting open, it should be pretty easy, and that's what he does."
On an aggressive Panthers defense: "I have to go back and have all the confidence that my guys are going to protect up there and keep moving up in the pocket and not put myself in position to get in trouble. I think a lot of times you get in trouble when you try to escape backwards, you get loose with the ball – all the things that can lead to bad plays. I think as long as I take my drops, get the ball out in rhythm, keep moving up when things aren't there, then we'll be good. And when there is a bad play, it will be minimalized."
On fixing problems in the red zone: "We have to get better. It shouldn't be too tough to get those little distances. The biggest thing is as an offensive group, you take pride in those situations even though everybody knows what you're going to do with the ball, to do exactly that anyway. And we converted a couple in the game on Sunday, but we faked here, went here. Over the course of a season, you're not going to be able to do that 20 times. You're going to have to give the ball to your running back and get downhill, and even though they know that's where the ball is coming, you have to be able to convert. And we have to be better at that. I don't know the exact reason for it, but I am sure it's a very quick fix, and I am sure we'll get it done as a group."
On the importance of the left tackle position: "I guess the reason everybody finds [the left tackle] as the most important piece is because most quarterbacks are right handed, so it's to my back. And most of the good pass rushers are put on that side. I would assume that's why. But really at the end of the day, [the offensive line does] so much work together – in terms of combo blocks and where they're going and making sure they're going to the right guy – that every one of those guys has to be really good, and the left tackle is no different. [The left tackle] has to be on top of his game, on what kind of protections we have in the game plan this week, and then he has to go out there and let his physical ability take over and do it. And all of the guys on our team have the physical ability. And some guys have more experience than others. And the great thing is that the guys that don't have experience, one of them is going to get experience this week, and it's going to be great. And no matter how it goes, it's going to be a lot of fun for [the next player up], and it's going to be huge in the long run, because we're going to need him at some point. And we're going to need somebody else at another point. Like I said, I think the biggest reason that [left tackles are] so important is because of that first reason I said. But they're all really tough positions, and I think they're all doing a really good job at it so far.
T James Hurst
On when he found out he would be the starting left tackle: "Today. I talked to Eugene [Monroe] this morning. He let me know and wished me luck. He's going to do anything he can to help me out."
On whether he expects to have the starting job for a few weeks: "Yes, as far as I know, it is. They'll know more, I guess, after everything happens with [Eugene Monroe]. But I know he's going to do everything he can to get back as soon as possible."
On the challenges of being an undrafted free rookie: "It has been a long journey – a lot of ups and downs, but mostly ups. And right now is an opportunity for me. I'm excited about it. I'm going to put in all the work that I can to be responsible for my job on Sunday."
On the confidence he has to play the starting left tackle position: "I'm confident. We have a lot of good guys on the [offensive] line that I have been able to learn from for a long time now. We have a great coach, great coaching staff, great game plan. So, I'm really confident [that] I have the pieces around me to help me out as much as possible."
On where he has grown the most since training camp: "I think understanding the game. And it is a different game, college [than] the NFL – everyone knows that. But [it's been about] getting more reps, getting more comfortable with the technique, the speed and the game plan, really. It gives you more confidence in every play."
On whether being nervous is a good thing in this situation: "Absolutely. I think if you're not nervous, you don't realize what's happening. It is a big situation. It's my first NFL start. I'm excited about it. There are going to be nerves. Everybody has nerves. So, it's just a matter of going out there and knowing that you prepared and you've done everything you can for that opportunity."
On whether it's better to know before the game that he's going to play: "Absolutely. A mindset as a backup, it's tough to stay focused, to stay locked in on everything that is going on with the game plan. But if you know you're the guy, there's no excuse. You have to know everything, be on top of your game and be ready."
On why he wanted to come to Baltimore after going undrafted: "I think a big part of it was the opportunity to make the team and the coaches they had here. They have a great reputation for developing guys, and I was undrafted, and I wanted a chance to make it in the NFL. I felt this was the best spot for that."
On whether veterans on the defense helped him get acclimated to the NFL: "Absolutely. It was rough at first for sure. All those guys – all those outside linebackers we have to go against every day – they make it rough for you. But at the end of the day, they make you a better player. So, I've been lucky to have them across from me and [to have been] learning from them. They help me out, too, at practice with anything I need to work on."
WR Steve Smith Sr.
On if he's had any extra anticipation leading up to this game:"Not really. I guess it's kind of like when you're poor [and] you have Christmas. You realize you really don't have much going on. It's only a few black people that really got that.* (laughter)* I just want to get the game over with and move on, to be honest. I'm in the AFC, and I think that was a great decision. That was a 'brainiac' decision by me. It was a well-thought-out plan, more than I even thought going through the process. I think it works well."
On why he wants to just get the game over with:"Honestly, I never really envisioned that I'd be in a different uniform, a different city. A lot goes into it, and it's really eye-opening. You're in a place for 13 years, and now you're in a different place. And there are a lot of times thus far this season [where I've had] a lot of reflections just sitting down in [the locker room]. I'm really obsessed with just improving and just sitting there. A lot of the times, I'll sit in the … The receivers will always make fun of me, because at least [once] a day at practice, for a moment, I'll sit off to the side away from everybody and I'll just reflect [on] where I am. For 13 years, it would be … It would be Johnson and Wales' Culinary School, on the practice field, and you'd smell them cooking and all that stuff, and people were walking by. That's not there anymore. That's different – different place. That's why."
On having a great career in Baltimore thus far:"Really? Usually 35-year-old guys shouldn't be doing this, right?" (laughter)
On if he's already proven that Carolina was wrong to let him go:"That would be called 'humble pie.' I said that [about the media critics] a couple of weeks prior, remember?"
On if having nothing to prove takes away some of the edge:"You have to prove something every week. You have to prove: Can you beat that opponent? Can you beat that guy? Can you beat zone coverage? Can you beat man coverage? Every week it's a different opponent, it's a different challenge, and so, that's always going to be there. That's the great part about sports. Sports give you the opportunity to do what sports reporters cannot do. (laughter) That felt good saying that. It really did." (laughter)
On what he thinks he'll be like on Sunday:"My enthusiasm will be out of this world, but also be … It'll be fun to play against guys that I know their tendencies; they know my tendencies. But I know their tendencies. I know what they like to do. I know what they look at – all that stuff. I've been in every huddle [down] there. I've been in the special teams huddle; I've been in the defensive huddle; I've been in everything. They haven't been in our huddle, and their observation is only from a distance on film. My observation is in hands-on [experience] in the huddle, out of the huddle and from a distance. But [it's] still football. For some of those guys … Some of those guys are checkers players, and some of them are chess, and you have to be able to distinguish between which ones are the checkers and chess and be able to adapt to that."
On John Harbaugh's advice to him for this upcoming game:"It would be to 'shock the world and not say anything.' I may say something, but honestly, if I go across the middle and Thomas Davis – who I love – tries to crack-back on me, I'll [say], 'Hey! Hey!' It's like practice … 'I'll hit you if you want to hit me.' But it's going to be fun though. For some of those guys, it'll be fun. For some of those new guys that I don't know, it's not really on that same level. I've been playing with Thomas for almost 10 years now, so this will be the first time that I play against him, but that relationship hasn't changed. He's going to try to run through me to separate me from the ball, and I'm going to try to keep my hands on the ball. That doesn't change."
On if John Harbaugh has pressed him to curtail his emotions for the game:"Me and coach Harbaugh talk about a lot of different things every week. He knows I'm able to do what I want to do and able to do, and for me, practice during the week is always [about how] you build up, we play, we talk. I kind of heard Joe [Flacco] saying that I expect the ball, and my first opportunity at training camp I was like, 'Joe! I was open!' He said, 'Get your depth.' I said, 'Alright.' (laughter) We always keep each other accountable and we push each other and we try to improve, and I experienced that very quickly with Joe, and I appreciate that and it's fine. And that's not to say that other guys don't do it or haven't done it, but I'm only speaking because I spoke highly of Joe – not to say that the people prior are not at that same level. I'm saying it because I've only been here for such a short period of time, and thus far, we've had some things, circumstances and plays that have really shown our characteristics and things that we've noticed. [Here's] a great example when I say, 'refreshing': I've played 13 years with a number of quarterbacks, and I've played on a team where we've been terrible, and we've been great, but when you come into a new system – and the first game we had, all the receivers as a collective whole, we played terrible in that first half – and came in, and I expected Joe to be a certain way. I assumed that Joe would be something to try to get us started, and he was Joe. He just said the play, he told us what we had to do, and it was, 'Break!' I kind of left like, 'That's it?' I expected someone to, quote-unquote, 'Step up and be emotional,' and it was nothing like that. It was, 'Go out there, do our jobs and let our play speak for it,' and that's what I took out of it without Joe saying anything. That's what I meant by it [being] refreshing, because I assumed the way the game was going that there was going to be something. There wasn't."
On how he likes that characteristic about QB Joe Flacco:"If you're the guy messing up, then yeah, of course you like that! (laughter) So that's why I was like, 'Man, that was refreshing!' Because I expected … When you mess up, you always expect it with a counseling session by somebody, and then it was like, 'Hey, do your job.' And I was like, 'Oh! Yeah! Do my job!' (laughter) It was cool."
On QB Joe Flacco describing him as a maniac:"He did? Oh." (laughter)
On QB Joe Flacco actually saying he could be a maniac on Sunday:"Oh, on Sunday. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah." (laughter)
On if he's OK with that "maniac" persona:"That was a back-handed compliment, I guess. (laughter) Man, I'm here to play ball. I enjoy playing ball, and I play with a passion. I know when I'm on your team, you love me; when I'm not on your team, you despise me. At the end of the day, that's my job. My job is to make you think twice when you play me, when you cover me, and when you have to think about me. That's what you have to do, and that's my job. But at the same time, none of us, honestly, are who we are at work like we are at home. I also asked Joe [Flacco] a couple weeks ago … I said: 'So, what's the M.O.? What's my deal? What do you think about me so far?' He goes, 'You're a little bit goofier than what I thought you were.' (laughter) I can play ball and I can be intense, but at the same time, we can joke around and have fun, and that's what we do. During the week, that's what it's all about. But on Sunday, it's about playing ball. It's the real deal. That's how I play."
On if he's having any meetings with Dean Pees proving intel on Carolina:"Not to my recollection. I don't really … We haven't had any conversations, really. (smiles to the media) (laughter) We haven't." (laughter)
On if he's still bitter about Carolina letting him go:"No. I don't think anybody has walked out of … Unless you hate your job, I don't think anybody has walked out of a job that's been let go, fired, released, and go, 'Yaaay!' I was taken aback by it, but I took my time to kind of reflect, to kind of see it. And I'll be honest, I knew a long time ago … I knew when I had my meeting with [Panthers general manager] Dave Gettleman that it was going to happen, and that's what happened. And I walked out of there with dignity and I held my head up high, and me and my family decided we would handle it the way we chose to handle it, and it was amongst us. I try to be an example for my kids. And we discussed it, and we discussed every phase of the process, from when I was in Utah, when it came out at the Combine, to when I met with him, to process that went with my release. We just sat down as a family. We prayed, we thought about it and we discussed it. My wife cried, my kids cried. They didn't see me [cry]. They didn't see me, [but] I shed a few tears. Then we got back up, dusted ourselves off and said, 'What is the plan for the Smith family?' And we moved forward, and it got me here. So, am I bitter to play against them? I'm not bitter, because I get to play. But do I want to show certain individuals that I can still play? Honestly, I don't have to. They're game-planning for me, so [they know what I bring] to the table, and I also know what they bring to the table, and I'm [going to] play ball. That's the best I can do, and if that's not good enough, then I don't deserve to be playing. Because [John] Harbaugh believes in me, Joe [Flacco] believes in me, other guys – Steve Bisciotti. Mr. Bisciotti believed in me to give me an opportunity to play, so I'm going to give it my best and [look] forward."
On if the other Ravens receivers are tougher now because of him:"I think these wide receivers taught me a lot of things, and I think I've taught them a few things. I think we're a close-knit group, and what I bring to the table is I'm a guy they can count on. And I think what they bring to the table is guys that I can count on them. We're forming a bond that obviously I can't … I've formed some relationships with these guys that … There are more numbers in my phone that I can mark as friends versus colleagues or acquaintances."
On whether or not QB Joe Flacco is the best quarterback he's ever played with:"The best quarterback I've ever played with … Like I said, when they asked me about Cam [Newton], it would be Jake Delhomme, because we went to the Super Bowl together, and until that surpasses that, that's who it'll always be – my best quarterback I ever played [with]. I'm not loyal to companies. I'm loyal to people."
On who's the second-best quarterback he's ever played with:"[It] doesn't matter, Charlotte Observer *[reporter]." *(laughter)
On if he'll be lobbying QB Joe Flacco for the ball this weekend:"I don't lobby, Joe. Hey, I don't lobby him. Sometimes I'll ask to make sure is that what he said, because sometimes I hear it wrong. But I make sure, hey, he says, 'And you have this slant.' 'Slant?' (laughter) It's kind of like the Kelly Bundy thing – 'the last thing she hears, it'll be me!' Someone of you don't know what Kelly Bundy is." (laughter)
OLB Courtney Upshaw
On how he's seen Panthers QB Cam Newton evolve as a quarterback:"I always thought Cam was a talented quarterback. I always knew he could throw the ball. Of course, I played against him when he was at Auburn and I was at Alabama, [so I wasn't surprised] to see him take over a Carolina team that needed a quarterback. He helped them to where they're at right now."
On if he sees the Panthers running less with Newton behind center:"Well, I think Cam is running game is a big part of his game. Why limit him to something that he does great? So, I don't see him stopping that, but he's always been a good passer. We all know he can throw the ball downfield."
On what he's seen from rookie T James Hurst:"Coming in [out of college] … I don't know how much of his injury really caused him to drop in the draft, but I don't think he let that bother him, and he's been looking good competing against guys like Elvis [Dumervil] and 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs]. Throughout camp, man, he's been looking great."
On how motivated the Ravens are to clean some things up on defense:"Well, we always want to stop the run. Every weekend before the game on Saturday, coach [Dean] Pees puts up on the board, the first thing is, 'Stop the run.' We always want to stop the run, so this game we want to come out and be a physical defense at the point of attack and just try to limit those guys to smaller gains."
On what he's expecting from WR Steve Smith Sr. this weekend:"Being able to go into battle with Steve … Man, he makes that catch and goes crazy and does his little thing, and that fires everybody up – I know me. I'm ready to get back on the field and try to make a play on my own, but just to see that from him, a guy who's been doing this for so long at the top of his game, why not try to go out and do the same?"
On if he's seen extra intensity from WR Steve Smith Sr. during practice this week:"I think it's the same with Steve. He's goes week-in, week-out wanting to be the best. And I know he had a little quote once he signed here with the Ravens, but I don't think it's anything different. It's another game for him, and of course he wants to do his thing against Carolina."
On how the defense has played through the first three games of the season:"We always want to pride ourselves on being a No. 1 defense, if not [close to] the best, but at the same time, we have to go in week-in, week-out, make corrections and just go out there and do what we have to do."
On if there is still an Alabama-Auburn rivalry when players make it to the NFL:"For me, I don't know. I know when [Auburn grad] Josh Bynes was here we always joked about it. We have C.J. [Mosley] and Terrence Cody here with me, so a lot of guys [from] when 'Bama was on top. We always talk trash, but I can't say the same for Cam [Newton]. I don't know how he looks at it, but, I'm with the Ravens, you're with the Panthers. We want to go out there and beat the Panthers."