WEDNESDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: BENGALS – WEEK 8
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, good to see everybody. Thanks for coming. We're indoors, so we're dry, which is a good thing. I know you all appreciate that, right? How many guys would have come out for practice if we were out there in the pouring rain today, media? Everybody? Oh, impressive, impressive. You don't think Peter [Schmuck] would have done it, Jeff [Zrebiec]? (Reporter: "No chance.") Jeff says, 'Peter Schmuck, no chance,' he said. I'm with Peter. I think he'd have been out there. So, it was a good practice, and we're excited about the upcoming challenge. We think you earn your next challenge, and this is a big one. So, we're looking forward to it, and we're trying to prepare the best we can."
**I know you don't like talking about your own injuries. But [with] Bengals injuries, one guy, WR A.J. Green, do you monitor the injury status with him, or do you just go under the assumption he's going to play, and if he doesn't we'll adjust? *(Jamison Hensley) *"You have to assume that any player on any team that might have a chance to play, you have to prepare for him, because he could be out there. But you always look and see in the injury report and see whether they practiced or not. But, we're not going to know anything, really, until they announce something, and that's with any injury every week."
You mentioned on Monday the creativity your coaches have. What is the depth you've built in the secondary to allow Dean Pees to kind of open up his playbook these last few weeks? (Jon Meoli) "It's always a process. You continue to grow. We have a lot of smart guys back there. We do have depth. We do have a lot of good players. We're searching for the right combinations, but the fact that they all know what to do, they're all in the right spot. Do we always make the right play? Not 100 percent. You never are. But the fact that we've been able to do that, I think we have expanded the playbook, as you put it. We are doing a few more things than we did early in the year, and it has been good. It's a credit to those guys and the coaches."
*I know last year we kind of kept talking about slow starts. What you can do about slow starts, but now you guys are starting fast? Have you guys adjusted anything this year? Have you changed anything to turn around that fortune early on? *(Jamison Hensley) *"We have. We've put a couple things in the practice that we think put an emphasis on a lot of different situations. We're big into situational football. So, some of those things aren't traditional situations we've actually included, and we work on them often. The specifics would probably be boring for everybody, but …" *("Reporter: Is there one specific?") "We've worked on starting the game. That has been something we've done through training camp, and we do it usually about once a week. We have a first drive of the game. It's nothing elaborate. It's just a drill."
But you obviously think it has helped? (Jamison Hensley) "I don't know. Our guys have done a good job. I think you're as good as your next opportunity, so let's see how we start on Sunday."
**John, how much different is prep on a team … Opening day is a more unique situation. Is this more predictable when you get the team later in the season for the second time? *(Mark Viviano) *"Yes. No question. The first game is always the toughest game, because everything they've been preparing the whole offseason that they haven't shown, you see in every game. And the same thing from us. We show things that we normally hadn't done before. So, they'll be a few new wrinkles – there always are – but it won't be like opening day."
John, you've had – at one point in the season – every receiver has been contributing. WR Marlon Brown, is it difficult to make sure he has not become like a forgotten man and to keep him in the game plan (Jeff Zrebiec) "No, it's not hard at all. [Marlon Brown is] part of what we're doing, and he could be the guy this week that makes the difference."
When you look [at] the turnaround with the running game, is it a sense where it's not just one thing, it has been a lot of contributing factors to make it such a strong point for this team right now? (Jamison Hensley) "It's always never one thing. It's always, no matter what you do … In football, there are a lot of players on the field. There are a lot of coaches involved. It's never one thing that makes the difference in any area."
John, you know what DT Haloti Ngata brings to the table, obviously, but what he did on Sunday with stepping in with the snapping, how impressive to a coach is that? (Jeff Seidel) "You know it's funny, it's good that you mentioned that, because we probably … It's the old, 'Snapper gets forgotten,' thing, right? Here Haloti Ngata goes in after Morgan's [Cox] unfortunate injury and snaps a perfect ball back there on the short snap. And because he did so well, I forgot about it. We all forgot about it. So, thanks for bringing it up. It's a great point. For him to go in there and do that says a lot about him. And we work on it. We work on it out here once a week. He gets snaps. Tyrod [Taylor] gets hold. Sam [Koch] gets kicks. You work on that stuff just in case, and you hope it never is an issue."
OLB Elvis Dumervil
On why the Ravens' defense has played well in the red zone: "It's where you get the points, and obviously, we don't want to [allow that]. I don't like the phrase of, 'don't bend' type, whatever that's called." (Reporter: "Bend, but don't break.") "Yes. We kind of want to be steady throughout the whole field. But it's something where [we] cannot allow the offense to score points. So, that's something we definitely want to get better at."
On the Ravens' defense leading the NFL in fewest points allowed: "We have to keep it up. To whom much is given, much is expected. So, we had a good start, but we have to continue to go the whole season. So, that's the difference between being good and great."
On the qualities of a good red zone defense: "For me, playing defense is all about energy, excitement and having fun, flying to the ball. When those things happen, turnovers happen, big plays happen. So, we need to get better at turnovers and big plays."
On how important it is for the offense to get off to a good start: "It's tremendous. It's huge. Our offense [has] been doing a great job, and we hope for those guys to continue to do so. Whenever you can make a team more [one] dimensional, it makes guys like me extremely happy."
On the defense's performance so far this season: "We're getting going. We're doing some good things. [There are] always some things we can definitely get better at. So, we continue to just work. It's only Week 8. There's a lot of football left. We're not going to get too excited about what we're doing right now. We just have to stay hungry, continue to work, and we have a lot to prove this year."
On the Ravens' pass rush: "The first couple weeks have been more a hit and kind of getting to the guy, and then obviously, sacks come in bunches. True sack artists know that. So, we just have to continue to be disruptive. And obviously, the guys in the back end helping us with coverage is definitely huge."
On whether the defense carries over momentum from game to game: "Yes, but no, because you feel good and excited about what you're doing, so you want to build on that. But at the same time, each week, each opponent is different. And in the NFL, any given Sunday, any team can win. We want to feel good about what we've done, but at the same time, understand that week-in and week-out teams won't give you the best shot, especially being a Raven. We have to make sure we don't come out flat and make sure we take care of business."
On DT Haloti Ngata's versatility: "The big guy, man, he does it all. He's very versatile, obviously. It's amazing, and it's crazy seeing him out there and making interceptions and snapping the ball and making tackles for loss. It's pretty cool to have a guy like that."
On what it would mean to win against the Bengals after the Week 1 loss: "It was a tough loss for us, but give them credit, they were a better team that day. We're excited for the challenge up ahead."
On how the recent additions of CB Lardarius Webb and S Will Hill have helped the Ravens' back end: "We don't believe in excuses. We just didn't get the job done [in Week 1's loss to Cincy]. So, we have a good opportunity Sunday, and we're looking forward to that."
On whether the defense is playing at the level it expected coming into the season: "No. Like I said, it's a whole season. It's just Week 7, so it's nothing to feel too excited about. But we just have to keep continuing to work on the things we're getting better at, and things we haven't done so well we need to get that better."
QB Joe Flacco
On how well the offense has developed since the first week of the season:"We've been through a lot. We've played seven weeks now, and we've seen all kinds of guys at different positions. We've seen guys fill in [and] do a great job; all of our regular guys do a great job. So, I think that we have a lot of experience in terms of anybody that we need to be out there is going to be out there and is going to perform at a high level. I think we've had the ability to go out there and play well, and through that, gain confidence. And I think that's all going to help us this week."
On if there is something behind the Ravens' quick starts to games:"I don't know. [When] we come out here, one of the first things we do once we get done [with] individual [warm-ups] is we'll do some kind of situation that's the usually the first drive of a game against our defense – competitive. And we always do red zone competitively with those guys on Wednesday's practice. I don't know if that's what's helped us, but it's something that we try to focus on. It's good to see that it's kind of carried over a little bit."
On how the offseason acquisitions of WR Steve Smith Sr. and TE Owen Daniels have helped the offense overall:"You can see. Owen [Daniels] and Steve [Smith Sr.] have proven to be really key players for us. They catch the ball and they get open – it's really simple. I think [offensive coordinator] Gary [Kubiak] has brought his philosophy in here, and guys have reacted well to it, and it's served us well."
On if he has to measure playing an in-division opponent against the fact that it's only Week 8:"No matter what week you play these guys, at the end of the day, they all hold the same level of importance – really division opponent or not. You're really just trying to stack wins, and at the end of the day, see how many you can get. But we know how competitive this league is and how competitive our division is and how good [the Bengals] have been. So yeah, this is an important game, and just because it's Week 8 in the season doesn't make it any less important than it would've been if it was played in Week 16 or 17."
On if he views these next two weeks as an opportunity to take hold of the AFC North:"I think it's obvious, but that doesn't mean that anything is given to you down the road. We just have to go out there and play this week the way that we expect ourselves to play and see what happens. I think if we go out there and we play the way we expect ourselves to play, then it'll be a good outcome, and that's all we can really focus on to this point."
On if the number of plays scripted for the offense changes often throughout the course of a game:"We usually stick pretty much to it. We script 15 plays and third downs – you can't account for third downs. But we stick to it, and I think the play that we usually mess up the most is the first play. Everybody knows what the first play of the game is going to be, and we usually mess that up the most. (laughter) I think it's worked well for us, and guys are ready to go, and it helps everybody play with confidence."
On what makes TE Owen Daniels so easy to target:"He's a big target, but the big thing is he's very defined in where he's going and what he's doing. You can see just by how he runs routes and pushes on people and gains the leverage and all that. He does a good job, and that's why he gets open. Obviously, he's caught the ball when he has gotten open. He's been big for us, and he's going to have to be big for us down the line."
On his impressions of Cincinnati's defense:"These guys are a good defense. No matter how you cut it, they get pressure on the quarterback and they cover well. They don't really play a ton of man coverage, but there has been in the past against us [when] they've tried to come in and man us up a little bit and put pressure on us and cover us tight. But these guys do a lot of things well. They've had some injuries over there, but they have a very good front and they have guys in the back end that can cover and have a lot of confidence. They're a confident group, and anytime you can play with that much kind of confidence and swagger, you have a good thing going for you. Especially at their place, they've been pretty good. I don't think they've lost a game, last year at least, until the playoffs. They obviously play very confident there, and we're just going to have to go in there and make sure that for a full 60 minutes we get after it."
On if he will try to motivate the rookies on the left side of the offensive line for big games like this:"No, I don't say anything to anybody, man. (laughter) [I'm] not about getting them up and getting them going. These guys, they're ready. [Are] you kidding me? When it's your first year and you get an opportunity like that, you better be ready. And the bottom line is NFL players, if you're not ready and motivated and excited to get in there and do all that, then you wouldn't be here in the first place. So, those guys, they've done a great job [and] they're going to continue to do a great job. It's been awesome to see how they've been doing."
On if he's surprised with how quickly things have come along offensively:"No, it's still just an offense. We've been working on it all offseason and training camp, and we expected to come out and play well. So no, it's not really surprising."
On if he ever remembers a time when his receivers were so interchangeable:"We have good guys. Even whoever is not usually up for the game is a good receiver, so it's nice to see that. No matter who's out there, I have confidence in them, and they're all making plays."
On how difficult it is to put together four 20-point victories through seven weeks:"I don't know. We haven't had very many of them. We're used to playing very tight games and having games come down to the wire. I think they tend to build a lot of character and a lot of things like that, so the fact that we've been in so many games that have been 20-point wins is foreign to me, and hey – I love them. So, I'm all for it. But we can't focus on that. We just have to go out there [and] play one play at a time. The way our defense has been playing the last two weeks has been pretty special, just in terms of how they've been able to get after the quarterback. They've had a ton of plays where they've almost probably scored touchdowns, so it's great to see. And I think when our defense is playing like that and when we're taking care of the football, then good things are going to come to us."
On if the Ravens' defense allows him to take more risks on offense:"No, we're not doing anything like that. We're not trying to take more risks or think of it that way really at all. We're just still running our offense, and I think when our defense plays like that, it just gives us the ability to have a short field and be on the field more often. So, we probably get more opportunities, but we're still just going to do the same thing with the ball and try to take care of it and score touchdowns."
DT Haloti Ngata
On how the defense has benefited from the Ravens' offensive attack:"It's real big. When they can score and keep on getting points, we are really just starting to rush the passer instead of playing the run, because a lot of teams are going to play catch-up football and they'll pass the ball more."
On how important the next two games at Cincinnati and Pittsburgh will be:"Like you said, they're division games. These are huge games for us. If we want to be at the top of the division, we definitely have to win these games. It's rivalry week for us for two weeks."
On OLB Pernell McPhee's athleticism:"He's up there. He can play anywhere on the defensive line – inside, outside. It's just great to have somebody that can [be versatile]. It's just fun to watch him grow and get better as a player."
On being the No. 2 long snapper on the depth chart and his performance last week:"I've just never really had to do it before. It was my first time ever doing it, so I'm just happy I got the ball back there. It was bad, bad luck for Morgan [Cox, who tore his ACL during the game], but we'll go and play for him and just … He's a great guy. You just never wish something like that on such an awesome person. And I think [Kevin] McDermott [the Ravens' new snapper] knows that, and he'll get the job done."
On if there's a reason to be excited with how the team is playing so far:"I think we're still kind of determining what we can really be. A lot of us are just warming up and getting started. We're still [looking] to do a lot more things and be a better defense. Hopefully we can do better in some other situations and [continue to be] a dominant defense."
WR Steve Smith Sr.
On why he likes going on the road with the Ravens: "Did I say that?" (Reporter: "I read it.") "You can't believe everything you read. *(laughter) *Well, I enjoy playing ball. So whether it's at home or away, it's enjoyable – very enjoyable."
On whether there is something in particular he likes about the Ravens' road mentality: "No, I think our mentality is pretty steady-headed whether it's home or away. Obviously, I think at home it's a little bit more. But I think also, too, the severity in what each away game means, I think the importance becomes very, very weighted on guys. So, we understand the task at hand, and Cincinnati is doing a great job. Just because [you] win or lose prior to [facing a division opponent for the second time], it's always a week-to-week season. And winning or losing each week can really hurt things and help things in the end. And so, we're trying not to focus and leave it up to that."
On how quickly the Ravens' offseason acquisitions have contributed to the team: "I guess we're doing good. At the end of the day, it's all evaluated on how well we do in the end, how far we go. I think it's, what, Week 8, I think? So, to throw a party right now, I think, is premature. I think we just have to keep grinding out and keep trying to build and build on playing like a Raven."
On whether he expects the physicality to pick up against AFC North teams after facing the NFC South: "I guess so, yes. I think [it will]. I'll go with your answer."
On how he thinks the receivers complement one another: "I think we do a good job. And I think the competition from training camp has spilled over to what guys are available. And it's going to where if you make a mistake in the game, there's a guy coming up that's trying to capitalize on it. And I think healthy competition is good."
On preparing to face the Bengals again since the Week 1 loss: "It's great film to evaluate yourself on – look at the things you did great, but also look at the things you did poorly [like] not looking the ball in, second-guessing yourself. So, we kind of went through that immediately right after and tried to build on that each week to improve that."
On what he attributes the Ravens' fast start to: "Great coaching. That's some brownie points right there." (laughter)
On how big a win against the Bengals is during the middle of the season: "I think the way things are shaping out, it can benefit us really well, and I think also it can hurt us. So, this game is the most important game this week, this year. I think after we play them, it's another very important game. So, I think the next couple of weeks are very, very important for us."
On whether playing division opponents in the beginning and middle of the season is unusual: "I think it is when you talk about in the division. I think throughout the season – I think maybe last year as well – there were some critical games in the middle that we didn't win, or did, that really helped and hurt. So, I think we have that same situation now, except the writing is on the wall. It's in big, bold print."