WEDNESDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: SAINTS – WEEK 12
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, it's good to see everybody – thanks for coming out, or in, as it may be. But it's good to have you. [We] had a good practice, guys are in good spirits, and it was a good workday for us."
In terms of going against TE Jimmy Graham, just with his size [and] athleticism, is it a challenge finding someone who can match up – a linebacker or safety? Is that one of the bigger challenges trying to find out who can match up with him? (Jamison Hensley) "Anytime you have to match up against a natural mismatch like that, it is a challenge. You can't just do it one way. You're not going to just find one method to do that. You match up in many different ways, and that'll be a challenge with Jimmy Graham. He's one of the premier receivers in football. That's going to be tough for us, but we'll have to do it man coverage, zone coverage, on the line, off the line. There will be a lot of different ways we'll have to face that challenge."
John, as far as TE Jimmy Graham in the last matchup he had, [how much do you take from] what the Bengals did with their personnel and how they approached him? (Aaron Wilson) "You always look at what your opponents do against a team. Every coordinator and every game-planner does that, and certainly, we've done the same thing with New Orleans."
After last week, the reflective time you have in the bye week, what did you learn maybe about your team in the last time to reflect? (Pete Gilbert) "We learned a lot specific, football-wise. That was the biggest thing." (Reporter: "A giant epiphany?") "Are you asking about something other than football, or just kind of in general?" (Reporter: "Yes, football.") "What we did was we went through the whole thing and basically studied all three phases. We studied ourselves, in terms of everything we could think of to look at and in areas that we can improve. Hopefully, you'll see those things apply over the course of the next six games."
How have you seen RB Mark Ingram's emergence kind of change their offense? It seems like the run is setting up the pass a lot more than maybe it used to. (Ryan Mink) "The Saints have always wanted to run the ball. You might not think that because you see the passing numbers so often, but [Saints head coach] Sean [Payton] has always been committed to running the ball. They've always been physical; they've always had physical running backs; they've always had a stable of running backs. Whenever they get running backs hurt, there's always a next guy to step in. Mark Ingram is one of the premier high-draft pick guys in our league, and probably, at this point in time, it seems like he's really rounding into form – all the things that people thought he would be as a pro running back. He's running really at a high level right now, so it's going to be a big challenge."
Coach, did you gather anything by going down there and playing that preseason game earlier in the year? I know there are a lot of guys that haven't played there, but it was just a preseason [game]. (Jerry Coleman) "It is probably valuable. At the time, we didn't want to do it because it was such a long trip and all that before our first regular season game. You'd rather stay closer to home, but now having been to the hotel, having been in the locker room, having been on that turf, there might be some benefit to that."
Plus you played a game there before [Super Bowl XLVII] that meant a lot more, but a lot of guys weren't there for that. (Jerry Coleman) "Right."
When you play in a dome, is that … You've had to go to Indy – well, half of a game to Indy with the roof closed … Is it a more daunting task to play in a dome, as far as just the atmosphere? (Jamison Hensley) "That's a good question. It's loud. The domes are always loud, but all the stadiums seem like they're loud. We've been in all the domes pretty much lately. We were in Detroit last year, Indy this year. It's real. Communication on offense is something that we're emphasizing this week. You heard it in here – we had crowd noise in here with the music. It was very loud. And it's a big emphasis for our guys to communicate, make sure we're on the same page and get assignments right. We don't want to not move the ball because we're not blocking the right guy or not carrying out the right route or whatever. That's really important for us."
Is the plan all week to stay in here with the music loud and keep it that way? (Jamison Hensley) "I think so. We're going to be playing indoors, and it's going to be loud. This helps us."
John, how much do you think comfort level knowing the assistant coaches and the schemes a little has sort of led to OLB Elvis Dumervil's 10.5 sacks? He said in the past that he just feels like he's a just little more comfortable on and off the field this year. (Jeff Zrebiec) "He's mentioned that to me as well, in terms of off the field and just relating to the whole environment. He kind of came late, and it was a big transition for him. He had been in Denver the whole time, right? So, that's been good. And just understanding the defense and what's expected. We're not a straight 4-3 defense. He was in that defense for one year when [Ravens inside linebackers coach] Don [Martindale] was the defensive coordinator in Denver, and I think he's become accustomed to [our system]. We've probably become really understanding [of] his unique abilities and have been able to set the system up around him a little bit, too."
Do you guys kind of enjoy the whole competition [OLB Elvis Dumervil] and OLB Terrell Suggs have? They seem to get on each other just to get to the quarterback. That probably has to be a pretty healthy situation for you guys. (Jeff Zrebiec) "We love competition. Anywhere we can find it, it's good. Those guys push each other at the same time. Offensive lines and protections have to deal with both of those guys. That's an edge for both of those guys."
OLB Elvis Dumervil
On how he approached the bye week:"I just realized what kind of game we're playing in is pretty tough. [It was about] just having that week off taking care of the body, self-evaluation and seeing what you can do to try to help the team move forward."
On what he saw about himself in his self-evaluation:"I just try to stay consistent. Whatever I can do or what the coaches ask of me, as far as the package in my situation, just do it to the best of my ability."
On how he is being used differently compared to past seasons:"Just not going 60, 70 snaps a game. It's not that I don't feel like I can play every down, it's just when you have a lot of talent like we have, you can just stay fresh throughout the year. It just makes sense. So, it's just a fortunate situation we have here in Baltimore. Not every team has that luxury to do that. We have Courtney [Upshaw], [Pernell] McPhee, myself and Terrell [Suggs], so when you have those types of talents, it really helps to keep guys fresh."
On if it was tough to accept the fact that he would get reduced snaps:"Obviously, as a competitor, you want to play every play. But I do know you have to listen to your body. It works out. At first, it was a bit of an adjustment last year, but you have to take care of yourself and put your selfishness aside for your team. I think it really helps the Ravens that we can rotate four guys."
On what he enjoys most about playing in primetime games:"It's primetime, man. Growing up as a kid, you hear about Monday Night Football and John Madden. Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels are cool [on Sunday nights]. So, Monday night, it gets no better than that. We're excited for the primetime."
On what kind of challenge the Saints present this week:"Huge challenge. Drew Brees is a top quarterback – maybe all time, he's up there. He has a success of winning overall in his career there. [They are a] well-coached team; a lot of talented players; a good offensive line; the crowd noise. But we're built for this type of situation. We have a lot of guys on this team who are tough mentally, so we're excited for that challenge."
On what QB Drew Brees does so well:"His accuracy is really off the charts. He has good pocket awareness. He can scramble, he can make all the throws. I think he's a very smart football player. He's very tough to sack. He barely throws interceptions. And he's really good at home, for sure."
On what QB Drew Brees does that is tough to bring him to the ground:"He's smart – IQ. When you have good IQ as a quarterback, you know how to get rid of the ball. He does a great job of knowing where he wants to go pre-snap and making the right checks and putting his offense in the right situations. So, they have a good chemistry there with him and the head coach [Sean Payton]. We're excited, though. We feel good about our staff and about our guys. It's a game that we want."
On his comfort level after one season in Baltimore:"I think last year it was great. There was a lot going on, obviously, with the whole fax [situation] and leaving Denver. But the locker room, I thought – I mentioned it last year – was great to come in here. It was an easy transition, as far as that part. There is a good family-type atmosphere here. So, that part wasn't too difficult for me. But obviously, like we mentioned earlier, the snap reduce and learning the system was very complex here – it's not an easy system – and obviously, playing a new position [was challenging]. There were a lot of new things going on, and getting acclimated with just the off-the-field, like the gurus who take care of your body. You have to get a whole new [regimen] and get comfortable in a whole new system. It was a bit of a difficult challenge in that area."
On if he is happy with his decision to put on extra weight in the offseason:"Yes, I think so. I think you have to be a little more physical, and it's definitely a physical division. We take pride in that, and I like that. I knew this offseason I needed to kind of bulk up a little bit and make those changes. It seemed to work out a little bit."
On how the Saints are able to be so effective on third down:"Good scheme, good quarterback. That's how you get off third down on offense. Like I said, [Drew Brees] is really good at pre-snap keys. We just have to make sure we do our job in the back end of disguising and making sure he doesn't see what he wants to see. And obviously up front, it's always on us to get to him. We have a great challenge with their offensive line and our defensive line that we feel good about. It'll be a great challenge."
On if he has set his sights on the Ravens' franchise record of 15 sacks:"It's definitely in sight. I'll be looking toward it."
QB Joe Flacco
On getting back on track with WR Steve Smith Sr.: "I don't think you can worry about it too much. It's just kind of the way some games have been going, and we want to play better, obviously. But the bottom line is winning, and we just have to go out there and do what we have to do to win the football games. And if we're playing the way we want to, then he and everybody is going to be a big part of it. I was just talking to [New Orleans'] media, and he's had some pretty good games against these guys. Obviously, he's played these guys for a long time. So, hopefully when we get there he feels comfortable and we get him another big game against these guys."
On how he would evaluate his first 10 games of the season and what he did during the bye week:"Hey, listen, I'm not in the game of evaluating myself. I'll leave that up to [the reporters]. And no, for the most part, I got away [during the bye]. The coaches did self-scout and did a lot of things and came back to everybody with things that we can do better, things that we have to do more of. And that's something that we talked about, and throughout the next six weeks we're going to try to incorporate the things that we do well and the things that we need to do more of, all that stuff, into our game plan and therefore, give us the best chance to go out there and play well. But, I'm not going to evaluate myself. I think this offense has been pretty good. I think we've been pretty consistent for the most part. We would have obviously liked to be a little better the last couple of weeks, but I think as a whole, we're excited to get these next six games in. Anything can happen. We'd probably like to be in a little better position, but that's the [nature] of the National Football League. We have a great opportunity ahead of us, and we just have to keep it going."
On offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak's goal of simplifying the offense:"I think it's been pretty good. Each week you're going to have your individual game plan things that you have to go out there [and do]. On a short week, you have to execute in practice and get going. Sometimes that can be tough in an NFL season, because not everybody is healthy. So, the first time you're doing some of the things, or the second time you're doing some of the things, is on Sunday. And that's our jobs. That's our job to be crisp and to be good at those things and make sure we really take advantage of the things that we are putting in for each individual team. Like I said, it can be tough, but it's our job and it's what we do and it's part of what makes it exciting. So, all that stuff has been great and I think we're where we need to be with it."
On this being the Ravens' first meaningful game in New Orleans since Super Bowl XLVII:"I don't know. It was nice to go down there for the preseason and be able to see the city again, at least, and get that out of your mind, because I wasn't playing that game. This week is going to be different. It's all business. We're going there to win a football game. I have no idea whether I'll feel at home there because we played a good game there or not. I doubt it. It's not going to be filled with any of our fans. Or, it's not going to be filled with as much of our fans as were there for the Super Bowl. So, I'm treating it like a typical road game and just getting ready for it."
On what offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak's talk about simplifying the offense means to him: "Just doing the things that we do well. And some of the things that we haven't done as well as we'd probably like to not do them as much, because obviously they're not working for a reason."
On if he is surprised by the number of changes made to the roster since Super Bowl XLVII: "No, it doesn't seem that long ago, but no, I'm not surprised by the changes. That's every year. This is my seventh year here, and I think there are four or five guys that were on the team when I got here are still on the team – including myself. You very quickly realize how much turnover there is on an NFL football team. My second year, I noticed it, and that's every year. So, a couple of years out, there's no telling what your team is going to look like compared to those previous two years. It's still shocking, yes, that it's like that, but I wouldn't say that I'm too surprised, because I've been through it before."
On if he marvels at what Saints QB Drew Brees has accomplished at his position: "I don't necessarily pay attention to how big a guy is or what kind of arm strength he has. The bottom line is: How good is he and how does he produce? And he's been doing it his whole life with what he has. And I wouldn't say his arm is not very good or anything like that. Obviously, he's not as tall. But playing good football is not about height and how far you can throw a football and how big you are and how much you can bench press and how much you can squat. It's about playing football, and it's always kind of cool to go back and watch guys that are good and do things well and what they do to make those things work so well. How do they work with the receivers? It's always cool to see a guy play at the level he has played at for a long period of time. It's always cool to watch them and see what they do."
On what QB Drew Brees does so well: "He does a lot of things. He moves in the pocket well. He uses his eyes really well. He's accurate. I think one of the biggest things is accuracy. When you can be accurate and you can put that ball where you want to – even if there is a guy that tends to be in that area as his receivers – he puts it on their back shoulder or puts it over top of the guy's head, and they make a lot of those plays."
On his favorite quarterbacks to watch: "All old-time guys that don't play anymore that I don't have to compete with." (laughter)
On whether playing in a dome is more challenging: "I don't know. Every time I go into a dome – there I go with 'I don't know' (laughter) – every time I go into a dome, I start throwing the football around and I'm like, 'Man, it's awesome in here! It feels good to spin this thing.' I tend not to pay too much attention to how the crowd is. It's our job to go out there and play well, and as long as we play well and do what we're doing … There are a few downs throughout the course of a game where they can get really loud. Third downs here and there, if the game is close at the end, certain situations the crowd can get into it and you can let them become a factor if it's that kind of game. But if you go out there and play consistent and get first downs, it usually tends to take care of itself."
WR Steve Smith Sr.
On what he has been able to tell his teammates about the NFC South and playing in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, having played in that division for so long:"That's a great question. I haven't got to it. We've been focusing on the game plan, sharing what we did in the bye – just kind of getting back into it, just kind of being lighthearted. It's good to be back. I don't [care] whether we're playing in that dome or not, they come out and play well. But, we've got to do what we do. We've got to do a better job of what we've done and not done."
On whether it is a different atmosphere playing in primetime games:"Absolutely, primetime games anywhere, any stadium, it's different. Playing Thursday night, when we played the Steelers here, it was loud, so loud my wife had to buy our youngest baby headphones. They're going to be blacked out, making all that noise, and 'Who Dat' and all that good stuff. I'm kind of used to it."
On how he treats primetime games:"Get excited – you get real excited. Family members get to see you play. Ex-girlfriends that wished they wouldn't have dumped you, they're questioning themselves right now. (laughter) So, it's fun. It's kind of true. (laughter) That's why I'm not on Facebook, reasons like that."
On this week being the first meaningful game played in New Orleans since the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII win and whether anyone on the team is still talking about that experience:"About what?" (Reporter: "About memories of the Super Bowl game and going back to NOLA") *"No. I think a great reason why is what happened last year. You can't hold on to what success, or even failures, you had almost two years ago. So, what you did in the Super Bowl … That's great. You can't take that trophy with you [to this game]. Those people don't care what happened in the Super Bowl. Probably the people who are working the stadium facility [want] to make sure the power doesn't go out *(laughter), but other than that, that part is part of history. You're moving forward, looking at what we could do to help ourselves. Coach [John Harbaugh] says November [and] December helps you play in January [and] February, and that's what we're looking at."
On his reaction after seeing a Week 10 bye on the schedule:"I loved it. I've been in a bye the second week of the season. I think that was great timing. You get enough into the season. Obviously, you get some losses, you get some wins that you like and now you get some rest and you get to go into the second half. The most important six weeks of our season are coming up. One day, one practice at a time, one game at a time. And every game is important. And this game against New Orleans is the most important game this year. And next week will be the most important game of this year."
On what he feels the offense needs to do to make sure it is where its wishes to be at the end of the regular season:"Me and [wide receivers] coach [Bobby] Engram yesterday, we came in here and we spent about an hour-and-a-half [together], and I looked at over 100-some plays and we just self-evaluated. I looked at the plays that I made, and I looked at the plays I didn't make and why I didn't make them. [I] went in there with a notebook and just was real with myself. How can I [improve]? I internalize a lot of things. What can I do to help? What can I do to improve? What do I need to improve on that's a negative, and what do I need to continually do to get better? So, I went in there and I walked in there kind of down, kind of not sure what I'd see. [With] 100-some plays you kind of go, 'What am I going to see?' And I walked out of there encouraged, because there are a lot of things I did great, but there are a few things I need to improve on. I need to be more dependable in certain areas. And that falls on me. That doesn't fall on Joe [Flacco], that doesn't fall on [offensive coordinator] coach [Gary] Kubiak, it doesn't fall on [coach] Harbaugh or anybody. That falls directly on me. I'm a professional. I've been in this game for a long time. And if you can't hold yourself accountable, you can't expect anybody else to do it for you. I can't expect Joe to believe in me that I'm going to win on a route if I haven't done the proper technique, lined up and run a route the way it's is supposed to be run for him to depend on me. So, that falls on me first. And that's what I did in my bye week – enjoy my family – but I sat back and took some time and said, 'What am I not bringing to the table, and why am I not doing it?'"
On Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's aggressive style and whether he expects to get some one-on-one opportunities down the field on Monday:"I would expect a lot of mixture. I expect one-on-one; they're going to send pressure; I think they'll back off. Rob Ryan does a great job of making you think. And I believe any time – offense or defense – when you make anybody think, they stop their feet. When you stop your feet, you're not moving forward; you're taking bricks off the house. How do you build a house? You've got to put the bricks on. I think he's going to do that. I've played against him enough to know and expect [certain things], and you've got to deal with the waves and move forward and just keep playing."
On being aware of the Ravens' current place in the standings for a playoff spot:"I don't look at that. The standings right now are like college [College Football Playoff rankings] – you don't know. It really requires too much energy. I can't do it. Because then you start guessing and thinking about the wrong things."
OLB Terrell Suggs
On how helpful the bye week was:"It was a great thing. I think it came at the perfect time. After 10 games, guys are a little banged up and got to get some rest going down the stretch healthy."
On if he'll have a flood of memories returning to New Orleans for a meaningful football game, like Super Bowl XLVII was:"You're going to have some flashbacks, but nothing beats the real thing [in Super Bowl XLVII]. We did go there in the preseason [this year], but we're facing a different task, a whole different beast right now. There's going to be some memories, but we understand we've got a job to do."
On if they can look back at the preseason game at all to help this week:"No, you can't look at that game at all. The offensive coordinator has a whole different package, guys were on the team that aren't there now, and [they looked] to call plays that totally didn't mean anything. So, you definitely don't look at the preseason, absolutely not."
On if he looks at all down the road to assess upcoming games and playoff chances:"It's hard not to, but you definitely don't want to. Nothing is more important than the opponent you have right in front of you. You see it all the time, guys more focused on the next game and they forget about their opponent they have right there in front of them and they end up dropping one. But in our world, nothing is bigger to us than the New Orleans Saints, and the Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, and that outstanding receiver/tight end Jimmy Graham. It's the biggest game of our season right now."
On if the biggest difference in OLB Elvis Dumervil from last season to this season is his comfort level:"I think so. I think we're calling more things that kind of get him going the way he likes to go rather than him dropping backwards. So, I think that's definitely it. He's gotten accustomed to the system and he's playing great football right now."
On his take on Saints QB Drew Brees and where he ranks amongst some of the greats:"His numbers speak for itself. The scary thing is, every time Drew Brees lines up on Monday Night, he's trying to break some record, some record he's trying to get. I'm just hoping there isn't anything in reach for him this week. *(laughter) *But he's definitely one of the premier quarterbacks in our league."
On if there is still a certain sense of excitement playing in a Monday Night game even having already played in his fair share of them:"Absolutely. You're the only game on. Everybody has already played their football game the night before, and you're the main event. Definitely, the excitement never leaves."
On how the organization has done maintaining the expected standard of players who have come in throughout the roster turnover from the Super Bowl XLVII season:"I think they've done a good job. They've done a good job brining in Raven-type guys in here, and I think right now the chemistry is starting to gel where we wanted it to be. So, I think [general manager & executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] and the front office and coach 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] are doing a great job as far as bringing Raven-type guys in here." On the Ravens being the only team that Drew Brees has never beaten during his NFL career:"I don't believe that. Didn't I tell you all about the no-hitter? *(laughter) *You guys are the worst. *(laughter) *I don't even know how to answer that."