Tuesday OTA Interview Transcript (June 9th)

Head Coach John Harbaugh

Opening statement:"Good to see everybody. Great day for football, nice and hot, and a great day for a little fishing tournament. There's a little fishing tournament over there in the pond. We got it stocked [with] large mouth, small mouth bass, striped bass and catfish. It's catch and throw it back, catch and release as we say (laughter). We have volleyball set up, too, so we'll see, maybe a little beach volleyball bare foot, right? I don't think that will get much work – bottom line is lunch is over there, so, you know..."

On whether it is bad press to have a "catch and release" fishing tournament: "We've done some catch and release out here as a matter of fact *(laughter), *but you're right, we try to hold onto [the ball]."

On the significance and focus of Tuesday's practice: "Well the focus this week is [to] game-plan for the AFC North. So, we're working on the AFC North – Cincinnati yesterday, Cleveland today and Pittsburgh on Wednesday. You know, miniature game plans, talk a little bit about their personnel, teach our guys how to practice in a game-week type environment, what 'look team' means, how to work with one another and get ready for an opponent."

On whether they used that approach last season: "Yes, we did it last year also."

On whether that approach has to do with playing six division games: "Right, that's your division, that's who we play the most obviously. We have to win our division. We think that's a goal for us, and those are the teams that we know we're going to play twice."

On whether Eagles' head coach Andy Reid used that approach in Philadelphia: "Yes."

On whether he was encouraged by TE Todd Heap in practice Tuesday: "Todd seems like he's really coming along. He did more yesterday probably than he did today. I think he was a little bit sore from the workload yesterday, but that's a good sign, because once you get to the point where the injury is not causing the soreness and the workload is causing the soreness, now you can start working your way toward where you need to be. So, significant progress, and hopefully he can do even a little bit more tomorrow."

On his expectations for Heap this season: "Our expectations for Todd are to be the player he has always been, and even better. I don't think Todd looks back on his career and says, 'OK, I made a Pro Bowl or two' and therefore that's it, that defines a player. Todd is the kind of guy who is looking forward to what he's going to achieve for the rest of his career and immediately this year. I think he's really, really motivated to have a great year individually and along with our offense. All the things that he did last year sometimes get undersold, and some of you guys have done a good job of pointing it out, but all of the things in the blocking area, we want to definitely expand him in the passing area, we want to control the middle of the field with our passing game, and Todd Heap has got to be a big part of that."

On how much progress WR Marcus Smith has made this offseason: "Well, comparing to a year ago, it's night and day. We talk to our guys about making the most progress between their first and second year, but Marcus just goes to work. The thing about Marcus is, you see a little bit of improvement every day because he works as hard, or harder, than anybody on the team every single day. So, you start adding all of that stuff up and you watch him out here at practice and you guys are like, 'Wow, this guy is really playing well.' So, we've always thought Marcus was going to be a really good player – he's physical, he's tough and he's a hard worker. That's a good place to start. He can run – you know he's a former running back – so once he gets the ball in his hands, he's a strong runner North and South. So, I think he's going to be that kind of receiver for us, and I'm excited about Marcus."

On when he is headed on the Persian Gulf NFL-USO Coaches Tour and whether he is excited: "Well, the Persian Gulf trip is going to be a great experience. It's going to be from June 30 to July 5, so it will be over the Fourth of July, and I think that's going to be pretty amazing. From what I've been told, it's going to be from dawn to midnight, a couple hours of sleep and back up again. [We'll be] taking helicopter flights around and going to see as many troops as we can. One of my best friends in high school, Jim Minick, is a Colonel in the Marine Corp. He's done three tours in Anbar [Iraq]. He was a big part of the turnaround over there, and we've been talking about leadership and teamwork with him ever since he was ROTC at Ball State. These guys are what America is all about. You know, we talk about team and sports, we think team is important, having each other's back – and it is important – but we're just a small little slice of what that means compared to the military. I think everybody in this country is proud of everything that's being done over there by our young people. We have them out here all the time. They come out here and watch practice; they talk to our team, guys who have been through some amazing situations. I think I'm going to learn more and enjoy it more probably than they are, for sure. What am I going to say to them? I'm looking forward to what they have to say, and it's going to be a neat trip."

On how he feels about being selected for this trip after only a short tenure as an NFL head coach: "Maybe I'm just one of the guys that said 'yes.' Who knows? It's going to be a great opportunity to go with some neat coaches, too. Of course, Bill Cowher is going, [Jon] Gruden is going, Tom Coughlin is going and Jeff Fisher is going. So we'll probably see Jeff this summer and then maybe we'll see him again in January (laughter)."

On if CB Fabian Washington can be a better tackler this year after having his surgeries:"The one thing about Fabian, as you know, [is] he's a very willing tackler. He throws it up in there. It's just the ability to survive the tackle. His shoulder's been prepared. He's stronger than he was before. He's never going to be a 210-pound corner. But if he tackles low, cuts them in half and has a little more strength in the shoulder area, a little more stability, he should be OK."

On his impressions of DB K.J. Gerard, who had two picks in practice today:"He's learning where to line up still, so he's not always in the right spacing. He's not always in the right spot. But, Mark [Carrier] is doing a great job of bringing him along that way. And he has a natural nose for the ball. He can catch it. You know that he's making a bunch of plays when the offensive coaches start inquiring about taking a look at him at wide receiver. He's done a good job."

On the message he gives to the veterans about staying in shape when they are gone for a month:"That's by design for us. What we try to do is… We try to pack work in and then build recovery time in. We could build this training camp, as a lot of teams do, up through June, maybe into July and say, 'OK, we're going to keep them close. They're not going to be away from us for as long. We'll have a tighter grasp on them into training camp.' But, to me, what that basically does is that takes the season from being an already six-month-plus season to a seven-, eight-, nine-month type of season, and really wears on the guys emotionally. So, what we're trying to do is stack as much work… And we've done four-week segments with a week off, three-week segments with a week off. We go mini-camp segments… We had seven, almost seven and nine days between a two-week period. So we try to pack work and give them recovery. And this will be the big recovery chunk. This will be an opportunity, the vets for six weeks, the rookies for five weeks, to go away on their own for a little bit. I'm sure they'll work hard. You don't put the kind of work in they've put in the last four or five months and then all of a sudden let it go away. And if they don't, we'll know about it pretty quick. We trust them, we believe in them, and we think they'll come back emotionally, spiritually fresh and ready to attack training camp."

On if the players will get on the scale Day One when they get back:"They get on the scales. They run, and they get a physical. We put pads on the very first day. We have a live scrimmage the very first morning back, so they know that. They'll be ready to go."

On the coaches' plans for the off time and how they prepare for training camp:"It's kind of the same thing. We're in the process now of preparing for training camp. We've got 40 practices outlined, many scripts have been made, individual periods have already been written up. So, as much as you can, you try to organize your camp pretty much through camp. But, you've got to leave a lot leeway for adjustments, because you don't know what you're going to need to work on as camp goes through. But, I want our coaches to get away. Our coaches have really been working. They were in here late last night. We had the playground build for three and half hours, had to come back and watch tape, grade the tape and get ready for today's practice. That took us into the evening here in June. So, our coaches have really pushed it. I think we have a great staff, and they need five weeks, too, with their families. They'll come back the day of camp, everything's already been set up, and we'll go to work."

On if DT Trevor Pryce can still be one of the top guys on defense, despite being up in age:"Trevor is an elite defensive player in this league. At one time, I think he was the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL – he's that kind of a talent guy. Plus, Trevor knows how to stay in great shape. Trevor does a lot of training here, but he does a lot of training on his own. He's the kind of guy that runs basketball gassers with weight packs on his back. Nobody's in better shape than Trevor. He'll come in here for 48 hours, as he says, then he'll get out of here. But, when you see it, you see the work he's done. We expect Trevor to be an elite defensive lineman."

On how NT Kelly Gregg looks:"Kelly looks comfortable. He's 'loading his knee,' as he says. So, he's taking on those big linemen and dropping into a squat position, a football position. He's pushing off it well. He seems like he's fine."

On his impression of G Robby Felix:"Robby is a guy that, I guess pleasantly, surprised [us]. He was a guy that our scouts found. We didn't talk too much about Robby Felix in the Draft meetings, and then all of a sudden we talked about him once we lost a lineman to an injury here after the first mini-camp, and learned his story a little bit. Here's a guy that probably should have been drafted in the third round. He has a chance to make our team. It's going to be really interesting to see how he does."

On how FB Le'Ron McClain is doing with his offseason conditioning:"Le'Ron is different this year from last year. He's had the offseason with us. Le'Ron has been here every day from March 16-on that we've had a workout. He's really worked hard. He's probably 10 or 12 pounds heavier than he'll be when we play, but he's also in great shape. So, although he's carrying a lot of weight, cardiovascularly and strength-wise, he's in really good shape. Now, he's got to maintain and build on that, take the weight off for training camp, and he should be ready to go. But I admire the way he's worked this year."

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