Wednesday Practice Transcript - 01/04


Head Coach John Harbaugh

Opening statement: "Great to see everybody, thanks for coming out. Obviously, it must be a newsworthy day here. We didn't think we were doing that much. (laughter) We've had a good week so far. Monday and Tuesday, we had the whole team in lifting and conditioning and [receiving] treatment. We'll be here today and tomorrow with practice and meetings and things like that. So, we're having a real productive week."

Ray Rice said he enjoyed practice, he likes sweating and all that, but you talked about backups getting some work in, too. So is it a mix? (Jerry Coleman) "Everybody is getting work in. Everybody is healthy enough. There are a few guys we held out. It's just better for them not to be out here pounding – not that many. It's a mix [of] the whole team. Cam [Cameron] made a point today in the offensive meeting that I thought was a good point: At this time of year, there are no 'No. 2's.' There's not 'ones' and 'twos.' There's the first group of starters, and then there's the next group of starters, because you're going to need every one of those guys at some point in time."

Have you gotten good reports on the three guys with concussions, Dannell Ellerbe, Tom Zbikowski and Jimmy Smith? They were all out here today. Have you gotten good reports on them? (Dan Kolko) "Good progress reports. They haven't been cleared yet through testing, but they're all making good progress."

How'd you come up with what you decided to do with your plan for the playoffs? I'm certain you had a lot of experience in Philadelphia, but this your first time with a bye. I'm sure different coaches do it different ways. (Steve Davis) "We just built on the experience, probably in Philadelphia. Also, I talked to Jim [Harbaugh] and hashed it out a little bit. We're on similar plans; he's doing a slightly different deal. We also made some calls to other teams around the league who have done it in the last couple of years. So, we tried to research it to see what the options were. We spent a lot of time talking to the players. Our players had a lot of input; I know our players had a lot of input, in this particular plan. They had a couple tweaks – even had one out there today, as you saw – out there in practice. We have some good veterans, and they have a lot of input."

What will be the process with preparing this week, and if the Texans win on Saturday, then you'll know you're playing them? But how to do you prepare as the games unfold this weekend (Matt Vensel) "If the Texans win, we'll go to work on Sunday, first thing, on the Texans. If the Texans don't win, then we'll be in here on Sunday waiting to see who wins as soon as the game gets over. We'll have a Monday practice. We'll be off Tuesday, like normal, and then we'll start on Wednesday with our normal schedule."

You guys have been to the playoffs all four years that you have been here, but you've got a couple guys on your team that haven't been to the playoffs at all – guys like Lee Evans, Ricky Williams, veterans that haven't been here that long. Have you gotten a sense from them how important this is to them, how much this means to them? (Dan Kolko) "Yes. Those guys have a tendency of letting the rest of the guys know, especially the young guys, how important it really is. Anquan Boldin got up and talked to the offense today about that, and he referenced those two guys specifically. When you've been in the league for seven, eight, nine, 10 years and you haven't been to the playoffs, sometimes the young guys take it for granted. The veterans can let them know how special it really is."

You let Shayne Graham go. Is that just a sign that everything is good with Billy Cundiff? (Glenn Clark) "Yes, correct, yes."

How big do you think that kick was for Cundiff, to just get back in the lineup, make the kick and get some confidence that he can play? (Matt Vensel) "It was big; it was big for all of us. It was big to see him be able to do that. The way he pounded the ball through, we all felt good about that. Obviously, the kickoffs [were important] as well, so he looks like he's 100-percent."

It's a league of turnover. Each year a lot of guys are gone, a lot of guys come in. What does it say about this team, with not just the veterans, but the young guys that have stepped in this year and made such a big impact? (Brent Harris) "It says we made some good decisions. It says we do a good job of developing players, and we get the right kind of guys that can handle it. It says a lot about or veterans. Our veterans put those guys under their wing a little bit and do a good job of working with the younger guys. So, you better be that way. If you don't get contributions from your younger guys in this league, you aren't going to be successful."

Dennis Pitta had success working out of the slot. Can you kind of talk about the skill set that he has, that he's able to go out almost as a wide receiver and make plays? (Matt Vensel)"The real, defined type of position-specific roles is really starting to blur on offense. You see guys like this – you see it in New England, you see it all around the league – these big receiver/tight end-type guys who kind of do that. It causes defenses a lot of problems with matchups and things like that. Hopefully, we're on the cutting edge with our young guys."

LB Ray Lewis

On if this team reminds him of the 2000 Ravens team: "Yeah, a lot of similarities – definitely a lot of similarities. You look around … Me and Ray [Rice] talk about it the most, and I just try to keep him … The way we did it back then, there are just so many players that kind of remind you of the kind of players that we have today. It's kind of good and kind of unique at the same time, to be a part of both teams."

On if this team is all right winning a lower-scoring game: "It don't matter. I don't care if you win by a half point or if you win by none, you are either in the win column or you're in the loss column. That's all that matters in this league. This year, we were able rack up 12 of those [wins]. Anytime that you have that type of season and you put yourself in the right position to go ahead and do what you do … And that's why we are sitting where we are sitting now."

On if he has thought that this could be the last game he plays: "I guess only the people that write are the only people that can think about it. I don't. I have a true obligation, first of all, to myself to play the game with nothing else on my mind. The second thing I have an obligation to are my teammates – just to give it everything I've got and don't listen to what nobody else says. Just do what you do. We have an opportunity. If we can block everything out that everybody wants to write about or think about, then we have a great chance to go on and do some special things with this team."

On if it bothers him when people write stuff about the end of his career: "Bothersome? I say most of the times, if you have watched me long enough, it's actually a credit to me and my hard work. To still be around doing what I am doing … 16 years [I've] been in this business. Do you know how many men I have seen come walk in and out of this door? And then when you get to that, I think the thing that you really kind of … Me, I always, I think about and talk to most men about is, think about all the people that had that one dream to be here and never made it. For God to carry me through 16 years and still playing at the level that I am playing at … You know what? Man, speaks what man speaks. God controls a whole another thought process."

On if he is happy with the level he is playing at right now: "If you ask my peers, why wouldn't I be? (laughing) It's hard not to be, man, because the game is simple. When you make the game very simple, the game ain't … You are going to always make a bad play, you are always going to make a good play. It's never about that. It's about the consistency or how consistent you can approach every week, week-in and week-out. Regardless, whether it is a good play, bad play, good game, bad game, and that's what keeps people around a long time. You go through a resume of all of the great ones, and all of the great ones, you can always go back to when they had their downs, they had their ups, but they were able to overcome that and keep going and keep going and keep going. That's what I encourage a lot of young men to do. I know everybody has a job, but don't get caught up in everybody who is writing this and writing that, because I can promise you, if a person is writing about you, they have never really spent real time with you. As a young kid, that's what I'm telling these young kids: Stop worrying about what everybody writes. It don't matter. I have never had a newspaper come to my house. Never. I don't need it. I don't take a newspaper and put it in my pocket when I go to work out. There is nobody else doing that with me. In 16 years of my career, I can only tell you I have two people that have continually worked out with me in 16 years. That's what I owe a credit to. Everything else, you just have to trust God and do what you do."

On if the 16 years of experience can offset a potential loss of a half a step: "Yeah, that's the thing. That's the thing. I tell people all time, I would never want to go back to being a young Ray Lewis. The young Ray Lewis, he was good, he was good, but he was out of control a lot of times. The way I am now is a much wiser person. Every man chases wisdom, if you are truly a man chasing something. Where I am now in my career, I appreciate the game. I appreciate the mistakes. I appreciate the ups and the downs because there is always a learning curve that I have already been through many times. There is always many plays that I may have gotten beat on two weeks ago, last week that I have been beat 10 years ago on the same play. It's just that's the irony of the game. That's why you come back every week, week-in and week-out, and say, 'You know what? [This] week, I will be better than I was last week.' That's all you can do. That's what keeps your longevity going the way it goes."

On if there is a conversation between he and the coaches about when he comes off the field: "Come off what? (Reporter: "Third down or any play in particular. Do they say, 'Come onto the sidelines.'") Probably the only conversation that is probably had is when you are probably injured, and they try to tell you the smart thing to do, and you kind of do the opposite. Like when I separated my shoulder, I knew I had done something bad to it, but the game was more important at that time. I jumped down onto the field in Cleveland and starting doing pushups. I said I felt good enough to go back in, until I got that hit again, and I was like, 'OK, I think I need to come sit down.' Those are the conversations you have. But I tell you, over the years, the most beautiful thing I have had is great relationships with some great men. Titles only go so far, but my relationship with men across this league … There are countless text messages and calls that I got – just to go off and finish that last game – from previous coaches, who are now head coaches in their own ways and things like that. But that's between us, because we share more intimate conversations as well. It just ain't about football. Those relationships are kind of like lifetime relationships."

On how much sweeter winning the Super Bowl would be this time: "I don't know if you can ever match the first one. The first one is always hard to match, but I think the only way to match the first one is winning the second one, so I have to see what it feels like winning the second one, if we can really pull our team and go do that. I just think it would be a special moment for me being able to be on two teams that went and did that. From being on one team in 2000, then 10 years later, still being around to come back and do it again, that's a very special thing to accomplish. That's definitely a goal of mine."

On how much he wants to win the Super Bowl for veteran guys who haven't won one yet: "That's what I am talking about. That's what it's all about. Like I said, it's about your teammates. You see these young kids that come in this business, and they don't really understand how hard it is to win a Super Bowl. They don't understand how everything has to be in place, how your health is a big issue. Then when you finally start to get them to understand that, by that time they are in their fourth, fifth, sixth, ninth, 10th year, that's the thing that you try to emphasize to them. Don't waste time. Don't waste time. We didn't know that we were that good back then to win a Super Bowl. We did not know it, but we knew that if we all came together long enough, we had an opportunity to do it. So we won it, and that's the thing that I try to tell these young guys. We have the team to do it now. We don't have too many more excuses. Let's go do it right now. Then whatever else comes after that for all of your careers, you go enjoy it, but go win a championship. There are a lot of men that came in this business, and that's the one thing they have left this business without, and that's the ring. I have touched it before. I have touched it before. To go back with this group of men could be a special thing."

On the atmosphere of a home playoff game: "Craziness. It's craziness. I think Baltimore is one of those cities that makes it crazy. We're grounded when it comes to backing our sporting teams. Since I've been here, the way they have embraced me and embraced this team … When you walk in there, you feel love, you feel strength. That's why it's just so hard to win on the road, period. Home teams have a certain type of aura, have a certain type of thing about them. We have that special thing in downtown Baltimore."

On losing his last two home playoff games: "We lost the last two at home? Playoff games? I know. We gave up five field goals, and he [Colts QB Peyton Manning] was supposed to be the best quarterback of all time. (laughter) But I'll take it."

On whether he is motivated by the thoughts of previous playoff losses or the memory of a Super Bowl win: "I think, what I actually think about more, is there's a harsh reality, and the harsh reality is that it wasn't our year. That was the Indianapolis Colts' year. Just like last year, Pittsburgh made a great run; wasn't their year. That was the Green Bay Packers' year. Every year is somebody's year. 2000, guess what, as well as the Giants rallied to come all the way back and knock off Minnesota – who had had this high-powered offense – it wasn't their year. It was the Ravens' year. And when it's your year, it's your year no matter what anybody says, no matter what anybody does. When it's your time, it's your time. *(Reporter: "Is this your year?") *Hopefully, it's our time."

RB Ray Rice

On what it would mean for RB Ricky Williams to make a long postseason run: "A long postseason run for Ricky … You know, Ricky, I said it earlier in the year, that him and Vonta [Leach] is the best thing that happened to me since I became a Raven, and I firmly believe that. Me and him have been quite the 1-2 combo; I may get the glory, but Ricky really softens the defense up for me. Next thing you know, I get the big play. And people will tell you that he's a brutal runner. We have two different styles – like me and Willis [McGahee] – but I think going into this playoff run, we are both really healthy. And we've got to pack our run game, and me and him should see a lot of action. But if he breaks one, I'll try not to get a flag for running on the field, because I know he's due for one."

On what this week is all about for the Ravens knowing they aren't going to play this weekend and if it's more based on rest than work: "The rest is key, but if you're going to practice … We've always been a team of work. I love practice. I love getting out here and practicing, getting a sweat, and it feels good to know that you're coming out here to work on something. If you pick one thing to work on each day – it doesn't matter how long you're out here – and get better at it. You feel good at the end of the day. And that's the mentality that we're taking. The guys that need to get healthy, they'll get healthy. And the guys that need to work on things will work on [things]. But at the end of the day, we need to come out of this bye week a better team and rested and healthier."

On the importance of rest for him this week and how much of a difference it will make to not have to play this weekend: "You know what? I took a different approach. I took today as a workday. I'm taking the same approach as if I was playing on Sunday, but I'm realizing that I have the weekend off. So, today and tomorrow I'll work as hard as possible to get my body and keep my conditioning, but Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it will feel good to sit back and watch out, because we're not preparing for anybody. But at the same time, it really doesn't matter who we prepare against, because we're trying to get better as a team. So, it is different for a running back, because you kind of want to kick back, but everything feels good."

On how much he feels the weight of the team is on his shoulders to carry them to the Super Bowl: "I don't feel the pressure of obviously carrying the team, but I feel like whenever there's a play that needs to be made, if Cam [Cameron] is going to put the ball in my hand, I'm ready for it. I've been in these playoff situations. I've been spoiled. This is my fourth-year straight in the playoffs, and my first home playoff game to play in Baltimore. So, I've been spoiled. A lot of guys … For Lee Evans, it's his first playoff game, and he's been in the league eight years. So, I've been spoiled, and I have the experience now. So, if there's something that needs to be made, a play that needs to be made, I have no problem taking that load or putting the weight on my shoulders and making that play. And one thing, I'm not afraid of the opportunity anymore. As a rookie, I can't tell you that I was ready for that kind of opportunity. But right now, I feel like I am."

On whether he feels more ready for the opportunity this year than he did last year: "Yeah, to be honest with you, this has been the healthiest I've been [and] this is the best I've ever felt. And coach Harbaugh would tell you himself that this year I got after the weight room a little bit harder this year coming into the season, and I'm having the ability to get stronger during the season. And it's one of those things that – give our strength and conditioning coaches credit – that I've been able to maintain my strength throughout the season, so going into the playoffs, I'm not feeling beat up or battered. If I come out of the game sore, I'm supposed to come out of the game sore, but I'm usually coming out of the game – every game that I've played in this year – pretty healthy."

On whether he's always thought of himself as a dual-threat running back, even coming out of college: "Yeah, I was actually, in high school, the leading receiver on my team. So, it's a little hidden secret but … In college we had a guy, Brian Leonard, that you know, he was a lot better pass-catcher than me at the time. And it was hard to take the ball out … There was only one ball to go around, and he knew his role and I knew my role, and I took the majority of the carries, and he caught a lot of the balls. But, you have to get in here and work on it again. Obviously, Cam Cameron and Wilbert Montgomery, they've done a great job of helping me get my fundamentals back together and catching the ball."

On whether it has been in his mind from preseason through the season that the body of work is all about getting to the Super Bowl and not just making the playoffs: "The thing is, we've got this little thing around here, and it's a chart … You want to find yourself climbing at the end of the year. If you notice, everybody comes into the season fast and strong, but you see the guys that are dwindling down. Not to pat myself on the back, but yeah, I've had long runs in the beginning of the year, but now you can see that I'm having long runs and I'm scoring touchdowns with the long runs. And that's just a tribute to climbing at the end of the season. I try to stay on a steady climb, and I think it all has to do with the way you work. [It's] the run game, and like you said, the weight room; it's every little thing that you've got to do to take care of your body at this time. Like I said, the Super Bowl is obviously the goal, but we've been a playoff team; the playoffs are expected. We expected to make the playoffs, but we also expected to come into the playoffs pretty strong as well."

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