Wednesday Practice Transcript - 12/14


Head Coach John Harbaugh

Opening statement: "OK, really nothing to report. [We're] just excited to get to work. Obviously, it's somewhat of a short week; we'll be traveling on Friday. So, big challenge with the Chargers in all three phases, obviously. They're very talented – a very, very talented football team."

Can you talk about playing against the Chargers' big, fast wide receivers? (Aaron Wilson) "Well, yeah, they're just guys that can go make plays, guys that can finish on the ball. There's really… It's hard to account for that. I just think they're extremely talented. I mean, their offense is just… Every single position you look at is very talented, and when they're hitting on all cylinders, obviously, we've seen what they're capable of."

You guys like to get pressure on the quarterback with the blitz packages. How cautious do you have to be of their screen game with [Ryan] Mathews and [Mike] Tolbert? (Jason Butt) "Yup, screen game is a big part of it. When you look at their short passing game – checkdown, screen, backs on different routes out of the backfield – you know, those guys have 90 catches between them. Both of them are major threats, and that's really what accounts for their quick passing attack."

[Terrell] Suggs, with 13 sacks this year, can it be attributed in part to him lifting his play or guys like [Haloti] Ngata, [Cory] Redding really helping the pass rush and leaving him more open? (David Ginsburg) "I think it's probably both of those things. It's always a team effort. Individual accomplishments are always in football, [but] it's not like a lot of other sports. You know, you've got to have the guy next to you playing really well as well, and the great thing about Terrell and all of our guys is they're the first ones to acknowledge that. But he has lifted his play. I think he's stronger, faster than he's ever been. He's worked really hard. He works hard in the weight room. I mean, he goes in the weight room and our guys are still pushing a whole bunch of weight in there right now, and he's one of the leaders on that. But the guys around him are playing well, too."

Philip Rivers is a very good quarterback, and he's also known as kind of an excitable quarterback at times. Does that factor in to when you're aggressive with him [or] when you're less aggressive with him? (Peter Schmuck) "Like reading his mood out there, then decide if we're going to get after him a little bit? (laughing) We're going to try to get after every quarterback all the time if we can. And however they react to it or respond to it is up to them. But he's a great competitor. You can see that. You can see he's one of the great competitors in the National Football League, and in our view, that's probably a big strength of his."

Have you seen improvement from Michael Oher this season? (Tom Worgo) "Sure, yeah, Michael, all of our guys have gotten better. I think Michael's gotten better, too. I think he's grown into the right tackle spot again. We've cleaned up a lot of the pre-snap stuff, across the board on our offensive line. Our whole offensive line has gotten better."

What has Ben Grubbs meant to the offensive line since his return and just the kind of player he is? (Aaron Wilson) "Well, he's one of the best guards in football. And he solidifies us, because he's been in the system, and he communicates it, and it's just made us better up front. I think it's made our whole line better. But you know, Andre [Gurode] did a great job. That's the thing. Andre, who never played guard before, came in and did something he never did before at a really high level."

Philip Rivers, in the past couple of games, has kind of started to get back in a groove. Is that the quarterback that he's kind of been in the past? Do you think he's kind of turned the corner in that regard? (Matt Vensel) "I didn't know he hadn't turned the corner yet. (Reporter: "Well, I mean in terms of the turnovers and just the up-and-down play.") I think you're always going to have that. This is football at the highest level. There are going to be streaks, there are going to be turnovers, there are going to be games where guys don't play as well statistically as they will the next game. Every game is its own thing, so we'll just have to see how it goes Sunday."

Knowing the matchups you're going to have, size-wise, with San Diego, how much does Jimmy Smith's improvement and his development help in these matchups? (Glenn Clark) "We're kind of excited about the fact that we've got some bigger corners who are playing really well to take out there. We didn't have that as much a couple years ago when we were out there, so we'll be looking forward to seeing how those guys match up against their great receivers."

What do you remember about that last meeting? And just in terms of Rivers, when he does get into a rhythm, how tough was it? (Aaron Wilson) "Well, he makes big plays. That's what he wants to do. They're kind of built on throwing the ball downfield, and if they can make plays downfield on you, I think that's how they want to play. And he was able to do that in that game."

What are your memories of the Ray Lewis hit from the last time you guys were out there? (Ryan Mink) "I remember being very happy about it. (laughter) It was just a great play, and maybe one of Ray's signature plays, probably in his career."

What have you seen on tape from Jared Gaither, as far as the impact he's had on their offense? (Luke Jones) "Very good. Jared is playing really, really well. In two games he's been there, he's playing really hard; he's very physical. He's been just stellar both in run and pass. So, he's really upgraded their offensive line tremendously. I'm happy for him. He's done a nice job."

Ray [Lewis] hasn't practiced in four weeks. Does he need to get on the field and practice this week to play Sunday, or is he in good enough shape even if he doesn't participate in practice? (David Ginsburg) "Well, Ray's different probably than most guys. So, I think Ray could go out there and play without practicing. He's going to try, I'm sure, to practice, just like he has the last few weeks. But if he didn't practice, he could play on Sunday."

QB Joe Flacco

On his chemistry with WR Lee Evans: "It's growing, it's getting there. He came in here, and was a pretty explosive player from the beginning. Then, you know, obviously not being too healthy during the beginning of the year threw a little bit of that off. But he's out there and getting better each week, and we're working towards really getting there."

On developing trust with teammates who haven't been playing as much: "It's not really difficult to develop a trust. When you're out there, you trust the guy. It's just a matter of getting the reps and really clicking together."

On the offensive line's development throughout the season: "Those guys are doing a really good job. They're really starting to work really well together. To be honest with you, teams haven't really brought a lot of pressure on us other than their front four. Our guys have done a great job. Last week we had two of the best guys in the game on the end, and our guys did a great job. [Dwight Freeney] got to me a couple times, but hey, sometimes you've just got to take those sacks and move on. Our guys did a great job all game, and I think we did a good job of taking advantage of them in other ways also."

On not being sacked in the first quarter and how that helps the offense establish itself in a game: "I hadn't realized that. But yeah, to get in a rhythm as an offense and get your confidence going and get everybody's confidence going can be important. I think we just play well when we do get off to a good start and can get in that rhythm early. So, it definitely helps us out."

On whether he has learned that it is OK to take a sack sometimes: "Definitely. You don't want to be back there taking sacks when you've got guys open downfield, but sometimes there is nothing down there, and it is at the point of the game where you can't really do anything stupid. So taking one here and there is not a bad thing. It's definitely… You find yourself running off the field sometimes, but it's a lot better than having the defense run out onto the field and not the punt team. So there are times that it's advantageous for us, as a team, to take those sacks. But like I said, you don't want to get into a habit of doing that."

On the challenges the Chargers' secondary presents to the offense: "They're good. They have guys that can cut corners, that can run. I think [Eric] Weddle leads the league in interceptions. They do a good job. They have confidence that they can play man-to-man, so they play a lot of man. Like I said, they have confidence that they can do it well, so that what we'll expect to see."

On what makes Weddle such a good player: "He's just got good ball skills. He's back there at safety, and he's got the skills. When the ball goes in the air, he does a good job of being a guy that can go get it and judge the ball and catch it and do all those things."

On whether he is surprised by WR Torrey Smith's development this season: "Not really. Torrey has been a hard worker from the very first day he got here, so, anytime you see guys that come in and are that eager to get after things, you don't get surprised when they do have success."

On whether he's been surprised by the attention surrounding his family this week and his wife being pregnant: "Yeah, I honestly don't pay attention, but I see you guys asking me about it. I think that's even a little funny. So other than that, I don't really know what's going on about it. But yeah, it's a little funny. It's not even close to being here yet. It's exciting for us though. We're really excited about it."

DT Haloti Ngata

On how much of a competition the defensive line and linebackers have for sacks: "It's really not a competition, because Terrell Suggs always gets the sacks. (laughter) After Terrell Suggs, then we have a competition against each other, because Terrell Suggs, we already know he is going to get it because he is great like that. (Reporter: "How heated is it amongst the rest of the pack?") It's pretty heated. You have Pernell McPhee, I think, that is leading amongst our little group. Then it goes me and [Paul] Kruger, I think, and then Cory Redding is right behind us, or he might be with us, too. Yeah, we have a little competition going."

On the last time the Ravens played the Chargers: "I remember that game was real hot. We played them what, two years ago? In the beginning of the season, we had to wear purple. We were up early, and they started coming back. [Chargers QB Philip] Rivers is great at those big-chunk plays, and they started coming back. We just have to make sure once we are up, we stay up and not let them come back and get those chunk plays. Then you remember that Ray Lewis hit in the backfield. So that was great, but hopefully we don't have to keep it that close."

On former Ravens and current Chargers T Jared Gaither: "He's a great athlete. I think if he was still here, he would probably be playing. He is a big guy that can move around. He's just big and you can't really get around him a lot of the time. Hopefully, our guys in the end can get him some good work this weekend and maybe we can smash on him a little bit, too."

On how important it is to get after Chargers QB Philip Rivers early: "It's really important. I think he is a quarterback that hates to get hit and loves to win. I think if we can get in front of his face and hit him often, I think it gets him a little frustrated. He doesn't really like getting hit. I think you can see that he really starts to get on his linemen and into the refs and talking about some hits. Once we can do that to him, get him frustrated, it's going to be a better game for us."

On how much of the success without LB Ray Lewis can be attributed to OLB Terrell Suggs: "That's huge. Terrell Suggs has stepped up big for us, just pressuring the quarterback and not letting a lot of those balls get to the secondary or to the back end of us. He's done a great job. Ed Reed has been doing great and communicating with the back end. I was just thinking that we shouldn't use Ray Lewis until the playoffs, just because we have been winning without him anyway. (laughter) No, I am just kidding. We need Ray Lewis."

On if he would vote for Suggs for NFL Defensive Player of the Year: "Oh, definitely. Definitely. He has been doing a great job all year. He's been a great leader for us and doing really well at stopping the run – not only the pass – but doing really well on the run. I think without him, we wouldn't be as good of a defense."

On how much of a difference getting Lewis back will be for the defense: "Not much. (laughing) [Jameel] McClain and [Dannell] Ellerbe definitely stepped up for us and did a great job. But, I think when Ray Lewis comes back, I think you'll see some of that excitement and leadership come back and that fire. It will be good for us."

On not looking at a team's record: "San Diego is a team that has won a lot of teams in December and January. They are a team that understands that these months are definitely important to getting a push into the playoffs. Hopefully, we kind of prove that we can win in December, too, and continue that."

RB Ray Rice

On his upcoming contract: "It's hard to think about it now, and I'm just being honest. I've had the ability to not even think about it because No. 1, I respect my teammates. I didn't want to bring my contract, my personal decisions or my personal life in here, into this locker room. I have enough respect for my teammates and the organization to keep it that way. You know, we're winning. If you love the game enough, you enjoy winning and you appreciate it, you just live by, 'If you take care of the game, the game will take care of you.' I just let my numbers and everything else pan out. In the offseason, I'm sure it will be dealt with."

On whether he thinks he will be staying with the Ravens: "I don't think I'll be going anywhere. That I can almost assure. There's nothing that would … Obviously, when you're in this situation, there's nothing that would make me think that I would be anywhere else. I love it here. The city, the team, the organization, they all feel the same way."

On whether he feels the offense is on a roll: "I feel like we're becoming more consistent. That's what is key going forward – consistency matters. I always go back to the lockout, because people don't understand how much that affects timing. Everything else that we've been establishing … Our offensive line, the first time they were actually together was against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the first game of the year. If you look at that game, yeah we looked great. But then we had some hurdles, because the first game of the year everybody is excited. Then you look at now, those guys are playing lights out. There's a reason why the run game emerged the way it did. It's because of those guys. It's not that they figured it out, but they're all on one accord. We've got great guys. Everybody said, 'We'll get it together.' Nobody panicked. Even in the pass game, receivers are stepping up. You've got young guys making plays; Anquan Boldin is consistent. It's great to get Lee Evans back healthy because he's going to be big for us going forward. And the tight ends, obviously, have been playing phenomenal. You can't forget those guys."

On what he is seeing from the Chargers' defense: "That defense is playing solid. You look at the other side, what they have over there, they've got a great middle linebacker. They've got great safeties and cornerbacks that can play. They've got a pass rush, as well with Antwan Barnes that's been over here. So, it's not going to be one of those games where people think it's going to be a cakewalk. We don't expect that. They're playing good football right now, and we've got to bring our best. Sunday Night Football, we've been playing a lot on prime time. It'll be a great feeling to go out there and get a win, because we know we control … As much as we're playing the San Diego Chargers, we control our own destiny. They're another opponent. But we respect them. They have a great quarterback, a great system, a great coach. Everything they have going for them, and they've been a great team in December."

On the impact G Ben Grubbs has had on the run game since he returned: "Ben Grubbs is, he's one of the best guards in the game. We've been blessed and fortunate to have Andre Gurode. Andre Gurode is a center, we put him at guard. So when Ben Grubbs is back in there, the run game is different. You're looking at a guy that his position is playing guard and he's been solid. When we're doing different, things he gets up on linebackers. The combination, between him and Marshal Yanda at guard, is huge. We need him in there. He's another guy that you think about his contract situation, we need him to be around."

On what he's doing different now that he wasn't doing a couple months ago: "I don't want to say I saved my best for last, but I think the fact that I wasn't getting the carries early on was a blessing in disguise for me right now. I'm going into December fresh and healthy. Me fresh and healthy in this time of year, when guys literally might be a little banged up … The season is long. I feel good going into December and January. It's just one of those situations where I'm going to attack the game now, No. 1 taking care of my body and still studying film. And this is the time of year where we've got a lot of reps now. Coach is going to be smart with us in practice; we're not going to beat each other up. We have our one day in pads. Whether we're in pads or not, we've got to take care of each other to be able to perform on Sunday. That's my approach."

On how they are helping the young guys understand that opportunities to play in the playoffs are rare: "I played in every playoff game, and I've been fortunate to play in every playoff game except for one – that's the Super Bowl. And they've all been on the road. The feeling after you don't get it done, that eats at you. You know the team that we have is capable. In the meantime, we know we have to take care of business. The faster we get these young guys to understand that each game is essentially a playoff game right now … We're fighting for something that is different. I've never played in a home playoff game in Baltimore. We know how tough it is to go on the road. Just imagine [if] another team had to come in here and try to play us in the playoffs, with our crowd and our fans and us fired up. We know what's at stake. The faster we get our team to understand, the better off we're going to be down the road. Obviously, that's one game at a time."

On the endorsements he did during the offseason: "I try to keep my smile out there. (laughter) You know, it's one of those things that during the lockout I had the time to do it. It's one of those things where I took advantage of the opportunity to get myself out there and let my face be seen and get known out there. I'm saying that was one benefit, for me, during the lockout, that I was able to do those things and get out there. I obviously knew that the lockout was going to end, so I wanted to get them done before football and still focus on my training. Yeah, it was a great opportunity for me – saved me some money during the lockout. But it's always good to get out there and brand yourself. That's one thing that football does is bring you those opportunities. I've been blessed to be able to capitalize on them."

OLB Terrell Suggs

On the requirements for entering "Ball So Hard University": "You have to ball so hard. That's one. Two, you have to be on a dominant defense or you have to be a very physical player. That's one of them. Those are just a few requirements. But, it's like Fight Club. You don't talk about Fight Club. That's the first rule. The second rule of Ball So Hard University is that you don't talk about Ball So Hard University. (Reporter "Do you ever graduate?") You don't talk about Ball So Hard University. We have a little private fraternity, and we're going to keep it private. Anyway, we'll talk later."

On shrugging off the question of if this is his best season: "How many of those do I got? (Points to a picture of the Lombardi Trophy.) I don't got any. If I fall short, we fall short come the end of the season; it's all null and void. [Individual accolades] come and go. It's only for the moment. Like I said, there aren't too many things that [I] really can achieve as an individual player. I just have to keep playing the hardest for my team and playing within my unit and trusting my coach, both of my coaches, [OLBs coach Ted] Monachino, [D-line coach] Clarence Brooks, and even into our defense coordinator [Chuck Pagano], and trusting that they're going to get us there. Like I said, I had pretty good comeback year last year, and I was at home watching my rivals, had an opportunity to win another game, so it didn't really mean anything. I'm just trying to win. I really just want to win."

On what he can expect from former Ravens and current Chargers T Jared Gaither: "He was a good tackle here for us. Of course, the business side of it got in the way of us having him. It's going to be two good teams out there on Sunday Night Football. We're going to go out there and we're going to play. It's going to be what it is."

On how much of competition he has with his teammates for sacks: "There is a little competition because the little guys, the younger guys, excuse me, they are playing phenomenal. They are breathing down my neck. But it is a competition, just amongst us. It's friendly. We talk about it, but we are all happy when guys get some. When we're winning, everybody is happy."

On the importance of getting after Chargers QB Philip Rivers early: "Is it just with him, or is it with every quarterback that you play? You know what I mean? You don't want a quarterback to be in a seven-on-seven match, especially this one, with your defensive backs. Otherwise, it's going to be raining touchdowns and it doesn't feel too good. That's just with any quarterback. But I like this guy. A lot of quarterbacks, I can't stand – some more than others in particular – but I am a big fan. I am a Philip Rivers fan. Like I said, I liked it when he and [Bears QB] Jay Cutler got into it. I like his fire. That's what you need in your quarterback. Like I said, this is going to be a good game. This is going to be a good football game between two teams playing for the same thing. I like it. It's going to be good. It's good for football and the football world."

On if he plays his best football in primetime: "I don't know. I like to be special. I don't know. I am a West Coast guy; we're going to the West Coast. It's just going to be fun. Like I said, it's going to be a fun game. It's going to be a really fun game."

On how much better the defense will be when LB Ray Lewis returns: "Well, whenever he does return, we're going to be back to a really great defense. But like I said, I don't think you all should take this credit [away from] the job that Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe have done these past few weeks. They have been phenomenal for us. We get him back in there, we get the greatest player to play this football game. If not, our young guys, the two guys we got back are going to be doing great, and they are going to play great for us. It's a win-win [situation] for us."

On if he has taken it upon himself to provide more leadership since Lewis went down with his injury: "I don't know. Like I said, I think the way this machine works, it starts with No. 52 [Lewis]. Then it trickles down, No. 20 [Ed Reed], and then myself, No. 95 [Jarret Johnson], No. 92 [Haloti Ngata], and we all act accordingly. When it comes to leadership, we are all just one unit. This machine works when we are all doing our part. We've been a steady, good machine. Hopefully, we get that big, key part back this week. If not, the machine is going to keep trucking along."

On defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano facing his brother, John, the Chargers' linebackers coach: "Like I said, we don't play into that too much. The bigger picture is Baltimore-San Diego and the things they are trying to accomplish, the things we are trying to accomplish. That's pretty much a side thing. His brother does coach for them – I was just told that, actually. We have to win a game, and then in the locker room, hopefully we're victorious, and then we'll go up and be like, 'Hey, you beat your brother. Nice. Let's just get ready for Cleveland.' It's a lot of things that have to happen in order for that to happen."

On if he sees more of a sense of urgency from teams in December: "Only certain teams can play in December. Only certain teams have what it takes to play that style of football – San Diego being one of them, ourselves being one of them, if you check the records. Like I said, this is going to be a great game, going to be a fun game, but only a few teams can do what it takes in November and December to go on that run. These two teams are most definitely [among] them."

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