Wednesday Practice Transcript - 12/28


Head Coach John Harbaugh

Opening statement: "Good to see everybody. Obviously, we've begun our preparations for this game. We're looking forward to playing it. It's an exciting opportunity. This is the type of opportunity that you work for in this league – probably really in any profession. Everything we put into our offseason work, everything we do, is geared toward this time of year. In my mind, this is the playoffs, and that's what we're going to get started on. I don't have anything new to report on injuries. Everybody's progressing; they're getting treatment. There are no new announcements. There's nothing new to talk about there."

You have faced Cedric Benson many times and know his strengths. What do you have to focus on to make sure he doesn't have a good game against you? (Kevin Van Valkenburg) "What he does well is he's a very patient runner. He runs those zone schemes as well as anybody in the league. He picks his spots, he doesn't get in a hurry, and he waits for you to make a mistake. So, two things: You've got to be patient when you're playing gap control – as they say. You've got to control the man in front of you, stay square, tear off blocks and make plays. And, you've got to create some things, some free-hitters in the backfield, to try to get some negative-yard plays if you can."

A.J. Green did not play the first time the Ravens faced the Bengals this season. What challenges does he present to a secondary? (Dan Kolko) "Well, the same ones you've seen. I call him the leading rebounder in the National Football League right now. He goes up and gets a lot of balls. So, they're going to throw it up to him, and not just him – [Jerome] Simpson and [Jermaine] Gresham. Those guys all are playmakers. He's a vertical threat; he can go chase a ball down. So, you've got to cover him and you've got to get pressure on the quarterback."

Rookie receiver Torrey Smith was a second-round draft pick and he has had a good season. How important was it to bring in a young player who can grow with QB Joe Flacco? (Matt Vensel)"As you know, you've got to have playmakers. I think Torrey has grown into one of those kinds of guys. If you look back over his rookie season, he's had a very successful start. But the focus is on this week, and he's going to be a guy they've got to cover. He's a playmaker also. So, we've got key playmakers, too."

You said this game feels like the playoffs. What is the importance of securing a two-seed for the playoffs? (Dave Ginsburg) "You guys can all write about that. It's pretty obvious what we're trying to get accomplished this week with this game. And this game pays off, if we can win this game. But, whatever happens, we're going to play the next game, too. So, our focus is on this game. You can't play games in the future – like we said on Monday – and you can't play any games in the past. We've just got to focus on this one. It might be a cliché, but it's also true."

What has the team gotten out of Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson this year? (Tom Worgo) "What the team has gotten out of Ed Dickson? Well, he's our starting tight end. He's played well. He's made plays. He's had some huge touchdown catches for us, and he blocks well. He's an up-and-coming tight end, for sure. And we're happy to have both those guys."

How difficult is it for Andre Gurode, being a Pro Bowl center, to fill in at the guard position? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I don't have a measuring stick for it. We're just happy we have him. He's done a really good job. He's a veteran, and we're sure glad he's here and he's done well."

Does Bengals QB Andy Dalton look like a rookie on film? (John Eisenberg) "He looks like the quarterback for the Bengals on film. That's what he looks like. We've seen him for a whole season now. He does what he does in that offense quite well, and we're going to defend it."

You ran the ball a lot on Saturday. What is the importance of getting other offensive players, like Lee Evans, involved in the game plan this week? (Glenn Clark) "It's important to get everybody involved – every week. It was important every other week, and we try to do that. And it's going to be important this week. So, we want to get all of our guys involved. We've got some guys that can make plays, and we try to give them the ball."

Do you see any lingering effects of Lee Evans' injury? (Glenn Clark) "I haven't been focused on that. I just focus on how we execute plays."

QB Joe Flacco

On how high the stakes are for Sunday's game: "It's an interesting game. They're a good team, and they've played well all year. It means a lot to both of us. For them to get in the playoffs, they have to win, really. We're hoping for a couple teams to lose so they're going to feel like they have to win, and for us to get where we want to get, which is to get that first-round bye and that home playoff game, we have to win. So, it's going to be a hard-fought football game, and it's going to be a lot of fun."

On how the intensity of this game makes it like a playoff game: "Obviously, if you were to lose the game, the results, they're not as tough to deal with. But it's definitely … We've been looking at it like that for the last couple weeks. This is just going to be another one of those weeks."

On how much rookie WR Torrey Smith has grown this season: "I think you guys have been able to see how much he's been able to get better throughout the season – catching the ball and running different routes. Obviously, his big thing is his speed and his ability to get downfield. But, he's really starting to get better at each thing."

On WR Lee Evans taking initiative after the Browns game, saying he could have done more: "We're working on getting better and better and hooking up. It starts with both of us. For him to come out and say that, it's definitely a pretty big thing. I'm going to say that it's my job to get him the ball more on time and make things a little bit easier. So, we're working towards it. He's going to be someone that we need down the road in order to be successful."

On how deep threats like Smith and Evans make it easier to attack the Bengals' defense: "I think it helps that no matter who you're going against. We've struggled against those guys, partially because of that. Anytime you add a guy with speed, it helps out."

On how the offense is gelling at this point in the season and how players can get past the second-half slump like seen against Cleveland last week: "You know, we didn't come out and play the way we wanted to in the second half, obviously. I think there have been games this year where we've come out and thrown the ball because we were down a lot, and you guys complained about it. Now, this week, we kind of came out and we, honestly, played conservative. When we didn't, we missed a couple plays, whether it was a drop or a missed throw here. I wish you guys would help me out and start complaining that we played too conservative so it would put pressure on our coaches to not do that. (laughter) We're getting better and better each week. We've got a lot of talent. It's just a matter of going out there, executing plays and doing it for a full 60 minutes. I think if we do that, then we'll be happy. We can't let teams back in games with … It helps those guys out when they get a special teams return for a touchdown. Just like that, they can be back in the game with one offensive drive. I think as long as we play as a team, and stop allowing those things, then we would have ran away with that game a little bit better."

On how much pride he takes in the development of Smith: "I don't know. I don't really think about it too much. Obviously, he's a young guy, and I feel responsible for bringing him along and having him play well. But, it's really up to him. He's the guy with the talent. He's the guy that comes here and works hard every day. If he goes out there, and he does all the right things and he puts himself into situations to get the ball by beating his defender, then I have confidence in myself and in delivering him the ball. Other than that, it shouldn't really be that hard if all your guys get in the right places. Most NFL quarterbacks can throw the ball and put it there. I take a little bit of pride in the fact that he's played well. But, like I said, I think you have to give a lot of the credit to him just the way that he's come in and worked. He's been able to put his talent out there and really be confident about it."

LB Ray Lewis

On working harder on motivating his teammates late in the season: "I think we all do, to a certain extent. I think I do a little more, because the season is kind of winding down, and you're seeing where you are in the season. And, you want to bring a little more extra focus to how important not just games are, but practice can be as well. I can see myself doing that."

On Sunday's game having a playoff-type feeling because of the significance of a win to both teams: "This is a playoff game. The thing is, they're trying to get in and we're already in, and we have to go finish what we started the whole year. And that is that we know we are playing for home-field advantage. We know how big that is – to come play in Baltimore. And there is nothing else on our mind. We know that they are going to give us all they've got. This is a division foe. Marvin [Lewis] is definitely going to have them ready to play. But, we're ready to play as well."

On this game having the highest stakes of any road game he's ever played: "I don't know if you get into the high stakes. Like I said, we're already in The Dance, and the ultimate goal every year is to get in The Dance, and that is the playoffs. Anytime you have yourself in that position, then that's what you go through the whole year for. And now, we can better position ourselves. And that's why I think the game is a real big game for us, because we can put ourselves in better position this week."

On the chance to finish the regular season on a high note by playing a true complete game this week: "Anytime you think about that complete game, you always want that next game to be that complete game. You don't really worry about the complete games, you just worry about W's. If you can just keep winning, you want your complete game, when all the chips are on the line. And that can come in the first round of the playoffs, the second round of the playoffs, or the Super Bowl itself. And that's where you want your best game to be played. If you peak too early, you can get in trouble with that. We've seen many teams do that. But, I think, for us, our balance and what we're trying to do and how we're really trying to do it is going along as we kind of figured."

On what a bye week would mean to the team: "I don't think it's just us, now. I know we're in a great position, but a bye week for a lot of teams … You find yourself in December and late in the year, a lot of people are banged up. A lot of people around the league [have injuries]. Every team is dealing with injuries, no matter where they're coming from. And anytime you can get a full week's rest to where you don't have to worry about playing a game, that's huge. That's huge for any team. And it's no different for our team to get that bye. To get that first-round [bye], we could get a lot of people back, a lot of people healed up. And you really get two weeks off. I know you come back the second week and practice, but you're really not physically beating each other up. Anytime you can get that, I think that's huge in this business."

On being aware of how special it is to make the playoffs: "Being in [the playoffs] the last four years, I don't think it's about postseason for me anymore. It's mostly about finishing that. It's mostly about going to the next level, and that's kind of my experience of going through so many years – year-in and year-out. That's what I'm trying to get the guys to always – see that these opportunities don't come but every now and then. So, each game means something. Each season means something. I was just talking to Ray [Rice] and was telling him we've [gone] from Year One with him, and now we're in Year Four already with him. And you see how quickly it can go by. But the opportunities go by even faster. So, I think this team has matured enough. Now we have a lot of key pieces that have matured to the point that they see that it is right now that we need to go do what we need to do."

On remembering the early years of his career when the Ravens didn't always make the playoffs: "Who doesn't remember them? I remember everything, man. Coming here as a new organization, as a new team and really trying to adjust to everything we had to adjust to, that was a very challenging time for the Ravens – and even for myself. Coming from the University of Miami, we were accustomed to winning. And coming here and then going through those rough times, you begin to find out what you're [made] out of. Again, the whole aura started to change around our city. And now we have that. Now we have what all of the years I'd use to look at all these other teams [and think], 'Man, one day, hopefully we're there.' Now we're one of those teams to where we're in the playoffs every year and we are always contending for the titles and things. That's kind of what I want to keep the guys always honed in on is that opportunities come few, they come very few. But I think right now, we have the team that understands that."

On seeing OLB Terrell Suggs mature as a player and handing the leadership of the defense over to him one day:"I just do what I do as a leader strictly because that's what's inside of me. The thing that I'm more enlightened by is the maturity, not just as Suggs, but a lot of other guys. You see it. They grow and they grow and they grow. And when they're young, you try to explain it to them how serious it is and how important meetings are. And you see they don't get it in their first and second and third years. But when you see a guy like Terrell, who is really starting to get in there [and] really starting to pour his leadership into other guys that are around him, that's ultimately what the whole game is about. [It's about] grabbing that wisdom, spreading that wisdom, and hopefully, it trickles down to the next young guy, the next young guy, the next young guy. That's what keeps the defense's legacy going so long – to be good so long. So, I think it's a number of guys that have really grabbed on to that. [It is guys] that say, 'I want to take that next step,' not just making the Pro Bowl and not just making a play, but that next step of making my team better."

On the environment he expects to play in on Sunday in Cincinnati, which is only the second sellout of the season: "Really, man, we don't care. It doesn't matter. They can come watch if they want to come watch. We've got to do one thing. We've got to go in and get a victory and come up out of there. So, if there is one person in the seats or whether it's 60,000 in the stands, we don't care about it. That's their problem. We've got our own problems. We don't have to worry about selling out. We have to worry about trying to keep people out and things like that. We have a different vibe in Baltimore, and that's a credit to our city, that's a credit to our fans. So, that's something they have to worry with, not us."

On the Ravens' struggles on the road this season and having to go on the road for this last game: "I think the No. 1 thing when you go into another [city] … We take the same approach when we play; you have to calm the crowd. You can't go make mistakes in somebody's opposing stadium. Playing away is one of the hardest things to do in this business. That's without a doubt, and if you give them extra momentum, that's what happens. You can look at every one of our games, whether the ball got over our head, whether we turned the ball over, whether we didn't convert on third downs or we didn't stop them on third downs. Whatever it was, it was a combination that gave the other team hope – gave the other team momentum. And that's the things you can't do when you go on the road. When you go on the road, you've got to pack a heck of a running game and you've got to pack your defense and say, 'Whatever you all are going to do, let's do it.'"

RB Ray Rice

On whether he has been fitted for his Hawaiian grass skirt yet: "No, I'd rather not right now. (laughter) We've got a lot ahead of us. But, needless to say, it was a team honor. I'm humbled by it. It's one of those situations where you come back off a year, and you had a Pro Bowl year … To be a marked guy in the NFL, and make it again, it definitely feels special this time around. Needless to say, the playoffs are there; we've got some business to take care of. I'd rather see Indy than Hawaii, even though the weather is a little bit different."

On whether he's proud of the role he had in getting FB Vonta Leach in the Pro Bowl: "I think there are only a couple true fullbacks left in the NFL, and Vonta is one of them. If you look at where fullbacks have been over the history of the NFL, they've been bruising and battering guys, and Vonta definitely fits the description. Not just the fans and everybody else, [but] the coaches and players respect him as well, because obviously, everybody's votes matter. It just shows where he's at in his career. He's a well-respected guy around the league. As for me, I was a fan of sending 'Leach to the Beach.'"

On how well the offense is gelling at this point in the season: "Not including last week, I think we've been gelling really good. We had our ups and downs last week, but we had this no worries situation. We just tried to find ways to figure out how to get the ball down the field and score points. Our young guys have been playing well – really well at that. We're just trying to be consistent. This is the time of year – where execution is one of the things that I've been preaching all year – this is the time where execution has to take its part. It's not going to be tricking guys anymore. It's going to be a play here, a play there, or a catch here, a catch there. Whether we run it or pass it, we have to execute at a high level."

On how important winning on Sunday and securing a first-round bye is to the team: "It makes a world of difference. It's huge – anybody will tell you. I personally feel like, after you win the Wild Card round and not having that bye, you usually come back to that next game scratching and clawing. As you can see, Pittsburgh was the fresher team last year when we had to play them in the Divisional game. Second half, they came out with their motor running. We came out high, and then we hit a low. When you get that bye, you're able to play fresh throughout the whole game, and it makes a big difference, a huge difference. Needless to say, this week is a playoff game. It's big for them, and it's even bigger for us."

On what he expects from the Bengals on Sunday: "I've said it earlier this year: They're a great football team. Their city wants to see them in the playoffs, and they're going to come out and fight like never before. They've shown the ability to be a great team at times, and we've got our hands full. But I think we've got just the men for the job, being that we've been a playoff team each year [since 2008] and we've never had a [home] playoff game. So, we're going to be out there playing for our lives as well."

OLB Terrell Suggs

On his leadership role in the absence of ILB Ray Lewis: "I think it's just more of an emphasis on getting the job done. Don't let something that needs to be said go unsaid, even if it slips past Ray's mind. We just need to get it done. There ain't no telling how long we got left and how many opportunities we are going to have to get the job done. How many more times can we afford to come up short? So, we're leaving no stone unturned, and we're just making sure everybody is on the same page."

On Bengals RB Cedric Benson's success against the Ravens in 2009 and the differences since: "I think we were 9-7 that year. We weren't having a good year. Nobody wanted to be around here that much, but it has kind of changed these past couple of years. He is a good running back; he is an explosive back. I think the best part of his game is that he is patient. Backs that are more deliberate, they don't have that much success against us. But when you have a patient back – the Maurice Jones-Drews, the Arian Fosters, the Cedric Bensons – they tend to be very patient, and then they will crack one on you, and you leave your secondary to try to make a tackle on a big back. He definitely is something we have to address, first and foremost, and try to get a wrap on this thing."

On if patient running backs can be frustrating to play against: "They don't drive me nuts. This is the NFL. We are playing against the best players, the best backs every week. If you go down the line, every major back in the NFL this year, we had. If you go right down the line, we had the Frank Gores, we've had the Jones-Drews, Arian Foster. You name it, we've had them. It only gets frustrating when we're doing something uncharacteristic, when we're in spots where we know we always made this play, we've made it time and time again, and we do something uncharacteristic."

On if he thinks about being named the Defensive Player of the Year: "Not really. I just ask myself how many Defensive Players of the Year – with the exception of Charles Woodson – have Super Bowl rings. It definitely would be an honor, but I am in it for the overall No. 1 goal. At the end of the year, we'll see where we all land. To add that along with some hardware, I think that'd be great. But if you ask me between the two, I would rather take the hardware [Lombardi Trophy]. There are a lot of guys this year that are out there playing phenomenal football. You can't deny what they're doing, despite what their team is doing. I pretty much will leave it in God's hands, leave it in Tebow's hands. (laughter) We're going to leave it in the voters and all of that. We'll see where that lands."

On the importance of Sunday's game at Cincinnati: "Every game is important. Every game is important. It just so happens that we're in the position we're in against a team that knows us very well, that plays us very well. Every game is important. Everybody has their goals on things that they want to do. At the beginning of the year, the No. 1 thing is win the division. We win this one, we win the division. They win, they get into the playoffs. We got a lot of things going on with this game, that's why they flexed us."

On what the Bengals' offense did to have success last game against the Ravens and what he sees from WR A.J. Green: "A.J. Green, he is a big-play guy. I heard some refer to him [that] he is the new Randy Moss. He's like Randy was when Randy first got into the league. Randy is becoming noun in the NFL. You get beat deep, that's called a 'Randy!' He is definitely one of those type of guys. If we don't get the ball, we definitely have to contain him. But, we have something that we like to call 'The Fear Factor' [Ed Reed] that lines up behind us, so we're pretty safe. We feel that we're pretty safe from him. He is still capable of going back there and making a play. He is definitely a problem that we're going to have to deal with. It has all come down to the football game. We're going to see what happens on Sunday."

On the Bengals selling out the game, and if that is the kind of atmosphere they like playing in: "They sold it out? (Reporter: "They sold it out today. They just announced it.") Nice. Nice. OK, well, it's always hostile in Cincy. It's always hostile in Cincy. You've got the Stormtroopers, who I personally love, because I am a Star Wars fan. All we need is [Darth] Vader, and we should have everything we need."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content