DAILY INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTS
Head Coach John Harbaugh
On the significance of playing on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11:"We talked to our team about this a little bit last week. Everybody remembers where they were 10 years ago on Sept. 11. Even our guys who are 21 years old remember being in school. Some of us older guys remember game-planning for different teams that we were playing. It's just momentous. It's an honor to be a part of it. We are proud, as the National Football League and as the Baltimore Ravens, to be playing, obviously, a very important football game. But nothing is more important than our country and the people who gave their lives. Really, it's the families. I think about the kids who lost parents on that day. That's what you play for. So, it's just an honor to be a part of it."
On how you keep players focused on the game with the amount of emotion that surrounds Sept. 11:"They will be preparing for the game all week, so they'll be thinking about the game. But, I also think you can take a couple of minutes and take your heart and put it somewhere else for a short period of time and honor those [who lost their lives]. And, really, honor our country and the sacrifices in the last 10 years in the wars that are being fought in Afghanistan and Iraq and the families and the soldiers who have given so much. It's not hard to do that, and then our guys will be back to business, because that's really what America is all about – the freedom to be able to achieve and be a part of that and to make the most of every single day or make the most of an opportunity like we're going to have to play a football game."
On what sets the Steelers pass rush apart from other teams:"What sets their two pass rushers apart? First of all, they have two of them. They have two premier pass rushers on the same team. That makes a big difference. And, really, the truth of the matter is, you add in the other guys. So, you can't really target a double team on any particular guy. They do a great job, not so much as creating free runners with their pressure package, but they create matchups, and they get all their rushes on all your different blockers at some point in time. Those two guys in particular are great leverage rushers. They do a great job with their hands and their leverage just working technique to beat a pass block."
On his comfort level with the Ravens' offensive line against Pittsburgh's potent pass rush:"We're working everyday to be as good as we can be. Every single part of what we're doing, [and] the offensive line is part of that. So, we'll just put the best team out there and execute the best we can on Sunday."
On his youthful Ravens team possibly being an advantage over the older veterans of the Steelers:"You watch them play. They're experienced; they play well. That's the bottom line. At some point in time, on tape, if you ever see those guys start slowing down, I'll be the first guy who will be happy to point it out and be happy about it. But, we haven't seen it yet."
On Pittsburgh-Baltimore being the best rivalry in the NFL:"I don't know about all that. I saw when some things were said about that yesterday. I think it's the best rivalry because I'm in it. I think our players feel that way because we're involved in it as a team. We're proud to be involved in it. And, I'm sure there are other great rivalries. All of us have [been in great rivalries]. Vonta Leach has been in some great rivalries. It's our rivalry, so we're probably a little biased, but we sure like it."
On whether he will use last year's playoff loss to the Steelers as motivation or just put it in the past:"I don't even think about any of that. For us, it's a football game on Sunday against a very good football team. They know us, we know them. We know how the game is going to be played. Right now, Wednesday is a preparation day. You don't play the game on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday. You prepare all these days, and then we will play the game on Sunday. And the team that plays the best – makes the plays when they have to make them – will be the team that wins. Just like it always is. That's how it always plays out."
On putting Sunday's game in perspective as one of many in the upcoming season:"I don't want to downplay it, because that would be a little disingenuous to downplay it. It's a big game. Sure, we played them in our last game last year. It's a team that we have a lot of respect for. We know how the game is going to go. It's our division rival. Whoever wins this game is going to have a leg up in the division, but it's just an early leg up. There are still 15 games left. So, the fact of the matter is, it's going to be the most important game this week that we play. That's for sure. And next week, Tennessee is going to be the most important game we are going to play next week. It's going to be a long season. But, we'd sure like to win this one and have a leg up in the division, and that's what we are going to try to do."
On QB Ben Roethlisberger's toughness and ability to make big plays:"That's what Ben's always done. It's well chronicled. He's different from every other quarterback in the National Football League that way. He does those things, and we're going to try to defend that."
On defending against the big-play potential of the Steelers' receiving corps:"It's tough, but we've got fast guys out there. We defend deep passes all the time. The challenge will be to defend it. But, they've got good players everywhere, really."
On the progression he's seen in QB Joe Flacco, now in his fourth year in the NFL:"I say it every year about Joe: I expect Joe to be a winning quarterback. That means winning the game that's at hand. That's what he's going to have to do – do the things in this game to win this game, put us in position, offensively, to block the looks we want to block, things like that. But, [he must] make the plays you need to make or make good decisions. It's really no different than any game. And, I'm looking forward to seeing how he does. I think he's going to do real well and he's going to have a heck of a season."
On Flacco not performing as well against Pittsburgh as he does against other teams:"If you look at the numbers – the quarterback rating and all that – you can make that case. Specifically, why that is, is that what you're asking? I don't know. I'd be interested in your theories, though. I guess I'll get to read about them."
On the Ravens young roster being a factor in Pittsburgh game-planning:"I don't know. I hope so. I saw they were talking about that yesterday a little bit. So hey, if that's something that is a concern, that's a good thing."
On whether QB Tyrod Taylor has won the backup quarterback position or if the Ravens are still looking for another:"Tyrod is our backup quarterback. Look at the roster. We never rule out any moves. You've asked me that question before about other guys. We're always looking for ways to make our team better. But, I sure like Tyrod as a football player. He had a heck of a preseason. If he goes into a game to play quarterback, that opponent is going to have their hands full."
On wishing the offensive line would have had the opportunity to play together a little more before the season opener:"Yeah, absolutely. I'd rather seen them [play together] the whole preseason. But, that wasn't possible the way the preseason played out and when guys became available. So, we'll take them."
On having faith that the veteran players new to the Ravens' offensive line will come through:"It's part of it, yeah. We've seen them do it before. They know football. They know looks; they know how to block looks. They've played a lot of ball. They've seen a lot of defenses. So, they are going to transition a lot more quickly than the young guys."
On what the coaching staff can do to offset having an offensive line that hasn't played together:"You streamline the game plan a little bit, probably. But, they're veteran guys. They picked it up very quickly, and it's going to be interesting to see how they play. Like I said before, if this is our starting point, I sure like it. I'm looking forward to seeing how we grow. We're going to get better as the season goes on, for sure."
On the Ravens having an interest in signing David Garrard as a backup quarterback:"I don't know. We had practice today and meetings, so I haven't been involved in any of that."
On RB Ricky Williams' downhill style being suited for the Pittsburgh defense and how much he is expected to contribute in the game on Sunday:"I like your theory. We'll go with that. Yeah, [Ricky Williams] is a heck of a back, and I expect him to contribute a lot."
On C Andre Gurode making the adjustment to the Ravens' offensive scheme:"We just had our walk-through so far, as you know. But, he looked good. He looked fine, picked it up quickly. So, we'll see in practice later today. It will be fun to see."
QB Joe Flacco
On what it will be like to play on the 10th anniversary of 9/11:"I think it will be a pretty emotional day for a lot of people out there. For me, I am going to go out there and play football, just like we always do. I think it will be a good thing for some football games to be on and occupy some people's minds with some football games and some good thoughts for a little while."
On if there is a different approach when preparing for the Steelers:"You always know that you are getting into a physical game, a hard-nose game, against a good team – guys that are going to come ready to play for 60 minutes. I think our approach is pretty standard as it always is – just go out there and play our game. We want to try to convert on third downs as much as we can and keep ourselves out there on the field to wear this defense out. They do a good job of getting offenses off the field quickly and not having to play a lot of plays during the game. As long as we can keep these guys out there, I think that would be the biggest thing."
On if there are any concerns about the offensive line:"The thoughts are all good. I am not really concerned about it. We're going to go out there and play football and let those guys go play. I am going to have trust behind them. I think we have a good group of guys together and that is the most important thing. We have the guys in the right spot, and they are all a good group of guys."
On how often he revisits the second half of the AFC Divisional Playoff Game vs. Pittsburgh last year:"You look at it right now when you prepare for Pittsburgh, but other than thinking about it for a couple of months after you lost, we haven't necessarily revisited it too much. It is what it is. We didn't play very well in the third quarter. They scored some points off of our turnovers, and we weren't quite capable of getting the game back. That's what it is. This game coming up… That game really has no influence on this game. You have to look at it for what it is, see what they are doing scheme-wise and move on."
On if the margin of error is smaller in the games vs. Pittsburgh:"I think you go into every game, every Sunday, figuring that that is going to be how the game is going to be. Not necessarily that you think the game is going to be close, but that any little thing could sway the game in any direction. Even in blowouts, you can probably look at a couple of things that if they had went another way, it would have been a completely different game. I think most games in the NFL come down to very little details, and that is why you have to be on top of your game for a full 60 minutes."
On if he would like to take a few more chances against the Steelers:"You have to go at them smart and you have to be aggressive. You have to have that aggressive mindset, but at the same time, you can't just go in there and be doing stupid things. I think we have the guys that we can be aggressive with and take some of those. Like I said, you have to move the ball and you have to do it in a smart fashion."
On how difficult it is to face the Steelers' pass rush, particularly LB James Harrison and LB LaMarr Woodley:"They are part of what makes that defense really good. They have two guys on the outside that can really rush the passer and disrupt things in the run game. They do a great job. They do a great job of creating that opportunity and capitalizing on that, but we feel like we have the guys in place to take care of them. We all have to do our part."
On if he feels that he has something to prove on a personal level to the Steelers:"We have to go out there and beat them as a team. I don't ever want to go out into a game and feel like I have something to prove personally. I am going to go out there and give our team the best chance that we can to win. It's our job as a team to go out there and play up to our abilities and win the game."
On if the Steelers' style of play is to force teams into mistakes:"I think they do things that create favorable matchups for them. Yeah, they are aggressive, but everything they do has a purpose behind it, and they do a good job of setting up those matchups, creating those matchups. And when they get them, they do a good job of capitalizing on them."
On the importance of the fourth quarter in Ravens-Steelers games and if there is any added pressure:"The fourth quarter is important just because that is when the game is on the line. But, the first quarter is just as important as the fourth quarter. Every play matters. It's like that in every game. Everybody wants to look at the fourth quarter because that's when it actually boils down and the winner and loser is decided. But, the first play is just as important as the last play. Two minutes at the end of the half is just as important as two minutes at the end of the game, so we have to go out there and be ready to play for all four quarters. I am sure when you're watching the game there is a little different pressure for you in the fourth quarter, but the bottom line is that when you are out there playing, and you are in the middle of the game, you are not really thinking about all that stuff. I am sure as a viewer it is probably a little bit tougher to watch."
On keeping the team focused after this week's game vs. Pittsburgh:"We haven't talked about it, and that is the truth. We have 16 games right now left in the regular season, and we'll have 15 left after this no matter what. We haven't talked about that. We're talking about going out there and how are we going to beat these guys."
C Andre Gurode
On what it means to be a part of the Ravens-Steelers game on 9/11:"Let me first say that we all remember what happened on 9/11 10 years ago, which will be the anniversary this Sunday. It signifies that this country is coming together, moving forward, but not forgetting those that have been lost. To play on a national stage vs. a rival opponent is going to be a big task. This team is getting ready and fired up to play this game."
On if focusing on the game will be difficult after the 9/11 ceremonies:"It's something that is very difficult. I don't think you can prepare for anything that happened like this 10 years ago. People have had loved ones lost in the tragedy, so it brings everyone back to one of the worst times in this country's history. We are going to go out there, take a moment of silence to pay our respects to those guys, and then we are going to kick it up for the football game."
On why he chose to sign with the Ravens and where he sees himself fitting in with the team:"The Ravens were one, because I felt that I would look slimming in black. (laughter) *Ray [Lewis] called me. I told him that I was going to work on my offensive version of his intro dance, so that's the second reason. I told him that I wanted my intro song to be 'Lady Humps' because it's very provocative. *(laughter) No, it's a very great team, a very great organization. These guys have been in it year-in and year-out. It's actually a chance for me to play with two of my high school classmates [Chykie Brown and Cory Redding]. That's another change, too, so it's a good fit for me, and I am looking forward to doing some big things."
On how he sees himself fitting in with the team:"I'm a team guy. It's whatever I can do for the team. Matt [Birk] is a guy who has taught me a lot over the years. He was actually at my first Pro Bowl, and we have been talking back and forth over the practice schedule and things of that nature. He has helped me fit into the offense, and I am here to do whatever I can to help the team win."
On if he consulted with C Matt Birk before signing with the Ravens:"No, I didn't get to talk to Matt. Matt was somewhere in Harvard doing some type of doctoral studies. He wasn't doing the [Big Man Dance] Challenge." (laughter)
On if he could be ready to start on Sunday vs. Pittsburgh if Birk is not ready to go: "If the challenge is there and the opportunity is there, if I can master the playbook… I am going to do my best to learn the offense and be ready to play on Sunday."
On if he was cut by Dallas over money and if Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had a talk with him:"He did have a talk with me. It was a salary cap issue. All respect to the Cowboys organization and Jerry Jones, I had a great time there, but I have moved on in my career. Now I am a Raven, and I am looking forward to enjoying it and seeing how the game is going to play out on Sunday."
On how the Ravens-Steelers rivalry compares to the Cowboys-Redskins:"You know what? I have asked a few of the guys on the team about the rivalry and how deep the disgust between the teams exists – that's a nice way of saying it. The Redskins-Cowboys rivalry is pretty serious, but I don't think I have ever seen anything like a rivalry like this."
On the two Ravens players who went to his high school:"The two high school teammates were Cory Redding and Chykie Brown. Chykie wasn't there when we were there, but he went to North Shore High School [in Houston], and Cory was my teammate when I was at North Shore."
LB Ray Lewis
On what it means for him to be playing on 9/11:"I think, honestly, the game will always remain the game. But, I think, there's a real human side that our country is going to go through. A lot of people lost mothers, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, aunts, coworkers. There's going to be a lot of grieving on that day. Truly, the game always takes care of the game. But, there will be a lot of people who probably won't turn on the television because that pain will still exist from the last 10 years. They're still living it, and we have to be really conscious of that and really, really honor them – not only in our playing and who wins and loses the game – but also in your prayers and things like that. Our country really went through something very traumatic, and even if it didn't directly affect you, it does affect who we are."
On what being a part of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry means to him: "I tell people all the time: There are no better games to play in for your legacy – for the reason you play the game. To have that type of respect that, when people across the world hear Baltimore and Pittsburgh, everyone is going to have a front row seat for that because they know exactly what they're going to get for that. And that's the level of respect you carry in the League. And, the players and the people outside the League really care for you because of playing in those rivalries. I was young enough that I was able to really see the Dallas and San Francisco rivalry when they were really going at it. So, now we've created that rivalry for 16 years. So, to actually be a part of something like that is so special, you almost can't explain it."
On the perception of the Steelers' defense being old: "I tell people all the time the only thing old is wine, and they say wine gets better with age. So, I tell you, if you can do it, do it. And, that's one defense that's been doing it for a long time."
On whether the picture of Lewis kneeling next to Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger following a sack defines the rivalry: "Not really. That's one play out of hundreds. I know what it means for Baltimore people, and I know what it means for Pittsburgh people. [They] never want to see Ben in that position, with me over top of him. It's a good picture. (laughter) But, outside of that, it's what the rivalry is. You get hit or be hit. So, our rivalry hasn't changed."
On whether he feels the Steelers game is too early in the season this year:"No, I'll never say this is too early. If you go back with me, 10 years ago when we won our Super Bowl, we started with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I remember beating them 16-0. So, it's never too late to get it on. What it defines right now is not what your season is going to be like or not. What it defines is – it's an AFC team, it's in your division – deal with what you've got to deal with right now."
On if he feels like it is Steelers Week yet:"It'll probably be Steelers week for everyone else. It's a rainy day. We've got to get through practice and everything else, so there's that. Steelers Week, definitely for myself, has been the last two or three weeks. I've been watching film on them for the last two or three weeks, so it's been that week. Now, it's kind of controlling your emotions so that on Saturday night you don't feel so dehydrated and you do have energy. And then on Sunday morning, you're actually popping out of your skin."
On whether he thinks the Steelers have an advantage because of their lack of roster changes:"I think it goes both ways. You can look at it and say, for them, that keeping that core together and those things is an advantage for them. But, then you can come on the flip side, for us, and say that the different changes that we did make… I mean, we didn't make changes to get worse; we made changes to get better. And then, unfamiliar territory can be really tricky for a lot of people without having a complete offseason. You know, their defense is what it is, but a lot of the different pieces that we added, a Vonta Leach, a Ricky Williams, a Lee Evans, all these different guys, a Bryant McKinnie… It's different to play against that crew coming from going against the crew from a year ago. I think it can go both ways."
On what he has told the young guys about the upcoming rivalry: "Nothing. It's the first game. It's the National Football League. It's the not preseason anymore, so let's get it. That's it. That's it. And from there, they have to catch onto it for themselves."
On how important it is to make sure that Roethlisberger can't make big plays:"Everybody in this business… Man, you have to make a play. That's the beauty of the National Football League. The thing is whether he makes one play out of 50. Then maybe it's that one play in the fourth that you need to make an adjustment on. And that's just him being a competitor. So, from my side, we just have to do the same thing. Keep him in the pocket, get him on the ground and play through the whistle. Maybe even sometimes play after the whistle with him, because he's that type of guy."
RB Ray Rice
On what it means to be playing on the 10th anniversary of 9/11: "Well, you know what? It's very special for me being that I'm from New York. I can remember 9/11 like it was yesterday. Being in high school, changing periods at class and watching it on TV, watching that next plane go into that building – and not just watching it, but being 20 minutes away from New York City – it's a day you remember for the rest of your life. But, being from New York, it hits in you in different place. So being able to play on 9/11 and represent the Ravens and your country, it's a different kind of pride. It's not the Armed Forces, but we can go out there and play with pride and be thankful for being here today. It's a special day."
On whether they feel extra pressure to beat the Steelers after last season's losses: "I mean, we know we have to see them twice, but you've got to take care of business on the first one. We respect them as a team and what they've built. But, at the same time, we know what the game is going to be. Just talking about how physical it's going to be – this is an old fashioned, smash-mouth football game – like coach [John] Harbaugh always says, 'We're just the men for the job.'"
On whether there is a different feeling to this Steelers game because it's Week 1: "At the end of the day, it's not the end of the world if you win or lose in Week 1. But, to kick off your season with a win, it gets your confidence going for the rest of the year. Week 1 has… The first couple weeks of the season are always pretty interesting, especially with the lockout and everything that's happening. It'll be interesting to see who goes out there and can execute the best having the short amount of time and that sort of thing. But, I think our team is as far along as we're going to be right now. We got a lot of work done [and] we added some new additions. From where we're at right now, I think we're a really great team."
On how much he thinks about the fact that his one fumble last year was against Pittsburgh:"As a player, you're only as good as your last game. I'm not afraid to say it: I've always been one to come out about mine. But, at the same time, that is the last memory. I'm not going to blame that fumble on me being sick, because that's the same game I scored a touchdown in. Obviously, you just want to get back out there and prove yourself all over again – prove myself right that, you know, I'm not a fumbler. I had some kind of streak going, so hopefully, I can start the streak again this year and keep it going. But, you're only as good as your last game and there's always that itch… You wonder why a guy like me comes into training camp with an edge, goes out there every day, doesn't want to miss a practice, barely wants to take a rep off… [It's] because it's that itch to get back out there for Week 1, and it just so happens that we play the Pittsburgh Steelers."
On whether QB Joe Flacco gets an unfair amount of blame for the losses against the Steelers: "I think Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback, and he just happens to play for us. He's a winning quarterback. And people look at all this other stuff saying he didn't win a Super Bowl… I came in with Joe, and we have been to the playoffs every year since I've been here. When you look at a quarterback, if it's based on winning, you have to look at Joe Flacco. And, I still think he's a great quarterback and he's only gotten better so this year. You see, everyone got to see me grow as a player. I'm sure everyone has seen Joe grow as a player. So, I just want him to learn and get experience and keep going."
On some of the challenges he could face with having a new offensive line: "The thing with the offensive line is they're a different group. They have to work in unison, and we have to help them out. I think the amount of reps that we've got in the preseason as [running] backs will help out with the offensive line. Obviously, it's going to be a sight to see. With a group that's probably going to be together for the whole year, this will be their first real action being out there. The thing is that this is a veteran group. Veteran groups get it together pretty quick. Am I expecting them to be perfect? No. But, I am expecting them to go out there and execute at a high level because our run game is something that we wanted to improve and we've done that."
On how much FB Vonta Leach is going to help the running game this season: "Vonta Leach is… You've got to look at him as a person. Anyone who is willing to go out there and bang their body up for another guy to say, 'Look, I don't need the glory. I'm just going to do all the dirty work. You take care of this…' that's a special person. Not only is he good at his job, he's great at his job. I like to call him, like, a guard back there that can catch. He's the ultimate guy. I think adding him – and with his mentality – he fit what we're about. He's a Baltimore Raven. Coach [Harbaugh] always speaks about playing like a Raven, being like a Raven. Vonta Leach is the ultimate candidate."
On the added importance to each individual play against the Steelers: "I mean, I just talked about it. It's always important, who is going to execute when the time matters. We know what this game is about. I've been playing in this rivalry going into my fourth year. They have never blown us out. We've always… I don't want to say… I mean, give them credit; they've won a few games, we've won a few. They won the one that mattered. But at the same time, it came down to execution. It didn't come down to physical play. It didn't come down to… When [Troy] Polamalu had the play last year, that wasn't a physical play; that was a lack of execution on our end. So, it's going to come down to who executes better. We don't have to talk about being physical, because that's who we are."
OLB Terrell Suggs
On if the Ravens-Steelers rivalry is the best in the NFL:"It's the best in sports, I think. Everything that fans want to see out of a rivalry is in this game – the hatred between the two teams, the physicality between the two teams. I think it's the best rivalry in sports."
On what he means when he calls the Steelers "bullies" (per Sports Illustrated's Don Banks on August 11):"They spoiled our Super Bowl dreams for the last two out of three years. It's definitely time to… We have to switch that, you know? It's sickening. It ends our season every year we lose to our division rival. I'm sick of it. I'm disgusted. I'm tired of having a sick feeling in my stomach for a whole year. Game One. Let's go."
On if the Twitter trash talking is just part of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry:"I don't know, man. A lot of us were bored this offseason. It is what it is. We know everybody is expecting a gang fight, so we are just going to hold up our half of the bargain."
On if he will say the name of the city the Steelers play in:"What city? *(Reporter interjects:" The team that the Ravens are playing.") *It was a pun. Come on, man."
On the special T-shirts that he has worn in the past during Steelers week:"I felt that the game last year needed a little bit more. It is what it is. It always has been – it always will be – and we just can't wait for Sept. 11."
On if the stakes are the same:"The stakes are the same. *(Reporter interjects: "Even in Week 1?") *The stakes are the same. The stakes are always the same. In this game, it always comes back to this game between the two teams. You can tell that has been the difference between when we have played them in the postseason. The stakes are always the same."
On what it will mean to him to play on 9/11 vs. the Steelers and honoring those who lost their lives:"It's flattering, because it just reminds us of how fortunate we are. That was a horrific incident in our country's history, and we can't forget the sacrifices that those men – and not just them – the city and everybody that was affected by 9/11 10 years ago [made]. It just reminds us of how fortunate we are that we get to line up and do what we do. It's humbling."
On why it is so tough to tackle Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger:"I don't know. I think it is just his resilience to go down. I think he knows that if he can break a tackle or two, he can make a big play for his team. That's what good players do – they make plays for their team. He knows that, and that is just part of his game."
On if Roethlisberger's build makes it tough to tackle him:"I guess."
On what he can tell CB Jimmy Smith about the game vs. Pittsburgh:"Don't get beat deep. *(Reporter interjects: "What about the rivalry?") *Just always be alert. He has brothers on this team that are going to take care of him. We definitely are going to be watching out for a certain character over there. We'll alert him of him, too. He has big brothers on this team that are going to pretty much protect him for the most part, but things like balls over our heads, we can't protect him from. If you lineup on No. 17 [WR Mike Wallace], you might want to back up a little bit and tell No. 20 [Ed Reed] to lean to you. Otherwise, it's going to be a long day for you. Just don't get beat deep."
On Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall:"He's an NFL back. I don't think too highly of anybody I play. It's going to be a task every week. One week is Mendenhall. Next week is [Titans RB] Chris Johnson. The next week it's [Rams RB] Steven Jackson. We have our work cut out every week. A back is a back."