Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement:"Good to see everybody. Thanks for coming. We had a good week, very energetic practice. The guys seem like they're ready to go, obviously, and we'll be getting on the plane tomorrow and heading out to Denver."
**In terms of dealing with the altitude, I know you talked last year about the 24-hour rule. Are you following the same protocol this year? *(Luke Jones) *"We're on the same schedule as last year, so it shouldn't be any different that way."
**Does it seem to have a benefit, in terms of the early trip and the guys' reaction to it and how they felt? *(Aaron Wilson) *"We played over five quarters [in January]. I thought we did pretty well with that."
**You guys ruled out Art [Jones]. How is he doing, and do you expect him back at any point soon? *(Aaron Wilson) *"Like I said last time, I'd rather leave an explanation of Art's situation up to Art. It's not anything that's life-threatening or anything like that, but it's non-football related. We've just got to get some tests done to make sure he's OK. And until the tests come out the right way, he's not going to be able to play. It's something that I've been told now that they can't tell you how long it'll be. It could be a week. It could be indefinitely. We don't think it's going to be the second part of it, but he's going to see a specialist here on Wednesday. He can explain to you exactly what that's about to whatever extent he wants to. We'll just be moving forward in that sense."
[What is] your confidence in Marcus Spears, when you signed him this offense to play a lot of snaps and do a good job? (Aaron Wilson) "Marcus [Spears] has been around. He's in great shape. He's practiced well since he got over the hamstring [injury]. He really looks good, and he's ready to go."
How does the no-huddle offense that you guys use sometimes fit into the attacking mentality that you guys have as a team? (Matt Vensel) *"The no-huddle offense is a great tool, first of all. It's a great strategy. It allows you to do some things. It allows you to identify some things. You obviously have to be in great shape as a football team, and your opponent has to be in great shape to keep up with you. You have to execute quicker. You have to think quicker. You have to be able to operate in that kind of an environment but you force your opponent to do the same thing. It fits our philosophy." *
**How helpful is it to have guys that have some positional flexibility, like Ray Rice, who move into the slot to change up what you do when you do it? *(Matt Vensel) *"When you can mix in the substitutions and personnel groups and keep them off balance that way, along with the no-huddle, that's a big plus for you."
**In terms of making improvements, as the season goes on, you start to develop trends and you realize areas where you need to make improvements. You don't necessarily have that base of foundation from training camp. From an improvement standpoint from game to game, it's different because you're not seeing your starters for four full quarters. Have they improved to the point where the mistakes that they made throughout training camp and so on through the preseason games … Are they ready for that improvement level? *(Mark Zinno) *"I think so. That's the plan. You do everything you can to get to the point where you're as good as you can be. There will be things that will come up that we didn't necessarily foresee. Other things are foreseeable. The opener is like that. The first game … We talked about it last year at the end of the season, you play somebody early, and when you guys ask the question, 'How similar are they?' and you pretty much say [that] they're almost completely different 12 games later. That's the nature of it. It'll be important for us to improve throughout the whole season, and this is where that starts – what you're talking about."
Is there a set breakdown or goal that you hope to hit between Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce as far as carry breakdown per game? How does that work for a season, or do the variables of a game or season dictate that? (Brett Hollander)"I would say the latter part. We're not going to sit there and say, 'Hey, get these guys these numbers,' and lock ourselves in to something. It's by game. It's how the game is going and what we need to do to try to win a game and just take it from there. I know that leaves us open to second-guessing and all that if we don't do well. 'This guy should have gotten more carries. That guy should've gotten more carries. You should have thrown the ball more.' Whatever. You do what you feel like you have to do in a game to try to win the game, and that's what we'll do."* *
**Ed Dickson has said that his hamstring has felt pretty good and he's felt good in practice over the course of this week. How does he look to you? *(Matt Zenitz) *"I'd go with what Ed [Dickson] said. He knows himself as well as anybody, and he's had good practices."
**When you're able to spend a few minutes with coach [Tony] Dungy or other former coaches that you may have looked up to, what do you like most about those talks? What do you get out of those conversations? *(Brett Hyman) *"It's always just a pleasure to see guys. The thing I always kind of hold my breath about is what they think of our practice [and] how they think it looks. You feel like you're being evaluated at all times by a great coach like that. He was impressed, so I feel good about that. At least he said he was. *(laughter) *We just had a good conversation about the year after the Super Bowl and things like that. It was a good talk."
**Did you coach any differently with the altitude, particularly in the first game, or is that not a factor as far as substituting more or watching guys from a stamina standpoint or not? *(Clifton Brown) *"No, we won't coach any differently that way. We'll just play the way we always play. We work really hard at practice. We're always going to be a highly, highly-conditioned team. It will not affect our guys."
*Have you made any decision regarding Dennis Pitta at this point? *(Matt Zenitz) *"I think we'll have an announcement for that on Wednesday, [which] is when we have to make that announcement. [We'll] just get some final evaluations from the doctors and make sure that we're doing the right thing for everybody involved. I could be wrong, but I believe that Wednesday is the day … It could be today – is it?" *(Reporter: "No.") "OK, so it's Wednesday."
**I've been watching television a lot, and I've been paying attention to the national [football] media. Almost every show starts with you and obsesses about who's not here [and] not about who is here. Does that bother you? Do you care? *(Peter Schmuck) *"No, I really appreciate that. I'd send them thank you notes at every opportunity. *(laughter) *The more that they say those kinds of things, it makes me feel better about our chances."
**Pros and cons about seeing Denver for the third time since Week 15? *(Glenn Younes) *"I haven't really thought pros and cons about the fact that we've played them three times in their last five games. It's kind of a budding rivalry. They're one of the best teams, obviously. We're one of the best teams. We love playing against them. I think they probably like playing against us, so it's great."
**What do you expect from this particular group of young guys who are hitting the ground Thursday? *(Mark Viviano) *"We expect contributions from our rookies. They've proven that they're capable of playing at a high level, and I don't think any of these guys it's too big for. We expect them to contribute to a victory."