Head Coach John Harbaugh
*Opening statement: *"Good to see everybody. Thanks for being here. [We have] a couple of announcements to make: Dennis Pitta will start practicing today. We'll just take that one day at a time and see how it goes. He's been working hard, obviously. He's done a great job with the rehab, and it will be interesting to see how he comes along in practice. We also have an announcement to make on the roster. We lost J.J. 'Unga to Buffalo to their 53-man roster off our practice squad, and we've added David Mims to our practice squad. Those are two announcements roster-wise, and that's really it."
**Just to clarify, is it a 21-day window for [Dennis] Pitta to practice before a decision has to be made? *(Luke Jones) *"That's correct. Let me say this, as far as I know: I'm not exactly sure if that limit is 21 days or not. There might be a difference in that rule."
In terms of Dennis [Pitta] and the progress he's made, what have you seen from him as far as the work he's putting in just to be able to practice? (Aaron Wilson)"It's what you've seen – a lot of hard work from Dennis [Pitta]. He came back in pretty quickly after the surgery and was able to move it around. What they do nowadays is pretty incredible with the techniques of surgery. There's no casting or anything like that, and they're moving it right away. He was able to walk pretty quickly after that. Then he was on the body weight stuff where they took the weight off and got him moving. [He was] lifting weights almost from Day One, really, running for the last number of weeks, and now is on the practice field. He's done a great job."
**I know you haven't even seen him practice yet, but what is your expectation on when he could be back. Could this be a two-week thing? *(Matt Zenitz) *"It's impossible to say, really. Without getting ahead of ourselves here – as soon as possible – but safety is No. 1 and his ability to perform out there are the two factors in that."
**Are you excited just to have him back on the practice field? *(Matt Zenitz) *"Absolutely. It's great to see him out there, great to see him in the meeting room. The guys gave him a hard time. So, it's a good start for him."
**In terms of his rehab, was this time period sooner than you originally expected? How did his recovery go? *(Kris Jones) *"Well, the recovery went as expected, I would say, at least on schedule. You'd have to ask people with more knowledge of that than I have. But, we were told about this timeframe when it originally happened. When he came out of surgery and they saw there was no damage to the ligaments and cartilage, that is was just a bone, this is about the timeframe we were given. So, it looks like he's on schedule."
**John, Rex Ryan has coached a lot of stout run defenses. How would you rate this one and what do you think of this group that he has? *(Aaron Wilson) *"This is the No. 1-ranked [run] defense in the National Football League right now, so that gives you the rank you're looking for right there. Obviously, that's a tradition with Rex [Ryan]. He's had those over the years from time to time. [Ryan is] a very good coach, a very good defensive coach, and a very good front coach. I'd say it's right along the line of what they've been known for."
**Last year, especially in the playoffs, [you were] one of the best deep passing teams in the league. This season the passing game is probably not quite up to your expectations. What do you think is the biggest difference? *(Jamison Hensley) *"I'm not getting into all that. I think that's something we work on. To analyze it and put the reasons out there wouldn't really help us as a football team. We'll let people figure that out for themselves. Our task is to get better at it. You need big plays – that's for sure. You need big plays. You need chunk plays in the run game, you need over-the-top pass plays, and you need catch-and-run pass plays. Those are things that make the difference for you. It's pretty hard to just whittle your way down the field and be perfect every play against the caliber defenses we play. The big plays are very important, and we've got to find a way to make those and eliminate the issues we're having right now."
**Speaking of over-the-top pass plays, [what's] your reaction to facing Ed Reed again? *(Bo Smolka) *"Hey, we've had this before, right, with Derrick Mason? This is déjà vu all over again, to quote Yogi Berra. We have great respect for Ed [Reed]. He's a great player, and what a surprise to see him go there to the Jets. It's a great reunion. A number of the defenses they were running the last game were Ed defenses that we know have been run here over the years with Rex [Ryan] and even since. It makes sense."
What have you seen from Geno Smith? Is he going through the regular rookie growing pains that you'll see from a rookie in terms of the number of turnovers he's started to produce of late? (Jerry Coleman)"We are looking at Geno Smith as a playmaker. Geno is a big, strong, athletic quarterback. He makes the throws. That's the thing that you see. He's capable of making the throws. He is a challenge in the pocket. He has gotten out and made plays scrambling and running and scrambling and throwing. [He's] a very talented guy. They've got weapons now – Santonio Holmes is healthy – and they've got two excellent running backs. That's what we're looking at."
**One thing that kind of got overlooked in the Chicago game was Sam Koch's hold on that extra point. Can you talk about the value of having a good holder in a situation like that? *(Ryan Mink) *"The value is points, right? For Sam to get up off the ground and grab that ball that was moving … He had an errant fastball there and it was running away from him pretty quick. He grabbed it and then got it back down right on the spot. He had the laces right, too. For 'Tuck' [Justin Tucker] – it's not easy for the kicker either, because he's got a certain rhythm – to be able to slow down his approach and kick the ball straight was pretty amazing, too. That was a great job by those guys."
**How do you think Arthur Brown has come along in that role that he's had as that nickel-type linebacker? *(Matt Vensel) *"Arthur [Brown] in the nickel role linebacker spot has done a really good job. He reminds me of Torrey Smith in a lot of ways. We were just talking with him about that before practice. He comes to work every single day with one thing in mind – that is to improve. He doesn't let his energy be misdirected in any way. It is focused on getting better as a football player and being the best he can be. Because of that, he's going to be an excellent football player. He's on his way."
**John, you coached with Rex Ryan for one year here, but what about Cincinnati? Did you know Rex before Cincinnati or was that your first exposure? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"Cincinnati was the first time we worked together and really knew each other. I knew him a little bit from coaching circles. He was at Eastern Kentucky when I was at Morehead State. Man, that's way back now. I don't think he remembers that, but I do. Then in Cincinnati, we had a great year together. Actually, I was the assistant head coach on that staff and he called and was interested in a job there. He called me and I was [thinking], 'Wow, I remember you from Eastern Kentucky.' He was kind of silent on the phone, but it was a pretty easy sell to the head coach Rick Minter at the time. Rex did a great job."
**Backtracking to what you were saying about Arthur [Brown]. [Matt] Elam is the only one out of the actual draft class to become a starter. Even with that being the case, what kind of potential do you see from the rookie class this year? *(Matt Zenitz) *"We're really happy with the class. The draft classes … They're all good football players; they're all going to play here. They're all doing well in their own regard. You can even go to Kapron Lewis-Moore, who was drafted late. Now he's practicing, and he looks really good at practice. He could factor in later this year, as well. They're all pluses in our eyes."
The style of play that Rex Ryan had last meeting with you guys was a tough defensive battle that gets physical fast. Is there a desire to match up with that physical play, or do you try to out-finesse them in scheme or even go with the flow of the game and how the tone is set? (Mark Zinno)"You have to do a little bit of everything. We're a physical football team, and we can make plays with finesse [too]. You do all those things, and they do the same thing. We've got to do the things we need to do to win the game. We need to focus on how we play. Any extracurricular stuff, we haven't been involved in that stuff all year. It will be a tough, hard-fought football game – no question. We respect them. They know how to play the game, and it will be a heck of a battle."
**John, is there anything to point to as far as turnovers? You guys haven't had as many as in years past. The defense has played well this year but hasn't forced many turnovers. Is there a specific reason why? *(Pete Gilbert) *"The main thing is we have to do that better – big plays on offense the same as turnovers on defense. We've gotten the sacks. We've had a number of negative play runs that we've created, but the turnovers are very important. And that's something, as we go down the stretch here, that we need to do well."
Joe Flacco is ranked low in the standings of quarterbacks. Do you feel that ranking is indicative of how he has played and are you happy with the way he is performing this year? (Dave Ginsburg)"Hey, listen, I answered a question on Monday along these lines. The individual evaluations of different guys remains ours. We keep that in house, and we're hard on ourselves. What we're trying to do is get better very week. We're trying to look at where we can improve and focus on this week and being the best we can be this week. All those kinds of evaluations and all that is for other people to make. We all understand that, and that's the way it should be. We're going to focus on being the best we can be. But, I will tell you this about Joe Flacco: Joe is a great quarterback. Joe is our quarterback; he's my quarterback. Does anybody have any doubt about that at this point? I know we don't. Joe has played great football, and Joe is going to continue to play great football – even better [football]. Look at the plays he's made scrambling around, making throws and things like that. That's the answer to that one."
**Rex [Ryan] was always a guy as a defensive coordinator who dialed up great blitz packages – exotic ones. Have you faced anybody along the lines of him who has the blitz packages he has? How do you prepare for that? *(Mark Zinno) *"We face a pretty good blitz package every single day. We go against our blitz package, so it's similar in a lot of ways. Rex [Ryan] is unique. Rob [Ryan] is unique. There are a lot of unique coordinators around the league. Everybody has got their own style. I go back with Jim Johnson in Philadelphia. Rex does a great job with the blitz packages. He's a heck of a coach, a good friend, and all those things."
John, given the wind, I know you really didn't go downfield much last week, but Jacoby [Jones] was targeted on the first pass of the game and didn't have anything else until the fourth quarter. Are you fine with that given that the ball is being spread around to other receivers, or do you want to see more from him? (Kris Jones) *"I want to see – we all want to see – more from our guys. We want to see more plays [like] you're talking about. Jacoby [Jones] factors in on that; all the guys factor in on that. We'll do our best to try to make that happen. That's important for us."
QB Joe Flacco
On TE Dennis Pitta's return to practice this week:"It's good. We'll see what he can do today. I don't really know the extent of what he's going to do out here, but it's always good to see a teammate back."
On whether he's worked outside of the facility with TE Dennis Pitta during his rehab:"No, I haven't. I've been afraid of whether that's even legal or not. I have no idea what the rules are with guys on the roster and stuff like that. But, I have not thrown to him. He's been throwing with somebody here, and they've been talking about their completion percentage. I don't think it's been very good." (laughter)
On how much he feels the Ravens have missed TE Dennis Pitta this season:"It's nothing against anybody – receivers, tight ends or anything – but I think anytime you lose a good player that's been a big part of what we've done around here, you miss something. Like I said, I don't really know the extent of what Dennis [Pitta] is going to be able to do today or tomorrow or the next day, but it's just always good to see somebody back and the fact that they can at least run around a little bit."
On the struggling running game and how he feels he has played this season:"We're disappointed in the way we've played. We all wish we could play better. I wish I could play better. I think last week we ran the ball a little bit better. We did some things really well. We just need to continue to build on that. The last couple of weeks we've done things well. Listen, we all wish we could play better, and that starts with me. So, yeah, when you're a 4-6 football team, obviously you haven't played the way you've wanted to or the way you think you could. But everything we want to do is still ahead of us. We just have to take care of this game and continue to get better, do all we can to win it and then move on to the next one and then move on to the next one. We don't have anything to lose right now. We can't really be in any worse of a situation and still have hope. We've got to go out there, and we've got to lay it on the line. And that's what we did last year. We let it all go, and we just played free. We focused on what was next or what was there right now. And if we do that this year, then we have all the ability in the world to play well and turn this thing around and play the way we want to. But, up to this point, no, I haven't and we haven't played the way that we want to – or should."
On comparing 2012 struggles mid-season to this season, yet finding a way to win in the playoffs:"Everything is different. Every year is different. Like I said, what do we have to lose? We're 4-6. We've dealt with as much crap as you can deal with. We haven't played well. We've had to stand up here and talk about not playing well and staring it straight in the eye and dealing with it. We've had to do all that. And we stood up to it. We'd like to sit here, having stood up to it and have a better record, but we're doing it. And we've just got to go let it loose. I'm sure it's a little bit different mindset than it was last year. I was thinking to myself [that] we've been in this type of situation before. Whether we were at the top of the Wild Card [race] or the top of the division, we've always been in a pretty tight race where it's come down to the last game of the season and having to win a football game. We've been in tight races before, and we're really in no different of a situation this year right now. Our record just isn't the same. We've probably been in this same situation or a similar situation, but we've been 6-4 and we've needed to be 11-5. We've just got to take it one game at a time, and in the end it will all work itself out."
On the number of interceptions he's had this year:"I am a guy that does not like to throw interceptions. Believe me, I don't like the fact that when you look at what we've done, that I've thrown 13 interceptions. Come on, I don't like that. I was talking to my dad driving home from the facility one day and, yeah, it's annoying. Believe me, I'd tell you if I didn't think I was being patient, and if I thought I was throwing the ball to the wrong spot or just not seeing guys and stuff like that. I've thrown more picks than I'd like to, I've thrown more picks than I should, but at the same time, I still feel like I am playing patient football. I feel like I'm still taking some chances that I need to take. I've thrown more picks – I have to live with that. It's not something that I like though, no."
On if the interception of the attempted pass to TE Dallas Clark stung:"Of course it did, especially since you've already thrown one that's gone back for a touchdown. No matter what it is, you don't like it. And then that one, I tried to take a shot on a situation that you probably don't need to, and they ended up getting three points on it. So, that eats at you."
On whether that play was called or he checked to it:"It was a called play."
On the difference between the deep passing game last year in the playoffs and this season:"We have guys on the outside that can do that and can get deep, and we have to do our job and take those chances, and we probably haven't been taking as many as normal, and we probably haven't been as successful as we normally would be when we do. That's kind of how we've been with every facet of our game this year. We probably haven't quite done it as well as we should, where we have before. Like I said, I think we're working on getting better at that and doing some things to take advantage of that and get back to how we should be. And that's all we can worry about."
On what comes to mind when facing a Rex Ryan defense:"What I think of is making the quarterback uncomfortable – putting pressure on him, making him feel like he's got a lot of guys coming after him, trying to move his feet. That's the way I feel about him. I feel like when he was here and when I was here the year he was here, we put a lot of pressure on quarterbacks to play under duress and see if they can do it or see if they're going to buckle. I think it's a pretty good philosophy when it comes to playing defense. You've got to make the quarterback uncomfortable, and that's what I think of when I think of them."
TE Dennis Pitta
On what it means to get back on the football field:"It feels awesome to be able to get back, be in meetings with the guys and hit the field a little bit. I feel great. I'm going to take it slow, make sure I can integrate myself back in, and I'm feeling good."* *
On if he thought he would return this year: "That was always the plan, and I had no setbacks in my rehab and treatment. Everything has been going well. We've been working hard, and [I'm] excited to get a little taste of football again."* *
On what level of health he needs to get back on the field: "I've got to be able to play at an elite level; that's what it takes to play in this league. We'll see how the next few weeks go, how I progress, and how I'm doing on the field. [I'm] not sure as of right now of that timetable."* *
On how frustrating it is to watch from the sidelines:"It's tough. It's really hard to watch and not be able to contribute to be with your team. Being injured – it's tough. It's a long journey and process getting back. Fortunately, I've got most of that behind me and I can get back on the field and be with the team a little bit more."* *
On how much he's been able to test his injury so far:"I've stayed true to the rehab and done everything that I've been asked to do. Obviously, I haven't had any contact or live contact of any kind. Things like that you can't simulate outside of the football field. I'll do what I can, take it slow and make sure we're smart about it so that I'm ready to go when that time comes."* *
On how mentally taxing the injury was:"It's always tough, mentally, to be out of it. You've just got to stay focused on what you're doing, stay focused on your rehab and stay focused on each day. [I'm] getting a little bit stronger and a little bit better. That's what I've been doing."* *
On how well he can run right now: "I'll be out there running a little bit today. I'll be doing some of the beginning parts of practice. I'm running well, otherwise I wouldn't be trying to get out there. We're going to be smart with it, and I'm feeling good and confident."* *
On what he'll be able to bring to the offense:"If I'm able to contribute at some point this year, I want to make sure I'm playing within myself and doing my job. That's all I can do."* *
On playing this week: "I'll focus on today, see how today feels and how I feel actually putting a helmet back on."* *
On if being in the final year of his contract will affect his comeback:"It's not something I've thought about. Obviously, it's a part of this business, but I'm focused on helping our team win and doing what I can do to get back and contribute."
LB Daryl Smith
On if TE Dennis Pitta returning provides an emotional lift to everybody: "I definitely think so. His first play against the defense on scout team, everybody was making a lot of noise for him and everything. So, it will definitely be a big boost to get him back out there whenever that is. But it's good to see him practicing."
On what has led to the defense's success in the red zone: "I think first off, just attitude. You can move down the field a little bit, but we've got to protect the end zone. We've just been making enough plays down there to hold them to field goals. We need more of it, actually, but we'll take what we have so far."
On playing on a different front seven last week with the injury to NT Haloti Ngata: "The guys that we have up front playing the D-line – we play ball. Those guys played their butts off, and we just didn't get the win. It would have been a plus to have Haloti [Ngata] out there, too, but the guys did a good job."
On FB Kyle Juszczyk's big hit on the kickoff return: "Yes, I did [see it]. I took pride in that, just from all the work I've been seeing him do and how many times we hit in training camp. It's good to see that. Kyle [Juszczyk] – he's a tough guy, and he's only getting better. So, I'm happy for him."* *
On Jets QB Geno Smith: "[He is] definitely a playmaker. He has the ability to run around and make plays with his legs, and he can definitely make some good throws, too. So, if you've got a guy like that, we've got to definitely keep him in the pocket, try to stop the run and try to make them one dimensional – just try to put it all on him to beat us. We've just got to keep focused and just know where everybody is, especially him."* *
On what has led to the defense's success in the red zone: "Like I said before, I think just attitude first off. That's our end zone, and we don't want anybody in it. We just go out there, and we make enough plays down there to get them off the field and make them kick field goals."
On how the defense changes in the red zone: "The field gets shorter, so it limits what the offense has to do. Like I said, it just comes down to attitude. It's just what it is."
On what it means to "put it all" on Jets QB Geno Smith: "We go into games each week, and the first thing every week is stop the run. Once we stop the run, it puts it on the quarterback – whoever the quarterback is – to beat us throwing the ball. We'll take our chances with that."
WR Torrey Smith
On who deserves blame for QB Joe Flacco's interceptions: "We all do, as an offense. One person's mistake – it's really on all of us to make up for it. Obviously, there are some things that are individual mistakes, but with interceptions, there are a lot of things that happen – batted balls or receivers tipping it or anything. So, it's not all on Joe [Flacco]."
On how TE Dennis Pitta's return impacts the offense: "It's kind of hard to tell with a guy that is hurt. We've been seeing him jogging around, and that's been nice to see – not only for him possibly returning, but just for his health in general. You want to see somebody up, healthy and running around. He's been working hard, so just the fact that he's even going to be out here for practice, whether he returns this season or not, I think that's amazing in itself."
On Jets S Ed Reed's return: "It's weird.* *It's almost like with [Derrick] Mason [from 2011]. Actually, it's the exact same situation – that's pretty weird. Some positive things happened that year, so hopefully we'll get on a run seeing those guys. [Ed] Reed is like a brother. I texted him as soon as he signed with them congratulating him. Obviously, he wants to win and work on that playoff push up there, but none of that matters to our relationship off the field. Once we get on the field, it's about playing. We're representing Baltimore. He has Baltimore in his heart, but he's representing New York. It will be huge for him and the Jets as well as this game for us and the Ravens."
On the deep passing game struggles: "It's the same thing we've been saying since Day One – it's just all on execution. It's not like it's a protection issue or anything. It's just several different things that have gone … There is no one thing that we can pinpoint. It's been something different all the time, as is with low-percentage throws. It's the hardest ball to complete. We just happen to be real good at it. Obviously, it's been frustrating, but at the same time, if we get a couple of those to go in a game like we did in the past, it'll do wonders for our team."
On seeing a single-high safety look from the defense: "You get excited about it because there are opportunities for us to throw the ball, and it's on us to go out there, get open and make plays. Again, our offensive line has been working their tails off all year. There is no harder working unit on our team. They have opened up passing lanes for us, and as receivers, we have to go out there, get open and make the plays, and it's on Joe [Flacco] to go out there and make the throw. It's a collective team effort – our success and our struggles. It's on us to stay on the success side a little more often than the failure [side]."
On the team's mindset at 4-6: "This is obviously new for me being in Baltimore and being in this position. At the same time, I approach it all the same. Every one you can say is a must-win game, but I felt like Week One versus Denver was a must-win game. You have to approach it all the same. If you don't, then you're limiting yourself. We know what's on the line. We know if we drop some games, or even one game, that we might not be in the hunt. But at the same time, you can't worry about anything but the New York Jets at this moment. We can't worry about what anyone else is doing. We have to worry about ourselves and go out there and get it done. It's really that simple."
OLB Terrell Suggs
On TE Dennis Pitta being back at practice: "It's always real good. We're just going to see how he does, just like when I first got back out there. It's always good to have one of the guys you love and respect back on the practice field. We're just going to have to wait and see."
On facing Jets S Ed Reed for the second time this season: "We've had something similar to that before; we had Derrick Mason come back a couple times. It's just always good to see your family still on the football field."
On Jets QB Geno Smith: "He's been winning some football games. I believe they're .500, and that's really all that matters. He's definitely a quarterback with the potential to either win the game for them or give it away. We've got to go out and play our football, first and foremost."
On if he talks to Jets head coach Rex Ryan: "Not as much as I like. With all due respect, everybody knows the love and respect I have for Rex [Ryan], but he's not on my team anymore. We don't wear the same colors. If you're not a part of my team, then you're my enemy. I think he agrees and feels the same way. He said when he left, 'I love you guys to death, but I'm going to give you guys my best punch, and I'm going to take yours.'"
On everything still being in front of the team at 4-6: "It's a task, but it's a capable task, especially with our next three games at home. Everyone knows how we play at home. It always starts with that first one, and that's this weekend against the New York Jets."
On the pride Baltimore takes in red zone defense: "We take a lot of pride in defending everything. It's not just the red zone. You don't want to let teams score, and you give your offense a better chance of scoring and winning if you keep the opponents' numbers down. We just take pride in all of that."* *
On if Rex Ryan leaving in 2008 worked out best for both parties: "I think so, yes, if you look at it. He's had some success over there in New York. He's been in the AFC Championship game the first two years, and everybody knows what coach 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] did here. So, I think it worked out for both."