Week 14 vs. Minnesota: Wednesday Transcripts

Head Coach John Harbaugh

Opening statement:"OK, good to see everybody. It's good to see such a crowd. We appreciate you guys being here, and we're excited. The preparation is ongoing now, so we'll have our normal Wednesday as we get ready for Sunday. I do have one thing: Jimmy Smith was cleared on the concussion protocol with the doctors."* *

The announcement was made by the NFL that Mike Tomlin was fined $100,000. What is your reaction to that? (Kris Jones)"I don't really have a reaction, per se. The NFL does a great job in terms of on the field. We're all responsible – officials, players, coaches – for what happens between the white lines, and the NFL addresses those things. And they've always done a great job with that, and we respect that certainly. Those kinds of things can happen. They do happen to coaches, players and officials every single week, and they're addressed with the National Football League. This one just got more attention than most of them. So, we've moved on from that. We're on to the Vikings now. We respect the process, we respect everybody involved, certainly respect the Steelers and Mike Tomlin completely. I never really thought for one second that there was intentionality there, personally. I guess that's why I was able to make light of it after the game. So, we've moved on from that."

How important is it that Jimmy Smith has been cleared from his concussion symptoms? Could you talk about his evolution this season as a player? (Bo Smolka)"It is important. Jimmy [Smith] is becoming one of the top corners in the National Football League by the way he is playing. The numbers bear that out, and the film bears it out. It's important to our football team, and I really like the way he is playing."

**Can you talk about being in the position where you can control your own destiny as a team and not have to depend on other teams to put you in the playoffs? *(Mark Zinno) *"It's like [Winston] Churchill said, 'Our fate is in our own hands.' And it's up to us to write the rest of the story. Hopefully when it's all said and done, they will say that this was our finest hour." *(Reporter: "Where's the cigar?") *"That's right. Where's the cigar? Yes. *(laughter) *I expect that to be written, keep writing, that's right. Those aren't original."

**What is your recollection of the last time you faced Adrian Peterson and the challenge of trying to slow him down? *(Matt Vensel) *"He's a tough tackle. It was a great football game, obviously, going back to that game in the Dome. I remember a kick going wide to the left mostly. I remember Ray Rice had a great game, too. But Adrian Peterson [is a] great back, a great challenge. They do a great job with the run game. It is well-coached. The offensive line blocks it well. He's a threat every time he touches the ball, so we'll have our hands full. But it just can't be that. You can't sleep on the rest of their talent. They've got a number of very good tight ends that can make plays. They've got a number of very talented receivers that can make plays. They are a fully-complemented offense, talent-wise."

**It's uncertain which quarterback will start for the Vikings. Is it any more of a challenge when you have to prepare to face multiple quarterbacks? *(Garrett Downing) *"It's more of a challenge than if you are preparing for one quarterback. Certainly, you prepare for the offense. All three of those guys have been running the same offense. We expect the offense to be built around Adrian Peterson, and then they've got the complements off of that with the play-action passing and the different things they do. So, we'll prepare for the offense and then plug the quarterback in as we go."

**Can you talk about Joe Flacco's mobility outside of the pocket running and getting out of the pocket and throwing? Is that something he's improved on or just had to do more of this season? *(Ryan Mink) *"Joe has always been pretty mobile, but he has definitely taken that part of his game to another level. He has made a bunch of plays on the run, both run and pass. They've been huge plays in the game. That's a dimension that he has expanded upon that's been really good for us."

**How do you feel like Joe Flacco has played the last couple of weeks? Do you feel the last two games have been his best of this season?  *(Matt Zenitz) *"I think Joe has played really well. He's been productive, obviously, with the numbers. You guys will definitely refer to that and see that. But, he's played very well, and he's been probably the No. 1 factor in our wins offensively in the last two games."

**Coming off the big win over the Steelers, is there any concern the team could overlook the challenge of facing the Vikings given their poor record this season? *(Jamison Hensley) *"I don't believe our team has ever really looked at things like that. Over the years, you don't always play your best games, but I don't think there's been a pattern of the record of the opponent we've played against. To me, we have to bring our 'A' game every single week in the National Football League. But all you have to do against this team is look at the tape. All you have to do is look at the tape. [The Vikings have] won a number of very close games. They're very well-coached. And it's nothing to show our guys the tape for them to see what a challenge we have in front of us. We understand where we are, we understand what's at stake, we understand what's at stake for us, so there is no way in the world that those thoughts would ever, ever be anywhere near us."

What have you seen from both Jared Allen and Brian Robison? (Aaron Wilson)"I'll tell you, and don't forget [Everson] Griffen, too. They've got a bunch of talented pass rushers. Their front four is high, high motor – high motor. They get after it up front. They run all the different stunts, they have a nice little pressure package, but their front four flat out gets after it. Those guys are great pass rushers. And they get after it against the run, too. They run around."

**There are 13 kickers in the NFL that have a 90% success rate in field goals. What is the reason the kicking game has improved so much around the league, in your opinion? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"Over the years, are you saying? Basically, I would say, yes. When did the whole idea of soccer-style kickers come in, in the late 1960s? So, that's exactly it. Everybody has done it, and the art has been perfected. There are more coaches out there teaching guys from a young age, and these guys have perfected the skill. It's better than it's ever been."

How vital has the speed of Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith downfield been to the success the Ravens have had this season? How important is it as you go into December that Joe Flacco has those weapons and has rediscovered the deep ball and how that opens everything else up? (Jim Corbett)"A couple of things: I think the passing game complements the run game; the run game complements the pass game. So, the ability to throw the ball downfield and make plays – but not just that, to make completions in the pass game, short or deep – is critical for us. That's going to be really, really important. We think we have speed, we have playmakers. We need to utilize those guys, full depth, full width of the field. We've got to do that."

**Are you hopeful that Dennis Pitta will be ready to play on Sunday? *(Jim Corbett) *"I'm pretty hopeful that he can play on Sunday. Yes. I'd have to answer affirmative to that question."

**Is there anything specific you will be watching for with Pitta that will tell you he is ready to go on Sunday? *(Jerry Coleman) *"It's going to be just a matter of how ready he is to play and how healthy he is to play. With something like that, all the doctors are going to be involved. He was in New York yesterday. Those things are important things. The health of the player comes first. That's the No. 1 thing – his ability to withstand the rigors of a game. I think we're on track that way, but we'll just have to see how it plays out."

**Do you think the Ravens' defense views this game and facing Adrian Petersen as a good chance to show their strength and make a name for themselves? *(Kris Jones) *"I think the only thing our guys are thinking about in terms of making a name for themselves is winning, finding a way to win the game, and that is a huge part of it – certainly stopping their offense, their whole offense, which he is a big part of. Our guys are interested in winning the game; that's the main thing."

**Why do you feel you are winning the close games now that you weren't winning earlier in the year? Does it just come down to making plays, or is it a growth process as to why you are winning them now and not earlier in the season? *(Mark Zinno) *"There probably is. Last year, it was flipped a little bit, and we kind of got it going in January, as you know. Not giving your opponent opportunities to beat you – that's the main thing. That's where it starts. And too many times in those close games we gave our opponents plays that they really didn't earn, and it ended up being the difference in the game."

**Justin Tucker had a good rookie season, and he's been even better statistically this year. Can you pinpoint anything that he's been better at this year or things he has worked on or developed this season? *(Matt Vensel) *"You would probably have to go back and look at the specific misses from last year and this year and that kind of thing, and I haven't really done that. [Special teams coordinator] Jerry [Rosburg] does a great job with that, as does [kicking consultant] Randy [Brown]. And those guys study. He's a year older, he's a year better, [and] he's a year ahead in terms of technique and perfecting his craft and all those kinds of things. But there are still a lot of things he needs to work on. He'd be the first to tell you that. There are a lot of kicks he doesn't have in his tool bag yet. But the main kick he's got in his tool bag is kicking it straight when it's a field goal – in all kinds of conditions – and that's a pretty important one."

**Last week Bernard Pierce and Ray Rice split the carries. Is it a case of Bernard Pierce earning more carries per game or is it just dependent on game situations? *(Glenn Clark) *"Game situation. We really haven't laid that out in terms of number of carries or anything like that. We look at both of those guys as being guys who can carry the ball. Over the course of the season, guys have been healthy, guys haven't been healthy, game plans and things like that. I'd like to see the ball in both of those guys' hands plenty and those guys racking up yards. That's the goal. As we go forward, that's what we need to do."

QB Joe Flacco

On the passing game hitting its stride: "I think we're definitely getting better. We're improving like we want to. There are still a lot of things that we need to get better at, but we're moving the ball, we're putting the ball in the red zone, we're getting points out of drives. We just need to maximize those points. But I think we're definitely starting to come into our own a little bit, get guys healthy and play together."

On why he's been making more plays outside the pocket: "I don't know. I don't ever purposely look to do it, but I think I probably have made a little bit more of a conscious effort to maybe do it a little bit quicker or maybe I'm getting through [progressions] quicker. I don't know what it is. I think our line has done a good job of spreading guys out at times, so when we do get pressure, it's not all four guys or it's not guys from the outside and guys from the middle. When we've had guys coming around the outside, I've had room to step up and escape here, or if I've had pressure up the middle, I've had room to escape outside. I think those guys are just doing a good job of – even if guys are getting a half a body on them – staying with them and creating some space in there to move around and make some plays. And I think our receivers are getting better and better at getting open and really adjusting to me moving outside the pocket. So, it's a combination of a lot of things."

On if he's gotten better at recognizing things faster and making plays outside the pocket: "I'm sure I've gotten a little bit better at it. And like I said, I've probably made a little bit of a conscious effort to just be a little bit quicker to do some of those things because it works, and it's a way to steal a couple yards and get some plays."

On the Vikings' defense, which is ranked near the bottom of the NFL: "It's interesting. A lot of things like that say that. They've had a lot of big plays on them. I think they're a pretty solid group overall. They've got a really good front seven, and they've got some guys in the secondary that can run and play. They are a relentless front; they really come after you. That's the other thing – they haven't had a ton of sacks, but they've really moved the quarterback around a lot and made him move and got him off point. They're a good defense. I think if they hadn't had a couple of the big plays on them, I think some things would show a little bit differently. We've got to come in there, and we've got to be focused and ready to go."

On if he has any thoughts on Mike Tomlin's fine: "Not really. I said a couple minutes ago to the Minnesota guys [that] I don't like when anybody gets money taken out of their pockets – players, coaches. I don't like to see fines, especially big ones. It is what it is, and I haven't really thought too much about it."

On T Eugene Monroe fitting into the offense: "I'm as comfortable as can be. I think he's doing a great job. I think he's come in, and any time you can switch teams midseason, come in and pretty much get in there right away, I think that's awesome. And I think he's getting more and more comfortable. A.Q. [Shipley] has been on the left side with him the last few weeks and been stable there and been consistent there, so those guys are really feeling each other out. He's getting better and better, and I think he's playing really well."* *

On his thoughts on TE Dennis Pitta returning: "Not too, too many. I've talked to him a little bit. We've got to see how practice goes. He was able to do a little bit a couple weeks ago, but then last week we just had all walk-through kind of stuff. This week, we'll come out and we'll see how he feels. It'll be interesting."* *

On where specifically Pitta could help the offense: "I don't know if there's too specific of an answer to that besides the fact that he is just a good player. He's got good body presence and a lot of things that he does well in his routes that give you a good indicator. He catches the ball, he runs well, [and] he separates. There are a lot of things that he does well. I think overall he just helps your whole offense."

On how Pitta has looked over the past couple weeks: "Like I said, it's been tough [to determine too much]. Two weeks ago when we were getting ready for the Jets, he was able to run some individual routes, but nothing more than that. This past week, he wasn't really able to do anything besides what he would normally do on a rehab week or anything like that. And then this week, we'll see. I'm sure he probably still feels a little weak, and there are probably some things he is going to have to feel himself through. He hasn't run a full-speed route against defenders in a long time, so you have to allow some adjustment time for that. So, we'll see how it goes."

On the offensive line coming together: "Yes, no doubt about it. These guys are good players, and they're starting to really come together and play that way as a unit. The reason you win football games in this league is because of those guys, is because of your defensive line. So, yes, a lot of credit should go to those guys for getting these last couple wins. And a lot of credit is going to need to go to these guys the rest of the way out when we go play the way we think we're capable of. These guys are playing really well, and they are going to get nothing but better."* *

On having won a lot of games in November and December: "I think it's just a cumulative effort. Part of it has to do with staying healthy. We've played a lot of tough games, and we have a lot of practice for this time of the year when we're going to play a lot of games that are in tough weather and you have to win the game at the end of the game, and yet your defense has to hold on. A lot of factors go into that. I think one of the biggest things, like I said earlier, is staying healthy. I think right now we're starting to get healthier and healthier, and it should lend itself well to the rest of the games."

On avoiding a letdown this week after a big win against Pittsburgh: "I don't think there is any chance of that. It was a big win, and it was one we needed, but this is the same thing. There is no real difference in this game. We're a 6-6 football team fighting for a playoff spot, and we need to win the rest of them, and it starts with this one right here."

On if it helps his mindset having a kicker like K Justin Tucker: "I'm not really thinking about that game-time when we're on the field driving the ball. Usually I'm running off to the sidelines, and I'm pretty pissed off that we didn't score a touchdown. *(laughter) *But when you're sitting in the locker room, and you have that feeling of victory, you look back and say, 'Man, it's pretty awesome to have a guy like that.' So, that's when you realize it. And yeah, I realize it. It's awesome. The guy has been really, really good, and we've won a lot of games because he has hit kicks. But game-time, no, I don't necessarily feel any comfort knowing that because I'm trying to put the ball in the end zone."

On having extra time to rest and prepare for this week: "It's always nice. I love playing on Thanksgiving. It makes the weekend really nice if you win that game and can get a couple days to rest, especially at this point in the season when we've been playing and grinding and guys are beat up. It's nice to get in, play on a Thursday, get a win and enjoy your weekend. If you lose, it's probably not quite as enjoyable, so hopefully we can keep it the way we've done it over the last couple years."

LB Jameel McClain

On his recollections of the last time he faced RB Adrian Peterson:"I remember us focusing on him the same way. He was a great running back; he did a lot of good things that game. I remember one specific run where he really broke out there on us and got a couple of yards, and we really hated ourselves at that moment for that, because we knew we wanted to bottle him up. That's kind of what he does."

On how tough it is to tackle Peterson with his size and speed:"It's hard, it's hard. He's a powerful runner, he's very explosive, and he has the balance where you can't just come in and hit him – you have to wrap him up. And it's got to be about five to six guys running to the ball, too, to try to get him down. So, he's good at what he does and we've got to focus on the important thing, and the important thing is getting him down, not letting him get yards after the first hit."

On if he thinks Peterson is the best running back he's ever played against:"Definitely. Definitely."

On if the defense is satisfied with how it's played vs. the run:"It's kind of like a give and a take, because if I say we have been, that would say that I'm not disappointed about the times that we haven't. So, I'd say it's in between; we're happy about the improvement, we're happy about what we're doing, but we know there's so much more room for us to grow. [There are] so many 20-yard gains or 25-yard gains that we can stop, or even bigger ones than that. So, it's nice to see the improvement, to be who we are supposed to be as a defense, but it's disappointing sometimes, because some plays shouldn't happen."

On his reaction to being voted the Ed Block Courage Award winner by his teammates:"It was an honor. It was an honor to get it from them. Obviously, Lardarius [Webb] was up for it, too, and he's been through a lot, too, just like me. So, it was two deserving people, and to get elected by [my teammates] was great. But if you ask me, it should be me and 'Webby.'"

On the challenges of preparing this week when you don't know exactly who will be playing quarterback for the opposing team on Sunday:"It's just a little more film study time. That's all it really is. It's a little more trying to understand what both the guys do well, or seeing what they try to get done. But first and foremost, the guy last week [Adrian Peterson] had 35 carries. That's something that you've got to look at right there in a nutshell."

On if there is something you have to do to avoid a letdown coming off a great win over Pittsburgh, and if it's different playing the week after the Steelers than it is other weeks:"I don't know. I kind of got this question the other day, and they compared it to a college rivalry feel – like the euphoria of winning your college rivalry [game]. I don't really think it's that, because it's the NFL. We know coming into next week it's going to be a good team. We beat the Steelers; that's that. That's in the past, and now we've got to move on. So, I don't think it's difficult to come back from the physicality of it – your body needs time to heal – but fortunately we got that time. We got a little break."

On if the defense has extra motivation to stop a running back like Peterson:"Isn't that everybody's motivation? You get the chance to go up against the best. We get the opportunity this week to go up against one of the best running backs, and then the week after that, we get a chance [against] one of the better receivers [Calvin Johnson] in the league. So, it's everybody's motivation to come and bring their 'A' game – that's first and foremost. So, we wouldn't be in this game if we weren't trying to compete with the best. Our mentality is no different than anybody else's mentality, but the result remains to be seen."


WR Torrey Smith

On if it's important to him to break Ravens franchise receiving records by the end of the season:"I guess. I should have already had it, so I'm not satisfied. I've got to play better. Just like last game, there are three plays still in my mind that I should have made. That's what I really focus on – being the best player that I can be for our team. If it comes with putting up numbers and our franchise's records, that's cool. But at the end of the day, it's all about winning."* *

On if breaking franchise receiving records was something he set out to do:"You all make me aware of things. Like I said, I should have had that already, but I'm not really satisfied with it. Would it be cool? Yes, but the playoffs are way bigger than that. I'm just focused on that, really. If it comes with it, fine, but if not, I'm just going to do whatever I can to help us win."* *

On their recent success in the deep passing game: "I wouldn't say a 'groove,' but we have hit it the past few weeks. It's been there, it's just on us to get it going. It could be off the next game; it's a low percentage throw. When we have success, our team and our offense has success. It has definitely been the difference in games for us the past few weeks, and we'd love to keep it going."* *

On having to settle for field goals lately and not being able to score as many touchdowns: "We're there, we just have to do it. It's going to be tough to win games when you're not scoring touchdowns. It's only but so long that we can depend on [Justin] Tucker. We're thankful for that guy. At the same time, I love Tucker, but I hate when he's on the field because that means we didn't do our job. We have to be better than that if we want to make the playoffs."* *

On QB Joe Flacco's rushing skills: "I think Joe [Flacco] is more athletic than folks give him credit for. He's had a bunch of different things thrown at him this year; he's handled it well. He definitely maneuvers well in the pocket. You're not going to see him rush for 100 yards. It might not show up on the stat sheet but, if you watch him play, you can tell he's athletic. He makes a lot of plays for us with his feet."* *

On if there has been a greater focus on targeting him in the red zone: "It's not like [we're] out there running new plays or anything. We just run the offense, and I'm a small piece of it – just like everyone else. I'm just happy to get into the end zone. I can name off countless times where I've been tackled inside the 5 or the 10, so the touchdown thing wouldn't be an issue. You guys wouldn't be talking about ways to get me the ball if I had made it happen. It's been a few times, but I don't really get caught up in those numbers. At the same time, I'd like to be the one to put it in the end zone when we get that close because, as we know, it's been tough to come by when you get in there tight."* *

On playing against RB Adrian Peterson:"He's a great player. Talking to him off the field, he's an awesome person as well. Anytime you get the opportunity to watch him play in person, you're excited about it, but we want our defense to shut him down. He's one of the best in the game for a reason, and our defense is going to have a tough task in trying to shut him down. We're confident in them, and we're definitely comfortable with them having our backs as well. We're looking forward to it. It's going to be hard to completely eliminate him – you know that – but it's going to be on them to control him and for us to put up points."* *

On if Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin's fine was severe enough: "$100,000? Shoot – that's a lot of money. I'm glad it's in the past. It's all funny because we won. If we lost, I probably would be blaming him; I'm not going to lie. It's tough. I can't say he did it on purpose because I don't know what he was thinking. It definitely sends a message across the league. He stepped across the line, which definitely threw [the kick return] off. You can say he did it on purpose, but you don't truly know. There are coaches standing in the white box all the time. It's not like he did anything crazy. Coach [John] Harbaugh does a good job of staying back. I'm sure he'll take a few extra steps back now knowing it's a $100,000." *(laughter)

* *

OLB Terrell Suggs

On playing RB Adrian Peterson: "What's his nickname, 'All Day?' The man runs hard all day. It's going to be interesting. It's definitely a challenge for us, and we're really looking forward to it. We'll have to see what's up on Sunday."

On the last time they played the Vikings: "It was 2009. I remember they opened that thing up on us early. They took the lead, and then we fought back. We ended up losing it to the [missed] field goal. I remember Tavares Gooden catching [Peterson]. It's not a good scene when you're behind [No.] 28. You know what I mean? You just hope you've got somebody fast enough on the team to catch the guy. But if you keep him in front of you, then you've got a good chance of containing him."* *

On the playmaking ability of DE Jared Allen: "Numbers don't lie. He's one of the best in the game. So, numbers don't lie. You always have to respect that – the numbers."

On his health at this point in the season: "I feel great. I think our coaching staff, our head coach – John Harbaugh – he does a great job of keeping us fresh and doing things, taking measures to make sure guys get what they need. My own position coach [Ted Monachino] does the same thing as far as with the reps and practice. We all feel good. We've got some people nicked and dinged, but that comes with the game. But we don't have anything significant, nothing serious. So, like you said, we're in a four-game stretch."* *

On playing through injuries over the final stretch: "You can't worry about it. Everybody kind of sees the overall big picture; everybody is still doing the playoff talk. You're putting the pieces together, you know what you've got to do, and pretty much, that's the main focus of everybody." * *

On preparing for QB Matt Cassel or QB Christian Ponder: "We're preparing for both of them. You never know which one you're going to get. You don't want to prepare for one, and then the other guy comes running out. So, you just prepare for both of them and play it as it lies come Sunday."

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