John Harbaugh Press Conference: 10-20-05

On the changes in the return game: "Well, I see what you're talking about with the personnel changes. The first thing we are looking to do is change the way we are playing. We need to block better, and do a better job of scheming. That's what we need to do. Our problems aren't really personnel. I don't think our problems are how our personnel is playing and our coaching. We just need to do a better job, and we'll be okay."

On the chances of RB Brian Westbrook returning punts:

"Well I think there's always a chance of Westbrook returning punts. I know it's the same thing we've been saying for two years, but he's in the mix. He practices, and he's always an option for us without a question."

On whether the call will be coach Andy Reid's or his own:

"Well every personnel decision is the coach's call. He makes those decisions. He has to balance the offensive game plan, the injury stats, and all the different things that go into it. I know Brian likes to do it just like [CB] Lito [Sheppard] likes to do it and like [CB] Dexter [Wynn] likes to do it. All those guys want to do it. It's an offensive threat. They want to make a play. So, we'll just see what direction we go and see who can give us a spark."

On LB Keith Adams coming into special teams:

"Well, Keith has been working in and out of special teams, and I think he'll have a little more of a pronounced role as a core cover guy. We mix starters in all the time. [LB] Dhani Jones plays on the punt team and kickoff return team. [LB Jeremiah] Trotter practiced on the kickoff team. It's not our plan to put him on the kickoff team. I don't think we need him, but all those guys are part of special teams."

On whether the problem may be the personnel:

"Well, the thing is that in this league there is always going to be turnovers. We try to do the best we can, from one year to the next, to keep our core group intact. Sometimes you can do that, and sometimes you can't. Maybe we haven't kept our whole core group intact in the last two years, but you have to coach the guys that you have. I do believe that we have good players. I think they can play well. It's just a matter of getting them to play well. And, you look at the special teams, and I think that there have been a lot of good plays. What we haven't been is consistent. We have had two kickoff returns against us. Two big plays that have hurt us. You have to be consistent when you cover kicks and cover punts."

On the last time he had a challenge with special teams:

"2002, I think it was '02. We had three kickoff returns against us in the first five games. It seems like yesterday. I think that we are kind of back in that pattern a little bit. Our guys have done a great job at working hard the last week. They worked hard all through training camp, and through preseason. It's important to them, and we are going to get it straightened out. There was a time when we had a lot of success here in terms of contributing to team success affecting field position giving our offense a chance to play downhill and giving our defense a chance to play downhill. We haven't done that the first five weeks of this season. We need to get back to doing that, and our guys are committed to doing that."

On Dexter Wynn struggling with returns:

"Well I think Dexter has done a good job. He wants to catch all the punts. There were a couple punts that were tough catches that he put on the ground, but a young punt return is going to have that with a hostile environment, a big wind, and a left-footed kicker kicks it high. Those are tough catches to make. I think that the lack of production is because we've had some tremendous punts against us. There are returnable punts, and punts that are difficult to return. With punts that are in the 5.0 sec. range, we're not going to get good returns. You have to be patient. You can't force it. The worse thing a punt return can do is try to force a play, and make a bad decision when it's not there. There are going to be return opportunities, and when they come, hopefully our guys will take advantage of it.'

On Dexter being the punt return:

"I have no problem with going with Dexter Wynn. I think Dexter Wynn is a great punt returner, and a developing punt returner. We saw him in the preseason make a heck of a play. So, those plays are in him. He is capable of being a really productive punt returner."

On RB Ryan Moats being a returner:

"Coach Reid is deciding that right now. Moats is working back there a little more than he has in the past. He has always worked as a returner since he's been here. He's just seen a little more repetitions than he has in the past. [RB] Lamar Gordon is working back there as a kickoff returner. Dexter is working back there. [RB] Reno[Mahe] is working back there. All those guys are practicing returns. So, coach will make that call on Sunday."

On how Moats looks:

"He looks good. He's working hard, and he looks good."

On whether Lamar Gordon has returned before:

"He did in college I think. I don't know if he's had any in the NFL. He looks good back there doing it."

On how he can gain confidence:

"We've talked about this before, the whole confidence thing. To me, the best way to get confidence is to play well and to make plays. The thing we have to work on is being fundamentally sound and being physical. We need to get our head, hand, and eyes on the football, and play downhill. If we do that stuff then we'll cover kicks and gain confidence. If we get in front of people, we're physical, we're blocking people, we're tough, we hit people in the mouth, we cover the right people, and we're working hard up field then I think we'll gain confidence. What I do as a coach is worry about the fundamental things and then let the confidence part of it take care of itself."

On where LB Zeke Moreno fits in the special teams:

"He's going to jump right in and play special teams. He's an experienced player. He has four or five years in this league. He's going to jump right in and be a core contributor to this team."

On whether Villanova Coach Andy Talley saying Westbrook shouldn't return punts affects him:

"I don't think it has any effect on me or us. Coach Talley has done a great job at Villanova. He and Brian have a great relationship. I'm quite sure Brian Westbrook wants to do whatever he can to help our football team win. That's what he does. That's what he practices. If Brian is back there returning punts, he's going to try to make a play and help this team win just like everyone on the Villanova team are going to do everything they can to help Villanova win. That's the way it is with any other football team."

On [RB Daren] Sproles:

"Sproles, you know what he is, he's a hard Big 12 running back. He's a hard running, north, south tough guy. He has great quickness. He's elusive, and he runs hard. For a rookie, he looks like a veteran back there. He's a tough guy to tackle."

On Sproles gambling with returns:

"Yeah, he doesn't fair catch too often. So, the key is to kick the ball high enough where he's forced to make that decision, but he has had a lot of success so far with the return,"

On Sproles' injuries:

"He had a little ankle tweak so he didn't practice yesterday. They have other returners. They have some good players back there that can do something."

On whether the preseason game against Pittsburgh was a sign of their problems: "Well, I think anytime you have returns when you first go out you're going to have fundamental problems, and those are the things we work on from the first day of mini-camp. We're out there every single day trying to get those things right. Until we learn to do the fundamental things consistently well with our group, we're going to have plays made against us. That was probably an indication of where we were at, but not we were going."

On solving he problem that occurred in 2002:

"Well I can't remember the exact personnel changes. I think we made a personnel change or two. More than anything, I think it was guys learning how to play special teams, and players playing better and coaches coaching better. Part of it is getting a feel for your guys, getting guys in spots, and getting guys in spots where they can do what they do well. That's what we're trying, as coaches, to get done. We coached better. We played better. I think we did that in '02, and we can do that now."

On K Todd France:

"Todd has done a lot. Todd made a nice tackle on a kickoff. We're going to try to avoid putting him in that position in the future. France came to our help for a change [joking]. He contributed to the cause. He's done a good job. He can kick field goals. He's kicking the ball well. You can see the ball coming off his foot well. He's getting it off quicker when he gets blitzed on the ball. So he can kick, and he's proving it right now."

On whether France's kicks are the problem:

" Well, here are the two kicks. The kick against the Cowboys was a very good kick. It was covered very fully. The kick against the Chiefs was not kicked in the right spot, but it should have been covered better. You don't have to kick the ball exactly where it is planned to be if it is covered well. No I don't think he is the problem. He didn't kick well against the Chiefs. He did a lot better against the Cowboys. We just have to cover better."

On whether they have set the tone in a negative way:

"I think we have set the tone the other way, in a negative way. We need to get back to helping our team win, and that's what it is all about. Special teams has a huge impact on the football game this week. Our guys have a lot of pride over the years with impact that it's had on this football team, and we're going to get back to playing that way."

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