HEAD COACH John Harbaugh CONFERENCE CALL
Can you just talk, in general, the effect that the weather will have on your preparation, and were all of your players able to get back in town in time for practice? "We got most of the guys back. There were a couple of guys, actually three guys, that didn't make it back that should be back by Wednesday. We had the vast majority of the guys here. A good example is Terrell Suggs. He was in a situation where all of his flights were getting cancelled, a bunch of flights through different airports. He ended up getting into Raleigh [North Carolina], and he and his wife drove up from Raleigh, obviously, driving in a rainstorm to get here in time for practice. A lot of guys did a good job of that and thought ahead and moved flights up and stuff, and I was proud of them for that."
In terms of getting back, one thing before the bye [week], they ended up fining you guys, and you thought you guys weren't going to be, and that you guys were in accordance with everything, and then they end up fining you. And also, how did you guys come back from the bye? Where a lot of guys that were banged up, were they able to go today and work out with you guys in the indoor facility? "We pretty much had everybody with us. Off the top of my head, everybody worked out – some form or fashion. We had different guys doing different things. ‘Kemo' [Ma'ake Kemoeatu] was out there. Haloti [Ngata] was out there. Off the top of my head, nobody was missing – there was one person missing. I'll think of it here in a minute. Really the only guy is Haloti. Everybody went. Everybody went."
As far as, are you probably going to list more guys, or do you think you'll probably keep yours the same, just with the addition of Ed [Reed] on injury reports? "No, we won't keep it the same, because they fined us. Like I said, we felt we were in compliance. We had a lot of conversations about that. We try and follow the rules, and obviously, the rules weren't as clear as we thought they were. We'll list pretty much everybody now. We'll just do it that way, and we try to follow the rules, like I said. Obviously, they are correcting us on that, so we will do our best to do whatever they want us to do."
Obviously, going into this bye after the last game, there is a lot of focus on the offense as far as the difference between at home and on the road. When you look at it, there's been so much success at times, but at the same time it's almost so drastically different when it's not going well than when it is going well. How do you then look at it as far as trying to fix those times when it's not going well since you are seeing success? "Obviously, it's not a simple thing. You're right. There is a correlation there for some reason. It's harder for us on the road – for some reason – when things aren't going well to pull ourselves out of it. That's probably been going on into last year's time. [We] had the Pittsburgh game last year where we were able to do that. [We] played well in St. Louis, but other games we weren't able to do that. That's something that we've looked at, and we're actually doing some kind of studies on that – not that I think it's going to be earth-shattering – it's just going to be doing the things that we need to do to get first downs and get the ball moving and not turn the ball over – all the things that help you win football games. It's not any big mystery. You just have to get first downs. You have to score in the red zone. You can't turn the ball over. You have to get some time of possession. And the method for doing that is what we have to look at and find out what the best strategy is for us week-in and week-out and also big picture-wise, so we are trying to do that."
The Browns are a team that has won two of the last three, two of those at home. Do they seem to be heating up, and do you see an improvement from the last time you played them about a month ago? "Yes. They are definitely getting better. Obviously, they have won games. They have won games at home. They won a high-scoring shootout in Cincinnati. They won a low-scoring defensive struggle against San Diego. Obviously, they have proven that they can win the game either way. I take it back to when we got ready to play that game, and you asked me a similar question, and I told you they were a very good football team. That really hasn't changed. They've gotten better. They've figured out how to win games. That's a mark of a young team that's really emerging."
How does the hurricane affect what you do as coaches? Is it going to be a real late night and a sleepover for you guys? And secondly, when you guys are thinking about the larger picture during the bye, how do you move forward from here? How much does the weather change, in terms of the cold weather games, how much does that factor into the game plan you take going forward? "As far as the hurricane stuff – from a coaching standpoint—we have certain things that we have to get done. Monday and Tuesday are really huge work days for the coaches as far as game planning and preparing and getting practices ready and all of that. That work has to be done, so we'll be doing that. As far as the weather, if you play in the AFC North, you play in the North, you play in outdoor stadiums – you have to be built for that. That's something that we try to take into account when we draft players, when we build our schemes in, and it's going to be important moving forward."
In terms of Dennis [Pitta], his production [has been] down during the course of the last month or so. How much of that do you view as a product of defenses adjusting towards him based on what he did that first month? "There's probably some of that. To me, it's a product of everything across the board. Typically, you say, ‘This guy is not involved. That guy is not involved.' It's something that you can take a look at, but when you start breaking it down and you start studying it, you really find out that it's really more a product of us executing. It's more a product of all of the things – whether it's protecting the quarterback, running the ball or getting more plays, getting first downs to create more plays, guys getting open, players themselves getting open or making plays or making catches, or whatever, making throws. It all goes together, so we've talked about this before. What you really look to do, is you define specific problem areas, and try to go work hard to correct them but you also try to get better across the board with everything you do, and you find that there's really never one specific key that unlocks the whole puzzle. It's just a matter of forging ahead on all fronts and seeing if you can improve your play in each phase."
In terms of preparation, I might have missed the question, but does the weather, does the preparation change in terms of what's going on in your environment? "We were able to get practice inside today. The guys did a great job of getting in. I was really happy about that. A few guys didn't make it, but most everybody did. We did our normal plan that we had for today this morning. We'll keep our fingers crossed for Wednesday. Hopefully, we can get started on time and keep our normal schedule. It looks like [the storm] will be dying down Tuesday night, Wednesday morning. The main thing will be power. We have a big generator here. We think we can really get the football stuff in on Wednesday."
What have you learned from Andy Reid about preparation coming off of a bye week and how have you applied that in Baltimore? "I haven't really tied into Andy as much. Obviously, we were there for nine of those  wins that followed a bye week]. I haven't really thought about that. I'm not sure what you're asking. Are we worried about our streak coming to an end, is that what you're asking? Sure, we are."
I was more just wondering if you learned anything specifically from him that was so successful that you brought to Baltimore. "Maybe the schedule and stuff like that. The thing that we tried to do, and that we tried to do in Philly, was really work hard. There are a lot of ways to do that. Obviously, rest is one of them. We had good practice work on Tuesday before we were off. We outlined some areas that we need to get better, then we went to work as coaches for three days and really studied ourselves. We think we have a good plan going forward. We presented that a little bit to the guys this morning. It's an opportunity to kind of realign, understand where you're at because you never know what is going to crop up. You never know what direction you are going to go – who is going to play, how it's going to play out exactly and what you are going to be. Now, you have a chance to take a little breath, take a look and say, ‘OK, this is where we think we are headed, where we can be our best. Let's see if we can move in that direction.' That's what we did in the past. It's kind of what we've always tried to do. So, maybe that's part of it. But, it's not really just for the next week; it's for the rest of the year. It's for all of the games after the bye week."
Coach, you said last week you might make shifts personnel-wise along the offensive and defensive line. Now, you said it looks more like an execution thing. Are we more or less likely – and I know you are not going to tell exactly where or who is going to shift – but are you more inclined to personnel changes? "I didn't categorize it as more or less of an execution thing, so be careful with that. I didn't say that. To me, execution is part of it, but coaching is part of it, game-planning is part of it, guys developing at their positions, whatever it might be, it's all a big part of it. I hate to pinned down like that because, it's just like I said, it's not that simple. If it were that simple, if it was one key to the whole thing, it'd be easy – anybody could pinpoint it. But, it's just not. It's across the board. So, we're not making any wholesale changes, to answer the question. It's not like we're going to switch everything around and make some huge moves. But, we're always trying to look at the best batting order. We're always trying to look at the best lineup that we can put on the field at any particular time and getting as many good players involved as we possibly can. There are young guys on the offensive line that we want to look at. There are veteran guys that can help us in doing different things. I just think that football is kind of evolving into where you have to try to get as many players involved as you can. So, without giving away too much, I can just tell you that the whole offensive line is not going to re-ordered on Wednesday. We're not doing that. The whole defensive line is not going to be restructured either. But, there are some things that we think we can do in getting some guys involved and using them as we go and kind of taking advantage of all of our guys."
Along those same lines, you said you were going to meet with the coaching staff for three days last week. How did you feel coming out of those meetings, and are you more confident now than you were last Monday? "I don't want to categorize my confidence level last Monday so let's not put a baseline on that. I felt good about our team last Monday, I just didn't feel good about the way we played the day before. I'm not trying to underplay it, but when you watch these games, you realize how tough it is week in and week out. So, that's one thing. The other thing is there were some very real concerns. There are things that we need to do a lot better, not just from the day before, but through the whole seven-game period that we felt like we needed to take a hard look at. So, that's exactly what you're talking about, and we did, and I did feel good about it. I felt like our coaches, our players, the communication, we really went to work and we really had some great conversations. We had some great discussions. We had some great study watching the tape. Guys did some great studies looking at numbers and things like that. In the end, what you try to do is make good counsel then make wise solid judgments about what makes us our best as we move forward. I am really excited about that – I really am. The proof will be in the pudding. So, if I say I am excited about it and we don't play well, then you guys can hammer me, but I don't believe that. We have gotten better every single year in the second half of the season since we've been here. That's been something that has been a strength for the Ravens. I expect it to be a strength for us going forward."
You went out of your way to say the Ravens followed the rules in terms of reporting injuries with Ed Reed and yet the NFL still fines you. Were you surprised by that reaction from them? "I was surprised by it. It was something that we felt like we were doing it the right way, and obviously they disagreed, so we'll adjust and try to do a better job in the future."
Will there be more names on the injury report? "There is not going to be anybody that is not going to be on there. It's pretty hard for us to determine who a significant player is and who is not. I don't know how to do that. That's one of the ways they write it in there. They say a significant player who has not missed any time should be on there. Well, in my mind, all 53 are significant. I think every single guy is significant. I am not about to start saying one guy is more significant than the other."
Was the comment last week that the game at Cleveland Sunday is a must-win game, is that something that looks different or was that about improving and putting good performances together? "I'd probably say all of the above. As far as I am concerned, it's a must-win game. Obviously, we'll have eight games after that game, so it won't be the last game. In my mind, we need to win that game this week, and I know Cleveland feels the same way, and they are going to be all loaded up the same way. I am standing by my words – I want to win that game."
Historically, when you look at time of possession, how do you value that with the kinds of numbers you have been up against the last couple of weeks? Is it always an indicator of who wins are who loses games? "It's actually not always an indicator – it's not one of the top indicators of who wins and loses. But we think it's important for us, more for the way we play, if you score enough points in a short period of time, it's not a factor. But, there are other things that go into play. Complementary football dictates that you want to do a good job with time of possession. We've always played that way, and we want to play that way."
When you look at it with Vonta Leach and Ray Rice, the numbers are so positive in terms of yardage and not losing yards. When you guys self-studied, what did you guys see as far as when Leach and Rice were on the field at the same time, and will that be the identity going forward? "That's a positive for us. That's something that is important. It all goes down to what direction you go and how hard you go and how far you go in a certain direction, because if you go too heavy in a certain direction, then it gets defended, then it doesn't look as good anymore. A lot of the running averages you are talking about are a result of what we call ‘sub runs.' We've run the ball quite a bit in three-wide receiver [sets]. We've run the ball decently as changeups to our passing game, and those runs have been really productive too. The run game is not consistently attributable to the I-formation or the two-back stuff, although that has been good too. We have to find a good mix of that stuff, keep people off balanced, try to be as unpredictable as we can. We studied that. We're really unpredictable in a lot of ways, but there are specific places where you look at and we tend to do one thing or the other a little more within our running game. But generally speaking, we have had success running the ball; we feel like running the ball ties in with time of possession. That is something that we want to be able to do. We have always been able to do that. It's got to be part of our personality, and it's important for us."
Can you talk about the last couple of games that Trent Richardson has had for the Browns? He seems to really be improving as a rookie. "It sure looks like he's getting healthy. Earlier he was [slowed] by a rib [injury] there for a few weeks, and there was some talk about that; it really hampered him a little bit. But from what I've seen so far, he looks every bit like the third pick in the draft right now. And he's got that big, physical offensive line. Obviously, that's something that we've had issues with, stopping the run. So, we'd expect them to try to take advantage of that, and they've got the back to do it."
What is your impression of Joe Thomas, their left tackle? "He gets voted to the Pro Bowl every year, so that's pretty much an indication of what the players, coaches and everybody thinks of him. He's a premier left tackle. He's one of the best. He's right there with … Hey, I don't know that there's a better tackle in football. There whole offensive line [is good]. Alex Mack, this guy, we were really impressed with this guy coming out [of college]. They've just got a lot of good players – a lot of good players up front."
The NFL announced that the trade deadline has been pushed back to Thursday. Does that change any plans for the organization? "As [executive assistant/football administration manager] Jess [Markison] – who does a lot of the paperwork and does a lot of the electronic work – she said to me, she won't have to be dodging any power lines if we decide to make a move to get the move in. (laughter) So, she's happy, I know that. But as far as any move we might make, I don't know. I'm not sure."
What kind of progression have you seen from Brandon Weeden and Cleveland's passing game as a whole? "He can really throw the ball. I guess he had a really windy day yesterday, it looked like, and that kind of shut down the passing game for both teams. But even then, [Weeden] still threw it around pretty good. The ball was … I mean, he can spin it, and I'm sure that's why they drafted him, because they felt like he could handle the conditions there on Lake Erie. So they're getting better, their receivers are getting better. The kid from Baylor [Josh Gordon] is really improving and is becoming a big-play threat for them. So, they're just a good, young team, and they're on the rise."
OL or DL changes coming?
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