John Harbaugh holds court

Questions and answers with Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh from the NFL scouting combine. Please keep reading for further details.

What's your plan right now for the team and for the Combine?

Well, I think the Ravens organization has a lot going for it already. It's a great organization. Steve Biscotti is one of the best owners in the league. Ozzie Newsome is great. We don't have to add too much.

Can you talk about the QB situation and how you see Steve and the possibilities of adding a free agent or a draft choice?

It's an area we want to strengthen, just like every part of our football team. I know we're going to use every resource to do that. There's a lot happening right now. We have three good quarterbacks on the roster right now. Steve McNair is the incumbent. He's been a great player in this league for a long time. A lot of guys at his position and at his age have had pretty good seasons.

How has this been different for you from other combines, John?

As you know at other combines as a special teams coordinator or a defensive backs coach you move through the lobby a little quicker than you do as a head coach. It's been a lot of fun. A lot of guys that I've known over the years have come up to me and congratulated me. It's good to see them excited and be happy for me. I've gotten a few words of wisdom and a few warnings from guys.

John as a special teams coordinator, when you have the pick of the entire roster, I wonder if that helps you as a head coach?

That's definitely one of the cases for me and I think part of the reason I got the job. Being a former special teams coordinator you get the pick of the entire roster. I think that's been a big plus.

You're one of the few guys that stands in front of the entire team every day. Really the only other guy that does that is the head coach. So that's a good training ground for coaches, to have the opportunity to do that. But there are a lot of different ways to become a head coach in this league. To be a successful one is the key, and you need a great organization and a great team and good players to do that. We'll see how that goes.

Does it also help you when you're the head coach and you have to be aware of everything on the team?

That's a big part of it. You look at the whole roster, and not just on Saturday before the game. On Monday and Tuesday as you're setting things up. (In Philadelphia) with coach (Andy) Reid, he was great about it in terms of talking about it on Monday. It's also in the spring when you're looking at the roster in free agency and in the draft — ‘How does this player fit in with what we're going to do? How is he going to affect the roster and different situations that will come into play?' There are time management situations as a head coach. Being with coach Reid and being involved in those decisions over the years are going to help.

You talked about team, team, team being the three most important things during this offseason. Has the combine been a team-building exercise for your coaching staff?

Yeah, they've been running interference in the lobby for me so I can get from one place to the next. It's an interesting atmosphere in that everyone has a job to do, and I think in organizing this we've done a great job of organizing the coaches and the scouts through this whole massive combine so we cover every player. We're interviewing almost every player here We have the group interviews, we have every workout cover. It's been fun and in that sense it's been a team effort.

Is Cam Cameron here and can you talk about the confidence you have in him as an offensive coordinator?

Cam has a personal situation he's taking care of with his family, so he's not here. But Cam's already been involved in rating our quarterbacks in free agency and the draft, as well as our football team. He and I go way back. We've been great friends because he coached my brother (Jim Harbaugh) at Michigan. Cam has done a great job throughout his career, more than just a great offensive coordinator he's a great overall football coach.

What's occupied the most of your time since you've been hired?

By far spending time with the players. Hiring coaches is important but we spent a lot of time with our players. We've probably met with 75 percent of our roster for anywhere from an hour to three hours. That's been the most fun. Those guys are hungry. They want to put together a real good football team and exhaust every possible resource in order to do so.

You have an institution in John Ogden. What's his status right now?

I can tell you left tackle has been on Cam's mind a lot. Jonathan Ogden, everyone knows what he's meant to the organization over the years. He's one of the greatest offensive linemen in the history of the game and he's going through a process right now of making a decision. When he makes that decision he'll let us know and everyone else know. We'l make some contingency plans in the meantime, so we'll see what happens.

But in general, what is your prototype left tackle?

The fact is if you can't protect the quarterback's blind side you can't pass. You can't throw the ball. He has to be big, rangy, tough and have tremendous feet. Long arms help. He just has to be a guy with the demeanor that says, ‘No one is touching that guy behind me.' That's what Jonathan Ogden has meant to the Ravens for a long time.

What have you said to John?

It's not a recruiting process with John Odgen. He'll make his decision. We just talked about family and history a little bit, values a little bit. (We) just got to know each other. Tremendous conversation and wonderful person.

You chose to re-arrange the locker room. What was your purpose in doing that?

I think it goes back to ‘team, team, team.' That's going to be the underlying foundation of this team. That's what we're going to be all about. That's a tangible expression of what we're trying to do. If you're the offensive line, you see those guys all day, all week, all year. Let's get them next to a defensive back or a running back or an outside linebacker, and give them someone else to get to know. That's all that's about.

You deal with one team's roster for 10 years. Now you have a new team in a different conference. How hard has it been to get a grip on what you have in Baltimore?

Ten years in one place you get to know the roster pretty well. It's a change. You're on the ground floor. The main thing, the first step, is treating them as people first. Phone calls, talking to them in the locker room. The next step is watching tape. It's a process. There's nothing magical about it. They're great guys, class character guys.

How big was it to put the franchise tag on Terrell Suggs?

It was huge, and the great thing about it was that Terrell was excited about it. He was fired up that he was going to be a Raven. Long term and short term, it's good for everybody.

John you made a significant move to the secondary last year. Did it play a role in getting the head coaching job?

Maybe the administration can answer that better. But it was good for me as a coach. Getting to learn the defense from Jim Johnson, relating to him and learning about players form a different perspective it made me a better football coach.

John, what's your early impressions on Matt Ryan and would you beat a path to the podium if he were available when the Ravens came up in the draft?

I know a little about Matt from being in Philadelphia. We read about him all the time when he was in high school. The thing about him is that he's very tough, a multi-sport guy. He competes in everything he does. He's going to be a success wherever he ends up. As far as how that plays out, that's what TVs for. You can watch.

Are you going to have good information on the Stanford prospects?

I think we probably will. I talked to Jim just a little bit ago. He's in Chicago. I'll give you my normal commercial. Any good football player out there that has good grades, go to Stanford. He's doing a great job there. I'm proud of him.

What was it like putting together your first staff and is it something you think about before you become a head coach?

In this profession, you kind of watch guys and you make a mental note to yourself, ‘That's a guy that I want to have if I become a head coach.' When you have a chance to put the staff together for the Baltimore Ravens, you have a chance to pick from some of the best coaches in the world. Anyone would want to be a part of an organization in the NFL, and this organization didn't have to just hope people would come. We had the chance to recruit great guys to come in.

Was it tough to not have Pat Shurmur be a part of that? You guys are close.

It was tough not having Pat be a part of it. That was the toughest thing. Pat Shurmur is not only a tremendous football coach but he's a tremendous person and a great friend. He's going to be a great offensive coordinator and head coach in this league someday. You have a chance to bring in Pat Shurmur and you have a chance to bring Cam Cameron in, those are two great coaches and maybe the best fit for this team at this time was Cam. But Pat would have been a tremendous hire.

How big was it to keep Rex Ryan?

It was big to keep Rex Ryan. He's a big part of what we're doing. We talk every day about everything we're doing and he's already had amazing ideas on team building, our players and what they need to do in order to become better football players. I know one thing. The players are excited and they want to get to camp so they can help him become an even greater defensive coordinator. So it was big keeping him.

Some people thought it would be a problem brining him back?

If you know Rex, you can't imaging that being a problem. He's not that kind of guy. He's a team guy who is going to do everything he can to make this program as great as it can be. He loves the players, he loves the organization. If you knew Rex, you would know that he doesn't have that concern.

How hands are will you be with special teams?

We're going to get our hands on them but we'll try not to get in their way. We have a great special teams coordinator in Jerry Rosberg, another guy we were able to recruit to come here So Jerry doesn't need too much help. I'm hoping he'll allow me to mix it up a little bit. That's the nice thing about not being locked into one side of the ball, though. You have a chance to impact all three phases of the game. This will be the first time in my career that I'll have a chance to do that.

Ray Lewis. How much time have you spent with Ray and where are his thoughts right now?

Ray is excited. He can't wait to get started. I know he's working out in Miami, I know he's working out in Baltimore and he's working his brother out for the combine. So he's been busy. But we've had good conversations on the phone and I look forward to meeting him in person.

What about Steve McNair? We had a long conversation and we have daily talks. He's been back to Mississippi too. He's been living his life and working real hard.

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