Ravens, in their own words

WESTMINSTER -- Questions and answers as the Baltimore Ravens launch their 13th training camp at McDaniel College.

Head Coach John Harbaugh

Opening statement: "We're excited to start the Ravens' 2008 training camp. I've had a chance to see a lot of players come in, the guys who are going to be practicing the first couple days. They've got a bounce in their step and a smile on their face. They're enthusiastic and ready to go. We'll see if that carries over a week from now after we've been through two-a-days and hitting and doing all that stuff, but we've got guys who like football and are excited to be here. The same can be said for the coaches. [We] just had a staff meeting to get organized for the next couple days. Our coaches couldn't be more fired up to get to work, and that's what we're ready to do here."

On rookie QB Joe Flacco signing before camp starts: "It means that he likes football. He wants to be out there, and he wants to compete. I think we knew that about him going in, and that's a big reason why we moved up to draft him in the first round."

On whether he will have an overriding theme or slogan: "No, there are no slogans. I think it's just, "Let's get as good as we can get. Let's be as good a football team as we can be." Training camp is where you build your football team."

On having all the rookies signed: "Again, it says a lot. Joe's probably the tip of the spear on that, the point, and got it going. All the other guys wanted to be here, too. We're proud of the fact that we were able to draft a bunch of guys who like football and want to be here."

On transitioning from being an assistant to a head coach: "We've had that conversation with a couple people. I'm sure some things will come up – and probably most of them will be with you guys – that will be different than being an assistant coach in this league. But I feel the same way that I've felt, personally, as an assistant coach for the last 10 years in the NFL. You can't wait to get back and go to work and do your job. The job's a little different than what it's been in past years, but the feeling is exactly the same."

On the biggest challenge the team faces: "The biggest single challenge? I tell you what, if we could put a finger on that, it'd be easy. That's the thing about football. There are a thousand little things we have to take care of. I think probably the biggest single challenge is taking it one day at a time, one moment at a time, and winning the moment."

On who would take the first snap at quarterback in team drills: "It's a good thing you're coming to practice. You'll see it."

On whether he has a timetable for deciding the starting quarterback: "We're going to have to decide before we play the Bengals [in the season opener on Sept. 7]. That's the timetable that's thrust upon us. Really and truly, we've said this from Day One, and maybe it's hard to believe, but our plan is to put the best quarterback on the field at that time, whoever that guy is. Our goal is for those guys to make that decision based on the way they play."

On how camps will change from previous years: "I've got a lot of respect for coach [Brian] Billick, and I know everyone wants to make comparisons about one camp to the next camp. I wasn't here and didn't see how camp was run, per se, but I know that they practiced the way you're supposed to practice here in Baltimore. You can see that by watching this team practice. Again, it's a lot of guys who like football and know how to practice. That's something we want to build on as we go forward here. We want to build on what's been accomplished in the past.

Training camp is tough. Training camp is hard. It's different than the old days. I've heard the term ‘old-school training camp.' I don't know if that's real accurate because back in the old days you had 120 players in training camp, and you ran those 3 ½-hour practices. That's not what we're talking about here. We're going to run an intelligent camp. I think guys are going to work hard. They're going to get tired. Their legs are going to get weary because that's how you get good. But the goal is to become a good football team. The goal is not to be a fresh football team coming out of training camp because that's impossible. The goal is to be a strong football team coming out of training camp, and that's what we're going to try to build."

On whether any players will be unable to practice due to injuries: "We'll know more when we have the physicals coming in here. That's going to tell a lot. Bill [Tessendorf] has been doing this for a long time. He's got a pulse on these different guys, and there are going to be some guys that aren't going to be able to practice early on because they just aren't ready. We don't want to make the mistake of pushing a guy through the first week of training camp and not having him for the first week of games. We'll know a lot more after Wednesday's physicals."

On whether anyone is being designated on PUP: "I don't want to comment on that just today."

On going through camp not knowing who the quarterback will be: "I think in some ways, it'll probably be the last time we're ever in this situation here, I would hope, for a long time to come. It's a very unique situation. It's a fun situation to be in because it's competition in its truest form. I think we're going to take it for what it is. It's an opportunity to roll the balls out there and let guys compete for a job. It's no different than any other job. The best guy should play."

On whether having to decide on a quarterback takes away from other things he could do in practice: "No, that's the great thing about video tape. You can go back and watch the video tape and see all the reps."

On the focus on Flacco's signing headed into camp: "Maybe in some ways it'll be good because he'll take some of the heat. We'll just all run for cover under Flacco and let him answer all the tough questions (laughing). Building a football team is a complex thing, and there are going to be a lot of storylines in this camp. I'm sure you guys will be on top of them. You guys will be talking about the quarterback controversy, and we'll be building a football team."

On whether he expects OLB Terrell Suggs to report this week: "I don't know yet. We're going to find out. His situation is a little bit unique, and he has to decide what's best for him going forward right now."

On the offensive tackles: "I think the offensive tackle situation and the offensive line situation is one that we're excited about. You have an opportunity with a young group of guys that have worked as hard as they've worked, and with a coach like John Matsko, to build something special here that can last a long time. If we can put together an offensive line that's going to be a little better than what most people think it's going to be and build on that for the next 10 or 12 years, that's an opportunity."

On the experience of the assistant coaches: "It's huge. We had a staff meeting now, and seven or eight guys had comments and observations and suggestions. We've got an unbelievable amount of experience on this staff. Guys like Wilbert Montgomery who have been coaching in this league for a long time and have won Super Bowl rings and Clarence Brooks. You can go up and down the staff without naming all 19 guys. We've got 19 tremendous football coaches here. It's definitely going to be a group effort, and I think we're going to have a chance to have a really effective training camp because we've got a great group of coaches."

On juggling assistant coaches' input versus his head coach's final decision: "I think it's easy because I have a vision for where I want this thing to go, and I'm setting the tempo for the type of team we're going to build. They understand what the vision is, and they're contributing to it. When a guy has a good idea that's better than what we were thinking about doing, we do it – just take the best idea and go."

On what kind of advice he has received from his mentors: "I don't know if there's any piece of advice about running training camp that we had. The best piece of advice I got from all of those guys – Andy Reid, my dad, Dick Vermeil, different coaches – was just to be yourself and do what you think is right and what you believe in and that'll be good enough."

On the past few weeks: "You've got to enjoy those days off when they come. Those last three or four days, all the coaches joke about it, but your wife starts seeing a different look in your eye. The foot starts tapping a little bit more and you start getting a little bit antsy. You're not thinking about cutting the lawn. You're thinking about going back to work."

On whether he has identified the leaders on the team: "I think every guy on this football team is a leader in one way or the other. What the public or what the media perceive to be leadership and who the guys are who played for the longest period of time, those guys are going to be great leaders, but we need to find all those other guys. We need to find their leadership ability. One way or another, they need to express that. We need everybody on this football team to be a leader one way or another."

On whether he would have reservations about starting Flacco as a rookie: "I think that's factored into the equation, the fact that he's a rookie and he hasn't played an NFL game before and his long-term development. We have to factor that into the equation. That probably weighs against him. But if, all those things being considered, if he's the best guy and gives us the best chance to win, he'll be the guy."

On whether he cuts his own lawn: "I have. I will admit that my wife made me give the lawnmower away when we came down to Baltimore. So, no. Here's what happened. You want to know the real story? I have always cut my own lawn because I thought a guy should cut own grass, right? That's how it should be in life. It always happens when you come to training camp, my wife had to find someone to cut the grass during training camp and through September. This year, basically, when we moved, she gave the lawnmower away to one of our neighbors. Sorry, honey."


General Manager Ozzie Newsome

Opening Statement: "I want to thank everyone for coming out to this announcement of Joe Flacco officially signing his five-year contract. We also wanted to let you all know that all of our draft choices have agreed and will be signing between now and John [Harbaugh's] meeting tonight. Therefore, it's good from my perspective to have all the draft choices done before training camp. That's one less burden that I have to carry. In this instance, I think the credit goes to two other people: Those people are Pat Moriarty, who represented the Baltimore Ravens, and Joe Linta, who was hired to represent Joe Flacco and his family. A lot of times we get involved in negotiations and everybody wants to wait on the other guy. They want to wait on the team behind them or wait on the team in front of them. Joe felt it was important for him to be in camp on time, and Pat was astute enough to be able to say, ‘Hey you know what?

We will win some battles and lose some battles, but getting him here on time is very important to us.' So, I think all the credit goes out to those two guys for making this happen, and then George Kokinis participated in the bottom half of the draft with the other guys. That's where all the credit goes. I think it also speaks to Joe that he wanted to be here, and he wanted to be here from Day One. We have seen what some holdouts have done with quarterbacks before and how that's set them back. But he's been here since Day One, and he's ready to go."

On the difficulties of signing a first draft pick: "Well, I think it helps when you are picking guys in the 20's – even though Joe was the 18th. It's been so long ago that at least I think he was the 18th. But when you are picking in the lower rounds you have a chance to get it done because the numbers are a little crazy at the top. I think in this situation, it was the agent who was the impotence in us getting this deal done. Pat also played a big role by coming to me and saying that there was a good chance of getting the deal done."

On what the organization has learned about Flacco since drafting him: "I always have to give a lot of credit to the scouts with the information. I think what has happened over the course of those two or three months since the draft has happened is that Joe has come in and started to confirm some of the things that were told to us by people that were close to him and some of the things that we have seen on tape and have the opportunity to sit and chat with him. He had the opportunity now to confirm some of those beliefs we had in him, and we think we can move forward."

On what it's like going into his 13th training camp and having a new coach: "You think back on the very first training camp when Jonathan Ogden was doing this very same thing [at his contract signing presser]. It was a veteran guy [Ted Marchibroda] who knew what he wanted and how he wanted things run. We had a great nine-year run with Brian [Billick] and the way we did things, which involved winning the Super Bowl. But I'm excited about this training camp with John [Harbaugh] and his staff. From the way I've seen him run the OTAs and the mini-camp, I'm excited to see what training camp is going to be like. I think it is going to be fun from my perspective because I'm just a talent evaluator.

I think that I'm going to be given lots of opportunities to evaluate the players on this football team so that we can come up with the best 53 players. This is an exciting day for me. I could be out there playing 18 more holes of golf, but I think that time has passed. The way I was playing I wasn't very good anyway. But I am excited, and I've developed a good relationship with John, and I just want to continue that relationship with him. I just want to get that chance to take it out on the field and then start playing against one of the 31 other different teams."

On the importance of getting players adjusted quickly: "In order for us to get the opportunity to pick the best 53 players, we need them out on the field and we need them out competing. This allows those guys three or four days to get ready before the veterans get here because the ship is leaving come Thursday. This will give those guys the chance to refresh themselves from all the information they have received since they were drafted. It's important in coach Harbaugh's first year that we have guys here, have them out on the field, and we have them competing so that we can pick the best 53 guys."

On what his expectations out of Flacco are for this season: "I'm just glad he's signing here today, and that's about as far as I can see. I've been down this road in a lot of different areas. Who would have thought that Jonathan would have been an 11-time Pro Bowler when we drafted him? You never know. I'm just glad he's here today. This gets him the best opportunity to have the career by him being here today. But as far as expectations I have of him, I just hope that he can find his way to the practice field tomorrow because this is different than Owings Mills. If we can do that, than we are well on our way."

On whether Joe Linta's history played any factor on drafting Flacco: "That did not factor into us drafting Joe Flacco. Joe Linta did have a history I know, with the [Kamerion] Wimbley pick. [Cleveland] got theirs in early because it was right behind us with [Haloti] Ngata. So we did know that he had a history, but that did not factor in to it. This was a process that went on for six to eight months. We drafted Joe, and we knew at some point that he would sign the contract whether it was for here for the first day or some point during the middle of training camp. But, we're looking at it with long-term aspects and not just a short-term solution."

QB Joe Flacco

Opening statement: "Just as Ozzie [Newsome] said, all the credit goes to him, Pat [Moriarty], my agent Joe [Linta], and this was really a foregone conclusion for me once I got drafted in April. Everybody has been congratulating me, but I don't really see it as that big of a deal. I knew I was going to be here the first day of camp, I knew I was going to get this contract signed, and I'm just excited to be here, and be out on the practice field and get going."

On Flacco being underestimated for most of his career, with a lot expected of him now: "It's a position I was put in, and that's what I expect. Anytime that you feel the way I do about yourself and about the way you play football, it doesn't bother you when people expect you to do something. I put enough expectations on myself and I expect myself to go out there and play the way I want to. If things don't always go my way, I think I'm capable of handling that mentally. So, obviously we're going to see how things go, but I expect to go out there and play football just the way I've always done."

On what it was like seeing the big number on his contract: "I really didn't pay attention to it. There were so many signatures. My agent has been through it with me before and that was enough."

On if, as a kid, he ever considered being compensated for playing football: "I don't know; I hoped so. You never know. You just have to believe in yourself, and you have to have a lot of help around you and that's what I've got. It's really not more special than any other day I've been here so far. I mean, I've looked at myself as being signed since the day I got here. I just actually hadn't sat down and signed 50-something signatures, but now that I have, I'm ready to go out there and get going."

On his progression from when he was drafted to now: "Oh, I'm much more prepared. Being through mini-camps and all the OTAs, being able to meet with the coaches and get out there on the practice field and start actually running the plays – I'm so much more prepared. The difference between my first weekend here and now is huge. All the OTAs have helped me out tremendously."

On if he could be the starting quarterback by the end of camp: "I'm going to go out there and act like I am, just like everybody else should do. I want to go out there and play the way I've always played football, and expect myself to play. I want to go out there and prove to everybody, prove to the coaches, most importantly, and myself and my teammates that I can play, and obviously at the end of training camp we're going to find out."

On if the Ravens were the team for which he always wanted to play: "This is my first camp in the NFL, so that's really all I'm thinking about – just how's it going to go and what to expect. But I don't really know what to expect. I'm just going to go out there and do what I've been doing. I grew up in Jersey, went to school in Delaware, so Baltimore is pretty close, but I never really thought about any particular team that I was going to be playing for. Now that it is Baltimore I'm more than happy to be here."

On any big purchases he's made: "No, I don't think so. I've got more things to worry about than going out and buying stuff."

On what he wants to show fans at training camp: "I'm just going to continue to do what I've been doing. I'm just going to go out there and throw the ball around, complete some passes. You know, obviously they're going out there to have some fun and see what their team is all about this year. So we're going to try and show them the best we can that we're out here to work and get the job done this year."

On the effect of watching other first-round picks hold out on their contracts through the start of training camp: "I just never really looked at signing as a factor at all. I just wanted to come in here, and figured I'd be here Day One. That's just the way it worked for me. It didn't have much to do with me. My agent and the Baltimore Ravens got that all done. My agent knew I wanted to be here, knew I should be here, and the Baltimore Ravens, all of them knew I should be here. I never really thought about it, and I'm just glad to be here."

On the pressure of being a first-round draft pick quarterback: "I'm just going to go out there and play football. If I play the way I want to play, then things are going to go well. If I don't play the way I want to play, then things aren't going to go my way. But it's all about getting on the practice field and in the meeting rooms – all things I can control. Everybody goes through some rough patches as a rookie quarterback, but those are things you have to deal with. Good quarterbacks get through that kind of stuff, and I'm anxious to get out there and get started."

On his career progression from college football at Delaware to first-round draft pick to five-year contract: "It's gone by quickly. It seems like the Delaware season just ended. That's the way it goes. I'm happy to be here and be a Baltimore Raven now. I can't really explain how it's any different than anybody else, coming from where they came from to being a draft pick. It's very exciting for everybody, and we're back to playing football now. So, that stuff's in the past."

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