But, normally you guys get a chance to talk football with coaches, and hopefully this will be a chance to expand on that and spend some time with Ozzie Newsome and Steve Bisciotti and Dick Cass. Fire away. Don't treat them any nicer than you treat me. But, we've got a good offseason start. We just got out of two days of really in-depth meetings with scouts and coaches and kind of organizing our plan for the next couple of months as we head into this offseason. It's been very productive, and it's been very honest, and guys have done a great job. So, with that, we'll turn it over.
[There are] two new coaches that we've had the privilege of inviting aboard, and they've decided to join us. Guys that we've known for various lengths of years [and] have tremendous respect for. To me, premier coaches in the National Football League to replace two coaches that did a great job for us as well, who are moving on to other things. Jim Zorn, our new quarterbacks coach, right here, if you could welcome Jim. And Dean Pees, our new linebackers coach."
With all the issues that surround the CBA and the uncapped year in 2010, how might that hamstring your efforts to get this team better as quickly as you can?
(BISCIOTTI) "We're having a meeting down in Ft. Lauderdale to get an update on the CBA on Saturday. As you know, we've agreed as a league to let [NFL Commissioner] Roger [Goodell] do the talking with the press. As far as us, personally, we kind of went into it assuming that we would probably go uncapped this year. We were in a situation that I think we probably have more restricted free agents than just about any team, right? We're close to 10 or something like that. So, even though we hit that final eight in this deal, it's not going to hamper us [that] much because we have 10 guys that we don't have to worry about like we would have. So, our roster is going to stay pretty much intact, and I don't really see it hampering us in our ability to do things. I'm pretty confident that we've got a budget that we're going to spend up to. We will spend as much as most of the teams, if not all of them. And, we've kind of got that budget already in place and already know most of the names where we're filling in."
Will it be tougher to improve at the wide receiver position with the new rules that are in place this year with free agents?
(NEWSOME) "No, not necessarily, because our past history [has shown that] we can acquire players. I think in that this is an uncapped year, there will be some real good players that are going to get cut. And we've had good success with Derrick Mason, Trevor Pryce, Samari Rolle – guys that got cut because of the salary cap situation that that particular team was in. So, I think that's going to increase our pool of players. I think in that the restricted pool is larger than normal, I think there's going to be some movement there also. And then, we've built this team through the draft, and that's another area. And then after the draft, then that allows for another group of players to get pushed out. So, when you look at all three of those phases, then there's an opportunity for us to improve our position in several different positions, as well as wide receiver."
In your opinion, what will it take for this team to become a Super Bowl team? Specifically, what areas do the Ravens need to upgrade and get better?
(BISCIOTTI) "I think a lot of it is focused on Joe [Flacco]. I don't think there's any doubt that he's the key to any kind of growth in the system. To some degree, he was maligned a little bit for not making a bigger step, but I think that what he did in his first year kind of set some unrealistic expectations. Roster stuff, that's really not my gig, but I do know that there's a lot of attention on Joe. And Joe just looks like the kind of guy that's ready to do what he has to do to get better. And, if we pushed him out of his box a little bit this year – and that might have been the perception – then maybe some shortcomings showed up that didn't show up in his first year, because we were not asking that much of him. So, this next year, it's time for him to do the things we know he's capable of doing."
(NEWSOME) "And to add to that, I think it begins with me. It begins with John. It begins with the other scouts. It begins with the coaches, and that will filter down to the players. Any time you enter a new season, you have to go in saying, ‘We've got to get better.' Our 53-man roster has to be better, and players that are on that roster have got to be better players. The good part of that, we've got some young players, and those young players are ascending. And they should be better players. So, when you add that to what Steve talked about with Joe, and with us knowing that we are going to add pieces to the puzzle, then that should help us to [improve]. As I finished up the [personnel] meeting an hour ago with the staff, our goal is not to be having this press conference here today, but to be having it in Dallas next year. That's the ultimate goal."
Your position last year was that WR Demetrius Williams would be the guy to step up at receiver for the team.
Why do you think Demetrius did not become the Ravens' go-to receiver this year as you had predicted?
(NEWSOME) "You have to look at it in the sense that what happened with Demetrius was Derrick [Mason], Mark [Clayton] and Kelley Washington. We created a competitive situation there, and John and Cam [Cameron] have the responsibility to put the best three receivers out on the field when we go to a three-wide receiver set, and the best two on the field when we're in a two-wide receiver set. I think the competition at that position lent itself to Demetrius being the No. 4 receiver."
(HARBAUGH) "So why is that? And Demetrius would say this, too. He is not able yet to do enough. You've got to be able to run the kind of routes, catch the ball in pressure situations, break the thing off at the right depth, make the right adjustments in pressure situations and do the kinds of things that are going to help us move the football and win games. And those other three guys did that better – offseason, training camp and throughout the year. We tried to put Demetrius in situations to be successful as much as we could, and we need more. And let me tell you, he wants to do more. And you need to be a better player to give us what we were looking for."
Do you see any situation where you might shift your philosophy from drafting the best available player to drafting a player that addresses a specific need this year?
(NEWSOME) "I think you could answer that question yourself. I know the majority of guys that are in this room, and young ladies, can answer that question for you. I'll never put this organization in a position where need becomes more apparent than the best player. It's not a philosophy that I've had from the very beginning. I think the success that we've had has been built on that. That's not going to change."
How concerned are you, with the uncertainty of the CBA's future, that it will impact the team's ability to reach your goal of eliminating the up-and-down nature of the team's results?
(BISCIOTTI) "I'm not worried at all. I don't see a correlation there, because I think we've got the best cap guys and the best guys to draft, the scouts and everything. So, I'm on an even playing field with the rest of my partners. I may not have as much experience as some of the other owners, but this guy I've got next to me here, and Eric [DeCosta] and all those guys have just put me in a position where we can still spend. So I'm still putting my team up against the other teams in the league. And I think we're as strong as anybody out there. So I don't think the problems with the CBA are going to impact me in any way, shape or form, more. If anything, I think it will be less because of the talent that we have in this building. I'm looking forward to the constraints, because if there are any constraints, then to me, it makes your decisions that much more important. And I'm going to rely on the guys that I have."
Do you think it was inexperience, injury, confidence or something else that led to QB Joe Flacco's up-and-down season?
(HARBAUGH) "All of those things probably to some degree, and a lot of other things that lead to a performance of any player. So, how many quarterbacks went through the whole season and had that completely consistent season? One or two. Maybe they're both playing in [the Super Bowl]. So, that's what we need out of Joe, and that's what we're building towards. And to me, it's kind of a two-rail attack; we've got, on one hand, do everything we can do to continue to grow Joe as a football player. And that plan is in motion right now. It goes from Steve [Bisciotti] – Steve is a part of that – Ozzie [Newsome], Dick [Cass] is a part of that, through Jim Zorn and Cam Cameron and myself. And that's all of our responsibility, to build that plan up for the offseason to help him grow as a player. But, I think you have to look at Joe's progress and say he's pretty much on track. But there is a lot of room to grow into, and Joe is committed to doing that. And then do everything we can to put the best players around him, like you always do with every position. We attack that with a great enthusiasm, which is what we're going to do. So, we make him better, put the best players around him we can and then make him the best player he can be in year three. That's what our job is."
Is there any update on the retirement talks for S Ed Reed and WR Derrick Mason?
(HARBAUGH) "We kind of addressed this at the last [press conference], but I know both of those guys love football, and they both want to play. So, as far as Ed, I've said this before, and Ed knows it… Ed is going to hear me say it, and maybe he'd say something different, but I believe Ed is going to play next year. Then again, if he decides – and it's his choice – that's something he's got to decide for himself. If he doesn't [return to play], we'll have to have a plan in place to move on. But we just had our discussions about Ed; there is no better leader, there is no better football player, there is no better guy on our team than Ed Reed, and we need him back. He's a huge part of our puzzle, and I would say the same thing about Derrick. That depends on contract things and where he's at as far as his career, but we're going to try to do everything we can to get Derrick back. I'm a coach – you want as many good players as you can possibly get, and those are two really good players. And I'm kind of somewhat counting on them right now as we go forward."
Are you concerned at all with QB Troy Smith and his agent complaining about the lack of playing time and requesting a trade?
(NEWSOME) "About Troy and the agent supposedly asking to be traded; I think I have pretty good communications around the league. I think the majority of the people know who the general manager of the Baltimore Ravens is. I have not heard from his agent. And I know who his agent is personally, so I have not heard that. Now, when it comes to trading any player, I think we're open to it. You know, we're open to making our football team better, and that's where the four of us… If we get something, or some team calls us and is willing to make us an offer for basically any player – we'll sit there and listen to it, and then we'll talk about it. And if there is an opportunity for us to improve our team by trading away a player, which will allow us to get another player, then we'll do it."
For Ozzie, are you tired of always being asked about the wide receiver position, and would you consider trading a No. 1 draft pick for a premier wide receiver?
(NEWSOME) "You know, having sat here for 14 years, I think every year I've come in here [and] there has been some need that we needed. When we first got here, to Baltimore, we couldn't play defense. I mean, we could light it up, and we couldn't stop water when it came to playing defense. (laughter) So, we put a concerted effort into building a defense that some people say may go down to be one of the best defenses in the history of our game. So, now then, what else is next? We [didn't] have an offensive line, and now you look at our offensive line, and we've got youth, we've got depth, and they're pretty good. [Then] quarterback – each year it's going to be something, and that's a challenge that my staff and the coaches, we look forward to. Yeah, it's a challenge for us to continue to meet those needs, but I can say that we need a playmaker outside, yes, but we need some other things to help us to make sure that we can compete to be in the Super Bowl, also. But, if we're able to answer that question, then you'll be standing here next year saying we need something else. And I'm going to go, ‘Yes, we do.'"
Would you consider trading a No. 1 draft pick for a premier receiver?
(NEWSOME) "You know, like I said, I leave myself open to anything. And we just spent two great days with Steve [Bisciotti], and Steve will probably tell you, I kept saying, ‘Let's keep our options open on anything.' If we can improve our football team, then we will do it, but we have a process in place. Now, I'm not going to bore you with the process, but if there is an opportunity for us to do it in that manner, [then] yes, we will. I want to win, just like you guys want to win."
(BISCIOTTI) "When you talk about the weaknesses of our team, it's safe to say that most of you watch enough football to know who the best in every position is, across the league. You can spell them out if we said corners, and then safeties and down the line. At $125 million, if we wanted to get a guy in the top 10 at his position, in every position, it would cost us $200 million. I'm not allowed to do that. But that's really what it would take to get to the point where you all felt that we had a great linebacker corps, a great defensive line, a great defensive backfield, great receivers. So, no matter what city you're in, they're showing up in different places. We've always had a great defense, and we've got to be careful that we don't run out and fill all of those holes and just create them somewhere else. We went from 2,900 [total] yards [on offense] to 3,600 yards this year, and if Joe [Flacco] is on pace, maybe we go to 4,100. And I think there were 10 quarterbacks this year that threw for 4,000 yards. We'd certainly like him to be there; how we get there is a different story. You all know football well enough to know that everything is relative, and we can't have even the top half of every position in the league. So, it's all going to be dead middle. And so we're going to have guys that are at the top 10 of the 32 out there, and in the middle and in the bottom. And like [Ozzie] said, that's just our goal, is to fill all those spots."
Do you feel that this team is a player or two away from being in the Super Bowl?
(BISCIOTTI) "They say that's fool's gold, right? I mean, that you get caught up in that you're one or two players away. But the answer is, if we win a Super Bowl next year, then Ozzie will probably say that we were those two players away from it. When you look back at Sam Adams and Shannon Sharpe, I would say that those were the couple of pieces that got us over the hump in 2000. So, stay tuned, and if we win, then we'll tell you the guys that were the difference makers in getting us there."
In regards to the CBA, what can you say to the people in Baltimore who scrape together dollars to support the team, and who can't understand how so much money can't be divided to the contingent of parties involved?
(BISCIOTTI) "You know, as far as the fans go, I know that… This is a horrible part of any business, but when you have fans involved that are committed to it, then yes, I'm sensitive to it. But I've got partners out there right now whose teams are making less money than their linebackers. And so, I think we've got an acute problem here with the general profitability of the teams. We always knew this was not a big cash flow business, but when you've got guys like Jacksonville [Jaguars] tarping up 10,000 seats to stop blackouts, when you've got teams that are voluntarily staying at the minimum of what they have to spend on the salary cap in order to not go upside down financially, then we already have a structural problem. So, I don't expect the fans to take… I don't know what side that the fans are going to take. You know, three years ago if we hadn't done the deal, we would have forced the players to strike. And you would argue that then the fans would take their anger out on the players. We did a deal, and we did a bad deal, and we didn't understand it at the level that we needed to, and the implications that it was going to have. And obviously by the time we did [realize the implications], we were already into the deal. So, that puts us in the unenviable position of this thing ending in a lockout as opposed to a strike. And I certainly bet that most of the anger is going to go towards the owners. But, I've seen the St. Louis [Rams] up for sale for a year and a half, and I think they started at $900 million. I think that they're now looking at somebody to buy them for $600 million, and the reason is because there's no cash flow. So, if we don't get this thing back to the point that the teams can all cash flow enough, that they can go into a bank and look at a statement and say, ‘That's a solidly-run business,' – not team – then there are long-term problems for the league. And unfortunately, we're going to have to address that, and it's going to cause some pain for a lot of us, maybe."
How is business for the Ravens?
(CASS) "In terms of the Baltimore Ravens, in terms of where we are in business, we're doing fine. We've been able to sell all of our tickets, we've been able to sell our suites, [and] sponsorship dollars are basically flat. So, we're doing well compared to other teams around the league. But again, I'm focusing on revenues, not expenses. Just because we're still doing well in revenues doesn't mean we're generating a lot of profit, because we do spend a lot of money as well."
On what level of agreement are you and the other NFL owners with this possibly being an uncapped season?
(BISCIOTTI) "I can't speak to the other guys. All I know is that we needed 24 votes to opt out of the deal. If you look at baseball, where the [New York] Yankees have three times the payroll of the [Baltimore] Orioles, and the [Boston] Red Sox have two times, or plus, the payroll of the Orioles, there's a… It certainly doesn't show up in the standings, because if I'm a Yankees fan, I'd be upset we're not winning 130 games with the roster that they have and the money that they pay out. I think it's a disgrace that they only beat the average team by 10 games in the standings for three times the money. I'd fire that [General Manager]. (laughter) You don't need a GM, all you've got to do is go buy the Cy Young Award winner every year, no matter where he shows up. I don't think that if some teams spend 25 percent more than another team, that it's necessarily going to buy a championship. Again, it comes down to the draft picks and – where baseball does it – the good teams like Oakland that get the draft picks and then trade them when they're at the highest value to restock their farm system. That's what we're trying to avoid here when we go into this thing to try and restructure the league. We want to be at a point where teams are not selling off their star player in their fourth year because they can't afford to sign them to their second contract. Getting guys, drafting them, [helping] them [become] good [players] and then being able to sign them to that second contract is something that we want all the teams to still have the ability to do."
How did this year's rookie class perform, specifically T Michael Oher and CB Lardarius Webb? Did they meet your expectations?
(HARBAUGH) "Well, I think those two guys, specifically, exceeded them. To me, everybody in here would probably agree with that, no questions about it. Michael Oher is just a great guy and, you know what, as we talked about it, there's a lot of room for him to grow and become a better player, and he will. Lardarius is obviously dealing with the knee injury right now, but he's been in here every day. It took us a few weeks to get him on the field, and when we thought he was ready to play the way he did, we got him out there. Paul Kruger, we said this before, I'm convinced Paul Kruger is going to be a really good player. Paul needs to put some weight on, get in that weight room and go to work, and he's committed to doing that. I'm sure he will. We're going to have a close eye on him in there, for sure. He'll be becoming that guy that we want him to be on the edge of the defense. Even if you look down the line – a guy like Jason Phillips is going to be coming back [from injury]. Davon Drew, he's going to be a good player, we think. Those are kind of developmental guys. Just from a coaching standpoint, I compliment Ozzie [Newsome] and his guys. I think the last two drafts have built the foundation of a football team underneath some really good veteran players, and we kind of go from there."
What is your philosophy with players who have had off-field issues and so-called character problems?
(BISCIOTTI) "I think that we're pretty good consensus builders. I think that we trust each other enough, and I think that we all… On any given day you could walk into that [meeting] room, and I'd be in the risk–taking mood, and a week later it might be John [Harbaugh]. And Oz, I think you made a move for Terrell Owens a few years back, didn't you? (Ozzie Newsome nods his head.) These kids are under so much scrutiny, and we're talking about 53 of them that you have to put together. You're not going to have 53 angels, and you probably wouldn't have a very good team if you had 53 angels. I think the kind of problems that they've had matter more. Certainly, the repeat problems you better avoid. I don't think that mistakes are necessarily a sign of poor character. I think repeating mistakes is the closest sign to bad character that you can look at. I would say that, maybe of the four of us, I'm probably the biggest risk taker even though… I like the fact that these guys care about our image, and they pull me back from the rail, because I'm ready to take chances on people. I really am. I think that's kind of what life is about, and I think there are opportunities like that. I hope we're in a position someday where someone wants to dump a Randy Moss for a fourth-round draft pick, because I'll be in there saying, ‘We've got to take a chance.' It's about what you have to lose if that person fails you. So, I think it's risk and return."
John [Harbaugh], are you adverse to risk in terms of personnel decisions?
(HARBAUGH) "It's a great question, you try to get a gauge, but no, I think it goes down to risk and reward. So, you basically take a guy… Now, if you rule somebody out because – in your opinion – they're bad for your team, but in our conversations, I don't know if we've ever discussed a guy that we just said, ‘We want no part of this guy.' I can't remember a guy we've talked about in the last two years that we said that about. Maybe I'm forgetting somebody, but I don't think so. So, it just becomes how much do you risk, how much do you take away from other opportunities to build your team for this guy? If you've put a lot into this guy – a first-round pick, two first picks, a first and a third – for a really good player on your team – and you lose those two picks, and you bring this guy in, and then he doesn't produce for you because he messed up and makes a mistake; now you become a worse team. If the reward matches the risk, you kind of balance it out, and you take a shot, because the bottom line, to make your team better – but also to represent the city well… And most of these guys that get to the NFL, in the end, they have their issues, but they're still pretty good people. You don't get to this level without fundamentally being pretty solid, overall."
What are your thoughts about the way OLB Terrell Suggs played this year after signing him to a pricey contract?
(BISCIOTTI) "Well, I'm not a personnel guy. I thought Terrell was coming into his own when he got hurt. I think he came in out of shape, and we now have him for the offseason. So, that's going to say everything. He's still a dominant player. I think that we've got him in the direction that we want to get him back to, and he's still very young. We're lucky to have a guy with that much experience. Not many 26-year-olds have 60-something sacks behind him, so I think he's going to do fine."
How important is it for Terrell Suggs to be a part of the offseason training program?
(HARBAUGH) "Well, I think that it's really important that he's here. We've had that conversation. It's my understanding that he feels like it's really important to be here. To get in the kind of world-class shape that he wants to get into, that we need him to get into, we think here is the place for him, by far, to be. Also, to be a leader, to be up in front of those guys and be leading those workouts, that's important. But also, to really develop your skills, especially as a pass rusher, you can really work on those things in the offseason. And because of his contract issues, I think he's wanted to be here, but has been unable to be here for the most part. Then he came to camp last year ready to go to work, and got hurt right away, and missed all of training camp. To me, it's vitally important that he's here, and we plan on him being here."
What worries you about an uncapped year and improving the team?
(NEWSOME) "Well, it really doesn't, because when there are restrictions put on the Baltimore Ravens, they're put on 31 other ball clubs too. But I think when those restrictions are put there, that challenges my staff and John's staff to be better. We've got to be better than the other 31 clubs in order to make our football team better under these circumstances. So, I look at it as a challenge. We came back from the Labor Seminar, and the first thing John heard was, ‘We're going to get into the final eight, and we're not going to be able to get a UFA.' And we all kind of looked at each other [and said], ‘How nice would that be?' No. 1, getting into the final eight, that's what we wanted to do, but it puts the pressure on us to be able to dig down deep and still be able to improve that football team. I think that's why [director of player personnel] Eric [DeCosta], and [director of college scouting] Joe [Hortiz], and [east area scout] Joe [Douglas] and all of the other scouts, I think that's why they come to work every day; because you know what, ‘I can be better than the norm, and we can dig deep.'"
What are your thoughts on the pass interference rule and how there is such a grey area when officials call pass interference?
(NEWSOME) "I'll open up this question with: ‘Did you think the Pro Bowl was a good game?' They say fans like that. (laughter) I don't know, but to be a little bit more serious, having been on the committee for at least over a dozen years, what we try to do is draw a bright line. You saw it with the force out. We had no issues with the force out because we came back and said, ‘If you don't get two feet in, you're out.' It took the subjection, or the judgment of the official, out of the game. You either had to have two feet in, or it was out. I think that's what we're going to try to head to with pass interference. We have to draw a bright line so that the players, coaches and even the fans understand what pass interference is. Right now, I don't think it's there. John and I have had a conversation about this every other day, and he's on the phone with [NFL V.P. of officiating] Mike Pereira, and now we've got Carl [Johnson] coming in, and we'll probably be on the phone with him. I think, we on the [competition] committee, we need to draw a bright line, so everybody understands exactly what the penalty is, and then we can all sit there and say, ‘That is interference or that is not interference.' We cannot have 12 [officiating] crews that see it differently. So, I think there is some work to be done. Is it going to get cleared up in one year? I don't know, but I think we're going to push it in that direction."
How do you evaluate the WRs performance this year, and do you want to improve at that position?
(NEWSOME) "To answer the second part [of the question], yes. Do we want to improve at the wide receiver position? Yes, because I think that will further enhance our running game. I think having a playmaker on the outside will help Joe Flacco become a better quarterback. So, those things are very in place. You know what, Dick [Cass] gave us a stat down in Florida that we finished ninth in points [scored]. I didn't realize that. So, we can score some points, but we want to be better. We've got to get better, because if we ever get involved in a shootout, I want to win the shootout. We don't want to have the Pro Bowl game, but if we ever get involved in that, I want to be able to win a game like that. And I want to be able to win a 6-0 game too. That's my goal."
On the defensive side, will there be more of an emphasis on pass rush in the offseason?
(HARBAUGH) "I'd say, yes. No question about it. To me, we want more sacks. We want more quarterbacks tagged right in the chest. We want to knock those guys down as much as we can. I think you see it in the last weekend of football; that's what wins football games on defense and takes pressure off of the secondary. That's a big point of emphasis for us. Again, as a coaching staff, we want to make our guys better, the guys we've got, throughout the offseason. And then we want to add guys that can do that. The same thing with the wide receivers... Those guys play individually very well, as well as they could. It's our job to put the whole thing together and make the whole group as good as we can. That's what we want to do at every position."
From your perspective, what can be done to eliminate the "Cleveland blockade" and get [Ravens minority owner Art] Modell nominated to be in the Hall of Fame?
(NEWSOME) "I think there is a movement in the city of Cleveland that is changing what people think of Mr. Modell. There have been former players that have called me personally and wanted me to address Mr. Modell about a willingness to do anything that they could do to help in promoting him to get to the Hall of Fame. I don't know what it is going to take. I wish I… If I knew, I would have had it done five years ago. I don't know. But I do know this, you guys are around those scribes. When we are in the playoffs, the majority of those voters are there. If you would take some of your time to talk to the guys that are on that voting committee… I got the opportunity in New England. I could look in that press box, and there were a number of those voters there. You're asking us to do our part, are you doing your part? There's a part that you can do also to help us to bridge that gap to honor a man that needs to be honored in Canton."
Has there been any talk about tweaking or changing the conduct policy now that it has been in place for a few years?
(BISCOTTI) "I think, in general, all the owners are happy that Roger [Goodell] came in and turned up the heat a little bit. I think that we've been fortunate as a team… I think punishments should be severe because I think that… I hope that Roger continues to be tough on all the issues like that. The [NFL Players] Union is going to have their say on that in these [Collective Bargain Agreement] talks, and it's going to be one of the peripheral issues other than the actual financial structure of things. I assume that it's going to be addressed. But Roger is not backing down on this one. If he does not have the power to do the things that he has done, then I think we're all worse off because of it. I salute him for getting tougher, and I hope he continues to get tougher. I think that it gives these coaches, all the way down to the high school level, a hammer for helping guide these kids from the time that they're stars in high school to being the big man on campus. I hope it filters down into the colleges, and the colleges get tougher and start suspending these guys that embarrass the rest of the team. That's the one thing that, if you ever came from a big family – which I didn't, I only had a brother and sister – but anybody that came from a big family, boy, if you messed up, it was the last name that your father impressed upon you. It wasn't your first name, because you were representing seven other people, and you had an obligation to them. That's what's happening here is that we've got 99 percent of these guys who are wonderful people. [There are] 1,800 of them [players] in the league that we're proud to be associated with. It takes, what, 18-20 arrests a year to make them look like a bunch of outlaws. It's really unfair to the ones that do it right and lead their lives the way that we're proud of. So yeah, I think we have to learn to do without that one, two percent of guys and suspend them for a year instead of four games, and I think they'll get the message."
In the uncapped year, is there any fear from your group of owners ("the more competitive owners") that some teams will slash payroll and disrupt the competitive balance in the league?
(BISCOTTI) "I think it would be short lived. I think the teams that would have to do that would figure out the best way to trim their payroll. Every year there are eight bad teams across the league. If that's the reason, then it will be a short lived, it will be a one-year thing. I'm hoping that we avoid the lockout all together. It certainly is an issue, and we're being driven to that anyway. There are some teams that are spending the minimum that they have to spend and whether they go $10 million below that, I don't know if it would show up as teams that can't compete. The teams that end up 1-15, like the Rams this year, it wasn't a payroll issue. There might be a couple of outliers on the topside and a couple on the bottom, but I think that you can pretty much count on 28 teams competing for those 12 playoff spots even in an uncapped year."
What will happen with the team going from a capped year to an uncapped year and then possibly a capped year again?
(NEWSOME) "That's a good question. We've probably spent maybe two hours just dealing with those issues yesterday with our group. Dealing with the restricted guys, which we are kind of at the advantage with, but those guys could eventually become unrestricted and how to deal with it. But, I think what we've seen in the past – and this is where personnel, cap accounting, a good owner and a good coach all coming together – is that we can't be afraid to let Bart Scott walk out the door and hope that Tavares Gooden or [Dannell] Ellerbe or [Jameel] McClain can replace him. We can't be afraid of that. But we also have to be smart enough to know that there are going to be some opportunities that we can extend some guys and take them out of the unrestricted game, and we can have them for four or five years. That's a balance that we are going to be dealing with over the course of the next four or five months. Because if we get a deal done, then it's going to impact like 200 or something players. Like Steve [Bisciotti] said, we have like 10 of them. And we've got to be prepared to be able to extend some or to be able to say, ‘OK, we might have to let this one go, because we've got a young player that has to step in and play.' We're playing that game in our mind right now, and like I keep saying, other than losing on Sunday, I have a fun job. But that makes our job fun to sit there and do what we did yesterday for a couple of hours to talk about today and tomorrow. And that's the way we have to do it. But you can only do it when you have a head coach in the game with you."
(BISCIOTTI) "I'll say if we're going from an uncapped year into a capped situation in 2011, then it's the league's responsibility to make sure that the teams have a soft landing. That will be the last major negotiating point, I guess, is exactly how the rosters are affected in that transition back into a cap. They could restrict movement for awhile to give you exclusive rights for one more year or stagger them depending on who lost the most and if there was indeed a lockout year of 2011, but for the most part if we go into a capped year, the league is already aware that things that we do to protect ourselves now will not come back and haunt us when we hit the ground running again with the new cap."
What do you like most about this team and what drove you crazy?
(BISCIOTTI) "You know, as an owner, you'd love for your team to be the least-penalized team in the league. I'm certainly not happy about it, I'm not going to lie to you. Because it's opportunities, and to see the flow of the game stop because of penalties, I don't think it's just yards. It's trying to make these young guys understand that springing a guy for a 50-yard punt return by blocking some guy in the back, is not worth it. And we've got to address it. John [Harbaugh] and Ozzie [Newsome] and Dick [Cass] and I, we've talked about it. That's something that if you looked at the end of the year I think, 10 of the top 14 penalized teams were 10 of the 12 playoff teams. So there really isn't a correlation between penalties or lack of penalties and success. But specific penalties at specific times of the game, yes, some of it is weeding out some players who refuse to practice their technique and find themselves in those positions. I'd be the happiest guy in the world if we were 15th in the league in penalties, but we play an aggressive style of defense, and I really don't anticipate, nor do I care, if we're ever the least-penalized team. But I certainly hope we're not one of the top-penalized teams, that goes without saying."
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