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  • Writer's pictureJoey Jarzynka

Ravens' HC John Harbaugh Quotes 8.7.20


The playbook offensively - last year, you had to rework the whole thing. What's the task this year? Obviously, put in something to keep other teams guessing, but is it more of a tweak? How are you going to work that this year offensively? (David Ginsburg) "When you talk schematically, it's a back and forth game of football, sort of. I guess the analogy is chess, but I would say it's even more complicated than chess. The pieces can actually all move in different directions with different personalities, mindsets and skillsets. Whereas chess pieces, they're all the same. No matter where you have a chess piece, he does the same thing according to what he is. It's like that – there's strategy and there's counterstrategy and there's strategy back again. We love playing that game and being a part of that. I think our offensive coaches are the best in the business at that part of it. We'll be playing that game going forward, just like we always have."

I know during the season, it's "on to the next game – win or lose." I'm wondering, how much carryover is there from the sting of that early playoff exit last season? Is that in the rearview mirror or does that drive the players and the coaches? (Kirk McEwen) "It's both. I mean, it's history – you move on and you move forward. But it informs us; shared experiences become part of your culture and part of what we grow into going forward. So, we take it with us, and it definitely motivates us, and we learn from it. You win or you learn, and we learned a lot from that game."

With the challenges you have at training camp and what you're going to need on special teams, is it going to be difficult to carry three quarterbacks this year? I know you've been able to do it the past two seasons. (Todd Karpovich) "That's a good question; we'll see. We historically didn't carry three quarterbacks, just because you can use that extra roster spot [for] special teams, extra lineman, a specialty player, pass rusher and things like that that we've done in the past. We've had the three guys who we like, and we didn't necessarily think the guys we had would make it to the practice squad – in last year's case, Trace [McSorley]. So, that's what we did last year. This year, I would say that's the plan, and we'll just have to see how it shakes out."

With what you're doing on the field right now and in the meeting rooms, is that giving you much insight into your depth chart? Or do you have to wait until you put on pads to really get a sense of where guys stand? (Gerry Sandusky) "Again, it's both. It's the fact that we learn a lot, but we're teaching. We're really not … Nothing is competitive. There are no contests out there right now. Nobody is going against somebody else in a contest. They're really going against themselves, their ability to learn the offense, execute, play fast and do the right things – not jump offsides, for instance – things like that. So, we're working on all of those sort of things as we go, and then the contests will happen once we put the pads on in training camp."

Without the preseason games, how do you approximate the physicality and how do you actually gauge if guys are ready for that or not? How do you judge them, too? How do you make those evaluations? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "That's exactly right, it's a challenge. The veteran guys won't be an issue; they've got a body of work. It's the young guys, rookies [and] second year players, they haven't played as much. So, we're going to have to put those guys in those situations as much as we can. It won't be like a game. There's nothing like a game. But practice – probably in football – you can approximate football. It's a practice sport, it really is. We'll put them in scrimmage situations, probably. We'll have periods that are live, we'll have that for the young guys. Not too many, but enough hopefully to get a good feel for where we're at with those guys. It's a great question and I don't think you'll ever really know anything until we line up and play the real games. There will be a lot more questions that will be answered in the real games than ever before."

Do you think you'll hit more this camp than you do in regular camp, just because of that? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "Yes, because of that we will hit more in practice. We won't hit as much overall, because we won't have those preseason games. That's where most of those live reps come. So, it won't be overall as much hitting, so to speak, but we'll have more in practice than we normally do, yes."

You're known for developing and having one or two of these undrafted rookies land with the opening roster. Because of the lack of spring and because of the lack of preseason games, how much more difficult will it be for a lot of these undrafted rookies to make that season-opening roster this year? (Jamison Hensley) "I don't know how much more, but it's certainly tougher. There's no question. Those guys have been put in a tough spot. The toughest spot is the 320 players who got released before they ever got any kind of a chance. You feel worse for those guys. At least the guys who are here have an opportunity."

We're talking to DE Calais Campbell right after you. When you get a player of that stature joining your culture, which is already well established, do you find that it's pretty seamless? (Childs Walker) "Yes, it's been great. He's a leader. He's already a leader. He knows structures of defenses – there's nothing he hasn't seen before. He needs to learn terminology; he's doing that seamlessly. Absolutely, it's more seamless. It's been great."

Have you guys talked about possibly quarantining a quarterback or a player at a certain position to prepare in case of the pandemic? (Jeff Zrebiec) "We've talked about it. Sure, those are all options on the table. There are options from … I'm sure the league will continue to talk about those things. You can quarantine your whole team from Tuesday until game time, then give them a couple days and get them back in quarantine, if necessary. All those types of moves come with counter issues. There are consequences to everything that you do, and you have to balance all that out the best you can. It's no different then what the country deals with [and] what the government deals with. You have to balance things out. You have to use common sense. It's easy to nitpick and criticize, but one size fits all for every player. For instance, if you were going to quarantine the whole NFL for six months … Yes, if you're a doctor and say, 'We want the best chance to keep everybody safe and healthy,' that would be great, but I kind of want to see my wife at some point in time in the next six months, and she doesn't have coronavirus, and she's being safe too. So, you have to live with a certain amount of risk in order to live your life. We don't want to forfeit all these guys' lives, and they're not willing to do it – as I'm sure the players association (NFLPA) would say – and I wouldn't want them to do it. So, you have to have some balance to everything that we do."

Are you going to continue training with the loudspeakers without fans at training camp? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "Yes, we are. Now, we'll probably do mostly music, but we may put some crowd noise out there. I don't know why, because I don't think we are going to have any this year. But our players and I, we like the music, so we'll put the music out there, and we'll make that part of the distraction. I think it's good to have to concentrate and cut through the sounds and the music. Plus, as long as the songs are good – as long as I like the songs – then it's all good. But when I start not liking the songs, then we have to adjust." (laughter)

In the last couple of days, you have had a national publication say you have the No. 1 defense and the No. 2 offense. You had a national radio host say he expects you to go 16-0. Do you like being the favored champ? Is that something you have to cut-through or something you need to talk about with your guys? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "I get all that. I'm provided with all those things. I've also seen where Pittsburgh is going to win the division. I saw Cleveland has been picked by some people to win the division, as far as the changes they have made there. [I've seen] that Lamar [Jackson] is going to regress [and] our defense is going to regress. So, everybody says a lot of things, so it doesn't matter. It's all noise. Who cares?"

As we learn more about COVID-19, I think we have seen how it can disproportionately affect people with obesity and high BMI. Obviously, your team has players with high BMI, but it's a different body type than those who are affected. Has it been an education process for you and your team – just learning how this could potentially impact someone? (Jonas Shaffer) "We don't have anybody who has more than 26 percent body fat on our team. That's our highest guy, so I think that's pretty darn good. Some of our heaviest guys are in the low-20s, which is phenomenal – the muscle mass that these guys carry. So, if you could educate me on what the science is according to a certain percentage of muscle mass, I'd love to hear it. But that's up to the guys. I think the guys do that. They look at their own situation. No two people are alike; they're unique. … (Inaudible) … Just figure all that out, and that's how we do it. That's what we need to know. Everybody makes their own choices." 

I saw C/G Matt Skura is starting on the Active/PUP list. Is that simply procedural, and there is no change in his timetable? When do you think you might get him back on the field? (Bo Smolka) "He is on his timetable. We were going to put him on that [Active/PUP list]. That was our plan and work him in as we go. We want to make sure that he's moving the right way. Then, you want to put him against some pressure, where the knee has to react to certain movements with pressure. We want to do all that before we put him on the field. This is a really slow ramp-up period anyway, this year, so we have time to do it, and we're going to bring him along. But he's still right on schedule, and we expect to see him out there soon. If that changes, then it would be a change. But he'll be out there – I don't know what the exact timeframe is – as soon as the trainers clear him, but it won't be too long."

I know a lot has changed since a couple months ago, when you said the 'humanly impossible' things about the COVID-19 guidelines. Now that the players have been back for a week, is there anything that stuck out to you as surprised, good or bad, about procedures and how the players are going about their business? (Aaron Kasinitz) "No, it's been great. I stand by what I said; to follow the procedures 100 percent is humanly impossible. I can't imagine there is any safer place than an NFL football team, right now – NBA basketball bubble. We're pretty darn safe. If you want to rank them, we are in the Top Five – I'll tell you that – across the country. So, we're right up there with anybody. We get tested every day, and we are wearing masks everywhere. For us – there are some things that you have choices [with] – we ask our coaches, when they teach, to where the mask. So, I'm coaching like this (puts mask over mouth and nose). And all of our coaches are coaching like this in meetings and on the field. And we're OK with that. We just have to speak clearly. We have to annunciate what we say. And in some ways, I think it helps us become better communicators. So, we are looking at it as a plus. You do everything you humanly can, but that doesn't mean you are going to win 100 percent of the time, so if something does happen, don't come rolling in here and saying, 'Oh,' and pointing the finger, saying, 'You didn't do something the right way.' And that was my point way back when the protocols first came out, and I think it's pretty clear. You can't test your way out of this, [and] you can't protocol your way out of this either. This is going to run its course. All you can do is the best you can do and mitigate it to great extent. I think we've done a really good job of that, so far. There are no guarantees going forward. We have to stay vigilant, like we have done. Again, you can't let it run your life. We can't let it run the operation. We are a football team. We are trying to build the best football team we can, and we'll go about our business doing that, with and around the obligations that we have to one-another in terms of respecting the situation with COVID-19."

WR James Proche returned some punts in college. Without WR/RS De'Anthony Thomas in the picture, I'm just curious who else you might see competing with James for that role this year? (Cliff Brown) "I'll tell you what, it's James' role to win, and he has to go win it. We have Willie Snead IV, and I know Willie would like to do it, too. He's back there all the time. Marquise [Brown] catches punts every day. We'll see as we go, but I really like James. He's a really dedicated, motivated guy. It's tough for a rookie to do it – a rookie doing it without preseason games. I exactly know where you are coming from. Believe me, I think about that too, and that will be a challenge. I believe he's up for the challenge; he's the man for the job, but he's going to have to show us that he's ready to do it. I'm pretty sure that there will be some competition run at him as well, so we'll see where that goes in the next few weeks."

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