Ravens' Pre-Draft Press Conference Quotes 4.6.20
COURTESY OF BALTIMORE RAVENS MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
Eric DeCosta opening statement:"Thank you, first and foremost, for joining us today. Obviously, under very difficult circumstances in many respects, and we want to thank all the people out there on the front lines who are risking their lives to support us and support our world that we live in. And also, I think it goes without saying that our thoughts and prayers are with all of you out there who are suffering. We'd like to think that this draft, hopefully, can provide you with a few moments of enjoyment over the coming weeks, something that you can spend time with your families watching. We're excited about that opportunity.
"Also, on a lighter note, I'd like to thank [executive vice president] Kevin Byrne. This is his retirement, and we are so fortunate that he's been a part of this organization for the last 25 years. I know he's helped me so much, preparing so many different ways over my time with the Ravens. His value to me, his comfort, his guidance, his advice will be missed. We all love Kevin, and he's a special part of this organization.
"We've been working hard over the last two or three months getting ready for the draft. We embrace this opportunity that we've been given to do this together as a staff. Our coaches and scouts have been working very hard evaluating players, which is what we do. We started meetings this week. We're actually meeting via Zoom. We had our first set of meetings this morning, and we'll continue after this press conference finishing up with our meetings. And, hopefully, by Friday we'll have our board stacked. We anticipate having about 185 players that we would consider to be draftable players for the Ravens, which is really, really good from a numbers standpoint. We're excited about the players in this draft. I would consider this draft to be a very deep draft in many respects. We can talk more about that, but I think this is a great opportunity for us to get better as a football team. I think Coach [Harbaugh] feels the same way. I think our coaches and scouts are excited that we can do this together, and we'll see how it all kind of plays out."
Eric, obviously, it's different times. You don't have any of the players visiting the complex. Could you just tell us how different this draft is going to be than previous years? (David Ginsburg)
DeCosta: "I don't think it's really going to be that much different from what we've been accustomed to. We had the opportunity to meet with so many different players at the Senior Bowl, the East-West [Shrine Game] and the Combine that we're really prepared, I think, to be the best we can be. And I think the thing we come back to is first and foremost – and it's been this way ever since I know I got into the league – it's really about the tape; how the guy plays, first and foremost. We'll spend a lot of time watching these guys. We'll talk about it as a staff. We have the opportunity to talk on the phone, we have the opportunity to talk via Zoom, and we did a lot of work in person in February and also in December to get ready for these meetings as well. So, there are some challenges associated, nothing major, but we're excited about the opportunity, and we think it's going to work out well for us."
Eric, a logistical question: Have you decided where you're going to run the draft? Or is that kind of still a decision that you're trying to work through? (Jeff Zrebiec)
DeCosta: "The answer is: We don't know. That's going to be up to the league and up to [NFL chief medical officer] Dr. Allen Sills from the NFL office to make those determinations. We'll be prepared for any opportunity that exists, whether that's here at the facility [or] another location. We'll be ready to make picks when the time comes."
Eric, obviously, in free agency it sounded like the focus was a lot more [on] defense. How much do you feel this draft can help you on the offensive side of the ball? (Jamison Hensley)
DeCosta: "We think there's a lot of really good players. Obviously, the receiver class is prolific by many people's standards, and so, there's probably 25 draftable wideouts in this draft. There's some very, very talented running backs, offensive linemen, tight ends. So, we're going to look at the board. We're going to assess the strengths and weaknesses at every position when we're on the clock, and we'll pick the best guys for the club."
I know you said that you guys have done so much homework already that the pandemic won't have that much influence, but in terms of late-round picks or undrafted guys, not being able to have the Pro Days or those medical re-checks, is that where [the pandemic] is going to have the biggest impact? (Ryan Mink)
DeCosta: "I'll let Joe [Hortiz] answer that, but I don't think that'll be a big factor for us. Go ahead, Joe."
Hortiz: "No, I don't think so. Historically, we've done a good job with the guys that aren't invited to the Combine and non-all-star guys. Our scouts do a great job of getting the information from their sources at the schools – the trainers, the strength coaches. So, we have a lot of estimated 40 [-yard dash] times. Our analytics crew can help us with that as well. They do a great job of getting information, so I think we can get the information necessary. [Head certified athletic trainer] Ron [Medlin] is able to assess it, our trainer, in terms of medically. We still scout those guys. Our coaches have looked at guys who didn't go to the Combine, and we've done a lot of work on those as well."
Eric, everybody every draft always talks about the single most important thing is tape. It's the tape of a player. Is there a chance that this is actually a more effective draft because you are limited in some of the things you can do, and you are going to have to put so much weight on what you see as far as guys playing football? (Gerry Sandusky)
DeCosta: "It's going to be old school. It's like the 80's have come back, and we're just going to sit here and watch tape. I've been doing that in this office now for the past few weeks, and I know Coach [Harbaugh], who lives just down the street, he's been doing the same thing. He calls me up, and we talk about these guys on the phone. The tape is what we have right now, and I think our video guys – [vice president of football video operations] Jon Dubé and [senior director of football video operations] Mark Bienvenu and [football video operations senior manager] Collin Ferguson – those guys, they have it set up pretty well. They anticipated this really well. They got it set up really well to do our jobs effectively, and it's been a lot of fun for me to just kind of grind every single day. I don't have a lot of people knocking at this door other than my kids when it's lunch time, but it's been quiet. And we just do our work, we watch these guys, we rank the players, we talk about their strengths and weaknesses, and that's what we've been given. We've been given that opportunity. We have that information, and we're going to use that information."
Hey Eric, you guys have been linked by mock drafts to running backs in the first and second round. I just wonder with your team's emphasis on the running game, what makes a high-value running back for you guys when the rate of attrition in the NFL is so high for some of these guys? (Jonas Shaffer)
DeCosta: "We set the record for rushing last year, so it's going to be hard for us this year. So, we have to find as many good players as we can. I think that position is critically important to our offense. All the positions are important, but to be a good running back you have to have the ability, obviously, to play in the NFL. You have to be big and strong and physical, but you also have to be durable. That's a really important criteria for that position, and also be intelligent. We feel like we have a really good group of running backs on our team, and it'll just basically be who's available when we pick. There are certainly running backs all throughout the draft in each round – first round all the way through the seventh round – guys that we think have the opportunity to come in and help us be the best team we can be, and we'll look at that."
This question is for John. I'm curious what the offseason program could look like if you've been told by the NFL of what you're able to do? And particularly, what the teaching process for some of these young players might be if you aren't allowed to have them in person? (Aaron Kasinitz)
Harbaugh: "No, we have not been told yet. I think it's up in the air just like it is with everything else with this situation. We've been told possibilities. We're kind of preparing for all that. The new CBA changes up some of the rules as far as what you're allowed to send them in their playbooks, some of the video teaching overlays, talk-overs and things like that. So, we're sending that stuff out already as we go, but we just have to see what we're allowed to do. We'll be ready. We'll do all of the stuff that the colleges and schools are doing, and we're building tapes right now. We're building our playbook. Our playbook is pretty much built. We've been doing that virtually over the last couple months. So, we'll just kind of play it by ear, but I'm hopeful we'll have an offseason program. I'm thinking we might. It just depends on the trajectory of this situation with the coronavirus and whether socially we're allowed to get back together. I think the league would like to get us back together, but they're not going to do anything that's going to put anybody in jeopardy. So, we're going to be ready for any contingency."
For Eric, last year I remember you saying that you felt like you needed to take more swings as an organization at wide receiver. You did that. This year, with the draft being so deep at wide receiver, do you feel it's another draft where if you decide to take more swings, you can? And is the plan to maybe not feel a sense of urgency to bring in a veteran wide receiver knowing that there are so many wide receivers in this draft? (Cliff Brown)
DeCosta: "We like our receivers, first and foremost. I think Miles [Boykin] and Marquise [Brown] and Willie [Snead IV] and we brought Chris Moore back, Jaleel [Scott] – we have some guys that we think are going to make another jump. We really like that room. So, do we feel the urgency? We probably feel that with every position. We want to be the best we can be at every single position. This happens to be a wide receiver class with a lot of really good players, and if we're on the clock and we think that guy is the best player, we'll probably pick him. It just makes us better, and hopefully we can build our offense to the point where – as we say, to be undefendable and tough to play defense [against]. I think there's a lot of opportunities for us to do that. I think our coaches have found some guys they're excited about, and I know our scouts have found some guys they're excited about at the wideout position. So, we'll just see how it falls."
I think the consistent message that we're all hearing is that we kind of don't know what's going to happen. You could start late. You could be without a significant portion of your offseason. The season could be imperiled. Is that something that's on your mind? And does it really play into draft prep at all? (Childs Walker)
DeCosta: "It doesn't play into draft prep for me. I think I've learned from Coach [Harbaugh] – it's on the board downstairs: 'W.I.N., What's Important Now?' And I know the draft is probably the most important thing right now for this organization. So, I'll focus on that, and we'll worry about what happens next when that's the next thing on the plate."
Harbaugh: "Yes, everybody thinks about it. I wouldn't say [I don't] think about it, but it's not something that I'm concerned with in the sense that we're getting ready for a season. And I'm assuming we're going to play, and I'm assuming we're going to be back on the soonest possible date and, therefore, be ready for it to get the most out of it. And, honestly, [I'm] looking at it as an opportunity. We're all going to be in the same boat. None of us are going to have an advantage over anybody else. So, whoever makes use of whatever the situation is the best, gets their team ready the best, starting with the draft and then the development of our players. That's who is going to win the most games. So, we just look at it that way. I look at it competitively. If it's shortened, how are we going to get more out of the time that we're allotted to be the best we can be the first game, and be better than the people we're playing, so we can win? [I'm] just looking at it like that. It's an opportunity. People are going to do it differently. It's not something that people have had a lot of experience with, because it's going to be new for everybody. I'm very hopeful that we can find a way through faith and effort to do it better than the other guy and win games. So, that's kind of what I'm thinking about every day."
John, Eric kind of touched on it for himself about being at home and maybe once in a while the kids knock on the door. What about for you? What has this whole experience been like for a guy who is used to driving into the facility? And, just kind of big picture, what has it caused you to think about? (Mark Viviano)
Harbaugh: "Aside from the obvious concern for people, and then basically daily trying to acknowledge that and be prayerful and reach out to different people and stuff like that. [My wife] Ingrid is the one who's out. She goes out to the grocery store, and she goes to Target and Walmart and all that. She's kind of fighting that fight. She doesn't make me do that, so I'm very grateful for not having to be a part of that, because she comes back every day, whenever she goes out, pretty frustrated with the whole thing. But she's helping neighbors with groceries. She's been grocery shopping for friends, buying groceries for neighbors and things like that. She's been the total hero of the family. I've just been holed up here trying to do what Eric said – just trying to do the job and sprinkle in some yard work to be a help as best as possible and follow the rules as much as possible. But it's been kind of interesting in a little sense, because you realize it's kind of a change of pace. So, I'm trying to find the good. I'm trying to find what God's trying to show me in all of this. About, what's the message here? The message for me is, in some ways, you don't have to drive into the office every day to get the job done, and there's a different pace and a different style and a different format you can use than I would have thought about before. Before, it would have been business as usual. Now, it's not, and hopefully for me personally, I'll look at things a little differently when we come out of this whole thing, just as far as lifestyle and priorities and how time is spent. And I would like to think that we all would do that, even as a country, and kind of change our thinking going forward coming out of all this and using it for everybody's benefit."
There's been a lot of talk about inside linebacker, and in a perfect world, you'd love to find a Pro Bowl, three-down kind of guy. But, with the way that you were able to mix and match last year, even dropping a safety into the box, does that maybe leave you with a little less urgency to find that "three-down guy?" And maybe you focus a little more on elite traits rather than just finding a complete linebacker? (Luke Jones)
Hortiz: "I think when we look at the board, there's obviously guys who can do all three things – play the run, cover and blitz – but I think when we look at the guys throughout the draft, there are players that can help us in specific roles. There are guys in the mid-rounds that can come in and cover, maybe play the run. I think, knowing our coaches, the versatility that we play with on defense, as scouts, we're able to identify, 'Hey, this is what this guy can do for us. This is what we believe this guy can do for us.' And then we give them to the coaches, and they either marry their opinion to it, or they tell us, 'I'm not sure.' But I think with our versatility and the way [defensive coordinator] 'Wink' [Don Martindale] and those guys use guys in their specific roles, it helps us evaluate players that maybe can't do all the things but can do one thing well."
Would you be inclined to go up and make a trade on draft day in the first round? Because you've got a lot of picks? (Mike Preston)
DeCosta: "Yes, it just would depend on what that opportunity was. Who is the player that's available? What can we get in exchange for making a trade? What kind of picks can we get? So, yes, we love to make trades. The last two years especially, I think we've made a ton of trades, and it's been really fun for us. And, actually, I think we've benefited from some of the trades that were made. This year, we do have a lot of [picks]. We have the opportunity to maybe go up and get a guy. Normally, when a guy starts to fall, what you find is other teams are trying to trade for him, too, and they're usually willing to give up more than you're willing to give up. I think back to a couple years ago, we tried to make a trade for a guy who was falling a little bit, and we didn't get him. And, fortunately, the guy we got ended up being really good, so it worked out. Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don't make. We just assess case by case and see what we can do."
I was just curious if the situation the Ravens are in will impact your draft strategy in any way? And by that, I mean coming off a 14-2 season, by all accounts serious Super Bowl contenders, and you've got your great, young quarterback on his rookie deal still. So, it's a great set of circumstances. I'm just wondering if that impacts your draft strategy in any way? (John Eisenberg)
DeCosta: "I don't think so. We try to look at each draft and just stay true to the mindset, 'What can we do to build our best team moving forward?' Every roster is different. You lose players in free agency, you gain players, guys retire, be that as it may, and you're just trying to adjust. We're trying to find the best guys and kind of assess what our strengths and weaknesses might be. Where do we need depth? Who are going to be the guys that play special teams? Who are the backup offensive linemen? Who are the starting linebackers going to be? What does our five-technique look like? Who's going to be our third wideout, or fourth wideout, or fifth wideout? We just try to answer as many questions as we can with the draft. That's what works out pretty well for us. We talk about this; it's not just basically something we talk about over two months. This is an ongoing thing. It starts, basically, when we get to training camp, and it never ends until we go on vacation. We're always talking about the roster. Coach [Harbaugh] is always down in my office, I'm in his office. He's talking to the coaches, I'm talking to [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome]. We're talking to the scouts, we meet all the time, and we just try to build the best team we can build."
Not really a draft topic, but free agent WR Antonio Brown was working out with QB Lamar Jackson and WR Marquise Brown last week. Just your thoughts on them getting together and working out, and your interest level in Antonio Brown? (Shawn Stepner)
DeCosta: "Those are in-house things. Those are my feelings, my personal feelings about that situation. I don't really feel a need to share that with you all right now. As far as players – free agent players – we wouldn't talk about those guys right now. It doesn't really serve any purpose for us to talk about players that are available right now. There's really no benefit in doing that. So, I think I'll just leave that one alone."
Eric, going back to the topic of trading … How do you balance the consideration for a position – for example, wide receiver, that's considered a deep class … If you like a receiver that may start to fall, how do you balance the decision to go up and get him, while also knowing it's a deep class, you can hold on to your picks, and maybe try to take more shots in the second round, for example? (Garrett Downing)
DeCosta: "Kenny Rogers, who just passed away, I think he's a great singer. He had that song, 'The Gambler.' … 'You've got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them.' That's just kind of what it is. It's a gut thing … (Inaudible) … We have some people in there that help us with the analytics associated with it, and the value associated with making the picks, but you've got to assess the board and value of the players still available and who you think you might get. If you make a trade later on versus do you want the player, and how well it's going to shake out. It's a nuance thing. I think experience is definitely a factor. Over the years, being able to call on other experiences and things that have happened in the past, and you just ask for advice. I've got coach there and I've got Ozzie [Newsome] there, and [owner] Steve [Bisciotti], and [president] Dick [Cass], and Joe [Hortiz], [senior vice president of football operations] Pat [Moriarty], and [director of player personnel] George [Kokinis], and [director of football administration] Nick [Matteo], and all of those guys, and we just weigh every different opportunity and hopefully make the best decision we can for the club."
Given all of the limitations we're all facing going into this complex process of trying to do the draft, have you found that there have been some positives and some things are actually easier, and maybe you can use going forward for the next however many years? (Pete Gilbert)
Hortiz: "I'd say from my perspective, one of the big positives just there's been so much communication. We're all apart. It's easier to get into your office and know you're going to see someone at some point during the day, and you'll run into him and talk to him about stuff, and it may pass you by. I think when somebody's got a question and we need to talk, Eric [DeCosta] picks up the phone and calls me. I've had conversations with John [Harbaugh] and George [Kokinis], and all the scouts and all the coaches. So, I think the communication has got to stay constant during this, and I think this process and this situation has helped that, from my perspective."
The Ravens have picked at Number 25 or later in seven of the past 10 years. Has that posed as a challenge for you guys, as far as players kind of falling off the board before you pick? And have you developed an overriding strategy having always kind of picked mid-to-late-20's over the past 10 years? (Todd Karpovich)
Hortiz: "I think the biggest thing we do as scouts for Eric [DeCosta], and John [Harbaugh], and Ozzie [Newsome] over the years is we try to give them all the information and stack, and give them our rankings, and our order, and get the guys in the right spot. I think Eric [DeCosta] said, 'Whether you're picking sixth or 26th, you've got to have the guys lined up to pick.' It's challenging and it's fun. You've watched some good players walk off the board before you're up, but you always know you're going to get a guy that falls to you, hopefully, and it's exciting to watch it happen. I don't think there's a change in approach. It's just getting the guys in the right order for the Ravens."
The process of, not replacing – because he's probably irreplaceable in your eyes – but Marshal Yanda, whether it's in-house or in the draft. Kind of take me through what the thinking is there. (Bobby Trosset)
Harbaugh: "The thinking is it's going to be really hard. I think he's irreplaceable, bottom line. You can't say that you're going to plug in another Marshal Yanda. Probably the same thing applied to Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. To me, he's in that category. Our offensive line is very important. It's a very critical element of our team and our offense. It always has been. I think even more so now than ever – the way we're built. We need to be great up front. Taking Marshal out of that equation is not just a one-guy deal. He's a force multiplier. He exponentially makes the offensive line better, because he makes all the players around him so much better, including the quarterback and the rest of the offensive line. So, we're going to have to really do a great job there. That's one of the biggest challenges. It's probably job [number] one or two. We've got to make sure that we do a great job of making sure the interior offensive line is all set. How you do it, you do it the old way. We've got to look at all the players, try to find the best fits. I don't think we necessarily have to concern ourselves with what the rest of the league is looking for in the offensive line, or any other position really, but just what we're looking for and the type of player we want. Somebody like Marshal would be great. We'll see what we can do to try to get as close as we can – and the other part of it is that the rest of the guys have to step up. I mean, every player on offense has to be better without Marshal, especially every player on the offensive line coming back has to be that much better just to be the same. So, it's really going to be on all our shoulders to make that happen. Not just be the same, we've got to try to improve. We've got a lot of work to do with that."
The disruptive nature of all of this – all of you are control freaks about what you do, and you're so good at what you do, and you've done the same thing for so long. When this happens, like using this Zoom, I know you guys are teched-up, you're all in different places. Eric, can you speak to sort of running all of this, where you're not flying off to Pro Days and spending nights in hotels and finding time in transit? There may be more time now, but how the disruption has made you maybe look at it differently or how you're physically going about this on a daily basis? (Nestor Aparicio)
DeCosta:"Once you kind of get into the routine of what we can control, which is basically just communicating first, evaluating the players properly and then just kind of coming up with a game plan, that's all we can do. All we can do is what we can do. It hasn't been that bad, honestly. In some ways, I would say, getting used to the new Combine schedule was more challenging than this. We're on the phone more. I think I'm on the phone a lot more than I have been. Normally, people just walk into my office. Here they just call me, and I'm usually sitting right here watching tape, and that's just what we'll do. When we find out how this thing is going to unfold over the next 17 days or whatever it is, we will have a plan, and we will have the best plan that we can come up with to help our team, so that our fans can be proud of the team."
Talk about face-to-face meetings, the Pro Days, the visits, having guys in your facility. In the past, how much have guys really moved up or down as a result of that, and are there guys this year that maybe are off your board because you couldn't look them in the eye and talk to them about whatever red flags you may have had? (Aditi Kinkhabwala)
DeCosta:"That's a good question. There is going to be in this process probably some questions that we simply can't answer, and some of those questions may be about a players' personality, it might be about an injury that the player sustained, it could be a lack of a workout. Whatever that might be, we have to figure it out. How do we value those unknowns, and what impact do those unknowns have on the process? That takes time. That's not easy for some of us who like to have as much information as possible. It brings me back to what it was like in 1996-97, really, before the internet, before we had all this information, how we went about our jobs before we had the chance to bring in 30 players to Baltimore pre-draft and spend time with those guys. How did we accomplish our goals? And I think some of our best drafts we've ever had were during that timeframe, so we know it can be done. Like John [Harbaugh] said, every team is operating under the same parameters and the same rules. We've come up with a plan, we'll adjust, and we'll figure it out."
Eric, you mentioned earlier that this draft is deep in a lot of ways, and I know you mentioned receivers specifically. Are there any other position groups that you view as maybe deeper than in other particular years? (Andrew Gillis)
DeCosta:"I think there's a good group of quarterbacks in this draft, inside linebacker, I think running back is strong, I think corner and safety are strong. I think with the influx of juniors every year, we see that the drafts tend to be stronger in I'd say the last five or seven years than they have been. There are more prospects for us to look at, which is a great thing. We have a bunch of guys this year that we feel will have a really good opportunity with our first seven picks, to really get some outstanding football players who can come in immediately and pay dividends for us."
John, when you're looking now at your ranking of players, how different is it now in this offense than it was maybe five years ago in that offense? Does it really play into where you slot different players, because of how they fit into this offense? (Stan White)
Harbaugh: "That's a good question. I don't know, Stan. To say that comparison and to say, 'Well, it's different this way or that way from five years ago.' I really haven't thought about it like that, so I can't really give you a straightforward answer, but I will say, the way we look at certain positions is little bit different. I think what we value in a certain position [is different]. Probably the offensive linemen we're looking at are a little different. We're very interested in big, physical offensive linemen, for sure, and that's obvious, I think. We're good run-blockers, because we're more of a run-team than we've ever been before. [We look for] receivers who are willing to block, and different types of receivers; we have different roles. To your question, there are 53 roles that you're trying to fill on a team. You're trying to build a roster through the draft. It's not so much how you rank in the league, or how you rank the draft, in terms of player value for the league, and who's going to make it and who's not. It's really, what is going to make your team better this year and the next couple years? Short-term first, and then long-term also. You have to think about both, but to me, you're drafting for your roster, you're drafting for the style of play that you're building in your team. So, yes, I think it's changed in the sense of each position probably. Even defensively, we really want smart players, and we want guys who can think and can process as the offense lines up and makes formation changes, because we make changes. And also, once the ball is snapped, to process what they see and react properly. That's always been a part of it, but probably more so than ever before. We want smart players, so I think we've just evolved, and we're just looking for certain traits, and certain guys that match the style of football that we want to play."
What is a key to the players you are considering for the draft this year? (Ximena Lugo Latorre)
DeCosta:"In terms of what we're looking for with players, obviously we want physically gifted guys, but we also want players who are really invested on the field, and off the field, [have] good character, guys who love the game and have a passion for the game. I think those would be the things – durability factors in. We need guys to be available to play on Sundays. It's been a little more challenging this year in terms of securing information. Fortunately, we've been able to rely on our scouts, who I think are the best in the league, and also our coaches and their networks of contacts and people that can get us information to help us with the decision-making process. And then also, the fact that we've met with these players, and we are always trying to assess their personalities, their drivers, their motivation, their love of the game, determination, work ethic and things like that. It all kind of plays together like a huge mosaic, and in the end, we'll look at that, we'll assess, and we'll find the best guys we can to make our team better."
Joe, how tough is it going to be for guys from HBCU schools and from small schools to be able to make a roster this year, given that they didn't get a chance to come in and be evaluated by you guys? (Kevin Richardson)
Hortiz:"Well, I think with regards to really all schools, our scouts are at schools all throughout the fall. They're in HBCU's, they're in D-II's, and they're in D-III's. We have a number of guys who we've talked about over the course of this scouting season from those types of schools. So, they've been evaluated. Maybe we haven't been to their Pro Days, but again, our scouts do a great job of getting information. We have the film on all of them, we are able to get the evals and they are going to get the opportunities one-way or another, whether it's through being drafted or post-draft free agency. Really, our guys do a great job with that, and our coaches and scouts [with] organizing that. [Player personnel coordinator] Mark Azevedo puts it together and we really get a good group of guys. We have a competitive rookie minicamp, where guys get the opportunity to come in on a tryout basis. So, we're still going to attack it that way and hopefully dig some guys out that way that may not get drafted. Then obviously, the guys that we have draftable grades on, we'll get the full eval on, minus a workout."
Being thrown into sort of this whole virtual world of how to do business and communication – I think even John talked about finalizing a playbook virtually – is there any concern or thought or conversation about the security of what you guys have to do now? We've heard issues with Zoom and some other platforms. Security is always obviously a big deal, and your communications and what you guys are doing are very important. Have you guys dealt with that at all? (Brent Harris)
Harbaugh:"Yes, it's a big concern. My level of involvement has been every time I read something in The Wall Street Journal or New York Times that talks about how messed up Zoom is or some of these other deals that came out this morning, I immediately text it to our IT people. [Director of football administration] Nick Matteo is one of those guys, and they assure me that we are doing everything humanly possible, and I remind them that that's what Wells Fargo and all those other places said about our private information. (laughing) I've got some real concerns about that, and hopefully we'll be okay. It's kind of like that. We'll see what happens. I really wouldn't want the opposing coaches to have our playbook or our draft meetings. That would be preferable, if we can stay away from that."
DeCosta:"I was just going to say, I have more confidence in Zoom than I do in Ozzie [Newsome], John [Harbaugh], Steve [Bisciotti] and Dick [Cass], with a copy of our draft board that they just leave in the car on their front seat or something like that." (laughter)
John, you mentioned the playbook is nearly complete. Is it normal to be completed by this time? And does having both coordinators from last season returning play a factor? (Kyle Barber)
Harbaugh:"Yes, and yes. It's complete in the sense that we have it ready for the offseason program, so we normally send our playbooks out to our guys right about now. They want to start studying them as they prepare for the offseason, so we'll send them out. Guys like Derek Wolfe … I mean, Derek Wolfe has been on me like a fly on something. He wants that iPad right now so he can start studying the new defense. Honestly, it's always changing, and that's the beauty of the way we do it now with technology. We've changed the notebook basically every day. I think our assistant coaches are kind of happy, because I'm not walking into their office three times a day with ideas and making them re-draw stuff (laughing) and change wording and stuff. Or coming up with some half-baked idea that they've got to sift out, sort out and figure out if it makes any sense. So, in that sense, it's a little harder to get to them. And they haven't really been calling me to ask, so I'm just going to have to figure out a way to torture them a little more with that stuff. But it is an ongoing process, and I'd say we're right on schedule."
John Harbaugh said that G Marshal Yanda is irreplaceable, and that's really not a surprise. When you listed the deepest positions in the draft, you did not mention the interior offensive line. Do you see good depth there, and do you guys think you can get a player who could play right away on the first couple of days? (Childs Walker)
DeCosta: "That's the plan. I think, yes. You've certainly got guys. There are some tackles that we think can play inside, play guard. There are some really good guards [and] some centers in this draft. I think we've shown in the past that we can find guys in the second, third, fourth, fifth rounds, offensive linemen who can come in and play. We're fortunate that we've got a great coach in [offensive line coach] Joe [D'Alessandris], who can develop younger players. We've seen that over, and over, and over again. We're excited about that and we'll find some guys for sure."
Eric, you talked about how this kind of turns the clock back to the 1990's, but as it is today, and you guys have had to rely more on this technology: One, how well suited were you going in and how much more have you had to learn? And are you hearing from any of your friends around the league who may have had more struggles than others? (Mark Viviano)
DeCosta: "The only technology that we're really using is Zoom, and we use that periodically. I spend most of my time just on the phone talking to people. Of course, we're blessed, as I said earlier; we've got great set-ups so that we can watch video at home or on our laptops, on monitors and things like that. So, that's been very similar to what we have in the office from that standpoint. And we've got a great I.T. [information technology] staff that can help us with all the little different quirks associated with technology. As far as the other teams, it's just not typically a time where you spend talking with many other teams. Everybody is getting ready for their own draft boards, their own process – free agency and the draft – so, I expect that over the next couple of weeks we'll start to have more and more conversations as we start to look at game plan, strategy, trading up or down and all those kinds of things. But I haven't spoken much to other teams. I think everybody has their own personal feelings about this process this year, and some of the challenges associated, but we've just been trying to keep as much in-house as we can. Trying to get the board right, trying to get free agency to be as good as it can be, and just planning for the future."
Eric, do you feel like this will separate a lot of the front office general managers, because of the limitations from each other in a draft such as this? And have you gone through different rehearsals in terms of if you have to operate from where you are right now or at the facility? And Coach Harbaugh, Eric mentioned the proximity you guys have to each other; have there been any driveway conversations involving social distancing? Maybe in the neighborhood at all instead of over the phone? (Jerry Coleman)
DeCosta: "We think that we're blessed, because we've got great scouts. That's something that we've always taken pride in in Baltimore. And we've also got a great coaching staff. So, for us, the fact that our coaches and scouts communicate together as they do, we feel like that's a huge opportunity for us every single day. It's been that way for as long as I can remember. I'd like to think it's one of [executive vice president] Ozzie's [Newsome] greatest strengths, and then John coming in and the synergy between those two guys. Hopefully, it's as strong now as it's ever been. So, we think that's a great opportunity for us. We're excited about it, and that's not going to change."
Harbaugh: "For me, Eric and I have done all of it over the phone so far. He's been great about picking up [the phone]. [My wife] Ingrid and I walk by the DeCosta house every day, late afternoon, on our walk, because they've got a great street and it's very hilly. So, Ingrid likes to get me on those hills; she thinks it's really good for me. But I haven't seen Eric out there. Now, Eric tells me that he's been running, because he's got to come up the hill to get to the main street to get on his run, and says he's usually exhausted by the time he gets up the hill. But I haven't seen him out yet. Knowing Eric, he'll give me a call, and we'll probably take a walk here before the draft. We've got a bunch of woods behind us, fields and stuff, so he'll probably take me out there. Hopefully, he won't get me lost and just leave me out there somewhere where I can't find my way back. (laughter) But, that's about it."
John, you talked about the challenges of figuring out how things will get back to normal and when that's going to be. Regardless of when guys are back in the building – whether it's the offseason program or training camp – is doing virtual team meetings something you guys are looking at and figuring out the logistics behind it? (Garrett Downing)
Harbaugh: "Absolutely. Virtual team meetings, virtual strength sessions, virtual conditioning sessions, we're looking into all of that. Based on when the league and the [NFLPA] make agreements on what we're allowed to do, we'll have all that stuff ready to roll. We're already building those meetings in all three of those areas, and I'm excited about it. I also know that our players are going to work. Our players are going to study, they're going to study football, they're going to train. They know if they don't train and they come back out of shape, it's not going to be much fun for them in training camp. Nothing could be more miserable than a Raven not being in shape in training camp. That's pretty much well-documented. Our guys like to train. They want to win, and if you want to win, you've got to be a pro and you've got to take care of yourself. I'd be shocked if any of our players don't have home gyms that they can train in. Absolutely shocked, I mean, you're a pro. I don't know, it's not something we can ask them about right now. Well, I haven't asked them about it. I don't know what the rule is, but I don't want to break it if there is one. But I'd be shocked if they don't have it, and I expect them to be in great shape no matter what way it goes. I know we're going to do everything we can to help them, relative to technology and the rules and how that works out. That's what we're preparing for right now."