HEAD COACH AND GENERAL MANAGER BILL O'BRIEN
Is there any advantage for the defense to have played Ravens QB Lamar Jackson last year and what is it that makes him so dangerous?
"I don't think there's a big advantage. I really don't. First of all, when you talk about him, he's just got a very unique skillset. Obviously he's very fast, he's very quick. Over time he's become a better passer. He's a very accurate passer. He does a really good job using all the people around him. They have a great scheme, so I just think he's a great player. He's MVP, so we've got, obviously, a big challenge ahead of us."
What are some of the unique elements in preparing for the Ravens' defense?
"I think that's a big point. You've got to be able to handle their pressure. I think last year, I think they were – if not the most in the league, they were right in the top five defenses that pressure the most. You've got to be able to handle their pressure. Wink does a great job. All downs and distances, not just third down. That's a big part of going against the Ravens. If you can't handle their pressure then it just keeps coming and you've got a problem there. We've got to do a good job against the pressure."
What was the nature of TE Kahale Warring's injury? Do you expect him back at some point this season? What do you think about TE Pharaoh Brown?
"Kahale had a couple things going on injury-wise so we felt like to put him on IR for let's just call it three weeks, see where he's at after three weeks. We felt like that would help him where he is injury-wise. So, that was the decision we made yesterday. It really kind of happened on Monday and so that's why it was made yesterday so that's where it's at. Pharaoh Brown was in Cleveland, he's been in Oakland and we just felt like he would be a guy that we thought could potentially help us, so we brought him on to the roster."
What's it like for QB Deshaun Watson and the rest of the team facing some of the best teams in the AFC in the first two weeks?
"At the end of the day that's what it's all about. You're going up against the best. We were a playoff team last year, we played the Super Bowl champs last week and now we're playing a team that was 14-2 last year. I think it's really, though, when you boil it down in football terms, it's Deshaun and our offense versus their defense and then it's Lamar (Jackson) and his offense versus our defense. Obviously when you look at it from a fan perspective and from a league perspective, when you have great quarterbacks going against each other, it's really good. It's a great era in the league of young quarterbacks that are just really talented and great people. But I think it's more about how do we play against their defense, how does he play against our defense and then how does the game go? How are you playing? What adjustments do you need to make? It's more about going against each other's defense."
Will we see Lonnie Johnson Jr. more this week and how do you view the matchup differently?
"There were some injuries involved there, so we felt like that was the best line up for that week. We feel like we're healthier this week. Don't really want to get into all the specifics there but it's obviously week to week for us. OK, how do we want to play the Chiefs based on scheme but also where these guys are health-wise and then how do we want to play the Ravens based on scheme and where these guys are health-wise. I feel like we're healthier. I feel like we're healthier in the secondary, so just take that for what it means. I'm sure you'll figure that out. We'll be week to week pretty much the whole year when it comes to the secondary."
What do you expect from WR Keke Coutee this season after he was inactive in Week 1?
"Keke is doing a really good job. He was injured in camp and that's more to do with where he's at with that injury. He's working. He's practicing. I believe that he will help us, possibly this week, this year. We feel good about Keke. It's just more about a combination of things there relative to why he was inactive last week."
Is it more difficult to come up with a defensive scheme to try to stop the Ravens rushing attack with QB Lamar Jackson?
"Very difficult. Very difficult. Their scheme in the running game is very unique. Very unique. No one else in the league really does what they do. It's just the way they use their tight ends, their blocking schemes, their backs and then obviously Lamar. Obviously, he's an excellent passer, so it's very unique. We have to have a great week. We started out on Monday, started working on them on Monday. Need to have a really good Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and need to be ready to go on Sunday."
What did you think of WR Will Fuller V's performance against Kansas City?
"He played well. He did a good job. I think that he's a guy that worked hard in the offseason. Came back in good shape. He's an excellent player. He's a good route runner. It's always good to have him out there. When he plays at a high level it really helps our offense. We've got a lot of receivers. I think guys are feeling better from a health standpoint this week so we'll see how it goes."
What can you do to improve tackling after playing your first game?
"The tackling has to improve. Obviously, from last week we worked on it Monday. We'll work on it again today, and I believe it'll get better. We have good tacklers. We have guys that have tackled well in the past. I think it'll improve. I know it'll improve. It needs to improve this week because this is a team, they just have a lot of guys, especially Lamar (Jackson), that can play in space that you've got to get down on the ground. It's not just one-on-one tackling. It's 11 guys to the ball, vice tackles, all the different types of tackles, angle tackles, that we all just need to improve on."
Did anything stand out from the Week 1 games in the NFL?
"I thought it was really good that the league was able to show up and play like that. I think that all the games, for the most part all the games were competitive. I thought it was really good. I think we looked at some things. I think it's the teams that played the cleanest – the teams that won the penalty battle, won the turnover battle, I think they won 85 percent of the games this week. The teams that won the penalty battle but maybe they lost the turnover battle, they won I think like 80 percent of the games. I think it still comes down to that, playing cleaner football. Last week, we started out, we gained positive yards on the first play. The second play's incomplete. The third play we jump offsides. If we can play a cleaner game, I think that's a big part of what is fundamentally making sure that we eliminate the administrative penalties – the false starts, the illegal formations, the neutral zone infractions. You're going to get holding calls. You're going to get DPIs. Those things are going to happen. Illegal contacts – those things may happen. But it's the mental mistakes that we have to really clean up because the teams that really did that well, they won for the most part. We're working hard on that this week to clean a lot of that up."
During the fourth quarter the offensive pace seemed slow. Would you like to increase the tempo of the offense?
"I guess the way that you looked at I guess it was – I thought our pace was pretty good in the fourth quarter. We've got to get the play in and get the play communicated. I think we scored a couple touchdowns. Really, the game last week came down to the end of the half and the beginning of the second half. That's where the game – we had a chance to go down there and hit a field goal. We handled that pretty well until the end of the drive at the end of the half. Then they got the ball and they went down and scored and then kicked the field goal and then they came out and scored a touchdown the first drive of the second half. When you look at all these games, like I was just saying, really the end of the half – you see the end of the half of like the Minnesota-Green Bay game. The end of the half of a couple other games where those scores, you can double up on scores at the end of the half and beginning of the second half. We've got to just to do a better job of that. But I thought our pace was pretty good throughout the game."
QB DESHAUN WATSON
What is unique about how the Ravens create pressure and what do you take away from last year's game against them?
"Last year's game is last year's game. This is a new year, so we're not really focused on what happened in that. It got away. They did their job and did what they had to do at home. This year and the talent they got is very, very top notch. One of the best defenses we're going to see throughout the year. They do a good job of creating different pressures up front, doing a different variety of blitzes, keeping you on your toes and p's and q's. We've just got to make sure that we're locked in and focus on our tasks, our game plan and take it one play at a time."
What do you think about Baltimore's offense and the job that Ravens QB Lamar Jackson does running it?
"He's doing a great job for his team and the offense that they're doing. Making sure they're putting players and the scheme around him and he's doing a heck of a job and doing numbers in that offense. He's doing a good job and he's going to continue to do that."
Have you ever played in front of an empty stadium or limited fans in your football career?
"Really like peewee or flag football. Something like that where it's just family members in town. That's pretty much it. That's a while back. Once we step on the field as players and coaches, we're so locked in on the task and game plan ahead, we kind of just block out that noise. Even if there's a crowd going, of course you can feel the energy of the crowd and things like that but going out the first week and seeing the games around, people were just locked in on what their task and what their job was."
Do you feel like the offense should run faster when you are down?
"You can but at the same time you've got to be smart about that. If you play a little too fast and leave too much time for the Chiefs – at the time, last week. If you play fast and you go three and out, now the defense is back on the field and now they're tired. You've got to be able to control what you kind of can control and just kind of build from there. Every game is a learning lesson so there's different things we spoke about in the meeting about that game, but we continue to grow and figure it out. We just ran out of time. We've just got to continue to have a better full first half than what we did and try to keep the game a little closer."
What are your thoughts on being part of the record 10 Black quarterbacks who started in the NFL opening weekend?
"It's something cool. It's definitely dope to be a part of and create history in that way. Guys just got to continue to go, giving other African American quarterbacks that are younger more opportunities, especially from where I come from. At the same time, you've got to go out there and perform and get the same knowledge and same wisdom as everyone else that's at this level. We've just got to continue to grow and use it as a positive thing for sure."
Have you had conversations on what the team will do pregame, similar to what the team did in Kansas City last week?
"We continue to have those conversations daily, but we'll see. Sunday is right around the corner but we've got time to see what exactly we want to do and what's best for the team. Our main goal – what we've been focused on right now has just been the Ravens and getting our game plan down. Definitely we'll see what happens."
How big is it for the team to come back and have a solid game after a loss in Kansas City?
"It's very big, especially being at home. You've got to win your home games. You've got to win the AFC games. This is a great opportunity to play against a great team that was a playoff team last year and we've got to try to turn the page and get on that winning streak. It starts Sunday. We've got to do – we've got to play sharp, we've got to play smart, we've got to play fast, we've got to play as a team. If you can do that then good things can happen."
Do you consider the possibility of other teams picking up on calls when preparing for the game this week?
"That's our least worries. If they pick up on things, then they pick up but we've just got to go out there and perform. If we do our jobs and execute the game plan and players make plays, then it's good on good. That's our least – we're not really worried about them hearing what we're saying but definitely cadence is definitely key where we can use that."
After the first week with Offensive Coordinator / Quarterbacks Coach Tim Kelly as the play caller, what would you like to see the offense do more efficiently against the Ravens?
"We just want to continue to run the ball and do what we do as far as getting our guys in position to make plays. That's the biggest thing. I feel like in every game plan you've got to have that mentality. Every offense around the league wants to run the ball so we've got to make sure we're doing that staying focused on that."
What is your biggest area of growth in terms of recognizing blitzes and pressures?
"You've just got to continue to understand the coordinators that you're going against. Every coordinator is different. Every coordinator has a different type of scheme. Players have different disguises, so you've got to find out the fish in the defense. You've got to just make sure you're staying on your p's and q's and sometimes you're going to be hot and sometimes you're not going to know it and they're going to get you and they're going to have a good disguise. You've just got to lock in on each and every play and be ready and know where your hots and your assignments are."
DE J.J. WATT
What do you expect from Ravens QB Lamar Jackson when you play him on Sunday after watching him on tape?
"He's a very good player. He can do it all. He can obviously do a lot of great things with his feet and his quickness and his speed and his ability to move around, but he's also got the ability to stand in the pocket and throw the ball as well. Any time you have to defend both of those things with an equal level of excellence, it's extremely difficult. It's a great challenge for us. Obviously, we're going to watch the film from last season. We're going to watch the film from last week from them, which is what everybody does, and we're going to learn and go out there and compete and look forward to the challenge."
How has your foundation functioned through the pandemic and what does it mean to see the reaction from young people when they receive the sports equipment from your foundation?
"It's been great. They've done a great job obviously getting the videos in and being able to see the kids receive their uniforms has been awesome. It's been difficult not having the Charity Classic this year and not being able to bring in the same amount of funds as we normally do, obviously. But we've done a great job. We've had a plan obviously and leading us into hopefully next year being able to get back to it. We're considering doing another fundraiser like we did in the past with Omaze to raise funds so we can continue to get those kids out there. Everybody at the foundation's been doing a great job of getting grants approved and getting those uniforms and that equipment out to the kids. Those videos and photos have been inspiring and it's been great to see."
When was the last time you played in front of no fans and what was that like?
"For a game, it'd be – even in youth football you had parents in the stands yelling and screaming, so I could hear my grandpa in the stands going nuts. So, there's never really been a game where you play with nobody in the stands. But practice every day, joint practices against other teams we've had and things like that. As an athlete, if you can't get yourself ready and amped up to compete against another team and to compete at the highest level, then you really probably shouldn't be out there in the first place. Will it be different when you make a big play or when there's a touchdown or something and there's no excitement or cheer from the crowd? Absolutely. But from a competitive standpoint as an athlete, your adrenaline takes over and you just go out there and do what you do."
Has the trash talking started between you and your brothers prior to the Week 3 matchup against the Steelers?
"No, no. Not yet. We're still brothers at the moment. We still love each other, and we were talking about the Monday night game for them. I had a chance to sit down and watch that at home. In the past I used to be able to, when the Steelers were on offense I'd go to the bathroom or I'd go get some food or I'd take the dogs outside. But now Derek's (Watt) on offense, T.J.'s (Watt) on defense, Derek's on special teams, so my breaks were fewer and far between during the game, so I was kind of rushing around. We've still got a couple more days before we actually go into shutdown mode and I don't talk to them anymore."
What do you remember about Steelers LB T.J. Watt's re-dedication to football prior to his junior year at Wisconsin?
"I don't think he's ever been not dedicated, but I think T.J. went through a lot in college with his injuries. He had some very difficult injuries he had to deal with, and it was a very discouraging time. Trust me, I know how injuries go myself. Especially in college, when you haven't necessarily established yourself yet, it's a very difficult time to be going through such a tough injury situation. I think he kind of realized that you have a chance to either overcome this adversity and turn it into something incredible or this could kind of be the end of the road, and he wasn't going to let it be the end of the road. He turned it into an unbelievable year and an unbelievable career since then. It's been incredible ever since. I don't think that – quitting is not really in the DNA. Whatever we go through, we're going to find a way to overcome it."
Did you help Steelers LB T.J. Watt at all mentally or physically during the summer before his junior year at Wisconsin?
"Yeah, both things. From a doctor standpoint, trying to make sure that he had whatever possible to make sure that he was getting the right treatment and to get the right situation that he needed to to get himself back on the field. He was also going from tight end to defense at that time, which is that transition as well. Also, mentally handling what it's like to be injured, to be coming back, to be trying to build yourself a resume for what you want to be and who you want to be as a player. We talked – my brothers and I talk every single day. We have our whole lives. I don't think there was necessarily one big speech that I gave him, but it's just we have daily conversations with each other that I think have led us to the level we're at today."
How difficult is it to defend a team like the Ravens that use a lot of options and creative run plays?
"Any time that a team has a quarterback in the run game plan and obviously in the pass game plan, it's an extra person you have to defend in both aspects. There is really no free person on the defense. Every single guy has to be accounted for and every guy has to do their job. If they make one guy miss or if one guy doesn't do their job, it makes it that much more difficult on the rest of the defense. It's paramount that we all do our job and that we all know our assignment and execute it well."
After playing the first game of the season, do you expect an improvement in tackling from Week 1 to Week 2?
"Yeah, I expect better tackling. We've had an opportunity to do it live now, obviously no preseason. We've had an opportunity to do it live and we didn't do it that well. So, I sure as shit hope we do it better this week. That's the plan."
What does the defense need to do to play well enough to win on Sunday?
"We need to play better. We need to tackle better. We need to execute our assignments better. We need to put them in more difficult third down situations than we did last week. We need to get off the field when we are on third down. You can't give up 17- or 19-play drives, whatever that was. You have to play better defense all around, and that's the little things all the way up to the big things. Like I said, something as simple as tackling, we need to do that better. Just execute and deliver."
How odd will it be to not have fans and do your normal routine of playing catch with young fans before the game?
"Obviously, I miss having the fans out there. I miss being able to interact with them, feed off of them. They're the reason we have a job. If fans don't watch the game, if fans don't show up, we don't have a job. So, I'm very thankful to the fans and I really miss being able to play catch before the game. To me, that's one of my favorite things about this league is when I go around the stadium before the game and play catch with a little kid in that front row who showed up two hours before the game to have a chance to see the players warm up. I used to be that kid. We've talked about it before. I went to Packers training camp and stood outside the parking lot after practice for like two hours just trying to see the players, just trying to get a glimpse. So, for me to be able to play catch with a kid who came to the game two hours early and see that expression on their face and see them turn to their parents and get excited, there's nothing that beats that. So, I really do miss that. I miss that interaction and that bond that you have. It's tough. It's tough. But I hope they're watching at home and I hope we can make them proud at home. I hope someday here soon we'll get them back and playing catch again."